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´╗┐Title: All's for the Best
Author: Arthur, T. S. (Timothy Shay), 1809-1885
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "All's for the Best" ***

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ALL'S FOR THE BEST.


BY

T. S. ARTHUR.



PHILADELPHIA:

1869.



CONTENTS.


    I. FAITH AND PATIENCE.
   II. IS HE A CHRISTIAN?
  III. "RICH AND RARE WERE THE GEMS SHE WORE."
   IV. NOT AS A CHILD.
    V. ANGELS IN THE HEART.
   VI. CAST DOWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED.
  VII. GOOD GROUND.
 VIII. GIVING THAT DOTH NOT IMPOVERISH.
   IX. WAS IT MURDER, OR SUICIDE?
    X. THE NURSERY MAID.
   XI. MY FATHER.
  XII. THE CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN.



ALL'S FOR THE BEST.



I.

FAITH AND PATIENCE.


"_I HAVE_ no faith in anything," said a poor doubter, who had trusted
in human prudence, and been disappointed; who had endeavored to walk by
the lumine of self-derived intelligence, instead of by the light of
divine truth, and so lost his way in the world. He was fifty years old!
What a sad confession for a man thus far on the journey of life. "No
faith in anything."

"You have faith in God, Mr. Fanshaw," replied the gentleman to whom the
remark was made.

"In God? I don't know him." And Mr. Fanshaw shook his head, in a
bewildered sort of way. There was no levity in his manner. "People talk
a great deal about God, and their knowledge of him," he added, but not
irreverently. "I think there is often more of pious cant in all this
than of living experience. You speak about faith in God. What is the
ground of your faith?"

"We have internal sight, as well as external sight."

There was no response to this in Mr. Fanshaw's face.

"We can see with the mind, as well as with the eyes."

"How?"

"An architect sees the building, in all its fine proportions, with the
eyes of his mind, before it exists in space visible to his bodily eyes."

"Oh! that is your meaning, friend Wilkins," said Mr. Fanshaw, his
countenance brightening a little.

"In part," was replied. "That he can see the building in his mind,
establishes the fact of internal sight."

"Admitted; and what then?"

"Admitted, and we pass into a new world--the world of spirit."

Mr. Fanshaw shook his head, and closed his lips tightly.

"I don't believe in spirits," he answered.

"You believe in your own spirit."

"I don't know that I have any spirit."

"You think and feel in a region distinct from the body," said Mr.
Wilkins.

"I can't say as to that."

"You can think of justice, of equity, of liberty?"

"Yes."

"As abstract rights; as things essential, and out of the region of
simple matter. The body doesn't think; it is the soul."

"Very well. For argument's sake, let all this be granted. I don't wish
to cavil. I am in no mood for that. And now, as to the ground of your
faith in God."

"Convictions," answered Mr. Wilkins, "are real things to a man.
Impressions are one thing; convictions another. The first are like
images on a glass; the others like figures in a textile fabric. The
first are made in an instant of time, and often pass as quickly; the
latter are slowly wrought in the loom of life, through daily experience
and careful thought. Herein lies the ground of my faith in God;--it is
an inwrought conviction. First I had the child's sweet faith transfused
into my soul with a mother's love, and unshadowed by a single doubt.
Then, on growing older, as I read the Bible, which I believe to be
God's word, I saw that its precepts were divine, and so the child's
faith was succeeded by rational sight. Afterwards, as I floated off
into the world, and met with storms that wrecked my fondest hopes; with
baffling winds and adverse currents; with perils and disappointments,
faith wavered sometimes; and sometimes, when the skies were dark and
threatening, my mind gave way to doubts. But, always after the storm
passed, and the sun came out again, have I found my vessel unharmed,
with a freight ready for shipment of value far beyond what I had lost.
I have thrown over, in stress of weather, to save myself from being
engulfed, things that I had held to be very precious--thrown them over,
weeping. But, after awhile, things more precious took their
place--goodly pearls, found in a farther voyage, which, but for my
loss, would not have been ventured.

"Always am I seeing the hand of Providence--always proving the divine
announcement, 'The very hairs of your head are numbered.' Is there not
ground for faith here? If the word of God stand in agreement with
reason and experience, shall I not have faith? If my convictions are
clear, to disbelieve is impossible."

"We started differently," replied Mr. Fanshaw, almost mournfully. "That
sweet faith of childhood, to which you have referred, was never mine."

"The faith of manhood is stronger, because it rests on reason and
experience," said Mr. Wilkins.

"With me, reason and experience give no faith in God, and no hope in
the future. All before me is dark."

"Simply, because you do not use your reason aright, nor read your
experiences correctly. If you were to do this, light would fall upon
your way. You said, a little while ago, that you had no faith in
anything. You spoke without due reflection."

"No; I meant just what I said. Is there stability in anything? In what
can I trust to-morrow? simply in nothing. My house may be in
ruins--burnt to the ground, at daylight. The friend to whom I loaned my
money to-day, to help him in his need, may fail me to-morrow, in my
need. The bank in which I hold stock may break--the ship in which I
have an adventure, go down at sea. But why enumerate? I am sure of
nothing."

"Not even of the love of your child?"

A warm flush came into the face of Mr. Fanshaw. He had one daughter
twelve years old.

"Dear Alice!" he murmured, in a softer voice. "Yes, I am sure of that.
There is no room for doubt. She loves me."

"One thing in which to have faith," said Mr. Wilkins. "Not in a house
which cannot be made wholly safe from fire; nor in a bank, which may
fail; nor in a friend's promise; nor in a ship at sea--but in love! Are
you afraid to have that love tried? If you were sick or in misfortune,
would it grow dim, or perish? Nay, would it not be intensified?

"I think, Mr. Fanshaw," continued his friend, "that you have not tested
your faith by higher and better things--by things real and substantial."

"What is more real than a house, or a ship, or a bill of exchange?"
asked Mr. Fanshaw.

"Imperishable love--incorruptible integrity--unflinching honor," was
replied.

"Do these exist?" Mr. Fanshaw looked incredulous.

"We know that they exist. You know that they exist. History,
observation, experience, reason, all come to the proof. We doubt but in
the face of conviction. Are these not higher and nobler things than
wealth, or worldly honors; than place or power? And is he not serenest
and happiest whose life rests on these as a house upon its foundations?
You cannot shake such a man. You cannot throw him down. Wealth may go,
and friends drop away like withering autumn leaves, but he stands fast,
with the light of heaven upon his brow. He has faith in virtue--he has
trust in God--he knows that all will come out right in the end, and
that he will be a wiser and better man for the trial that tested his
principles--for the storms that toughened, but did not break the fibres
of his soul."

"You lift me into a new region of thought," said Mr. Fanshaw, "A dim
light is breaking into my mind. I see things in a relation not
perceived before."

"Will you call with me on an old friend?" asked Mr. Wilkins.

"Who?"

"A poor man. Once rich."

"He might feel my visit as an intrusion."

"No."

"What reduced him to poverty?"

"A friend, in whom he put unlimited faith, deceived and ruined him."

"Ah!"

"And he has never been able to recover himself."

"What is his state of mind?"

"You shall judge for yourself."

In poor lodgings they found a man far past the prime of life. He was in
feeble health, and for over two months had not been able to go out and
attend to business. His wife was dead, and his children absent. Of all
this Mr. Fanshaw had been told on the way. His surprise was real, when
he saw, instead of a sad-looking, disappointed and suffering person, a
cheerful old man, whose face warmed up on their entrance, as if
sunshine were melting over it. Conversation turned in the direction Mr.
Wilkins desired it to take, and the question soon came, naturally, from
Mr. Fanshaw--

"And pray, sir, how were you sustained amid these losses, and trials,
and sorrows?"

"Through faith and patience," was the smiling answer. "Faith in God and
the right, and patience to wait."

"But all has gone wrong with you, and kept wrong. The friend who robbed
you of an estate holds and enjoys it still; while you are in poverty.
He is eating your children's bread."

"Do you envy his enjoyment?" asked the old man.

Mr. Fanshaw shook his head, and answered with an emphasis--"No!"

"I am happier than he is," said the old man. "And as for his eating my
children's bread, that is a mistake. His bread is bitter, but theirs is
sweet." He reached for a letter that lay on a table near him, and
opening it, said--"This is from my son in the West. He writes:--'Dear
Father--All is going well with me. I enclose you fifty dollars. In a
month I am to be married, and it is all arranged that dear Alice and I
shall go East just to see you, and take you back home with us. How nice
and comfortable we will make you! And you shall never leave us!'"

The old man's voice broke down on the last sentence, and his eyes
filled with tears. But he soon recovered himself, saying--

"Before I lost my property, this son was an idler, and in such danger
that through fear of his being led astray, I was often in great
distress of mind. Necessity forced him into useful employment; and you
see the result. I lost some money, but saved my son. Am I not richer in
such love as he bears me to-day, than if, without his love, I possessed
a million of dollars? Am I not happier? I knew it would all come out
right. I had faith, and I tried to be patient. It is coming out right."

"But the wrong that has been done," said Mr. Fanshaw. "The injustice
that exists. Here is a scoundrel, a robber, in the peaceful enjoyment
of your goods, while you are in want."

"We do not envy such peace as his. The robber has no peace. He never
dwells in security; but is always armed, and on the watch. As for me,
it has so turned out that I have never lacked for food and raiment."

"Still, there is the abstract wrong, the evil triumphing over the
good," said Mr. Fanshaw.

"How do you reconcile that with your faith in Providence?"

"What I see clearly, as to myself," was replied, "fully justifies the
ways of God to man. Am I the gainer or the loser by misfortune? Clearly
the gainer. That point admits of no argument. So, what came to me in
the guise of evil, I find to be good. God has not mocked my faith in
him. I waited patiently until he revealed himself in tender mercy;
until the hand to which I clung in the dark valley led me up to the
sunny hills. No amount of worldly riches could give me the deep
satisfaction I now possess. As for the false friend who robbed me, I
leave him in the hands of the all-wise Disposer of events. He will not
find, in ill-gotten gain, a blessing. It will not make his bed soft;
nor his food sweet to the taste. A just and righteous God will trouble
his peace, and make another's possessions the burden of his life."

"But that will not benefit you," said Mr. Fanshaw. "His suffering will
not make good your loss."

"My loss is made good already. I have no complaint against Providence.
My compensation is a hundredfold. For dross I have gold. I and mine
needed the discipline of misfortune, and it came through the perfidy of
a friend. That false friend, selfish and grasping--seeing in money the
greatest good--was permitted to consummate his evil design. That his
evil will punish him, I am sure; and in the pain of his punishment, he
may be led to reformation. If he continue to hide the stolen fox, it
will tear his vitals. If he lets it go, he will scarcely venture upon a
second theft. In either event, the wrong he was permitted to do will be
turned into discipline; and my hardest wish in regard to him is, that
the discipline may lead to repentance and a better life."

"Your faith and patience," said Mr. Fanshaw, as he held the old man's
hand in parting, "rebuke my restless disbelief. I thank you for having
opened to my mind a new region of thought--for having made some things
clear that have always been dark. I am sure that our meeting to-day is
not a simple accident. I have been led here, and for a good purpose."

As Mr. Fanshaw and Mr. Wilkins left the poor man's lodgings, the former
said--

"I know the false wretch who ruined your friend."

"Ah!"

"Yes. And he is a miserable man. The fox is indeed tearing his vitals.
I understand his case now. He must make restitution. I know how to
approach him. This good, patient, trusting old man shall not suffer
wrong to the end."

"Does not all this open a new world of thought to your mind?" asked Mr
Wilkins. "Does it not show you that, amid all human wrong and disaster,
the hand of Providence moves in wise adjustment, and ever out of evil
educes good, ever through loss in some lower degree of life brings gain
to a higher degree? Consider how, in an unpremeditated way, you are
brought into contact with a stranger, and how his life and experience
touching yours, give out a spark that lights a candle in your soul to
illumine chambers where scarcely a ray had shone before; and this not
alone for your benefit. It seems as if you were to be made an
instrument of good not only to the wronged, but to the wronger. If you
can effect restitution in any degree, the benefit will be mutual."

"I can and I will effect it," replied Mr. Fanshaw. And he did!



II.

IS HE A CHRISTIAN?


"_IS_ he a Christian?"

The question reached my ear as I sat conversing with a friend, and I
paused in the sentence I was uttering, to note the answer.

"Oh, yes; he is a Christian," was replied.

"I am rejoiced to hear you say so. I was not aware of it before," said
the other.

"Yes; he has passed from death unto life. Last week, in the joy of his
new birth, he united himself to the church, and is now in fellowship
with the saints."

"What a blessed change!"

"Blessed, indeed. Another soul saved; another added to the great
company of those who have washed their robes, and made them white in
the blood of the Lamb. There is joy in heaven on his account."

"Of whom are they speaking?" I asked, turning to my friend.

"Of Fletcher Gray, I believe," was replied.

"Few men stood more in need of Christian graces," said I. "If he is,
indeed, numbered with the saints, there is cause for rejoicing."

"By their fruits ye shall know them," responded my friend. "I will
believe his claim to the title of Christian, when I see the fruit in
good living. If he have truly passed from death unto life, as they say,
he will work the works of righteousness. A sweet fountain will not send
forth bitter waters."

My friend but expressed my own sentiments in this, and all like cases.
I have learned to put small trust in "profession;" to look past the
Sunday and prayer-meeting piety of people, and to estimate religious
quality by the standard of the Apostle James. There must be genuine
love of the neighbor, before there can be a love of God; for neighborly
love is the ground in which that higher and purer love takes root. It
is all in vain to talk of love as a mere ideal thing. Love is an active
principle, and, according to its quality, works. If the love be
heavenly, it will show itself in good deeds to the neighbor; but, if
infernal, in acts of selfishness that disregard the neighbor.

"I will observe this Mr. Gray," said I, as I walked homeward from the
company, "and see whether the report touching him be true. If he is,
indeed, a 'Christian,' as they affirm, the Christian graces of meekness
and charity will blossom in his life, and make all the air around him
fragrant."

Opportunity soon came. Fletcher Gray was a store-keeper, and his life
in the world was, consequently, open to the observation of all men. He
was likewise a husband and a father. His relations were, therefore, of
a character to give, daily, a test of his true quality.

It was only the day after, that I happened to meet Mr. Gray under
circumstances favorable to observation. He came into the store of a
merchant with whom I was transacting some business, and asked the price
of certain goods in the market. I moved aside, and watched him
narrowly. There was a marked change in the expression of his
countenance and in the tones of his voice. The former had a sober,
almost solemn expression; the latter was subdued, even to
plaintiveness. But, in a little while, these peculiarities gradually
disappeared, and the aforetime Mr. Gray stood there
unchanged--unchanged, not only in appearance, but in character. There
was nothing of the "yea, yea," and "nay, nay," spirit in his
bargain-making, but an eager, wordy effort to gain an advantage in
trade. I noticed that, in the face of an asservation that only five per
cent. over cost was asked for a certain article, he still endeavored to
procure it at a lower figure than was named by the seller, and finally
crowded him down to the exact cost, knowing as he did, that the
merchant had a large stock on hand, and could not well afford to hold
it over.

"He's a sharper!" said the merchant, turning towards me as Gray left
the store.

"He's a Christian, they say," was my quiet remark.

"A Christian!"

"Yes; don't you know that he has become religious, and joined the
church?"

"You're joking!"

"Not a word of it. Didn't you observe his subdued, meek aspect, when he
came in?"

"Why, yes; now that you refer to it, I do remember a certain
peculiarity about him. Become pious! Joined the church! Well, I'm
sorry!"

"For what?"

"Sorry for the injury he will do to a good cause. The religion that
makes a man a better husband, father, man of business, lawyer, doctor,
or preacher, I reverence, for it is genuine, as the lives of those who
accept it do testify. But your hypocritical pretenders I scorn and
execrate."

"It is, perhaps, almost too strong language, this, as applied to Mr.
Gray," said I.

"What is a hypocrite?" asked the merchant.

"A man who puts on the semblance of Christian virtues which he does not
possess."

"And that is what Mr. Gray does when he assumes to be religious. A true
Christian is just. Was he just to me when he crowded me down in the
price of my goods, and robbed me of a living profit, in order that he
might secure a double gain? I think not. There is not even the live and
let live principle in that. No--no, sir. If he has joined the church,
my word for it, there is a black sheep in the fold; or, I might say,
without abuse of language, a wolf therein disguised in sheep's
clothing."

"Give the man time," said I. "Old habits of life are strong, you know.
In a little while, I trust that he will see clearer, and regulate his
life from perceptions of higher truths."

"I thought his heart was changed," answered the merchant, with some
irony in his tones. "That he had been made a new creature."

I did not care to discuss that point with him, and so merely answered,

"The beginnings of spiritual life are as the beginnings of natural
life. The babe is born in feebleness, and we must wait through the
periods of infancy, childhood and youth, before we can have the strong
man ready for the burden and heat of the day, or full-armed for the
battle. If Mr. Gray is in the first effort to lead a Christian life,
that is something. He will grow wiser and better in time, I hope."

"There is vast room for improvement," said the merchant. "In my eyes he
is, at this time, only a hypocritical pretender. I hope, for the sake
of the world and the church both, that his new associates will make
something better out of him."

I went away, pretty much of the merchant's opinion. My next meeting
with Mr. Gray was in the shop of a mechanic to whom he had sold a bill
of goods some months previously. He had called to collect a portion of
the amount which remained unpaid. The mechanic was not ready for him.

"I am sorry, Mr. Gray," he began, with some hesitation of manner.

"Sorry for what?" sharply interrupted Mr. Gray.

"Sorry that I have not the money to settle your bill. I have been
disappointed----"

"I don't want that old story. You promised to be ready for me to-day,
didn't you?" And Mr. Gray knit his brows, and looked angry and
imperative.

"Yes, I promised. But----"

"Then keep your promise. No man has a right to break his word. Promises
are sacred things, and should be kept religiously."

"If my customers had kept their promises to me there would have been no
failure in mine to you," answered the poor mechanic.

"It is of no use to plead other men's failings in justification of your
own. You said the bill should be settled to-day, and I calculated upon
it. Now, of all things in the world, I hate trifling. I shall not call
again, sir!"

"If you were to call forty times, and I hadn't the money to settle your
account, you would call in vain," said the mechanic, showing
considerable disturbance of mind.

"You needn't add insult to wrong." Mr. Gray's countenance reddened, and
he looked angry.

"If there is insult in the case it is on your part, not mine," retorted
the mechanic, with more feeling. "I am not a digger of gold out of the
earth, nor a coiner of money. I must be paid for my work before I can
pay the bills I owe. It was not enough that I told you of the failure
of my customers to meet their engagements----"

"You've no business to have such customers," broke in Mr. Gray. "No
right to take my goods and sell them to men who are not honest enough
to pay their bills."

"One of them is your own son," replied the mechanic, goaded beyond
endurance. "His bill is equal to half of yours. I have sent for the
amount a great many times, but still he puts me off with excuses. I
will send it to you next time."

This was thrusting home with a sharp sword, and the vanquished Mr. Gray
retreated from the battle-field, bearing a painful wound.

"That wasn't right in me, I know," said the mechanic, as Gray left his
shop. "I'm sorry, now, that I said it. But he pressed me too closely. I
am but human."

"He is a hard, exacting, money-loving man," was my remark.

"They tell me he has become a Christian," said the mechanic. "Has got
religion--been converted. Is that so?"

"It is commonly reported; but I think common report must be in error.
St. Paul gives patience, forbearance, long-suffering, meekness,
brotherly kindness, and charity as some of the Christian graces. I do
not see them in this man. Therefore, common report must be in error."

"I have paid him a good many hundreds of dollars since I opened my shop
here," said the mechanic, with the manner of one who felt hurt. "If I
am a poor, hard-working man, I try to be honest. Sometimes I get a
little behind hand, as I am new, because people I work for don't pay up
as they should. It happened twice before when I wasn't just square with
Mr. Gray, and he pressed down very hard upon me, and talked just as you
heard him to-day. He got his money, every dollar of it; and he will get
his money now. I did think, knowing that he had joined the church and
made a profession of religion, that he would bear a little patiently
with me this time. That, as he had obtained forgiveness, as alleged, of
his sins towards heaven, he would be merciful to his fellow-man. Ah,
well! These things make us very sceptical about the honesty of men who
call themselves religious. My experience with 'professors' has not been
very encouraging. As a general thing I find them quite as greedy for
gain as other men. We outside people of the world get to be very
sharp-sighted. When a man sets himself up to be of better quality than
we, and calls himself by a name significant of heavenly virtue, we
judge him, naturally, by his own standard, and watch him very closely.
If he remain as hard, as selfish, as exacting, and as eager after money
as before, we do not put much faith in his profession, and are very apt
to class him with hypocrites. His praying, and fine talk about faith,
and heavenly love, and being washed from all sin, excite in us contempt
rather than respect. We ask for good works, and are never satisfied
with anything else. By their fruits ye shall know them."

On the next Sunday I saw Mr. Gray in church. My eyes were on him when
he entered. I noticed that all the lines of his face were drawn down,
and that the whole aspect and bearing of the man were solemn and
devotional. He moved to his place with a slow step, his eyes cast to
the floor. On taking his seat, he leaned his head on the pew in front
of him, and continued for nearly a minute in prayer. During the
services I heard his voice in the singing; and through the sermon, he
maintained the most fixed attention. It was communion Sabbath; and he
remained, after the congregation was dismissed, to join in the holiest
act of worship.

"Can this man be indeed self-deceived?" I asked myself, as I walked
homeward. "Can he really believe that heaven is to be gained by pious
acts alone? That every Sabbath evening he can pitch his tent a day's
march nearer heaven, though all the week he have failed in the
commonest offices of neighborly love?"

It so happened, that I had many opportunities for observing Mr. Gray,
who, after joining the church, became an active worker in some of the
public and prominent charities of the day. He contributed liberally in
many cases, and gave a good deal of time to the prosecution of
benevolent enterprises, in which men of some position were concerned.
But, when I saw him dispute with a poor gardener who had laid the sods
in his yard, about fifty cents, take sixpence off of a weary strawberry
woman, or chaffer with his boot-black over an extra shilling, I could
not think that it was genuine love for his fellow-men that prompted his
ostentatious charities.

In no instance did I find any better estimation of him in business
circles; for his religion did not chasten the ardor of his selfish love
of advantage in trade; nor make him more generous, nor more inclined to
help or befriend the weak and the needy. Twice I saw his action in the
case of unhappy debtors, who had not been successful in business. In
each case, his claim was among the smallest; but he said more unkind
things, and was the hardest to satisfy, of any man among the creditors.
He assumed dishonest intention at the outset, and made that a plea for
the most rigid exaction; covering his own hard selfishness with
offensive cant about mercantile honor, Christian integrity, and
religious observance of business contracts. He was the only man among
all the creditors, who made his church membership a prominent
thing--few of them were even church-goers--and the only man who did not
readily make concessions to the poor, down-trodden debtors.

"Is he a Christian?" I asked, as I walked home in some depression of
spirits, from the last of these meetings. And I could but answer
No--for to be a Christian is to be Christ-like.

"As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is
the divine standard. "Ye must be born again," leaves to us no latitude
of interpretation. There must be a death of the old, natural, selfish
loves, and a new birth of spiritual affections. As a man feels, so will
he act. If the affections that rule his heart be divine affections, he
will be a lover of others, and a seeker of their good. He will not be a
hard, harsh, exacting man in natural things, but kind, forbearing,
thoughtful of others, and yielding. In all his dealings with men, his
actions will be governed by the heavenly laws of justice and judgment.
He will regard the good of his neighbor equally with his own. It is in
the world where Christian graces reveal themselves, if they exist at
all. Religion is not a mere Sunday affair, but the regulator of a man's
conduct among his fellow-men. Unless it does this, it is a false
religion, and he who depends upon it for the enjoyment of heavenly
felicities in the next life, will find himself in miserable error.
Heaven cannot be earned by mere acts of piety, for heaven is the
complement of all divine affections in the human soul; and a man must
come into these--must be born into them--while on earth, or he can
never find an eternal home among the angels of God. Heaven is not
gained by doing, but by living.



III.

"RICH AND RARE WERE THE GEMS SHE WORE."


"_HAVE_ you noticed Miss Harvey's diamonds?" said a friend, directing
my attention, as she spoke, to a young lady who stood at the lower end
of the room. I looked towards Miss Harvey, and as I did so, my eyes
received the sparkle of her gems.

"Brilliant as dew-drops in the morning sunbeams," I remarked.

"Only less brilliant," was my friend's response to this. "Only less
brilliant. Nothing holds the sunlight in its bosom so perfectly as a
drop of dew.--Next, the diamond. I am told that the pin, now flashing
back the light, as it rises and falls with the swell and subsidence of
her bosom, cost just one thousand dollars. The public, you know, are
very apt to find out the money-value of fine jewelry."

"Miss Harvey is beautiful," said I, "and could afford to depend less on
the foreign aid of ornament."

"If she had dazzled us with that splendid pin alone," returned my
friend, "we might never have been tempted to look beneath the jewel,
far down into the wearer's heart. But, diamond earrings, and a diamond
bracelet, added--we know their value to be just twelve hundred dollars;
the public is specially inquisitive--suggest some weakness or
perversion of feeling, and we become eagle-eyed. But for the blaze of
light with which Miss Harvey has surrounded herself, I, for one, should
not have been led to observe her closely. There is no object in nature
which has not its own peculiar signification; which does not correspond
to some quality, affection, or attribute of the mind. This is true of
gems; and it is but natural, that we should look for those qualities in
the wearer of them to which the gems correspond."

I admitted the proposition, and my friend went on.

"Gold is the most precious of all metals, and it must, therefore,
correspond to the most precious attribute, or quality of the mind. What
is that attribute?--and what is that quality?"

"Love," said I, after a pause, "Love is the most precious attribute of
the mind--goodness the highest quality."

"Then, it is no mere fancy to say that gold corresponds to love, or
goodness. It is pure, and ductile, and warm in color, like love; while
silver is harder, and white and shining, like truth. Gold and silver in
nature are, then, as goodness and truth in the human soul. In one we
find the riches of this world, in the other divine riches. And if gold
and silver correspond to precious things of the mind, so must brilliant
jewels. The diamond! How wonderful is its affection for light--taking
in the rays eagerly, dissolving them, and sending them forth again to
gladden the eyes in rich prismatic beauty! And to what mental quality
must the diamond correspond? As it loves the sun's rays, in which are
heat and light--must it not correspond to the affection of things good
and true?--heat being of love, and light of truth or wisdom? The wearer
of diamonds, then, should have in her heart the heavenly affection to
which they correspond. She should be loving and wise."

"It will not do to make an estimate in this way," said I. "The measure
is too exacting."

"I will admit that. But we cannot help thinking of the quality when we
look upon its sign. With a beautiful face, when first seen, do we not
always associate a beautiful soul? And when a lady adorns herself with
the most beautiful and costly things in nature, how can we help
looking, to see whether they correspond to things in her mind! For one,
I cannot; and so, almost involuntarily, I keep turning my eyes upon
Miss Harvey, and looking for signs of her quality."

"And how do you read the lady?" I inquired.

My friend shook his head.

"The observation is not favorable."

"Not favorable," he replied. "No, not favorable. She thinks of her
jewels--she is vain of them."

"The temptation is great," I said.

"The fact of so loading herself with costly jewels, is in itself
indicative of vanity--"

A third party joining us at this moment, we dropped the subject of Miss
Harvey. But, enough had been said to make me observe her closely during
the evening.

The opening line of Moore's charming lyric,

  "Rich and rare were the gems she wore,"

kept chiming in my thoughts, whenever I glanced towards her, and saw
the glitter of her diamonds. Yet, past the gems my vision now went, and
I searched the fair girl's countenance for the sparkle of other and
richer jewels. Did I find them? We shall see.

"Helen," I heard a lady say to Miss Harvey, "is not that Mary Gardiner?"

"I believe so," was her indifferent answer.

"Have you spoken to her this evening?"

"No, aunt."

"Why?"

"Mary Gardiner and I were never very congenial. We have not been thrown
together for some time; and now, I do not care to renew the
acquaintance."

I obtained a single glance of the young lady's face. It was proud and
haughty in expression, and her eyes had in them a cold glitter that
awoke in me a feeling of repulsion.

"I wish you were congenial," the lady said, speaking partly to herself.

"We are not, aunt," was Miss Harvey's reply; and she assumed the air of
one who felt herself far superior to another with whom she had been
brought into comparison.

"The gems do not correspond, I fear," said I to myself, as I moved to
another part of the room. "But who is Miss Gardiner?"

In the next moment, I was introduced to the young lady whose name was
in my thought. The face into which I looked was of that fine oval which
always pleases the eye, even where the countenance itself does not
light up well with the changes of thought. But, in this case, a pair of
calm, deep, living eyes, and lips of shape most exquisitely delicate
and feminine--giving warrant of a beautiful soul--caused the face of
Miss Gardiner to hold the vision as by a spell. Low and very musical
was her voice, and there was a discrimination in her words, that lifted
whatever she said above the common-place, even though the subjects were
of the hour.

I do not remember how long it was after my introduction to Miss
Gardiner, before I discovered that her only ornament was a small,
exquisitely cut cameo breast-pin, set in a circlet of pearls. There was
no obtrusive glitter about this. It lay more like an emblem than a
jewel against her bosom. It never drew your attention from her face,
nor dimmed, by contrast, the radiance of her soul-lit eyes. I was
charmed, from the beginning, with this young lady. Her thoughts were
real gems, rich and rare, and when she spoke there was the flash of
diamonds in her sentences; not the flash of mere brilliant sayings,
like the gleaming of a polished sword, but of living truths, that lit
up with their own pure radiance every mind that received them.

Two or three times during the evening, Miss Harvey, radiant in her
diamonds--they cost twenty-two hundred dollars--the price would intrude
itself--and Miss Gardiner, almost guiltless of foreign ornament, were
thrown into immediate contact. But Miss Gardiner was not recognized by
the haughty wearer of gems. It was the old farce of pretence, seeking,
by borrowed attractions, to outshine the imperishable radiance of
truth. I looked on, and read the lesson her conduct gave, and wondered
that any were deceived into even a transient admiration. "Rich and rare
were the gems she wore," but they had in them no significance as
applied to the wearer. It was Miss Gardiner who had the real gems,
beautiful as charity, and pure as eternal truth; and she wore them with
a simple grace, that charmed every beholder who had eyes clear enough
from earthy dust and smoke to see them.

I never meet Miss Harvey, that I do not think of the pure and heavenly
things of the mind to which diamonds correspond, nor without seeing
some new evidence that she wears no priceless jewels in her soul.



IV.

NOT AS A CHILD.


"_I DO_ not know how that may be," said the mother, lifting her head,
and looking through almost blinding tears, into the face of her friend.
"The poet may be right, and, "Not as a child shall I again behold him,
but the thought brings no comfort. I have lost my child, and my heart
looks eagerly forward to a reunion with him in heaven; to the blessed
hour when I shall again hold him in my arms."

"As a babe?"

"Oh, yes. As a darling babe, pure, and beautiful as a cherub."

"But would you have him linger in babyhood forever?" asked the friend.

The mother did not reply.

"Did you expect him always to remain a child here? Would perpetual
infancy have satisfied your maternal heart? Had you not already begun
to look forward to the period when intellectual manhood would come with
its crowning honors?"

"It is true," sighed the mother.

"As it would have been here, so will it be there. Here, the growth of
his body would have been parallel, if I may so speak, with the growth
of his mind. The natural and the visible would have developed in
harmony with the spiritual and the invisible. Your child would have
grown to manhood intellectually, as well as bodily. And you would not
have had it otherwise. Growth--development--the going on to perfection,
are the laws of life; and more emphatically so as appertaining to the
life of the human soul. That life, in all its high activities, burns
still in the soul of your lost darling, and he will grow, in the world
of angelic spirits to which our Father has removed him, up to the full
stature of an angel, a glorified form of intelligence and wisdom. He
cannot linger in feeble babyhood; in the innocence of simple ignorance;
but must advance with the heavenly cycles of changing and renewing
states."

"And this is all the comfort you bring to my yearning heart?" said the
mother. "My darling, if all you say be true, is lost to me forever."

"He was not yours, but God's." The friend spoke softly, yet with a firm
utterance.

"He was mine to love," replied the bereaved one.

"And your love would confer upon its precious object the richest
blessings. Dear friend! Lift your thoughts a little way above the
clouds that sorrow has gathered around your heart, and let perception
come into an atmosphere radiant with light from the Sun of Truth. Think
of your child as destined to become, in the better world to which God
has removed him, a wise and loving angel. Picture to your imagination
the higher happiness, springing from higher capacities and higher uses,
which must crown the angelic life. Doing this, and loving your lost
darling, I know that you cannot ask for him a perpetual babyhood in
heaven."

"I will ask nothing for him but what 'Our Father' pleaseth to give,"
said the mother, in calmer tones. "My love is selfish, I know. I called
that babe mine--mine in the broadest sense--yet he was God's, as every
other creature is his--one of the stones in his living temple--one of
the members of his kingdom. It does not comfort me in my great sorrow
to think that, as a child, I shall not again behold him, but rays of
new light are streaming into my mind, and I see things in new aspects
and new relations. Out of this deep affliction good will arise."

"Just as certainly," added the friend, "as that the Sun shines and the
dew falls. It will be better for you, and better for the child. To both
will come a resurrection into higher and purer life."



V.

ANGELS IN THE HEART.


_THE_ heart is full of guest-chambers that are never empty; and as the
heart is the seat of life, these guests are continually acting upon the
life, either for good or evil, according to their quality. As the
guests are, so our states of life--tranquil and happy, if good;
disturbed and miserable, if evil.

We may choose our own guests, if we are wise. None can open the door
and come in, unless we give consent; always provided that we keep watch
and ward. If we leave wide open the doors of our houses, or neglect to
fasten them in the night season, thieves and robbers will enter and
despoil us at will. So if we leave the heart, unguarded, enemies will
come in. But if we open the door only to good affections--which are
guests--then we shall dwell in peace and safety. We have all opened the
door for enemies; or let them enter through unguarded portals. They are
in all the heart's guest-chambers. They possess the very citadel of
life; and the measure of their possession is the measure of our
unhappiness.

Markland was an unhappy man; and yet of this world's goods, after which
he had striven, he had an abundance. Wealth, honor among men, luxury;
these were presented to his mind as things most to be desired, and he
reached after them with an ardor that broke down all impediments.
Success answered to effort, with almost unerring certainty. So he was
full of wealth and honors. But, for all this, Markland was unhappy.
There were enemies in the house of his life; troublesome guests in the
guest-chambers of his heart, who were forever disturbing, if not
wounding him, with their strifes and discords. Some of these he had
admitted, himself holding open the door; others had come in by stealth
while the entrance was all unguarded.

Envy was one of these guests, and she gave him no peace. He could not
bear that another should stand above him in anything. A certain pew in
the church he attended was regarded as most desirable. He must have
that pew at any cost. So when the annual choice of pews was sold at
auction, he overbid all contestants, and secured its occupancy. For all
the preceding year, he had failed to enjoy the Sabbath services,
because another family had a pew regarded as better situated than his;
and now he enjoyed these services as little, through annoyance at
having given so large a price for the right of choice, that people
smiled when they heard the sum named. He had paid too dear for the
privilege, and this fact took away enjoyment.

Envy tormented him in a hundred different ways. He could not enjoy his
friend's exquisite statuary, or paintings, because of a secret
intimation in his heart that his friend was honored above him in their
possession. Twice he had sold almost palatial residences, because their
architectural attractions were thrown into the shade by dwellings of
later construction. Thousands of dollars each year this troublesome
guest cost him; and yet she would never let him be at ease. At every
feast of life she dashed his cup with bitterness, and robbed the
choicest viands of their zest. He did not enjoy the fame of an author,
an orator, an artist, a man of science, a general, or of any who held
the world's admiring gaze--for while they stood in the sunlight, he
felt cast in the shade. So the guest Envy, warmed and nourished in his
heart, proved a tormentor. She gave him neither rest nor peace.

Detraction, twin-sister of Envy, was all the while pointing out defects
in friends and neighbors. He saw their faults and hard peculiarities;
but rarely their good qualities. Then Doubt and Distrust crept in
through the unguarded door, and soon after their entrance Markland
began to think uneasily of the future; to fear lest the foundations of
worldly prosperity were not sure. These troublesome guests were busiest
in the night season, haunting his mind with strange pictures of
disasters, and with suggestions touching the arbitrary power of God,
whom he feared when the thought of him was present, but did not love.
"Whom He will He setteth up, and whom He will He casteth down." Doubt
and Distrust revived this warning in his memory, and seeing that it
gave his heart a throb of pain, they set it close to his eyes, so that,
for a time, he could see nothing else. Thus, night after night, these
guests troubled his peace, often driving slumber from his eyelids until
the late morning watches. If there had been in his heart that true
faith in God which believes in him as doing all things well, Doubt and
Distrust might never have gained an entrance. But he had trusted in
himself; had believed himself equal to the task of creating his own
prosperity--had been, in common phrase, the architect of his own
fortunes. And now just as he was pluming himself on success, in crept
Doubt and Distrust with their alarming suggestions, and he was unable
to cast them out.

Affections, whether evil or good, are social in their character, and
obey social laws. They do not like to dwell alone, and therefore seek
congenial friendships. They draw to themselves companions of like
quality, and are not satisfied until they rule a man as to all the
powers of his mind.

In the case of Markland, Envy made room for her twin-sister,
Detraction; Ill-will, Jealousy, Unkindness, and a teeming brood of
their malevolent kindred crowded into his heart, possessing its
chambers, ere a warning reached him of their approach. Is there rest or
peace for a man with such guests in his bosom?

Doubt and Distrust only heralded the coming of Fear, Anxiety,
Solicitude, Suspicion, Despondency, Foreboding. Markland had only to
open his eyes and look around him, to see, on every hand, the unsightly
wrecks of palaces once as fair to the eye as that which he had raised
with such labor and forethought, and as he contemplated these, Doubt,
Distrust, and their companions, filled his mind with alarming thoughts,
and so oppressed him with a sense of insecurity that, at times, he saw
the advancing shadows of misfortune on his path.

Thus it was with Markland at fifty. He had all good as to the externals
of life, yet was he a miserable man, and, worse than all, he felt
himself growing more and more unhappy as the years increased. Was there
no remedy for this? None, while his heart was so filled with evil
affections, which are always tormentors. He did not see this. Though
his guests disturbed and afflicted him, he called them friends, and
gave them entertainments of the best his house afforded.

Sometimes Pity came to the door of his heart and asked for admission,
but he sent Unkindness to double bar it against her. Generosity
knocked, but Avarice stood sentinel. Envy was forever refusing to let
Good-will, Appreciation, Approval, Delight, come in. Detraction would
give no countenance to Virtue and Excellence. Doubt made deadly assault
upon Faith, and Trust, and Hope, whenever they drew near, while
Ill-will stood ever on the alert to drive off Charity, Loving-kindness
and Neighborly regard. Unhappy man! Fiends possessed him, and he knew
it not.

It so happened on a time, that Markland, while standing in one of his
well-filled ware-houses, saw a child enter and come towards him in a
timid, hesitating manner.

"A beggar! Drive her away," said Unkindness and Suspicion, both
arousing themselves.

Markland was already lifting his hand to wave her back, when
Compassion, who had just then found an old way into his heart, hidden
for a long time by rank weeds and brambles, said, in soft and pitying
tones:

"She is such a little child!"

"A thieving beggar!" cried Unkindness and Suspicion, angrily.

"A weak little child," pleaded Compassion. "Don't be hard with her.
Speak kindly."

Compassion prevailed. Her voice had awakened into life some old and
long sleeping memories. Markland was himself, for a moment, a child,
full of pity, tenderness and loving-kindness. Compassion had already
uncovered the far away past, and the sweetness of its young blossoms
was reviving old delights.

"Well, little one, what is wanted?"

Markland hardly knew his own voice, it was so gentle and inviting.

How the pale, pure face of the child warmed and brightened! Gratefully
with trust and hope in her eyes, she looked up to the merchant. There
was no answer on her lips, for this unexpected kindness had choked the
coming utterance. Rebuff, threat, anger, had met her so often, that
soft words almost surprised her into tears.

"Well, what can I do for you?"

Compassion held open the door through which she gained an entrance, and
already Good-will, Kindness and Satisfaction had come in.

"Mother is sick," said the child.

"A lying vagrant!" exclaimed Suspicion, jarring the merchant's inward
ear.

"There is truth in her face," said Compassion, pleading, and, at the
same time, she unveiled an image, sharply cut in the past of Markland's
life--an image of his own beloved, but long sainted mother, pale and
wasted, on her dying bed.

"Give this to your mother," he said, hastily, taking a coin from his
pocket. There was more of human kindness in his voice than it had
expressed for many years.

"God bless you, sir," the child dropped her grateful eyes from his
face, as she took the coin, bending with an involuntary reverent
motion. Then, as she slowly passed to the warehouse door, she turned
two or three times, to look on the man who, alone, of the many to whom
she had made solicitation that day, had answered her in kindness.

"So much for the encouragement of vagrancy," said Suspicion.

"Played on by the art of a cunning child," said Pride.

Markland began to feel ashamed of his momentary weakness. But, he was
not now, wholly, at the mercy of the guests who had so long tormented
him. Compassion, Good-will and Kindness were now his guests also; and
they had other and pleasanter suggestions for his mind. The child's
"God bless you, sir," they repeated over and over again, softening the
young voice, and giving it increasing power to awaken tender and loving
states which had formed themselves in earlier and purer years.
Tranquility, so long absent from his soul, came in, now, through the
entrance made by Compassion.

Markland went back into his counting-room, almost wondering at the
peace he felt. Taking up a newspaper, he read of a rare specimen of
statuary just received from Italy, the property of a well-known
merchant. Envy did not move quickly enough. The old love of beauty and
nature, which envy, detraction, greed of gain, and their blear-eyed
companions, had kept in thrall, was already in a freer state; and found
in good-will, kindness and tranquility, congenial friends.

So, love of art and beauty ruled his mind in spite of envy, and
Markland found real pleasure in the ideal given him by the description
he read. It was, almost, a new sensation.

A friend came in, and spoke in praise of one who had performed a
generous deed. There was an instant motion among the guests in
Markland's heart, the evil inciting to envy and detraction, the good to
approval and emulation. Tranquility moved to the door through which she
had come in, as if to depart; but Good-will, Kindness and Approbation,
drew her back, and held, with her, possession of the mind they sought
to rule. Envy and Detraction were shorn, for the time, of their power.

Wondering, as he lay on his bed that night, over the strange peace that
pervaded his mind--a peace such as he had not known for many
years--Markland fell asleep; and in his sleep there came to him a dream
of the human heart and its guest-chamber; and what we have faintly
suggested, was made visible to him in living personation.

He saw how evil affections, when permitted to dwell therein, became its
enemies and tormentors; and how, just in the degree that kind and good
affections gained entrance, there was peace, tranquility and
satisfaction.

"I have looked into my own heart," he said, on awaking.

The incident of the child, and the dream that followed, were, in
Providence, sent for Markland's instruction. And they were not sent in
vain. Ever after he set watch and ward at the doors of his heart. Evil
guests, already in possession, were difficult to cast out; but, he
invited the good to come in, opening the way by kind and noble acts,
done in the face of opposing selfishness. Thus he went on, peopling the
guest-chamber with sweet beatitudes, until angels instead of demons
filled his house of life.



VI.

CAST DOWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED.


"_TRIPPED_ again!"

"Who?"

"Brantley."

"Poor fellow! He has a hard time of it. Is he all the way down?"

"I presume so. When he begins to fall, he usually gets to the bottom of
the ladder."

It was true; Brantley had tripped again; and was down. He had been
climbing bravely for three or four years, and was well up the ladder of
prosperity, when in his eagerness to make two rundles of the ladder at
a step instead of one, he missed his footing and fell to the bottom. My
first knowledge of the fact came through the conversation just
recorded. From all I could hear, Brantley's failure was a serious one.
I knew him to be honorable and conscientious, and to have a great deal
of sensitive pride.

A few days afterwards, while passing the pleasant home where Brantley
had been residing, I saw a bill up, giving notice that the house was
for sale. A few days later I met him on the street. He did not see me.
His eyes were on the pavement; he looked pale and careworn; he walked
slowly, and was in deep thought.

"He is of tougher material than most men, if the heart is not all taken
out of him," I said in speaking of him to a mutual friend.

"And he _is_ of tougher material," was answered, "that is, of finer
material. Brantley is not one of your common men."

"Still, there must be something wrong about him. Some defect of
judgment. He is a good climber; but not sure-footed. Or, it may be that
beyond a certain height his head grows dizzy."

"If one gets too eager in any pursuit, he is almost sure to make false
steps. I think Brantley became too eager. The steadily widening
prospect as he went up, up, up, caused his pulses to move at a quicker
rate."

"Too eager, and less scrupulous," I suggested.

"His honor is unstained," said the friend, with some warmth.

"In the degree that a man grows eager in pursuit, he is apt to grow
blind to things collateral, and less concerned about the principles
involved."

"In some cases that may be true, but is hardly probable in the case of
Brantley. I do not believe that he has swerved from integrity in
anything."

"It is my belief," I answered, "that if he had not swerved, he would
not have fallen. I may be wrong, but cannot help the impression."

"Brantley is an honest man. I will maintain that in the face of every
one," was replied.

"Honest as the world regards honesty. But there are higher than legal
standards. What A and B may consider fair, C may regard as
questionable. He has his own standard; and if he falls below that in
his dealings with men, he departs from his integrity."

"I have nothing to say for Brantley under that view of the subject,"
said the friend. "If he has special standards of morality, and does not
live up to them, the matter is between himself and his own conscience.
We, on the outside, are not his judges."

It so happened that I met Brantley a short time afterwards. The
circumstances were favorable, and our interview unreserved. He had sold
his house, and a large part of the handsome furniture it contained, and
was living in a humbler dwelling. I referred to his changed condition,
and spoke of it with regret.

"There is no gratuitous evil," he remarked. "I have long been satisfied
on that head. If we lose on one hand, we gain on another. And my
experience in life leads me to this conclusion, that the loss is
generally in lower things, and the gain in higher."

I looked into his face, yet bearing the marks of recent trial and
suffering, and saw in it the morning dawn.

"Has it been so with you?" I asked.

"Yes; and it has always been so," he answered, without hesitation. "It
is painful to be under the surgeon's knife," he added. "We shrink back,
shivering, at the sight of his instruments. The flesh is agonized. But
when all is over, and the greedy tumor, or wasting cancer, that was
threatening life, is gone, we rejoice and are glad."

He sighed, and looked sober for a little while, as thought went back,
and memory gave too vivid a realization of what had been, and then
resumed:

"I can see now, that what seemed to me, and is still regarded by others
as a great misfortune, was the best thing that could have taken place.
I have lost, but I have gained; and the gain is greater than the loss.
It has always been so. Out of every trouble or disaster that has
befallen me in life, I have come with a deep conviction that my feet
stumbled because they were turning into paths that would lead my soul
astray. However much I may love myself and the world, however much I
may seek my own, below all and above all is the conviction that time is
fleeting, and life here but as a span, that if I compass the whole
world, and lose my own soul, I have made a fearful exchange. There are
a great many things regarded by business men as allowable. They are so
common in trade, that scarcely one man in a score questions their
morality; so common, that I have often found myself drifting into their
practice, and abandoning for a time the higher principles in whose
guidance there alone is safety. Misfortune seems to have dogged my
steps; but in this pause of my life--in this state of calmness--I can
see that misfortune is my good; for, not until my feet were turning
into ways that lead to death, did I stumble and fall."

"Are you not too hard in self-judgment?" I said.

"No," he answered. "The case stands just here. You know, I presume, the
immediate cause of my recent failure in business."

"A sudden decline in stocks."

The color deepened on his cheeks.

"Yes; that is the cause. Now, years ago, I settled it clearly with my
own conscience that stock speculation was wrong; that it was only
another name for gambling, in which, instead of rendering service to
the community, your gains were, in nearly all cases, measured by
another's loss. Departing from this just principle of action, I was
tempted to invest a large sum of money in a rising stock, that I was
sure would continue to advance until it reached a point where, in
selling I could realize a net gain of ten thousand dollars. I was doing
well. I was putting by from two to three thousand dollars every year,
and was in a fair way to get rich. But, as money began to accumulate, I
grew more and more eager in its acquirement, and less concerned about
the principles underlying every action, until I passed into a temporary
state of moral blindness. I was less scrupulous about securing large
advantages in trade, and would take the lion's share, if opportunity
offered, without a moment's hesitation. So, not content with doing well
in a safe path, I must step aside, and try my strength at climbing more
rapidly, even though danger threatened on the left and on the right;
even though I dragged others down in my hot and perilous scramble
upwards. I lost my footing--I stumbled--I fell, crashing down to the
very bottom of the hill, half way up which I had gone so safely ere the
greedy fiend took possession of me."

"And have not been really hurt by the fall," I remarked.

"I have suffered pain--terrible pain; for I am of a sensitive nature,"
he replied. "But in the convulsions of agony, nothing but the outside
shell of a false life has been torn away. The real man is unharmed. And
now that the bitter disappointment and sadness that attend humiliation
are over, I can say that my gain is greater than my loss. I would
rather grope in the vale of poverty all my life, and keep my conscience
clean, than stand high up among the mountains of prosperity with a
taint thereon.

"God knows best," he added, after a pause, speaking in a more subdued
tone. "And I recognize the hand of His good providence in this wreck of
my worldly hopes. To gain riches at the sacrifice of just principles is
to gather up dirt and throw away goodly pearls."

"How is it with your family?" I asked. "They must feel the change
severely."

"They did feel it. But the pain is over with them also. Poor weak human
nature! My girls were active and industrious at home, and diligent at
school, while my circumstances were limited. But, as money grew more
plentiful, and I gave them a larger house to live in, and richer
clothes to wear, they wearied of their useful employments, and
neglected their studies. Pride grew apace, and vanity walked hand in
hand with pride. They were less considerate of one another, and less
loving to their parents. If I attempted to restrain their fondness for
dress, or check their extravagance, they grew sullen, or used unfilial
language. Like their father, they could not bear prosperity. But all is
changed now. Misfortune has restored them to a better state of mind.
They emulate each other in service at home; their minds dwell on useful
things; they are tender of their mother and considerate of their
father. Home is a sweeter place to us all than it has been for a long
time."

"And so what the world calls misfortune has proved a blessing."

"Yes. In permitting my feet to stumble; in letting me fall from the
height I had obtained, God dealt with me and mine in infinite love. We
give false names to things. We call that good which only represents
good, which is of the heart and life, and not in external possessions.
He has taken from me the effigy that He may give me the good itself."

"If all men could find like you," I said, "a sweet kernel at the centre
of misfortune's bitter nut."

"All men may find it if they will," he answered, "for the sweet kernel
is there."

How few find it! Nay, reader, if you say this, your observation is at
fault. God's providences with men are not like blind chances, but full
of wisdom and love. In the darkness of sorrow and adversity a light
shines on the path that was not illumined before. When the sun of
worldly prosperity goes down, a thousand stars are set in the
firmament. In the stillness that follows, God speaks to the soul and is
heard.



VII.

INTO GOOD GROUND.


"_WHAT_ did you think of the sermon, Mr. Braxton?" said one church
member to another, as the two men passed from the vestibule of St.
Mark's out into the lofty portico.

Mr. Braxton gave a slight shrug, perceived by his companion as a sign
of disapproval. They moved along, side by side, down the broad steps to
the pavement, closely pressed by the retiring audience.

"Strong meat," said the first speaker, as they got free of the crowd
and commenced moving down the street.

"Too strong for my stomach," replied Mr. Braxton. "Something must have
gone wrong with our minister when he sat down to write that discourse."

"Indigestion, perhaps."

"Or neuralgia," said Mr. Braxton.

"He was in no amiable mood--that much is certain. Why, he set
nine-tenths of us over on the left hand side, among the goats, as
remorselessly as if he were an avenging Nemesis. He actually made me
shudder."

"That kind of literal application of texts to the living men and women
in a congregation is not only in bad taste, but presumptuous and
blasphemous. What right has a clergyman to sit in judgment on me, for
instance? To give forced constructions to parables and vague
generalities in Scripture, about the actual meaning of which divines in
all ages have differed; and, pointing his finger to me or to you,
say--'The case is yours, sir!' I cannot sit patiently under many more
such sermons."

Mr. Braxton evidently spoke from a disturbed state of mind. Something
in the discourse had struck at the foundations of self-love and
self-complacency.

"Into one ear, and out at the other. So it is with me, in cases like
this," answered Mr. Braxton's companion, in a changed and lighter tone.
"If a preacher chooses to be savage; to write from dyspeptic or
neuralgic states; to send his congregation, unshrived, to the nether
regions--why, I shrug my shoulders and let it pass. Most likely, on the
next Sunday, he will be full of consideration for tender consciences,
and grandly shut the gate he threw open so widely on the last occasion.
It would never answer, you know, to take these things to heart--never
in the world. We'd always be getting into hot water. Clergymen have
their moods, like other people. It doesn't answer to forget this. Good
morning, Mr. Braxton. Our ways part here."

"Good morning," was replied, and the men separated.

But, try as Mr. Braxton would to set his minister's closely applied
doctrine from Scripture to the account of dyspepsia or neuralgia, he
was unable to push from his mind certain convictions wrought therein by
the peculiar manner in which some positions had been argued and
sustained. The subject taken by the minister, was that striking picture
of the judgment given in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, from the
thirty-first verse to the close of the chapter, beginning: "When the
Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him,
then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be
gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a
shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." The passage concludes:
"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous
into life eternal."

Now, although Mr. Braxton had complained of the literal application of
this text, that term was hardly admissible, for the preacher waived the
idea of a last general judgment, as involved in the letter of
Scripture, and declared his belief in a spiritual signification as
lying beneath the letter, and applicable to the inner life of every
single individual at the period of departure from this world; adding,
in this connection, briefly: "But do not understand me as in any degree
waiving the strictness of judgment to which every soul will have to
submit. It will not be limited by his acts, but go down to his ends of
life--to his motives and his quality--and the sentence will really be a
judgment upon what he _is_, not upon what he has _done_; although,
taking the barest literal sense, only actions are regarded."

In opening and illustrating his text, he said, farther: "As the word of
God, according to its own declarations, is spirit and life--treats, in
fact, by virtue of divine and Scriptural origin, of divine and
spiritual things, must we not go beneath the merely obvious and natural
meaning, if we would get to its true significance? Is there not a
hunger of the soul as well as of the body? May we not be spiritually
athirst, and strangers?--naked, sick, and in prison? This being so, can
we confidently look for the invitation, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father,
if our regard for the neighbor have not reached beyond his bodily life?
If we have never considered his spiritual wants and sufferings, and
ministered thereto according to our ability? Just in the degree that
the soul is more precious than the body, is the degree of our
responsibility under this more interior signification of Scripture. The
mere natural acts of feeding the hungry and giving water to the
thirsty, of visiting the sick, and those who lie in prison, of clothing
the naked and entertaining strangers, will not save us in our last day,
if we have neglected the higher duties involved in the divine
admonition. Nor will even the supply of spiritual nourishment to hungry
and thirsty souls be accounted to us for righteousness. We must find a
higher meaning still in the text. Are we not, each one of us, starving
for heavenly food?--spiritually exhausted with thirst?--naked, sick, in
prison? Are we eating, daily, of the bread of life?--drinking at the
wells of God's truth?--putting on the garments of
righteousness?--finding balm for our sick souls in Gilead?--breaking
the bonds of evil?--turning from strange lands, and coming back to our
father's house. If not, I warn you, men and brethren, that you are not
in the right way;--that, taking the significance of God's word, which
is truth itself, there is no reasonable ground of hope for your
salvation."

It was not with Mr. Braxton as with his friend. He could not let
considerations like these enter one ear and go out at the other. From
earliest childhood he had received careful instruction. Parents,
teachers and preachers, had all shared in the work of storing his mind
with the precepts of religion, and now, in manhood, his conscience
rested on these and upon the states wrought therefrom in the
impressible substance of his mind. Try as he would, he found the effort
to push aside early convictions and early impressions a simple
impossibility; and, notwithstanding these had been laid on the
foundation of a far more literal interpretation of Scripture than the
one to which he had just been listening, his maturer reason accepted
the preacher's clear application of the law; and conscience, like an
angel, went down into his heart, and troubled the waters which had been
at peace.

Mr. Braxton was a man of thrift. He had started in life with a purpose,
and that purpose he was steadily attaining. To the god of this world he
offered daily sacrifice; and in his heart really desired no higher good
than seemed attainable through outward things. Wealth, position, honor,
among men--these bounded his real aspirations. But prior things in his
mind were continually reaching down and affecting his present states.
He could not forget that life was short, and earthly possessions and
honors but the things of a day. That as he brought nothing into this
world, so he could take nothing out. That, without a religious life, he
must not hope for heaven. In order to get free from the disturbing
influence of these prior things, and to lay the foundations of a future
hope, Mr. Braxton became a church member, and, so far as all Sabbath
observances were concerned, a devout worshiper. Thus he made a truce
with conscience, and conscience having gained so much, accepted for a
period the truce, and left Mr. Braxton in good odor with himself.

A man who goes regularly to church, and reads his Bible, cannot fail to
have questions and controversies about truths, duties, and the
requirements of religion. The barest literal interpretation of
Scripture will, in most cases, oppose the action of self-love; and he
will not fail to see in the law of spiritual life a requirement wholly
in opposition to the law of natural life. In the very breadth of this
literal requirement, however, he finds a way of escape from literal
observance. To give to all who ask; to lend to all who would borrow; to
yield the cloak when the coat is taken forcibly; to turn the left cheek
when the right is smitten--all this is to him so evidently but a figure
of speech, that he does not find it very hard to satisfy conscience.
Setting these passages aside, as not to be taken in the sense of the
letter, he does not find it very difficult to dispose of others that
come nearer to the obvious duties of man to man--such, for instance, as
that in the illustration of which, by the preacher, Mr. Braxton's
self-complacency had been so much disturbed. He had never done much in
the way of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing
the naked, or visiting the sick and in prison--never done anything of
set purpose, in fact. If people were hungry, it was mostly their own
fault, and to feed them would be to encourage idleness and vice. All
the other items in the catalogue were as easily disposed of; and so the
literal duties involved might have been set forth in the most
impassioned eloquence, Sabbath after Sabbath, without much disturbing
the fine equipose of Mr. Braxton. Alas for his peace of mind!--the
preacher of truth had gone past the dead letter, and revealed its
spirit and its life. Suddenly he felt himself removed, as it were, to
an almost impossible distance from the heaven into which, as he had
complacently flattered himself, he should enter by the door of mere
ritual observances, when the sad hour came for giving up the delightful
things of this pleasant world. No wonder that Mr. Braxton was
disturbed--no wonder that, in his first convictions touching those more
interior truths, which made visible the sandy foundations whereon he
was building his eternal hopes, he should regard the application of
doctrine as personal and even literal.

It was not so easy a thing to set aside the duty of ministering to the
hungry, sick, and naked human souls around him, thousands of whom, for
lack of spiritual nourishment, medicine and clothing, were in danger of
perishing eternally. And the preacher in dwelling upon this great duty
of all Christian men and women, had used emphatic language.

"I give you," he said, "God's judgment of the case--not my own.
'Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it
not unto me. And these shall go away;' where? 'To everlasting
punishment!' Who shall go thus, in the last day, from this
congregation?"

As Mr. Braxton sat alone on the evening of that Sabbath, troubled by
the new thoughts which came flowing into his mind, the full impression
of this scene in church came back upon him. There was an almost
breathless pause. Men leaned forward in their pews; the low, almost
whispered, tones of the minister were heard with thrilling distinctness
in even the remotest parts of the house.

"Who?" he repeated, and the stillness grew more profound. Then, slowly,
impressively, almost sadly, he said:

"I cannot hide the truth. As God's ambassador, I must give the message;
and it is this: If you, my brother, are not ministering to the wants of
the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, the sick and in prison, you are
of those who will have to go away."

And the minister shut the Book, and sat down. If, as we have intimated,
the preacher had limited Christian duty to bodily needs, Mr. Braxton
would not have been much exercised in mind.

He had found an easy way to dispose of these merely literal
interpretations of Scripture. Now, his life was brought to the judgment
of a more interior law, as expounded that day. It was in vain that he
endeavored to reject the law; for the more he tried to do this, the
clearer it was seen in the light of perceptive truth.

"God help me, if this be so!" he exclaimed, in a moment of more perfect
realization of what was meant in the Divine Word. "Who shall stand in
the judgment?"

For awhile he endeavored to turn himself away from convictions that
were grounding themselves deeper and deeper every moment,--to shut his
eyes in wilful blindness, and refuse to see in the purer light which
had fallen around him. But this effort only brought his mind into
severer conflict, and consciously removed him to an almost fatal
distance from the paths leading upward to the mountains of peace.

"This is the way, walk ye in it." A clear voice rose above the noise of
strife in his soul, and his soul grew calm and listened. He no longer
wrought at the fruitless task of rejecting the higher truths which were
illustrating his mind, but let them flow in, and by virtue thereof
examined the state of his inner life. Now it was that his eyes were in
a degree opened, so that he could apprehend the profounder meanings of
Scripture. The parables were flooded with new light. He understood, as
he had never understood before, why the guest, unclothed with a wedding
garment, was cast out from the feast; and why the door was shut upon
the virgins who had no oil in their lamps. He had always regarded these
parables as involving a hidden meaning--as intended to convey spiritual
instruction under literal forms--but, now, they spoke in a language
that applied itself to his inward state, and warned him that without a
marriage garment, woven in the loom of interior life, where motives
rule, he could never be the King's guest; warned him that without the
light of divine truth in his understanding, and the oil of love to God
and the neighbor in his heart, the door of the kingdom would be shut
against him. Ritual observances were, to these, but outward forms, dry
husks, except when truly representative of that worship in the soul
which subordinates natural affections to what is spiritual and divine.

At last the seed fell into good ground. Mr. Braxton had been a
"way-side" hearer; but, ere the good seed had time to germinate, fowls
came and devoured it. He had been a "stony-ground" hearer, receiving
the truth with gladness, but having no root in himself. He had been as
the ground choked with thorns, suffering the cares of this world and
the deceitfulness of riches to choke and hinder the growth of heavenly
life. Now, into good ground the seed had at last fallen; and though the
evil one tried to snatch it away, its hidden life, moving to the
earth's quick invitation, was already giving prophetic signs of thirty,
sixty, or a hundredfold, in the harvest time.

Why was there good ground in the mind of Mr. Braxton? Good ground, even
though he was wedded to external life; a self-seeker; a lover of the
world? In the answer to this question lies a most important truth for
all to whom God has committed the care of children. Unless good ground
is formed, as it was in his case, by early instruction; by storing up
in the memory truths from the Bible, and states of good affection; by
weaving into the web and woof of the forming mind precepts of
religion--there is small hope for the future. If these are not made a
part of the forming life, things opposite will be received, and
determine spiritual capabilities. Influx of life into the soul must be
through prior things; as the twig is bent, the tree is inclined; as the
child's memory and consciousness is stored, so will the man develop and
progress. Take heart, then, doubting parent; if you have in all
faithfulness, woven precious truths, and tender, pious, unselfish
states into the texture of your child's mind--though the fruit is not
yet seen, depend on it, that the treasured remains of good and true
things are there, and will not be lost.



VIII.

GIVING THAT DOTH NOT IMPOVERISH.


_OF_ all the fallacies accepted by men as truths, there is none more
widely prevalent, nor more fatal to happiness, than that which assumes
the measure of possession to be the measure of enjoyment. All over the
world, the strife for accumulation goes on; every one seeking to
increase his flocks and herds--his lands and houses--or his gold and
merchandise--and ever in the weary, restless, unsatisfied present,
tightening with one hand the grasp on worldly goods, and reaching out
for new accessions with the other.

In dispensation, not in possession, lies the secret of enjoyment; a
fact which nature illustrates in a thousand ways, and to which every
man's experience gives affirmation. "Very good doctrine for the idle
and thriftless," said Mr. Henry Steel, a gentleman of large wealth, in
answer to a friend, who had advanced the truth we have expressed above.

"As good doctrine for them as for you," was replied. "Possession must
come before dispensation. It is not the receiver but the dispenser who
gets the higher blessing."

The rich man shrugged his shoulders, and looked slightly annoyed, as
one upon whom a distasteful theme was intruded.

"I hear that kind of talk every Sunday," he said, almost impatiently.
"But I know what it is worth. Preaching is as much a business as
anything else; and this cant about its being more blessed to give than
to receive is a part of the capital in trade of your men of black coats
and white neck-ties. I understand it all, Mr. Erwin."

"You talk lighter than is your wont on so grave a theme," answered the
friend. "What you speak of as 'cant,' and the preacher's 'capital in
trade'--'it is more blessed to give than to receive, are the recorded
words of him who never spake as man spake. If his words, must they not
be true?"

"Perhaps I did speak lightly," was returned. "But indeed, Mr. Erwin, I
cannot help feeling that in all these efforts to make rich men believe
that their only way to happiness is through a distribution of their
estates, a large element of covetousness exists."

"That may be. But, to-day you are worth over a quarter of million of
dollars. I remember when fifty thousand, all told, limited the extent
of your possessions, and I think you were happier than I find you
to-day. How was it, my friend?"

"As to that," was unhesitatingly replied, "I had more true enjoyment in
life when I was simply a clerk with a salary of four hundred dollars a
year, than I have known at any time since."

"A remarkable confession," said the friend.

"Yet true, nevertheless."

"In all these years of strife with fortune--in all these years of
unremitted gain--has there been any great and worthy end in your mind?
Any purpose beyond the acquirement of wealth?"

Mr. Steel's brows contracted. He looked at his friend for a moment like
one half surprised, and then glanced thoughtfully down at the floor.

"Gain, and only gain," said Mr. Erwin. "Not your history alone, nor
mine alone. It is the history of millions. Gathering, gathering, but
never of free choice, dispensing. Still, under Providence, the
dispensation goes on; and what we hoard, in due time another
distributes. Men accumulate gold like water in great reservoirs;
accumulate it for themselves, and refuse to lay conduits. Often they
pour in their gold until the banks fail under excessive pressure, and
the rich treasure escapes to flow back among the people. Often secret
conduits are laid, and refreshing and fertilizing currents, unknown to
the selfish owner, flow steadily out, while he toils with renewed and
anxious labors to keep the repository full. Oftener, the great magazine
of accumulated gold and silver, which he never found time to enjoy, is
rifled by others at his death. He was the toiler and the
accumulator--the slave who only produced. Miners, pearl-divers,
gold-washers are we, my friend; but what we gather we fail to possess
in that true sense of possession which involves delight and
satisfaction. For us the toil, for others the benefit."

"A flattering picture certainly!" was responded by Mr. Steel, with the
manner of one on whose mind an unpleasant conviction was forcing itself.

"Is it not true to the life? Death holds out to us his unwelcome hand,
and we must leave all. The key of our treasure-house is given, to
another."

"Yet, is he not bound by our will?" said Mr. Steel. "As we have
ordered, must not he dispense?"

"Why not dispense with our own hands, and with our own eyes see the
fruit thereof? Why not, in some small measure, at least prove if it be
indeed, more blessed to give than to receive? Let us talk plainly to
each other--we are friends. I know that in your will is a bequest of
five thousand dollars to a certain charitable institution, that, even
in its limited way, is doing much good. I speak now of only this single
item. In my will, following your example and suggestion, is a similar
bequest of one thousand dollars. You are forty-five and I am
forty-seven. How long do we expect to live?"

"Life is uncertain."

"Yet often prolonged to sixty, seventy, or even eighty years. Take
sixty-five as the mean. Not for twenty years, then, will this
institution receive the benefit of your good intention. It costs, I
think, about fifty dollars a year to support each orphan child. Only a
small number can be taken, for want of liberal means. Applicants are
refused admission almost every day. Three hundred dollars, the interest
on five thousand, at six per cent., would pay for six children. Take
five years as the average time each would remain in the institution,
and we have thirty poor, neglected little ones, taken from the street,
and educated for usefulness. Thirty human souls rescued, it may be,
from hell, and saved, finally, in heaven. And all this good might be
accomplished before your eyes. You might, if you chose, see it in
progress, and comprehending its great significance, experience a degree
of pleasure, such as fills the hearts of angels. I have made up my mind
what to do."

"What?"

"Erase the item of one thousand dollars from my will."

"What then?"

"Call it two thousand, and invest it at once for the use of this
charity. No, twenty years shall stand between my purpose and its
execution. I will have the satisfaction of knowing that good is done in
my lifetime. In this case, at least, I will be my own dispenser."

Love of money was a strong element in the heart of Mr. Steel. The
richer he grew, the more absorbing became his desire for riches. It was
comparatively an easy thing to write out charitable bequests in a
will--to give money for good uses when no longer able to hold
possession thereof; but to lessen his valued treasure by taking
anything therefrom for others in the present time, was a thing the very
suggestion of which startled into life a host of opposing reasons. He
did not respond immediately, although his heart moved him to utterance.
The force of his friend's argument was, however, conclusive. He saw the
whole subject in a new light. After a brief but hard struggle with
himself, he answered:

"And I shall follow in your footsteps, my friend. I never thought of
the lost time you mention, of the thirty children unblessed by the good
act I purposed doing. Can I leave them to vice, to suffering, to crime,
and yet be innocent? Will not their souls be required at my hands, now
that God shows me their condition? I feel the pressure of a
responsibility scarcely thought of an hour ago. You have turned the
current of my thoughts in a new direction."

"And what is better still," answered Mr. Erwin, "your purposes also."

"My purposes also," was the reply.

A week afterwards the friends met again.

"Ah," said Mr. Erwin, as he took the hand of Mr. Steel, "I see a new
light in your face. Something has taken off from your heart that dead,
dull weight of which you complained when I was last here. I don't know
when I have seen so cheerful an expression on your countenance."

"Perhaps your eyes were dull before." Mr. Steel's smile was so
all-pervading that it lit up every old wrinkle and care-line in his
face.

"I was at the school yesterday," said Mr. Erwin, in a meaning way.

"Were you?" The light lay stronger on the speaker's countenance.

"Yes. A little while after you were there."

Mr. Steel took a deep breath, as if his heart had commenced beating
more rapidly.

"I have not seen a happier man than the superintendent for a score of
weeks. If you had invested the ten thousand dollars for his individual
benefit, he could not have been half so well pleased."

"He seems like an excellent man, and one whose heart is in his work,"
said Mr. Steel.

"He had, already, taken in ten poor little boys and girls on the
strength of your liberal donation. Ten children lifted out of want and
suffering, and placed under Christian guardianship! Just think of it.
My heart gave a leap for joy when he told me. It was well done, my
friend--well done!"

"And what of your good purpose, Mr. Erwin?" asked the other.

"Two little girls--babes almost," replied Mr. Erwin, in a lower voice,
that almost trembled with feeling, "were brought to me. As I looked at
them, the superintendent said: 'I heard of them two days ago. Their
wretched mother had just died, and, in dying, had given them to a
vicious companion. Hunger, cold, debasement, suffering, crime, were in
the way before them; and but for your timely aid, I should have had no
power to intervene. But, you gave the means of rescue, and here they
are, innocent as yet, and out of danger from the wolf.' In all my life,
my friend, there has not been given a moment of sincerer pleasure."

For some time Mr. Steel sat musing.

"This is a new experience," he said, at length. "Something outside of
the common order of things. I have made hundreds of investments in my
time, but none that paid me down so large an interest. A poor
speculation it seemed. You almost dragged me into it; but, I see that
it will yield unfailing dividends of pleasure."

"We have turned a leaf in the book of life," his friend made answer,
"and on the new page which now lies before us, we find it written, that
in wise dispensation, not in mere getting and hoarding, lies the secret
of happiness. The lake must have an outlet, and give forth its crystal
waters in full measure, if it would keep them pure and wholesome, or,
as the Dead Sea, it will be full of bitterness, and hold no life in its
bosom."



IX.

WAS IT MURDER, OR SUICIDE?


"_WHO_ is that young lady?"

A slender girl, just above the medium height, stood a moment at the
parlor door, and then withdrew. Her complexion was fair, but colorless;
her eyes so dark, that you were in doubt, on the first glance, whether
they were brown or blue. Away from her forehead and temples, the
chestnut hair was put far back, giving to her finely-cut and regular
features an intellectual cast. Her motions were easy, yet with an air
of reserve and dignity.

The question was asked by a visitor who had called a little while
before.

"My seamstress," answered Mrs. Wykoff.

"Oh!" The manner of her visitor changed. How the whole character of the
woman was expressed in the tone with which she made that simple
ejaculation! Only a seamstress! "Oh! I thought it some relative or
friend of the family."

"No."

"She is a peculiar-looking girl," said Mrs. Lowe, the visitor.

"Do you think so? In what respect?"

"If she were in a different sphere of life, I would say that she had
the style of a lady."

"She's a true, good girl," answered Mrs. Wykoff, "and I feel much
interested in her. A few years ago her father was in excellent
circumstances."

"Ah!" With a slight manifestation of interest.

"Yes, and she's been well educated."

"And has ridden in her own carriage, no doubt. It's the story of
two-thirds of your sewing girls." Mrs. Lowe laughed in an
unsympathetic, contemptuous way.

"I happen to know that it is true in Mary Carson's case," said Mrs.
Wykoff.

"Mary Carson. Is that her name?"

"Yes."

"Passing from her antecedents, as the phrase now is, which are neither
here nor there," said Mrs. Lowe, with a coldness, or rather coarseness
of manner, that shocked the higher tone of Mrs. Wykoff's feelings,
"what is she as a seamstress? Can she fit children?--little girls like
my Angela and Grace?"

"I have never been so well suited in my life," replied Mrs. Wykoff.
"Let me show you a delaine for Anna which she finished yesterday."

Mrs. Wykoff left the room, and returned in a few minutes with a child's
dress in her hand. The ladies examined the work on this dress with
practised eyes, and agreed that it was of unusual excellence.

"And she fits as well as she sews?" said Mrs. Lowe.

"Yes. Nothing could fit more beautifully than the dresses she has made
for my children."

"How soon will you be done with her?"

"She will be through with my work in a day or two."

"Is she engaged anywhere else?"

"I will ask her, if you desire it."

"Do so, if you please."

"Would you like to see her?"

"It's of no consequence. Say that I will engage her for a couple of
weeks. What are her terms?"

"Seventy-five cents a day."

"So much? I've never paid over sixty-two-and-a-half."

"She's worth the difference. I'd rather pay her a dollar a day than
give some women I've had, fifty cents. She works faithfully in all
things."

"I'll take your word for that, Mrs. Wykoff. Please ask her if she can
come to me next week; and if so, on what day?"

Mrs. Wykoff left the room.

"Will Monday suit you?" she asked, on returning.

"Yes; that will do."

"Miss Carson says that she will be at your service on Monday."

"Very well. Tell her to report herself bright and early on that day. I
shall be all ready for her."

"Hadn't you better see her, while you are here?" asked Mrs. Wykoff.

"Oh, no. Not at all necessary. It will be time enough on Monday. Your
endorsement of her is all-sufficient."

Mrs. Lowe, who had only been making a formal call, now arose, and with
a courteous good morning, retired. From the parlor, Mrs. Wykoff
returned to the room occupied by Miss Carson.

"You look pale this morning, Mary," said the lady as she came in, "I'm
afraid you are not as well as usual."

The seamstress lifted herself in a tired way, and took a long breath,
at the same time holding one hand tightly against her left side. Her
eyes looked very bright, as they rested, with a sober expression, on
Mrs. Wykoff. But she did not reply.

"Have you severe pain there, Mary?" The voice was very kind; almost
motherly.

"Not very severe. But it aches in a dull way."

"Hadn't you better lie down for a little while?"

"Oh, no--thank you, Mrs. Wykoff." And a smile flitted over the girl's
sweet, sad face; a smile that was meant to say--"How absurd to think of
such a thing!" She was there to work, not to be treated as an invalid.
Stooping over the garment, she went on with her sewing. Mrs. Wykoff
looked at her very earnestly, and saw that her lips were growing
colorless; that she moved them in a nervous way, and swallowed every
now and then.

"Come, child," she said, in a firm tone, as she took Miss Carson by the
arm. "Put aside your work, and lie down on that sofa. You are sick."

She did not resist; but only said---

"Not sick, ma'am--only a little faint."

As her head went heavily down upon the pillow, Mrs. Wykoff saw a
sparkle of tears along the line of her closely shut eyelids.

"Now don't stir from there until I come back," said the kind lady, and
left the room. In a little while she returned, with a small waiter in
her hand, containing a goblet of wine sangaree and a biscuit.

"Take this, Mary. It will do you good."

The eyes which had not been unclosed since Mrs. Wykoff went out, were
all wet as Mary Carson opened them.

"Oh, you are so kind!" There was gratitude in her voice. Rising, she
took the wine, and drank of it like one athirst. Then taking it from
her lips, she sat, as if noting her sensations.

"It seems to put life into me," she said, with a pulse of cheerfulness
in her tones.

"Now eat this biscuit," and Mrs. Wykoff held the waiter near.

The wine drank and the biscuit eaten, a complete change in Miss Carson
was visible. The whiteness around her mouth gave place to a ruddier
tint; her face no longer wore an exhausted air; the glassy lustre of
her eyes was gone.

"I feel like myself again," she said, as she left the sofa, and resumed
her sewing chair.

"How is your side now?" asked Mrs. Wykoff.

"Easier. I scarcely perceive the pain."

"Hadn't you better lie still a while longer?"

"No, ma'am. I am all right now. A weak spell came over me. I didn't
sleep much last night, and that left me exhausted this morning, and
without any appetite."

"What kept you awake?"

"This dull pain in my side for a part of the time. Then I coughed a
good deal; and then I became wakeful and nervous."

"Does this often occur, Mary?"

"Well--yes, ma'am--pretty often of late."

"How often?"

"Two or three times a week."

"Can you trace it to any cause?"

"Not certainly."

"To cold?"

"No, ma'am."

"Fatigue?"

"More that than anything else, I think."

"And you didn't eat any breakfast this morning?"

"I drank a cup of coffee."

"But took no solid food?"

"I couldn't have swallowed it, ma'am."

"And it's now twelve o'clock," said Mrs. Wykoff; drawing out her watch.
"Mary! Mary! This will not do. I don't wonder you were faint just now."

Miss Carson bent to her work and made no answer. Mrs. Wykoff sat
regarding her for some time with a look of human interest, and then
went out.

A little before two o'clock there was a tap at the door, and the waiter
came in, bearing a tray. There was a nicely-cooked chop, toast, and
some tea, with fruit and a custard.

"Mrs. Wykoff said, when she went out, that dinner would be late to-day,
and that you were not well, and mustn't be kept waiting," remarked the
servant, as he drew a small table towards the centre of the room, and
covered it with a white napkin.

He came just in time. The stimulating effect of the wine had subsided,
and Miss Carson was beginning to grow faint again, for lack of food.

It was after three o'clock when Mrs. Wykoff came home, and half past
three before the regular dinner for the family was served. She looked
in, a moment, upon the seamstress, saying as she did so--

"You've had your dinner, Mary?"

"Oh yes, ma'am, and I'm much obliged," answered Miss Carson, a bright
smile playing over her face. The timely meal had put new life into her.

"I knew you couldn't wait until we were ready," said the kind-hearted,
thoughtful woman, "and so told Ellen to cook you a chop, and make you a
cup of tea. Did you have enough?"

"Oh yes, ma'am. More than enough."

"You feel better than you did this morning?"

"A great deal better, I'm like another person."

"You must never go without food so long again, Mary. It is little
better than suicide for one in your state of health."

Mrs. Wykoff retired, and the seamstress went on with her work.

At the usual hour, Mary Carson appeared on the next morning. Living at
some distance from Mrs. Wykoff's, she did not come until after
breakfast. The excellent lady had thought over the incident of the day
before, and was satisfied that, from lack of nutritious food at the
right time, Mary's vital forces were steadily wasting, and that she
would, in a very little while, destroy herself.

"I will talk with her seriously about this matter," she said. "A word
of admonition may save her."

"You look a great deal better this morning," she remarked, as she
entered the room where Mary was sewing.

"I haven't felt better for a long time," was the cheerful answer.

"Did you sleep well last night?"

"Very well."

"Any cough?"

"Not of any consequence, ma'am."

"How was the pain in your side?"

"It troubled me a little when I first went to bed, but soon passed off."

"Did you feel the old exhaustion on waking?"

"I always feel weak in the morning; but it was nothing, this morning,
to what it has been."

"How was your appetite?"

"Better. I eat an egg and a piece of toast, and they tasted good.
Usually my stomach loathes food in the morning."

"Has this been the case long?"

"For a long time, ma'am."

Mrs. Wykoff mused for a little while, and then asked--

"How do you account for the difference this morning?"

Miss Carson's pale face became slightly flushed, and her eyes fell away
from the questioning gaze of Mrs. Wykoff.

"There is a cause for it, and it is of importance that you should know
the cause. Has it been suggested to your mind?"

"Yes, ma'am. To me the cause is quite apparent."

They looked at each other for a few moments in silence.

"My interest in you prompts these questions, Mary," said Mrs. Wykoff.
"Speak to me freely, if you will, as to a friend. What made the
difference?"

"I think the difference is mainly due to your kindness yesterday.--To
the glass of wine and biscuit when I was faint, and to the early and
good dinner, when exhausted nature was crying for food. I believe, Mrs.
Wykoff"--and Mary's eyes glistened--"that if you had not thought of me
when you did, I should not be here to-day."

"Are you serious, Mary?"

"I am, indeed, ma'am. I should have got over my faint spell in the
morning, even without the wine and biscuit, and worked on until
dinner-time; but I wouldn't have been able to eat anything. It almost
always happens, when I go so long without food, that my appetite fails
altogether, and by the time night comes, I sink down in an exhausted
state, from which nature finds it hard to rally. It has been so a
number of times. The week before I came here, I was sewing for a lady,
and worked from eight o'clock in the morning until four in the
afternoon, without food passing my lips. As I had been unable to eat
anything at breakfast-time, I grew very faint, and when called to
dinner, was unable to swallow a mouthful. When I got home in the
evening I was feverish and exhausted, and coughed nearly all night. It
was three or four days before I was well enough to go out again."

"Has this happened, in any instance, while you were sewing for me?"
asked Mrs. Wykoff.

Miss Carson dropped her face, and turned it partly aside; her manner
was slightly disturbed.

"Don't hesitate about answering my question, Mary. If it has happened,
say so. I am not always as thoughtful as I should be."

"It happened once."

"When?"

"Last week."

"Oh! I remember that you were not able to come for two days. Now, tell
me, Mary, without reservation, exactly how it was."

"I never blamed you for a moment, Mrs. Wykoff. You didn't think; and
I'd rather not say anything about it. If I'd been as well as usual on
that day, it wouldn't have happened."

"You'd passed a sleepless night?" said Mrs. Wykoff.

"Yes, ma'am."

"The consequence of fatigue and exhaustion?"

"Perhaps that was the reason."

"And couldn't eat any breakfast?"

"I drank a cup of coffee."

"Very well. After that you came here to work. Now, tell me exactly what
occurred, and how you felt all day. Don't keep back anything on account
of my feelings. I want the exact truth. It will be of use to me, and to
others also, I think."

Thus urged, Miss Carson replied--

"I'll tell you just as it was. I came later than usual. The walk is
long, and I felt so weak that I couldn't hurry. I thought you looked a
little serious when I came in, and concluded that it was in consequence
of my being late. The air and walk gave me an appetite, and if I had
taken some food then, it would have done me good. I thought, as I stood
at the door, waiting to be let in, that I would ask for a cracker or a
piece of bread and butter; but, when I met you, and saw how sober you
looked, my heart failed me."

"Why, Mary!" said Mrs. Wykoff. "How wrong it was in you!"

"May be it was, ma'am; but I couldn't help it. I'm foolish sometimes;
and it's hard for us to be anything else than what we are, as my Aunt
Hannah used to say. Well, I sat down to my work with the dull pain in
my side, and the sick feeling that always comes at such times, and
worked on hour after hour. You looked in once or twice during the
morning to see how I was getting on, and to ask about the trimming for
a dress I was making. Then you went out shopping, and did not get home
until half past two o'clock. For two hours there had been a gnawing at
my stomach, and I was faint for something to eat. Twice I got up to
ring the bell, and ask for a lunch; but, I felt backward about taking
the liberty. When, at three o'clock, I was called to dinner, no
appetite remained. I put food into my mouth, but it had no sweetness,
and the little I forced myself to swallow, lay undigested. You were
very much occupied, and did not notice me particularly. I dragged on,
as best I could, through the afternoon, feeling, sometimes, as if I
would drop from my chair. You had tea later than usual. It was nearly
seven o'clock when I put up my work and went down. You said something
in a kind, but absent tone, about my looking pale, and asked if I would
have a second cup of tea. I believe I forced myself to eat a slice of
bread half as large as my hand. I thought I should never reach home
that night, for the weakness that came upon me. I got to bed as soon as
possible, but was too tired to sleep until after twelve o'clock, when a
coughing spell seized me, which brought on the pain in my side. It was
near daylight when I dropped off; and then I slept so heavily for two
hours that I was all wet with perspiration when I awoke. On trying to
rise, my head swam so that I had to lie down again, and it was late in
the day before I could even sit up in bed. Towards evening, I was able
to drink a cup of tea and eat a small piece of toast and then I felt
wonderfully better. I slept well that night, and was still better in
the morning, but did not think it safe to venture out upon a day's
work; so I rested and got all the strength I could. On the third day, I
was as well as ever again."

Mrs. Wykoff drew a long sigh as Miss Carson stopped speaking and bent
down over her sewing. For some time, she remained without speaking.

"Life is too precious a thing to be wasted in this way," said the lady,
at length, speaking partly to herself, and partly to the seamstress.
"We are too thoughtless, I must own; but you are not blameless. It is
scarcely possible for us to understand just how the case stands with
one in your position, and duty to yourself demands that you should make
it known. There is not one lady in ten, I am sure, who would not be
pleased rather than annoyed, to have you do so."

Miss Carson did not answer.

"Do you doubt?" asked Mrs. Wykoff.

"For one of my disposition," was replied, "the life of a seamstress
does not take off the keen edge of a natural reserve--or, to speak more
correctly sensitiveness. I dislike to break in upon another's household
arrangements, or in any way to obtrude myself. My rule is, to adapt
myself, as best I can, to the family order, and so not disturb anything
by my presence."

"Even though your life be in jeopardy?" said Mrs. Wykoff.

"Oh! it's not so bad as that."

"But it is, Mary! Let me ask a few more questions. I am growing
interested in the subject, as reaching beyond you personally. How many
families do you work for?"

After thinking for a little while, and naming quite a number of ladies,
she replied--

"Not less than twenty."

"And to many of these, you go for only a day or two at a time?"

"Yes."

"Passing from family to family, and adapting yourself to their various
home arrangements?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Getting your dinner at one o'clock to-day, and at three or four
to-morrow?"

Miss Carson nodded assent.

"Taking it now, warm and well served, with the family, and on the next
occasion, cold and tasteless by yourself, after the family has dined."

Another assenting inclination of the head.

"One day set to work in an orderly, well ventilated room, and on the
next cooped up with children in a small apartment, the air of which is
little less than poison to your weak lungs."

"These differences must always occur, Mrs. Wykoff," replied Miss
Carson, in a quiet uncomplaining voice. "How could it be otherwise? No
house-keeper is going to alter her family arrangements for the
accommodation of a sewing-girl. The seamstress must adapt herself to
them, and do it as gracefully as possible."

"Even at the risk of her life?"

"She will find it easier to decline working in families where the order
of things bears too heavily upon her, than to attempt any change. I
have been obliged to do this in one or two instances."

"There is something wrong here, Mary," said Mrs. Wykoff, with
increasing sobriety of manner. "Something very wrong, and as I look it
steadily in the face, I feel both surprise and trouble; for, after what
you have just said, I do not see clearly how it is to be remedied. One
thing is certain, if you, as a class, accept, without remonstrance, the
hurt you suffer, there will be no change. People are indifferent and
thoughtless; or worse, too selfish to have any regard for
others--especially if they stand, socially, on a plane below them."

"We cannot apply the remedy," answered Miss Carson.

"I am not so sure of that."

"Just look at it for a moment, Mrs. Wykoff. It is admitted, that, for
the preservation of health, orderly habits are necessary; and that food
should be taken at regular intervals. Suppose that, at home, my habit
is to eat breakfast at seven, dinner at one, and supper at six. To-day,
such is the order of my meals; but to-morrow, I leave home at half past
six, and sit down, on an empty stomach to sew until eight, before I am
called to breakfast. After that, I work until two o'clock, when I get
my dinner; and at seven drink tea. On the day after that, may be, on my
arrival at another house where a day's cutting and fitting is wanted, I
find the breakfast awaiting me at seven; this suits very well--but not
another mouthful of food passes my lips until after three o'clock, and
may be, then, I have such an inward trembling and exhaustion, that I
cannot eat. On the day following, the order is again changed. So it
goes on. The difference in food, too, is often as great. At some
houses, everything is of good quality, well cooked, and in consequence,
of easy digestion; while at others, sour or heavy bread, greasy
cooking, and like kitchen abominations, if I must so call them,
disorder instead of giving sustenance to a frail body like mine. The
seamstress who should attempt a change of these things for her own
special benefit, would soon find herself in hot water. Think a moment.
Suppose, in going into a family for one or two days, or a week, I
should begin by a request to have my meals served at certain
hours--seven, one and six, for instance--how would it be received in
eight out of ten families?"

"Something would depend," said Mrs. Wykoff, "on the way in which it was
done. If there was a formal stipulation, or a cold demand, I do not
think the response would be a favorable one. But, I am satisfied that,
in your case, with the signs of poor health on your countenance, the
mild request to be considered as far as practicable, would, in almost
every instance, receive a kind return."

"Perhaps so. But, it would make trouble--if no where else, with
servants, who never like to do anything out of the common order. I have
been living around long enough to understand how such things operate;
and generally think it wisest to take what comes and make the best of
it."

"Say, rather, the worst of it, Mary. To my thinking, you are making the
worst of it."

But, Mrs. Wykoff did not inspire her seamstress with any purpose to act
in the line of her suggestions. Her organization was of too sensitive a
character to accept the shocks and repulses that she knew would attend,
in some quarters, any such intrusion of her individual wants. Even with
all the risks upon her, she preferred to suffer whatever might come,
rather than ask for consideration. During the two or three days that
she remained with Mrs. Wykoff, that excellent lady watched her, and
ministered to her actual wants, with all the tender solicitude of a
mother; and when she left, tried to impress upon her mind the duty of
asking, wherever she might be, for such consideration as her health
required.

The Monday morning on which Mary Carson was to appear "bright and
early" at the dwelling of Mrs. Lowe, came round, but it was far from
being a bright morning. An easterly storm had set in during the night;
the rain was falling fast, and the wind driving gustily. A chilliness
crept through the frame of Miss Carson as she arose from her bed, soon
after the dull light began to creep in drearily through the half closed
shutters of her room. The air, even within her chamber, felt cold,
damp, and penetrating. From her window a steeple clock was visible. She
glanced at the face, and saw that it was nearly seven.

"So late as that!" she exclaimed, in a tone of surprise, and commenced
dressing herself in a hurried, nervous way. By the time she was ready
to leave her room, she was exhausted by her own excited haste.

"Mary," said a kind voice, calling to her as she was moving down
stairs, "you are not going out this morning."

"Oh, yes, ma'am," she answered, in a cheerful voice. "I have an
engagement for to-day."

"But the storm is too severe. It's raining and blowing dreadfully. Wait
an hour or two until it holds up a little."

"Oh dear, no, Mrs. Grant! I can't stop for a trifle of rain."

"It's no trifle of rain this morning, let me tell you, Mary. You'll get
drenched to the skin. Now don't go out, child!"

"I must indeed, Mrs. Grant. The lady expects me, and I cannot
disappoint her." And Miss Carson kept on down stairs.

"But you are not going without something on your stomach, Mary. Wait
just for a few minutes until I can get you a cup of tea. The water is
boiling."

Mary did not wait. It was already past the time when she was expected
at Mrs. Lowe's; and besides feeling a little uncomfortable on that
account, she had a slight sense of nausea, with its attendant aversion
to food. So, breaking away from Mrs. Grant's concerned importunities,
she went forth into the cold driving storm. It so happened, that she
had to go for nearly the entire distance of six or seven blocks, almost
in the teeth of the wind, which blew a gale, drenching her clothes in
spite of all efforts to protect herself by means of an umbrella. Her
feet and ankles were wet by the time she reached Mrs. Lowe's, and the
lower parts of her dress and under-clothing saturated to a depth of ten
or twelve inches.

"I expected you half an hour ago," said the lady, in a coldly polite
way, as Miss Carson entered her presence.

"The morning was dark and I overslept myself," was the only reply.

Mrs. Lowe did not remark upon the condition of Mary's clothing and
feet. That was a matter of no concern to her. It was a seamstress, not
a human being, that was before her--a machine, not thing of sensation.
So she conducted her to a room in the third story, fronting east,
against the cloudy and misty windows of which the wind and rain were
driving. There was a damp, chilly feeling in the air of this room. Mrs.
Lowe had a knit shawl drawn around her shoulders; but Mary, after
removing her bonnet and cloak, had no external protection for her chest
beyond the closely fitting body of her merino dress. Her feet and hands
felt very cold, and she had that low shuddering, experienced when one
is inwardly chilled.

Mrs. Lowe was ready for her seamstress. There were the materials to
make half a dozen dresses for Angela and Grace, and one of the little
Misses was called immediately, and the work of selecting and cutting a
body pattern commenced, Mrs. Lowe herself superintending the operation,
and embarrassing Mary at the start with her many suggestions. Nearly an
hour had been spent in this way, when the breakfast bell rang. It was
after eight o'clock. Without saying anything to Mary, Mrs. Lowe and the
child they had been fitting, went down stairs. This hour had been one
of nervous excitement to Mary Carson. Her cheeks were hot--burning as
if a fire shone upon them--but her cold hands, and wet, colder feet,
sent the blood in every returning circle, robbed of warmth to the
disturbed heart.

It was past nine o'clock when a servant called Mary to breakfast. As
she arose from her chair, she felt a sharp stitch in her left side; so
sharp, that she caught her breath in half inspirations, two or three
times, before venturing on a full inflation of the lungs. She was, at
the same time, conscious of an uncomfortable tightness across the
chest. The nausea, and loathing of food, which had given place soon
after her arrival at Mrs. Lowe's to a natural craving of the stomach
for food, had returned again, and she felt, as she went down stairs,
that unless something to tempt the appetite were set before her, she
could not take a mouthful. There was nothing to tempt the appetite. The
table at which the family had eaten remained just as they had left
it--soiled plates and scraps of broken bread and meat; partly emptied
cups and saucers; dirty knives and forks, spread about in
confusion.--Amid all this, a clean plate had been set for the
seamstress; and Mrs. Lowe awaited her, cold and dignified, at the head
of the table.

"Coffee or tea, Miss Carson?"

"Coffee."

It was a lukewarm decoction of spent coffee grounds, flavored with tin,
and sweetened to nauseousness. Mary took a mouthful and swallowed
it--put the cup again to her lips; but they resolutely refused to
unclose and admit another drop. So she sat the cup down.

"Help yourself to some of the meat." And Mrs. Lowe pushed the dish,
which, nearly three-quarters of an hour before had come upon the table
bearing a smoking sirloin, across to the seamstress. Now, lying beside
the bone, and cemented to the dish by a stratum of chilled gravy, was
the fat, stringy end of the steak. The sight of it was enough for Miss
Carson; and she declined the offered delicacy.

"There's bread." She took a slice from a fresh baker's loaf; and spread
it with some oily-looking butter that remained on one of the butter
plates. It was slightly sour. By forcing herself, she swallowed two or
three mouthfuls. But the remonstrating palate would accept no more.

"Isn't the coffee good?" asked Mrs. Lowe, with a sharp quality in her
voice, seeing that Miss Carson did not venture upon a second mouthful.

"I have very little appetite this morning," was answered, with an
effort to smile and look cheerful.

"Perhaps you'd rather have tea. Shall I give you a cup?" And Mrs. Lowe
laid her hand on the teapot.

"You may, if you please." Mary felt an inward weakness that she knew
was occasioned by lack of food, and so accepted the offer of tea, in
the hope that it might prove more palatable than the coffee. It had the
merit of being hot, and not of decidedly offensive flavor; but it was
little more in strength than sweetened water, whitened with milk. She
drank off the cup, and then left the table, going, with her still wet
feet and skirts to the sewing-room.

"Rather a dainty young lady," she heard Mrs. Lowe remark to the waiter,
as she left the room.

The stitch in Mary's side caught her again, as she went up stairs, and
almost took her breath away; and it was some time after she resumed her
work, before she could bear her body up straight on the left side.

In her damp feet and skirts, on a chilly and rainy October day, Mary
Carson sat working until nearly three o'clock, without rest or
refreshment of any kind; and when at last called to dinner, the
disordered condition of the table, and the cold, unpalatable food set
before her, extinguished, instead of stimulating her sickly appetite.
She made a feint of eating, to avoid attracting attention, and then
returned to the sewing-room, the air of which, as she re-entered,
seemed colder than that of the hall and dining-room.

The stitch in her side was not so bad during the afternoon; but the
dull pain was heavier, and accompanied by a sickening sensation. Still,
she worked on, cutting, fitting and sewing with a patience and
industry, that, considering her actual condition, was surprising. Mrs.
Lowe was in and out of the room frequently, overlooking the work, and
marking its progress. Beyond the producing power of her seamstress, she
had no thought of that individual. It did not come within the range of
her questionings whether she were well or ill--weak or
strong--exhausted by prolonged labor, or in the full possession of
bodily vigor. To her, she was simply an agent through which a certain
service was obtained; and beyond that service, she was nothing. The
extent of her consideration was limited by the progressive creation of
dresses for her children. As that went on, her thought dwelt with Miss
Carson; but penetrated no deeper. She might be human; might have an
individual life full of wants, yearnings, and tender sensibilities;
might be conscious of bodily or mental suffering--but, if so, it was in
a region so remote from that in which Mrs. Lowe dwelt, that no
intelligence thereof reached her.

At six o'clock, Mary put up her work, and, taking her bonnet and shawl,
went down stairs, intending to return home.

"You're not going?" said Mrs. Lowe, meeting her on the way. She spoke
in some surprise.

"Yes, ma'am. I'm not very well, and wish to get home."

"What time is it?" Mrs. Lowe drew out her watch. "Only six o'clock. I
think you're going rather early. It was late when you came this
morning, you know."

"Excuse me, if you please," said Miss Carson, as she moved on. "I am
not very well to-night. To-morrow I will make it up."

Mrs. Lowe muttered something that was not heard by the seamstress, who
kept on down stairs, and left the house.

The rain was still falling and the wind blowing. Mary's feet were quite
wet again by the time she reached home.

"How are you, child?" asked Mrs. Grant, in kind concern, as Mary came
in.

"Not very well," was answered.

"Oh! I'm sorry! Have you taken cold?"

"I'm afraid that I have."

"I said it was wrong in you to go out this morning. Did you get very
wet?"

"Yes."

Mrs. Grant looked down at Mary's feet. "Are they damp?"

"A little."

"Come right into the sitting-room. I've had a fire made up on purpose
for you." And the considerate Mrs. Grant hurried Mary into the small
back room, and taking off her cloak and bonnet, placed her in a chair
before the fire. Then, as she drew off one of her shoes, and clasped
the foot in her hand, she exclaimed--

"Soaking wet, as I live!" Then added, after removing, with kind
officiousness, the other shoe--"Hold both feet to the fire, while I run
up and get you a pair of dry stockings. Don't take off the wet ones
until I come back."

In a few minutes Mrs. Grant returned with the dry stockings and a
towel. She bared one of the damp feet, and dried and heated it
thoroughly--then warmed one of the stockings and drew it on.

"It feels so good," said Mary, faintly, yet with a tone of satisfaction.

Then the other foot was dried, warmed, and covered. On completing this
welcome service, Mrs. Grant looked more steadily into Mary's face, and
saw that her cheeks were flushed unnaturally, and that her eyes shone
with an unusual lustre. She also noticed, that in breathing there was
an effort.

"You got very wet this morning," said Mrs. Grant.

"Yes. The wind blew right in my face all the way. An umbrella was
hardly of any use."

"You dried yourself on getting to Mrs. Lowe's?"

Mary shook her head.

"What?"

"There was no fire in the room."

"Why, Mary!"

"I had no change of clothing, and there was no fire in the room. What
could I do?"

"You could have gone down into the kitchen, if nowhere else, and dried
your feet."

"It would have been better if I had done so; but you know how hard it
is for me to intrude myself or give trouble."

"Give trouble! How strangely you do act, sometimes! Isn't life worth a
little trouble to save? Mrs. Lowe should have seen to this. Didn't she
notice your condition?"

"I think not."

"Well, it's hard to say who deserves most censure, you or she. Such
trifling with health and life is a crime. What's the matter?" She
observed Mary start as if from sudden pain.

"I have suffered all day, with an occasional sharp stitch in my
side--it caught me just then."

Mrs. Grant observed her more closely; while doing so, Mary coughed two
or three times. The cough was tight and had a wheezing sound.

"Have you coughed much?" she asked.

"Not a great deal. But I'm very tight here," laying her hand over her
breast. "I think," she added, a few moments afterwards, "that I'll go
up to my room and get to bed. I feel tired and sick."

"Wait until I can get you some tea," replied Mrs. Grant. "I'll bring
down a pillow, and you can lie here on the sofa."

"Thank you, Mrs. Grant. You are so kind and thoughtful." Miss Carson's
voice shook a little. The contrast between the day's selfish
indifference of Mrs. Lowe, and the evening's motherly consideration of
Mrs. Grant, touched her. "I will lie down here for a short time.
Perhaps I shall feel better after getting some warm tea. I've been
chilly all day."

The pillow and a shawl were brought, and Mrs. Grant covered Mary as she
lay upon the sofa; then she went to the kitchen to hurry up tea.

"Come, dear," she said, half an hour afterwards, laying her hand upon
the now sleeping girl. A drowsy feeling had come over Mary, and she had
fallen into a heavy slumber soon after lying down. The easy touch of
Mrs. Grant did not awaken her. So she called louder, and shook the
sleeper more vigorously. At this, Mary started up, and looked around in
a half-conscious, bewildered manner. Her cheeks were like scarlet.

"Come, dear--tea is ready," said Mrs. Grant.

"Oh! Yes." And Mary, not yet clearly awake, started to leave the room
instead of approaching the table.

"Where are you going, child?" Mrs. Grant caught her arm.

Mary stood still, looking at Mrs. Grant, in a confused way.

"Tea is ready." Mrs. Grant spoke slowly and with emphasis.

"Oh! Ah! Yes. I was asleep." Mary drew her hand across her eyes two or
three times, and then suffered Mrs. Grant to lead her to the table,
where she sat down, leaning forward heavily upon one arm.

"Take some of the toast," said Mrs. Grant, after pouring a cup of tea.
Mary helped herself, in a dull way, to a slice of toast, but did not
attempt to eat. Mrs. Grant looked at her narrowly from across the
table, and noticed that her eyes, which had appeared large and
glittering when she came home, were now lustreless, with the lids
drooping heavily.

"Can't you eat anything?" asked Mrs. Grant, in a voice that expressed
concern.

Mary pushed her cup and plate away, and leaning back, wearily, in her
chair, answered--

"Not just now. I'm completely worn out, and feel hot and oppressed."

Mrs. Grant got up and came around to where Miss Carson was sitting. As
she laid her hand upon her forehead, she said, a little anxiously, "You
have considerable fever, Mary."

"I shouldn't wonder." And a sudden cough seized her as she spoke. She
cried out as the rapid concussions jarred her, and pressed one hand
against her side.

"Oh dear! It seemed as if a knife were cutting through me," she said,
as the paroxysm subsided, and she leaned her head against Mrs. Grant.

"Come, child," and the kind woman drew upon one of her arms. "In bed is
the place for you now."

They went up stairs, and Mary was soon undressed and in bed. As she
touched the cool sheets, she shivered for a moment, and then shrank
down under the clothes, shutting her eyes, and lying very still.

"How do you feel now?" asked Mrs. Grant, who stood bending over her.

Mary did not reply.

"Does the pain in your side continue?"

"Yes, ma'am." Her voice was dull.

"And the tightness over your breast?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"What can I do for you?"

"Nothing. I want rest and sleep."

Mrs. Grant stood for some time looking down upon Mary's red cheeks; red
in clearly defined spots, that made the pale forehead whiter by
contrast.

"Something more than sleep is wanted, I fear," she said to herself, as
she passed from the chamber and went down stairs. In less than half an
hour she returned. A moan reached her ears as she approached the room
where the sick girl lay. On entering, she found her sitting high up in
bed; or, rather, reclining against the pillows, which she had adjusted
against the head-board. Her face, which had lost much of its redness,
was pinched and had a distressed look. Her eyes turned anxiously to
Mrs. Grant.

"How are you now, Mary?"

"Oh, I'm sick! Very sick, Mrs. Grant."

"Where? How, Mary?"

"Oh, dear!' I'm so distressed here!" laying her hand on her breast.
"And every time I draw a breath, such a sharp pain runs through my side
into my shoulder. Oh, dear! I feel very sick, Mrs. Grant."

"Shall I send for a doctor?"

"I don't know, ma'am." And Miss Carson threw her head from side to
side, uneasily--almost impatiently; then cried out with pain, as she
took a deeper inspiration than usual.

Mrs. Grant left the room, and going down stairs, despatched her servant
for a physician, who lived not far distant.

"It is pleurisy," said the doctor, on examining the case.--"And a very
severe attack," he added, aside, to Mrs. Grant.

Of the particulars of his treatment, we will not speak. He was of the
exhaustive school, and took blood freely; striking at the inflammation
through a reduction of the vital system. When he left his patient that
night, she was free from pain, breathing feebly, and without
constriction of the chest. In the morning, he found her with
considerable fever, and suffering from a return of the pleuritic pain.
Her pulse was low and quick, and had a wiry thrill under the fingers.
The doctor had taken blood very freely on the night before, and
hesitated a little on the question of opening another vein, or having
recourse to cups. As the lancet was at hand, and most easy of use, the
vein was opened, and permitted to flow until there was a marked
reduction of pain. After this, an anodyne diaphoretic was prescribed,
and the doctor retired from the chamber with Mrs. Grant. He was much
more particular, now, in his inquiries about his patient and the
immediate cause of her illness. On learning that she had been permitted
to remain all day in a cold room, with wet feet and damp clothing, he
shook his head soberly, and remarked, partly speaking to himself, that
doctors were not of much use in suicide or murder cases. Then he asked,
abruptly, and with considerable excitement of manner--

"In heaven's name! who permitted this thing to be done? In what family
did it occur?"

"The lady for whom she worked yesterday is named Mrs. Lowe."

"Mrs. Lowe!"

"Yes, sir."

"And she permitted that delicate girl to sit in wet clothing, in a room
without fire, on a day like yesterday?"

"It is so, doctor."

"Then I call Mrs. Lowe a murderer!" The doctor spoke with excess of
feeling.

"Do you think Mary so very ill, doctor?" asked Mrs. Grant.

"I do, ma'am."

"She is free from pain now."

"So she was when I left her last night; and I expected to find her
showing marked improvement this morning. But, to my concern, I find her
really worse instead of better."

"Worse, doctor? Not worse!"

"I say worse to you, Mrs. Grant, in order that you may know how much
depends on careful attendance. Send for the medicine I have prescribed
at once, and give it immediately. It will quiet her system and produce
sleep. If perspiration follows, we shall be on the right side. I will
call in again through the day. If the pain in her side returns, send
for me."

The pain did return, and the doctor was summoned. He feared to strike
his lancet again; but cupped freely over the right side, thus gaining
for the suffering girl a measure of relief. She lay, after this, in a
kind of stupor for some hours. On coming out of this, she no longer had
the lancinating pain in her side with every expansion of the lungs;
but, instead, a dull pain, attended by a cough and tightness of the
chest. The cough was, at first, dry, unsatisfactory, and attended with
anxiety. Then came a tough mucus, a little streaked with blood. The
expectoration soon became freer, and assumed a brownish hue. A low
fever accompanied these bad symptoms.

The case had become complicated with pneumonia, and assumed a very
dangerous type. On the third day a consulting physician was called in.
He noted all the symptoms carefully, and with a seriousness of manner
that did not escape the watchful eyes of Mrs. Grant. He passed but few
words with the attendant physician, and their exact meaning was veiled
by medical terms; but Mrs. Grant understood enough to satisfy her that
little hope of a favorable issue was entertained.

About the time this consultation over the case of Mary Carson was in
progress, it happened that Mrs. Wykoff received another visit from Mrs.
Lowe.

"I've called," said the latter, speaking in the tone of one who felt
annoyed, "to ask where that sewing girl you recommended to me lives?"

"Miss Carson."

"Yes, I believe that is her name."

"Didn't she come on Monday, according to appointment?"

"Oh, yes, she came. But I've seen nothing of her since."

"Ah! Is that so? She may be sick." The voice of Mrs. Wykoff dropped to
a shade of seriousness. "Let me see--Monday--didn't it rain?--Yes, now
I remember; it was a dreadful day. Perhaps she took cold. She's very
delicate. Did she get wet in coming to your house?"

"I'm sure I don't know." There was a slight indication of annoyance on
the part of Mrs. Lowe.

"It was impossible, raining and blowing as it did, for her to escape
wet feet, if not drenched clothing. Was there fire in the room where
she worked?"

"Fire! No. We don't have grates or stoves in any of our rooms."

"Oh; then there was a fire in the heater?"

"We never make fire in the heater before November," answered Mrs. Lowe,
with the manner of one who felt annoyed.

Mrs. Wykoff mused for some moments.

"Excuse me," she said, "for asking such minute questions; but I know
Miss Carson's extreme delicacy, and I am fearful that she is sick, as
the result of a cold. Did you notice her when she came in on Monday
morning?"

"Yes. I was standing in the hall when the servant admitted her. She
came rather late."

"Did she go immediately to the room where she was to work?"

"Yes."

"You are sure she didn't go into the kitchen and dry her feet?"

"She went up stairs as soon as she came in."

"Did you go up with her?"

"Yes."

"Excuse me, Mrs. Lowe," said Mrs. Wykoff, who saw that these questions
were chafing her visitor, "for pressing my inquiries so closely. I am
much concerned at the fact of her absence from your house since Monday.
Did she change any of her clothing,--take off her stockings, for
stance, and put on dry ones?"

"Nothing of the kind."

"But sat in her wet shoes and stockings all day!"

"I don't know that they were wet, Mrs. Wykoff," said the lady, with
contracting brows.

"Could you have walked six or seven squares in the face of Monday's
driving storm, Mrs. Lowe, and escaped wet feet? Of course not. Your
stockings would have been wet half way to the knees, and your skirts
also."

There was a growing excitement about Mrs. Wykoff, united with an air of
so much seriousness, that Mrs. Lowe began to feel a pressure of alarm.
Selfish, cold-hearted and indifferent to all in a social grade beneath
her, this lady was not quite ready to stand up in the world's face as
one without common humanity. The way in which Mrs. Wykoff was
presenting the case of Miss Carson on that stormy morning, did not
reflect very creditably upon her; and the thought--"How would this
sound, if told of me?"--did not leave her in the most comfortable frame
of mind.

"I hope she's not sick. I'm sure the thought of her being wet never
crossed my mind. Why didn't she speak of it herself? She knew her own
condition, and that there was fire in the kitchen. I declare! some
people act in a manner perfectly incomprehensible." Mrs. Lowe spoke now
in a disturbed manner.

"Miss Carson should have looked to this herself, and she was wrong in
not doing so--very wrong," said Mrs. Wykoff. "But she is shrinking and
sensitive to a fault--afraid of giving trouble or intruding herself.
_It is our place, I think, when strangers come into our houses, no
matter under what circumstances, to assume that they have a natural
delicacy about asking for needed consideration, and to see that all
things due to them are tendered_. I cannot see that any exceptions to
this rule are admissible. To my thinking, it applies to a servant, a
seamstress, or a guest, each in a just degree, with equal force. Not
that I am blameless in this thing. Far from it. But I acknowledge my
fault whenever it is seen, and repenting, resolve to act more humanely
in the future."

"Where does Miss Carson live?" asked Mrs. Lowe. "I came to make the
inquiry."

"As I feel rather troubled about her," answered Mrs. Wykoff, "I will go
to see her this afternoon."

"I wish you would. What you have said makes me feel a little
uncomfortable. I hope there is nothing wrong; or, at least, that she is
only slightly indisposed. It was thoughtless in me. But I was so much
interested in the work she was doing that I never once thought of her
personally."

"Did she come before breakfast?"

"Oh, yes."

"Excuse me; but at what time did she get her breakfast?"

There was just a little shrinking in the manner of Mrs. Wykoff; as she
answered--

"Towards nine o'clock."

"Did she eat anything?"

"Well, no, not much in particular. I thought her a little dainty. She
took coffee; but it didn't just appear to suit her appetite. Then I
offered her tea, and she drank a cup."

"But didn't take any solid food?"

"Very little. She struck me as a dainty Miss."

"She is weak and delicate, Mrs. Lowe, as any one who looks into her
face may see. Did you give her a lunch towards noon?"

"A lunch! Why no!" Mrs. Lowe elevated her brows.

"How late was it when she took dinner?"

"Three o'clock."

"Did she eat heartily?"

"I didn't notice her particularly. She was at the table for only a few
minutes."

"I fear for the worst," said Mrs. Wykoff. "If Mary Carson sat all day
on Monday in damp clothes, wet feet, and without taking a sufficient
quantity of nourishing food, I wouldn't give much for her life."

Mrs. Lowe gathered her shawl around her, and arose to depart. There was
a cloud on her face.

"You will see Miss Carson to-day?" she said.

"Oh, yes."

"At what time do you think of going?"

"I shall not be able to leave home before late in the afternoon."

"Say four o'clock."

"Not earlier than half past four."

Mrs. Lowe stood for some moments with the air of one who hesitated
about doing something.

"Will you call for me?" Her voice was slightly depressed.

"Certainly."

"What you have said troubles me. I'm sure I didn't mean to be unkind.
It was thoughtlessness altogether. I hope she's not ill."

"I'll leave home at half past four," said Mrs. Wykoff. "It isn't over
ten minutes' walk to your house."

"You'll find me all ready. Oh, dear!" and Mrs. Lowe drew a long,
sighing breath. "I hope she didn't take cold at my house. I hope
nothing serious will grow out of it. I wouldn't have anything of this
kind happen for the world. People are so uncharitable. If it should get
out, I would be talked about dreadfully; and I'm sure the girl is a
great deal more to blame than I am. Why didn't she see to it that her
feet and clothes were dried before she sat down to her work?"

Mrs. Wykoff did not answer. Mrs. Lowe stood for a few moments, waiting
for some exculpatory suggestion; but Mrs. Wykoff had none to offer.

"Good morning. You'll find me all ready when you call."

"Good morning."

And the ladies parted.

"Ah, Mrs. Lowe! How are you this morning?"

A street meeting, ten minutes later.

"Right well. How are you?"

"Well as usual. I just called at your house."

"Ah, indeed! Come, go back again."

"No, thank you; I've several calls to make this morning. But, d' you
know, there's a strange story afloat about a certain lady of your
acquaintance?"

"Of my acquaintance?"

"Yes; a lady with whom you are very, very intimate."

"What is it?" There was a little anxiety mixed with the curious air of
Mrs. Lowe.

"Something about murdering a sewing-girl."

"What?" Mrs. Lowe started as if she had received a blow; a frightened
look came into her face.

"But there isn't anything in it, of course," said the friend, in
considerable astonishment at the effect produced on Mrs. Lowe.

"Tell me just what you have heard," said the latter. "You mean me by
the lady of your intimate acquaintance."

"Yes; the talk is about you. It came from doctor somebody; I don't know
whom. He's attending the girl."

"What is said? I wish to know. Don't keep back anything on account of
my feelings. I shall know as to its truth or falsehood; and, true or
false, it is better that I should stand fully advised. A seamstress
came to work for me on Monday--it was a stormy day, you know--took cold
from wet feet, and is now very ill. That much I know. It might have
happened at your house, or your neighbors, without legitimate blame
lying against either of you. Now, out of this simple fact, what
dreadful report is circulated to my injury? As I have just said, don't
keep anything back."

"The story," replied the friend, "is that she walked for half a mile
before breakfast, in the face of that terrible north-east storm, and
came to you with feet soaking and skirts wet to the knees, and that you
put her to work, in this condition, in a cold room, and suffered her to
sit in her wet garments all day. That, in consequence, she went home
sick, was attacked with pleurisy in the evening, which soon ran into
acute pneumonia, and that she is now dying. The doctor, who told my
friend, called it murder, and said, without hesitation, that you were a
murderer."

"Dying! Did he say that she was dying?"

"Yes, ma'am. The doctor said that you might as well have put a pistol
ball through her head."

"Me!"

"Yes, you. Those were his words, as repeated by my friend."

"Who is the friend to whom you refer?"

"Mrs. T----."

"And, without a word of inquiry as to the degree of blame referable to
me, she repeats this wholesale charge, to my injury? Verily, that is
Christian charity!"

"I suggested caution on her part, and started to see you at once. Then
she did sit in her wet clothing all day at your house?"

"I don't know whether she did or not," replied Mrs. Lowe, fretfully.
"She was of woman's age, and competent to take care of herself. If she
came in wet, she knew it; and there was fire in the house, at which she
could have dried herself. Even a half-witted person, starting from home
on a morning like that, and expecting to be absent all day, would have
provided herself with dry stockings and slippers for a change. If the
girl dies from cold taken on that occasion, it must be set down to
suicide, not murder. I may have been thoughtless, but I am not
responsible. I'm sorry for her; but I cannot take blame to myself. The
same thing might have happened in your house."

"It might have happened in other houses than yours, Mrs. Lowe, I will
admit," was replied. "But I do not think it would have happened in
mine. I was once a seamstress myself and for nearly two years went out
to work in families. What I experienced during those two years has made
me considerate towards all who come into my house in that capacity.
Many who are compelled to earn a living with the needle, were once in
better condition than now, and the change touches some of them rather
sharply. In some families they are treated with a thoughtful kindness,
in strong contrast with what they receive in other families. If
sensitive and retiring, they learn to be very chary about asking for
anything beyond what is conceded, and bear, rather than suggest or
complain."

"I've no patience with that kind of sensitiveness," replied Mrs. Lowe;
"it's simply ridiculous; and not only ridiculous, but wrong. Is every
sewing-girl who comes into your house to be treated like an honored
guest?"

"We are in no danger of erring, Mrs. Lowe," was answered, "on the side
of considerate kindness, even to sewing-women. They are human, and have
wants, and weaknesses, and bodily conditions that as imperatively
demand a timely and just regard as those of the most honored guest who
may sojourn with us. And what is more, as I hold, we cannot omit our
duty either to the one or to the other, and be blameless. But I must
hurry on. Good morning, Mrs. Lowe."

"Good morning," was coldly responded. And the two ladies parted.

We advance the time a few hours. It is nearly sundown, and the slant
beams are coming in through the partly-raised blinds, and falling on
the bed, where, white, and panting for the shortcoming breath, lies
Mary Carson, a little raised by pillows against which her head rests
motionless. Her eyes are shut, the brown lashes lying in two deep
fringes on her cheeks. Away from her temples and forehead the hair has
been smoothly brushed by loving hands, and there is a spiritual beauty
in her face that is suggestive of heaven. Mrs. Grant is on one side of
the bed, and the physician on the other. Both are gazing intently on
the sick girl's face. The door opens, and two ladies come in,
noiselessly--Mrs. Lowe and Mrs. Wykoff. They are strangers there to all
but Mary Carson, and she has passed too far on the journey homeward for
mortal recognitions. Mrs. Grant moves a little back from the bed, and
the two ladies stand in her place, leaning forward, with half-suspended
breathing. The almost classic beauty of Miss Carson's face; the
exquisite cutting of every feature; the purity of its tone--are all at
once so apparent to Mrs. Lowe that she gazes down, wonder and
admiration mingling with awe and self-accusation.

There is a slight convulsive cough, with a fleeting spasm. The white
lips are stained. Mrs. Lowe shudders. The stain is wiped off, and all
is still as before. Now the slanting sun rays touch the pillows, close
beside the white face, lighting it with a glory that seems not of the
earth. They fade, and life fades with them, going out as they recede.
With the last pencil of sunbeams passes the soul of Mary Carson.

"It is over!" The physician breathes deeply, and moves backwards from
the bed.

"Over with her," he adds, like one impelled by crowding thoughts to
untimely utterance. "The bills of mortality will say pneumonia--_it
were better written murder_."

Call it murder, or suicide, as you will; only, fair reader, see to it
that responsibility in such a case lies never at your door.



X.

THE NURSERY MAID.


_I DID_ not feel in a very good humor either with myself or with Polly,
my nursery maid. The fact is, Polly had displeased me; and I, while
under the influence of rather excited feelings, had rebuked her with a
degree of intemperance not exactly becoming in a Christian gentlewoman,
or just to a well meaning, though not perfect domestic.

Polly had taken my sharp words without replying. They seemed to stun
her. She stood for a few moments, after the vials of my wrath were
emptied, her face paler than usual, and her lips almost colorless. Then
she turned and walked from my room with a slow but firm step. There was
an air of purpose about her, and a manner that puzzled me a little.

The thermometer of my feelings was gradually falling, though not yet
reduced very far below fever-heat, when Polly stood again before me. A
red spot now burned on each cheek, and her eyes were steady as she let
them rest in mine.

"Mrs. Wilkins," said she, firmly, yet respectfully, "I am going to
leave when my month is up."

Now, I have my own share of willfulness and impulsive independence. So
I answered, without hesitation or reflection,

"Very well, Polly. If you wish to leave, I will look for another to
fill your place." And I drew myself up with an air of dignity.

Polly retired as quickly as she came, and I was left alone with my not
very agreeable thoughts for companions. Polly had been in my family for
nearly four years, in the capacity of nurse and chamber maid. She was
capable, faithful, kind in her disposition, and industrious. The
children were all attached to her, and her influence over them was
good. I had often said to myself in view of Polly's excellent
qualities, "She is a treasure!" And, always, the thought of losing her
services had been an unpleasant one. Of late, in some things, Polly had
failed to give the satisfaction of former times. She was neither so
cheerful, nor so thoughtful, nor had she her usual patience with the
children. "Her disposition is altering," I said to myself, now and
then, in view of this change; "something has spoiled her."

"You have indulged her too much, I suppose," was the reason given by my
husband, whenever I ventured to introduce to his notice the
shortcomings of Polly. "You are an expert at the business of spoiling
domestics."

My good opinion of myself was generally flattered by this estimate of
the case; and, as this good opinion strengthened, a feeling of
indignation against Polly for her ingratitude, as I was pleased to call
it, found a lodging in my heart.

And so the matter had gone on, from small beginnings, until a state of
dissatisfaction on the one part, and coldness on the other, had grown
up between mistress and maid. I asked no questions of Polly, as to the
change in her manner, but made my own inferences, and took, for
granted, my own conclusions. I had spoiled her by indulgence--that was
clear. As a thing of course, this view was not very favorable to a just
and patient estimate of her conduct, whenever it failed to meet my
approval.

On the present occasion, she had neglected the performance of certain
services, in consequence of which I suffered some small inconvenience,
and a great deal of annoyance.

"I don't know what's come over you, Polly," said I to her sharply.
"Something has spoiled you outright; and I tell you now, once for all,
that you'll have to mend your ways considerably, if you expect to
remain much longer in this family."

The language was hard enough, but the manner harder and more offensive.
I had never spoken to her before with anything like the severity now
used. The result of this intemperance of speech on my part, the reader
has seen. Polly gave notice that she would leave, and I accepted the
notice. For a short time after the girl retired from my room, I
maintained a state of half indignant independence; but, as to being
satisfied with myself, that was out of the question. I had lost my
temper, and, as is usual in such cases, had been harsh, and it might
be, unjust. I was about to lose the services of a domestic, whose good
qualities so far overbalanced all defects and shortcomings, that I
could hardly hope to supply her place. How could the children give her
up? This question came home with a most unpleasant suggestion of
consequences. But, as the disturbance of my feelings went on subsiding,
and thought grew clearer and clearer, that which most troubled me was a
sense of injustice towards Polly. The suggestion came stealing into my
mind, that the something wrong about her might involve a great deal
more than I had, in a narrow reference of things to my own affairs,
imagined. Polly was certainly changed; but, might not the change have
its origin in mental conflict or suffering, which entitled her to pity
and consideration, instead of blame?

This was a new thought, which in no way tended to increase a feeling of
self-approval.

"She is human, like the rest of us," said I, as I sat talking over the
matter with myself, "and every human heart has its portion of
bitterness. The weak must bear in weakness, as well as the strong in
strength; and the light burden rests as painfully on the back that
bends in feebleness, as does the heavy one on Atlas-shoulders. We are
too apt to regard those who serve us as mere working machines. Rarely
do we consider them as possessing like wants and weaknesses, like
sympathies and yearnings with ourselves. Anything will do for them.
Under any external circumstances, is their duty to be satisfied."

I was wrong in this matter. Nothing was now clearer to me than this.
But, how was I to get right? That was the puzzling question. I thought,
and thought--looking at the difficulty first on this side, and then on
that. No way of escape presented itself, except through some open or
implied acknowledgment of wrong; that is, I must have some plain, kind
talk with Polly, to begin with, and thus show her, by an entire change
of manner, that I was conscious of having spoken to her in a way that
was not met by my own self-approval. Pride was not slow in vindicating
her own position among the mental powers. She was not willing to see me
humble myself to a servant. Polly had given notice that she was going
to leave, and if I made concession, she would, at once conclude that I
did so meanly, from self-interest, because I wished to retain her
services. My naturally independent spirit revolted under this view of
the case, but I marshalled some of the better forces of my mind, and
took the field bravely on the side of right and duty. For some time the
conflict went on; then the better elements of my nature gained the
victory.

When the decision was made, I sent a message for Polly. I saw, as she
entered my room, that her cheeks no longer burned, and that the fire
had died out in her eyes. Her face was pale, and its expression sad,
but enduring.

"Polly," said I, kindly, "sit down. I would like to have some talk with
you."

The girl seemed taken by surprise. Her face warmed a little, and her
eyes, which had been turned aside from mine, looked at me with a glance
of inquiry.

"There, Polly"--and I pointed to a chair--"sit down."

She obeyed, but with a weary, patient air, like one whose feelings were
painfully oppressed.

"Polly," said I, with kindness and interest in my voice, "has anything
troubled you of late?"

Her face flushed and her eyes reddened.

"If there has, Polly, and I can help you in any way, speak to me as a
friend. You can trust me."

I was not prepared for the sudden and strong emotion that instantly
manifested itself. Her face fell into her hands, and she sobbed out,
with a violence that startled me. I waited until she grew calm, and
then said, laying a hand kindly upon her as I spoke--

"Polly, you can talk to me as freely as if I were your mother. Speak
plainly, and if I can advise you or aid you in any way, be sure that I
will do it."

"I don't think you can help me any, ma'am, unless it is to bear my
trouble more patiently," she answered, in a subdued way.

"Trouble, child! What trouble? Has anything gone wrong with you?"

The manner in which this inquiry was made, aroused her, and she said
quickly and with feeling:

"Wrong with _me_? O no, ma'am!"

"But you are in trouble, Polly."

"Not for myself, ma'am--not for myself," was her earnest reply.

"For whom, then, Polly?"

The girl did not answer for some moments. Then with a long, deep sigh,
she said:

"You never saw my brother Tom, ma'am. Oh, he was such a nice boy, and I
was so fond of him! He had a hard place where he worked, and they paid
him so little that, poor fellow! if I hadn't spent half my wages on
him, he'd never have looked fit to be seen among folks. When he was
eighteen he seemed to me perfect. He was so good and kind. But--" and
the girl's voice almost broke down--"somehow, he began to change after
that. I think he fell into bad company. Oh, ma'am! It seemed as if it
would have killed me the first time I found that he had been drinking,
and was not himself. I cried all night for two or three nights. When we
met again I tried to talk with Tom about it, but he wouldn't hear a
word, and, for the first time in his life, got angry with his sister.

"It has been going on from bad, to worse ever since, and I've almost
given up hope."

"He's several years younger than you are, Polly."

"Yes, ma'am. He was only ten years old when our mother died. I am glad
she is dead now, what I've never said before. There were only two of
us--Tom and I; and I being nearly six years the oldest, felt like a
mother as well as a sister to him. I've never spent much on myself as
you know, and never had as good clothes as other girls with my wages.
It took nearly everything for Tom. Oh, dear! What is to come of it all?
It will kill me, I'm afraid."

A few questions on my part brought out particulars in regard to Polly's
brother that satisfy me of his great lapse from virtue and sobriety. He
was now past twenty, and from all I could learn, was moving
swift-footed along the road to destruction.

There followed a dead silence for some time after all the story was
told. What could I say? The case was one in which it seemed that I
could offer neither advice nor consolation. But it was in my power to
show interest in the girl, and to let her feel that she had my
sympathy. She was sitting with her eyes cast down, and a look of sorrow
on her pale, thin face--I had not before re-marked the signs of
emaciation--that touched me deeply.

"Polly," said I, with as much kindness of tone as I could express, "it
is the lot of all to have trouble, and each heart knows its own
bitterness. But on some the trouble falls with a weight that seems
impossible to be borne. And this is your case. Yet it only seems to be
so, for as our day is, so shall our strength be. If you cannot draw
your brother away from the dangerous paths in which he is walking, you
can pray for him, and the prayer of earnest love will bring your spirit
so near to his spirit, that God may be able to influence him for good
through this presence of your spirit with his."

Polly looked at me with a light flashing in her face, as if a new hope
had dawned upon her heart.

"Oh, ma'am," she said, "I have prayed, and do pray for him daily. But
then I think God loves him better than I can love him, and needs none
of my prayer in the case. And so a chill falls over me, and everything
grows dark and hopeless--for, of myself, I can do nothing."

"Our prayers cannot change the purposes of God towards any one; but God
works by means, and our prayers may be the means through which he can
help another."

"How? How? Oh, tell me how, Mrs. Wilkins?"

The girl spoke with great eagerness.

I had an important truth to communicate, but how was I to make it clear
to her simple mind? I thought for a moment, and then said--

"When we think of others, we see them."

"In our minds?"

"Yes, Polly. We see them with the eyes of our minds, and are also
present with them as to our minds, or spirits. Have you hot noticed
that on some occasions you suddenly thought of a person, and that in a
little while afterwards that person came in?"

"Oh, yes, I've often noticed, and wondered why it should be so."

"Well, the person in coming to see you, or in approaching the place
where you were, thought of you so distinctly that she was present to
your mind, or spirit, and you saw her with the eyes of your mind. If
this be the right explanation, as I believe it is, then, if we think
intently of others, and especially if we think with a strong affection,
we are present with them so fully that they think of us, and see our
forms with the eyes of their spirits. And now, Polly, keeping this in
mind, we may see how praying, in tender love for another, may enable
God to do him good; for you know that men and angels are co-workers
with God in all good. On the wings of our thought and love, angelic
spirits, who are present with us in prayer, may pass with us to the
object of our tender interest and thus gaining audience, as it were,
stir the heart with good impulses. And who can tell how effectual this
may be, if of daily act and long continuance?"

I paused to see if I was comprehended. Polly was listening intently,
with her eyes upon the floor. She looked up, after a moment, her
countenance calmer than before, but bearing so hopeful an aspect that I
was touched with wonder.

"I will pray for him morning, noon, and night," she said, "and if,
bodily, I cannot be near him, my spirit shall be present with his many
times each day. Oh, if I could but draw him back from the evil into
which he has fallen!"

"A sister's loving prayer, and the memory of his mother in heaven, will
prove, I trust, Polly, too potent for all his enemies. Take courage!"

In the silence that followed this last remark, Polly arose and stood as
if there was something yet unsaid in her mind. I understood her, and
made the way plain for both of us.

"If I had known of this before, it would have explained to me some
things that gave my mind an unfavorable impression. You have not been
like yourself for some time past."

"How could I, ma'am?" Polly's voice trembled and her eyes again filled
with tears. "I never meant to displease you; but----"

"All is explained," said I, interrupting her. "I see just how it is;
and if I have said a word that hurt you, I am sorry for it. No one
could have given better satisfaction in a family than you have given."

"I have always tried to do right," murmured the poor girl, sadly.

"I know it, Polly." My tones were encouraging. "And if you will forget
the unkind way in which I spoke to you this morning, and let things
remain as they were, it may be better for both of us. You are not fit,
taking your state of mind as it now is, to go among strangers."

Polly looked at me with gratitude and forgiveness in her wet eyes.
There was a motion of reply about her lips, but she did not trust
herself to speak.

"Shall it be as it was, Polly?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am! I don't wish to leave you; and particularly, not now.
I am not fit, as you say, to go among strangers. But you must bear with
me a little; for I can't always keep my thoughts about me."

When Polly retired from my room, I set myself to thinking over what had
happened. The lesson went deeply into my heart. Poor girl! what a heavy
burden rested upon her weak shoulders. No wonder that she bent under
it! No wonder that she was changed! She was no subject for angry
reproof; but for pity and forbearance. If she had come short in
service, or failed to enter upon her daily tasks with the old
cheerfulness, no blame could attach to her, for the defect was of force
and not of will.

"Ah," said I, as I pondered the matter, "how little inclined are we to
consider those who stand below us in the social scale, or to think of
them as having like passions, like weaknesses, like hopes and fears
with ourselves. We deal with them too often as if they were mere
working machines, and grow impatient if they show signs of pain,
weariness, or irritation. We are quick to blame and slow to
praise--chary of kind words, but voluble in reproof--holding ourselves
superior in station, but not always showing ourselves superior in
thoughtfulness, self-control, and kind forbearance. Ah me! Life is a
lesson-book, and we turn a new page every day."



XI.

MY FATHER.


_I HAVE_ a very early recollection of my father as a cheerful man, and
of our home as a place full of the heart's warmest sunshine. But the
father of my childhood and the father of my more advanced years wore a
very different exterior. He had grown silent, thoughtful, abstracted,
but not morose. As his children sprang up around him, full of life and
hope, he seemed to lose the buoyant spirits of his earlier manhood. I
did not observe this at the time, for I had not learned to observe and
reflect. Life was a simple state of enjoyment. Trial had not quickened
my perceptions, nor suffering taught me an unselfish regard for others.

The home provided by my father was elegant--some would have called it
luxurious. On our education and accomplishments no expense was spared.
I had the best teachers--and, of course, the most expensive; with none
others would I have been satisfied, for I had come naturally to regard
myself as on a social equality with the fashionable young friends who
were my companions, and who indulged the fashionable vice of
depreciating everything that did not come up to a certain acknowledged
standard. Yearly I went to Saratoga or Newport with my sisters, and at
a cost which I now think of with amazement. Sometimes my mother went
with us, but my father never. He was not able to leave his business.
Business! How I came to dislike the word! It was always "business" when
we asked him to go anywhere with us; "business" hurried him away from
his hastily-eaten meals; "business" absorbed all his thoughts, and
robbed us of our father.

"I wish father would give up business," I said to my mother one day,
"and take some comfort of his life. Mr. Woodward has retired, and is
now living on his income."

My mother looked at me strangely and sighed, but answered nothing.

About this time my father showed some inclination to repress our
growing disposition to spend money extravagantly in dress. Nothing but
hundred-dollar shawl would suit my ideas. Ada White had been presented
by her father with a hundred-dollar cashmere, and I did not mean to be
put off with anything less.

"Father, I want a hundred dollars," said I to him one morning as he was
leaving the house, after eating his light breakfast. He had grown
dyspeptic, and had to be careful and sparing in his diet.

"A hundred dollars!" He looked surprised; in fact, I noticed that my
request made him start. "What do you want with so much money?"

"I have nothing seasonable to wear," said I, very firmly; "and as I
must have a shawl, I might as well get a good one while I am about it.
I saw one at Stewart's yesterday that is just the thing. Ada White's
father gave her a shawl exactly like it, and you must let me have the
money to buy this one. It will last my lifetime."

"A hundred dollars is a large price for a shawl," said my father, in
his sober way.

"Oh, dear, no!" was my emphatic answer; "a hundred dollars is a low
price for a shawl. Jane Wharton's cost five hundred."

"I'll think about it," said my father, turning from me rather abruptly.

When he came home at dinner-time, I was alone in the parlor, practicing
a. new piece of music which my fashionable teacher had left me. He was
paid three dollars for every lesson. My father smiled as he laid a
hundred-dollar bill on the keys of the piano. I started up, and kissing
him, said, with the ardor of a pleased girl--

"What a dear good father you are!"

The return was ample. He always seemed most pleased when he could
gratify some wish or supply some want of his children. Ah! if we had
been less selfish--less exacting!

It was hardly to be expected that my sisters would see me the possessor
of a hundred-dollar shawl, and not desire a like addition to their
wardrobes.

"I want a hundred dollars," said my sister Jane, on the next morning,
as my father was about leaving for his store.

"Can't spare it to-day, my child," I heard him answer, kindly, but
firmly.

"Oh, but I must have it," urged my sister.

"I gave you twenty-five dollars only day before yesterday," my father
replied to this. "What have you done with that?"

"Spent it for gloves and laces," said Jane, in a light way, as if the
sum were of the smallest possible consequence.

"I am not made of money, child." The tone of my father's voice struck
me as unusually sober--almost sad. But Jane replied instantly, and with
something of reproach and complaint in her tones--"I shouldn't think
you were, if you find it so hard to part with a hundred dollars."

"I have a large payment to make to-day"--my father spoke with unusual
decision of manner--"and shall need every dollar that I can raise."

"You gave sister a hundred dollars yesterday," said Jane, almost
petulantly.

Not a word of reply did my father make. I was looking at him, and saw
an expression on his countenance that was new to me--an expression of
pain, mingled with fear. He turned away slowly, and in silence left the
house.

"Jane," said my mother, addressing her from the stairway, on which she
had been standing, "how could you speak so to your father?"

"I have just as good right to a hundred dollar shawl as Anna," replied
my sister, in a very undutiful tone. "And what is more, Im going to
have one."

"What reason did your father give for refusing your request to-day?"
asked my mother.

"Couldn't spare the money! Had a large payment to make! Only an excuse!"

"Stop, my child!" was the quick, firm remark, made with unusual
feeling. "Is that the way to speak of so good a father? Of one who has
ever been so kindly indulgent? Jane! Jane! You know not what you are
saying!"

My sister looked something abashed at this unexpected rebuke, when my
mother took occasion to add, with an earnestness of manner that I could
not help remarking as singular,

"Your father is troubled about something. Business may not be going on
to his satisfaction. Last night I awoke, and found him walking the
floor. To my questions he merely answered that he was wakeful. His
health is not so good as formerly, and his spirits are low. Don't, let
me pray you, do anything to worry him. Say no more about this money,
Jane; you will get it whenever it can be spared."

I did not see my father again until tea-time. Occasionally, business
engagements pressed upon him so closely that he did not come home at
the usual hour for dining. He looked pale--weary--almost haggard.

"Dear father, are you sick?" said I, laying a hand upon him, and gazing
earnestly into his countenance.

"I do not feel very well," he replied, partly averting his face, as if
he did not wish me to read its expression too closely. "I have had a
weary day."

"You must take more recreation," said I. "This excessive devotion to
business is destroying your health. Why will you do it, father?"

He merely sighed as he passed onwards, and ascended to his own room. At
tea-time I observed that his face was unusually sober. His silence was
nothing uncommon, and so that passed without remark from any one.

On the next day Jane received the hundred dollars, which was spent for
a shawl like mine. This brought the sunshine back to her face. Her
moody looks, I saw, disturbed my father.

From this time, the hand which had ever been ready to supply all our
wants real or imaginary, opened less promptly at our demands. My father
talked occasionally of retrenchment and economy when some of our
extravagant bills came in; but we paid little heed to his remarks on
this head. Where could we retrench? In what could we economize? The
very idea was absurd. We had nothing that others moving in our circle
did not have. Our house and furniture would hardly compare favorably
with the houses and furniture of many of our fashionable friends. We
dressed no better--indeed, not so well as dozens of our acquaintances.
Retrenchment and economy! I remember laughing with my sisters at the
words, and wondering with them what could be coming over our father. In
a half-amused way, we enumerated the various items of imaginary reform,
beginning at the annual summer recreations, and ending with our
milliner's bills. In mock seriousness, we proposed to take the places
of cook, chambermaid, and waiter, and thus save these items of expense
in the family. We had quite a merry time over our fancied reforms.

But our father was serious. Steadily he persisted in what seemed to us
a growing penuriousness. Every demand for money seemed to give him a
partial shock, and every dollar that came to us was parted with
reluctantly. All this was something new; but we thought less than we
felt about it. Our father seemed to be getting into a very singular
state of mind.

Summer came round--I shall never forget that summer--and we commenced
making our annual preparations for Saratoga. Money was, of course, an
indispensable prerequisite. I asked for fifty dollars.

"For what purpose?" inquired my father.

"I haven't a single dress fit to appear in away from home," said I.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

I thought the question a strange one, and replied, a little curtly,

"To Saratoga, of course."

"Oh!" It seemed new to him. Then he repeated my words, in a questioning
kind of a way, as if his mind were not altogether satisfied on the
subject.

"To Saratoga?"

"Yes, sir. To Saratoga. We always go there. We shall close the season
at Newport this year."

"Who else is going?" My father's manner was strange. I had never seen
him just in the mood he then appeared to be.

"Jane is going, of course; and so is Emily. And we are trying to
persuade mother, also. She didn't go last year. Won't you spend a week
or two with us? Now do say yes."

My father shook his head at this last proposal, and said, "No, child!"
very decidedly.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I have something of more importance to think about than
Saratoga and its fashionable follies."

"Business! business!" said I, impatiently. "It is the Moloch, father,
to which you sacrifice every social pleasure, every home delight, every
good! Already you have laid health and happiness upon the bloody altars
of this false god!"

A few quick flushes went over his pale face, and then its expression
became very sad.

"Anna," he said, after a brief silence, during which even my
unpracticed eyes could see that an intense struggle was going on in his
mind, "Anna, you will have to give up your visit to Saratoga this year."

"Why, father!" It seemed as if my blood were instantly on fire. My face
was, of course, all in a glow. I was confounded, and, let me confess
it, indignant; it seemed so like a tyrannical outrage.

"It is simply as I say, my daughter." He spoke without visible
excitement. "I cannot afford the expense this season, and you will,
therefore, all have to remain in the city."

"That's impossible!" said I. "I couldn't live here through the summer."

"_I_ manage to live!" There was a tone in my father's voice, as he
uttered these simple words, partly to himself, that rebuked me. Yes, he
did manage to live, but _how_? Witness his pale face, wasted form,
subdued aspect, brooding silence, and habitual abstraction of mind!

"_I_ manage to live!" I hear the rebuking words even now--the tones in
which they were uttered are in my ears. Dear father! Kind, tender,
indulgent, long-suffering, self-denying! Ah, how little were you
understood by your thoughtless, selfish children!

"Let my sisters and mother go," said I, a new regard for my father
springing up in my heart; "I will remain at home with you."

"Thank you, dear child!" he answered, his voice suddenly veiled with
feeling. "But I cannot afford to let any one go this season."

"The girls will be terribly disappointed. They have set their hearts on
going," said I.

"I'm sorry," he said. "But necessity knows no law. They will have to
make themselves as contented at home as possible."

And he left me, and went away to his all-exacting "business."

When I stated what he had said, my sisters were in a transport of
mingled anger and disappointment, and gave utterance to many unkind
remarks against our good, indulgent father. As for my oldest sister,
she declared that she would go in spite of him, and proposed our
visiting the store of a well-known merchant, where we often made
purchases, and buying all we wanted, leaving directions to have the
bill sent in. But I was now on my father's side, and resolutely opposed
all suggestions of disobedience. His manner and words had touched me,
causing some scales to drop from my vision, so that I could see in a
new light, and perceive things in a new aspect.

We waited past the usual time for my father's coming on that day, and
then dined without him. A good deal to our surprise he came home about
four o'clock, entering with an unusual quiet manner, and going up to
his own room without speaking to any one of the family.

"Was that your father?" We were sitting together, still discussing the
question of Saratoga and Newport. It was my mother who asked the
question. We had heard the street door open and close, and had also
heard footsteps along the passage and up the stairs.

"It is too early for him to come home," I answered.

My mother looked at her watch, and remarked, as a shade of concern
flitted over her face,

"It certainly was your father. I cannot be mistaken in his step. What
can have brought him home so early? I hope he is not sick." And she
arose and went hastily from the room. I followed, for a sudden fear
came into my heart.

"Edward! what ails you? Are you sick?" I heard my mother ask, in an
alarmed voice, as I came into her room. My father had laid himself
across the bed, and his face was concealed by a pillow, into which it
was buried deeply.

"Edward! Edward! Husband! What is the matter? Are you ill?"

"Oh, father! dear father!" I cried, adding my voice to my mother's, and
bursting into tears. I grasped his hand; it was very cold. I leaned
over, and, pressing down the pillow, touched his face. It was cold
also, and clammy with perspiration.

"Send James for the doctor, instantly," said my mother.

"No, no--don't." My father partially aroused himself at this, speaking
in a thick, unnatural voice.

"Go!" My mother repeated the injunction, and I flew down stairs with
the order for James, our waiter, to go in all haste for the family
physician. When I returned, my mother, her face wet with tears, was
endeavoring to remove some of my father's outer garments. Together we
took off his coat, waistcoat and boots, he making no resistance, and
appearing to be in partial stupor, as if under the influence of some
drug. We chafed his hands and feet, and bathed his face, that wore a
deathly aspect, and used all the means in our power to rekindle the
failing spark of life. But he seemed to grow less and less conscious of
external things every moment.

When the physician came, he had many questions to ask as to the cause
of the state in which he found my father. But we could answer none of
them. I watched his face intently, noting every varying expression, but
saw nothing to inspire confidence. He seemed both troubled and
perplexed. Almost his first act was to bleed copiously.

Twice, before the physician came, had my father been inquired for at
the door, a thing altogether unusual at that hour of the day. Indeed,
his presence in the house at that hour was something which had not
occurred within a year.

"A gentleman is in the parlor, and says that he must see Mr. W----,"
said the waiter, speaking to me in a whisper, soon after the
physician's arrival.

"Did you tell him that father was very ill," said I.

"Yes; but he says that he must see him, sick or well."

"Go down and tell him that father is not in a state to be seen by any
one."

The waiter returned in a few moments, and beckoned me to the chamber
door.

"The man says that he is not going to leave the house until he sees
your father. I wish you would go down to him. He acts so strangely."

Without stopping to reflect, I left the apartment, and hurried down to
the parlor. I found a man walking the floor in a very excited manner.

"I wish to see Mr. W.----," said he, abruptly, and in an imperative way.

"He is very ill, sir," I replied, "and cannot be seen."

"I must see him, sick or well." His manner was excited.

"Impossible, sir."

The door bell rang again at this moment, and with some violence. I
paused, and stood listening until the servant answered the summons,
while the man strode twice the full length of the parlor.

"I wish to see Mr. W----." It was the voice of a man.

"He is sick," the servant replied.

"Give him my name--Mr. Walton--and say that I must see him for just a
moment." And this new visitor came in past the waiter, and entered the
parlor.

"Mr. Arnold!" he ejaculated, in evident surprise.

"Humph! This a nice business!" remarked the first visitor, in a rude
way, entirely indifferent to my presence or feelings. "A nice business,
I must confess!"

"Have you seen Mr. W.----?" was inquired.

"No. They say he's sick."

There was an unconcealed doubt in the voice that uttered this.

"Gentlemen," said I, stung into indignant courage, "this is an outrage!
What do you mean by it?"

"We wish to see your father," said the last comer, his manner changing,
and his voice respectful.

"You have both been told," was my firm reply, "that my father is too
ill to be seen."

"It isn't an hour, as I am told, since he left his store," said the
first visitor, "and I hardly think his illness has progressed so
rapidly up to this time as to make an interview dangerous. We do not
wish to be rude or uncourteous, Miss W----, but our business with your
father is imperative, and we must see him. I, for one, do not intend
leaving the house until I meet him face to face!"

"Will you walk up stairs?" I had the presence of mind and decision to
say, and I moved from the parlor into the passage. The men followed,
and I led them up to the chamber where our distressed family were
gathered around my father. As we entered the hushed apartment the men
pressed forward somewhat eagerly, but their steps were suddenly
arrested. The sight was one to make its own impression. My father's
face, deathly in its hue, was turned towards the door, and from his
bared arm a stream of dark blood was flowing sluggishly. The physician
had just opened a vein.

"Come! This is no place for us," I heard one of the men whisper to the
other, and they withdrew as unceremoniously as they had entered.
Scarcely had they gone ere the loud ringing of the door bell sounded
through the house again.

"What does all this mean!" whispered my distressed mother.

"I cannot tell. Something is wrong," was all that I could answer; and a
vague, terrible fear took possession of my heart.

In the midst of our confusion, uncertainty and distress, my uncle, the
only relative of my mother, arrived, and from him we learned the
crushing fact that my father's paper had been that day dishonored at
bank. In other words, that he had failed in business.

The blow, long suspended over his head; and as I afterwards learned,
long dreaded, and long averted by the most desperate expedients to save
himself from ruin, when it did fall, was too heavy for him. It crushed
the life out of his enfeebled system. That fearful night he died!

It is not my purpose to draw towards the survivors any sympathy, by
picturing the changes in their fortunes and modes of life that followed
this sad event. They have all endured much and suffered much. But how
light has it been to what my father must have endured and suffered in
his long struggle to sustain the thoughtless extravagance of his
family--to supply them with comforts and luxuries, none of which he
could himself enjoy! Ever before me is the image of his gradually
wasting form, and pale, sober, anxious face. His voice, always mild,
now comes to my ears, in memory, burdened with a most touching sadness.
What could we have been thinking about? Oh, youth! how blindly selfish
thou art! How unjust in thy thoughtlessness! What would I not give to
have my father back again! This daily toil for bread, those hours of
labor, prolonged often far into the night season--how cheerful would I
be if they ministered to my father's comfort. Ah! if we had been loving
and just to him, we might have had him still. But we were neither
loving nor just. While he gathered with hard toil, we scattered. Daily
we saw him go forth hurried to his business, and nightly we saw him
come home exhausted; and we never put forth a hand to lighten his
burdens; but, to gratify our idle and vain pleasures, laid new ones
upon his stooping shoulders, until, at last, the cruel weight crushed
him to the earth!

My father! Oh, my father! If grief and tearful repentance could have
restored you to our broken circle, long since you would have returned
to us. But tears and repentance are vain. The rest and peace of
eternity is yours!



XII.

THE CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN.


_IT_ has been said that no man can be a gentleman who is not a
Christian. We take the converse of this proposition, and say that no
man can be a Christian who is not a gentleman.

There is something of a stir among the dry bones at this. A few eyes
look at it in a rebuking way.

"Show me that in the Bible," says one in confident negation of our
proposition.

"Ah, well, friend, we will take your case in illustration of our theme.
You call yourself a Christian?"

"By God's mercy I do."

Answered with an assured manner, as if in no doubt as to your being a
worthy bearer of that name.

"You seem to question my state of acceptance. Who made you a judge?"

Softly, friend. We do not like that gleam in your eyes. Perhaps we had
better stop here. If you cannot bear the probe, let us put on the
bandage again.

"I am not afraid of the probe, sir. Go on."

The name Christian includes all human perfection, does it not?

"Yes, and all God-like perfection in the human soul."

So we understand it. Now the fundamental doctrine of Christian life is
this:--"As ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them."

"Faith in Christ is fundamental," you answer.

Unless we believe in God, we cannot obey his precepts. The
understanding must first assent, before the divine life can be brought
into a conformity with divine laws. But we are not assuming theologic
ground. It is the life to which we are looking. We said "The
fundamental doctrine of Christian _life_."

"All doctrine has relation to life, and I contend for faith as
fundamental."

We won't argue that point, for the reason that it would lead us away
from the theme we are considering. We simply change the form of our
proposition, and call it a leading doctrine of Christian life.

"So far I agree with you."

Then the way before us is unobstructed again. You asked us to show you
authority in the Bible for saying that a man cannot be a Christian who
is not a gentlemen. We point you to the Golden Rule. In that all laws
of etiquette, so called, are included. It is the code of good breeding
condensed to an axiom. Now it has so happened that our observation of
you, friend objector, has been closer than may have been imagined. We
have noted your outgoings and incomings on divers occasions; and we are
sorry to say that you cannot be classed with the true gentleman.

"Sir!"

Gently! Gently! If a man may be a Christian, and not a gentleman at the
same time, your case is not so bad. But to the testimony of fact. Let
these witness for or against you. Let your own deeds approve or
condemn. You are not afraid of judgment by the standard of your own
conduct?

"Of course not."

And if we educe only well-remembered incidents, no offence will be
taken.

"Certainly not."

We go back, then, and repeat the law of true gentlemanly conduct. "As
ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them." You were
at Stockbridge last summer?

"Yes."

And took supper at the hotel there, with a small company of strangers?

"Yes."

There was a dish of fine strawberries on the table, among the first of
the season. You are fond of strawberries. They are your favorite fruit;
and, as their rich fragrance came to your nostrils, you felt eager to
taste them. So you counted the guests at the table, and measured the
dish of strawberries with your eyes. Then you looked from face to face,
and saw that all were strangers. Appetite might be indulged, and no one
would know that it was _you_. The strawberries would certainly not go
round, So you hurried down a cup of tea, and swallowed some toast
quickly. Then you said to the waiter, "Bring me the strawberries." They
were brought and set before you. And now, were you simply just in
securing your share, if the number fell below a dozen berries? You were
taking care of yourself; but in doing so, were not others' rights
invaded. We shall see. There were eight persons at the table, two of
them children. The dish held but little over a quart; of these nearly
one-third were taken by you! Would a true gentleman have done that? You
haven't thought of it since! We are sorry for you then. One of the
children, who only got six berries, cried through half the evening from
disappointment. And an invalid, whose blood would have gained life from
the rich juice of the fruit, got none.

"It was a little selfish, I admit. But I am so fond of strawberries;
and at hotels, you know, every one must take care of himself."

A true gentleman maintains his character under all circumstances, and a
Christian, as a matter of course. A true gentleman defers to others. He
takes so much pleasure in the enjoyment of others, that he denies
himself in order to secure their gratification. Can a Christian do less
and honor the name he bears?

"It wasn't right, I see."

Was it gentlemanly?

"No."

Christian?

"Perhaps not, strictly speaking."

In the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity still, we fear, for
all your profession. Christianity, as a system, must go deeper down
into the heart than that. But we have begun with you, friend, and we
will keep on. Perhaps you will see yourself a little differently by the
time we are through. A poor mechanic, who had done some trifling work
at your house, called, recently, with his little bill of three dollars
and forty cents. You were talking with a customer, when this man came
into your store and handed you his small account. You opened it with a
slight frown on your brow. He had happened to come at a time when you
felt yourself too much engaged to heed this trifling matter. How almost
rudely you thrust the coarse, soiled piece of paper on which he had
written his account back upon him, saying, "I can't attend to you now!"
The poor man went out hurt and disappointed. Was that gentlemanly
conduct? No, sir! Was it Christian? Look at the formula of Christian
life. "As ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them."

"He should have waited until I was at leisure," you answer. "When a man
is engaged with a customer who buys at the rate of hundreds and
thousands, he don't want paltry bills thrust into his face. He'll know
better next time."

Have you settled the bill yet?

"No. He called day before yesterday, but couldn't give change for ten
dollars."

Why haven't you sent him the trifling sum? He worked over half a day at
your house, and your family have been more comfortable for what he did
there ever since. He needs the money, for he is a poor man.

You half smile in our face at the suggestion, and say, "Merchants are
not in the habit of troubling themselves to send all over the city to
pay the little paltry bills of mechanics. If money is worth having, it
is worth sending or calling for."

In thought, reverse your positions, and apply the rule for a Christian
gentleman; remembering, at the same time, that God is no respecter of
persons. In his eyes, the man's position is nothing--the quality of his
life, everything.

A gentleman in _form_, according to the rules of good breeding, is one
who treats everybody with kindness; who thinks of others' needs,
pleasures and conveniences; and subordinates his own needs, pleasures
and conveniences to theirs. He is mild, gentle, kind and courteous to
all. A gentleman in _feeling_ does all this from a principle of
good-will; the Christian from a _law of spiritual life_. Now, a man may
be a gentleman, in the common acceptation of the term, and yet not be a
Christian; but we are very sure, that he cannot wave the gentleman and
be a Christian.

You look at us more soberly. The truth of our words is taking hold of
conviction. Shall we go on?

Do you not, in all public places, study your own comfort and
convenience? You do not clearly understand the question! We'll make the
matter plainer then:

Last evening you were at Concert Hall, with your wife and daughter. You
went early, and secured good seats. Not three seats, simply, according
to the needs of your party; but nearly five seats, for extra comfort.
You managed it on the expansive principle. Well, the house was crowded.
Compression and condensation went on all around you; but your party
held its expanded position. A white-haired old man stood at the head of
your seat, and looked down at the spaces between yourself, your wife
and daughter; and though you knew it, you kept your eyes another way
until he passed on. You were not going to be incommoded for any one.
Then an old lady lingered there for a moment, and looked wistfully
along the seat. Your daughter whispered, "Father, we can make room for
her." And you answered: "Let her find another seat; I don't wish to be
crowded." Thus repressing good impulses in your child, and teaching her
to be selfish and unlady-like. The evening's entertainment began, and
you sat quite at ease, for an hour and a half, while many were standing
in the aisles. Sir, there was not even the gentleman in form here; much
less the gentleman from naturally kind feelings. As to Christian
principle, we will not take that into account. Do you remember what you
said as you moved through the aisles to the door?

"No."

A friend remarked that he had been obliged to stand all the evening,
and you replied:

"We had it comfortable enough. I always manage that, in public places."

He didn't understand all you meant; but, there is One who did.

How was it in the same place only a few nights previously? You went
there alone, and happened to be late. The house was well filled in the
upper portion, but thinly occupied below the centre. Now you are bound
to have the best place, under all circumstances, if it can be obtained.
But all the best seats were well filled; and to crowd more into them,
would be to diminish the comfort of all. No matter. You saw a little
space in one of the desirable seats, and into it you passed, against
the remonstrance of looks, and even half uttered objections. A lady by
your side, not in good health, was so crowded in consequence, and made
so uncomfortable, that she could not listen with any satisfaction to
the eloquent lecture she had come to hear.

We need say no more about your gentlemanly conduct in public places.
Enough has been suggested to give you our full meaning.

Shall we go on? Do you call for other incidents in proof of our
assumption? Shall we follow you into other walks of life?

"No."

Very well. And, now, to press the matter home: Do you, in the sight of
that precept we have quoted, justify such conduct in a man who takes
the name of Christian? It was not gentlemanly, in any right sense of
the word; and not being so, can it be Christian?

"Perhaps not."

Assuredly not. And you may depend upon it, sir, that your profession,
and faith, and church-going, and ordinance-observing, will not stand
you in that day when the book of your life is opened in the presence of
God. If there has been no genuine love of the neighbor--no
self-abnegation--no self-denial for the good of others, all the rest
will go for nothing, and you will pass over to abide forever with
spirits of a like quality with your own.

Who made us your judge? We judge no man! But only point to the law of
Christian life as given by God himself. If you wish to dwell with him,
you must obey his laws; and obedience to these will make you nothing
less than a Christian gentleman--that is, a gentleman in heart as well
as in appearance.





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