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ensued, and then came a separation. Mrs. Linden left the house of her son–but a short time before it was her own house–and took lodgings in the family of an old friend, with a heart full of bitterness toward her children. In Antoinette she had been miserably disappointed. A weak, vain, passionate, selfish creature, she had shown not the slightest regard for Mrs. Linden, but had exhibited toward her a most unamiable temper.

When it was communicated to Antoinette by her husband that his mother had left them, she tossed her head and said–“I’m glad to hear it.”

“No, you must not say that,” was William’s reply, with an effort to look serious and offended.

“And why not? It’s the truth. She has made herself as disagreeable as she could, ever since we were married, and I would be a hypocrite to say that I was not glad to be rid of her.”

“She is my mother, and you must not speak so about her,” returned William, now feeling really offended.

“How will you help it, pray?” was the stinging reply. And the ill-tempered creature looked at her husband with a curl of the lip.

Muttering a curse, he turned from her and left the house. The rage of a husband who is only restrained by the fear of disgrace from striking his wife, is impotent. His only resource is to fly from the object of indignation. So felt and acted William Beauchamp. A mere wordy contention with his wife, experience had already proved to him, would be an inglorious one.

Fearing, from his knowledge of his brother’s character and disposition, a result, sooner or later, like that which had taken place, Charles Linden, although he had no correspondence with any of his family, had the most accurate information from a friend of all that transpired at P–.

One evening, on coming home from business and joining his wife and sister, between whom love had grown into a strong uniting bond, he said–“I have rather painful news from P–.”

“What is it?” was asked by both Ellen and Florence, with anxious concern on both their faces.

“Mother has separated herself from William and his wife.”

“What I have been expecting to hear almost every day,” Florence replied. “Antoinette has never treated mother as if she had the slightest regard for her. As to love, she has but one object upon which to lavish it–that is herself. She cares no more for William than she does for mother, and is only bound to him by external consideration. But where has mother gone?”

“To the house of Mrs. R—.”

“An old friend?”

“Yes. But she must be very unhappy.”

“Miserable.” And tears came to the eyes of Ellen.

“In the end, it will no doubt be best for her, Florence,” said the brother. “She will suffer acutely, but her false views of life, let us hope, will be corrected, and then we shall have it in our power to make her last days the best and happiest of her life.”

“Oh, how gladly will I join in that work!” Mrs. Linden said, with a glow of pure enthusiasm on her face. “Write to her, dear husband, at once, and tell her that our home shall be her home, and that we will love her with an unwavering love.”

“Not yet, dear,” returned Charles Linden, in a voice scarcely audible from emotion, turning to Ellen and regarding her a moment with a look of loving approval. “Not yet; the time for that will come, but it is not now. My mother’s heart is full of haughty pride, and she would spurn, indignantly, any overtures we might make.”

Much conversation passed as to what should be their future conduct in regard to the mother. Ellen was anxious to make advances at once, but the husband and his sister, who knew Mrs. Linden much better than she did, objected.

“Time will indicate what is right for us to do,” her husband said. “Let us keep our hearts willing, and we shall have the opportunity to act before many years pass by.”

“Years?” said Ellen, in an earnest, doubting voice.

“It may be only months, dear, and yet it may be years. It takes time to break a haughty will, to humble a proud heart; but you shall yet see the day when my mother will love you for yourself alone.”

“Heaven grant that it may come soon!” was the fervent response.

Many months passed away, and yet the mother and son remained as before–unreconciled. He had kept himself accurately informed in regard to her–that is, accurately informed as it was possible for him to be. During that time, she had never been seen abroad. Those who had met her, represented her as being greatly changed; all the softness of character that had been assumed in her intercourse with the world had been laid aside; she was silent, cold, and stern to all who met her.

Deeply did this intelligence afflict Charles, and he yearned to draw near to his mother; but he feared to do so, lest, in her haughty pride, she should throw him off again, and thus render a reconciliation still more difficult, if not impossible.

While in this state of doubt, affairs assumed a new feature. Charles received a letter from a friend, stating that the banking institution, in the stocks of which his mother’s entire property was invested, had failed, and that she was penniless.

“O Charles, go to her at once!” was the exclamation of Ellen, the moment her husband read to her the intelligence. “It is time now; all else has failed her.”

“I do not know,” he said, doubtingly. “This circumstance will make William sensible of his duty; he will, no doubt, restore her a part of the property received from her hands. This is the least he can do.”

Florence differed with her brother. She did not believe that either William or his wife would regard their mother in any way; both were too selfish and too unforgiving. Much was said all around, but no clear course of action was perceived.

“I’ll tell you what you can do,” spoke up Mrs. Linden, her eyes sparkling. A thought had flashed over her mind.

“What is it, Ellen?” asked her husband.

“You can send her, under a blank envelope, a thousand dollars or more, and thus keep her above the bitter feeling of dependence. More can be sent when more is required.”

“True! true!” was the husband’s quick reply. “And I will do it.”

When the news of the failure of the bank in which the little remnant of her property was contained reached the ears of Mrs. Linden, her spirits sank. Pride had kept her up before; but now her haughty self-dependence, her indignation, her bitterness of feeling toward her children, gave way, and, in conscious weakness, she bowed her head and prayed for oblivion. She felt deserted by all; but indignation at this desertion was not the feeling that ruled in her heart; she felt weak, lonely, and powerless. From a high position, which she had held with imperious pride, she had fallen almost suddenly into obscurity, desertion, and dependence. A week passed, and she began to think of her children; none of them had yet come near her, or inquired for her. The thoughts of William and his heartless wife caused old feelings of indignation to awaken and burn; but when the image of Charles and Florence came up before her mind, her eyes were ready to overflow. It was now that she remembered, with changed emotions, the cruel manner in which she had spurned Charles and the wife of his bosom. A sigh struggled up from her heart, and she leaned down her face upon the table before which she was sitting. Just at this time, a small sealed package was handed to her. She broke it open carelessly; but its contents made her heart bound, coming as they did just at that crisis. Under cover was a bank-bill amounting to one thousand dollars, and this memorandum–“It is yours.”

Quickly turning to the direction, she read it over two or three times before satisfying herself that there was no mistake. Then she examined the writing within and without closely, in order to ascertain, if possible, from whom the timely aid had come, but without arriving at any certain conclusion.

This incident caused a new train of thoughts to pass through the mind of Mrs. Linden. It brought before her, she could not tell why, the image of her son Charles with greater distinctness than ever; and with that came thoughts of his wife, and regret that she had thrown her off with such cruel anger. Acute pain of mind succeeded to this. She saw more clearly her own position in that act, and felt deeply the wrong she had committed.

“I will write to my son at once and ask his forgiveness, and that of his wife, whom I have wronged,” she said, with a suddenly formed resolution. But pride rushed up instantly.

“No, no,” it objected; “not now. You should have done this before: it is too late; they will not believe you sincere.”

A painful conflict ensued, which continued with increasing violence until, in consequence of prolonged mental excitement, a slow nervous fever took hold of Mrs. Linden’s physical system, and in a short time reduced her to a very critical state. Intelligence of this was conveyed to her son William, but, for some cause or other, neither himself nor wife visited her. At the end of a week she was so low as to be considered in great danger; she, no longer recognised the person of her attendant, or appeared to be conscious of what was passing around her.

A letter from a friend, through whom he was kept informed of all that occurred to her, apprized Charles Linden of his mother’s critical situation.

“Florence,” said he to his sister, in reading the letter to her and his wife, “I think you and I should go to P–immediately. You can be mother’s nurse until she recovers, and then it may not be hard to reconcile all that is past.”

Ellen looked earnestly in the face of her husband; something was on her tongue, but she appeared to hesitate about giving it utterance.

“Does not that meet your approval?” asked Charles.

“Why may not I be the nurse?” was asked in hesitating tones.

“You!” said Charles, in a voice of surprise. “That should be the duty of Florence.”

“And my privilege,” returned Ellen, speaking more firmly.

“What good would be the result?”

“Great good, I trust. Let me go and be the angel to her sick-chamber. She is too ill to notice any one; she will not, therefore, perceive that a stranger is ministering to her. As she begins to recover, and I have an inward assurance that she will, I will bestow upon her the most assiduous attentions. I will inspire her heart with grateful affection for one whom she knows not; and when she asks for my name, I will conceal it until the right moment, and then throw myself at her feet and call her mother. Oh! let it be my task to watch in her sick-chamber.”

Neither Charles nor his sister said one word in opposition. On the next day, they all started for P–. Charles Linden went with his excellent wife to the house where his mother was residing with an old friend, and opened to this friend their wishes. She readily entered into their plans, and Ellen was at once constituted nurse.

For the first two days, there were but few encouraging symptoms. Mrs. Linden was in a very critical situation. At the end of a week, the fever abated, leaving the patient as helpless as an infant, and with scarcely more consciousness of external things. During this time, Ellen attended her with some of the feeling with which a mother watches over her babe. Gradually the life-current in the veins of the sick woman became fuller and stronger. Gradually her mind acquired the power of acting through the external senses. Ellen perceived this. Now had come the ardently hoped-for time. With a noiseless step, with a voice low and tender, with hands that did their office almost caressingly, she anticipated and met every want of the invalid.

As light began again to dawn upon the mind of Mrs. Linden, she could not but notice the sweet-faced, gentle, assiduous stranger who had become her nurse. Her first feeling was one of gratitude, blended with affection. Never before had any one been so devoted to her; never before had any one appeared to regard her with such a real wish to do her good.

“What is your name, my dear?” she asked one day, in a feeble voice, looking up into her face.

A warm flush came over the cheeks of Ellen; her eyes dropped to the floor. She hesitated for several moments; then she replied in a low voice–“Ellen.”

Mrs. Linden looked at her earnestly, but said nothing in reply.

“Who is this nurse you have been so kind to procure for me?” Mrs. Linden said to her friend, a few days subsequently. She had gained much in a short time.

“She is a stranger to me. I never saw her before she came and said that she had heard that there was a sick lady here who wished a nurse.”

“She did?”

“Yes.”

“She must be an angel in disguise, then.”

“So I should think,” returned her friend. “I have never met a lovelier person. Her face is sweetness itself; her manners are full of ease and grace, and her heart seems a deep well of love to all.”

“Who can she be? Where did she come from? I feel toward her as if she were my own child.”

“But she is only a nurse,” said her friend. “Do not forget that, nor your station in society.”

Mrs. Linden shook her head and murmured–“I have never found one like her in the highest places; no, not even in my own children. Station in society! Ah! my friend, that delusion has passed.”

As Mrs. Linden recovered more and more, Ellen remained with her, waiting only for a good opportunity to make herself known. She did not wish to do this until she was sure that she had awakened a feeling of affection in her mother’s bosom.

Mrs. Linden had been sitting up for two or three days, so far had she recovered, and yet Ellen did not feel that it was safe to venture a full declaration of the truth.

Up to this time, neither William nor his wife had visited her, nor sent to inquire about her. This fact Mrs. Linden knew, for she had asked about it particularly. The name of Charles was never mentioned.

In order to try its effect, Ellen said to her–“You are better now, Mrs. Linden, and will be well in a little while. You do not need me any longer. I will leave you to-morrow.”

“Leave me!” ejaculated Mrs. Linden. “Oh, no, Ellen, you must not leave me; I cannot do without you. You must stay with me always.”

“You would soon tire of such a one as I am.”

“Never, my good girl, never! You shall always remain with me. You shall be–not my nurse, but my child.”

Mrs. Linden’s voice trembled.

Ellen could hardly help throwing herself at her feet, and declaring that she was really her child; but she controlled herself, and replied–“That cannot be, madam; I have other duties to perform.”

“You have? What? To whom?”

“To my husband and children.”

“Gracious heaven! what do you mean? Who are you?”

“One who loved you before she ever saw you. One who loves you now.”

“Speak, child! oh, speak!” exclaimed Mrs. Linden, turning suddenly pale, and grasping hold of Ellen with both her hands. “Who are you? What interest have you in me? Speak!”

“Do you love me?” asked Ellen, in a husky whisper.

“Love you! You have forced me to love you; but speak out. Who are you?”

“Your daughter,” was faintly replied.

“Who?”

“The wife of one who has never ceased to love you; the wife of Charles Linden.”

Mrs. Linden seemed paralyzed for some moments at this declaration. Her face became pale–her eye fell to the floor–she sat like one in a dream.

“Dear mother!” plead the anxious wife, sinking on her knees, “will you not forgive your son? Will you not forgive me that I loved him so well? If you knew how much we love you–how anxious we are to make you happy, you would instantly relent.”

“My child! Oh, can it be true?” This was said in a choking voice by Mrs. Linden, as she threw her arms around Ellen and held her to her bosom. In a few moments she withdrew herself, and fixed her eyes long and earnestly upon Ellen’s face.

“Ah! what a loving heart have I wronged!” she murmured, putting her hand upon the brow of her new-found child, tenderly. Then she drew her again almost convulsively to her bosom.

All that was passing within was heard without, for Charles and his sister were at the door: they entered at this moment.

“My mother!” exclaimed Charles, springing towards her.

“My son–my dear son! God bless you, and this dear child, who has watched for days and nights like an angel about my pillow.”

The mother and son were in each other’s arms in a moment. All was forgiven.

From that hour, the proud woman of the world saw with a purified vision. From that hour, she knew the worth of a pure heart.

SMITH AND JONES; OR, THE TOWN LOT.

ONCE upon a time, it happened that the men who governed in the municipal affairs of a certain growing town in the West, resolved, in grave deliberation assembled, to purchase a five-acre lot at the north end of the city–recently incorporated–and have it improved for a park or public square. Now, it also happened, that all the saleable ground lying north of the city was owned by a man named Smith–a shrewd, wide-awake individual, whose motto was,

“Every man for himself,” with an occasional addition about a certain gentleman in black taking “the hindmost.”

Smith, it may be mentioned, was secretly at the bottom of this scheme for a public square, and had himself suggested the matter to an influential member of the council; not that he was moved by what is denominated public spirit–no; the spring of action in the case was merely “private spirit,” or a regard for his own good. If the council decided upon a public square, he was the man from whom the ground would have to be bought; and he was the man who could get his own price therefor.

As we have said, the park was decided upon, and a committee of two appointed, whose business it was to see Smith and arrange with him for the purchase of a suitable lot of ground. In due form the committee called upon the landholder, who was fully prepared for the interview.

“You are the owner of those lots at the north end?” said the spokesman of the committee.

“I am,” replied Smith, with becoming gravity.

“Will you sell a portion of ground, say five acres, to the city?”

“For what purpose?” Smith knew very well for what purpose the land was wanted.

“We have decided to set apart about five acres of ground, and improve it as a kind of park, or public promenade.”

“Have you, indeed? Well, I like that,” said Smith, with animation. “It shows the right kind of public spirit.”

“We have, moreover, decided that the best location will be at the north end of the town.”

“Decidedly my own opinion,” returned Smith.

“Will you sell us the required acres?” asked one of the councilmen.

“That will depend somewhat upon where you wish to locate the park.”

The particular location was named.

“The very spot,” replied Smith, promptly, “upon which I have decided to erect four rows of dwellings.”

“But it is too far out for that,” was naturally objected.

“Oh, no. Not a rod. The city is rapidly growing in that direction. I have only to put up the dwellings referred to, and dozens will be anxious to purchase lots, and build all around them. Won’t the ground to the left of that you speak of answer as well?”

But the committee replied in the negative. The lot they had mentioned was the one decided upon as most suited for the purpose, and they were not prepared to think of any other location.

All this Smith understood very well. He was not only willing, but anxious for the city to purchase the lot they were negotiating for. All he wanted was to get a good round price for the same–say four or five times the real value. So he feigned indifference, and threw difficulties in the way.

A few years previous to this time, Smith had purchased a considerable tract of land at the north of the then flourishing village, at fifty dollars an acre. Its present value was about three hundred dollars an acre.

After a good deal of talk on both sides, Smith finally agreed to sell the particular lot pitched upon. The next thing was to arrange as to price.

“At what do you hold this ground per acre?”

It was some time before Smith answered this question. His eyes were cast upon the floor, and earnestly did he enter into debate with himself as to the value he should place upon the lot. At first, he thought of five hundred dollars per acre. But his cupidity soon tempted him to advance on that sum, although, a month before, he would have caught at such an offer. Then he advanced to six, to seven, and to eight hundred. And still he felt undecided.

“I can get my own price,” said he to himself. “The city has to pay, and I might just as well get a large sum as a small one.”

“For what price will you sell?” The question was repeated.

“I must have a good price.”

“We are willing to pay what is fair and right.”

“Of course. No doubt you have fixed a limit to which you will go.”

“Not exactly that,” said one of the gentlemen.

“Are you prepared to make an offer?”

“We are prepared to hear your price, and to make a report thereon,” was replied.

“That’s a very valuable lot of ground,” said Smith.

“Name your price,” returned one of the committee men, a little impatiently.

Thus brought up to the point, Smith, after thinking hurriedly for a few moments, said–

“One thousand dollars an acre.”

Both the men shook their heads in a very positive way. Smith said that it was the lowest he would take; and so the conference ended.

At the next meeting of the city councils, a report on the town lot was made, and the extraordinary demand of Smith canvassed. It was unanimously decided not to make the proposed purchase.

When this decision reached the landholder, he was considerably disappointed. He wanted money badly, and would have “jumped at” two thousand dollars for the five-acre lot, if satisfied that it would bring no more. But, when the city came forward as a purchaser, his cupidity was subjected to a very strong temptation. He believed that he could get five thousand dollars as easily as two; and quieted his conscience by the salvo–“An article is always worth what it will bring.”

A week or two went by, and Smith was about calling upon one of the members of the council, to say that, if the city really wanted the lot, he would sell at their price, leaving it with the council to act justly and generously, when a friend said to him–

“I hear that the council had the subject of a public square under consideration again this morning.”

“Indeed!” Smith was visibly excited, though he tried to appear calm.

“Yes; and I also hear that they have decided to pay the extravagant price you asked for a lot of ground at the north end of the city.”

“A thousand dollars an acre?”

“Yes.”

“Its real value, and not a cent more,” said Smith.

“People differ about that. However, you are lucky,” the friend replied. “The city is able to pay.”

“So I think. And I mean they shall pay.”

Before the committee to whom the matter was given in charge had time to call upon Smith and close with him for the lot, that gentleman had concluded in his own mind that it would be just as easy to get twelve hundred dollars an acre as a thousand. It was plain that the council were bent upon having the ground, and would pay a round sum for it. It was just the spot for a public square; and the city must become the owner. So, when he was called upon by the gentlemen, and they said to him–

“We are authorized to pay you your price,” he promptly answered–

“The offer is no longer open. You declined it when it was made. My price for that property is now twelve hundred dollars an acre.”

The men offered remonstrance; but it was of no avail. Smith believed that he could get six thousand dollars for the ground as easily as five thousand. The city must have the lot, and would pay almost any price.

“I hardly think it right, Mr. Smith,” said one of his visitors, “for you to take such an advantage. This square is for the public good.”

“Let the public pay, then,” was the unhesitating answer. “The public is able enough.”

“The location of this park at the north end of the city will greatly improve the value of your other property.”

This Smith understood very well. But he replied–

“I’m not so sure of that. I have some very strong doubts on the subject. It’s my opinion that the buildings I contemplated erecting will be far more to my advantage. Be that as it may, however, I am decided in selling for nothing less than six thousand dollars.”

“We are only authorized to pay five thousand,” replied the committee. “If you agree to take that sum, we will close the bargain on the spot.”

Five thousand dollars was a large sum of money, and Smith felt strongly tempted to close in with the liberal offer. But six thousand loomed up before his imagination still more temptingly.

“I can get it,” said he to himself; “and the property is worth what it will bring.”

So he positively refused to sell it at a thousand dollars per acre.

“At twelve hundred, you will sell?” remarked one of the committee, as they were about retiring.

“Yes. I will take twelve hundred the acre. That is the lowest rate; and I am not anxious, even at that price. I can do quite as well by keeping it in my own possession. But, as you seem so bent on having it, I will not stand in your way. When will the council meet again?”

“Not until next week.”

“Very well. If they then accept my offer, all will be right. But, understand me; if they do not accept, the offer no longer remains open. It is a matter of no moment to me which way the thing goes.”

It was a matter of moment to Smith, for all this assertion–a matter of very great moment. He had several thousand dollars to pay in the course of the next few months on land purchases, and no way to meet the payments, except by mortgages or sales of property; and it may naturally be concluded that he suffered considerable uneasiness during the time which passed until the next meeting of the council.

Of course, the grasping disposition shown by Smith became the town talk; and people said a good many hard things of him. Little, however, did he care, so that he secured six thousand dollars for a lot not worth more than two thousand.

Among other residents and property-holders in the town, was a simple-minded, true-hearted, honest man, named Jones. His father had left him a large farm, a goodly portion of which, in process of time, came to be included in the limits of the new city; and he found a much more profitable employment in selling building lots than in tilling the soil. The property of Mr. Jones lay at the west side of the town.

Now, when Mr. Jones heard of the exorbitant demand made by Smith for a five-acre lot, his honest heart throbbed with a feeling of indignation.

“I couldn’t have believed it of him,” said he. “Six thousand dollars! Preposterous! Why, I would give the city a lot of twice the size, and do it with pleasure.”

“You would?” said a member of the council, who happened to hear this remark.

“Certainly, I would.”

“You are really in earnest?”

“Undoubtedly. Go and select a public square from any of my unappropriated land on the west side of the city, and I will pass you the title, as a free gift, to-morrow, and feel pleasure in doing so.”

“That is public spirit,” said the councilman.

“Call it what you will. I am pleased in making the offer.”

Now, let it not be supposed that Mr. Jones was shrewdly calculating the advantage which would result to him from having a park at the west side of the city. No such thought had yet entered his mind. He spoke from the impulse of a generous feeling.

Time passed on, and the session-day of the council came round–a day to which Smith had looked forward with no ordinary feelings of interest, that were touched, at times, by the coldness of doubt and the agitation of uncertainty. Several times he had more than half repented of his refusal to accept the liberal offer of five thousand dollars, and of having fixed so positively upon six thousand as the “lowest figure.”

The morning of the day passed, and Smith began to grow uneasy. He did not venture to seek for information as to the doings of the council, for that would be to expose the anxiety he felt in the result of their deliberations. Slowly the afternoon wore away, and it so happened that Smith did not meet any one of the councilmen; nor did he even know whether the council was still in session or not. As to making allusion to the subject of his anxious interest to any one, that was carefully avoided; for he knew that his exorbitant demand was the town talk–and he wished to affect the most perfect indifference on the subject.

The day closed, and not a whisper about the town-lot had come to the ears of Mr. Smith. What could it mean? Had his offer to sell at six thousand been rejected? The very thought caused his heart to grow heavy in his bosom. Six, seven, eight o’clock came, and still it was all dark with Mr. Smith. He could bear the suspense no longer, and so determined to call upon his neighbour Wilson, who was a member of the council, and learn from him what had been done.

So he called on Mr. Wilson.

“Ah, friend Smith,” said the latter, “how are you, this evening?”

“Well, I thank you,” returned Smith, feeling a certain oppression of the chest. “How are you?”

“Oh, very well.”

Here, then, was a pause. After which, Smith said–

“About that ground of mine? What did you do?”

“Nothing,” replied Wilson, coldly.

“Nothing, did you say?” Smith’s voice was a little husky.

“No. You declined our offer;–or, rather, the high price fixed by yourself upon the land.”

“You refused to buy it at five thousand when it was offered,” said Smith.

“I know we did, because your demand was exorbitant.”

“Oh, no, not at all,” returned Smith, quickly.

“In that we only differ,” said Wilson. “However, the council has decided not to pay you the price you ask.”

“Unanimously?”

“There was not a dissenting voice.”

Smith began to feel more and more uncomfortable.

“I might take something less,” he ventured to say, in a low, hesitating voice.

“It is too late now,” was Mr. Wilson’s prompt reply.

“Too late! How so?”

“We have procured a lot.”

“Mr. Wilson!” Poor Smith started to his feet in chagrin and astonishment.

“Yes; we have taken one of Jones’s lots, on the west side of the city. A beautiful ten-acre lot.”

“You have!” Smith was actually pale.

“We have; and the title-deeds are now being made out.”

It was some time before Smith had sufficiently recovered from the stunning effect of this unlooked-for intelligence, to make the inquiry–

“And pray how much did Jones ask for his ten-acre lot?”

“He presented it to the city as a gift,” replied the councilman.

“A gift! What folly!”

“No, not folly–but true worldly wisdom; though I believe Jones did not think of advantage to himself when he generously made the offer. He is worth twenty thousand dollars more to-day than he was yesterday, in the simple advanced value of his land for building-lots. And I know of no man in this town whose good fortune affects me with more pleasure.”

Smith stole back to his home with a mountain of disappointment on his heart. In his cupidity, he had entirely overreached himself, and he saw that the consequences were to react upon all his future prosperity. The public square at the west end of the town would draw improvements in that direction all the while increasing the wealth of Mr. Jones, while lots in the north end would remain at present prices, or, it might be, take a downward range.

And so it proved. In ten years, Jones was the richest man in the town, while half of Smith’s property had been sold for taxes. The five-acre lot passed from his hands, under the hammer, in the foreclosure of a mortgage, for one thousand dollars!

Thus it is that inordinate selfishness and cupidity overreach themselves; while the liberal man deviseth liberal things, and is sustained thereby.

HE MUST HAVE MEANT ME.

“HOW do you like our new preacher?” was asked by one member of another, as they walked home from church.

“Only so so,” was replied.

“He cuts close,” remarked the first speaker.

“Yes, a little too close.”

“I don’t know about that. I like to see the truth brought home to the heart and conscience.”

“So do I. But I object to personality.”

“Personality!”

“Yes; I object to personality.”

So does every one. Was Mr. C–personal?”

“I think so.”

“That’s hardly possible. He only arrived last week, and has not yet had time to become familiar with facts in the life of any one here. Moreover, a personal allusion in a first sermon, by a stranger, is something so out of place and indelicate, that I cannot for a moment believe that your inference is correct.”

“While I have the best of reasons for believing that I complain of him justly. He’s been long enough here to visit a certain family, fond of tittle-tattle, that I could name.”

“The Harrisons?”

“Yes.”

“I hope you are mistaken.”

“No; I am not mistaken. C–was personal, and distinctly so. And the Harrisons are at the bottom of the matter. To say the least, he has acted in very bad taste. Charity should have prompted him to wait until he could have heard both sides of the story.”

“I agree with you, fully, if your allegation be correct. But I must hope that you are in error.”

“No. I have the best of reasons for what I allege.”

“To whom did the personality apply?”

“To myself, if the truth must be spoken.”

“Is it possible?”

“Yes–to myself.”

“That places the matter in rather a serious light, Mr. Grant.”

“It does. And I think I have reason to complain.”

“You ought to be certain about this matter.”

“I’m certain enough. When a man treads on your toe, you are likely to know it.”

‘It is barely possible that Mr. C–did not intend to designate you, or any one, in what he said.”

“He _must_ have meant me,” replied Mr. Grant, with emphasis. “He couldn’t have said what he did, unless he had been informed of certain things that have happened in this town. Had he not visited the Harrisons, I might have doubted. But that fact places the thing beyond a question.”

“In what did the personality consist?”

“Did you not observe it?”

“No.”

“Indeed!”

“I perceived no allusion to any one.”

“There are plenty of others, no doubt, who did. I don’t care to speak of it just now. But you’ll hear about it. I noticed three or four turn and look at me while he was speaking. It will be a pleasant piece of gossip; but if Mr. C–doesn’t take care, I’ll make this place too hot to hold him. I’m not the one to be set up as a target for any whipper-snapper to fire at.”

“Don’t get excited, friend Grant. Wait awhile. I still think there is some mistake.”

“I beg your pardon; there is no mistake about it. He meant me. Don’t I know? Can’t I tell when a man points his finger at me in a public assembly?”

In his opinion, Mr. Grant was still further confirmed, ere he reached his home, by the peculiar way in which sundry members of the congregation looked at him. Of course, he was considerably disturbed on the subject; and felt a reasonable share of indignation. In the evening, he declined attending worship as an indication of his feelings on the subject; and he doubted not that the new preacher would note his absence and understand the cause.

About a year prior to this time, Mr. Grant, who was a manufacturing jeweller, was called upon by a gentleman, who desired him to make a solid gold wedding-ring. It was to be of the finest quality that could be worked, and to be unusually heavy. When the price was mentioned, the gentleman objected to it as high.

“Your neighbour, over the way,” said the gentleman, “will make it for a dollar less than you ask.”

“Not of solid gold,” replied Mr. Grant.

“Oh, yes. I would have no other.”

Mr. Grant knew that the ring could not be made of fine, solid gold, for the price his neighbour had agreed to take. And he knew, also, that in manufacturing it, his neighbour, if he took the order, would fill up the centre of the ring with solder–a common practice. On the spur of the moment, he determined to do the same thing, and therefore replied–

“Well, I suppose I must work as low as he does.”

“The ring must be of solid gold, remember. I will have no other.”

“That’s understood, of course,” replied the jeweller; adding to himself, “as solid as any one makes them.”

The ring was manufactured at a reasonable profit, and the man got the full worth of his money; but not of solid gold. Silver solder composed the centre. But as the baser metal could not be detected by simple inspection or weighing, Mr. Grant felt secure in the cheat he had practised; and, quieted his conscience by assuming that he had given a full equivalent for the money received.

“He’s just as well off as he would have been if he had gone to my neighbour over the way, as he called him,” said he to himself, in the effort to quiet certain unpleasant sensations. “To suppose that he was going to get a solid ring at such a price! Does he think we jewellers steal our gold? Men will be humbugged, and there is no help for it.”

Yet, for all this, Mr. Grant could not cast out the unpleasant feeling. He had done a thing so clearly wrong, that no attempt at self-justification gave his mind its former calmness.

“The ring is solid gold?” said the man, when he came for it.

“That was the contract,” replied Mr. Grant, with a half-offended air, at the intimation conveyed in the tone of voice, that all might not be as agreed upon.

“Excuse me,” remarked the man, apologetically; “but I am very particular about this matter, and would throw the ring into the street rather than use it, if not of solid gold.”

“Gold rings are not given away,” muttered Grant to himself, as the man left the shop.

Some days after this transaction, a man named Harrison, who belonged to the church of which Grant was a member, met him, when this little conversation took place.

“I sent you a customer last week,” said Mr. Harrison.

Ah! I’m very much obliged to you.”

“A gentleman who wanted a gold ring. He asked me to give him the name of a jeweller upon whom he could depend. The ring, he said, must be solid, for a particular reason; and, as he was a stranger, he did not know who was to be trusted. I told him I would guaranty you for an honest man. That if you undertook to manufacture any article for him, he might rely upon its being done according to agreement.”

While Harrison was uttering this undeserved compliment, it was with the utmost difficulty that Mr. Grant. could keep the tell-tale blood from rushing to his face.

“He showed me the ring,” continued Mr. Harrison. “It is a very handsome one.”

“Was he satisfied with it?” asked Mr. Grant.

“Not fully.”

“Why so?”

“He was afraid it might not be solid. In fact, so anxious was he on this point, that he took the ring to your neighbour, over the way, to get his opinion about it.”

As Mr. Harrison said this, Grant was conscious that a betrayal of the truth was on his countenance.

“And, of course, Martin said the ring was not solid.”

“No, he did not exactly say that. I went with the gentleman, at his request. Martin weighed the ring, and, after doing so, simply stated that gold of the quality of which the ring was made was worth a certain price per pennyweight. By multiplying the number of pennyweights contained in the ring with the price mentioned, he showed that you either lost one dollar on the ring, or filled the centre with some baser metal.”

“Well?” The blood had, by this time, risen to the very brow of the jeweller.

“‘Cut the ring,’ said my friend. It was done, and, to my mortification and astonishment, it proved to be even as he had said. The ring was not solid!”

For some moments, Mr. Grant hung his head in painful confusion. Then, looking up, he said–

“It was his own fault.”

“How so?” was inquired.

“He would not pay the price for a solid ring, and I could not give him my work for nothing.”

“Did you ask him a fair price?”

“Yes; and he answered, that my neighbour over the way had offered to make him a solid ring, for just one dollar less. I knew exactly what kind of a ring Martin could and would furnish for that money, and made him one just like it. I gave him his money’s worth, and a little over. He was not cheated.”

“But he was deceived. How you could have done such a thing, brother Grant, is more than I can understand.”

“I had to do it in self-defence; and this very Martin, who has been so ready to expose the little deception, made the act necessary.”

“I’m sorry you should have done so. It was wrong,” said Mr. Harrison.

“I’m ready to acknowledge that. But it’s too late, now, to repair the error. I wish I’d had nothing to do with the matter.”

“So do I,” remarked Harrison.

This fretted the mind of Grant, and he replied, rather impatiently–

“Hereafter, I hope you’ll send all customers of this kind to Martin. Dear knows, I don’t want them!”

“I shall certainly be careful in this matter,” coldly replied Harrison, and bowing formally, as he spoke, turned away, and left Grant in no very pleasant frame of mind. From that time there was a coldness between the two church members.

When Grant went to church on the next Sabbath, he noticed, as he approached the meeting-house door, Harrison standing in close conversation with one or two prominent members. As he approached, they looked toward him in a certain way that he did not like, and then, separating, entered the house before he came up. It was too evident that Harrison had been communicating the incident of the ring. But Grant was not surprised; he had expected nothing less. Still, he felt that his brother member had not done towards him in the matter as he would have liked himself done by. On entering the church, half a dozen persons turned and looked at him earnestly; while two or three whispered together, glancing towards him every now and then, and thus showing that he was the subject of conversation. As to the theme of discourse between them, his mind was in no doubt. The gold ring! Yes, that was it.

But little edified by the sermon was Mr. Grant on that morning; and, when the services were ended, he went quickly from the church, and took his way homeward without stopping, as on former occasions, to shake hands and pass a few words with friends and brethren.

It had been the custom of several leading members of the church to drop in occasionally, during the week, and chat with Grant for ten minutes or half an hour. But the time from Sunday to Sunday was passed without a single call from any one of them. The reason for this was no mystery to the jeweller’s mind.

“I don’t see that I’ve been guilty of such a terrible crime,” said he to himself, feeling a little indignant on the subject. “The man got his money’s worth; and, moreover, was served perfectly right. Did he suppose that he was going to get fine gold for the price of solder? If so, he found himself mistaken. As for Harrison, he’s made himself remarkably busy about the matter. I would not trust him in a similar case. But it is so pleasant to discourse on evil in our neighbour. So very pleasant! The good he does is left to find its own way to the light as best it can; but let him commit a mistake or make a single false step, and it is preached from house-top.”

When Grant and Harrison met, there was a mutual reserve and coldness.

“He is conscious, I am aware, of his wrong dealing,” said the latter to himself, “and therefore shuns me.”

“He is aware that he has tried to injure me,” said the former, “and cannot, therefore, meet me as of old.”

Two or three weeks passed before the friends who used to drop in to see him almost every day showed themselves in his shop, and then there was a too evident change of manner. They appeared distant and reserved, and he met them with a like exterior. His pride was touched.

“Just as they like,” he said to himself. “I can get on without them. I presume, if all our hearts were laid open, mine would be found quite as good as theirs. As for Perkins and Marvel, they needn’t set themselves up over me. I think I know them. Men who cut as close as they do in dealing, generally cut a little from the side that doesn’t belong to them.”

Perkins and Marvel, here alluded to, had long been on friendly terms with Mr. Grant–visiting at his shop–for the purpose of a little friendly chit-chat–every few days. But a coldness now took place, and, in a few weeks, they ceased their friendly calls.

In various other ways was Mr. Grant conscious of a reaction upon himself of his improper conduct. Hundreds of times did he mentally regret the weakness and love of gain which had prompted him to so far lose sight of what was just and honourable as to deceive a customer. So painful was his sense of mortification, that, for a time, he omitted to attend church on Sunday. Not only was he satisfied that every one in the congregation knew about the ring, but he could clearly perceive a change in the manner of his most intimate acquaintances who were members of the church.

Grant was not a man entirely sold to selfishness. He was not a deliberate wrong-doer, hiding his evil purposes and acts under a hypocritical exterior. He had conscience, and, at times, its voice was loud and distinct. He was, therefore, troubled about the ring as a fact indicating the state of his affections; as well as troubled about the condemnatory judgment of his brethren. There were fluctuations of state, of course, as there are with all of us. Sometimes he was in a state of humiliation on account of the evil he had done, and sometimes in a state of indignation at Harrison for having, been so eager to publish his fault from the house-top.

Gradually, however, the ever-recurring new purposes and interests which come to all in passing through life, threw the past with its influences into the shade, and the returns of states of mortification on account of the ring were less and less frequent. Mr. Grant resumed his attendance at church, and mingled, as of old, with his brethren; though in a rather more subdued and less confident spirit. That affair of the ring could not be entirely forgotten.

In due course of time, the minister on the station had to leave, and a new one was appointed by the conference to take his place. The Rev. Mr. C–arrived early in the week, and during the period that elapsed between that and the Sabbath, visited a good deal among the brethren. During that time, an evening was spent at Mr. Harrison’s, but no one brought him around to introduce him to Mr. Grant. The jeweller felt this, and in his mind, in searching about for reasons, rested, very naturally, upon the affair of the gold ring, and he did not doubt but the occurrence had been fully related to Mr. C–.

Under this feeling, Mr. Grant went to church. His first sight of the new preacher was when he arose in the pulpit to give out the hymn. His countenance did not make a very favourable impression, but his voice, when he commenced reading the hymn, had a tone and a modulation that were pleasing. The subject of the discourse which followed was practical, and had reference to a man’s conduct towards his fellow-man in the common affairs of life. From general propositions, the minister, after entering upon his sermon, came down to things particular. He dwelt upon the love of dominion so deeply rooted in the human heart, and showed, in various ways, how it was exercised by individuals in all the grades of common society.

“A more deeply-rooted evil than this,” he went on to say, “is theft. We all inherit, in a greater or less degree, the desire to possess our neighbour’s goods; and, with the earliest development of the mind, comes the activity of that desire. It is seen in the child when he appropriates the plaything of another child, and in the so-called good and honest citizen when, in bargaining, he secures an advantage at the expense of his brother.”

Descending, gradually, to the introduction of particular forms of overreaching as practised in trade, all of which Mr. C–designated as instances of theft, he finally brought forward an instance so nearly resembling the one in which Mr. Grant had been engaged, that the latter felt himself, as has been seen, particularly pointed out, and left the church at the close of the service in a state of excitement and indignation. To have that old matter, about which he had already suffered enough, “raked over,” as he said, “and exposed to light again,” was a little more than he was disposed to submit to with patience. As has been seen, he did not conceal what was in his mind.

On Monday, a brother-member of the church dropped in to see the jeweller.

“How did you like Mr. C–?” was the natural inquiry.

“Not at all,” replied Mr. Grant, in a positive tone.

“You didn’t? Why, I was delighted with him! What is your objection?”

“He was personal in his discourse.”

“I perceived nothing personal.”

“Though I did, and of the grossest kind.”

“How was it possible for a stranger like Mr. C–to be personal? He knows nothing of the characters or conduct of individuals here.”

“Strangers generally have quick ears, and there are always plenty of news-venders to fill them. He’s been with the Harrisons, and we all know what they are.”

“To whom did he refer?” was asked.

“He referred to me.”

“To you?”

“Certainly he did. And I don’t like it at all. That’s not the way to preach the gospel. This running off with one side of a story, and, taking all for granted, holding a man up to public odium, is not, as I conceive, following in the footsteps of our Great Master.”

“I’m sorry you should have taken up such an impression,” was replied to this. “I cannot believe that Mr. C–really intended to hold you up to public odium. He couldn’t have meant to designate you.”

“He must have meant me. Don’t I know?”

So another and another objection was made to Mr. C–on the same ground; and before the week was out, it was pretty widely known that the new preacher had indulged in reprehensible personalities. Some said this was an error in the preacher; others, that he was highly blamable; while others affirmed that there must be some mistake about the matter.

On the following Sunday, Mr. Grant was absent from his usual place in the church. It would do him no good to sit under the ministry of Mr. C–.

During the week that followed, two of the official members called upon the jeweller to make inquiries about the alleged personalities. Grant was, by this time, pretty sore on the subject, and when allusion was made to it, he gave his opinion of the preacher in no very choice language.

“In what did this personality consist?” asked one of the visitors.

“It’s hardly necessary to ask that question,” replied Grant.

“It is for me. No one, whom I have yet seen, has been able to give me any information on the subject.”

“If you ask Mr. C–, he will enlighten you.”

“I have already done so.”

“You have?”

“Yes.”

“What was his reply?”

“That he is innocent of the personality laid to his charge.”

“Did you mention my name?”

“I did.”

“Well?”

“He had not even heard of you as a member of the church here.”

“I can hardly credit that, after what he said.”

“You will, at least, give him the chance of vindication. He is now at my house, and has expressed a wish to see you.”

“I don’t know that any good will grow out of seeing him,” said Mr. Grant, who felt but little inclined to meet the preacher.

“I’m sorry to hear you say that, Mr. Grant. You have made a complaint against Mr. C–, and when he wishes to confer with you on the subject, you decline, under the assumption that no good can arise from it. This is not right; and I hope you will think better of it.”

“Perhaps it isn’t right; but so it is. At present, I do not wish to see him. I may feel differently to-morrow.”

“Shall we call upon-you in the morning?”

“If you please to do so.”

“Very well.”

And the two official members departed.

No sooner were they gone, than Mr. Grant put or his hat and left his shop. He went direct to the store of Mr. Harrison.

“You are just the man I was thinking about,” said the latter, as the jeweller entered. “What is all this trouble about you and Mr. C–? I hear some rumour of it at every turn.”

“That is just what I have come to see you about.”

“Very well; what can I do in the matter? Mr. C–, you allege, has held you up in the congregation to public odium?”

“I do.”

“In what way?”

“Strange that you should ask the question.”

“Why so? What have I to do with it?”

“A great deal,” said Grant, his brows falling as he spoke.

“I must plead innocence until shown my guilt. So far, I have not even been able to learn in what the allusion to yourself consisted.”

“_You_ have not?”

“No.”

Grant stood, tightly compressing his lips, for some moments. He then said:

“You remember that affair of the gold ring?”

“Very well.”

“You mentioned this to C–.”

“No. Nor to a living soul since the occurrence of the fact.”

“What?”

“Nothing on that subject has ever passed my lips. I believed that you saw and repented of your error, and in honour and in conscience refrained from even the remotest allusion to the subject.”

“How, then, did Mr. C–become cognisant of the fact?”

“If cognisant all, it was from another source than the one you supposed.”

“I never mentioned it. You were the only one to whom the circumstance was communicated. How, then, could the matter have gotten abroad?”

“I don’t believe a single member of the congregation ever heard of it.”

“Oh, yes, they have. These has been a marked change in the manner of very many towards me. So apparent was this at one time, that I absented myself from church, rather than encounter it.”

“All your imagination, brother Grant, and nothing else. I believe that I mingle as freely with the congregation as any one, and I know that I never heard a breath against you. At present, every one is at a loss to know in what way Mr. C–pointed you out; he is equally in the dark.”

“I was sure he meant me. It was so plain,” said Mr. Grant, his countenance falling, and his manner becoming subdued.

“There was nothing of the kind, you may depend upon it,” replied Mr. Harrison.

“And you never spoke of it?”

“Never!”

“A guilty conscience, it is said, needs no accuser. The likeness to me was so strong, that I really thought the picture was sketched from myself as the original. Ah, me!”

“Had you not better call on Mr. C–?” asked Harrison.

“No, no. See him for me, if you please, and tell him that I am convinced of my error in supposing he pointed me out in the congregation. As to the particular allusion that I felt to be offensive, I hope you will still keep your own counsel. I did wrong, under temptation, and have suffered and repented in consequence. It can do no good to bring the matter to light now.”

“None at all. I will not speak of it.”

Nor did he. Many and various were the suggestions and suppositions of the congregation touching the nature of the preacher’s personal allusion to the jeweller, and some dozen of little gossiping stories got into circulation; but the truth did not find its way to the light. And not until the day on which he was leaving the station for a new field of labour, did the preacher himself understand the matter; and then he had it from Mr. Grant’s own lips.

FOR THE FUN OF IT.

“JUST look at them young lovers,” said Harry Mears, glancing from his companion to a young man and maiden, who, for the moment unconscious that they were in the midst of a large company, were leaning towards each other, and looking into each other’s faces in rather a remarkable manner. “Isn’t it ridiculous? I thought Fisher had more sense than to do so. As to Clara Grant, she always was a little weak.”

The friend looked at the couple an smiled. “It is ridiculous, certainly,” he remarked. “Why havn’t they sense enough to keep these little love-passages for private occasions?”

“Clara, with all her silliness used to be a right pleasant companion,” said Mears. “But since this love affair between her and Fisher, she has become intolerably dull and uninteresting. She doesn’t care a fig for anybody but him, and really appears to think it a task to be even polite to an old acquaintance. I don’t think she has cause to be quite so elated with her conquest as this comes to; nor to feel that, in possessing the love of a man like Fisher, she is independent of the world, and may show off the indifference she feels to every one. Fisher is clever enough, but he is neither a Socrates nor a saint.”

“He will suit her very well, I imagine.”

“Yes; they will make a passable Darby and Joan, no doubt. Still, it always vexes me to see people, who pretend to any sense, acting in this way.”

“I think it is more her fault than his.”

“So do I. She has shown a disposition to bill and coo from the first. At Mangum’s party, last week, she made me sick. I tried to get her hand for a dance, but no. Close to the side of Fisher she adhered, like a fixture, and could hardly force her lips into a smile for any one else. The gipsy! I’d punish her for all this, if I could just hit upon a good plan for doing it.”

“Let me see,” remarked the friend, dropping his head into a thoughtful position, “can’t we devise a scheme for worrying her a little? She is certainly a fair subject. It would be fine sport.”

“Yes, it would.”

“She evidently thinks Fisher perfection.”

“Oh, yes! There never was such a man before! She actually said to Caroline Lee, who was trying to jest with her a little, that Fisher was one of the most pure-minded, honourable young men living.”

“Oh, dear.”

“It is a fact.”

“Was she serious?”

“Yes, indeed! Serious as the grave. Caroline was laughing to me about it. Nearly every one notices the silliness of her conduct, and the weakness she displays in forever talking about and praising him.”

“I would like to run him down a little when she could overhear me, just for the fun of the thing.”

“So would I. Capital! That will do, exactly. We must watch an opportunity, and if we can get within earshot of her, any time that she is by herself, we must abuse Fisher right and left, without appearing to notice that she is listening to what we say, or, indeed, anywhere near us.”

“Right! That’s the very thing. It will be capital fun.”

Thus, the thoughtless young men, meddling themselves in a matter that did not concern them, determined upon a very questionable piece of folly. All that they said of the lovers was exaggeration. It was true that they did show rather more preference for each other in company than just accorded with good taste; but this, while it provoked a smile from the many, irritated only the few.

Clara Grant, notwithstanding the light manner in which the two young men had spoken of her, was a girl of good sense, good principles, and deep feeling, She had been several times addressed by young men before Fisher offered his hand; but, with all their attractions, there were defects about them, which her habits of close observation enabled her to see, that caused her to repel their advances, and in two instances to decline apparently very advantageous offers of marriage. In the integrity of Fisher’s character, she had the most unbounded confidence; and she really believed, as she had said to Caroline Lee and others, that he was one of the purest-minded, most honourable young men living.

Judge, then, with what feelings she overheard, about half an hour after the plan to disturb her peace had been formed, the following conversation between Mears and his companion, carried on in low tones and in a confidential manner. She was sitting close to one side of the folding-doors that communicated between the parlours, and they were in the adjoining room, concealed from her by the half-partition, yet so close that every word they uttered was distinctly heard. Her attention was first arrested by hearing one of them say–

“If she knew Fisher as well as I do.”

To which the other responded–

“Yes; or as well as I do. But, poor girl! it isn’t expected that she is to know every thing about young men who visit her. It is better that she should not.”

“Still, I am rather surprised that common report should not have given her more information about Fisher than she seems to possess.”

“So am I. But she’ll know him better one of these days.”

“I’ll warrant you that! Perhaps to her sorrow; though I hope things will turn out differently from what they now promise. Don’t you think he is pretty well done with his wild oats?”

“Possibly. But time will tell.”

“Yes, time proves all things.”

Some one joining the young men at this point of their conversation, the subject was changed. Greatly amused at what they had done, they little thought how sad the effects of their unguarded words would be.

Five minutes afterwards, the young man named Mears, curious to see how Clara had been affected by what he knew she must have heard, moved to another part of the room, in order to observe her without attracting her attention. But she had left the place where she was sitting. His eye ranged around the room, but she was nowhere to be seen.

“I’m afraid we’ve hurt Clara more than we intended,” he said, rejoining his friend. “She has vanished.”

“Ah! Where’s Fisher?”

“He’s at the other end of the room.”

“We didn’t say any thing against the young man.”

“Not in particular. We made no specifications. There was nothing that she could take hold of.”

“No, of course not. But I wonder what is going to be the upshot of the matter?”

“Nothing very serious, I apprehend.”

“No. I suppose she will go home and cry her eyes half out, and then conclude that, whatever Fisher may have been, he’s perfection now. It’s a first-rate joke, isn’t it?”

Clara Grant had not only left the parlours, but soon after quietly left the house, and alone returned to her home. When her lover, shortly afterwards, searched through the rooms for her, she was nowhere to be seen.

“Where is Clara?” he asked of one and another. The answer was–

“I saw her here a moment since.”

But it was soon very apparent that she was nowhere in the rooms now. Fisher moved about uneasy for half an hour. Still, not seeing her, he became anxious lest a sudden illness had caused her to retire from the company. More particular inquiries were made of the lady who had given the entertainment. She immediately ascertained for him that Clara was not in the house. One of the servants reported that a lady had gone away alone half an hour before. Fisher did not remain a single moment after receiving this intelligence, but went direct to the house of Clara’s aunt, with whom she lived, and there ascertained that she had come home and retired to her room without seeing any of the family.

His inquiry whether she were ill, the servant could not answer.

“Have you seen anything of Clara yet?” asked the friend of Mears, with a smile, as they met about an hour after they had disturbed the peace of a trusting, innocent-minded girl, “just for the fun of it.”

“I have not,” replied Mears.

“Where’s Fisher?”

“He is gone also.”

“Ah, indeed! I’m sorry the matter was taken so seriously by the young lady. It was only a joke.”

“Yes. That was all; and she ought to have known it.”

On the next day, Fisher, who had spent a restless night, called to ask for Clara as early as he could do so with propriety.

“She wishes you to excuse her,” said the servant, who had taken up his name to the young lady.

“Is she not well?” asked Fisher.

“She has not been out of her room this morning. I don’t think she is very well.”

The young man retired with a troubled feeling at his heart. In the evening he called again; but Clara sent him word, as she had done in the morning, that she wished to be excused.

In the mean time, the young lady was a prey to the most distressing doubts. What she had heard, vague as it was, fell like ice upon her heart. She had no reason to question what had been said, for it was, as far as appeared to her, the mere expression of a fact made in confidence by friend to friend without there being an object in view. If any one had come to her and talked to her after that manner, she would have rejected the allegations indignantly, and confidently pronounced them false. But they had met her in a shape so unexpected, and with so much seeming truth, that she was left no alternative but to believe.

Fisher called a third time; but still Clara declined seeing him. On the day after this last attempt, he received a note from her in these, to him, strange words:–

“DEAR SIR:–Since I last met you, I have become satisfied that a marriage between us cannot prove a happy one. This conclusion is far more painful to me than it can possibly be to you. You, I trust, will soon be able to feel coldly towards her whose fickleness, as you will call it, so soon led her to change her mind; but a life-shadow is upon my heart. If you can forget me, do so, in justice to yourself. As for me, I feel that–but why should say this? Charles, do not seek to change the resolution I have taken, for you cannot; do not ask for explanations, for I can give none. May you be happier than I can ever be! Farewell.

“CLARA.”

“Madness!” exclaimed Charles Fisher, as he crumpled this letter in his hand. “Is there no faith in woman?”

He sought no explanation; he made no effort to change her resolution; he merely returned this brief answer–

“Clara, you are free.”

It was quickly known among the circle of their friends that the engagement between Fisher and Clara had been broken off. Mears and his friend, it may be supposed, did not feel very comfortable when they heard this.

“I didn’t think the silly girl would take it so seriously,” remarked one to the other.

“No; it was a mere joke.”

“But has turned out a very serious one.”

“I guess they’ll make it up again before long.”

“I hope so. Who would have believed it was in her to take the matter so much at heart, or to act with so much decision and firmness? I really think better of the girl than I did before, although I pity her from my heart.”

“Hadn’t we better make an effort to undo the wrong we have done?”

“And expose ourselves? Oh, no! We must be as still as death on the subject. It is too serious an affair. We might get ourselves into trouble.”

“True. But I cannot bear to think that others are suffering from an act of mine.”

“It is not a pleasant consciousness, certainly. But still, to confess what we have done would place us in a very awkward position. In fact, not for the world would I have an exposure of this little act of folly take place. It would affect me in a certain quarter–where, I need not mention to you–in a way that might be exceedingly disagreeable.”

“I didn’t think of that. Yes, I agree with you that we had best keep quiet about it. I’m sorry; but it can’t be helped now.”

And so the matter was dismissed.

No one saw Clara Grant in company for the space of twelve months. When she did appear, all her old friends were struck with the great change in her appearance. As for Fisher, he had left the city some months before, and gone off to a Southern town, where, it was said, he was in good business.

The cause of estrangement between the lovers remained a mystery to every one. To all questions on the subject, Clara was silent. But that she was a sufferer every one could see.

“I wish that girl would fall in love with somebody and get married,” Mears remarked to his friend, about two years after they had passed off upon Clara their good joke. “Her pale, quiet, suffering face haunts me wherever I go.”

“So do I. Who could have believed that a mere joke would turn out so seriously?”

“I wonder if he is married yet?”

“It’s doubtful. He appeared to take the matter quite as hard as she does.”

“Well, it’s a lesson to me.”

“And to me, also.”

And, with this not very satisfactory conclusion, the two friends dropped the subject. Both, since destroying, by a few words spoken in jest, the happiness of a loving couple, had wooed and won the maidens of their choice, and were now married. Both, up to this time, had carefully concealed from their wives the act of which they had been guilty.

After returning home from a pleasant company, one evening, at which Clara was present, the wife of Mears said to him–

“You did not seem to enjoy yourself to-night. Are you not well?”

“Oh, yes; I feel quite well,” returned Mears.

“Why, then, did you look so sober?”

“I was not aware that I looked more so than usual.”

“You did, then. And you look sober now. There must be some cause for this. What is it, dear?”

Mears was by no means ignorant of the fact that he felt sober. The presence of Clara distressed him more, instead of less, the oftener he met her. The question of his wife made him feel half inclined to tell her the truth. After thinking for a moment, he said–

“I have felt rather graver than usual to-night. Something brought to my recollection, too vividly, a little act of folly that has been attended with serious consequences.”

His wife looked slightly alarmed.

“It was only a joke–just done for the fun of the thing; but it was taken, much to my surprise, seriously. I was innocent of any desire to wound; but a few light words have made two hearts wretched.”

Mrs. Mears looked at her husband with surprise. He continued–

“You remember the strange misunderstanding that took place between Clara Grant and young Fisher, about two years ago?”

“Very well. Poor Clara has never been like herself since that time.”

“I was the cause of it.”

“You!” said the wife, in astonishment.

“Yes. Clara used to make herself quite conspicuous by the way she acted towards Fisher, with whom she was under an engagement of marriage. She hardly saw anybody in company but him. And, besides, she made bold to declare that he was about as near to perfection as it was possible for a young man to come. She was always talking about him to her young female friends, and praising him to the skies. Her silly speeches were every now and then reported, much to the amusement of young men to whose ears they happened to find their way. One evening, at a large party, she was, as usual, anchored by the side of her lover, and showing off her fondness for him in rather a ridiculous manner. A young friend and myself, who were rather amused at this, determined, in a thoughtless moment, that we would, just for the fun of the thing, run Fisher down in a confidential undertone to each other, yet loud enough for her to hear us, if a good opportunity for doing so offered. Before long, we noticed her sitting alone in a corner near one of the folding-doors. We managed to get near, yet so as not to appear to notice her, and then indulged in some light remarks about her lover, mainly to the effect that if his sweetheart knew him as well as we did, she might not think him quite so near perfection as she appeared to do. Shortly afterwards, I searched through the rooms for her in vain. From that night, the lovers never again met. Clara refused to see Fisher when he called on her the next day, and shortly afterwards requested him, in writing, to release her from her marriage-contract, without giving any reason for her change of mind.”

“Henry,” exclaimed Mrs. Mears, her voice and countenance expressing the painful surprise she felt, “why did you not immediately repair the wrong you had done?”

“How could I, without exposing myself, and causing perhaps a serious collision between me and Fisher?”

“You should have braved every consequence,” replied Mrs. Mears, firmly, “rather than permitted two loving hearts to remain severed, when a word from you would have reunited them. How could you have hesitated a moment as to what was right to do? But it may not be too late yet. Clara must know the truth.”

“Think what may be the consequence,” said Nears.

“Think, rather, what _have been_ the consequences,” was the wife’s reply.

It was in vain that Mears argued with his wife about the policy of letting the matter rest where it was. She was a woman, and could only feel how deeply Clara had been wronged, as well as the necessity for an immediate reparation of that wrong. For more than an hour, she argued the matter with her husband who finally consented that she should see Clara, and correct the serious error under which she had been labouring. Early on the next day, Mrs. Mears called upon the unhappy girl. A closer observation of her face than she had before made revealed deep marks of suffering.

“And all this ‘for the fun of it!'” she could not help saying to herself with a feeling of sorrow. After conversing a short time with Clara, Mrs. Mears said–

“I heard something, last night, so nearly affecting your peace, that I have lost no time in seeing you.”

“What is that?” asked Clara, a flush passing over her face.

“Two years ago, you were engaged in marriage to Mr. Fisher?”

Clara made no reply, but the flush faded from her face and her lips quivered slightly for a moment.

“From hearing two persons who were conversing about him make disparaging remarks, you were led to break off that engagement.”

The face of Clara grew still paler, but she continued silent.

“By one of them, I am authorized to tell you that all they said was in mere jest. They knew you could hear what they said, and made the remarks purposely for your ear, in order to have a little sport. They never dreamed of your taking it so seriously.”

A deep groan heaved the bosom of Clara; her head fell back, and her body drooped nervelessly. Mrs. Mears extended her hands quickly and saved her from falling to the floor.

“This, too, ‘for the fun of it!'” she said to herself, bitterly, as she lifted the inanimate body of the poor girl in her arms, and laid it upon the sofa.

Without summoning any of the family, Mrs. Mears made use of every effort in her power to restore the circle of life. In this she was at last successful. When the mind of Clara had become again active, and measurably calm, she said to her–

“It was a cruel jest, and the consequences have been most painful. But I trust it is not yet too late to repair the wrong thus done, although no compensation can be made for the suffering to which you have been subjected.”

“It is too late, Mrs. Mears–too late!” replied Clara, in a mournful voice.

“Say not so, my dear young friend.”

But Clara shook her head.

It was in vain that Mrs. Mears strove earnestly to lift up her drooping heart. The calmness with which she had been able to bear the destruction of all her hopes, because there had seemed an adequate cause for the sacrifice she had made, was all gone now. There had been no adequate cause for the sacrifice. Her lover was as excellent and honourable as she at first believed him to be, and she had cast him off on the authority of a heartless jest. To all that her friend could say, she had but one reply to make–

“It is too late now!”

“Not too late, I trust,” said Mr. Mears, a good deal disturbed by his wife’s relation of her interview with Clara. “I must ascertain where Fisher is, and write to him on the subject. Did she say any thing that led you to believe that she recognised the voices of the persons whom she heard conversing? Do you think she suspects me in the matter?”

“I do not think she does.”

“So much the better.”

The effect upon Clara of the information she had received was very serious. Deeply as she had been afflicted, the consciousness of having done right in refusing to marry a man who was destitute, as she had accidentally discovered, of virtuous principles, sustained her. But now it was revealed to her that he was as excellent as she had at first believed him, and that she had been made the victim of a pleasant joke! There was no longer any thing to hold her up, and accordingly her spirits completely forsook her, and in less than two weeks she was seriously ill.

The news of this deeply disturbed Mr. Mears, who had written to Fisher, and was waiting impatiently for an answer.

“I am afraid we have made the matter worse,” he said to his wife, who, on returning from a visit to Clara, reported that, so far from improving, she was too evidently sinking, daily. “If Fisher should have entered into another engagement, or, if his pride has taken fire at being thrown off on what may appear to him such slight grounds, I really tremble for the consequences.”

“Let us hope for the best,” returned Mrs. Mears, “as we have acted for the best. It was plainly our duty to do as we have done. On that subject I have no doubt.”

Two more weeks of painful suspense and anxiety passed. Clara did not improve in the least. Mrs. Mears called to see her every few days, but dared not venture to tell her that her husband had written to Fisher. She was afraid to fill her mind with this hope, lest it should fail, and the shock prove too severe. But, even as it was, life seemed to be rapidly ebbing away.

At length there came a change. Nature rallied, and life, flowed, though feebly still, in healthier currents through the veins of Clara Grant. In a week from the time this change took place, she was able to leave her bed and set up for a few hours each day. But all who looked into her young face were grieved at the sight. There were no deep lines of distress there, but the marks of patient, yet hopeless suffering.

One day, she sat alone, in a dreamy, musing state, with a book lying upon her lap. She had been trying to read, but found it impossible to take any interest in the pages over which her eyes passed, while her mind scarcely apprehended the sense. Some one opened the door; but she did not look around. The person, whoever it was, remained only for a moment or two, and then withdrew. In a little while the door opened again, and some one entered and came towards her with the tread of a man. She started to her feet, while her heart gave a sudden bound. As she turned, her eyes fell upon the form of her long absent lover. For an instant, perhaps longer, she looked into his face to read it as the index of his heart, and then she lay quivering on his bosom.

A few weeks later, Clara became the bride of Charles Fisher, and left with him for the South. Neither of them ever knew the authors of the wrong they had suffered. It was better, perhaps, that in this they should remain ignorant.

So much “_for the fun of it_.”

FORGIVE AND FORGET.

Forgive and forget! Why the world would be lonely,

The garden a wilderness left to deform,

If the flowers but remembered the chilling winds only,

And the fields gave no verdure for fear of the storm! C. SWAIN.

“FORGIVE and forget, Herbert.”

“No, I will neither forgive nor forget. The thing was done wantonly. I never pass by a direct insult.”

“Admit that it was done wantonly; but this I doubt. He is an old friend, long tried and long esteemed. He could not have been himself; he must have been carried away by some wrong impulse, when he offended you.”

“He acted from something in him, of course.”

“We all do so. Nothing external can touch our volition, unless there be that within which corresponds to the impelling agent.”

“Very well. This conduct of Marston shows him to be internally unworthy of my regard; shows him to possess a trait of character that unfits him to be my friend. I have been mistaken in him. He now stands revealed in his true light, a mean-spirited fellow.”

“Don’t use such language towards Marston, my young friend.”

“He has no principle. He wished to render me ridiculous and do me harm. A man who could act as he did, cannot possess a spark of honourable feeling. Does a good fountain send forth bitter waters? Is not a tree known by its fruit? When a man seeks wantonly to insult and injure me, I discover that he wants principle, and wish to have no more to do with him.”

“Perhaps,” said the individual with whom Herbert Arnest was conversing, “it is your wounded self-love, more than your high regard for principle, that speaks so eloquently against Marston.”

“Mr. Welford!”

“Nay, my young friend, do not be offended with me. Your years, twice