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The IRON RULE;
OR, TYRANNY IN THE HOUSEHOLD.
BY T. S. ARTHUR,
AUTHOR OF “LOVE IN HIGH LIFE,” “LOVE IN A COTTAGE,” “MARY MORETON; OR, THE BROKEN PROMISE,” “AGNES; OR, THE POSSESSED,” “INSUBORDINATION,” “LUCY SANDFORD,” “THE ORPHAN CHILDREN,” “THE DEBTOR’S DAUGHTER,” “THE DIVORCED WIFE,” “PRIDE AND PRUDENCE,” “THE TWO MERCHANTS,” “CECILIA HOWARD,” “THE BANKER’S WIFE,” ETC. COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME.
THE IRON RULE;
OR, TYRANNY IN THE HOUSEHOLD.
ANDREW HOWLAND belonged to that class of rigid moralists who can tolerate in others no wanderings from the right way. His children were forced into the straight jacket of external consistency from their earliest infancy; and if they deviated from the right line in which they were required to walk, punishment was sure to follow.
A child loves his parent naturally. The latter may be harsh, and unreasonable; still the child will look up to him in weak dependence, while love mingles, like golden threads in a dark fabric, amid the fear and respect with which he regards him. Thus it was with the children of Andrew Howland. Their mother was a gentle, retiring woman, with a heart full of the best affections. When the sunshine fell upon her golden locks in the early days of innocence, it was in a home where the ringing laugh, the merry shout, and the wild exuberance of feeling ever bursting from the heart of childhood were rarely checked; or, if repressed, with a hand that wounded not in its firm contraction. She had grown up to womanhood amid all that was gentle, kind and loving. Transplanted, then, like a tender flower from a sunny border, to the cold and formal home of her husband, she drooped in the uncongenial soil, down into which her heart-fibres penetrated in search of nutrition. And yet, while drooping thus, she tenderly loved her husband, and earnestly sought to overcome in herself many true impulses of nature to which he gave the false name of weaknesses. It was less painful thus to repress them herself, than to have them crushed in the iron hand with which he was ever ready to grasp them.
Let it not be thought that Andrew Howland was an evil minded man. In the beginning we have intimated that this was not so. He purposed wrong to no one. Honest he was in all his dealings with the world; honest even to the division of a penny. The radical fault of his character was coldness and intolerance. Toward wrong-doing and wrong-doers, he had no forbearance whatever; and to him that strayed from the right path, whether child or man, he meted out, if in his power, the full measure of consequences. Unfortunately for those who came within the circle of his authority, his ideas of right and wrong were based on warped and narrow views, the result of a defective religious education. He, therefore, often called things wrong, from prejudice, that were not wrong in themselves; and sternly reacted upon others, and drove them away from him, when he might have led and guided them into the paths of virtue.
The first year of Andrew Howland’s married life was one of deep trial to the loving young creature he had taken from her sunny home to cherish in his bosom–a bosom too cold to warm into vigorous life new shoots of affection. And yet he loved his wife; loved her wisely, as he thought, not weakly, nor blindly. He saw her faults, and, true to his character, laid his hands upon them. Alas! how much of good was crushed in the rigid pressure!
To Mr. Howland life was indeed a stern reality. Duties and responsibilities were ever in his thoughts. Pleasure was but another name for sin, and a weakness of character an evil not to be tolerated.
Enough, for our present purpose, can be seen of the character of Andrew Howland in this brief outline. As our story advances, it will appear in minuter shades, and more varied aspects. Seven years from the day of his marriage we will introduce him to the reader.
“What _shall_ I do with this boy?” said Mr. Howland. He spoke sternly, yet in a perplexed voice, while he walked the floor of the room with a quickness of tread unusual. “If something is not done to break him into obedience he will be ruined.”
“He needs all our forbearance,” Mrs. Howland ventured to remark, “as well as our care and solicitude.”
“Forbearance! I have no forbearance toward wrong, Esther. You have forborne until the child is beyond your control.”
“Not entirely,” was meekly answered, as the mother’s eyes drooped to the floor.
At this moment a servant, who had been sent for the child, came in with him. A few doors away lived another child, about the same age, of whom little Andrew was very fond, and whose companionship he sought on every occasion. Against the father of this child Mr. Howland had imbibed a strong prejudice, which was permitted to extend itself to his family. Rigid and uncompromising in everything, he had observed that Andrew was frequently in company with the child of this neighbor, and felt impelled to lay a prohibition on their intercourse. But Andrew, a light-hearted, high-spirited boy, who inherited from his father a strong will, was by no means inclined to yield a ready obedience in this particular. He loved his little companion, and never was happier than when in her society. Naturally, therefore, be sought it on every occasion, and when the positive interdiction of their intercourse came, the child felt that a duty was imposed upon him that was impossible of fulfillment. Young as he was, he could endure punishment, but not give up his little friend. Advantage was therefore taken of every opportunity to be with her that offered. Punishments of various kinds were inflicted, but they acted only as temporary restraints.
As to this little girl herself, let it be understood, Mr. Howland had no personal objection. He had never seen anything that was wrong in her, and had never heard a word of evil spoken against her. The simple, yet all-embracing defect that appertained to her was his dislike of her father; and this dislike had its chief foundation in a wrong estimate of his character, the result of his own narrow prejudices. Somewhat hastily, we will admit, did Mr. Howland utter the word that was to separate the little friends, and the word was half-repented of as soon as spoken. But once uttered, it was a law to which he required the most implicit obedience. He thought not of the wrong the separation might do his child; he thought only of enforcing obedience–of breaking a stubborn will. Obedience in children was, in his eyes, everything–and he visited, with the sternest displeasure, every deviation therefrom. The consequence was, that his little ones, in their nest at home, rarely saw in the face of their father a smile of affection; rarely heard his voice in words of tenderness. Something, in their conduct was ever displeasing to him, and he attempted its correction by coldness, repulsion, harsh words, or cruel punishment. He never sought to lead, but to force them into the right way.
The word of interdiction was uttered, but Andrew could not give up his sweet little friend; and the word was therefore disregarded. Stealthily, to avoid punishment, he went to her but watchful eyes were upon him, and he was soon brought back. Gently and earnestly his mother would chide his disobedience; harshly his father would punish it–but all was of no avail.
“Where is Andrew?” asked Mr. Howland, on returning home one evening from his store, and not seeing the bright little fellow in the room with his mother. This was on the occasion of his introduction to the reader.
“I don’t know. He was here just now,” replied Mrs. Howland.
“I saw him a little while ago playing on the steps with Emily Winters,” said the nurse, who had come recently into the family, and was not aware of the prohibition that existed in regard to the child she had mentioned.
“Is it possible!” exclaimed Mr. Howland, angrily. Then he added in an excited voice, “go and bring him home immediately!”
The nurse left the room and soon returned with the child. In his face was a look of blended fear, anger and resolution.
“Where have you been, sir?” sternly asked Mr. Howland.
The child made no answer.
“Do you hear me, sir?”
A slight motion of shrinking and alarm might have been seen in the little fellow as the angry voice of his father fell upon his ears. But he did not look up or make a reply.
“Will you answer me? Stubborn boy!” exclaimed Mr. Howland, now catching hold tightly of Andrew’s arm.
“Why don’t you answer your father, my child?” said the mother, in a voice that was tender and appealing. The tone reached the boy’s heart, and he lifted his large blue eyes from the floor and fixed them on his father’s threatening countenance.
“Say! Where have you been?” repeated Mr. Howland.
“To see Emily,” returned Andrew.
“Haven’t I forbidden you to go there?”
The child’s eyes sunk again to the floor.
“Say! Haven’t I forbidden you to go there?”
But there was no answer.
“Do you hear me?”
“Andrew! Andrew! why don’t you answer your father?” came in distressed and tremulous tones from his mother’s lips.
Mr. Howland was about turning to chide sharply his wife for this interference, when Andrew again raised his eyes and said–
“Then why have you disobeyed me?”
The boy’s eyes fell again, and he remained silent.
“I’ll break you of this if I break your heart!” said Mr. Howland severely, and, as he spoke, he almost lifted the child from the floor with his strong arm as he led him from the room. A groan issued from the mother’s heart and she covered her face and wept.
By the time Mr. Howland reached the chamber above, to which he repaired with Andrew, the excitement of his anger had subsided; but not his stern purpose in regard to his child, who had again disobeyed him. The absolute necessity of obedience in children he recognized in all its length and breadth. He saw no hope for them in the future unless obedience were constrained at every cost. Happy both for them and himself would it have been if he had been wiser in his modes of securing obedience, and more cautious about exacting from his children things almost impossible for them to perform. Without a law there is no sin. Careful, then, should every parent be how he enacts a law, the very existence of which insures its violation.
Mr. Howland had sought, by various modes of punishment, other than chastisement, to enforce obedience in this particular case. Now he was resolved to try the severer remedy. Andrew had expected nothing farther than to be shut up, alone, in the room, and to go, perhaps, supperless to bed, and he was nerved to bear this without a murmur. But when the rod became suddenly visible, and was lifted above him in the air, his little heart was filled with terror.
“Oh, father!” he exclaimed, in a voice of fear, while his upturned, appealing face became ashy pale.
“You have disobeyed me again, my son,” said Mr. Howland, coldly and sternly, “and I must whip you for it. Disobedient children have to be punished.”
“Oh, father! Don’t whip me! Don’t!” came huskily from the lips of the terrified child. But even while he thus pleaded, the smarting strokes began to fall.
“Now, sir!” at length said Mr. Howland, pausing with the rod uplifted, “will you go into Mr. Winters’ again?”
The child hesitated, and down came a blow upon his tender limbs, followed by the words–
“Say! Will you go in there any more?”
Still there was a reluctance to make this promise, and another and harder stroke was given. The father was resolved to conquer, and he did conquer. A promise was extorted from the child’s lips, while, his heart yielded nothing.
“Very well, sir! See that you keep your word,” said Mr. Howland, as he released the writhing sufferer from his firm grasp. “If you disobey me again in this thing, I will give five times as much.”
And he turned from the chamber leaving the wronged and suffering child alone.
“I’ve begun now, and I’ll go through with it,” muttered Mr. Howland, as he reentered the room where his wife was sitting. “I never saw so perverse and self-willed a child in my life. If he is not subdued now, and forced to obey, his ultimate destruction is inevitable.”
“His fault was not a very great one,” Mrs. Howland ventured to suggest.
“Do you call disobedience a little fault?” asked Mr. Howland, his brow contracting as he spoke.
“I did not mean that,” quickly answered Mrs. Howland. “I meant his going in to see Emily Winters. The children are very fond of each other.”
“But I have told him not to go in there, haven’t I?”
“Very well. That settles the matter. If he goes, he disobeys me; and if he disobeys me, he must be punished.”
“It is useless to argue about this with me, Esther. Entirely useless. In your weakness you would indulge and ruin the boy. But I know my duty better.”
Mrs. Howland sighed deeply and remained silent. Some ten minutes afterwards, seeing her husband engaged with a book, she arose and left the room. As soon as she closed the door, every movement was suddenly quickened, and she sprung up the stairway to the chamber from which had come down to her the screams of her boy, as he shrunk under the cruel strokes inflicted by the hand of his father. Entering, she saw Andrew sitting on the floor, with his arms resting on a low chair, and his face buried in them. He raised his head slowly, and turned to see who had come in. The instant he saw that it was his mother, a flush came into his pale face, and tears dimmed the light of his beautiful, tender, loving eyes. In another moment he was sobbing on her bosom.
“Dear Andrew must not be disobedient again,” said the mother, so soon as her child had grown calm, bending close to his cheek as she spoke, and letting her breath fall warmly over it.
“Emily is a good little girl, and I love her. She ain’t bad, mother. She is better than I am,” quickly returned the child, raising himself up, and lifting his eyes earnestly to his mother’s face.
“But your father has forbidden you to go to her house, Andrew.”
“Won’t he let Emily come to see me?” urged the child.
“No, dear. He wants you to play with some one else.”
“But I don’t want to play with any one else. Emily is a good girl, and I like her so much. Indeed she ain’t bad, mother. She’s good.”
“I know, dear,” answered the perplexed mother. “I know that Emily is a good girl. But–“
“Then why won’t father let me play with her?” was Andrew’s quick interrogation.
“He doesn’t wish you to do so, my child, and you must be an obedient, good little boy, and then your father will love you.”
“He don’t love me!” said Andrew in a tone and with an emphasis that startled his mother.
“Oh yes, he does! He loves you very much. Isn’t he your father?” replied Mrs. Howland in an earnest voice.
“He wouldn’t have whipped me so hard if he had loved me! I’m sure he wouldn’t, mother.”
And tears gushed from the eyes of the child at the remembrance of his father’s stern face, and the pain he had suffered.
“Andrew musn’t speak so of his father,” said Mrs. Howland in a chiding voice. “Andrew was disobedient; that was the reason why his father punished him. Andrew must be a good boy.”
“I ain’t bad, mother,” sobbed the child. “I’m sure it ain’t bad to play with Emily. She never does anything naughty.”
“It is bad if your father forbids your doing so,” replied Mrs. Howland.
“No–it can’t be bad to play with Emily,” said the little fellow, speaking half to himself. “She’s so good, and I love her.”
All in vain proved the mother’s effort to make her boy see that it was wrong to play with Emily. He wanted a reason beyond the (sic) commannd of his father, and that she was not able to give. The more she talked with him, the more plainly did she see that rebellion was in his young heart, and that he would act it out in the face of all consequences. Deeply saddened was she at this conviction, for she well knew that obedience to parents is the good ground into which the seeds of civil and religious obedience in manhood must be sown.
As for herself, Mrs. Howland had no objection to little Emily Winters as the companion of Andrew. She was, as the boy said, a good girl, and her influence over him was for good. But the stern prejudice of Mr. Howland had come in to break up the friendship formed between the children, and his inflexible will would brook no opposition. All must bend to him, even at the risk of breaking.
Nearly half an hour did Mrs. Howland pass alone with her boy, striving to awaken the better impulses of his heart, and as they became active, seeking to implant in his mind a willingness to deny himself, in order to obey his father. But the father asked too much. There was no charge of evil against Emily as a reason for this interdiction. All the mother could say, was–
“It is your father’s wish and command, my child, and you must obey him.”
But this could not satisfy the boy’s mind in a case where his feelings were so deeply interested. At length, Mrs. Howland turned to leave the room. Andrew followed her to the door, and looking up with a sad light in his large eyes, murmured–
“I do love you, mother!”
A tear fell upon his face as his mother stooped to kiss him. A little while after, and he was alone.
“I’m afraid,” said Mrs. Howland, joining her husband soon after, “that we have done wrong in prohibiting all intercourse between Andrew and little Emily Winters.”
“Why so?” was quickly asked, and in no very pleasant tone of voice.
“The children are very much attached to each other.”
“That is no reason.”
“It would be no reason if there was anything bad about Emily. But there is not. She is a very good little girl.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” said Mr. Howland.
“I never saw anything out of the way in her.”
“It’s more than I can say of her father, then,” was replied. “There lies my chief objection. I want no intercourse between the families, and do not mean to have any. In this I am entirely in earnest. Andrew must seek another playfellow.”
“I’m afraid we will have a great deal of trouble,” sighed Mrs. Howland.
“I am not, then. Let me know whenever he disobeys in this matter, and I’ll apply the remedy in a way to cure him. His will has to be broken, and the present occasion is as good as any other for effecting so all-important an object. The stronger he is tempted to disobey, the more effectual will be the subjugation of his will, when the conquest is made.”
It was useless for Mrs. Howland to argue with her husband. He never yielded the smallest assent to any reasons she might bring, nor to any position she might assume. So, with a pressure on her heart, and a clear perception in her mind that he was wrong, she heard these last words in silence.
“Shall I call Andrew down?” asked the mother, as the tea-bell rung, soon after.
“No,” replied Mr. Howland, firmly; “I wish him to understand that I am in earnest.”
“Don’t you think he has been punished sufficiently?” said Mrs. Howland, timidly.
“Of course I do not, or I would remit the penalty of transgression,” coldly returned her husband. “He’s a stubborn, self-willed boy, and must be made to feel that he has a master.”
“Kindness and persuasion often does–“
“I will hear no more of that!” quickly returned Mr. Howland; “and I wish you, once for all, to understand, Esther, that I will not consent to an interference on your part with what I believe to be my duty. Thousands of children have been ruined by this weak kindness and persuasion, but this shall never be the case with mine.”
Mr. Howland did not observe that his wife caught her breath, as he uttered the first few words of his harsh report. She made no further answer, but passed on with her husband to the tea-room. But she ate nothing. Dreamily rested her eyes on vacancy, as she sat at the table. Her mind took no note of images pictured on the retina, for her thoughts were in another place, and with her inner vision she saw the sad form of her wronged and suffering child shrinking in the lone chamber where he had been banished.
“Shall I take Andrew some supper?” she asked, as she arose, at length, from the table.
“He can have some bread and water,” was coldly and briefly answered.
Will any one blame the mother, that she went beyond this? A few minutes afterward she entered the room in which Andrew had been punished, bearing in her hands a small tray, on which was a cup of milk and water, some toast, and a piece of cake. The twilight had already fallen, and dusky shadows had gathered so thickly that the eyes of Mrs. Howland failed to see her child on first entering the room.
“Andrew!” she called, in a low, tender voice.
But there was no reply.
Still all remained silent.
More accustomed to the feeble light that pervaded the chamber, Mrs. Howland now perceived her boy in a corner, sitting upon the floor, with his head reclining upon a low ottoman. He was asleep. Placing the tray she had brought upon a table, Mrs. Howland lifted the child in her arms, and as she did so, he murmured in a sad voice–
“Don’t, papa! oh, don’t strike so hard!”
Unable to repress her feelings, the mother’s tears gushed over her cheeks, and her bosom heaved with emotions that spent themselves in sobs and moans.
For many minutes she sat thus. But the child slept on. Once or twice she tried to awake him, that he might get the supper she had brought; but he slept on soundly, and she refrained, unwilling to call him back to the grief of mind she felt that consciousness would restore. Undressing him, at length, she laid him in his bed, and bending over his precious form in the deeper darkness that had now fallen, lifted her heart, and prayed that God would keep him from evil. For a long time did she bend thus over her boy, and longer still would she have remained near him, for her heart was affected with an unusual tenderness, had not the cries of her younger child summoned her from the room.
THE tears of childhood are soon dried. Grief is but as the summer rain. On the next morning, little Andrew’s voice was heard singing over the house, as merrily as ever. But the sound did not affect, pleasantly, the mind of his father. He had not forgotten the scene of the previous evening, and was far from having forgiven the disobedience he had punished so severely. Had Andrew come forth from his chamber silent and with a sober, abashed, and fearful countenance, as if he still bore the weight of his father’s displeasure, Mr. Howland would have felt that he had made some progress in the work of breaking the will of his child. But to see him moving about and singing as gaily as a bird, discouraged him.
“Have I made no impression on the boy?” he asked himself.
“Father!” said Andrew, running up, with a happy smile upon his face, as these thoughts were passing through the mind of Mr. Howland, “won’t you buy me a pretty book? Oh! I want one–“
“Naughty, disobedient boy!”
These were the words, uttered sternly, and with a forbidding aspect of countenance, that met this affectionate state of mind, and threw the child rudely from his father.
Andrew looked frightened for a moment or two, and then shrunk away. From that time until his father left the house, his voice was still. During the morning, he amused himself with his playthings and his little sister, and seemed well contented. But after dinner he became restless, and often exclaimed–
“Oh! I wish I had somebody to play with!”
At length, after sitting by the window and looking out for a long time, he turned to his mother, and said–
“Mother, can’t I go and see Emily Winters?”
“No, Andrew, of course not,” replied Mrs. Howland.
“Why, mother? I like her, and she’s good.”
“Because your father doesn’t wish you go to her house. Didn’t he punish you last evening for going there?”
At this the child grew impatient, and threw himself about with angry gestures. Then he sat down and cried for a time bitterly, while his mother strove, but in vain, to (sic) sooth him. For hours his thoughts had been on his little friend, and now he cared for nothing but to see her. Denied this privilege from mere arbitrary authority, his mind had become fretted beyond his weak ability to control himself.
It was, perhaps, an hour after this, that Mrs. Howland missed Andrew, and fearful that he might have been tempted to disobey the command laid upon him, raised the window and looked into the street. Just as she did so, she saw him running back toward his home from the house of Mr. Winters, on the steps of which sat Emily. Entering quickly, she heard him close the street-door with a slight jar, as if he designed making as little noise as possible.
“Where have you been, Andrew?” asked Mrs. Howland as soon as he came up to her room, which he did soon after.
“Down in the kitchen with Jane,” was replied without hesitation.
“Have you been nowhere else?” Mrs. Howland repented having asked this question the moment it passed her lips, and still more when the child answered as unhesitatingly as before, “No, ma’am.”
Here was falsehood added to disobedience! Poor Mrs. Howland turned her face away to grieve and ponder. She found herself in a narrow path, and doubtful as to the steps to be taken. She said nothing more, for she could not see clearly what it was best for her to say; and she did nothing, for she could not see what it was best for her to do. But she resolved to be watchful over her boy, lest he should again be tempted into disobedience.
The mother’s watchfulness, however, availed not. Ere night-fall Andrew was with his little friend again. Unfortunately for him, the pleasure he derived from her society caused him to forget the passing of time, and his stolen delight was, in the end, suddenly dispelled by the stern voice of his father, who passed the door of Mr. Winters on his way homeward.
Slowly and in fear did the child obey the angry command to return home. He knew that he would be punished with great severity, and he was not mistaken. He was so punished. But did this avail anything? No! On the next day he asked his mother to let him sit at the front door.
“I’m afraid you’ll go into Mr. Winters,” said Mrs. Howland, in reply.
“Oh, no; indeed I won’t, mother,” was the ready answer.
“If you disobey me, I can’t let you go to the door again.”
“Oh, I won’t disobey you,” replied the child.
“Very well, Andrew, I’ll trust you. Now, don’t deceive me.”
The child promised over and over again, and Mrs. Howland trusted him. Ten minutes afterward she looked out, but he (sic) wasnowhere to be seen. A domestic was sent to the house of Mr. Winters, where Andrew was found, as happy as a child could be, playing with his little friend Emily. On being reproved by his mother for this act of disobedience, he looked earnestly in her face and said–
“You won’t tell father, will you? He’ll whip me so, and I don’t like to be whipped.”
“But why did you go in there?” said Mrs. Howland. “Haven’t we forbidden you? And didn’t you promise me that if I’d let you go to the front door, you would stay there?”
“I couldn’t help it, mother,” replied Andrew.
“Oh, yes, you could.”
“Indeed I couldn’t, mother. I saw Emily, and then I couldn’t help it.”
There was an expression in the child’s voice as he said this, that thrilled the feelings of his mother. She felt that he spoke only the simple truth–that he could not help doing as he had done.
“But Andrew must help it,” she was constrained to reply. “Mother can’t let him go to the front door again.”
“You won’t tell father, will you?” urged the child, lifting, earnestly, his large, bright, innocent eyes to his mother’s face. “Say, you won’t tell him?”
Grieved, perplexed, and troubled, Mrs. Howland knew not what to say, nor how to act.
“Dear mother!” urged the boy, “you won’t tell father? Say you won’t?” And tears began to glisten beneath his eyelids.
“Andrew has been disobedient,” said the mother, trying to assume an offended tone. “Will he be so anymore?”
“If you won’t tell father, I’ll be good.”
The mother sighed, and fixed her gaze musingly on the floor. Her thoughts were still more confused, and her mind in still greater perplexity. Ah, if she only knew what was right!
“I will not tell your father this time,” she at length said, “but don’t ask me, if you are again disobedient.”
But of what avail was the child’s promises. He had strong feelings, a strong will, and, though so very young, much endurance. A law, at variance almost with a law of his nature, had been arbitrarily enacted, and he could not obey it. As well might his father have shut him up, hungry, in a room filled with tempting food, and commanded him not to touch or taste it. Had an allegation of evil conduct been brought against Emily Winters; had any right reason for the interdiction been given, then Mr. Howland might have had some power over the strong will and stronger inclinations of the child. But into the mind of Andrew, young as he was, came a sense of injustice and wrong on the part of his father, and there was no willingness, from filial duty, to yield obedience in a case where every feeling of his heart was at variance with the command.
The struggle so early commenced between the father and his child, was an unceasing one. The will of Andrew, which by other treatment might have been bent to obedience, gained a vigor like the young oak amid storms, in the strife and reaction of his daily life. Instead of drawing his child to him, there was ever about Mr. Howland a sphere of repulsion. Andrew was always doing something to offend his father; and his father was in consequence always offended. A kind word from paternal lips rarely touched the ears of the boy, and, but for the love of his gentle mother, home would have been almost intolerable. Steadily, against all opposition, chidings, and punishment, Andrew would seek the company of his little friend Emily on every convenient occasion. To avoid the consequences he would practice deception, and utter direct falsehood without compunction or hesitation. At last, after a struggle of two years, even the father became wearied and discouraged at the perseverance of his child; and there came a suggestion to his mind, that probably, to continue as he had been going on for so long a time, would do more harm than good. It requires no little self-denial for a man like Andrew Howland to yield in such a contention, and let the will of his child remain unbroken. But, after a long debate with himself, his better conviction triumphed over prejudice and the tenacity of a mind fixed in its own opinions. He ceased to command obedience in the case of Emily Winters, and therefore ceased to punish Andrew on her account. Nevertheless, he rarely saw him in her company that the displeasure he felt was not manifested by a frown, or some word that smote painfully upon the ear of his child.
Possessing an active, independent mind, Andrew failed not to excite the displeasure of his father in many ways. In fact he was always in disgrace from some cause or other and the subject of angry reproof, harsh judgment, or direct punishment. Often his conduct needed reproof and even punishment; but he was the victim of such frequent wrong judgment and unjust reproof and punishment, that by the time he was eleven years of age, he looked upon his father more as a persecuting tyrant than a kind parent, who sincerely desired his good. An instance of wrong judgment and unjust punishment we will here give.
As Andrew grew older and formed school boy associations, his impulsive and rather reckless character brought him frequently into collision with his companions, and he gained a reputation which was by no means good. Every now and then some one would complain to Mr. Howland of his bad conduct, when he, taking all for granted, would, without investigation, visit the offence with severe punishment.
One day, when in his twelfth year, as Andrew was at play during a recess in the school hour, a boy larger than himself made an angry attack upon a lad much below him in size, and was abusing him severely, when Andrew, acting from a brave and generous impulse, ran to the rescue of the smaller boy, and, in a sudden onset, freed him from the hands of his assailant. Maddened at this interference. the larger boy turned fiercely upon him. But Andrew was active, and kept out of his way. Still the larger boy pursued him, using all the while the most violent threats. At length finding that he was likely to be caught and get roughly handled, Andrew took up a stone, and drawing back his hand, warned the boy not to approach. He continued to approach, however, vowing, as he did so, that he would beat the life half out of him. True to his word, and in self-defence, Andrew threw the stone, which struck the boy full on the forehead and knocked him down. For some minutes he lay stunned and half-insensible. Frightened at the consequences of his act, Andrew sprung to the side of the fallen lad and tried to raise him up. Failing in this he ran for the teacher, who was in the school-room. A little cold water thrown into the boy’s face revived him, when he went home to his parents. The teacher made careful inquiries into the matter, which satisfied him that Andrew was not very greatly to blame.
A short time after this occurrence, a gentleman entered the store of Andrew’s father, and said, with much excitement of manner,
“Mr. Howland! I’ve come to make complaint against that boy of yours.”
“Yes, sir. He’s nearly killed my son!”
“Bless me!” exclaimed Mr. Howland, in a distressed voice. “What has happened? How did he do it?”
“Why, sir! without the slightest provocation, he took up a large stone and struck my boy with it on the forehead, knocking him down senseless. I have had to send for the doctor. It may cost him his life.”
“Oh dear! dear! What will become of that boy?” exclaimed Mr. Howland, wringing his hands, and moving up and down the floor uneasily. “Knocked him down with a stone, you say?”
“Yes sir And that without any (sic) provoeation. I can’t stand this. I must, at least, protect the lives of my children. Every week I have had some complaint against your son; (sic) bnt I didn’t wish to have a difficulty, and so said nothing about it. But this is going a little too far. He must have a dreadful temper.”
“There is something very perverse about him,” remarked Mr. Howland, sadly. “Ah, me! What am I to do?”
“There may have been some slight provocation,” said the man, a little modified by the manner in which his complaint was received, and departing from his first assertion.
“Nothing to justify an assault like this,” replied Mr. Howland with promptness. “Nothing! Nothing! The boy will be the death of me.”
“Caution him, if you please, Mr. Howland, against a repetition of such dangerous conduct. The result might be deplorable.”
“I will do something more than caution him, you may be sure,” was answered, and, as he spoke, the lips of Mr. Howland were drawn tightly across his teeth.
The man went away, and Mr. Howland dispatched a messenger to the school for Andrew immediately, and then started for home. He had been there only a little while, when the boy came in with a frightened look. To his father’s eyes conscious guilt was in his countenance.
“Go up stairs, sir!” was the stern salutation that met the lad’s ears.
“Silence, sir! Don’t let me hear a word out of your head!”
The boy shrunk away and went up to his own room in the third story, whither his angry father immediately followed him.
“Now, sir, take off your jacket!” said Mr. Howland who had a long, thick rattan in his hand.
“Indeed father,” pleaded the child, “I wasn’t to blame. Bill Wilkins–“
“Silence, sir! I want none of your lying excuses! I know you! I’ve talked to you often enough about quarreling and throwing stones.”
“Off with your jacket, this instant! Do (sic) your hear me?
“Oh, father! Let me speak! I couldn’t–“
“Not a word, I say! I know all about it!” silenced the pleading boy. His case was prejudged, and he was now in the hands of the executioner. Slowly, and with trembling hands, the poor child removed his outer garment, his pale face growing paler every moment, and then submitting himself to the cruel rod that checkered his back with smarting welts. Under a sense of wrong, his proud spirit refused to his body a single cry of pain. Manfully he bore his unjust chastisement, while every stroke obliterated some yet remaining emotion of respect and love for his father, who, satisfied at length with strokes and upbraiding, threw the boy from him with the cutting words–
“I shall yet have to disown you!” and turning away left the apartment.
WHILE Mr. Howland yet paced the floor in a perturbed state of mind, after the severe flogging he had given to Andrew, and while he meditated some further and long-continued punishment for the offences which had been committed, a servant handed him a note. It was from Andrew’s teacher, and was to this effect–
“From careful inquiry, I am entirely satisfied that your son, when he threw the stone at William Wilkins, was acting in self-defence, and, therefore, is blameless. Wilkins is a quarrelsome, overbearing lad, and was abusing a smaller boy, when your son interfered to protect the latter. This drew upon him the anger of Wilkins, who would have beaten him severely if he had not protected himself in the way he did. Before throwing the stone, I learn that Andrew made every effort to get away; failing in this, he warned the other not to come near him. This warning being disregarded, he used the only means of self-protection left to him. I say this in justice to your son, and to save him from your displeasure. As for Wilkins, I do not intend to receive him back into my school.”
For a long time Mr. Howland remained seated in the chair he had taken on receiving the teacher’s note. His reflections were far from being agreeable. He had been both unjust and cruel to his child. But for him to make an acknowledgment of the fact was out of the question. This would be too humiliating. This would be a triumph for the perverse boy, and a weakening of his authority over him. He had done wrong in not listening to his child’s explanation; in not waiting until he had heard both sides. But, now that the wrong was done, the fact that he was conscious of having done wrong must not appear. In various ways he sought to justify his conduct. At length he said, half aloud–
“No matter. He deserved it for something else, and has received only his deserts. Let him behave himself properly, and he’ll never be the subject of unjust censure.”
It was thus that the cold-hearted father settled, with his own conscience, this question of wrong toward his child. And yet he was a man who prayed in his family, and regularly, with pious observance, attended upon the ordinances of the church. In society he was esteemed as a just and righteous man; in the church as one who lived near to heaven. As for himself, he believed that severity toward his boy, and intolerance of all the weaknesses, errors, and wayward tendencies of childhood, were absolutely needed for the due correction of evil impulses. Alas! that he, like too many of his class, permitted anger toward his children’s faults to blind his better judgment, and to stifle the genuine appeals of nature. Instead of tenderness, forbearance, and a loving effort to lead them in right paths, and make those paths pleasant to their feet, he sternly sought to force them in the way he wished them to go. With what little success, in the case of Andrew, is already apparent.
Angry at the unjust punishment he had received, the boy remained alone in his room until summoned to dinner.
“He doesn’t want anything to eat,” said the servant, returning to the dining-room where the family were assembled at the table.
“Oh, very well,” remarked the father, in a tone of indifference, “fasting will do him good.”
“Go up, Anna,” said Mr. Howland to the servant “and tell him that I want him to come down.”
That word would have been effectual, for Andrew loved his mother; but Mr. Howland remarked instantly:
“No, no! Let him, remain. I never humor states of perverseness. If he wishes to fast he can be gratified.”
Mrs. Howland said no more, but she took only a few mouthfuls of food while she sat at the table. Her appetite was gone. After dinner she went up to Andrew’s room with a saucer of peaches and cream. The moment she opened the door the lad sprung toward her, and while tears gushed from his eyes, he said–
“Indeed, indeed, mother, I was not to blame! Bill Wilkins was going to beat me–and you know, he’s a large boy.”
“But you might have killed him, Andrew,” replied the mother, with a gentle gravity that, in love, conveyed reproof. “It is dangerous to throw stones.”
“I had to defend myself, mother. I couldn’t let him beat me half to death. And I told him to keep off or I would strike him with the stone. I’m sure I wasn’t to blame.”
“Why, was he going to beat you, Andrew? What did you do to him?” asked Mrs. Howland.
“I’ll tell you, mother,” replied the boy. “He was pounding with his fist a poor little fellow, not half his size, and I couldn’t stand and see it if he was a bigger boy than me. So I took the little boy’s part; and then he turned on me and said he’d beat the life out of me. I ran from him and tried to get away, but he could run the fastest, and so I took up a stone and told him to keep off. But he was mad, and wouldn’t keep off. So I struck him with it, and, mother, I’d do it again (sic) to-moorow. No boy shall beat me if I can defend myself.”
“Why didn’t you tell your father of this?” asked Mrs. Howland.
“I tried to tell him, but he wouldn’t listen to me,” said the lad, with ill-concealed indignation in his voice. “And he never will listen to me, mother. He believes every word that is said against me, and flogs me whether I am guilty or not. I’m sure he hates me!”
“Hush! hush my boy! don’t say that. Don’t speak so of your father.”
“Well, I’m sure he don’t love me,” persisted Andrew.
“Oh, yes, he does love you. He only dislikes what is wrong in you. My son must try to be a good boy.”
“I do try, mother; I try almost every day. But somehow I do wrong things without thinking. I’m always sorry at first; sorry until father begins to scold or whip me, and then I don’t seem to care anything about it. Oh, dear! I wish father wasn’t always so cross!”
While Andrew thus talked, his tears had ceased to flow; but now they gushed over his cheeks again, and he leaned his face upon his mother’s bosom. Mrs. Howland drew her arms closely around her unhappy boy, while her own eyes became wet. For many minutes there was silence. At last she said, in a kind, earnest voice–
“I’ve brought you a nice saucer of peaches and cream, Andrew.”
“I don’t want them, mother,” replied the lad.
“You’ll be hungry before night, dear. It’s nearly school-time now, and you’ll get nothing to eat until you come home again.”
“I don’t feel at all hungry, mother.”
“Just eat them for my sake,” urged Mrs. Howland.
Without a word more Andrew took the saucer.
“Ain’t they nice?” asked Mrs. Howland, as she saw that her boy relished the fruit and cream.
“Yes, dear mother! they are very good,” replied Andrew; “and you are good, too. Indeed I love you, mother!”
The last sentence was uttered with visible emotion.
“Then, for my sake, try and do right, Andrew,” said Mrs. Howland, tenderly.
“I will try, mother,” returned the boy. “I do try often; but I forget myself a great many times.”
Soon after Andrew started for school. On arriving, his teacher called him up and said–
“Did your father get my note?”
“I don’t know, sir,” replied Andrew.
“What did he say to you?”
The boy’s eyes sunk to the floor and he remained silent.
“I sent your father a note immediately,” said the teacher, “telling him that you were not to blame.”
Andrew looked up quickly into his teacher’s face, while a shadow fell upon his countenance.
“You don’t know whether he received it?”
The teacher called up another lad, and inquired if he had delivered the note given him at the dwelling of Mr. Howland, as directed. The boy replied that he had done so.
“Very, well. You can take your seat.”
Then turning to Andrew, the teacher said–
“Was it about William Wilkins that your father sent for you?”
“You told him how it was?”
The boy was silent.
“He didn’t punish you, surely?”
Tears trembled on the closing lashes of the injured child; but he answered nothing. The teacher saw how it was, and questioned him no farther. From that time he was kinder toward his wayward and, too often, offending scholar, and gained a better influence over him.
Not for a moment, during the afternoon, was the thought that his father knew of his blamelessness absent from Andrew’s mind. And, when he returned home, his heart beat feverishly in anticipation of the meeting between him and his parent. He felt sure that the teacher’s note had reached his father after the punishment had been inflicted; and he expected, from an innate sense of right and justice, that some acknowledgment, grateful to his injured feelings, of the wrong he had suffered, would be made. There was no thought of triumph or reaction against his father. He had been wrongly judged, and cruelly punished; and all he asked for or desired was that his father should speak kindly to him, and say that he bad been blamed without a cause. How many a dark shadow would such a gleam of sunshine have dispelled from his heart. But no such gleam of light awaited his meeting with his father, who did not even raise his eyes to look at him as he came into his presence.
For awhile Andrew lingered in the room where his father sat reading, hoping for a word that would indicate a kinder state of feeling toward him. But no such word was uttered. At length he commenced playing with a younger brother, who, not being able to make him do just as he wished, screamed out some complaint against him, when Mr. Howland looked up, suddenly, with a lowering countenance, and said, harshly–
“Go out of the room, sir! I never saw such a boy! No one can have any peace where you are!”
Andrew started, and made an effort to explain and excuse himself, for he was very anxious not to be misunderstood again just at this time. But his father exclaimed, more severely than at first.
“Do you hear me, sir! Leave this room instantly!”
The boy went out hopeless. He felt that he was unloved by his father. Oh! what would he not have given–what sacrifice would he not have made–to secure a word and a smile of affection from his stern parent, whom he had known from childhood only as one who reproved and punished.
WRONGED and repelled, Andrew left the presence of his father, sad, hopeless, yet with a sense of indignation in his heart against that father for the wrong he had suffered at his hands.
“It’s no use for me to try to do right,” he (sic) mnrmured to himself. “If I want to be good, they won’t let me.”
As these thoughts passed through his mind, a feeling of recklessness came over him, and he said aloud–
“I don’t care what I do!”
“Don’t you, indeed?”
The voice that uttered this sentence caused him to start. It was the voice of his father, who had left his room soon after the expulsion of Andrew, and was at the moment passing near, unobserved by the boy.
“Don’t care what you do, ha!” repeated Mr. Howland, standing in front of the lad, and looking him sternly in the face. “You’ve spoken the truth for once!”
For nearly a minute Mr. Howland stood with contracted brows, scowling upon the half-frightened child. He then walked away, deeply troubled and perplexed in his mind.
“What is to become of this boy?” he said to himself. “He really seems to be one of those whom Satan designs to have, that he might sift them as wheat. I sadly fear that he is given over to a hard heart, and a perverse mind–one predestinated, to evil from his birth. Ah me! Have I not done, and am I not still doing everything to restrain him and save him! But precept, admonition, and punishment, all seem, thrown away. Even my daily prayers for him remain unanswered. They rise no higher than my head. What more can I do than I am now doing? I have tried in every way to break his stubborn will, but all is of no avail.”
While Mr. Howland mused thus, Andrew, oppressed by the sphere of his father’s house, was passing out at the street door, although expressly forbidden to go away from home after his return from school. For some time he stood leaning against the railing, with a pressure of unhappiness on his heart. While standing thus, a lad who was passing by said to him–
“Come, Andy! there’s a company of soldiers around in the Square. Hark! Don’t you hear the music? Come! I’m going.”
This was a strong temptation, for Andrew loved music and was fond of sight-seeing. It would be useless, he knew, to ask the permission of his father, who usually said “No,” to almost every request for a little liberty or privilege. Especially at the present moment would (sic) be request of this kind be useless.
“Come, Andy! come!” urged the boy, for Andrew, restraining the first impulse to bound away at the word soldiers, was debating the question whether to go or not.
Just then the air thrilled with a wave of music, and Andrew, unable longer to control himself, sprung away with his companion. For half an hour he enjoyed the music and military evolutions, and then returned home.
“Where have you been, sir?” was the sharp question that greeted him as he came in.
“Around in the Square, to see the soldiers,” replied Andrew.
“Who gave you permission to go?”
“No one, sir. I heard the music, and thought I’d just go and look at them a little while. I’ve not been doing anything wrong, sir.”
“Wrong! Isn’t disobedience wrong? Haven’t I forbidden you, over and over again, to leave the house after school without my permission? Say! You don’t care what you do! That’s it! Go off up stairs with you, to your own room, and you’ll get nothing but bread and water until to-morrow morning! I’ll teach you to mind what I say!”
The boy went sadly up to his room. It had been a day of severer trial than usual–of greater wrong and outrage upon him as a child. For the time his spirit was broken, and he wept bitterly when alone in his silent chamber, that was to be his prison-house until the dawn of another day.
“Where is Andrew?” asked Mrs. Howland, as her little family gathered at the supper table, and she found that one was missing.
“I’ve sent him up to his room. He can’t have anything but bread and water to-night,” replied Mr. Howland, in a grave tone.
“What has the poor child done, now?” inquired the mother, in a troubled voice.
“He went off to see the soldiers, though he had been expressly forbidden to leave the house after coming home from school.”
“Oh, dear! He’s always doing something wrong–what will become of him?” sighed the mother.
“Heaven only knows! If he escape the gallows in the end, it will be a mercy. I never saw so young a child with so perverse an inclination.”
“Andrew had no dinner to-day,” said Mrs. Howland, after a little while.
“His own fault,” replied the father, “he chose to fast.”
“He must be very hungry by this time. Won’t you allow him something more than bread and water?”
“No. If he is hungry, that will taste sweet to him.”
Mrs. Howland sighed and remained silent. After supper, she took food to her boy. A slice of bread and a glass of water were first placed on a tray, and with these the mother started up stairs. But, ere she reached the chamber, her heart plead so strongly for the lad, that she paused, stood musing for a few moments, and then returned to the dining-room. A few slices of tongue, some biscuit, bread and butter, and a cup of tea were taken from the table, and with these Mrs. Howland returned up stairs. Unexpectedly, her husband met her on the way.
“Who is that for?” he asked, in a voice of surprise, seeing the articles Mrs. Howland was bearing on the tray.
“It is Andrew’s supper,” was replied; and as Mrs. Howland said this, her eyes drooped, abashed beneath the stern and rebuking gaze of her husband.
“Esther! Is it possible!” exclaimed Mr. Howland. “Didn’t I say that Andrew must have nothing but bread and water for his supper?”
“He has had no dinner,” murmured the mother.
“I don’t care if he had nothing to eat for a week. I said he should have only bread and water, and I meant what I said. Esther! I am surprised at you. Of what avail will be efforts at correction, if you counteract them in this way?”
Mrs. Howland never contended with her husband. In all expressed differences of opinion, it was his habit to bear her down with an imperious will. She was weak, and he was her strong tyrant. Not a word more did she speak but returned to the dining-room, and replaced the food she had prepared for Andrew by simple bread and water.
The feelings of childhood never run for a long time in the same channel. Very soon after entering his room, Andrew’s mind lost its sad impression, and began to search about for something to satisfy its restless activity. First he got upon the chairs, and jumped from one to another. This he continued until his feet passed through the slender cane-works of one of them. Then he turned somersets on the bed, until more than a handful of feathers were beaten out and scattered about the room. Next he climbed up the posts and balanced himself on the tester, to the no small risk of breaking that slender frame work, and injuring himself severely by a fall. Soon the compass of the room became too narrow, and the elevation of the bed-posts too trifling for his expanding ideas. He went to the window, and, opening it, looked forth. Here was a new temptation. The roof of a piazza, built out from a second story, came up to within a foot of the window-sill. He had often ventured upon this roof, and he sprung out upon it again without a moment’s hesitation or reflection, and running along, with the lightness of a cat, gained the roof of the back building, which he ascended to the very apex, and then placed himself astride thereof. Here he sat for some minutes looking around him and enjoying the prospect. On the end of the back building was fastened a strong pole, running up into the air some ten feet. On the top of this pole was a bird-box, in which a pair of pigeons had their nest. Two young pigeons had been hatched out, and now nearly full-fledged and ready to fly, they were thrusting their glossy heads from the box, and looking about from their airy height.
A fluttering of wings, as the mother-bird returned with food for her young ones, attracted the attention of Andrew, and looking up, he saw the young pigeons. Instantly came a desire to remove them from their nest. But the way to that nest was too difficult and perilous for him to think of securing his wish. This was the first impression. Then he fixed his eye on the nest, and watched the old bird, as she sat on a ledge that projected from the box, while she distributed to her younglings the food she had brought. Thus sat the boy at the moment his mother left the dining-room with the comfortable supper she had prepared for him, and there she would have found him in comparative safety, had she not been prevented from carrying out the kind promptings of her heart.
The longer Andrew gazed at the young birds, the more desirous did he become to get them in his possession. Over and over again he measured the height and thickness of the pole with his eyes, calculating, all the while, his ability to climb it, and the amount of danger attendant on the adventure.
“I’m sure I could do it,” said he, at length rising from the place where he sat and walking with careful step to the edge of the roof, at the point above which the pole projected. Grasping the pole firmly, he first leaned his body over until he could see in a perpendicular line to the pavement in the yard below, a distance of more than forty feet. For a moment his head swam, as he looked from the dizzy height; but he shut his eyes and clung to the pole until self-possessed again. Then he looked up at the bird-box and reaching his hands far above his head, grasped the pole firmly and drew his body a few inches, upward. Clinging tightly with his legs to retain the slight elevation he had acquired, he moved his hands farther along the pole, and then drew himself higher up. Thus he progressed until he had reached a point some five or six feet above the roof, when his strength became exhausted, and, unable to retain even the position he had acquired, his body slowly descended the pole, swinging around to the side opposite the roof. On reaching the bottom it was as much as he could do to get himself once more in a position of safety, where he stood for a few moments, until he could recover himself. He then tried the ascent again. This time he nearly reached the box, when his strength once more failed him, and he had to slide down the pole as before. But Andrew was not a lad to give up easily anything he attempted to do. Difficulties but inspired him to new efforts, and he once more tried to effect the perilous ascent, firmly resolved to reach the box at the third trial. In his eagerness, he became unconscious of all danger, and commenced clambering up the pole with as much confidence as if it had been placed on the ground.
Great violence had been done to the feelings of Mrs. Howland by her husband. His stern rebuke hurt her exceedingly. She did not feel that she was doing wrong in yielding to the appeals of her heart in favor of her wayward, ever-offending boy. Her mother’s instinct told her, that he needed kindness, forbearance, and frequent exemption from punishment; and she felt that it was better for him to have this, even though in gaining it for him she acted in violation of her husband’s wishes and command–yea, even though her child knew that such was the case. Sadly was she aware of the fact, that the father’s iron-handed severity had nearly crushed affection out of the heart of his child; and that all obedience to him was extorted under fear of punishment. And she well knew that her interference in his favor, while it could not estrange him from his father more than he was already estranged, would give her greater influence over him for good. Such were the conclusions of her mind–not arrived at by cold ratiocination, but by woman’s shorter way of perception. And she knew that she was right.
Hurt in her own feelings was she, by her husband’s harsh, rebuking words, and sad for the sake of her boy, as she returned to the dining-room. For some time she remained there, debating with herself whether she should stealthily convey something more than the bread and water to Andrew, or take him the meager supply of food his father had ordered. In the end her feelings triumphed. A large slice of cake and an apple were placed in her pocket. Then with the bread and water she went up to her son’s chamber.
“Bless me! what a boy!” fell from the lips of Mrs. Howland, as she pushed open the door and saw the disordered condition of the room. The chairs were scattered about the apartment, and through the caning of one of them was a large hole. The wash-bowl and pitcher were on the floor, and a good deal of water spilled around. The bed-clothes were nearly all dragged off; and it was plain, from the feathers scattered about, that Andrew had been amusing himself with jumping on the bed. Lifting her eyes to the tester, Mrs. Howland saw nearly a yard of the valance torn away and hanging down.
“Oh, what a boy!” she again murmured. “He seems possessed with a spirit of mischief and destruction. Andrew!”
She called the lad’s name, but there was no answer.
“Andrew! where are you?” The mother looked searchingly about the room. But she neither saw the boy nor heard his voice. Perceiving now that the back-window was open, she sprung to it with a sudden thrill of alarm. The first object that caught her sight, was Andrew suspended in the air on the pole that supported the pigeon-box. He was just about reaching the object of his perilous adventure. A wild scream of terror came from the mother’s lips, ere she had time to think of self-control. The scream, as it pierced suddenly the ears of Andrew, startled and unnerved him. A quick muscular exhaustion followed, and ere he could recover from the confusion and weakness of the moment, his hands were dragged from their hold, and he went flashing down from the eyes of his mother like the passing of a lightning gleam. Another scream thrilled on the air, and then Mrs. Howland sunk swooning to the floor.
Mr. Howland was just stepping into the yard, when his son fell, crushed by the terrific fall, at his feet.
“Oh, father!” came in a voice of anguish from the yet conscious boy, as he lifted one hand with a feeble effort toward his parent. Then a deathly whiteness came ever his face, and he fainted instantly.
On the arrival of a physician it was found that Andrew’s left arm was broken in two places, his left ancle dislocated, and two ribs fractured. As to the internal injury sustained, no estimate could be made at the time. He did not recover fully from the state of insensibility into which he lapsed after the fall, until the work of setting the broken bones and reducing the dislocation was nearly over. His first utterance was to ask for his mother. She was not present, however. Her cries, at seeing the peril and fall of her child, brought a domestic to the room, who found her lying insensible upon the floor. Assistance being called, she was removed to her own chamber, where she remained, apparently lifeless for the space of half an hour. When she recovered, her husband was pacing the chamber floor with slow, measured steps, and his eyes cast down.
“Andrew! Is he dead?” were her first words. She spoke in a low voice, and with forced composure.
Mr. Howland paused, and approached the bed on which lay his pale exhausted wife, just awakened from her death-like unconsciousness.
“No, Esther. He is not dead,” was calmly replied.
“Is he badly hurt”?
The mother held her breath for a reply.
“Yes, badly, I fear,” answered Mr. Howland, in the same calm voice.
“Will he live?” almost gasped the mother.
“God only knows,” replied Mr. Howland. Then glancing his eyes upward piously, he added, “If it be His will to remove him, I–“
“Oh, Andrew! don’t say that!” quickly exclaimed the mother. “Don’t say that!”
“Yes, Esther, I will say it,” returned Mr. Howland, in a steady voice. “If it be His good pleasure to remove him, I will not murmur. He will be safer _there_ than here.”
“Oh, my poor, poor boy!” sobbed Mrs. Howland. “My poor, poor boy!” To think that he should come to this? Oh, it was wrong to send him off as he was sent! to punish him so severely for a little thing. Heaven knows, he had suffered enough, unjustly, without having this added!”
“Esther!” exclaimed Mr. Howland, “this from you!”
The distressed mother, in the anguish of her mind, had given utterance to her feelings, with scarce a thought as to who was her auditor. The sternly uttered words of her husband subdued her into silence.
“I did not expect this from you, Esther,” continued Mr. Howland, severely, “and at such a time.”
And he stood looking down upon the mother’s pale face with a rebuking expression of countenance. Mrs. Howland endured his gaze only for a few moments, and then buried her face in the bed-clothes. Her husband, as his eyes remained fixed upon her form, saw that it was agitated by slight convulsions, and he knew that she was striving to suppress the sobs in which her heart was seeking an utterance. For a little while he stood looking at her, and then retired, without speaking, from the chamber, and sought the one where the physician was yet engaged with Andrew. The lad was insensible when he left him a short time before; now signs of returning animation were visible.
“Mother!–mother! Where is mother?” he at last said, opening his eyes, and glancing from face to face of those who were gathered around him.
“You have nearly killed your mother,” replied. Mr. Howland, expressing, without reflection, the feeling of anger toward the lad that was still in his heart.
An instant change was visible in the countenance of Andrew; a change that caused the physician to turn suddenly from his patient and say, in a low, severe tone–
“Sir! Do you wish to murder your child?”
Mr. Howland felt the rebuke, yet did not his eyes sink for a moment beneath the steady gaze of the physician, who, after a moment’s reflection, added–
“Pray, sir, don’t speak to your child in this way at the present time. It may be as much as his life is worth. If he have done wrong, his punishment has been severe enough, Heaven knows! How is his mother?”
“Better. She has recovered from her faintness,” replied Mr. Howland.
The door opened while he was yet speaking, and Mrs. Howland came in, looking pale and agitated. The physician raised his finger to enjoin prudence, and then turning to Andrew said, in a cheerful voice,
“Here is your mother, my boy.”
Mrs. Howland came quickly to the bedside. As she bent over to kiss the white-faced sufferer, the child sobbed out–
“Oh mother!–dear mother!”
The mother’s frame quivered under the pressure of intense feeling, and she was on the eve of losing all self-control, when the physician whispered in her ear.
“Be calm, madam–the life of your child may depend on it!”
Instantly the mother was calm in all that met the eye. Close to her child she bent, and with a hand laid gently on his clammy forehead, she spoke to him words of comfort and encouragement, while the physician proceeded in the work of bandaging his broken and injured limbs.
As for Mr. Howland, he walked the floor with compressed and silent lips, until the physician’s work was done. He pitied the suffering boy, yet there was nothing of what he called weakness in his pity. The idea that Andrew was suffering a just retribution for his wrong conduct, was distinctly present to his mind. And he even went so far as to put up a prayer that the pain he was enduring, and must for a long time endure, might work in him a salutary change–might lead to his reformation.
In due time the poor boy was made as comfortable as the nature of his injuries would permit, and quiet and order restored to the agitated family.
“You see, my son, that punishment always follows evil conduct.” These were the first words spoken by Mr. Howland to his suffering boy, as soon as he found himself alone with him. And then he lectured him on disobedience until the poor child grew faint.
THE boy recovered, in due time, from his injuries, but there was no manifest change in his character, nor was there any relaxing of the iron hand of authority with which his father sought to hold him back from evil. It is no matter of wonder that he grew hardened and reckless as he grew older; nor that, to avoid punishment, he sought refuge in lying, secretiveness, and deceit.
The other children–there were three beside Andrew–being different in character, were more easily subdued under the imperious will of their father, whom they feared more than they loved. Assuming, in his own mind, that Andrew’s will had been permitted to gain strength ere an effort had been made to control it, Mr. Howland resolved not to fall into this error in the case of the children who followed; and, assuredly, he did not. Through the rigors of unfailing punishment for every act of wrong-doing, they were forced into the way he would have them go, and though rebellion was often in their hearts, it was rare, indeed, that it found its way into act, except when there was the utmost certainty that their misconduct would not be found out. Thus they learned to act hypocritically toward their father, and to regard him as one who marred, instead of promoting their pleasure.
Mr. Howland had one son besides Andrew–one son and two daughters. Mary was next to Andrew, Edward came next to her, and Martha was the youngest. Edward resembled his father more than any of the other children. He was cold and calm in his temperament, and little inclined to be drawn aside by the restless, vagrant spirits that were ever luring Andrew from the strict line laid down for him by his father. Daily perceiving the great value attached by his father to external propriety of conduct, Edward made a merit of what to him was easy. This vexed Andrew, who had opportunities for knowing all about the worth of Edward’s apparent excellencies, and he sneeringly applied to him the epithet of “Saint,” which was the cause of his drawing down upon himself, in more than one instance, the displeasure of his father. But he had become so used to censure and reproof, that it had little influence over him. Let him do wrong or right, he was almost sure to be harshly judged, and he had, by the time he was sixteen, almost ceased to care what others thought of his conduct.
Mary, whose age was next to that of Andrew, failed to acquire any influence over her brother. She had been fretful and peevish as a child, and he had worried her a great deal, and, in consequence, received frequent punishment on her account. This tended naturally to disunite them, and make them cold toward each other. Instead of Mr. Howland striving, as their mother ever did, to reconcile their difficulties, and make them friends, he would listen to Mary’s complaints against Andrew, and mark his displeasure by reproof or punishment. Trifles, that would have been in a little time forgotten and forgiven, were raised into importance by the stern father, and sources of unhappiness and enmity created out of the most ordinary, childish misunderstandings. Thus, in his mistaken efforts to destroy what was evil in his children, he was only rooting the evils he would remove more deeply in the groundwork of their minds. Instead of harmonizing, his actions had the constant effect of disuniting them. Brotherly love and sisterly affection had small chance for growth in the family over which he presided.
For all this, out of his family Mr. Howland was highly respected and esteemed. He had the reputation of being one of the most upright, just, and humane men in the community; and many wondered that he should have so bad a son as Andrew, whose reputation abroad was little better than at home. At school he was almost constantly involved in quarrels with other boys; and, from the immediate neighborhood of Mr. Howland, complaints frequently came of his bad conduct and reckless annoyances toward neighbors. In truth, Andrew was a bad boy; self-willed and overbearing toward his companions; a trespasser on the rights and privileges of others; and determinedly disobedient to his father. But for all this his father was to blame. While sternly repressing the evil in his child, he had not lovingly sought to develop the good. While vainly striving to root out the tares which the enemy had sown, he had injured the tender wheat, whose green blades were striving to lift themselves to the sunlight. Alas! how many parents, in their strange blindness, are doing the same work for their unhappy children.
Amid all the perverseness that marked the character of Andrew; amid all his hardness and wrong-doing; his attachment to Emily Winters remained as pure and earnest at sixteen, as when a child he suffered punishment rather than give up her society. Emily, who was about his own age, had grown, by this time, into a tall, graceful girl, and was verging on toward womanhood with a rapidity that made the boy’s heart tremble as he marked the distance which an earlier development of body was placing between him and the only one, except his mother, that he had ever loved.
Between the families of Mr. Howland and Mr. Winters there was no intercourse. Mr. Howland early imbibed a strong prejudice against Mr. Winters, who did not happen to be a church member, and who, on that account, was believed by Mr. Howland to be capable of doing almost any wrong action, if tempted thereto. Certain things done by Mr. Winters, who was independent in his modes of thinking and acting, had been misunderstood by Mr. Howland, or judged by one of his peculiar standards of virtue. From that time he was considered a bad man; and, although Mrs. Winters, who was a woman beloved by all that knew her, called upon Mrs. Howland when the family of the latter came into the neighborhood, Mr. Howland positively forbade a return of the call. Less obedient to his arbitrary commands did he find his son. Andrew formed an early friendship for little Emily, and sought every opportunity, spite of restriction and punishment, to enjoy her society.
This was continued until the children grew to a size that caused the parents of Emily to observe the attachment as one far from being agreeable to them, and to feel (sic) desirons of drawing a line of separation between their daughter and a boy so notoriously bad as Andrew Howland. When the children were twelve years old, they felt bound to take some action in the case, and began by giving Andrew a gentle hint, one day, to the effect that his visits to their house were rather too frequent. This was enough for the high-spirited boy. He left, with a burning spot on his cheek, vowing, in his indignation, that he would never enter their door again, nor speak to Emily. But it was much easier to keep the first part of this promise than the last. As early as the next day he met Emily on his way to school. She was going to school also, and had much farther to, walk than himself. To enjoy her society, he went with her all the way. This made him late, and he was in consequence, kept in by the teacher, half an hour after his own school was dismissed. But this punishment did not deter him from repeating the act on the next day and on the next. From that time he rarely came to school until ten or fifteen minutes after the session was opened; and, sometimes, Emily was late also. Reproof and punishment doing no good, the teacher sent a note to Andrew’s father, complaining of his want of punctuality. A severe reprimand was the consequence. This failing of the desired effect, the boy was put on bread and water for days at a time. But complaints from the teacher still arriving, corporeal punishment was added. No change, however, followed. In the end Andrew was sent home from school as incorrigible.
“What shall I do with the boy!” was the despairing exclamation of Mr. Howland, when this event occurred. “Idleness will complete his ruin, and he is too young to put out.”
“I will send him to sea,” was the final conclusion of his mind, after debating the matter for some days, and talking with several friends on the subject. Mr. Howland was generally in earnest when he decided a matter, and but little given to change his purposes. And he was in earnest now. But the moment his intention was announced to his wife, there came from her an unexpected and vigorous opposition.
“No, Andrew,” said she, with an emphasis unusual to her in addressing her husband, “that must not be.”
“I tell you it must be, Esther,” quickly replied Mr. Howland. “Nothing else will save the boy.”
“It lacks only that to complete his ruin,” said Mrs. Howland, firmly. “Never, Andrew–never will he go on board of a vessel with my consent.”
And the mother burst into tears.
“I don’t wish to have any contention about this matter, Esther,” said Mr. Howland, gravely, as soon as his wife had grown calm, “and I don’t mean to have any. But I wish you to understand that I am in earnest. Being fully satisfied that the last hope for Andrew is to send him to sea, I have fully made up my mind to do it. I have already spoken to the captain of a vessel trading to South America. A few months on ship-board will tame him. He’ll be glad enough to behave himself when be gets home.”
“I have no faith in this remedy,” replied Mrs. Howland, somewhat to the surprise of her husband, who expected to silence her, as usual, with his broadly asserted ultimatum. “Severe remedies have been tried long enough. In my view, a milder course pursued toward the boy would effect more than any other treatment.”
“Mildness! Haven’t we tried that, over and over again? And hasn’t it only encouraged him to bolder acts of disobedience?”
Mrs. Howland sighed. Her mind went back to the past, but none of these instances of mild treatment could she remember. The iron hand had been on him from the beginning, crushing out the good, and hardening the evil into endurance.
“Andrew,” said she, after sitting for some time with her eyes upon the floor, speaking in a very calm voice, “he is my son as well as yours–and his welfare is as dear to me as it is to you. As his mother, I am entitled to a voice in all that concerns him; and now, in the sight of heaven, I give my voice distinctly against his being sent to sea.”
Mr. Howland seemed startled at this bold speaking in his wife, which, to him, amounted to little less than rebellion against his authority. As the head of the family, it was his prerogative to rule; and he had ruled for years with almost undisputed sway. Not in the least inclined did he feel to give up now, the power which he believed, of right, belonged to him. A sharp retort trembled for a moment on his lips; but he kept back its utterance. He did not, however, waver a single line from his purpose, but rather felt it growing stronger.
No more was said at this time by either. Mrs. Howland sought the earliest opportunity to be alone with her son, when she informed him of his father’s purpose to send him to sea. Andrew was somewhat startled by this information, and replied, instantly–
“I don’t want to go to sea, mother.”
“Nor do I wish you to go, Andrew,” said Mrs. Howland. “You are too young to bear the hard usage that would certainly fall to your lot. But your father is very determined about the matter.”
“I won’t go!” boldly declared the boy.
“Andrew! Andrew! don’t speak in that manner,” said the mother in a reproving voice.
“I’ll run away first!”
An indignant flush came into the lad’s face as he said this.
Mrs. Howland was both startled and alarmed at this bold and unexpected declaration, and for a time she hardly knew what to say. At length, in a voice so changed that Andrew looked up, half wonderingly, into her face, she said–
“My son, do you love me?”
Not until the question was repeated did Andrew make any reply. Then he answered, in a low, unsteady voice, for something in her manner had touched his feelings.
“You know I love you, mother; for you are the only one who loves me.”
“For the sake, then, of that love, let me ask you to do one thing, Andrew,” said Mrs. Howland.
“What is that mother?”
“Go back to your teacher, and ask him to take you into the school again.”
A flush came warmly into the boy’s face, and he shook his head in a positive manner.
“I wish you to do it for my sake, Andrew,” urged Mrs. Howland.
“I can’t, mother. And it would not do any good.”
“Yes, it will do good. You were wrong in not going punctually to school. All that is now required of you is to acknowledge this, and ask to be restored to your place.”
Andrew stood silent and gloomy by his mother’s side.
“Were you not wrong in absenting yourself from school at the proper hour?” asked Mrs. Howland, in a calm, penetrating voice.
There was no reply.
“Say, Andrew?” urged the mother.
“Yes, ma’am. I suppose I was.”
“Was not your teacher right in objecting to this?”
“I suppose so.”
“And right in sending you home if you would not obey the rules of the school?”
The boy assented.
“Very well. Then you alone are to blame for the present trouble, and it rests with you to remove it. For my sake, go back to school, promise to do right in future, and ask to be reinstated. Will not this be better than going to sea, or leaving your (sic) fathers’s house, as you thoughtlessly threatened to do just now?”
The tender earnestness with which Mrs. Howland spoke, more than the reasons she urged, subdued the stubborn spirit of the boy.
“You know how determined your father is,” she continued. “In his intention to send you to sea he is entirely in earnest, and nothing will prevent his doing so but your going back to school. You threaten to run away. That would avail nothing. You are but a boy, and would be restored to us in a week. Think of the trouble you will bring upon me. Andrew! Andrew! unless you do as I desire, you will break my heart.”
Giving way at this point to the pressure on her feelings, Mrs. Howland wept bitterly; and, greatly subdued by his mother’s grief, Andrew drew his arm around her neck, and wept with her.
“Go, dear,” said Mrs. Howland, as soon as she had recovered herself, parting the hair upon the forehead of her boy, and pressing her lips upon it–“go, and secure your own self-approbation and my happiness, by doing as I desire. Go, now, while your heart beats rightly. Go, and save your mother from untold wretchedness.”
And again Mrs. Howland pressed her lips to his forehead. Happily, she prevailed over him. Acting from the good impulses with which she had inspired his better nature, he went to the teacher, who readily consented to take him back into the school on his promise of more orderly conduct in future.
“Andrew has gone back to school,” said Mrs. Howland to her husband, on his return home in the evening.
“Gone back to school? I thought the teacher had expelled him.”
“Andrew went to him, and promised amendment.”
“Yes. After I had talked with him a long time, he consented to do so.”
“It is well,” briefly, and with much severity in his tone, replied Mr. Howland. He was greatly relieved at this unexpected result; although neither in word or manner did he let his real feelings appear.
THE thought that came instantly to the mind of Andrew, when his father’s resolution to send him to sea was mentioned, was the thought of Emily Winters. For the sake of spending daily a few quickly passing minutes with her, he had subjected himself to reprimand, punishment and disgrace. And his mind instantly reacted against the idea of a separation such as was now threatened. Still he was too proud and stubborn to think for a moment of retracing any of the wrong steps he had made. Nothing but the tender appeal of his mother, whom he did indeed love, amid all his perverseness, could have subdued him. But for the strong attachment felt for Emily, he would have received the intelligence that he was about to be sent to sea, with, pleasure.
For some time after this, Andrew’s external conduct was more orderly. But there was so much about him to offend his easily offended father, that he did not escape for even a single day without a frown or harsh word, which soon had the effect to extinguish the few good impulses which the recent subjugation of his will had awakened. He continued to meet Emily on his way to school, but was careful not to linger in her company go long as before. But this pleasure was at length denied him. A person who frequently saw them together, mentioned the fact to Mr. Winters, who immediately reproved his daughter for the association, and positively forbade its continuance. Emily had ever been obedient to her parents in all things, and this command, grievous as it was, she felt bound to obey. On the day after it was given, Andrew lingered for her in vain at the place where they had met daily, until after his school hour. On the next morning he was there earlier than usual, and waited until past his school hour again. But she did not come. Strictly obedient to her parents, she had gone another way so as to avoid the meeting.
During that day, Andrew was absent from school. Having twice missed his gentle friend, he had no heart to enter upon his studies, and so went listlessly wandering about the streets until nearly twelve o’clock. Then he repaired to the neighborhood of her school, and waited to see if she was among the scholars at the time of their dismissal. In a little while the children came pouring forth, and among them his eager eyes soon caught the form of Emily. He was by her side in a moment, saying, as he took her hand–
“Where have you been? I’ve looked for you these two days.”
A crimson flush overspread the face of Emily in an instant, and she gently disengaged the hand he had taken.
Andrew, who, with all his faults, was proud and sensitive, seemed startled by this unexpected reception. For a moment or two he stood gazing upon her downcast face, and then turned from her and walked rapidly away. As he did so, the little girl lifted toward him her gentle eyes, that were now full of tears, and stood gazing after him with a sad expression of countenance until he was out of sight.
“I don’t care for anything now!” Such was the ejaculation of Andrew, pausing, and throwing himself, with a reckless air, upon a door-step, so soon as he had passed beyond the view of the friend he had so loved for years, but who now, from some cause unknown to him, had become suddenly estranged. “I don’t care for anything now,” he repeated. “Let them send me to sea, or anywhere else, if they will! I don’t care! I’m not going to school any more! What do I care for school? I do nothing right, any how! It’s scold, scold, or flog, flog, all the time! Father says he’ll beat goodness into me; but I guess he’s beaten it ‘amost all out”
With such thoughts passing through his mind, the unhappy boy sat, with his face down, and his head supported on his hands, for some two or three minutes, when he was startled by a well-known voice, whose tones were ever like music to his ears, pronouncing his name.
In an instant he was on his feet. Emily was before him, and her eyes were now fixed upon his face with a sad expression.
“Andrew,” said she, “don’t be angry. It isn’t my fault.”
“What isn’t your fault?” eagerly inquired the boy, as he grasped her hand.
“Father said I mustn’t–“
The little girl hesitated. It seemed as if she couldn’t utter the words.
There was ill-repressed indignation in Andrew’s voice.
“Don’t be angry! It frightens me when you are angry!” said Emily, looking distressed.
“What did your father say?” asked the boy, in milder tones.
“He said that I mustn’t meet you as I went to school any more,” replied Emily.
The face of the boy grew crimson, while his lips arched with the angry indignation that swelled in his bosom. He was about giving a passionate vent to his feelings, when he was restrained by the look of distress that overspread the face of his gentle friend, and by the tears that came slowly stealing from her eyes.
“Ain’t I as good?”
Thus far Andrew gave utterance to what was in his thoughts, and then, seeing the tears of Emily, checked himself and became silent.
“You ain’t angry with me, are you?” asked the little girl, laying her hand upon his, and looking earnestly in his face.
“No; I’m not angry with you, Emily. I’m never angry with you. But it’s hard. I’d rather see you than anybody. I don’t care what becomes of me now! Let them send me to sea if they will!”
At the word “sea” Emily’s face grew pale, and she said in a choking voice,
“O! they won’t send you to sea, Andrew?”
“Father threatened to send me to sea if I didn’t attend school better.”
“But you will attend better, Andrew. I know you will. Oh, it would