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  • 1852
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“To-night, if you choose.”

“Very well–let it be to-night. There is no time to be lost.”

“Suppose she won’t accept you?”

“She must. I’m as good-looking a fellow as you’ll find in a dozen; and I flatter myself that I have a smooth tongue in my head.”

“Well, success to you, I say! But look here, Smith: if you succeed, I shall expect a premium.”

“There’ll be no difficulty about that, Perkins. But let me secure the prize first; and then say how much you’ll want. You’ll not find me the man to forget a friend.”

“I’m sure of that,” responded the other, laughing.

And then the friends shook each other’s hands heartily, promising, as they parted, to meet early in the evening, preparatory to visiting the heiress.

“You would not have me suspicious of every young man who visits me!” said Margaretta Riston, in reply to a remark made by her aunt, on the same evening that the two young men had proposed calling on her.

“I would rather have you suspicious, or, rather, exceedingly watchful, than to be altogether off of your guard. Many dangers beset the path of a rich young girl like you. There are, and I am sorry to say it, too many young men in society, who are mere money-hunters–young men who would marry an heiress during the first hour of their acquaintance, and marry her, of course, only for her money.”

“I can hardly credit it, aunt. And I am sure that no young men of my acquaintance are so selfish and mercenary!”

“In that assumption lies a fatal error, believe me, my dear niece! Too many, alas! too many young girls have vainly imagined, as you do now, that, though there might be men of base characters in society, none such were of their acquaintances. These have awakened from their fatal error with the sad consciousness that they had become victims to their fond infidelity. Rather suspect all until you have convincing evidence to the contrary, than remain unguarded until it is too late.”

“But don’t you see, aunt, how in this case I would do wrong to sincere and honest minds? And I cannot bear the thought of doing wrong to any one.”

“You do no wrong to any one, my niece, in with-holding full confidence until there is evidence that full confidence may be safely bestowed. In the present evil state of the world, involving, as it does, so much of false appearance, hypocrisy, and selfish motive, it is absolutely necessary, especially with one in your situation, to withhold all confidence, until there is unquestionable proof of virtuous principle.”

“There is at least one young man, who visits here, that I think is above such mean suspicions,” Margaretta said.

“So I think,” the aunt replied.

“Whom do you mean, aunt?”

“I mean Thomas Fielding.”

“Thomas Fielding! Well, he may be; but–“

“But what, Margaretta?”

“Oh, nothing, aunt. But I do not like Mr. Fielding so very much.”

“Why not, child?”

“I can hardly tell. But there is no character about him.”

“No character! Really, Margaretta, you surprise me. There is more character and principle about him than about any young man who comes to this house.”

“I cannot think so, aunt. He is too tame, prosy, and old-fashioned for me.”

“Whom then did you mean?” the aunt asked, with an expression of concern in her tones.

“Why, Mr. Perkins, to be sure.”

The aunt shook her head.

“I am afraid, Margaretta, that Mr. Perkins is a man of few principles, but thoroughly selfish ones.”

“How strangely you talk, aunt! Why, he is any thing but a selfish man. I am sure he is the most gentlemanly, thoughtful, and polite man that visits here. He is much more attentive to others, in company, than Mr. Fielding; and that, I am sure, indicates a kinder regard for others.”

“Not always, Margaretta. It may sometimes indicate a cold-hearted, calm assurance, assumed for selfish ends; while its opposite may be from a natural reserve or timidity of character.”

“But you don’t mean to say, surely, that Mr. Perkins is such a one as you intimate?”

“If I am correct in my observation, he is all that I have insinuated. In a word, he is, in my opinion, a mere money-hunter.”

“I am sure, aunt, he is not so constant in his attentions as he was some time, ago; and, if he were merely a money-hunter, he would not, of course, abate those attentions.”

“No–not unless he had discovered a richer prize.”

“Indeed, aunt, you wrong him.”

“I should be sorry to do so, Margaretta. But I do not form my opinions hastily. I try to look close before I come to conclusions. But I have stronger testimony than my own observations.”

“What is that?”

“Why, I heard this morning that he is to be married in a few weeks to Harriet Pomeroy.”

“Indeed, you must be mistaken, aunt,” said Margaretta, suddenly rising to her feet.

“I presume not,” was the quiet reply. “My information came almost direct.”

The entrance of visitors now interrupted the conversation.

“Permit me to introduce my very particular friend, Mr. Smith,” said the individual about whom the aunt and her niece were conversing, as he entered the handsome parlour of Mrs. Riston.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Perkins were, of course, received with great affability by Margaretta, who concealed the impression made upon her mind by the piece of information just conveyed by her aunt.

As for Mrs. Riston, she was studiedly polite, but gave the young men no very apparent encouragement. An hour soon passed away, and then the visitors retired.

“Well, Smith, what do you think of her?” asked Perkins, as the two gained the street.

“You’re sure she’s worth fifty thousand dollars?”

“Oh, yes. There’s no mistake about that.”

“But _how_ do you know? This is a matter about which there should be no mistake.”

“I got a friend to examine the transfer books of the bank where the stock is. Will that satisfy you?”

“You did? And pray why did you do that?”

“A strange question! but I’ll tell you, as you seem dull. I had a notion of her myself.”

“You had?”

“I had.”

“And why did you get out of the notion?”

“Because I saw another whom I liked better.”

“She was richer, I suppose.”

“How can you insinuate such a thing?” And Perkins laughed in a low, meaning chuckle.

“Ah, I perceive. Well, how much is she worth?”

“About a hundred thousand.”

“Are you sure of her?”

“Certainly! The thing’s all settled.”

“You’re a lucky dog, Perkins! But see here, what did you mean by the premium you talked of for bringing about a match between me and Miss Riston?”

“Oh, as to that, I was only jesting. But you haven’t told me how you like the young lady yet.”

“Oh, she’ll do, I reckon,” said Smith, tossing his head half contemptuously.

“Do you think you can secure her?”

“Easily enough. But then I must get her away as often as possible from that old Cerberus of an aunt. I didn’t like her looks at all.”

“She’s suspicious.”

“That’s clear. Well, she must be wide awake if I commence playing against her in real earnest. I can win any girl’s affections that I choose.”

“You have a pretty fair conceit of yourself, I see.”

“I wouldn’t give a cent for a man that hadn’t. The fact is, Perkins, these girls have but one end in view, and that is to get married. They know that they have to wait to be asked, and, trembling in fear lest they shall not get another offer, they are always ready to jump eagerly at the first.”

“Pretty true, I believe. But, Smith, don’t you think Margaretta quite a fair specimen of a girl?”

“Oh, yes. And I have no doubt that I shall love her well enough, if she don’t attempt to put on airs, and throw up to me that she was rich, and I poor. I’ll never stand that.”

“She’ll not be so foolish, I presume.”

“She’d better not, I can tell her, if she doesn’t wish to get into hot water.” And the young man laughed at his own half-in-earnest jesting.

“He’s a very agreeable young man, isn’t he, aunt?” said Margaretta, after the two young men had gone away.

“Who? Mr. Smith, as Mr. Perkins called him?”

“Yes.”

“He has a smooth enough tongue, if that is any recommendation; but I do not like him. Indeed, he is far more disagreeable to me than his very particular friend, Mr. Perkins.”

“Oh, aunt, how can you talk so! I’m sure he was very agreeable. At least, I thought so.”

“That was because he flattered you so cleverly.”

“How _can_ you insinuate such a thing, aunt? Surely I am not so weak and vain as to be imposed upon and beguiled by a flatterer!”

“Some men understand how to flatter very ingeniously; and, to me, Mr. Smith seemed peculiarly adept in the art. He managed it so adroitly as to give it all the effect, without its being apparent to the subject of his experiments.”

“Indeed, aunt, you are mistaken. I despise a flatterer as much as you do. But I am sure that I saw nothing like flattery about Mr. Smith.”

“I am sorry that you did not, Margaretta. But take my advice, and be on your guard. That man’s motives in coming to see you, believe me, are not the purest in the world.”

“You are far too suspicious, aunt; I am sure you are.”

“Perhaps I have had cause. At any rate, Margaretta, I have lived longer in, and seen much more of the world than you have, and I ought to have a clearer perception of character. For your own sake, then, try and confide in my judgment.”

“I ought to confide in your judgment, aunt, I know; but I cannot see as you do in this particular instance.”

“Then you ought rather to suspect the correctness of your own observation, when it leads to conclusions so utterly opposed to mine.”

To this Margaretta did not reply. It seemed too much like giving up her own rationality to assent to it, and she did not wish to pain her aunt by objections.

On the next evening, a quiet, intelligent, and modest-looking young man called in, and spent an hour or two with Margaretta and her aunt. He did not present so imposing and showy an exterior as did Mr. Smith, but his conversation had in it far more substance and real common sense. After he had retired, Margaretta said–

“Well, it is no use; I cannot take any pleasure in the society of Thomas Fielding.”

“Why not, my dear?” asked the aunt.

“Oh, I don’t know; but he is so dull and prosy.”

“I am sure he don’t seem dull to me, Margaretta. He doesn’t talk a great deal, it is true; but, then, what he does say is characterized by good sense, and evinces a discriminating mind.”

“But don’t you think, aunt, that my money has some influence in bringing him here?” And Margaretta looked up archly into her aunt’s face.

“It may have, for aught I can tell. We cannot see the motives of any one. But I should be inclined to think that money would have little influence with Thomas Fielding, were not every thing else in agreement. He is, I think, a man of fixed and genuine principles.”

“No doubt, aunt. But, still, I can’t relish his society. And if I can’t, I can’t.”

“Very true. If you can’t enjoy his company, why you can’t. But it cannot be, certainly, from any want, on his part, of gentlemanly manners, or kind attentions to you.”

“No; but, then, he is so dull. I should die if I had no other company.”

“Indeed, my child,” Aunt Riston said, in a serious tone,” you ought to make the effort to esteem and relish the society of those who have evidently some stability of character, and whose conversation has in it the evidence of mature observation, combined with sound and virtuous principles, more than you do the flippant nonsense of mere ladies’ men, or selfish, unprincipled fortune-hunters.”

“Indeed, aunt, you are too severe on my favourites!” And Margaretta laughed gaily.

But to her aunt there was something sad in the sound of that laugh. It seemed like the knell of long and fondly cherished hopes.

“What do you think of Margaretta Riston, Mary?” asked Thomas Fielding of his sister, on the next evening after the visit just mentioned.

“Why do you ask so seriously, brother?” the sister said, looking into his face, with a smile playing about her lips.

“For a serious reason, sister. Can you guess what it is?”

“Perhaps so, and therefore I will not tax your modesty so far as to make you confess it.”

“Very well, Mary. And now answer my question. What do you think of Margaretta?”

“I know nothing against her, brother.”

“Nothing against her! Don’t you know any thing in her favour?”

“Well, perhaps I do. She is said to be worth some fifty thousand dollars.”

“Nonsense, Mary! What do I care about her fifty thousand dollars? Don’t you know any thing else in her favour?”

“Why, yes, brother. As long as you seem so serious about the matter, I think Margaretta a fine girl. She is amiable in disposition–is well educated–tolerably good-looking, and, I think, ordinarily intelligent.”

“Ordinarily intelligent!”

“Yes. Certainly there is nothing extraordinary about her.”

“No, of course not.”

“Well, brother, what next?”

“Why, simply, Mary, I like Margaretta very much. The oftener I see her, the more am I drawn towards her. To tell the plain, homely truth, I love her.”

“And don’t care any thing about her fifty thousand dollars?”

“No Mary, I don’t think I do. Indeed, if I know my own feelings, I would rather she were not worth a dollar.”

“And why so, Thomas?”

“Because, I fear the perverting influence of wealth on her mind. I am afraid her position will give her false views of life. I wish to marry for a _wife_–not for _money_. I can make money myself.”

“Still, Thomas, Margaretta is, I think, an innocent-minded, good girl. I do not see that she has been much warped by her position.”

“So she seems to me, and I am glad that my sister’s observation corroborates my own. And now, Mary, do you think I have any thing to hope?”

“Certainly, I do.”

“But why do you think so?”

“Because Margaretta must have good sense enough to see that you are a man of correct principles, and an affectionate disposition.”

“Still, she may not see in me that which interests her sufficiently to induce her to marry me.”

“That is true. But I don’t believe you have any thing to fear.”

“I cannot help fearing, Mary, for the simple reason, that I find my affections so much interested. A disappointment would be attended with extreme pain.”

“Then I would end suspense at once.”

“I will. To-morrow evening I will declare my feelings.”

It was about nine o’clock on the next evening, while Mary Fielding sat reading by the centre-table, that her brother entered hastily, and threw himself upon the sofa, a deep sigh escaping him as he did so.

“What ails you, Thomas?” inquired his sister, rising and approaching him.

But he made no reply.

“Tell me, what ails you, Thomas?” Mary urged, taking his hand affectionately.

“I have been to see Margaretta,” the brother at length replied, in as calm a voice as he could assume.

“And she has not, surely, declined your offer?”

“She has, and with what appeared to me an intimation that I loved her money, perhaps, better than herself.”

“Surely not, brother!”

“To me it seemed so. Certainly she treated lightly my declaration, and almost jested with me.”

The sister stood silent for some moments, and then said–

“The woman who could thus jest with you, Thomas, is unworthy of you.”

“So I am trying to convince myself. But the trial is a deeply painful one.”

And painful it proved for many weeks afterwards. But, finally, he was enabled to rise above his feelings

In the mean time, Mr. Smith had wooed the heiress successfully, and, in doing so, his own heart had become interested, or, at least, he deceived himself into the belief that such was the case. He no longer jested, as he had done at first, about her money, nor declared, even to his friend Perkins, how strong an influence it had upon his affections. More serious thoughts of marriage had caused these selfish motives to retire out of sight and acknowledgment; but still they existed and still ruled his actions.

The aunt, when Margaretta made known to her that the young man had offered himself, was pained beyond measure, particularly as it was evident that her niece favoured the suitor.

“Indeed, Margaretta,” said she, earnestly, “he is not worthy of you!”

“You judge him harshly, aunt,” the niece replied. “I know him to be all that either of us could wish for.”

“But how do you know, Margaretta?”

“I have observed him closely, and am sure that, I cannot be deceived in him.”

“Alas! my child, if you know nothing beyond your own observation, you are far more ignorant than you suppose. Be guided, then, by me–trust more to my observation than your own. He is not the man to make you happy! Let me urge you, then, to keep him at a distance.”

“I should do injustice to my own feelings, aunt, and to my own sense of right, were I to do so. In a word, and to speak out plainly, he offered himself last evening, and I accepted him!”

“Rash girl!” exclaimed Mrs. Riston, lifting her hands in astonishment and pain, “how could you thus deceive your best friend? How so sadly deceive yourself?”

“Do not distress yourself so, aunt. You have mistaken the character of Mr. Smith. He is, in every way, a different man from what you think him. He is altogether worthy of my regard and your confidence. I do not wish to deceive you, aunt; but you set yourself so resolutely against Mr. Smith from the first that I could not make up my mind to brave your opposition to a step which I was fully convinced it was right for me to take.”

“Ah, Margaretta! You know not what you are doing. Marriage is a far more serious matter than you seem to think it. Look around among your young acquaintances, and see how many have wedded unhappily. And why? Because marriages were rushed into from a fond impulse, vainly imagined to be true affection. But no true affection can exist where there is not a mutual knowledge of character and qualities of mind. Now what do you know, really, about Mr. Smith? What does he know about you? Why, nothing! I want no stronger evidence of his unworthy motives, than the fact of his having offered himself after a three weeks’ acquaintance. What could he know of you in that time? Surely not enough to be able to determine whether you would make him a suitable wife or not–enough, perhaps, to be satisfied of the amount of your wealth.”

“You are unjust towards Mr. Smith,” said Margaretta, half indignantly.

“Not half so unjust as he is towards you. But surely, my niece, you will reconsider this whole matter, and take full time to reflect.”

“I cannot reconsider, aunt. My word is passed, and I would suffer any thing rather than break my word.”

“You will suffer your heart to be broken, if you do not.”

“Time will prove that!” and Margaretta tossed her head with a kind of mock defiance.

“Have you fixed your wedding day?” the aunt asked after a few moments’ silence.

“Not yet. But Mr. Smith wants to be married in three weeks.”

“In three weeks!”

“Yes; but I told him that I could not get ready within a month.”

“A month! Surely you are not going to act so precipitately?”

“I cannot see the use of waiting, aunt, when we are engaged and all ready. And I can easily get ready in a month.”

To this the aunt did not reply. She felt that it would be useless.

After this, Mr. Smith was a regular daily and evening visitor. He perceived, of course, the unfavourable light in which the aunt viewed him, and in consequence set himself to work to break down her prejudices. He was kind and attentive to her on all occasions, and studied her peculiar views and feelings, so as to adapt himself to her. But the old lady had seen too much of the world, and was too close an observer to be deceived. Still she found silent acquiescence her only course of action.

At the end of the month from the day of their engagement Margaretta Riston was a happy young bride.

One week after their marriage, Mr. Smith entered the room of his friend Mr. Perkins, with a pale, agitated countenance.

“What in the world has happened, Smith?” the friend asked, in alarm.

“Haven’t you heard the news?”

“No. What news?”

“The United States Bank has failed!”

“Oh, no!”

“It is true. And every dollar of Margaretta’s money is locked up there!”

“Really that is dreadful! I would sell the stock immediately for what it will bring, if I were you.”

“So I wish to. But neither my wife nor her aunt are willing. And so soon after our marriage I do not like to use positive measures.”

“But the case is urgent. Delay may sweep from you every dollar.”

“So I fear. What shall I do then? To have the prize in hand, and find it thus suddenly escaping, is enough to drive me mad!”

“Sell in spite of them. That’s my advice.”

“I will!”

And the half crazy young fortune-hunter hurried away. In a few minutes after, he entered the room where sat his wife and her aunt in gloomy and oppressed silence.

“The best thing we can do, Margaretta, I am satisfied, is to sell,” he said, taking a chair beside his wife. “The stock is falling every hour, and it is the opinion of competent judges that it will not be worth five dollars in a week.”

“And other competent judges are of a very different opinion,” replied the aunt. “Mr. Day, who was Margaretta’s guardian, has just been here, and says that we must not sell by any means; that after the panic is over the stock will go up again. The bank, he assures us, is fully able to meet every dollar, and still have a large surplus. It would be folly then to sell, especially when there is no urgent demand for the money.”

“There is more urgent demand than you know of,” Mr. Smith said to himself with bitter emphasis. He added aloud,–

“Mr. Day may know something about the matter; but I am sure he is mistaken in the calculation he makes. It is said this morning, by those who know, that the assets of the bank are principally in worthless stocks, and that the shareholders will never get a cent. My advice, then, is to sell immediately; a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

But both the wife and aunt objected; and so soon after marriage he felt that positive opposition would come with a bad grace.

Steadily day after day, the stock went down, down, down–and day after day Mr. Smith persisted in having it sold. The fact was, duns now met him at every turn, and it was with the utmost difficulty that he could prevent his wife and her aunt from guessing at the nature of the many calls of his “particular friends.” Money he must have, or he could not keep out of prison long, and the only chance for his obtaining money was in the sale of his wife’s stock. But at the rates for which it was now selling, the whole proceeds would not cover the claims against him. At last, when the stock had fallen to twenty dollars, Mrs. Smith yielded to her husband’s earnest persuasions, and handed him over the certificates of her stock, that he might dispose of them to the best possible advantage.

“Mr. Smith is late in coming home to his dinner,” the aunt said, looking at the timepiece.

The young wife lifted her head from her hand, with a sigh, and merely responded,

“Yes, he is rather late.”

“I wonder what keeps him so!” the old lady remarked, about five minutes after, breaking the oppressive silence.

“I’m sure I cannot tell. I gave him my certificates of stock to sell this morning.”

“You did? I am afraid that was wrong, Margaretta.”

“I’m sure I cannot tell whether it is or not, aunt. But I’ve had no peace about them, night nor day, since the bank failed.”

There was bitterness in the tone of Margaretta’s voice, that touched the feelings of her aunt, and tended to confirm her worst fears. But she could not, now, speak out plainly, as she had felt constrained to do before marriage, and therefore did not reply.

For more than an hour did the two women wait for the return of Mr. Smith, and then they went through the form of sitting down to the dinner-table. But few mouthfuls of food passed the lips of either of them.

Hour after hour moved slowly by, but still the husband of Margaretta appeared not; and when the twilight fell, it came with a strange uncertain fear to the heart of the young wife.

“What _can_ keep him so late, aunt?” she said, anxiously, as the lights were brought in.

“Indeed, my child, I cannot tell. I hope that nothing is wrong.”

“Wrong, aunt? What can be wrong?” and Margaretta looked her aunt eagerly and inquiringly in the face.

“I am sure, my child, I do not know. Something unusual must detain him, and I only hope that something may be evil neither to him nor yourself.”

Again there was a deep and painful silence–painful at least to one heart, trembling with an undefinable sensation of fear.

“There he is!” ejaculated Margaretta springing to her feet, as the bell rang, and hurrying to the door before the servant had time to open it.

“Here is a letter for Mrs. Smith,” said a stranger, handing her a sealed note, and then withdrawing quickly.

It was with difficulty that the young wife could totter back to the parlour, where she seated herself by the table, and with trembling hands broke the seal of the letter that had been given her. Her eyes soon took in the brief words it contained. They were as follow:–

“Farewell, Margaretta! We shall, perhaps, never meet again! Think of me as one altogether unworthy of you. I have wronged you–sadly wronged you, I know–but I have been driven on by a kind of evil necessity to do what I have done. Forget me! Farewell!”

This note bore neither date nor signature, but the characters in which it was written were too well known to be mistaken.

Mrs. Riston saw the fearful change that passed over the face of her niece as she read the note, and went quickly up to her. She was in time to save her from falling to the floor. All through the night she lay in a state of insensibility, and it was weeks before she seemed to take even the slightest interest in any thing that was going on around her.

It was about three o’clock of the day that Mr. Smith got possession of the certificates of deposit, that he entered the room of his friend, Perkins. He looked agitated and irresolute.

“Well, Smith, how are you?” his friend said. “Have you sold that stock yet?”

“Yes.”

“Indeed! So you have triumphed over your wife’s scruples. Well–what did you get for it?”

“Only eight thousand dollars.”

“That was a shameful sacrifice!”

“Indeed it was. And it puts me into a terrible difficulty.”

“What is that?”

“Why, I owe at least that sum; and I cannot stay here unless it is paid.”

“That is bad.”

“Out of the fifty thousand I could have squared up, and it would not have been felt. But I cannot use the whole eight thousand, and look Margaretta and her aunt in the face again. And if I don’t pay my debts, you see, to prison I must go.”

“You are in a narrow place, truly. Well, what are you going to do?”

“A question more easily asked than answered. Among my debts are about, four thousand dollars that must be paid whether or no.”

“Why?”

“They are _debts of honour!_”

“Ah, indeed! that is bad. You will have to settle them.”

“Of course!” Then, in a loud and emphatic whisper, he said–

“And I _have_ settled them!”

“Indeed! Well, what next? How will you account to your wife for the deficiency?”

“Account to my wife!” and as he said this, he ground his teeth together, while his lip curled. “Don’t talk to me in that way, Perkins, and cause me to hate the woman I have deceived and injured!”

“But what _are_ you going to do, Smith?”

“I am going to clear out with the balance of the money in my pocket. I can’t stay here, that’s settled; and I’m not going away penniless, that’s certain. Margaretta’s old aunt has money enough, and can take care of her–so she’s provided for. And I’ve no doubt but that she’ll be happier without me than with me.”

“Where are you going?”

“Somewhere down South.”

“When?”

“At four o’clock this afternoon.”

“Well, success to you. There are some rich widows in the Southern country, you know.”

“I understand; but I’m rather sick of these operations. They are a little uncertain. But good-bye, and may you have better luck than your friend Smith.”

“Good-bye.” And the two young men shook hands cordially and parted.

At four o’clock Mr. Smith left for Baltimore–not the happiest man in the cars by a great deal.

Since that day the confiding young creature who had thrown all into the scale for him has neither seen him nor heard from him. To her the light of life seems fled for ever. Her face is very pale, and wears an expression of heart-touching misery. She is rarely seen abroad. Poor creature! In her one sad error, what a lifetime of sorrow has been involved!

Of all conditions in life, that of the young heiress, with her money in her own right, is peculiarly dangerous. The truly worthy shrink often from a tender of their affection, for fear their motives may be thought interested; while the mercenary push forward, and by well-directed flattery, that does not seem like flattery, win the prize they cannot appreciate.

There are such base wretches in society. Let those who most need to fear them be on their guard.

It is now but a few weeks since Thomas Fielding, who was despised and rejected by Margaretta, married a sweet girl in every way worthy of him. She is not rich in worldly goods, but she is rich in virtuous principles. The former Fielding does not need; but the latter he can cherish “as a holy prize.”

IS MARRIAGE A LOTTERY?

“I AM afraid to marry,” said a young lady, half jesting and half in earnest, replying to something a friend had said.

“Why so, Ella?” asked one of the company, who had thus far chosen rather to listen than join in the conversation of half a dozen gay young girls. She was a quiet, matronly-looking individual, some few years past the prime of life.

“For fear of being unhappy, Mrs. Harding,” replied the first speaker.

“What an idea!” exclaimed a gay damsel, laughing aloud at the singular fear expressed by Ella. “For my part, I never expect to be happy until I am married.”

“If marriage should make you any happier than you are now, Caroline, the result will be very fortunate. Your case will form an exception to the rule.”

“Oh, no, Ella, don’t say that,” spoke up the one who had replied to her first remark. “Happiness is the rule, and unhappiness the exception.”

“Then it happens strangely enough,” returned Ella, smiling, “that we are more familiar with the exceptions than the rule.”

“No, my dear, that cannot for a moment be admitted. Far more of happiness than misery results from marriage.”

“Look at Ellen Mallory,” was answered promptly, “and Mrs. Cummings, and half a dozen others I could name.”

“The two you have mentioned are painful instances, I must admit, and form the exceptions of which I spoke; but the result is by no means one that should excite our surprise, for it is a natural consequence flowing from an adequate cause. If you marry as unwisely as did the persons you mention, I have no doubt but you will be quite as wretched as they are–it may be more so.”

“I am sure Mr. Mallory is an elegant-looking man,” said one of the company, “and might have had his pick among a dozen more attractive girls than ever Ellen Martine was.”

“All as thoughtless and undiscriminating as she,” remarked Mrs. Harding, quietly.

“Ellen is no fool,” returned the last speaker.

“In the most important act of her whole life, she has certainly not shown herself to be a wise woman,” said Mrs. Harding.

“But how in the world was she to know that Mr. Mallory was going to turn out so badly?” spoke up Ella.

“By opening her eyes, and using the ability that God has given her to see,” was answered by Mrs. Harding.

“Those eyes are wondrous wise, I ween, That see what is not to be seen,”

the maiden replied.

“Do you then really think, Ella,” said Mrs. Harding, “that a young lady cannot make herself as thoroughly acquainted with a man’s real qualities as to put any serious mistake in marriage entirely out of the question?”

“To me, I must confess that marriage seems very much like a lottery,” answered Ella. “We may get a prize, but there are ten chances to one of our getting a blank.”

“If you choose to make it a lottery, it will no doubt become so; but if entered into from right motives, there is no danger of this being the case.”

“I don’t know what you call right motives,” said one; “but I’ll tell you a necessary pre-requisite in the man who is to make me a husband.”

“Well, child, what is it?”

“Plenty of money. I’m not going to be a poor man’s wife, and work myself to death, all for love–no, not I!”

“I’ll have a handsome man for a husband, or none,” remarked another.

“Give me splendid talents,” said a third.

“And what must you have, Ella?” asked Mrs. Harding, turning to the one she addressed.

“All three, if I can get them,” replied Ella.

“Beauty, wealth, and talents. These you think would satisfy you?”

“Oh, yes; I should be rather hard to please if they did not.”

“Let me relate to you the histories of two friends of mine who married young,” said Mrs. Harding, without remarking upon what had just been declared. “Perhaps they may contain lessons that it will be of use for you all to get by heart.”

“Oh, yes, do!” said the young ladies, gathering around Mrs. Harding, who, after a short pause, related what follows.

“In my younger days,” began Mrs. Harding, “I had two intimate friends, to whom I was warmly attached. I loved them for their many good qualities, and particularly for their unselfishness. To make others happy, always appeared to give them a double pleasure. They were nearly of the same age, and possessed equal external advantages; but their characters were very different. Sarah Corbin, who was a few months older than her friend and almost constant companion, Harriet Wieland, was quiet, thoughtful, and observant; while Harriet, who had great personal attractions, never appeared to look beneath the surface. She believed every thing to be true that bore the semblance of truth, to her all that glittered was gold. Like you, and most other young ladies, we sometimes talked of marriage, and the qualifications desirable in a good husband. Harriet, whether in a gay or sober mood, always declared, like Ella here, that he who won her heart must have riches, manly beauty, and brilliant talents. These she called man’s cardinal virtues. Sarah never had much to say on these matters, and, when we asked her opinion, she generally replied evasively.

“A young man named Eaverson, answering pretty nearly to the beau ideal of Harriet Wieland, came from a neighbouring city to reside in this. He was connected with a wealthy and highly respectable family, was really a handsome man, and possessed very fine abilities. He had studied law, and opened his office here for the purpose of pursuing it as a regular profession; but, not meeting with much practice at first, he occupied a large portion of his time in literary pursuits, writing for the magazines and reviews. He also published a small volume of poetry, which contained many really brilliant specimens of verse.

“Circumstances threw Eaverson into the circle of which we formed a part, and we were consequently introduced to him. In the course of time, he began to pay rather marked attentions to Sarah Corbin, at which I felt a little surprised, as he had met Harriet Wieland quite as often, and she was far more beautiful and showy, and more likely, it seemed to me, to attract one like him than the other. Either Sarah was unconscious that his attentions were more marked in her case, or she did not wish her observation of the fact to be known, for all our allusions to the subject were evaded with a seeming indifference that left our minds in doubt. Such were our impressions at first; but the sequel showed that she had marked his first advances with lively interest, and understood their meaning quite as well as we did.

“About Eaverson there was every thing to attract the heart of a maiden not well guarded; and Sarah found that it required the fullest exercise of her reason to prevent her from letting every affection of her mind go out and attach itself to an object that seemed, at first sight, so worthy of her love. But by nature and from education she was thoughtful and observant; and a wise mother had taught her that in marriage external accomplishments and possessions were nothing, unless united with virtuous principles and well-regulated passions. The brilliant attractions of Eaverson strongly tempted her to take his moral fitness for granted; but wiser counsels prevailed in her mind; and with a vigorous hand laid upon her heart to keep down its errant impulses, she exercised, with coolness and a well-balanced mind, the powers of discrimination which God had given for her guidance through life.”

All the time that this process was going on in her mind, we remained in ignorance of the fact that she ever thought of the young man, except when he was present, or his name introduced by others. To her, all that related to marriage was too serious to form the theme of ordinary conversation, light jests, or idle chit-chat. Rarely indeed would she have any thing to say, when others spoke lightly or jested on the subject. This being the case, now that her own mind had become deeply interested in a matter of most vital importance to her future welfare, she had no one to disturb the even balance of her reflections by a thoughtless word, an untimely jest, or a false opinion flowing from inexperience or a want of ability to read human nature aright. Silently, freely, and with no biassing influence, in the unapproachable chambers of her own thoughts did she weigh the real character of Eaverson, as far as she could understand it, against what was merely external and personal. The more marked the attentions of the young man became, the more earnestly did she seek to comprehend his real character. Every word he uttered in her presence, every sentiment he expressed, every action and every look were closely scanned, and their meaning, as having reference to principles in the mind, sought to be understood. Such careful scrutiny did not go unrewarded. When Eaverson, soon after her mind was made up in regard to him, made an offer of his hand, the offer was unhesitatingly declined. Sarah had seen enough to satisfy her, that with all his talents, beauty, and wealth, he was wanting in virtuous principles and a high sense of honour.

“I confess, that, with others, I was greatly surprised when the fact of Sarah’s having declined the hand of Eaverson became known. The selection of her by one like him seemed so high a preference, and such a marked tribute to her worth and virtue, that it was scarcely credible that she could have remained indifferent to his love. But she saw deeper than we did.”

“‘I cannot understand the reason of your refusal to accept Mr. Eaverson’s offer?’ I said to Sarah, one day, when the conversation took a turn that gave me an opportunity of alluding to the subject. ‘Do you know any thing against him?’

“‘Nothing further than the conclusions of my own mind, arising from a careful observation of his sentiments, manners, and unguarded expressions,’ she replied.

“‘Was it from such conclusions that you declined his offer?’

“‘From these alone, for I know nothing of his history before he came to this city, and nothing of his life since he has been here.’

“‘May you not possibly be mistaken?’

“‘No. From the moment he seemed in the least pleased with me, I commenced observing him closely. It was not long before I heard him utter a sentiment, while speaking to another, that showed him to possess very false views of life in at least one particular. This I noted, and laid it by in my memory for comparison with any thing else I might see or hear.’

“‘But you would not condemn a man for having erroneous views of life?’ said I.

“‘Oh, no; not if his principles be pure. But if false views arise from a perverted heart, then I would condemn the man. What I heard, I noticed in order to determine, if possible, from what source it came. A very long time did not pass, before I saw something that told me very plainly that the false view which I have mentioned depended more upon a perversion of the heart than an error in the understanding. I likewise discovered, very soon, that when in conversation with me, he was, evidently, more upon his guard, as to what sentiments he declared, than he was when in conversation with others. But I need not state particularly the whole process by which I arrived at conclusions sufficiently clear to warrant my full and prompt rejection of his suit.’

“‘In what estimation do you hold him?’ I asked.

“‘As a man without honour or virtue,’ she said, decidedly.

“‘That is a broad and severe judgment,’ I replied.

“‘So it is. I have made it for myself. Of course, I cannot expect others to view him in the same light; nor do I believe many others would form this conclusion from the evidences that were presented to my mind. But, as for me, I have no doubt on the subject. Rather than become his wife, I would suffer death; for a union with him would be, to me, the depth of misery.’

“The seriousness with which Sarah spoke satisfied me that she believed all she said, and had, at some cost of feeling, rejected an offer of marriage that would have been an exceedingly desirable one, had the character of the man who made it been fully approved.

“A short time after the rejection of his suit by Miss Corbin, I noticed that Eaverson appeared more inclined to keep company with Harriet Wieland than before. I could not help feeling regret at this, for, notwithstanding I thought Sarah had judged the young man rather severely, I was yet satisfied that there must be some ground for her conclusions in regard to his character. Slight attentions, encouraged by Harriet, soon became the bold advances of a lover. A few months after his suit had been declined by Sarah, he offered himself to her friend, and was unhesitatingly accepted.

“In the mean time, a young man, whom I will call Williamson, had met Sarah occasionally, and showed a disposition to win, if possible, her favourable regard. His exterior was by no means elegant; his literary attainments were not great; nor was he in the enjoyment of any thing beyond a moderate income. Place him and Eaverson in almost any company, and the latter would nearly hide him from view. But, with the most moderate pretensions, and unattractive exterior, Williamson’s character was formed upon a ground-work of good sense and virtuous principles. He had little facility of expression, but he thought clearly, and, in most things, acted from a sound judgment. He was much pleased with Sarah before Eaverson attempted to gain her affections; and noticed his advances. For the result he looked with some interest. When it became clearly apparent that she had thrown him off, Williamson was satisfied that she was a girl of discrimination and sound sense, and immediately resolved that he would know her better. The oftener he met her, and the nearer he observed her, the more excellent did her character seem in his eyes. The result was an offer of marriage, which was accepted by Sarah, as much to our surprise as was her rejection of Eaverson.

“My two young friends were married about the same time. The wedding of Harriet was a brilliant one, and she was the envy of dozens of young girls who had hoped and tried to make a conquest of the man who had chosen to unite his fortunes with hers. Sarah’s nuptials were celebrated in a less imposing manner, and created but little sensation. Most of her friends thought she had done but poorly. Whether this were so, will be seen in the sequel.

“Harriet, with all her want of reflection and in-sight into character, was a young woman of strong feelings, and loved, when she did love, with something like blind idolatry. Thus she loved her husband. He was every thing to her, and she believed him as near perfection as a mortal could well be. The first few months of her married life passed swiftly away in the enjoyment of as high a degree of felicity as her mind seemed capable of appreciating. After that, a shadow fell upon her spirit–dim and almost imperceptible at first, but gradually becoming denser and more palpable. Harriet had noticed, from the first, that her husband but rarely spoke of his family, and always evaded any questions that a natural curiosity prompted her to make. If he received any letter from home, he carefully concealed the fact from her. The wealth, respectability, and high standing of his family made Harriet, as a matter of course, feel desirous of bearing a more intimate relation to its members than she now did. The more she thought about this, the less satisfied did she feel. It was the marked dislike manifested by her husband to any reference to his family, that first caused a coldness to pass over the heart of the young wife, and a shadow to dim the bright sunshine of her spirits; for it induced the thought that something might be wrong. Once give such a thought birth, and let mystery and doubt continue to harass the mind, and peace is gone for ever. A thousand vague suspicions will enter, and words, looks, and actions will have a signification never apparent before.

“Thus it was with my young friend, ere six months had passed since her wedding-day. To increase her anxious doubts, her husband seemed to grow cold towards her. This might all be imagination, but the idea, once in possession of her mind, found numberless sustaining evidences. He went out more frequently in the evening and stayed out later than at first. Sometimes he would sit silent and abstracted, and only reply in monosyllables to her questions or remarks.

“One day he came home to dinner, looking graver than usual. But, during the meal, there was an evident desire on his part to appear cheerful and unconcerned; he talked more freely than usual, and even made many light and jesting remarks. But the veil assumed was too thin. Harriet’s eyes saw through it, and rested only upon the sombre reality beneath. As they were rising from the table, he said,

“‘Harriet, dear! I must run on to New York this afternoon, on business. The interest of a client in a large estate there requires my immediate presence in that city.’

“Eaverson did not look his wife steadily in the face as he said this although he plainly tried to do so. But this she did not remark at the time. Her mind only rested upon the fact of his going away.

“‘How long will you be gone?’ she asked in a choking voice.

“‘I will try and be back to-morrow. If not, you will at least see me home on the day after.’

“‘Why can’t I–‘

“She paused–her eyes fell to the floor, and the colour deepened on her cheeks.

“‘What, dear?’

“‘Go with you?’

“It was in New York that the family of Eaverson resided.

“‘Not now,’ he quickly answered. ‘I am compelled to go in too much hurry; but the next time business takes me there you shall accompany me.’

“Nothing could be more unsatisfactory than this. Was she not to be introduced to his family, as his wife, formally? Was she only to go to the city of their residence at some future time, when business called her husband there? The thought caused a chill to pass through her frame. She made no reply. But the paleness that overspread her face, and the sadness that fell upon her countenance, revealed to her husband, too plainly, her state of mind. He said nothing, however, to dispel the gloom she felt. Words, he no doubt felt, would be fruitless.

“The young wife parted with her husband it tears, and then retired to her chamber, where she gave way to a paroxysm of grief, that had its origin more in the accompanying mystery than in the fact of her husband’s absence. I say mystery, for she did not fully credit the reason he had given for his hurried visit to New York, and felt that there was a mystery connected with it, that, somehow or other, deeply affected her happiness.

“After the mind of Harriet had grown calmer, she commenced restoring to order the few articles in her chamber that had been disarranged in the hurried preparation made by her husband for his departure. As she was about placing the coat he had worn in the morning, and which he had changed for another on going away, in the wardrobe, her hand pressed against a letter in one of the pockets, which a sudden curiosity tempted her to read. The direction was in a small, delicate hand, and the post-mark New York. Hurriedly opening it, when she saw this, she read its brief contents, which were as follow:

“DEAR HENRY–I heard, indirectly, within the last hour, that you were married. I cannot believe it, yet the thought has maddened me! If you do not come to me by to-morrow night, I will go to you on the following day–for the truth or falsity of what I have heard must be verified to me at once. If it be true–God help the innocent heart you have betrayed, and most cruelly wronged. It can only break!

“ADELAIDE.”

“The trembling hands of the horror-stricken wife could hold the fatal epistle no longer than to permit her eyes to rest upon the signature. It then fell rustling to the floor, and she sat pale, quivering in every nerve, and unconscious of any thing but a wild whirling of all her senses.

“It was my fortune, or misfortune, to call upon my young friend just at this time. I was told that she was in her chamber; and, as our intimacy was very great, I took a liberty we were in the habit of taking with each other, and went up to her, unannounced. My gentle tap at her door not being answered, I opened it and went in. As I have just described her, thus I found her. My entrance but partially restored her self-command. She stared wildly at me, stretched out her hands, and made an effort to speak. I sprang toward her, and she fell forward against my bosom, with a deep groan that made me shudder. Thus she lay for nearly five minutes as still as a statue. Then a slight quiver ran through her frame, which was followed by a gush of tears. For a long time she continued weeping and sobbing, but at length grew calmer. All this time I could see an open letter lying upon the floor, which I doubted not was the caused of this distressing scene. When the self-command of Harriet was at last restored, and she began to reflect upon the consequences likely to flow from another’s witnessing the wild agitation she had displayed, a shade of anxious confusion passed over her face. At this moment her eye rested upon the fatal letter, which she caught up eagerly and concealed. I asked no question, nor made any remarks. She looked at me steadily for a moment, and then let her eyes fall thoughtfully to the floor.

“‘You are surprised and confounded, no doubt,’ she at length said, mournfully, ‘at what you have seen. Pardon me if I refrain from mentioning the cause. It is one of which I cannot speak.’

“I begged her not to reveal the cause of her affliction, if to do so were at all in violation of what she deemed right; but to accept my deepest sympathies, and to put it in my power, if that were possible, to mitigate, in some degree, the pain of mind she was suffering.

“‘That you cannot do,’ said she. ‘It is beyond the reach of human aid.’

“‘May Heaven, then, give you strength to bear it,’ I returned, with emotion.

“‘Heaven only can,’ she replied in a subdued voice.

“I could say no more, for my ignorance of the cause of her distress put it out of my power to offer consolation, more particularly as it was her expressed wish that I should remain in ignorance. I staid an hour with her, during which time I learned that her husband had been suddenly called to New York on business. It was one of the unhappiest hours I ever spent in my life. On going away, I could not help recalling the conversation I had once held with Sarah Corbin about Mr. Eaverson, nor help feeling that there might be too much truth in her declarations that she believed him to be a man without honour or virtue. There was no doubt in my mind that Harriet’s distress was in some way connected with her husband’s absence, and it occurred to me that the letter I had seen upon the floor, and which she concealed so eagerly, might not have been intended for her eyes, and might contain things which for her to know would be fatal to her peace through life. In this, my conjectures were of course true.

“I called in to see Mrs. Eaverson on the next day, reluctantly, but from a sense of duty. I found her calm, but pale, and with a look of distress. She said but little. No allusion whatever was made to the condition in which I had found her on the previous afternoon. I sat only half an hour, and then went away. I could not stay longer, for my presence seemed oppressive to her, and hers was equally so to me.

“On the third day succeeding that on which Mr. Eaverson went to New York, I saw a newspaper paragraph headed, ‘Melancholy Circumstances.’ It related, briefly, that the daughter of respectable and wealthy parents in New York had been deeply wronged about a year previous by an unprincipled cousin, whom she passionately loved. The consequence was, that the young man had to leave the city, under the promise of never returning to it, unless he consented to marry his cousin. This penalty was imposed by the father of the girl, who declared his intention to shoot him if he ever saw him in New York. The result of this baseness on the part of the young man was the utter estrangement of his family. They threw him off entirely. But, as he had a handsome fortune in his own right, and the cause of his removal from New York did not become generally known, he soon found his way into the best society in a neighbouring city. Some months afterwards he married a lovely girl, who was all unconscious of the base retch into whose keeping she had given the inestimable jewel of her love. A few days since, the narration proceeded, the cousin, by some means or other, obtained a knowledge of this fact. She wrote to him demanding an interview, and threatening that if she did not obtain one in twenty-four hours, she would immediately come to him and ascertain for herself, if what she had heard were true. Alarmed for the peace of his bride, the young man hurried on to New York, and, at the risk of his life, gained an interview with the lovely girl he had so deeply injured. He did not attempt to conceal the fact of his marriage, but only urged the almost broken-hearted victim of his base dishonour not to do any- thing that could bring to his wife a knowledge of his conduct, as it must for ever destroy her peace. This confession blasted at once and for ever all the poor girl’s hopes. She gave her betrayer one long, fixed, intense look of blended agony, reproach, and shame, and then, without uttering a word, retired slowly from his presence. She sought her mother, who, from the first, had rather drawn her into her very bosom than thrown her off harshly, and related what she had just heard. She shed no tear, she uttered no reproach, but simply told what her mother had known for months too well. That night her spirit left its earthly habitation. Whether she died of a broken heart, or by her own hands, is not known. The family sought not to investigate the cause,–to them it was enough to know that she was dead and at peace.

“Whether this statement ever met the eye of Mrs. Eaverson is more than I can tell. I did not venture to call upon her after I had seen it. A few weeks subsequently I met her in the street on the arm of her husband. She was sadly changed, and had the appearance of one just recovering from a long and severe illness. Eaverson himself had a look of suffering.

“The notoriety given by the publication of the acts of his base conduct in New York caused Eaverson to feel little at ease in this city. Some months afterwards he removed to the South with his wife, much against the wishes of her friends. Harriet did not want to go, but she could do no less than accompany her husband.

“Some three years afterwards, it was whispered about that Harriet had left her husband and returned home to her father; but that the matter was kept very quiet, and that she had not been seen by any of her old friends. It was said, that after living some time at the South, Mr. Eaverson grew indifferent towards his wife. A virtuous woman, she could not but be deeply shocked on discovering her husband’s want of virtue. This she could not conceal; and its appearance was a standing reproof and condemnation of his principles and conduct. No bad man could endure this. Its effect would be certain estrangement. From dislike towards his wife, his feelings gradually deepened into hatred. Open abuse soon followed neglect; when she fled from him, with two young children, and sought the protection of her father’s house.

“It was nearly a year after Harriet’s return, before I saw her. I could hardly believe, when I did meet her and grasp her hand, that the pale, dejected, care-worn being who stood before me was the same with the light-hearted, beautiful, gay young girl I had known but a few years back. Alas! how surely does pain of mind forestall the work of time!

“A few days after this meeting, which made me sad for weeks, I spent an afternoon and evening with Mrs. Williamson, formerly Sarah Corbin. She had two children, a boy and a girl, and was living somewhat secluded, but with every comfort she could desire. Her husband was a merchant in a good business. When he came home at tea-time and met his wife, it was with one of those quiet but genuine smiles that you know come from the heart. He welcomed me, as he always did, with great cordiality; and then calling for Sarah, his eldest child, who ran in from the next room the instant she heard his vice, he took her upon his lap, and, after kissing her with great tenderness, asked and answered a dozen little questions to her great delight. At tea-time Mr. Williamson conversed more freely than was usual with him when I was present. I noticed, as I had often done before, that, on whatever subject he spoke, his remarks, though few, were full of good sense, and indicative of close observation. The slightest deviation from honour or integrity met with his decided condemnation, while virtuous actions were as warmly approved. I could perceive, from the expression of his wife’s face, and the tones of her voice when she spoke, that she not only held her husband in high estimation, but loved him with a tenderness that had grown with years. Qualities of mind and heart, not external attractions, such as brilliant accomplishments, beauty, or wealth, had drawn her towards him at first: these had won her young affections, and they had become purer and brighter, and increased in attractive power as year after year went by.

“On going home that evening, I could not help pausing and looking back. Vividly, as it were but yesterday, came up before my mind my two young friends when, as maidens, their hands were sought in wedlock. I remembered how one, with true wisdom, looked below the imposing exterior and sought for moral worth as the basis of character in him who asked her hand; while the other, looking no deeper than the surface, was dazzled by beauty, wealth, and talents. The result you all have seen.”

Mrs. Harding paused in the narrative. Half a dozen eager voices instantly inquired the ultimate fate of Mrs. Eaverson. “A few years after her return home,” resumed the narrator, “she died. Her husband during that period neither wrote to her nor visited her. What has become of him I don’t know. Mrs. Williamson is still living, surrounded by a lovely family of children. Her oldest daughter has just been married, and, to all present appearances, has united her fate with one every way worthy of her hand. Mr. Williamson, or rather Mr. Rierdon, as I should truly have called him, you all know.”

“Mr. Rierdon!” exclaimed Ella. “It can’t be possible you mean him?”

“Not old Mr. Rierdon!” exclaimed another. “Why he is respected and loved by every one!”

“I know he is,” returned Mrs. Harding, “and well deserves to be. Yet, when a young man, he had nothing very imposing about him, and was thought of but little account by a set of young and foolish girls, just such as you are, whose heads were liable to be turned by any dashing young fellow with more impudence than brains, or more talent than principle, who happened to thrust himself forward and push better men aside. I hope the lesson I have endeavoured to teach you may not be lost entirely; and that when any one of you has an offer of marriage, she will look rather at the heart than the head–at the qualities instead of the accomplishments–of him who makes it. If she does not, she will be in great danger of committing the sad mistake made by my excellent but thoughtless young friend, Harriet Wieland, of whom I never can think without pain.”

Whether the narrative of Mrs. Harding had any good effect upon her hearers, we do not know; but we would fain believe that it had; and we hope our fair young readers will not forget the important lesson it teaches. Let them be well assured that marriage is no lottery, except where it is made so. Every one who will look at the moral qualities of the object of her regard, instead of at what is merely external, will see deep enough to enable her to come to a right decision in regard to him. There is no necessity for mistakes in marriage.

THE UNLOVED ONE.

AN EXTRACT FROM “LOVE IN HIGH LIFE.”

……FIXED in his resolution to repel every manifestation of tenderness on the part of his wife, Percy Edwards maintained towards her the same cold formality, in spite of all her earnest efforts to break the icy crust of his feelings. He did not love her, and was not inclined to affect a passion; nay, she was absolutely repulsive to him, and the least he could do, under the circumstances, was to protect himself as he did without overt acts of unkindness.

And thus disjoined, instead of united, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards moved along their way through life, envied by hundreds, who, in exchanging with them, would have left an Eden of happiness for a dreary wilderness.

A few months of such an existence completely broke down the spirits of Kate. She had no pride to sustain her. Thousands, as unloved as she, seek refuge in pride, pleasure, and a heartless worship at the gilded shrine of fashion. They meet coldness with a sharp disdain; and, finding nothing to love at home, turn to what the world has to offer, and become mere bubbles on the surface of society–prominent, brilliant, and useless. Nay, worse than useless; for they reflect the light of heaven falsely, and create discontent in those who see only their glittering exterior, and vainly imagine it to be the correspondent of internal delight.

It was not so with Kate; for she was sincere, unselfish, and true-hearted, and could not seek a false pleasure, when the sources of real delight became dry. A naiad, at a fountain, the waters of which had failed, she turned not to another, but bent weeping over the spot, hoping, yet faint with a long desire to hear the murmur of the coming stream.

There fell, at last, a gleam of light across her path. In her dark and cloudy sky arched, beautifully, a bow of promise. Hope, faint, yet sweet to her spirit, revived, and she looked to the future with a trembling heart. For a long time she locked in her own thoughts the dear secret she had discovered and pondered over it with a daily increasing pleasure. Then it was whispered, low and with a blushing cheek, to her husband. She was to become a mother!

From that moment she felt that there was a change. From that moment her husband’s manner was different. He was still as polite and formal as, before; but with these was blended a something that her heart interpreted as tenderness for his wife; and from this her fainting spirit drew the aliment that sustained it. If, suddenly coming upon her now, he surprised her weeping, he did not turn away, silent and cold, as before; but would speak some word of apparent sympathy, which instantly dried up the fountains of grief. And thus the time passed, until another being saw the light–until another voice sounded upon the air. Oh! with what a thrill of delight did the young mother take her new-born babe into her arms, and hail it as the bond that was to bind to hers the heart of her husband. How eagerly did she read the face of that husband–as he bent over and gazed upon the innocent being to which she had given birth–and marked its glow of pleasure. But, he did not look into _her_ face–he had eyes _only for his boy!_ The mother sighed faintly; but he did not hear the sigh. Her long lashes fell slowly upon her cheeks, and tears stole from beneath them; but he turned away without observing she wept.

The bow of promise, which had spanned the heaven of her mind, faded away; and the light that had lain so warmly upon her path grew dim. There was love in the heart of her husband only for his child, but none for her. That dreadful truth came with a shock, felt to the very centre of her being; and, reacting upon her exhausted system, disturbed all its vital functions. Fever and delirium laid their hands upon her, and for many days the light of life but flickered in the wind that seemed every moment about to extinguish it.

When, at last, through the skill of her physician, the disease abated, and health, though feeble, began to flow once more through her veins; and when reason came back, and with it the outgushing tenderness of the young mother, she found that her babe had been laid upon another breast, and that from another it was to draw the sustenance which nature had supplied for it in her own bosom.

Against this her heart arose in instant rebellion. But no freedom of choice was left her. The physician said that her health was too slender to admit of the exhaustion attendant upon nursing her own babe. The husband would not hear of such a thing for a moment. And her husband’s mother older-hearted and more worldly-minded than even he, openly sneered at the idea of one in her position degrading herself into a mere child’s nurse!

It was all in vain that Kate pleaded, tearfully, for the mother’s highest privilege. Those who had the power forced her into a compliance with their will; and the fountain in her bosom, that stirred at the voice of her babe, was suffered to become dry.

From that time, the health of Mrs. Edwards visibly declined; or, rather, was never restored to its previous condition. She became subject to fainting fits and long periods of depression, from which nothing could arouse her. The babe, instead of forming a link between her and her husband, became a rival in his affections. Mr. Edwards worshipped his boy; but, for his wife, had no feeling other than indifference, if not absolute dislike. All this Kate saw; and it extinguished her last and dearest hope.

To those who could only look upon the surface, Mr. Edwards was regarded as one of the kindest and most attentive of husbands; and when a rumour of his wife’s fits of gloomy depression of spirits went abroad, the fault was attributed to herself, and laid to the charge of a naturally capricious and dissatisfied temper.

“If she had fewer of life’s blessings,” said one, “she would be happier. The very surplus of every thing makes her appetite pall.”

“Any woman, situated as she is,” remarked another, “who is not contented, deserves to be wretched. I have no sympathy for her. Her husband I know very well, and know him to be one of the kindest and most indulgent of men.”

“He has indulged her too much,” alleged another.

These impressions the elder Mrs. Edwards strengthened and confirmed, whenever she had occasion to say any thing on the subject.

“Percy has rather a gloomy time of it,” she would sometimes remark, when allusion was made to the subject; and then, when the inquisitive would ask as to the cause of Kate’s strange conduct, she would shake her head gravely, and say–

“Over-indulgence has spoiled her.”

Or–

“It’s hard to tell what ails her, unless it be the desire for some impossible thing. Some minds are never content. To multiply their blessings is but to multiply their misery.”

Or–

“Heaven knows what ails her! Percy would give worlds for that knowledge, if with it came also the remedy.”

The rapid decline in his wife’s health, or rather its failure, after the birth of her child, to come back its old standard united to her lowness of spirits–naturally gave her husband some concern, and he consulted her physician as to the cause. He, as the profession generally do, assigned a physical cause, and recommended change of air.

“Let her go to the sea-shore, or among the Mountains,” said he.

And this change was proposed to Kate.

“I saw Doctor R–to-day,” said her husband, after the interview, “and he recommends a few weeks on the sea-shore, or somewhere among the mountains.”

“I don’t wish to go,” replied Kate, in a low, sad voice.

“But your health, Kate,” said Mr. Edwards.

“I shall be just as well at home,” she replied.

“No, I will not admit that. Doctor R–is sure that a change of air will do you good; and what he says is reasonable.”

Kate made no answer. Mr. Edwards continued to urge the matter upon her; but she had no more to say.

On the same evening Percy called to see his mother.

“How is Kate?” inquired the latter.

“No better. I saw Doctor R–about her to-day, and he says a change of air is absolutely necessary, and recommends a few weeks at the Bedford Springs, or at Newport, or Cape May.”

“No doubt it would do her much good.”

“No doubt in the world. But, as in every thing else of late, she is opposed to just what her friends recommend to her as best.”

“She doesn’t want to go?”

“No, of course not.”

“Did you tell that the doctor recommended the change?”

“Yes. But she insists upon it that she will be just as well at home.”

“A compliment to the medical opinion of Doctor R–!

“Isn’t it? I wish you would see her, and urge her to go somewhere.”

“Very well; though I don’t know that what I say will be of much use. I am not one of her favourites.”

“See her, at any rate. It won’t do to let her sink down and die, as she certainly will if something cannot be done to arouse her.”

“I will call upon Mrs. Harrison and tell her what the doctor says. She has great influence over her; and can persuade her to go if any one can.”

The mother of Kate heard what the doctor had said, and approved of his recommendation. She knew, better than any one else, the true nature of the disease from which her daughter was suffering; and, although she did not hope for much from a change of scene, yet she believed the effect would be salutary rather than otherwise. So she went to see her immediately. She found her, as usual, alone in her chamber, with a sad countenance, and a drooping, listless air. After inquiring, tenderly, about her health, she said–

“I understand that Doctor R–recommends a change of air.”

“What all doctors recommend when they do not know the cause and nature of a disease,” replied Kate, with a faint smile.

“But I think, with Doctor R–, that a few weeks at the sea-shore will be of great benefit. The change will interest your mind as well as invigorate your body.”

“A temporary benefit may be derived from such a change,” said Kate; “but it cannot be permanent. When I return, I will sink again; and, perhaps, lower, from the unnatural excitement to which I have been subjected.”

“Kate, my child, it is wrong for you to give up in this way. Your disease is more of the mind than of the body; and you have the power to arouse yourself and throw it off, if you will.”

“The power, mother! I, the power!” exclaimed Kate, in a voice that made her mother start.

“Have you not?” inquired Mrs. Harrison calmly.

“Has the bird, whose wing is broken, the power to fly?” asked Kate.

“Unless you make an effort to throw off your present state of mind, you cannot live. And are you willing to die, and leave this dear child in the hands of those who cannot love it as you do?”

“Has it not already been taken from me? Does it not draw its existence from another breast?”

“But your health required–“

“My health! mother! My very life depended upon the privilege you have all denied me. Do you want the proof? Look at that shadowy hand”–and she held up the thin white member against the light, which almost shone through it–“and at this shrunken face,” and she laid her hand upon her colourless cheek. “Restore the fountain that has been dried, and let my babe drink at it, and there is some hope. None without.”

“That is impossible, Kate”–

“And just as impossible is my return to health through the means proposed.”

“But, for the sake of your friends, you ought to be willing to try the means of restoration prescribed by a physician in whom we all have confidence.”

“Friends?” said Kate, half to herself. “Friends? Have I any friends?”

“My child, why do you speak in this way?” asked her mother, in a voice half sorrowful, half reproving.

“_Friends_ seek your good, not their own pleasure,” continued Kate. “Have I any who may be called by so excellent a name?”

And she shook her head mournfully.

“Have you not a husband?” said Mrs. Harrison.

Kate again shook her head; and then, after a pause, replied–

“There is a man who calls himself my husband; but he is so only in name.”

“Kate! Kate!” exclaimed her mother, “are you mad? How dare you utter such language?”

“A heart that is breaking, mother,” said the unhappy creature, “may be pardoned, if, in a moment of intense suffering, it is betrayed into an expression of pain.”

A long and gloomy silence followed this remark, which smote with the apparent force of a hammer upon the heart of Mrs. Harrison. No further attempt was made, at the time, to induce Kate to yield to the wishes of her friends. Her mother endeavoured, rather, to draw off her mind from thoughts such as those to which she had just given utterance. But, she was none the less deeply impressed with the belief that the change proposed would be beneficial; nor did she intend abandoning her efforts to induce her daughter to go from home for a short season. At the first opportunity she had an interview with Mr. Edwards, and held a conference with him on the subject of Kate’s mental disease. She found him rather reserved, and disinclined to much conversation on the subject. But, on pressing the matter upon him, he was more free to say what was in his mind. To her expressions of concern for Kate, he responded with much apparent earnestness; said that it gave him great concern, and that he was satisfied she could not live over a few years if some change did not take place.

“Since the birth of her child,” said he, “she has never regained her strength. That dangerous fever gave her system a terrible shock.”

“I’m afraid,” returned her mother, “that we erred in not permitting her to nurse her child–what she so earnestly desired to do. She cannot, it seems, get over that.”

“She has never said so to me.”

“But no later than yesterday she alluded to it while I talked with her, and in a way that satisfied me of her having taken the matter far more deeply to heart than I had imagined.”

“That is a weakness, as you must yourself see, Mrs. Harrison. Apart from considerations of health, I would not have my wife a mere wet nurse; and I am surprised that she should have thought of such a thing.”

“The desire was but a natural one,” replied Mrs. Harrison. As to there being any thing degrading in the act of a mother giving nourishment to her own babe, as some strangely enough seem to think, I cannot see it. I drank at my mother’s breast, and my child, in turn, drank at mine; and, I believe, it would have been far better for Kate at this moment if she had done the same for her own off-spring. In this matter, people are going against nature; and whenever this is done, evil of some kind must inevitably follow.”

“But, Mrs. Harrison,” returned Edwards, “her state of health puts this out of the question. You know that she was dangerously ill, and that if a nurse had not been provided for the child, it would have died.”

“I know all that. But, when the sudden illness abated, and she was able to give nourishment to her babe, all, with one accord, denied her a mother’s privilege, though she plead for it day after day with tears. Ah, Percy! I fear a great and irreparable wrong was then done.”

“It may be so. But I cannot believe but that we acted rightly. Our motives were at least good.”

“No one doubts that.”

‘I am sure, if she would consent to leave home for a few weeks, her health would improve,” said Percy Edwards.

“It would, no doubt, benefit her. But she has an unconquerable reluctance to going. Still, I think we may induce her to do as we wish. Only we must act towards her with great tenderness. I am afraid–pardon me for speaking plainly–that you do not consider, sufficiently, her weak state. She needs to be treated with the gentleness and affection that we show to a child.”

Mr. Edwards looked surprised at this remark.

“I am sure, Mrs. Harrison,” he replied, “no man could do more for the happiness of a woman, than I do for that of Kate. How I could act differently is more than I can imagine.”

“It may be natural to you, Mr. Edwards,” said Mrs. Harrison, “but you are wanting in that tenderness of manner so grateful, nay, so essential to the heart of a wife.”

“I am!”

“I speak plainly, because the necessity for doing so is imperative. Your manner towards Kate has ever been respectful, polite, attentive, but not affectionate; and without the latter, the former never can satisfy the heart of a loving woman. I do not blame you for this. It may all be natural; but I feel it to be my duty to speak of it now, and to suggest, at least temporarily, a change.”

Mr. Edwards did not reply for some moments. He then said–

“Mrs. Harrison, I must own that what you allege surprises me. You charge me, by implication at least, with want of affection for my wife.”

“No, Percy,” returned the lady quickly. “I did not mean to say that. I only spoke of your manner towards her, which lacks the warmth a woman’s heart requires. I have not said that you did not love her.”

“I do not see how I can act differently; for I see no defect in my conduct,” said the young man, with a repellant manner. “If my wife misinterprets the manner in which I treat her, and makes herself unhappy about it, that is no fault of mine. She ought to have the good sense to take me as I am, and not make herself wretched because I am not what I cannot be.”

“You still misunderstand me, Percy,” urged (sic) the the mother of Kate. “I did not say that your wife made herself wretched because your manner towards her was not different. I only suggested a modification of it, at least for the present, as a means of aiding in her return to a healthier state of mind. But we will say no more about this. I have frankly opened my mind to you, and thus far discharged my duty. You must now act as your own heart directs.”

Percy showed no inclination to continue the subject. His manner plainly enough indicated that the conversation had given him no pleasure; and that he believed the mother of Kate to have exceeded the privilege of her position. When they parted, it was with the most formal politeness on both sides.

After Mrs. Harrison parted with Percy Edwards, the young man remained alone for nearly an hour. Sometimes he walked the floor with hurried steps, his manner greatly excited; sometimes he sat beside a table, with his head leaning upon his hand, so buried in thought as to be almost motionless; and sometimes he muttered to himself, as he aroused up from these fits of abstraction.

“Ah me!” he sighed, at last, rising slowly from his chair, and beginning to walk about, but with less agitation of manner than before exhibited. “This was a great mistake,–the one great error of my life. How blind I was not to have foreseen just such a result as this! I never had the smallest impulse of affection for her, and never can have. Both are unhappy in our bonds, and both will be so until death severs the unnatural tie. Ah me! A hundred thousand as a marriage portion, doubled on my own side, with half a million in prospect, does not put a single drop of honey in this cup, which grows more bitter with every draught. The worldly advantage is all very well. I am satisfied with that. But it comes at too heavy a cost. And poor Kate”–there was something of pity in the tone with which this was uttered–pity, not tenderness–” she has been the most wronged in this business. But the alliance was of her father’s own seeking. His were the offered inducements, and I am not to be blamed if the temptation proved too strong for me. To a great extent, I can protect myself, though not fully. There are, thorns in my pillow which can neither be covered nor removed. Ah me! I wish Kate would seek, as I do, in coldness and indifference, the protection she needs. Her mother’s observation is correct. There is no tenderness in my manner, and I have not meant that there should be. I have not treated her unkindly, for I wished to avoid all cause for complaint or reproach. I wished to stand clear before the world; and I am clear. If she beat herself against the bars of her cage, am I to blame? No, no! Let her yield to the necessity of her position, as I do. Let her avail herself of all the sources of forgetfulness within her reach–and there are many–and live passionless, if not happy. But she will not. If some speedy change do not take place, she cannot live a year. The world is quick in its imputation of wrong; and a whisper from her friends may thrill a thousand hearts with a suspicion of foul play, if she go down to the grave in so short a period after our marriage. And there is yet another consideration,–my interest in her father’s large estate. How will that be affected? Having sacrificed so much for this consideration, it must not be abandoned now.”

Edwards continued to move about the room, in deep reflection, for a considerable time longer. Then he went slowly up to his wife’s chamber. She was lying upon the bed, with her face buried in a pillow. She did not stir, although his footfall was distinct upon the floor. Edwards went to the bedside, and leaning over, said, with more affection in his voice than he had ever used since their marriage, taking her hand in his, with a gentle pressure, at the same time–

“Kate, it grieves me to see you so ill both in body and mind.”

There was an instant quiver in every limb, before so motionless; but the sufferer neither arose nor made any reply.

“Unless something be done for your relief,” continued Mr. Edwards, in the same tone, “you cannot live. You know how much we are all afflicted, and how anxious we all feel on account of your loss of health and spirits.”

The hand of his wife was still in his, and he held it with the same gentle pressure, that was now as gently returned. The impulse of Mr. Edwards was to remove his hand the instant Kate showed this consciousness of a tenderer manifestation than he was accustomed to give; but he restrained himself, and still let his hand rest upon hers. He felt that she was listening to him, and that he had the ability to influence her as he would, if he used the power of a well-counterfeited regard. After a few moments’ silence, he went on:–

“I am sure that a change of air and a change of scene will do you good. This Doctor R–has already said, and you know that we all agree in the opinion. Now, will you not, to relieve the minds of your friends, even if you feel reluctant to quit this seclusion into which you have shrunk, make an effort? I am ready to go with you, at any moment. Come! arouse yourself; if not for your own sake, for ours, for mine.”

The way in which this was said, more than the words themselves, acted like a charm upon Mrs. Edwards. The almost pulseless lethargy into which she had fallen passed off quickly, and rising up, she pushed back the matted hair from her face, and said, “I know you all think me perverse and unreasonable, and I may be so to some extent; but I will try to do as you wish. I feel as weak in mind and body as a child; and, like a child, I will submit myself to your direction. Only, Percy,”–her voice had a most touching pathos as she said this,–“_love me as a child!_ Speak to me as gently, as tenderly as you did just now, and I will be the happiest being alive.”

As she spoke, she leaned over towards her husband, and, burying her face on his bosom, sobbed aloud.

Cold-hearted as was Percy Edwards, this exhibition moved him. It was unexpected, and, therefore, he was not prepared to meet it in the way he would otherwise have done. As Kate lay weeping upon his bosom, and almost clinging to him, he experienced a change of feeling towards her. Pity melted into tenderness, and, on the impulse of the moment, he drew his arm around her, and, bending down, touched his lips to her forehead.

A happier moment the trembling wife had not known for years.

“You will make a short visit to Newport?” said Mr. Edwards, as Kate’s feelings grew calmer.

“Oh, yes,” she whispered, “if you wish me to do so.”

“Only on account of your health,” he replied, “I know it will do you good.”

“Oh, certainly I will go. Forgive me for having before hesitated a moment; it was a childish weakness. But I will try hereafter to act with more reason.”

The pressure of a tenderly spoken word revealed to Percy Edwards a hidden treasure in the love of a woman, worthy, truly worthy of a full reciprocation. Her heart was open and panting before him. Alas! for the man, that he could not prize the untold wealth he had only to reach forth his hand and take. But the lover of himself and the world is ever blind to what are life’s real blessings. Thus blind was Percy Edwards.

Deluded into the belief that a genuine affection had been awakened in the breast of her husband, Kate felt the motions of a new life within her.

Satisfied that if he again fell back into his old habit of treating his wife, she would at once relapse into her former state of depression, Mr. Edwards maintained a certain appearance of affection, much as the effort cost him. It was wonderful to see the effect upon Mrs. Edwards. Her countenance became cheerful, her voice lost its even, passionless tone, and she evinced an interest in much that was passing around her. Preparations were immediately commenced for a visit to Newport, and in a week from the time she was aroused from the lethargy into which she had fallen, she left for that fashionable resort, in company with her husband and several friends.