“No, but I’ll finish it to-night,” replied Ellen.
“Why, it’ll take you pretty much all night to finish this,” she said, lifting and examining her sister’s dress. “How in the world did you get so behindhand, Ellen?”
“This is a harder dress to make than your mother’s,” replied Ellen; “and besides having had less help on it, my head has ached very badly all the afternoon.”
Without seeming to notice the last reason given, Mary said–
“Well, if you can possibly get it done to-night, Ellen, you must do so. It would never answer in the world not to have all the dresses done by to-morrow night.”
“I will have it done,” was the brief reply, made in a low tone.
Jane’s dress was taken home that night, unfinished by full six or seven hours’ work. As Ellen had feared, she found Margaret suffering much from her cough. After preparing some food for her sister, whose appetite still remained good, she drank a cup of tea, and then sat down to work upon the mourning garment. Towards midnight, Margaret, who had fallen asleep early in the evening, began to grow restless, and to moan as if in pain. Every now and then, Ellen would pause in her work and look towards the bed, with an anxious countenance; and once or twice she got up, and stood over her sister; but she did not awake. It was three o’clock when the last stitch was taken, and then Margaret’s cough had awakened her, and she seemed to suffer so much from that and from difficult breathing, that Ellen, even after lying down, did not go to sleep for an hour. It was long after sunrise when she awoke.
“Must you go to-day, too?” inquired Margaret, looking into her sister’s face anxiously, on seeing her, after the hastily prepared breakfast had been eaten, take up her bonnet and shawl.
“Yes, Margaret, I must go to-day. There is one more dress to be made, and that must be done. But after to-day, I won’t go out anywhere again until you are better.”
“I don’t think I shall ever be better again, Ellen,” said the sick girl. “I am getting so weak; and I feel just as if I shouldn’t stay here but a little while. You don’t know how strange I feel sometimes. Oh, I wish you didn’t have to go out to-day!” And she looked so earnestly into the face of her sister, that the tears sprung into Ellen’s eyes.
“If I can persuade them to put this last dress off until next week, and then get some one else to make it, I will,” said the sister: “but if I can’t, Margaret, try and keep up your spirits. I’ll ask Mrs. Ryland, down-stairs, to come and sit with you a little while at a time through the day; and so if I can’t; get off, you won’t be altogether without company.”
“I wish you would, sister, for I feel so lonesome sometimes,” replied Margaret, mournfully.
Mrs. Ryland consented, for she was a kind-hearted woman, and liked the sisters, and Ellen hurried away to Mrs. Condy’s.
“You are very late this morning, ain’t you?” said Mary Condy, as Ellen entered with Jane’s finished dress.
“I am a little late, Miss Mary, but I sat up until three o’clock this morning, and overslept myself in consequence.”
“Well, you’ll finish my dress to-day, of course?”
“Really, Miss Mary, I hardly know what to say about it. Sister is so very poorly, that I am almost afraid to leave her alone. Can’t you in any way put yours off until next week? I have been up nearly all night for two nights, and feel very unwell this morning.” And certainly her pale cheeks, sunken eyes, and haggard countenance fully confirmed her statement.
“It will be impossible, Ellen,” was Mary’s prompt and positive response. “I must go to church to-morrow, and cannot, of course, go out, without my black dress.”
With a sigh, Ellen sat down and resumed her needle. After a while she said–
“Miss Mary, I cannot finish your dress, unless you and your sister help me a good deal.”
“Oh, we’ll do that, of course,” replied Mary, getting up and leaving the room.
It was nearly eleven o’clock before Mary thought of helping Ellen any, and then two or three young ladies came in to pay a visit of condolence, and prevented her. Tears were shed at first; and then gradually a more cheerful tone of feeling succeeded, and so much interested were the young ladies in each other’s company, that the moments passed rapidly away, and advanced the time near on to the dinner hour. It was full three o’clock before Mary and Jane sat themselves down to help Ellen. The afternoon seemed almost to fly away, and when it was nightfall, the dress was not half finished.
“Will it be possible to get it done to-night?” asked Mrs. Condy.
“It will be hard work, madam,” said Ellen, whose heart was with her sister.
“Oh, it can be finished,” said Mary, “if we all work hard for two or three hours. The fact is, it must be done. I wouldn’t miss having it for the world.”
With a sigh, Ellen turned again to her work; though feeble nature was wellnigh sinking under the task forced upon her. It was past eleven o’clock when the dress was finished, and Ellen prepared to go home to her sister.
“But you are not going home to-night?” said Mr. Condy, who was now present.
“O yes, sir. I haven’t seen sister since morning, and she’s very ill.”
“What is the matter with your sister?” asked Mr. Condy, in a kind tone.
“I’m afraid she’s got the consump–” It vas the first time Ellen had attempted to utter the word, and the sound, even though the whole of it remained unspoken, broke down her feelings, and she burst into tears.
Instinctively, Mr. Condy reached for his hat and cane, and as he saw Ellen recover, by a strong effort, her self-possession, he said–
“It is too late for you to go home alone, Ellen, and as we cannot ask you, under the circumstances, to stay all night, I will go with you.”
Ellen looked her gratitude, for she was really afraid to go into the street alone at that late hour. As they walked along, Mr. Condy, by many questions, ascertained that Ellen had been almost compelled to work day and night to make up mourning garments for his family, and to absent herself from her sick sister, while she needed her most careful attention. Arrived at her humble dwelling, his benevolent feelings prompted him to ascertain truly the condition of Margaret, for his heart misgave him that her end was very nigh.
On entering the chamber, they found Mrs. Ryland, the neighbour who lived below, supporting Margaret in the bed, who was gasping for breath as if every moment in fear of suffocation. Ellen sprung forward with a sudden exclamation, and, taking Mrs. Ryland’s place, let the head of her sister fall gently upon her bosom. Mr. Condy looked on for a moment, and then hastily retired. As soon as he reached home, he despatched a servant for the family physician, with a special request to have him visit Ellen’s sister immediately. He then went into his wife’s chamber, where the daughters, with their mother, were engaged in looking over their new morning apparel.
“I’m afraid,” said he, “that you have unintentionally been guilty of a great wrong.”
“How?” asked Mrs. Condy, looking up with sudden surprise.
“In keeping Ellen here so late from her sister, who is, I fear, at this moment dying.”
“Is it possible!” exclaimed the mother and daughters with looks of alarm.
“It is, I fear, too true. But now, all that can be done is to try and make some return. I want you, Mary, and your mother, to put on your bonnets and shawls and go with me. Something may yet be done for poor Margaret. I have already sent for the doctor.”
On the instant Mrs. Condy and Mary prepared themselves, and the former put into a small basket some sugar and a bottle of wine, and handed it to her husband, who accompanied them, at that late hour, to the dwelling of the two sisters. On entering the chamber, they found no one present but Ellen and Margaret. The latter still reclined with her head on her sister’s bosom, and seemed to have fallen into a gentle slumber, so quiet did she lay. Ellen looked up on the entrance of Mr. and Mrs. Condy, with Mary; and they saw that her eyes were filled with tears, and that two large drops stood upon her cheeks. She made a motion for them to be seated, but did not rise from her place on the bed, nor stir by the least movement of her body the still sleeper who leaned upon her breast. For nearly fifteen minutes, the most profound silence reigned throughout the chamber. The visitors understood the whole scene, and almost held their breaths, lest even the respiration, that to them seemed audible, should disturb the repose of the invalid. At the end of this time the physician entered, and broke the oppressive stillness. But neither his voice nor his step, nor the answers and explanations which necessarily took place, restored Margaret to apparent consciousness. After feeling her pulse for some time, he said–
“It will not be necessary to disturb her while she sleeps; but if she becomes restless, a little wine may be given. In the morning I will see her early,” and he made a movement to go.
“Doctor,” said Ellen, looking him eagerly in the face, “tell me truly–is she not dying?”
For a moment the physician looked upon the earnest, tearful girl, and read in her countenance that hope and fear held there a painful struggle.
“While there is life, there is hope,” he replied briefly.
“Tell me the truth, doctor, I can bear it,” she urged appealingly. “If my sister is going to die, I wish to know it.”
“I have seen many recover who appeared nearer to death than she is,” he replied, evasively. “As I have just said, where there is life, there is hope.”
Ellen turned from him, evidently disappointed at the answer, and the doctor went down-stairs, accompanied by Mr. Condy. The two remained some minutes in conversation below, and when the latter returned he found his wife and daughter standing by the bedside, and Margaret exhibiting many signs of restlessness. She kept rolling her head upon the pillow, and throwing her hands about uneasily. In a few minutes she began to moan and mutter incoherently. After a little while her eyes flew suddenly open, and she pronounced the name of Ellen quickly.
“I am here, Margaret,” replied the sister, bending over her.
“Oh, Ellen, why did you stay away so long?” she said, looking up into her face half reproachfully, and seeming not to observe the presence of others. “I was so lonesome all day; and then at night I waited and waited, and you didn’t come home! You won’t go away any more–will you, Ellen?”
“No–no, sister, I won’t leave you again,” said Ellen, soothingly, her tears starting afresh.
The words of Margaret smote upon the heart of Mary, whose great eagerness to get the mourning dress done, so that she could go out on Sunday, had been the cause of Ellen’s long detention from her sick sister. She hastily turned away from the bed, and seated herself by the window, As she sat there, the image of her baby-brother came up vividly before her mind, and with it the feeling of desolation which the loss of a dear one always occasions. And with this painful emotion of grief, there arose in her mind a distinct consciousness that, since her thoughts had become interested in the getting and making up of her mourning dress, she had felt but little of the keen sorrow that had at first overwhelmed her, and that now came back upon her mind like a flood. As she sat thus in silent communion with herself, she was enabled to perceive that, in her own mind, there had been much less of a desire to commemorate the death of her brother, in putting on mourning, than to appear before others to be deeply affected with grief. She saw that the black garments were not to remind herself of the dear departed one, but to show to others that the babe was still remembered and still mourned. In her present state of keen perception of interior and true motives, she felt deeply humbled, and inwardly resolved that, on the morrow, she would not go out for the too vain purpose of displaying her mourning apparel. Just as this resolution became fixed in her mind, a sudden movement at the bedside arrested her attention, and she again joined the group there.
Her heart throbbed with a sudden and quicker pulsation, as her eye fell upon the face of Margaret. A great change had passed upon it; death had placed his sign there, and no eye could misunderstand its import. Rapidly now did the work of dissolution go on, and just as the day dawned, Margaret sank quietly away into that deep sleep that knows no earthly waking.
After rendering all such offices as were required, Mrs. Condy and Mary went home, the latter promising Ellen that she would return and remain with her through the day. At the breakfast table, Mr. Condy so directed the conversation as to give the solemn event they had been called to witness its true impression upon the minds of his family. Before the meal closed, it was resolved that Jane and Mary should go to the humble dwelling of Ellen, and remain with her through the day; and that after the funeral, the expense of which Mr. Condy said he would bear, Ellen should be offered a permanent home.
The funeral took place on Monday, and was attended by Mr. Condy’s family. On the next day Mrs. Condy called on Ellen, and invited her to come home with her, and to remain there. The offer was thankfully accepted.
During the day, and while Ellen, assisted by Jane and Mary, was at work on black dresses for the younger children, Mr. and Mrs. Condy came into the room: the latter had a piece of bombazine in her hand.
“Here is a dress for you, Ellen,” she said, handing her the piece of bombazine.
Ellen looked up with a sudden expression of surprise; her face flushed an instant, and then grew pale.
“You will want a black dress, Ellen,” resumed Mrs. Condy, “and I have bought you one.”
“I do not wish to put on black,” said she, with a slightly embarrassed look and an effort to smile, while her voice trembled and was hardly audible.
“And why not, Ellen?” urged Mrs. Condy.
“I never liked black,” she replied evasively. “And, anyhow, it would do no good,” she added somewhat mournfully, as if the former reason struck her on the instant as being an insufficient one.
“No, child, it wouldn’t do any good,” said Mr. Condy, tenderly and with emotion. “And if you don’t care about having it, don’t take it.”
Mrs. Condy laid the proffered dress aside, and Ellen again bent silently over her work. The hearts of all present were touched by her simple and true remark, “that it would do no good,” and each one respected her the more, that she shunned all exterior manifestation of the real sorrow that they knew oppressed her spirits. And never did they array themselves in their sombre weeds, that the thought of Ellen’s unobtrusive grief did not come up and chide them.
IF THAT WERE MY CHILD!
“AH, good evening, Mr. Pelby! Good evening, Mr. Manly! I am glad to see you! Mrs. Little and I were just saying that we wished some friends would step in.”
“Well, how do you do this evening, Mrs. Little?” said Mr. Pelby, after they were all seated. “You look remarkably well. And how is your little family?”
“We are all bright and hearty,” Mrs. Little replied, smiling. “Little Tommy has just gone off to bed. If you had come in a few minutes sooner, you would have seen the dear little fellow. He’s as lively and playful as a cricket.”
“How old is he now?” asked Mr. Manly.
“He will be two years and six months old the twenty-third of next month.”
“Just the age of my Edward. How much I should like to see him!”
“I don’t think he has gone to sleep yet,” said the fond mother of an only child, rising and going off to her chamber.
“You bachelors don’t sympathize much with us fathers of families,” said Mr. Little, laughing, to Mr. Pelby.
“How should we?”
“True enough! But then you can envy us; and no doubt do.”
“It’s well enough for you to think so, Little. But, after all, I expect we are the better off.”
“Don’t flatter yourself in any such way, Mr. Pelby. I’ve been”–
“Here’s the darling!” exclaimed Mrs. Little, bounding gayly in the room at the moment, with Tommy, who was laughing and tossing his arms about in delight at being taken up from his bed, into which he had gone reluctantly.
“Come to pa, Tommy,” said Mr. Little, reaching out his hands. “Now ain’t that a fine little fellow?” he continued, looking from face to face of his two friends, and showing off Tommy to the best possible advantage that his night-gown would permit. And he was a sweet child; with rosy cheeks, bright blue eyes, and clustering golden ringlets.
“Indeed he is a lovely child,” Mr. Manly said earnestly.
“A very fine child,” Mr. Pelby remarked, mechanically.
“We’ll match him with the town!” broke in Mrs. Little, unable to keep down the upswelling, delighted affection of her heart.
By this time, Tommy’s bewildered senses were restored, and he began to look about him with lively interest. His keen eyes soon detected Mr. Pelby’s bright gold chain and swivel, and well knowing that it betokened a watch, he slid quickly down from his father’s lap, and stood beside the knee of the nice bachelor visitor.
“He’s not afraid of strangers,” said Mrs. Little, her eyes sparkling with pleasure, as they followed every movement of her child.
“Tee watch,” said Tommy.
“It’ll bite” said Mr. Pelby.
“Tee watch!” reiterated the child, grasping the chain.
With not the best grace in the world, Mr. Pelby drew out his beautiful gold lever, and submitted it to the rude grasp, as he thought, of Tommy.
“Oh, ma! ma! Tee watch! tee watch!” cried the child, almost wild with delight–at the same time advancing towards her as far as the chain would permit, and then tugging at it as hard as he could, to the no small discomfort of the visitor, who, seeing no movement of relief on the part of either parent, was forced to slip the chain over his head, and trust Tommy to carry his favourite time-keeper to his mother.
“Tommy’ll be a watch-maker, I expect. Nothing pleases him so much as a watch,” remarked the father.
Mr. Pelby did not reply. He dared not, for he felt that, were he to trust himself to speak, he should betray feelings that politeness required him to conceal.
“There!” suddenly exclaimed the mother, catching eagerly at the watch, which Tommy had dropped, and recovering it just in time to save it from injury.
“Gim me! gim me! gim me!” cried Tommy, seizing her hands, and endeavouring to get possession again of the valuable timepiece, which had escaped so narrowly.
“There, now,” said Mrs. Little, yielding to the child’s eager importunity, and permitting him again to take possession of the watch. “But you must hold it tighter.”
Mr. Pelby was on nettles; but he dared not interfere.
“Open it,” said Tommy, endeavouring to loose the hinge of the case with his tiny thumb-nail.
“Oh, no; you mustn’t open it, Tommy.”
“Open it!” resumed Tommy, in a higher and more positive tone.
“I can’t open it,” said the mother, pretending to make an earnest effort to loose the case.
“_O-pen–it!_” screamed the child, in a loud angry tone.
“Here, take it to Mr. Pelby, he will open it for you.” And the watch was again intrusted to Tommy’s care, who bore it, and, as fortune would have it, safely too, to its owner.
Of course, Mr. Pelby could do no better, and so he displayed the jewels and internal arrangement of his skeleton lever to the curious gaze of the child. At first, Tommy was well pleased to look alone: but soon the ends of his fingers itched to touch, and touch he did, quite promptly; and, of course, Mr. Pelby very naturally drew back the hand that held the watch; and just as naturally did Tommy suddenly extend his and grasp the receding prize. With some difficulty, Mr. Pelby succeeded in disengaging the fingers of the child, and then hastily closing the watch, he slipped it into his pocket.
“There, it’s gone!” said he.
“Tee de watch!” replied Tommy.
“It’s gone clear off.”
“Tee de watch!” said Tommy more emphatically.
“Here, come see mine,” said the father.
“No,” replied the child, angrily.
Mr. Pelby, to quiet Tommy, now took him upon his lap, and called his attention to a large cameo breast-pin. This pleased him at once, and he amused himself with pulling at it, and sadly rumpling the visitor’s snow-white bosom. Next he began to dive into his pockets, revealing pen-knife, tooth-pick, etc. etc. This was worse than to let him have the watch; and so, as a lesser evil, the gold lever was again drawn from its hiding-place. The little fellow was once more wild with delight.
But Pelby was so evidently annoyed, that Mr. Little could not help observing it; and he at length said to his wife–
“Hadn’t you better take Tommy up-stairs, my dear? He is too troublesome.”
Mr. Pelby had it on his tongue’s end to say, “Oh, no, he don’t trouble me at all!” But he was afraid–not to tell a falsehood–but that the child would be suffered to remain; so he said nothing.
“Come, Tommy,” said Mrs. Little, holding out her hands.
“No!” replied the child emphatically.
“No!” still louder and more emphatic.
“Yes, come, dear.”
“No, I won’t!”
“Yes, but you must!” Mrs. Little said, taking hold of him.
At this, Tommy clung around the neck of Mr. Pelby, struggling and kicking with all his might against the effort of his mother to disengage him; who finally succeeded, and bore him, screaming at the top of his voice, from the room.
“If that were my child,” said Mr. Pelby, after they had left the house, “I’d half kill him but what I’d make a better boy of him! I never saw such an ill-behaved, graceless little rascal in my life!”
“Children are children, Mr. Pelby,” quietly remarked his auditor, Mr. Manly, who had half a dozen “little responsibilities” himself.
“Hard bargains at the best, I know. But then I have seen good-behaved children; and, if parents would only take proper pains with them, all might be trained to good behaviour and obedience. If I had a child, it would act different, I know, from what that one did this evening.”
“Old bachelors’ children, you know,” Mr. Manly said, with a smile.
“O yes, I know. But silly adages don’t excuse neglectful parents,” replied Mr. Pelby, a little touched at the allusion.
“That is true, Mr. Pelby. But what I meant you to understand by the remark was, that those who have no children of their own are too often wanting in a due consideration and forbearance towards those of other people. I have quite a house full and I know that I take great pains with them, and that the true management of them costs me much serious consideration; and yet I have known some of mine to act much worse than Tommy Little did this evening.”
“Well, all I have to say in the matter, friend Manly, is this:–If I had a child that acted as rudely as that young one did to-night, I would, teach him a lesson that he would not forget for the next twelve months.”
“You don’t know what you would do, if you had a child, Pelby. An active, restless child requires patience and continued forbearance; and, if it should be your lot to have such a one, I am sure your natural affection and good sense would combine to prevent your playing the unreasonable tyrant over it.”
“Perhaps it would. But I am sure I should not think my natural affection and good sense pledged to let my child do as he pleased, and annoy every one that came to the house.”
“You were exceedingly annoyed, then, to-night?”
“Annoyed! Why, I could hardly sit in my chair towards the last. And when the young imp came pawing me and climbing over me, I could hardly help tossing him off of my lap upon the floor.”
“You did not seem so much worried. I really thought you were pleased with the little fellow.”
“Now, that is too bad, Manly! I’d as lief had a monkey screwing and twisting about in my lap. It was as much as I could do to be civil to either his father or mother for suffering their brat to tease me as he did. First, I must be kissed by his bread and butter mouth; and then he made me suffer a kind of martyrdom in fear of my elegant lever. A watch is not the thing for a child to play with, and I am astonished at Little for suffering his young one to annoy a visitor in that way.”
“Blame them as much as you please, but don’t feel unkindly towards the child,” said Manly. “He knows no better. Your watch delighted him, and of course he wanted it, and any attempt to deprive him of it was very naturally resisted. His parents are fond of him–and well they may be–and pet him a great deal; thus he has learned to expect every visitor to notice him, and also expects to notice and make free with every visitor. This is all very natural.”
“Natural enough, and so is it to steal; but that don’t make it right. Children should be taught, from the first, to be reserved in the presence of strangers, and never to come near them unless invited. If I had one, I’ll be bound he wouldn’t disgrace me as Little’s child did him to-night.”
“We’ll see, one of these days, perhaps,” was Manly’s quiet remark; and the friends parted company.
Ten years often make a great difference in a man’s condition, habits, and feelings. Ten years passed away, and Mr. Pelby was a husband, and the father of three interesting children,–indulged, of course, and “pretty considerably” spoiled, yet interesting withal, and, in the eyes of their father, not to be compared for beauty, good manners, etc. with any other children inhabiting the same city. William, the oldest boy, had not quite completed his sixth year. Emma, a rosy-cheeked, chubby little thing, when asked her age, could say–
“Four years old last June.”
And Henry was just the age that Tommy Little was when he so terribly annoyed Mr. Pelby. Now, as to Henry’s accomplishments, they were many and various. He could be a good boy when he felt in a pleasant humour, and could storm, and fret, and pout in a way so well understood by all parents, that it would be a work of supererogation to describe it here. But strange mutation of disposition!–Mr. Pelby could bear these fits of perverseness with a philosophy that would have astonished even himself, could he have for a moment realized his former state of mind. When Henry became ill-tempered from any cause, he had, from loving him, learned that to get into an ill-humour also would be only adding fuel to flame; and so, on such occasions, he sought affectionately to calm and soothe his ruffled feelings. If Henry, or Emma, or William, from any exuberance of happy feelings, were noisy or boisterous, he did not think it right to check them suddenly, because he was a little annoyed. He tried, rather, to feel glad with them–to partake of their joy. In short, Mr. Pelby had grown into a domestic philosopher. A wife and two or three children do wonders sometimes!
Now it so happened about this time, that Mr. and Mrs. Manly and Mr. and Mrs. Little were spending an evening with Mr. and Mrs. Pelby. William and Emma had their suppers prepared for them in the kitchen, and then, as usual, were put to bed; but “dear little Henry” was so interesting to his parents, and they naturally thought must be so interesting to their company, that he was allowed to sit up and come to the tea-table. As Mrs. Pelby had no dining-room, the back parlour was used for this purpose, and so all the progressive arrangements of the tea-table were visible.
“Oh, dinne weddy! dinne weddy!” cried little Henry, sliding down from the lap of Mrs. Little–whose collar he had been rumpling so that it was hardly fit to be seen–as soon as he saw the cloth laid; and, running for a chair, he was soon perched up in it, calling lustily for “meat.”
“Oh, no, no, Henry! dinner not ready yet!” said Mrs. Pelby, starting forward, and endeavouring to remove the child from his seat; but Henry screamed and resisted.
“Oh, let him sit, mother!” interfered Mr. Pelby. “The little dear don’t understand waiting as we do.”
“Yes, but, father, it is time that he had learned. Tea isn’t near ready yet; and if he is allowed to sit here, he will pull and haul every thing about,” responded Mrs. Pelby.
“Oh, never mind, mother! Give him some meat, and he’ll be quiet enough. I never like to see little folks made to wait for grown people; they cannot understand nor appreciate the reason of it.”
And so little Henry was permitted to remain at the table, picking first at one thing and then at another, much to the discomfort and mortification of his mother, who could not see in this indulgence any thing very interesting. Mrs. Little was relieved, although her collar was disfigured for the evening past hope.
After a while tea was announced, and the company sat down.
“Me toffee! me toffee!” cried Henry, stretching out his hands impatiently. “Me toffee, ma! me toffee, ma!” as soon as Mrs. Pelby was seated before the tea-tray, and had commenced supplying the cups with cream and sugar.
“Yes–yes–Henry shall have coffee. H-u-s-h–there–be quiet–that’s a good boy,” she said, soothingly. But–
“Me toffee, ma! me toffee, ma! me toffee, ma!” was continued without a moment’s cessation. “Ma! ma! ma! me toffee! me toffee!”
“Yes, yes, yes! you shall have coffee in a moment; only be patient, child!” Mrs. Pelby now said, evidently worried; for Henry was crying at the top of his voice, and impatiently shaking his hands and vibrating his whole body.
But he ceased not a moment until his mother, before any of the company had been served, prepared him a cup of milk and warm water, sweetened. Placing his lips to the edge of the cup, Henry drank the whole of it off before the table was more than half served.
“Me more toffee, ma!”
Mrs. Pelby paused, and looked him in the face with an expression of half despair and half astonishment.
“Me more toffee, ma!” continued Henry.
“Yes, wait a moment, and I’ll give you more,” she said.
“More toffee, ma!” in a louder voice.
“Yes, in a moment.”
“More toffee, ma!” This time louder and more impatiently.
To keep the peace, a second cup of milk and water had to be prepared, and then Mrs. Pelby finished waiting on her company. But it soon appeared that the second cup had not really been wanted, for now that he had it, the child could not swallow more than two or three draughts. His amusement now consisted in playing in his saucer with a spoon, which being perceived by his mother, she said to him–
“There now, Henry, you didn’t want that, after all. Come, let me pour your tea back into the cup, and set the cup on the waiter, or you will spill it;” at the same time making a motion to do what she had proposed. But–
“No! no! no!” cried the child, clinging to the saucer, and attempting to remove it out of his mother’s reach. This he did so suddenly, that the entire contents were thrown into Mrs. Little’s lap.
“Bless me, Mrs. Little!” exclaimed Mrs. Pelby, really distressed; “that is too bad! Come, Henry, you must go away from the table;” at the same time attempting to remove him. But he cried–
“No! no! no!” so loud, that she was constrained to desist.
“There, let him sit; he won’t do so any more,” said Mr. Pelby. “That was very naughty, Henry. Come, now, if you want your tea, drink it, or let me put it away.”
Henry already knew enough of his father to be convinced that when he spoke in a certain low, emphatic tone, he was in earnest; and so he very quietly put his mouth down to his saucer and pretended to drink, though it would have been as strange as pouring water into a full cup without overflowing it, as for him to have let any more go down his throat, without spilling a portion already there out at the top.
Tea was at last over, and Mrs. Little, on rising from the table, had opportunity and leisure to examine her beautiful silk, now worn for the second time. Fortunately, it was of a colour that tea would not injure, although it was by no means pleasant to have a whole front breadth completely saturated. Mrs. Pelby made many apologies, but Mr. Pelby called it a “family accident,” and one of a kind that married people were so familiar with, as scarcely to be annoyed by them.
“Come here, Henry,” said he. “Just see what you have done! Now go kiss the lady, and say, ‘I’m sorry.'”
The little fellow’s eye brightened, and going up to Mrs. Little, he pouted out his cherry lips, and, as she kissed him, he said, with a suddenly-assumed demure, penitent look–“I torry.”
“What’s Henry sorry for?” asked Mrs. Little, instantly softening towards the child, and taking him on her knee.
“I torry,” he repeated, but in a much livelier tone, at the same time that he clambered up and stood in her lap, with his little hands again crushing her beautiful French collar.
“Come here, Henry,” said Mr. Manly, who saw that Mrs. Little was annoyed at this; but Henry would not move. He had espied a comb in Mrs. Little’s head, and had just laid violent hands upon it, threatening every moment to flood that lady’s neck and shoulders with her own dishevelled tresses.
“Come and see my watch,” said Mr. Manly.
This was enough. Henry slid from Mrs. Little’s lap instantly, and in the next minute was seated on Mr. Manly’s knee, examining that gentleman’s time-keeper. Between opening and shutting the watch, holding it first to his own and then to Mr. Manly’s ear, Henry spent full a quarter of an hour. Even that considerate, kind-hearted gentleman’s patience began to be impaired, and he could not help thinking that his friend, Mr. Pelby, ought to be thoughtful enough to relieve him. Once or twice he made a movement to replace the watch in his pocket, but this was instantly perceived and as promptly resisted. The little fellow had an instinctive perception that Mr. Manly did not wish him to have the watch, and for that very reason retained possession of it long beyond the time that he would have done if it had been fully relinquished to him.
At last he tired of the glittering toy, and returned to annoy Mrs. Little; but she was saved by the appearance of a servant with fruit and cakes.
“Dim me cake! dim me cake!” cried Henry, seizing hold of the servant’s clothes, and pulling her so suddenly as almost to cause her to let fall the tray that was in her hands.
To keep the peace, Henry was helped first of all to a slice of pound-cake.
“Mo’ cake,” he said, in a moment or two after, unable to articulate with any degree of distinctness, for his mouth was so full that each cheek stood out, and his lips essayed in vain to close over the abundant supply within. Another piece was given, and this disappeared as quickly. Then he wanted an apple, and as soon as he got one, he cried for a second and a third. Then–
But we will not chronicle the sayings and doings of little Henry further; more than to say, that he soon, from being allowed to sit up beyond the accustomed hour, grew fretful and exceedingly troublesome, preventing all pleasant intercourse between the visitors and visited, and that at nine o’clock he was carried off screaming to his bed.
“If that were my child,” said Mr. Little, pausing at his own door, and turning round to Mr. and Mrs. Manly, who had accompanied his wife thus far on their way home, “I would teach him better manners, or I would half kill him. I never saw such an ill-conditioned little imp in my life!”
“Children are children, you know,” was Mr. Manly’s quiet reply.
“Yes, but children may be made to behave, if any pains at all be taken with them. It is really unpardonable for any one to let a child like that worry visitors as he did us this evening.”
“Few children of his age, Mr. Little, unless of a remarkably quiet and obedient disposition, are much better than Pelby’s little boy.”
“As to that, Mr. Manly,” broke in Mrs. Little, “there’s our Tommy, a fine boy of twelve, as you know. He never acted like that when he was a child. I never had a bit of trouble with him when we had company. We could bring him down into the parlour when he was of Henry Pelby’s age, and he would go round and kiss all the ladies so sweetly, and then go off to bed, like a little man, as he was.”
“Ah, Mrs. Little, you forget,” said Mr. Manly, laughing.
“Oh, no, indeed, Mr. Manly. I don’t forget these things. We could do any thing with Tommy at his age, and it was because we managed him rightly. You can do any thing with children you please.”
“Indeed, then, Mrs. Little, it is more than I can say,” remarked Mrs. Manly. “If my children could be made any thing at all of, they would have been different from what they are; and yet, I believe,” she added, with a feeling of maternal pride, “they are not the worst children I have ever seen.”
“Good-nights” were now exchanged, and, after Mr. and Mrs. Manly had walked a few steps, the former said,
“Well, this is a curious world that we live in. Ten years ago, Pelby, then a trim bachelor, as nice and particular as any of the tribe, said, in allusion to Tommy Little–‘If that were my child, I would half kill him but what I’d make a better boy of him!'”
“Yes, those were his very words. We were spending an evening at Mr. and Mrs. Little’s, and when Tommy was about two years old or so; and Pelby was terribly annoyed by him. He acted pretty much as all children do–that is, pretty much as Henry did to-night. But Pelby couldn’t endure it with any kind of patience.”
“Ha! ha!” laughed out Mrs. Manly, in spite of herself. “How completely the tables have been turned!”
“Yes, they have been, certainly. But what is a little singular is, that neither of the parties concerned seem to have gained wisdom by their experience. Pelby forgets how other people’s children once annoyed him, and Mr. and Mrs. Little seem to be entirely unconscious that their paragon was very much like all other little boys when he was only about two or three years old. For my part, I think we should be careful not to let our children trespass upon visitors. None can feel the same interest in them that we do, or exercise the same forbearance towards their faults. Faults they all have, which need especial care in their correction; and these should be suffered to appear as rarely as possible under circumstances which prevent a salutary check being placed upon them. For this reason, you know, we have made it a matter of concert not to let our children, while, too young to understand something of propriety, be present, but for a very short time, when we had company. The moment they become rude or too familiar, they were quietly taken from the room.”
“Yes; and knowing as I do,” said Mrs. Manly, “how very restless some children with active minds are, I am never disposed to look with unfavourable eyes upon any, even when wild, turbulent, and heedless. They act as they feel; and so far as evil affections show themselves, we know they are inherited, and that it is not in the power of the child to remove them. We should then be moved, it seems to me, with a purer affection for them; with something of pity mixed with our love, and, instead of suffering their wrong actions to repulse us, we should draw towards them with a desire to teach them what is wrong, and impart to them some power to overcome evil.”
“If all thought as you, Mary,” said Mr. Manly, as they gained their own doors, “we should hear no one railing out against other people’s children, while he indulged his own. A fault too common with most parents.”
“YOU look sober, Laura. What has thrown a veil over your happy face?” said Mrs. Cleaveland to her niece, one morning, on finding her alone and with a very thoughtful countenance.
“Do I really look sober?” and Laura smiled as she spoke.
“You did just now. But the sunshine has already dispelled the transient cloud. I am glad that a storm was not portended.”
“I felt sober, aunt,” Laura said, after a few moments–her face again becoming serious.
“So I supposed, from your looks.”
“And I feel sober still.”
“I am really discouraged, aunt.”
The maiden’s cheek deepened its hue, but she did not reply.
“You and Harry have not fallen out, like a pair of foolish lovers, I hope.”
“Oh, no!” was the quick and emphatic answer.
“Then what has troubled the quiet waters of your spirit? About what are you discouraged?”
“I will tell you,” the maiden replied. “It was only about a week after my engagement with Harry that I called upon Alice Stacy, and found her quite unhappy. She had not been married over a few months. I asked what troubled her, and she said, ‘I feel as miserable as I can be.’ ‘But what makes you miserable, Alice?’ I inquired. ‘Because William and I have quarrelled–that’s the reason,’ she said, with some levity, tossing her head and compressing her lips, with a kind of defiance. I was shocked–so much so, that I could not speak. ‘The fact is,’ she resumed, before I could reply, ‘all men are arbitrary and unreasonable. They think women inferior to them, and their wives as a higher order of slaves. But I am not one to be put under any man’s feet. William has tried that trick with me, and failed. Of course, to be foiled by a woman is no very pleasant thing for one of your lords of creation. A tempest in a teapot was the consequence. But I did not yield the point in dispute; and, what is more, have no idea of doing so. He will have to find out, sooner or later, that I am his equal in every way; and the quicker he can be made conscious of this, the better for us both. Don’t you think so?’ I made no answer. I was too much surprised and shocked. ‘All men,’ she continued, ‘have to be taught this. There never was a husband who did not, at first, attempt to lord it over his wife. And there never was a woman, whose condition as a wife was at all above that of a passive slave, who did not find it necessary to oppose herself at first, with unflinching perseverance.’
“To all this, and a great deal more, I could say nothing. It choked me up. Since then, I have met her frequently, at home and elsewhere, but she has never looked happy. Several times she has said to me, in company, when I have taken a seat beside her, and remarked that she seemed dull, ‘Yes, I am dull; but Mr. Stacy, there, you see, enjoys himself. Men always enjoy themselves in company–apart from their wives, of course.’ I would sometimes oppose to this a sentiment palliative of her husband; as, that, in company, a man very naturally wished to add his mite to the general joyousness, or something of a like nature. But it only excited her, and drew forth remarks that shocked my feelings. Up to this day, they do not appear to be on any better terms. Then, there is Frances Glenn–married only three months, and as fond of carping at her husband for his arbitrary, domineering spirit, as is Mrs. Stacy. I could name two or three others, who have been married, some a shorter and some a longer period, that do not seem to be united by any closer bonds.
“It is the condition of these young friends, aunt, that causes me to feel serious. I am to be married in a few weeks. Can it be possible that my union with Henry Armour will be no happier, no more perfect than theirs? This I cannot believe. And yet, the relation that Alice and Frances hold to their husbands, troubles me whenever I think of it. Henry, as far as I have been able to understand him, has strong points in his character. From a right course of action,–or, from a course of action that he thinks right,–no consideration, I am sure, would turn him. I, too, have mental characteristics somewhat similar. There is, likewise, about me, a leaven of stubbornness. I tremble when the thought of opposition between us, upon any subject, crosses my mind. I would rather die–so I feel about it–than ever have a misunderstanding with my husband.”
Laura ceased, and her aunt, who was, she now perceived, much agitated, arose and left the room without speaking. The reason of this to Laura was altogether unaccountable. Her aunt Cleaveland, always so mild, so calm, to be thus strongly disturbed! What could it mean? What could there be in her maidenly fears to excite the feelings of one so good, and wise, and gentle? An hour afterwards, and while she yet sat, sober and perplexed in mind, in the same place where Mrs. Cleaveland had left her, a domestic came in and said that her aunt wished to see her in her own room. Laura attended her immediately. She found her calm and self-possessed, but paler than usual. “Sit down beside me, dear,” Mrs. Cleaveland said, smiling faintly, as her niece came in.
“What you said this morning, Laura,” she began, after a few moments, “recalled my own early years so vividly, that I could not keep down emotions I had deemed long since powerless. The cause of those emotions it is now, I clearly see, my duty to reveal–that is, to you. For years I have carefully avoided permitting my mind to go back to the past, in vain musings over scenes that bring no pleasant thoughts, no glad feelings. I have, rather, looked into the future with a steady hope, a calm reliance. But, for your sake, I will draw aside the veil. May the relation I am now about to give you have the effect I desire! Then shall I not suffer in vain. How vividly, at this moment, do I remember the joyful feelings that pervaded my bosom, when, like you, a maiden, I looked forward to my wedding-day. Mr. Cleaveland was a man, in many respects, like Henry Armour. Proud, firm, yet gentle and amiable when not opposed;–a man with whom I might have been supremely happy;–a man whose faults I might have corrected–not by open opposition to them–not by seeming to notice them–but by leading him to see them himself. But this course I did not pursue. I was proud; I was self-willed; I was unyielding. Elements like these can never come into opposition without a victory on either side being as disastrous as the defeats. We were married. Oh, how sweet was the promise of my wedding-day! Of my husband I was very fond. Handsome, educated, and with talents of a high order, there was every thing about him to make the heart of a young wife proud. Tenderly we loved each other. Like days in Elysium passed the first few months of our wedded life. Our thoughts and wishes were one. After that, gradually a change appeared to come over my husband. He deferred less readily to my wishes. His own will was more frequently opposed to mine, and his contentions for victory longer and longer continued. This surprised and pained me. But it did not occur to me, that my tenaciousness of opinion might seem as strange to him as did his to me. It did not occur to me, that there would be a propriety in my deferring to him–at least so far as to give up opposition. I never for a moment reflected that a proud, firm-spirited man, might be driven off from an opposing wife, rather than drawn closer and united in tenderer bonds. I only perceived my rights as an equal assailed. And, from that point of view, saw his conduct as dogmatical and overbearing, whenever he resolutely set himself against me, as was far too frequently the case.
“One day,–we had then been married about six months,–he said to me, a little seriously, yet smiling as he spoke, ‘Jane, did not I see you on the street, this morning?’ ‘You did,’ I replied. ‘And with Mrs. Corbin?’ ‘Yes.’ My answer to this last question was not given in a very pleasant tone. The reason was this. Mrs. Corbin, a recent acquaintance, was no favourite with my husband; and he had more than once mildly suggested that she was not, in his view, a fit associate for me. This rather touched my pride. It occurred to me, that I ought to be the best judge of my female associates, and that for my husband to make any objections was an assumption on his part, that, as a wife, I was called upon to resist. I did not, on previous occasions, say any thing very decided, contenting myself with parrying his objections laughingly. This time, however, I was in a less forbearing mood. ‘I wish you would not make that woman your friend’ he said, after I had admitted that he was right in his observation. ‘And why not, pray?’ I asked, looking at him quite steadily. ‘For reasons before given, Jane,’ he replied, mildly, but firmly. ‘There are reports in circulation touching her character, that I fear are’–‘They are false!’ I interrupted him. ‘I know they are false!’ I spoke with a sudden excitement. My voice trembled, my cheek burned, and I was conscious that my eye shot forth no mild light. ‘They are true–I know they are true!’ Mr. Cleaveland said, sternly, but apparently unruffled. ‘I don’t believe it,’ I retorted. ‘I know her far better. She is an injured woman.’
“‘Jane,’ my husband now said, his voice slightly trembling, ‘you are my wife. As such, your reputation is as dear to me as the apple of my eye. Suspicion has been cast upon Mrs. Corbin, and that suspicion I have good reason for believing well founded. If you associate with her–if you are seen upon the street with her, your fair fame will receive a taint. This I cannot permit.’
“There was, to my mind, a threat contained in the last sentence–a threat of authoritative intervention. At this my pride took fire.
“‘Cannot permit!’ I said, drawing myself up. ‘What do you mean, Mr. Cleveland?’
“The brow of my husband instantly flushed. He was silent for a moment or two. Then he said, with forced calmness, yet in a resolute, meaning tone–
“‘Jane, I do not wish you to keep company with Mrs. Corbin.’
“‘I WILL!’ was my indignant reply.
“His face grew deadly pale. For a moment his whole frame trembled as if some fearful struggle were going on within. Then he quietly arose, and, without looking at me, left the room. Oh! how deeply did I regret uttering those unhappy words the instant they were spoken! But repentance came too late. For about the space of ten minutes, pride struggled with affection and duty. At the end of that time the latter triumphed, and I hastened after my husband to ask his forgiveness for what I said. But he was not in the parlours. He was not in the house! I asked a servant if she had seen him, and received for reply that he had gone out.
“Anxiously passed the hours until nightfall. The sad twilight, as it gathered dimly around, threw a deeper gloom over my heart. My husband usually came home before dark. Now he was away beyond his accustomed hour. Instead of returning gladly to meet his young wife, he was staying away, because that young wife had thrown off the attractions of love and presented to him features harsh and repulsive. How anxiously I longed to hear the sound of his footsteps–to see his face–to hear his voice! The moment of his entrance I resolved should be the moment of my humble confession of wrong–of my faithful promise never again to set up my will determinedly in opposition to his judgment. But minute after minute passed after nightfall–hours succeeded minutes–and these rolled on until the whole night wore away, and he came not back to me. As the gray light of morning stole into my chamber, a terrible fear took hold of me, that made my heart grow still in my bosom–the fear that he would never return–that I had driven him off from me. Alas! this fear was too nigh the truth. The whole of that day passed, and the next and the next, without any tidings. No one had seen him since he left me. An anxious excitement spread among all his friends. The only account I could give of him, was, that he had parted from me in good health, and in a sane mind.
“A week rolled by, and still no word came. I was nearly distracted. What I suffered, no tongue can tell, no heart conceive. I have often wondered that I did not become insane but from this sad condition I was saved. Through all, my reason, though often trembling, did not once forsake me. It was on the tenth day from that upon which we had jarred so heavily as to be driven widely asunder, that a letter came to me, post-marked New York, and endorsed ‘In haste.’ My hands trembled so that I could with difficulty break the seal. The contents were to the effect that my husband had been lying for several days at one of the hotels there, very ill, but now past the crisis of his disease, and thought by the physician to be out of danger. The writer urged me, from my husband, to come on immediately. In eight hours from the time I received that letter, I was in New York. Alas! it was too late; the disease had returned with double violence, and snapped the feeble thread of life. I never saw my husband’s living face again.”
The self-possession of Mrs. Cleaveland, at this part of her narrative, gave way. Covering her face with her hands, she sobbed violently, while the tears came trickling through her fingers.
“My dear Laura,” she resumed, after the lapse of many minutes, looking up as she spoke, with a clear eye, and a sober, but placid countenance, “it is for your sake that I have turned my gaze resolutely back. May the painful history I have given you make a deep impression upon your heart; let it warn you of the sunken rock upon which my bark foundered. Avoid carefully, religiously avoid setting yourself in opposition to your husband; should he prove unreasonable or arbitrary, nothing is to be gained, and every thing lost by contention. By gentleness, by forbearance, by even suffering wrong at times, you will be able to win him over to a better spirit: an opposite course will as assuredly put thorns in your pillow as you adopt it. Look at the unhappy condition of the friends you have named; their husbands are, in their eyes, exacting, domineering tyrants. But this need not be. Let them act truly the woman’s part. Let them not oppose, but yield, and they will find that their present tyrants’ will become their lovers. Above all, never, under any circumstances, either jestingly or in earnest, say ‘_I will_,’ when you are opposed. That declaration is never made without its robbing the wife of a portion of her husband’s confidence and love; its utterance has dimmed the fire upon many a smiling hearth-stone.”
Laura could not reply; the relation of her aunt had deeply shocked her feelings. But the words she had uttered sank into her heart; and when her trial came–when she was tempted to set her will in opposition to her husband’s, and resolutely to contend for what she deemed right, a thought of Mrs. Cleaveland’s story would put a seal upon her lips. It was well. The character of Henry Armour too nearly resembled that of Mr. Cleaveland: he could illy have brooked a wife’s opposition; but her tenderness, her forbearance, her devoted love, bound her to him with cords that drew closer and closer each revolving year. She never opposed him further than to express a difference of opinion when such a difference existed, and its utterance was deemed useful; and she carefully avoided, on all occasions, the doing of any thing of which he in the smallest degree disapproved. The consequence was, that her opinion was always weighed by him carefully, and often deferred to. A mutual confidence and a mutual dependence upon each other gradually took the place of early reserves, and now they sweetly draw together–now they smoothly glide along the stream of life blessed indeed in all their marriage relations. Who will say that Laura did not act a wise part? Who will say that in sacrificing pride and self-will, she did not gain beyond all calculation? No one, surely. She is not her husband’s slave, but his companion and equal. She has helped to reform and remodel his character, and make him less arbitrary, less self-willed, less disposed to be tyrannical. In her mild forbearance, he has seen a beauty more attractive far than lip or cheek, or beaming eye.
Instead of looking upon his wife as below him, Henry Armour feels that she is his superior, and as such he tenderly regards and lovingly cherishes her. He never thinks of obedience from her, but rather studies to conform himself to her most lightly-spoken wish. To be thus united, what wife will not for a time sacrifice her feelings when her young self-willed husband so far forgets himself as to become exacting! The temporary loss will turn out in the future to be a great gain.
A MOTHER’S INFLUENCE.
“THERE come the children from school,” said Aunt Mary, looking from the window. “Just see that Clarence! he’ll have Henry in the gutter. I never saw just such another boy; why can’t he come quietly along like other children? There! now he must stop to throw stones at the pigs. That boy’ll give you the heart-ache yet, Anna.”
Mrs. Hartley made no reply, but laid aside her work quietly and left the room to see that their dinner was ready. In a few minutes the street-door was thrown open, and the children came bounding in full of life, and noisy as they could be.
“Where is your coat, Clarence?” she asked, in a pleasant tone, looking her oldest boy in the face.
“Oh, I forgot!” he replied, cheerfully; and turning quickly, he ran down stairs, and lifting his coat from where, in his thoughtlessness, he had thrown it upon the floor, hung it up in its proper place, and then sprang up the stairs.
“Isn’t dinner ready yet?” he said, with fretful impatience, his whole manner changing suddenly. “I’m hungry.”
“It will be ready in a few minutes, Clarence.”
“I want it now. I’m hungry.”
“Did you ever hear of the man,” said Mrs. Hartley, in a voice that showed no disturbance of mind, “who wanted the sun to rise an hour before its time?”
“No, mother. Tell me about it, won’t you?”
All impatience had vanished from the boy’s face.
“There was a man who had to go upon a journey; the stage-coach was to call for him at sun-rise. More than an hour before it was time for the sun to be up, the man was all ready to go, and for the whole of that hour he walked the floor impatiently, grumbling at the sun because he did not rise. ‘I’m all ready, and I want to be going,’ he said. ‘It’s time the sun was up, long ago.’ Don’t you think he was a very foolish man?”
Clarence laughed, and said he thought the man was very foolish indeed.
“Do you think he was more foolish than you were just now for grumbling because dinner wasn’t ready?”
Clarence laughed again, and said he did not know. Just then Hannah, the cook, brought in the waiter with the children’s dinner upon it. Clarence sprang for a chair, and drew it hastily and noisily to the table.
“Try and see if you can’t do that more orderly, my dear,” his mother said, in a quiet voice, looking at him, as she spoke, with a steady eye.
The boy removed his chair, and then replaced it gently.
“That is much better, my son.”
And thus she corrected his disorderly habits, quieted his impatient temper, and checked his rudeness, without showing any disturbance. This she had to do daily. At almost every meal she found it necessary to repress his rude impatience. It was line upon line, and precept upon precept. But she never tired, and rarely permitted herself to show that she was disturbed, no matter how deeply grieved she was at times over the wild and reckless spirit of her boy.
On the next day she was not very well; her head ached badly all the morning. Hearing the children in the passage when they came in from school at noon, she was, rising from the bed where she had lain down, to attend to them and give them their dinners, when Aunt Mary said–“Don’t get up, Anna, I will see to the children.”
It was rarely that Mrs. Hartley let any one do for them what she could do herself, for no one else could manage the unhappy temper of Clarence; but so violent was the pain in her head, that she let Aunt Mary go, and sank back upon the pillow from which she had arisen. A good deal of noise and confusion continued to reach her ears, from the moment the children came in. At length a loud cry and passionate words from Clarence caused her to rise up quickly and go over to the dining-room. All was confusion there, and Aunt Mary out of humour and scolding prodigiously. Clarence was standing up at the table, looking defiance at her, on account of some interference with his strong self-will. The moment the boy saw his mother, his countenance changed, and a look of confusion took the place of anger.
“Come over to my room, Clarence,” she said, in a low voice; there was sadness in its tones, that made him feel sorry that he had given vent so freely to his ill-temper.
“What was the matter, my son?” Mrs. Hartley asked, as soon as they were alone, taking Clarence by the hand and looking steadily at him.
“Aunt Mary wouldn’t help me when I asked her.”
“She would help Henry first.”
“No doubt she had a reason for it. Do you know her reason?”
“She said he was youngest.” Clarence pouted out his lips, and spoke in a very disagreeable tone.
“Don’t you think that was a very good reason?”
“I’ve as good a right to be helped first as he has.”
“Let us see if that is so. You and Marien and Henry came in from school, all hungry and anxious for your dinners. Marien is oldest–she, one would suppose, from the fact that she is oldest, would be better able to feel for her brothers, and be willing to see their wants supplied before her own. You are older than Henry, and should feel for him in the same way. No doubt this was Aunt Mary’s reason for helping Henry first. Had she helped Marien?”
“Did Marien complain?”
“No one complained but my unhappy Clarence. Do you know why you complained? I can tell you, as I have often told you before; it is because you indulge in very selfish feelings. All who do so, make themselves miserable. If, instead of wanting Aunt Mary to help you first, you had, from a love of your little brother, been willing to see him first attended to, you would have enjoyed a real pleasure. If you had said–‘Aunt Mary, help Harry first,’ I am sure Henry would have said instantly–‘ No, Aunt Mary, help brother Clarence first.’ How pleasant this would have been! how happy would all of us have felt at thus seeing two little brothers generously preferring one another!”
There was an unusual degree of tenderness, even sadness in the voice of his mother, that affected Clarence; but he struggled with his feelings. When, however, she resumed, and said–“I have felt quite sick all the morning; my head has ached badly–so badly that I have had to lie down. I always give you your dinners when you come home, and try to make you comfortable. To-day I let Aunt Mary do it, because I felt so sick; but I am sorry that I did not get up, sick as I was, and do it myself; then I might have prevented this unhappy outbreak of my boy’s unruly temper, that has made not only my head ache ten times as badly as it did, but my heart ache also”–
Clarence burst into tears, and throwing his arms ground his mother’s neck, wept bitterly.
“I will try and be good, dear mother,” he said. “I do try sometimes, but it seems that I can’t.”
“You must always try, my dear son. Now dry up your tears, and go out and get your dinner. Or, if you would rather I should go with you, I will do so.”
“No, dear mother,” replied the boy, affectionately, “you are sick; you must not go. I will be good.”
Clarence kissed his mother again, and then returned quietly to the dining-room.
“Naughty boy!” said Aunt Mary, as he entered, looking sternly at him.
A bitter retort came instantly to the tongue of Clarence, but he checked himself with a strong effort, and took his place at the table. Instead of soothing the quick-tempered boy, Aunt Mary chafed him by her words and manner during the whole meal, and it was only the image of his mother’s tearful face, and the remembrance that she was sick, that restrained an outbreak of his passionate temper.
When Clarence left the table, he returned to his mother’s room, and laid his head upon the pillow where her’s was resting.
“I love you, mother,” he said, affectionately, “you are good. But I hate Aunt Mary.”
“Oh, no, Clarence; you must not say that you hate Aunt Mary, for Aunt Mary is very kind to you. You mustn’t hate anybody.”
“She isn’t kind to me, mother. She calls me a bad boy, and says every thing to make me angry when I want to be good.”
“Think, my son, if there is not some reason for Aunt Mary calling you a bad boy. You know yourself, that you act very naughtily sometimes, and provoke Aunt Mary–a great deal.”
“But she said I was a naughty boy when I went out just now, and I was sorry for what I had done, and wanted to be good.”
“Aunt Mary didn’t know that you were sorry, I am sure. When she called you ‘naughty boy,’ what did you say?”
“I was going to say ‘You’re a fool!’ but I didn’t. I tried hard not to let my tongue say the bad words, though it wanted to.”
“Why did you try not to say them?”
“Because it would have been wrong, and would have made you feel sorry; and I love you.” Again the repentant boy kissed her. His eyes were full of tears, and so were the eyes of his mother.
While talking over this incident with her husband, Mrs. Hartley said–“Were not all these impressions so light, I would feel encouraged. The boy has warm and tender feelings, but I fear that his passionate temper and selfishness will, like evil weeds, completely check their growth.”
“The case is bad enough, Anna, but not so bad, I hope, as you fear. These good affections are never active in vain. They impress the mind with an indelible impression. In after years the remembrance of them will revive the states they produced, and give strength to good desires and intentions. Amid all his irregularities and wanderings from good, in after-life, the thoughts of his mother will restore the feelings he had to-day, and draw him back from evil with cords of love that cannot be broken. The good now implanted will remain, and, like ten just men, save the city. In most instances where men abandon themselves finally to evil courses, it will be found that the impressions made in childhood were not of the right kind; that the mother’s influence was not what it should have been. For myself, I am sure that a different mother would have made me a different man. When a boy, I was too much like Clarence; but the tenderness with which my mother always treated me, and the unimpassioned but earnest manner in which she reproved and corrected my faults, subdued my unruly temper. When I became restless or impatient, she always had a book to read to me, or a story to tell, or had some device to save me from myself. My father was neither harsh nor indulgent towards me; I cherish his memory with respect and love; but I have different feelings when I think of my mother. I often feel, even now, as if she were near me–as if her cheek were laid to mine. My father would place his hand upon my head caressingly, but my mother would lay her cheek against mine. I did not expect my father to do more–I do not know that I would have loved him had he done more; for him it was a natural expression of affection; but no act is too tender for a mother. Her kiss upon my cheek, her warm embrace, are all felt now; and the older I grow, the more holy seem the influences that surrounded me in childhood.”
THE POWER OF PATIENCE.
I HAVE a very excellent friend, who married some ten years ago, and now has her own cares and troubles in a domestic establishment consisting of her husband and herself, five children, and two servants. Like a large majority of those similarly situated, Mrs. Martinet finds her natural stock of patience altogether inadequate to the demand therefor; and that there is an extensive demand will be at once inferred when I mention that four of her five children are boys.
I do not think Mrs. Martinet’s family government by any means perfect, though she has certainly very much improved it, and gets on with far more comfort to herself and all around her than she did. For the improvement at which I have hinted, I take some credit to myself, though I am by no means certain, that, were I situated as my friend is, I should govern my family as well as she governs hers. I am aware that a maiden lady, like myself, young or old, it matters not to tell the reader which, can look down from the quiet regions where she lives, and see how easy it would be for the wife and mother to reduce all to order in her turbulent household. But I am at the same time conscious of the difficulties that beset the wife and mother in the incessant, exhausting, and health-destroying nature of her duties, and how her mind, from these causes, must naturally lose its clear-seeing qualities when most they are needed, and its calm and even temper when its exercise is of most consequence. Too little allowance, I am satisfied, is made for the mother, who, with a shattered nervous system, and suffering too, often, from physical prostration, is ever in the midst of her little family of restless spirits, and compelled to administer to their thousand wants, to guide, guard, protect, govern, and restrain their evil passions, when of all things, repose and quiet of body and mind, for even a brief season, would be the greatest blessing she could ask.
I have seen a wife and mother, thus situated, betrayed into a hasty expression, or lose her self-command so far as to speak with fretful impatience to a child who rather needed to be soothed by a calmly spoken word; and I have seen her even-minded husband, who knew not what it was to feel a pain, or to suffer from nervous prostration, reprove that wife with a look that called the tears to her eyes. She was wrong, but he was wrong in a greater degree. The over-tried wife needed her husband’s sustaining patience, and gently spoken counsel, not his cold reproof.
Husbands, as far as my observation gives me the ability to judge, have far less consideration for, and patience with their wives, than they are entitled to receive. If any should know best the wife’s trials, sufferings, and incessant exhausting duties, it is the husband, and he, of all others, should be the last to censure, if, from very prostration of body and mind, she be sometimes betrayed into hasty words, that generally do more harm among children and domestics than total silence in regard to what is wrong. But this is a digression.
One day, I called to see Mrs. Martinet, and found her in a very disturbed state of mind.
“I am almost worried to death, Kate!” she said, soon after I came in.
“You look unhappy,” I returned. “What has happened?”
“What is always happening,” she replied. “Scarcely a day passes over my head that my patience is not tried to the utmost. I must let every body in the house do just as he or she likes, or else there is a disturbance. I am not allowed to speak out my own mind, without some one’s being offended.”
“It is a great trial, as well as responsibility to have the charge of a family,” I remarked.
“Indeed, and you may well say that. No one knows what it is but she who has the trial. The greatest trouble is with your domestics. As a class, they are, with few exceptions, dirty, careless, and impudent. I sometimes think it gives them pleasure to interfere with your household arrangements and throw all into disorder. This seems especially to be the spirit of my present cook. My husband is particular about having his meals at the hour, and is never pleased when irregularities occur, although he does not often say any thing; this I told Hannah, when she first came, and have scolded her about being behindhand a dozen times since; and yet we do not have a meal at the hour oftener than two or three times a week.
“This morning, Mr. Martinet asked me if I wouldn’t be particular in seeing that dinner was on the table exactly at two o’clock. As soon as he was gone, I went down into the kitchen and said, ‘Do, for mercy’s sake, Hannah, have dinner ready at the hour to-day. Mr. Martinet particularly desires it.’ Hannah made no answer. It is one of her disagreeable habits, when you speak to her. ‘Did you hear me?’ I asked, quite out of patience with her. The creature looked up at me with an impudent face and said, pertly, ‘I’m not deaf.’ ‘Then, why didn’t you answer me when I spoke? It’s a very ugly habit that you have of not replying when any one addresses you. How is it to be known that you hear what is said?’ The spirit in which Hannah met my request to have dinner ready in time, satisfied me that she would so manage as to throw it off beyond the regular hour. I left the kitchen feeling, as you may well suppose, exceedingly worried.”
Just then the door of the room in which we were sitting was thrown open with a bang, and in bounded Harry, Mrs. Martinet’s eldest boy–a wild young scape-grace of a fellow–and whooping out some complaint against his sister. His mother, startled and annoyed by the rude interruption, ordered him to leave the room instantly. But Harry stood his ground without moving an eyelash.
“Do you hear?” And Mrs. Martinet stamped with her foot, to give stronger emphasis to her words.
“Lizzy snatched my top-cord out of my hands, and won’t give it to me!”
“Go out of this room!”
“Shan’t Lizzy give me my top-cord?”
“Go out, I tell you!”
“I want my top-cord.”
My poor friend’s face was red, and her voice trembling with passion. With each renewed order for the child to leave the room, she stamped with her foot upon the floor. Harry, instead of going out as he was directed to do, kept advancing nearer and nearer, as he repeated his complaint, until he came close up to where we were sitting.
“Didn’t I tell you to go out!” exclaimed his mother, losing all patience.
As she spoke, she arose hastily, and seizing him by the arm, dragged, rather than led him from the room.
“I never saw such a child!” she said, returning after closing the door upon Harry. “Nothing does but force. You might talk to him all day without moving him an inch, when he gets in one of these moods.”
Bang went the door open, and, “I (sic) wan’t my top-cord!” followed in louder and more passionate tones than before.
“Isn’t it beyond all endurance!” cried my friend, springing up and rushing across the room.
The passionate child, who had been spoiled by injudicious management, got a sound whipping and was shut up in a room by himself. After performing this rather unpleasant task, Mrs. Martinet returned to the parlour, flushed, excited, and trembling in every nerve.
“I expect that boy will kill me yet,” she said, as she sank, panting, into a chair. “It is surprising how stubborn and self-willed he grows. I don’t know how to account for it. He never has his own way–I never yield an inch to him when he gets in these terrible humours. Oh, dear! I feel sometimes like giving up in despair.”
I did not make a reply, for I could not say any thing that would not have been a reproof of her impatient temper. After my friend had grown calmer, she renewed her narrative about the dinner.
“As I was saying, when that boy interrupted us, I left the kitchen very much worried, and felt worried all the morning. Several times I went down to see how things were coming on, but it was plain that Hannah did not mean to have dinner at the hour. When it was time to put the meat on to roast, the fire was all down in the range. Half an hour was lost in renewing it. As I expected, when my husband came home for his dinner, at the regular time, the table was not even set.
“‘Bless me!’ he said, ‘isn’t dinner ready? I told you that I wished it at the hour, particularly. I have a business engagement at half-past two, that must be met. It is too bad! I am out of all patience with these irregularities. I can’t wait, of course.’
“And saying this, Mr. Martinet turned upon his heel and left the house. As you may suppose, I did not feel very comfortable, nor in a very good humour with Hannah. When she made her appearance to set the table, which was not for a quarter of an hour, I gave her about as good a setting down, I reckon, as she ever had in her life. Of course, I was paid back in impudence which I could not stand, and therefore gave her notice to quit. If ever a woman was tried beyond endurance, I am. My very life is becoming a burden to me. The worst part of it is, there is no prospect of a change for the better. Things, instead of growing better, grow worse.”
“It is not so bad as that, I hope,” I could not help remarking. “Have you never thought of a remedy for the evils of which you complain?”
“A remedy, Kate! What remedy is there?”
Mrs. Martinet looked at me curiously.
“If not a remedy, there is, I am sure, a palliative,” I returned, feeling doubtful of the effect of what I had it in my mind to express.
“What is the remedy or palliative of which you speak. Name it, for goodness’ sake! Like a drowning man, I will clutch it, if it be but a straw.”
“The remedy is _patience_.” My voice slightly faltered as I spoke.
Instantly the colour deepened on the face of Mrs. Martinet. But our close intimacy, and her knowledge of the fact that I was really a friend, prevented her from being offended.
“Patience!” she said, after she had a little recovered herself. “Patience is no remedy. To endure is not to cure.”
“In that, perhaps, you are mistaken,” I returned. “The effect of patience is to cure domestic evils. A calm exterior and a gentle, yet firm voice, will in nine cases in ten, effect more than the most passionate outbreak of indignant feelings. I have seen it tried over and over again, and I am sure of the effect.”
“I should like to have seen the effect of a gentle voice upon my Harry, just now.”
“Forgive me for saying,” I answered to this, “that in my opinion, if you had met his passionate outbreak at the wrong he had suffered in losing his top-cord, in a different manner from what you did, that the effect would have been of a like different character.”
My friend’s face coloured more deeply, and her lips trembled. But she had good sense, and this kept her from being offended at what I said. I went on–
“There is no virtue more necessary in the management of a household than patience. It accomplishes almost every thing. Yet it is a hard virtue to practise, and I am by no means sure that, if I were in your place, I would practise it any better than you do. But it is of such vital importance to the order, comfort, and well-being of a family, to be able patiently and calmly to meet every disturbing and disorderly circumstance, that it is worth a struggle to attain the state of mind requisite to do so. To meet passion with passion does no good, but harm. The mind, when disturbed from any cause, is disturbed more deeply when it meets an opposing mind in a similar state. This is as true of children as of grown persons, and perhaps more so, for their reason is not matured, and therefore there is nothing to balance their minds. It is also more true of those who have not learned, from reason, to control themselves, as is the case with too large a portion of our domestics; who need to be treated with almost as much forbearance and consideration as children.”
These remarks produced a visible effect upon Mrs. Martinet. She became silent and reflective, and continued so, to a great extent, during the half-hour that I remained.
Nearly two weeks elapsed before I called upon my friend again. I found her, happily, in a calmer state of mind than upon my previous visit. We were in the midst of a pleasant conversation, half an hour after I had come in, when one of the children, a boy between seven and eight years old, came into the room and made some complaint against his brother. The little fellow was excited, and broke in upon our quiet chitchat with a rude jar that I felt quite sensibly. I expected, of course, to hear him ordered from the room instantly. That had been my friend’s usual proceeding when these interruptions occurred; at least it had been so when I happened to be a visitor. But instead of this, she said in a low, mild, soothing voice,
“Well, never mind, Willy. You stay in the parlour with us, where Harry can’t trouble you.”
This was just the proposition, above all others, to please the child. His face brightened, and he came and nestled up closely to his mother, who was sitting on a corner of the sofa. Drawing an arm around him, she went on with the remarks she happened to be making when the interruption of his entrance occurred. No very long time elapsed before the parlour door flew open, and Harry entered, asking, as he did so, in a loud voice, for Willy.
“Willy is here. What do you want with him?” said the mother, in a quiet, but firm tone.
“I want him to come and play.”
“You were not kind to Willy, and he doesn’t wish to play with you.”
“Come, Willy, and play, and I will be kind,” said Harry.
“Will you let me be the master sometimes?” asked the little fellow, raising himself up from where he remained seated beside his mother.
“Yes, you shall be master, sometimes.”
“Then I’ll play,” and Willy sprang from the sofa and bounded from the room, as happy as he could be.
The mother smiled, and looking into my face, as soon as we were alone, said–
“You see, Kate, that I am trying your remedy, patience.”
“With most happy results, I am glad to see.”
“With better results than I could have believed, certainly. Gentleness, consideration, and firmness, I find do a great deal, and their exercise leaves my own mind in a good state. There is a power in patience that I did not believe it possessed. I can do more by a mildly spoken word, than by the most emphatic command uttered in a passion. This is the experience of a few weeks. But, alas! Kate, to be able to exercise patience–how hard a thing that is! It requires constant watchfulness and a constant effort. Every hour I find myself betrayed into the utterance of some hasty word, and feel its powerlessness compared to those that are most gently spoken.”
“Do you get on with your domestics any better than you did?”
“Oh, yes! Far better.”
“I suppose you sent Hannah away some time ago?”
“No. I have her yet.”
“Yes, and she does very well.”
“Does she get your meals ready in time?”
“She is punctual to the minute.”
“Really she must have changed for the better! And is this, too, the result of patience and forbearance on your part?”
“I suppose so. What you said in regard to having patience, at your last visit, struck me forcibly, and caused me to feel humbled and self-condemned. The more I thought of it, the more satisfied was I that you were right. But it was one thing to see the use of patience, and another thing to exercise it. To be patient amid the turbulence, ill-tempers, and disobedience of children, and the irregularities, carelessness and neglect of domestics, seemed a thing impossible. I was in this state of doubt as to my ability to exercise the virtue so much needed in my household, when Hannah came to the door of the room where I was sitting in no very happy mood, and notified me of some want in the kitchen in an exceedingly provoking way. I was about replying sharply and angrily; but suddenly checking myself, I said in a quiet, mild way, ‘Very well, Hannah. I will see that it is supplied.’
“The girl stood for some moments, looking at me with an expression of surprise on her face, and then walked away. This was a victory over myself, and I felt, also, a victory over her. Not half an hour elapsed, before, on passing near the kitchen, she said to me, in a very respectful manner:
“‘I forgot to tell you, this morning, that the tea was all out. But I can run round to the store and get some in a few minutes.’
“‘Do so, if you please, Hannah,’ I returned, without evincing the slightest feeling of annoyance at her neglect; ‘and try, if you can, to have tea ready precisely at six o’clock.’
“‘I will have it ready, ma’am,’ she replied. And it was ready.
“Had I not exercised patience and self-control, the interview would have been something after this fashion: about ten minutes before tea-time, Hannah would have come to me and said, with provoking coolness–
“‘The tea’s all out.’
“To which I would have replied sharply–
“‘Why, in the name of goodness, did not you say so this morning? You knew that you had used the last drawing! I declare you are the most provoking creature I ever knew. You’ll have to go to the store and get some.’
“‘I’m not fit to be seen in the street,’ she would in all probability have replied.
“And then I, losing all patience, would have soundly scolded her, and gained nothing but a sick-headache, perhaps, for my pains. Tea, in all probability, would have been served at about eight o’clock. You see the difference.”
“And a very material one it is.”
“Isn’t it? As you well said, there is a power in patience undreamed of by those who seek not its exercise. Next morning, when I had any occasion to speak to Hannah, I did so with much mildness, and if I had occasion to find fault, requested a change rather than enunciated a reproof. The girl changed as if by magic. She became respectful in her manner toward me, and evinced a constant anxiety to do every thing as I wished to have it done. Not once since have we had a meal as much as ten minutes later than the appointed time.”
I could not but express the happiness I felt at the change, and urge my excellent friend to persevere. This she has done, and the whole aspect of things in her family has changed.
There are times, however, when, from ill-health, or a return of old states, she recedes again into fretfulness; but the reaction upon her is so immediate and perceptible, that she is driven in self-defence to patience and forbearance, the result of which is order and quiet in her family just in the degree that patience and forbearance are exercised.
AN OLD MAN’S RECOLLECTIONS.
“I AM not a _very_ old man,” said a venerable friend to me, one day, “yet my head has become whitened and my cheeks furrowed:–and often, as I pause and lean upon my staff, at the corners of the streets, the present reality gives place to dreams of the past, and I see here, instead of the massive pile of brick and marble, the low frame dwelling, and there, in place of the lines of tall warehouses, humble tenements. If, in my aimless wanderings about the city, I turn my steps towards the suburbs, I find that change, too, has been there. I miss the woods and fields where once, with the gay companions of early years, I spent many a summer hour. Beautiful dwellings have sprung up, it seems to me as if by magic, where but yesterday I plucked fruit from overladen branches, or flung myself to rest among the tall grass or ripening grain.
“But other changes than this have marked the passage of time. Changes that cause them to sink into obscurity in comparison. Thousands in our goodly city have passed from the cradle to the grave, during the years that have been allotted to me; and thousands have proved that all the promises of early years were vain. All external mutations would attract but little attention, did they not recall other and more important changes. Thought and feeling have put on forms, as new and strange, but not, alas! so full of happy indications. Prosperity has crowned the toil and enterprise of our citizens; but how few of the many who were prosperous when I was in my prime are among the wealthy now! How few of the families that filled the circles of fashion then, have left any of their scattered members to grace the glittering circles now! The wheel of fortune has ceased not its revolutions for a moment. Hopes that once spread their gay leaves to the pleasant airs have been blighted and scattered by the chilling winds of adversity.
“Pausing and leaning upon my staff, as I have said, I often muse thus, when some object recalls the memory of one and another who have finished their course and been gathered to their fathers. In every city and village, wherever there is human life, with its evil passions and good affections, there are histories to stir the heart and unseal the fountains of tears. Truth, it is said, is strange, stranger than fiction; and never was there a truer sentiment uttered. In all the fictions that I have read, nothing has met my eye so strange and heart-stirring as the incidents in real life that have transpired in the families of some of our own citizens. Any one, of years and observation, in any city, will bear a like testimony. The circumstance of their actual occurrence, and the fact that the present reality diminishes, from many causes, our surprise at events, tend to make us think lightly of what is going on around us. And, besides this, we ordinarily see only the surface of society. The writer of fiction unveils the mind and heart of those he brings into action, and we see all. We perceive their thoughts and feel their emotions. But, if we could look into the bosoms of those we meet daily, and read there the hopes and fears that excite or depress, we should perceive all around us living histories of human passion and emotion that would awaken up our most active sympathies. All this, however, is hidden from our eyes. And it is only, in most instances, when the present becomes the past, that we are permitted to lift the veil, and look at the reality beneath.”
We were sitting near a window overlooking one of the principal streets of our city, and a slight noise without, at this time, attracted our attention.
“There she is again. Poor Flora! How my heart aches for you!” my companion suddenly ejaculated, in a tone of deep sympathy, after gazing into the street for a moment or two.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“Do you see that poor creature, slowly moving along just opposite?”
“Twenty years ago, there was not a gayer girl in the city; nor one more truly beloved by all.”
“Yes. Nor one of fairer hopes.”
“Hope has indeed sadly mocked her!” said I, giving almost involuntary utterance to the thought that instantly passed through my mind. Just then I caught a glimpse of her face, that was partly turned towards us. Though marked by disease and sorrow, it was yet no common face. It still bore traces of womanly beauty, that no eye could mistake.
“Poor Flora! what a history of disappointed hopes and crushed affections is thine! What a lesson for the young, the thoughtless, the innocent!” the old man said, as he retired from the window.
“Who is she?” I asked, after a brief pause.
“You have seen that beautiful old mansion that stands in–street, just above–?”
“It is now used as an extensive boarding-house; but in my younger days, it was one of the most princely establishments in the city. It then stood alone, and had attached to it beautifully laid-out grounds, stocked with the rarest and richest plants, all in the highest state of cultivation. No American workman could produce furniture good enough for its aristocratic owner. Every thing was bought in Paris, and upon the most extensive scale. And truly, the internal arrangement of Mr. T–‘s dwelling was magnificent, almost beyond comparison at the time.”
“And was that the daughter of Mr. T–?” I asked, in surprise.
“Yes, that was Flora T–,” the old man said, in a voice that had in it an expression of sad feeling, evidently conjured up by the reminiscence.
“You knew her in her better days?”
“As well as I knew my own sister. She was one of the gentlest of her sex. No one could meet her without loving her.”
“She married badly?”
“Yes. That tells the whole secret of her present wretched condition. Alas! how many a sweet girl have I seen dragged down, by a union with some worthless wretch, undeserving the name of a man! There is scarcely a wealthy family in our city, into which some such an one has not insinuated himself, destroying the peace of all, and entailing hopeless misery upon one all unfit to bear her changed lot. The case of Flora is an extreme one. Her husband turned out to be a drunkard, and her father’s family became reduced in circumstances, and finally every member of it either passed from this world, or sank into a state of indigence, little above that of her own. But the worst feature in this history of wretchedness is the fact, that Flora, in sinking so low externally, lost that sweet spirit of innocence which once gave a tone of so much loveliness to her character. Her husband not only debased her condition, but corrupted her mind. Oh, what a wreck she has become!”
“How few families there are,” said I, after a few moments, “as you have justly remarked, the happiness of which has not been destroyed by the marriage of a much loved and fondly cherished daughter and sister, to one all unworthy of the heart whose best affections had been poured out upon him like water.”
“The misery arising from this cause,” the old man said, “is incalculable. Nor does it always show itself in the extreme external changes that have marked Flora T–‘s sad history. I could take you to many houses, fine houses too, and richly arrayed within, where hearts are breaking in the iron grasp of a husband’s unfeeling hand, that contracts with a slow, torturing cruelty, keeping its victim lingering day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, looking and longing for the hour when the deep quiet of the grave shall bring peace–sweet peace.”