DAISY'S NECKLACE: And What Came of It.
(A LITERARY EPISODE.)
T. B. ALDRICH.
The little dogs and all, ........ see, they bark at me!
NEW-YORK: DERBY & JACKSON, 119 NASSAU STREET. CINCINNATI: H. W. DERBY & CO.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, BY DERBY & JACKSON, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New-York.
TO C. L. F., THE NOBLE MERCHANT AND THE GOOD FRIEND, THIS BURLESQUE OF THINGS IN GENERAL, IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED.
THE LITTLE CASTLE-BUILDERS.
The House by the Sea—The Round Window—God's eyes in Flowers—The Day-Dreamers—A Picture—An Angel—Old Nanny—On the Sea-Shore— Shell-Hunting—Bell's Freak and Mortimer's Dream—Asleep.
THE DEAD HOPE.
Time's Changes—Fall-down Castles—Little Bell waiting—When will Father come Home?—Little Bell weary—What the Sea said—Nevermore.
Autumn and Winter—By the Fireside—Where little Bell is going—Nanny sings about Chloe—Bell reads a poem—The flight of an Angel—The Funeral—The good Parson—The two Grave-stones.
A FEW SPECIMENS OF HUMANITY.
Down Town—Messrs. Flint & Snarle—Tim, the Office Boy, and the pale Book-keeper—The Escritoire—The Purloined Package—Mr. Flint goes Home—Midnight—Miss Daisy Snarle—The Poor Author.
Sunday morning—Harvey Snarle and Mortimer—A Tale of Sorrow—The Snow-child—Mortimer takes Daisy's hand—Snarle's death.
THE PHANTOM AT SEA.
A Storm in the Tropics—The Lone Ship—The Man at the Wheel—How he sang strange Songs—The Apparition—The drifting Bark.
IN WHICH THERE IS A MADMAN.
Mr. Flint sips vino d'oro—The Stranger—The Letter—Mr. Flint Outwitted—Mr. Flint's Photograph—The Madman's Story—The Wrecked Soul—How Mr. Flint is troubled by his Conscience, and dreams of a Pair of Eyes.
MR. FLINT IS PERFECTLY ASTONISHED, AND MORTIMER HAS A VISION.
The Light Heart—A Scene—The Sunny Heart—A Dream of Little Bell—A Hint.
DAISY AND THE NECKLACE.
Our petite Heroine—How she talked to the Poets—The Morocco Case—Daisy's Eyes make Pictures—Tears, idle Tears!
ST. AGNES' EVE.
The Old Year—St. Agnes—Keats' Poem—The Circlet of Pearls—A Cloud—The Promise—Mrs. Snarle continues her Knitting.
MORTIMER HAS AN INTERVIEW WITH THE GREAT PUBLISHER, AND MR. FLINT MAKES A DISCOVERY.
H. H. Hardwill, Publisher—Criminal Literature—Alliterative Titles—Goldwood—Poor Authors—A Heaven for them in the Perspective—Flint's Discovery, and the Horns of his Dilemma.
WHAT DAISY DID.
The Arrest—Doubt and Love—Daisy and the Necklace—The Search—The Heart of Daisy Snarle.
IN THE TOMBS.
The Author's Summer Residence—The Egyptian Prison—Without and Within—A Picture—Sunshine in shadow—Joe Wilkes and his unique Proposal—Gloomy Prospects—The Face at the Cell-window.
A CLOUD WITH A SILVER LINING.
The Strange Visit—The Lawyer—Walters and Mr. Flint—The Clouds—A Strip of Sunshine—Mortimer.
A Picture—The Lawyer's Note—Mr. Hardwill once more—The Scene at the Law Office—Mr. Flint Hors du Combat—Face to Face.
THE OLD HOUSE BY THE SEA.
Clap-trap—John Flint—The Old House—Joe Wilkes—Strephon and Chloe—Tim enjoying himself—Edward Walters and Little Bell—A Last Word
In this little Extravaganza, I have done just what I intended.
I have attempted to describe, in an auto-biographical sort of way, a well-meaning, but somewhat vain young gentleman, who, having flirted desperately with the Magazines, takes it into his silly head to write a novel, all the chapters of which are laid before the reader, with some running criticism by T. James Barescythe, Esquire, the book-noticer of "The Morning Glory," ("a journal devoted to the Fine Arts and the Amelioration of all Mankind,") and the type of a certain class which need not be distinctly specified for recognition. I have endeavored to make the novel of my literary hero such a one as a young man with fine taste and crude talent might produce; and I think I have succeeded. It is certainly sufficiently unfinished.
In drawing the character of Barescythe, the point of my quill may have pierced a friend; and if you ask, like Ludovico,
"What shall be said of thee?"
I shall answer, like Othello,
"Why, anything: An honorable murderer, if you will; For nought I did in hate, but all in honor."
The only audacious thing I have done is the writing of this preface. If there is anything more stupid than a "preface," it is a book-critic. If anything could be more stupid than a book-critic, it would be a preface. But, thank heaven, there is not. In saying this, I refer to a particular critic; for I would not, for the sake of a tenth edition, malign in such a wholesale manner those capital good fellows of the press—those verbal accoucheurs who are so pleasantly officious at the birth of each new genius. Not I. I have
and a love for them, which would seem like a bid for their good nature, if expressed here.
I have put my name on the title-page of this trifle from principle. My pen-children are all mine, and I cannot think of disowning one, though it may happen to be born hump-backed. But I beg of you, gentlest of unfortunate readers, not to take DAISY'S NECKLACE as a serious exponent of my skill at story-telling. It is not printed at the "urgent request of numerous friends"—I am so fortunate as not to have many—but a seductive little argument in the shape of a cheque is the sole cause of its present form; otherwise, I should be content to let it die an easy death in the columns of the journal which first had the temerity to publish it. If the world could always know, as it may in this case, why a book is printed, it would look with kindlier eyes on dullness bound in muslin. It would say, with honest Sancho Panza: "Let us not look the gift-horse in the mouth."
When the sunshine of this dear old world has reddened the wine in my heart—melted down its sparkles to a creamy flavor, I will give you a richer draught—mayhap a beaker of Hippocrene.
Till then, may God's blessing be on us both, though neither of us deserve it.
CLINTON PLACE, 1856.
It hath beene sayed, and it seemeth soe untoe me, that ye man who writes a booke maist have much vanitie and vexation of spirite.
YE TWO POORE AUTHORS.
"Say that I am sick. Say I am dead—buried—out of town. In short, say anything you will; but deny my existence to every one who calls, with the exception of Mr. Barescythe."
"I am going to write a novel, Mrs. Muggins!"
That lady did not exhibit much emotion.
And Mrs. Muggins ambled out of the room-door, to which she had been summoned by some peremptory appeals of my bell. I was somewhat shocked at the cool manner with which Mrs. Muggins received the literary intelligence; but she, poor, simple soul, did not know that my greatness was a-ripening.
"Some of these days," said I to myself, turning toward the window, "some of these days, mayhap a hundred years hence, as the stranger passes through Washington Parade Ground, this house—wrinkled and old then—will be pointed out to his wonder-loving eyes as the one in which my novel was written; and the curious stranger will cut his name on the walls of the room which I never occupied, and carry away a slice of the door-step!"
I immediately fell in love with this fascinating thought, and followed it up.
The slender trees which now inhabit the Parade Ground had grown immensely—the trunks of some were three feet in diameter, and around them all was a massive iron railing. The brick and brownstone houses on Waverly Place and Fourth-street had long been removed, and huge edifices with cast-iron fronts supplanted them. I looked in vain for the little drug-store on the corner with its red and green bottles, and the fruit-man's below with its show of yellow bananas and sour oranges. The University, dimly seen through the interlacing branches, was a classic ruin.
Everything was changed and new.
All the old land-marks were gone, save the Parade Ground, and one quaint old house facing Mac Dougal-street: the which house was propped up with beams, for, long and long ago, before "the memory of the oldest inhabitant" even, an author, a sweet quiet man, once wrote a famous book there, and the world of 1956 would preserve the very floors he trod on!
And so I sat there by my window in the autumnal sunshine, and watched the golden clouds as the wind blew them against the square white turrets of the University, which peered above the trees.
Ah, Mrs. Muggins, thought I, though you only said "yes, sir," when I spoke of my novel—though your name is carved in solid brass on the hall-door, yet you will be forgotten like a rain that fell a thousand years ago, when my name, only stamped with printer's ink, on ephemeral slips of paper, is a household word.
So I came to pity Mrs. Muggins, and harbored no ill feelings toward the simple creature who was so speedily to be gathered under the dusty wings of oblivion. I wondered how she could be cheerful. I wondered if she ever thought of being "dead and forgotten," and if it troubled her.
Lost in the aromatic fumes of a regalia, I sat waiting the advent of my friend Barescythe—Barry for short—to whom I had addressed a laconic note, begging him to visit me at my rooms without delay.
I like Barescythe.
He is conceited, but that's a small fault with genius. His idea of literature does not exactly chime with mine, for he believes that there have been no novels, to speak of, since Scott's, and little poetry since Pope's. But, aside from this, he is a noble fellow; he carries his heart, like a falcon, on his hand, where everybody can see it. Barry is fond of wine—but that's a failing not peculiar to genius, and not confined to book-critics. He is a trifle rough in speech, not always the thing in manners; but "the elements so mix in him"—that I have a great mind to finish that excellent quotation.
I heard his familiar step on the stairs, and a second afterwards he kicked open my room-door with his characteristic disregard of ceremony.
"Ralph," said he, with some anxiety, "what's up?"
"Are you sick?"
"Are you going to be?"
"Then why, in the name of the many-headed Hydra, did you send me such an article as this? Read it."
The note ran as follows:
"Mac Dougal-street, "June 30, 18—.
"Come and see me without delay. I have got a—
"O, yes!" said I, laughing; "I left out a word. I meant to have said, 'I have got an idea.'"
"Humph! I thought it was a colic."
Mr. Barescythe had left a host of editorial duties in the middle and busiest time of the day, expecting to find me lying at the point of death, and was quite out of humor because I was not.
There is something extremely human in Barescythe.
"Criticus," I spoke as deliberately as the subject would allow, "I am going to write a novel."
This unfortunate avowal was the rose-leaf which caused the cup of his indignation to overflow.
"If it had been a case of cholera," commenced Barescythe, with visible emotion, "or the measles, or the croup, or the chicken-pox—if you had broken your thigh, spine, or neck, I wouldn't have complained. But a novel—"
And Barry began whistling wildly,
as he invariably does when annoyed. After using up a variety of popular airs, the shadow of his good-humor returned to him.
"Ralph," he said, taking my hand, "I have a great respect for you. I don't know why, to be frank, but I have. I like your little song of—what do you call it?—in Putnam's Monthly, and your prose sketches in the Knickerbocker; but don't be a fool, Ralph!"
With which piece of friendly advice, he put on his brown felt hat, drew it over his brows, and stalked out of the room, with
"A countenance more In sorrow than in anger,"
like Mr. Hamlet's father.
I saw no more of Barescythe for two weeks.
The summer months flew away.
The nights were growing longer. The air had a vein of sparkling cold in it; at every gust the trees in the Parade Ground shook down golden ingots; and the grass-plots, and the graveled walks, and the marble bowl of the fountain, were paved with emerald and amethyst—a mosaic flooring of tinted leaves. The clouds were haggard faces, and the wind wailed like a broken heart. Indeed,
"The melancholy days had come, The saddest of the year,"
and Mrs. Muggins had made a fire in my grate!
Blessings on him who invented fire-places! A poor day-dreamer's benediction go with him! The world in the grate! I have watched its fantastic palaces and crimson inhabitants—dipped my pen, as it were, into its stained rivers, and written their grotesqueness! Dizzy bridges, feudal castles, great yawning caves, and red-hot gnomes, are to be found in the grate; mimic volcanos, and ships that sail into sparry grottos, and delicate fire-shells with pink and blue lips!
The coals sink down, and new figures are born, like the transient pictures in a kaleidescope. So it came to pass that I dozed over the metempsychosis of my fire-world, and commenced the novel.
Give me crisp winter days for writing, and the long snowy nights for dreamy slumber.
O antique humorist, quaint-mouthed Sancho Panza! with you, I say, "Blessings on the man who invented sleep!" Sleep, pleasant sleep!—that little airy nothing on the eyelids!—that little spell of thought which comes from no place and goes nowhere!—which comes upon us silently and splendidly, like a falling star, and trails its golden fancies on our waking hours. Sleep for the young—fresh, dewy sleep! Sleep for the sick! Sleep for the weary and disconsolate—sweet dreams and sweet forgetfulness for them! Smooth the white hairs of the old; place thy invisible fingers on their lips; close their eyes gently, gently. Sleep, and let them pass into nothingness!
In a dreamy mood, half awake and half asleep, I filled sheet after sheet with my curious back-handed chirography. The white feathery snow came down cygnet-soft, and I wrote. I heard the wind ditties in the chimney, the merry wrangling of sleigh-bells, the sonorous clash of fire-bells, and the manuscript grew under my pen, as if by magic. I came to love the nurslings of my fancy as no one else will. I liked the cold, cynical features of Mr. Flint, with his undertaker's aspect; the child-spirit, Bell; Daisy Snarle's eyes; the heart-broken old sailor; the pale book-keeper; Tim, the office boy; Mr. Hardwill, the great publisher; Joe Wilkes, and all of them!
Mrs. Muggins occasionally looked in on me.
Mrs. Muggins' regard for me was increasing. She never left the coal-scuttle on the stairs for my benefit, as she used to; she was eternally hearing my bell ring when it didn't, and answering it so promptly when it did, that I began to think that she lived night and day just outside my door.
Pleasant Mrs. Muggins!
I tried not to feel elated at these little widowy attentions; but los hombres son mortales.
She handed me my coffee with a motherly tenderness that was perfectly touching. She looked at me with the eyes of Solicitude, and spoke with the lips of culminating Respect; and once, in a burst of confidence, she told me that she had six orphan sons, who were "sealurs."
My respect increased for Mrs. Muggins. My novel might run through only one edition, but she,—she had six editions of herself afloat! And I thought that, after all, a woman like her who had produced a half a dozen Neptunes, founded perhaps a half a dozen races, was rendering more service to this apple-like globe, than one poor devil of an author prolifically pregnant with indifferent books.
I spoke to Barescythe about it, and it was pleasant to have him coincide with me once.
It is an agreeable fact, that
"The world goes up and the world goes down, And the sunshine follows the rain."
The new year was four months old. The flowers were teething: the tiny robins were able to go alone, and above the breezy hum of many thousand voices, above the monotonous and ocean-like jar of omnibus wheels, I could hear the babbling of hyaline rills in pleasant woodland places! I could not see the silver threads of water winding in and out among the cool young grass; I could not guess where they were; but through the city smoke, over the dingy chimney-tops, they spake to me with kindly voices!
I knew that daisies were fulling in sunny meadows, and that the dandelion trailed its gold by the dusty road-sides: for
"The delicate-footed Spring was come."
I knew it by the geranium at my window. It had put forth two sickly leaves. Two sickly leaves for me, and the world alive with vernal things! Spring, thou Queen of the Twelve! Dainty, dewy Spring—
"Give me a golden pen, and let me lean On heaped-up flowers,"
when I write of thee! Thy breath is the amber sunshine, and thy foot-prints are violets! Hide Winter in thy mantle: crown his cold brow with mignionette: hang morning-glories on his icicles: keep him from me forever!
"For winter maketh the light heart sad, And thou—thou makest the sad heart gay!"
"Barry," said I, "the sunshine has taken me by the hand, to lead me into a sweet New-England village. There is my manuscript. Read it, if you can, condemn it, if you will, and tell me what you think of it when I return."
That awful critic put DAISY'S NECKLACE under his arm, and walked away—a victim to friendship, a literary Damon of the Nineteenth Century.
As children gathering pebbles on the shore.
No daintie flower or herbe that growes on grownd, No arborett with painted blossomes drest And smelling sweete, but there it might be found To bud out faire, and throwe her sweete smels al around.
THE LITTLE CASTLE-BUILDERS.
The House by the Sea—the Round Window—God's Eyes in Flowers—the Day-Dreamers—A Picture—An Angel—Old Nanny—On the Sea-Shore—Shell-Hunting—Bell's Freak and Mortimer's Dream—Asleep.
Imagine, if you will, one of the quaintest old country mansions that was ever built—a big-chimneyed, antique-gabled, time-browned old pile, and you have a picture of the Ivyton House as it was in summers gone by.
The pillars of the porch were not to be seen for the fragrant vines which clambered over them; lip-tempting grapes purpled[A] on the southern gable of the house, and the full, bright cherries clustered thicker than stars among the leaves. The walks of the garden were white with pebbles brought from the sea-shore; the dewy clover-beds, on each side, lay red with luscious strawberries, as if some one had sprinkled drops of fire over them; and among the larches and the cherry trees there was a salt sea-smell pleasantly mingled with the breathing of wild roses.
A large, round window in one of the gables looked toward the ocean—a fine place for a summer view, or to watch, of a gusty afternoon, the billows as they swell and break in long waving battalions on the beach.
One evening near the end of summer, two children were sitting at this circular window. Ten Aprils had half ripened them. The boy had dark hair, and a touch of sunlight in his darker eyes. The girl was light and delicate—with a face of spiritual beauty, dream-like, heavenly, like the pictures of the Madonna which genius has hung on the chapel walls of the Old World.
"Bell," said the boy, "we never grow weary of looking at the sea."
"No; because while we are watching, we think that father may be coming home to us across its bosom; and we count the waves as if they were moments. We like to see them roll away, and feel that time grows shorter between father and us."
"Yes, that is so," he replied; "but then, we love night almost as much as the sea."
"That is because we have a Father in heaven as well as one at sea," and the girl shaded her angel face with a dainty little hand.
"And we love the sunbeams and the flowers, Bell!"
"We do, indeed!" cried Bell, and the sunshine nestled among her curls. "We do, indeed! because God, like the good fairy in our story-book, comes in sunlight, or hides in flowers; and he reveals himself in ever so many ways, to all who love him."
"Hides in flowers," repeated the boy, musingly; "I never thought of that. Then, perhaps—only perhaps—the dew-drops which I showed you last night in the white japonica were God's eyes!"
"May be so," returned Bell, simply.
They were two strange children—nature, and, perhaps, circumstances had made them so. They were born and had always lived in the old house. Their mother was in heaven, and their father was one of those who go down to the sea in ships. With no one to teach them, save the old house-keeper Nanny, their minds had taken odd turns and conceits; they had grown up old people in a hundred ways.
The roar of the winds and the sea had been in their ears from infancy. In the summer months they wandered late on the sandy beaches, or slept with the silent sunshine under the cherry trees. They had grown up with nature, and nature beat in them like another heart. She had imbued them with her richer and tenderer moods.
Bell was the wildest and strangest of the two. She was one of those aerial little creatures who, somehow or other, get into this world sometimes—it must be by slipping through the fingers of the angels, for they seem strangely out of place, and I am sure that they are missed somewhere! They never stay long! They come to earth and sometimes ripen for heaven in a twelve month! The sweetest flowers are those that die in the spring-time: they touch the world with beauty, and are gone, before a ruder breath than that of God scatters their perfume. Bell was a Gipsy angel—one of those who wander, for awhile, outside the walls of heaven, in the shady pastures and by-ways of the world.
"Mortimer," said Bell, after a long silence, "how nice it is to sit here and watch the bits of sails coming and going—coming and going, never weary! I wonder how long we have sat at this window and watched the white specks? I wonder if it will always be so; if you and I will still be here, loving the sea and stars, when our heads are as white as Nanny's?"
"No!" cried the boy, impetuously. "I am going out into the broad, deep world, and write books full of wonderful thought, like the Arabian Nights!"
And he repeated it, the broad, deep world! Ah, child! what have such dreamers as you to do in the broad, deep world—the wonderful, restless sea, where men cast the net of thought and bring up pebbles?
"I would like that, Mort!" cried Bell, clapping her hands. "But then, what a grand place this would be to write them in! You can have your desk by the open window here; and when your eyes are tired, you can rest them on the sea. And I will be so quiet—as gentle as pussy, even, and do nothing but make pens for you all the time. Wouldn't that be fine?"
"Yes! and father should go no more away in ships. He might have a yacht to leap over the surge in, to sail around all those little islands and in the green bays; but never go off to sea. The books I am going to write will bring us money enough."
So the little castle-builders talked until the sun had melted into the waves, and twilight, like a pilgrim that had been resting by the roadside, rose up from the beach, and came slowly toward the old house.
Mortimer, who had been gazing dreamily at the beach—which grew fainter and fainter, till it seemed like a white thread running through the selvage of blue drapery—turned his eyes on Bell.
"Bell," said he, quietly, "as you sit there in the shadows, with your beautiful hair folded over your forehead, you look like an angel!"
"I can put my hand on your neck, yet you seem far away from me."
"Come, rest your head in my lap, Mort," said the girl, tenderly, "and I will tell you of a real true angel who once came into this world."
The chestnut locks of the boy looked darker against her white dress, as Bell bent over him, and commenced, in a low, silvery voice, an old angel legend. She was in the midst of a strange description of Paradise, when a tremulous voice came up the stairway—
"Come to tea, children!"
Then the two looked at each other curiously. It was so odd to be called to tea, and they in Heaven! It was a long step from Paradise to the supper-table; but the dream was shattered. Bell laughed. Then they closed the window, and descended to the room below, where Nanny had prepared the evening meal of snowy bread and milk, and ripe purple whortleberries. It was very queer to see the three sitting at table—to see homely-looking, but kind-hearted Nanny, between the two children, like a twilight between two pleasant mornings.
When supper was over, and while Nanny was washing the tea-things, the children went down to the beach, shell hunting. The white moon stood directly over the sea, and the waves were full of silvery arrows, as if Diana had scattered them from her quiver. Mortimer's eyes drank in the sight, as they had a thousand times before, for Nature is ever new to her lovers. In the measured roll of the sea, he heard the diapason of a grand poem, and the far-off thunder, heard now and then, was the chorus of the gods.
But Heaven rapt the heart of little Bell! The waves fell on her finer ear like subtlest music; to her they were harps, and the fingers of angels were touching them, while the thunder was "God walking overhead!"
They wandered along the sands, picking up curious shells and cream-white pebbles, dashed with red or clouded with mazarine. Bell would hold them up to her ear, and listen to the "little whispers," as she called them; but the boy would skim them along the wave-tips, and shout when some great billow caught one, and hurled it back scornfully at his feet.
Bell saw a ridge of rocks which looked like the back of a whale, running out some distance into the sea, where the water was whiter and leaped higher than anywhere else; and soon her dainty feet picked a way over the jagged rocks. The boy was about to send a light shell skipping through the surf, when his glance caught Bell standing on the highest jut of the ledge, the wind lifting her long hair and the folds of her dress.
"The stars are in the sea, brother," she replied, "and the winds are wild here."
"I cannot come to you. I fear to walk over the rocks again! But it is beautiful here, and I am not afraid!"
"Ah, Bell!" he spoke sadly, "that's what I dreamt. I thought that there was a gulf between us, and when I called, 'Bell! Bell!' you answered, 'I cannot come to you, brother; but you can come to me!' O, Bell—sister Bell! as you love me, come back. I tremble when you look so like an angel. Come to me, sister."
Mortimer ran out on the slender bridge of stone and led Bell back by the hand. After a little while they heard Nanny calling them to come home.
The children occupied a small chamber over the front door. A scented vine clomb all about the window, and taught the ruddy sun at morning to throw a subdued light into the room; and it broke the orange stream of sunset. At night the dreamers from their bed could see the stars hanging like fruit among its cloudy leaves.
When Bell and Mortimer came up from the sea-beach, the moonlight, breaking through this leafy lattice, made the chamber as that of Abon Ben Adhem—"like a lily in bloom." Nanny brought a lamp, and kissed them good-night.
"O, we don't want a lamp all this moon!" cried Bell.
The boy sat half undressed at the window. "Bell loves moonlight like a fairy," he said.
Bell's robe fell to her knees in snowy folds, and she stood like a petite Venus rising from the froth. Then brother and sister braided their voices in a simple prayer to Our Father in Heaven. They prayed for kind old Nanny, and for one on the wide sea.
"When will father come home?" asked Bell, for the hundredth time that day.
"It will not be long now. When the boughs of the cherry trees are an inch deep with ice, and the logs crackle in the fire-place—then he will come. Let us go to sleep, and dream of him."
And thus, hand in hand, the two went in to Dream-land—
The world of Sleep, The beautiful old World! The dreamy Palestine of pilgrim Thought! The Lotus Garden, where the soul may lie Lost in elysium, while the music moan Of some unearthly river, faintly caught, Seems like the whispering of Angels, blown Upon aeolian harp-strings! And we change Into a seeming something that is not!
Ah, yes! with joy the April rain Thrills nature's breast; but mine with pain Sigheth: "He will not come again!"
THE DEAD HOPE.
Time's Changes—Fall-down Castles—Little Bell Waiting—When will Father Come Home?—Little Bell Weary—What the Sea said—Never more.
Longfellow beautifully asks in Hyperion, "What is Time, but the shadow of the hour-hand on a dial-plate?"
The flowers of the earth and the hearts of men are dial-plates. The shadows coming and going on them are the hour-hands; when a flower fades, or a heart ceases to beat, it is only a weight run down. The whole universe is but one immense time-piece, throbbing with innumerable wheels, heavy with weights, and wearing itself away! Desire is a restless pendulum, one end linked to the heart, and the other pointing downward!
A year had added another link to that chain which stretches through eternity. A year! Battles lost and won: nations in mourning for their dead: ships gone down at sea; and new paths worn to graveyards!
O, for the castles that blow down in a year!
But time fell gently on the inmates of the Old House. The trees and vines were a little larger; and winter had somewhat browned the gables. Bell was paler and more beautiful, and Mortimer was still the same dreamer.
There was a question which haunted the Old House. It was heard in the garden, at "the round window," and on the stair.
"When will father come home?"
The months flew away, like carrier doves, with memories beneath their wings.
"When will father come home?"
And the question was asked again and again, till the little lips and heart of Bell grew weary. Then she folded her hands, and said:
"He will never come!"
Her blue eyes became more dreamy, and her slight form—so very slight—glided about the house. She would listen to the sea. Once she said, "Never more!" and the sea repeated it with a human voice. In the still night she asked,—
"When will father come home?"
"Never more," said the sea—and she heard it through the open window—"Never more!"
She waited, and the months went by.
Was the child Bell the only one in this world waiting?
Who has not some hope at sea? Who has not waited, and watched, and grown weary?
Who has not a question in his heart, to which a low spirit-voice replies:
I saw our little Gertrude die: She left off breathing, and no more I smoothed the pillow beneath her head. She was more beautiful than before, Like violets faded were her eyes; By this we knew that she was dead! Through the open window looked the skies Into the chamber where she lay, And the wind was like the sound of wings, As if Angels came to bear her away.
THE GOLDEN LEGEND.
Autumn and Winter—By the Fireside—Where little Bell is going—Nanny sings about Cloe—Bell reads a Poem—The flight of an Angel—The Funeral—The good Parson—The two Grave-stones.
It was autumn. The wind, with its chilly fingers, picked off the sere leaves, and made mounds of them in the garden walks. The boom of the sea was heavier, and the pale moon fell oftener on stormy waves than in the summer months. Change and decay had come over the face of Earth even as they come over the features of one dead. In woods and hollow places vines lay rotting, and venturesome buds that dared to bloom on the hem of winter; and the winds made wail over the graves of last year's flowers.
Then Winter came—Winter, with its beard of snow—Winter, with its frosty breath and icy fingers, turning everything to pearl. The wind whistled odd tunes down the chimney; the plum-tree brushed against the house, and the hail played a merry tattoo on the window-glass. How the logs blazed in the sitting room!
Bell did not leave her room now.
Her fairy foot-steps were never heard tripping, nor her voice vibrating through the entry in some sweet song. She scarcely ever looked out at the window—all was dreary there; besides, she fancied that the wind "looked at her." It was in her armchair by the antique fire-place that she was most comfortable. She never wearied of watching the pictured tiles; and one, representing the infant Christ in the manger, was her favorite. There she sat from sunny morn until shadowy twilight, with her delicate hands crossed on her lap, while Mortimer read to her. Sometimes she would fix her large, thoughtful eyes on the fantastic grouping of the embers at her feet, and then she did not hear him reading.
She was wandering in Soul-land.
Heaven's gates are open when the world's are shut. The gates of this world were closing on Bell, and her feet were hesitating at the threshold of Heaven, waiting only for the mystic word to enter!
Very beautiful Bell was. Her perfect soul could not hide itself in the pale, spiritual face. It was visible in her thought and in her eyes. There was a world of tender meaning in her smile. The Angel of Patience had folded her in its wings, and she was meek, holy. As Mortimer sat by her before the evening lamps were lighted, and watched the curious pictures which the flickering drift-wood painted on the walls, he knew that she could not last till the violets came again. She spoke so gently of death, the bridge which spans the darkness between us and Heaven—so softened its dark, dreadful outlines, that it seemed as beautiful as a path of flowers to the boy and Nanny.
"Death," said Bell one day, "is a folding of the hands to sleep. How quiet is death! There is no more yearning, no more waiting in the grave. It comes to me pleasantly, the thought that I shall lie under the daisies, God's daisies! and the robins will sing over me in the trees. Everything is so holy in the church-yard—the moss on the walls, the willows, and the long grass that moves in the wind!"
Poor Nanny tried to hum one of her old ditties about Cloe and her lover; then suddenly she found something interesting at the window. But it would not do. The tears would come, and she knelt down by Bell's side, and Bell's little hand fell like a strip of white moonlight on Nanny's hair.
"We shall miss you, darling!" sobbed Mortimer.
"At first, won't you?" and Bell smiled, and who knows what sights she saw in the illumined fire-place? Were they pictures of Heaven, little Bell?
"What shall I read to you, pet?" asked Mortimer one morning. She had been prattling for an hour in her wise, child-like way, and was more than usually bright.
"You shall not read to me at all," replied Bell, chirpingly, "but sit at my feet, and I will read to you."
She took a slip of paper from her work-basket, and her voice ran along the sweetest lines that the sweetest poet ever wrote. They are from Alfred Tennyson's "May Queen."
"I did not hear the dog howl, mother, or the death-watch beat, There came a sweeter token when the night and morning meet;
But sit beside my bed, mother, and put your hand in mine, And Effie on the other side, and I will tell the sign.
All in the wild March morning I heard the angels call; It was when the moon was setting, and the dark was over all;
The trees began to whisper, and the wind began to roll, And in the wild March morning I heard them call my soul.
For lying broad awake I thought of you and Effie dear; I saw you sitting in the house, and I no longer here;
With all my strength I prayed for both, and so I felt resigned, And up the valley came a swell of music on the wind.
I thought that it was fancy, and I listened in my bed, And then did something speak to me—I know not what was said;
For great delight and shuddering took hold of all my mind, And up the valley came again the music on the wind.
But you were sleeping; and I said, 'It's not for them: its mine,' And if it comes three times, I thought, I take it for a sign;
And once again it came, and close beside the window-bars, Then seemed to go right up to Heaven, and die among the stars.
So now I think my time is near—I trust it is. I know The blessed music went that way my soul will have to go;
And for myself, indeed, I care not if I go to-day, But, Effie, you must comfort her when I am past away;
And say to Robin a kind word, and tell him not to fret— There's many worthier than I would make him happy yet;—
If I had lived—I cannot tell—I might have been his wife; But all these things have ceased to be, with my desire of life.
Oh look! the sun begins to rise, the heavens are in a glow; He shines upon a hundred fields, and all of them I know;
And there I move no longer now, and there his light may shine— Wild flowers in the valley for other hands than mine.
O sweet and strange it seems to me, that ere this day is done, The voice that now is speaking may be beyond the sun—
To lie within the light of God, as I lie upon your breast— And the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest!"
When Bell had finished reading, she took Mortimer's hand in her own.
"I shall not die until the violet comes—the beautiful violet, with its clouded bell!"
March melted into April—the month of tears! Then came blossoming May, and still Bell lingered, like a strain of music so sweet that the echoes will not let it die.
One morning in June, the sun with noiseless feet came creeping into the room—and Bell was dying. Mortimer was telling her of some sea-side walk, when the unseen angel came between them. Bell's voice went from her, her heart grew chilly, and she knew that it was death. The boy did not notice the change; but when her hand lay cold in his, he looked up with fear. He saw her beautiful eyes looking heavenward, and those smiles which wreathe the lips of the young after death—the sunset of smiles.
"Bell! Bell! Bell!"
But she did not hear him.
The viewless spirits of flowers came through the open window into the quiet room; and the winds, which made the curtains tremble, gently lifted the tresses of the sleeping angel. Then the chiming of village bells came and went in pulses of soft sound. How musical they were that morning! How the robins showered their silvery notes, like rain-drops among the leaves! There was holy life in everything—the lilac-scented atmosphere, the brooks, the grass, and the flowers that lay budding on the bosom of delicious June! And thus it was, in the exquisite spring-time, that the hand of death led little Bell into Soul-land.
* * * * *
One afternoon, the blinds were turned down: not a ray of light stole through them, only the spicy air. There was something solemn stalking in the entries, and all through the house. It seemed as if there was a corpse in every room.
The way the chairs were placed, the darkened parlor, the faded flowers on the mantel-piece, and the brooding silence said it—said that Bell was dead!
Yes! In the little parlor she lay, in her white shroud. Bell? No; it was not Bell. It was only the beautiful robe which her spirit in its flight had cast aside!
There was a moving of feet to and fro. Gradually, the room became full of forms. The village parson stood among them. His hair had the white touch of age, and his heart knew the chastening hand of God. "Exceeding peace" was written on his meek face. He lifted up his soul on the arms of prayer. He spoke of the dead, whose life had been as pure as a new snow. He spoke cheerfully and tenderly, and sometimes smiled, for his
"Faith was large in Time, And that which shapes it to some perfect end."
He had drank at the fountain of God's word; his soul had been refreshed, and his were not the lips to preach the doctrine of an endless wail. He knew that there are many mansions in our Father's house; and he said that Bell was happier there than here. He glanced back upon her infant days, and ran along the various threads of her life, to the moment death disentangled them from the world. "This little one in her shroud," he said, "is an eloquent sermon. She passed through the dark valley without fear; and sits, like Mary, at the feet of our Saviour." Of this life, he said: "It is but an imperfect prelude to the next." Of death: "It is only a brief sleep: some sunny morning we shall wake up with the child Bell, and find ourselves in Heaven!"
The coffin was closed, and the train passed through the gravelled walk.
Then came that dull, heavy sound of earth falling on the coffin-lid, which makes one's heart throb. Did you ever hear it?
* * * * *
When Bell had been a year in Heaven, a plain head-stone was placed over Nanny. She lingered only a little while after her darling. She folded her arms and fell asleep one summer twilight, and never again opened her kind old eyes on this world. Age had weakened her frame, and the parting of soul and body was only the severing of a fragile cord.
Mortimer did not remain long in the old house; its light and pleasantness had passed away. The little stock of money which his father had left previous to his last voyage, was exhausted; he could earn nothing in the village. His early dream of the great city came over him again. He yearned for its ceaseless excitement, its grandeur—he never thought of its misery, its sin and pollution. Through the length of one July night he lay awake in bed, while his eyes were like kaleidoscopes, taking a thousand arabesque forms and fancies. Toward morning he fell asleep, having built some fall-down castles in the air. The next day he took a last, lingering look at the old rooms; a last ramble on the sea-shore; he sat an hour under the braided branches of the cherry trees, gave a parting look at the white caps of the sea, and turned his eyes to the city in the dim distance—the great city-ocean, with no one to point out to him its sunken reefs, its quicksands, and maelstroms.
Next to Bell's grave he placed a simple tablet to the memory of his father.
"This sod does not enfold him," said Mortimer to himself; "but it will be pleasant for me to think, when I am far away, that their names are near together."
So he left them in the quiet church-yard at Ivyton—left them sleeping among the thick musk-roses, in the warm sunshine; and the same berylline moss was creeping over the two mounds. One head-stone said "LITTLE BELL," and the other:
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF OUR FATHER, LOST AT SEA, 18—.
The Almighty Dollar.
The age is dull and mean. Men creep, Not walk; with blood too pale and tame To pay the debt they owe to shame; Buy cheap, sell dear; eat, drink, and sleep Down-pillowed, deaf to moaning want; Pay tithes for soul-insurance; keep Six days to Mammon, one to Cant.
J. G. WHITTIER.
Every one is as God made him, and oftentimes A great deal worse.
MIGUEL DE CERVANTES.
A FEW SPECIMENS OF HUMANITY.
Down Town—Messrs. Flint & Snarle—Tim, the Office Boy, and the pale Book-Keeper—The Escritoire—The Purloined Package—Mr. Flint goes Home—Midnight—Miss Daisy Snarle—The Poor Author.
In one of those thousand and one vein-like streets which cross and recross the mercantile heart of Gotham, is situated a red brick edifice, which, like the beggar who solicits your charity in the Park, has seen better days.
In the time of our Knickerbocker sires, it was an aristocratic dwelling fronting on a fashionable street, and "Jeems," in green livery, opened the hall door. The street was a quiet, orderly street in those days—a certain air of conscious respectability hung about it. Sometimes a private cabriolet rolled augustly along; and of summer evenings the city beaux, with extraordinary shoe-buckles, might have been seen promenading the grass-fringed sidewalks. To-day it is a miasmatic, miserable, muddy thoroughfare. Your ears are startled by the "Extray 'rival of the 'Rabia," and the omnibuses dash through the little confined street with a perfect madness. Instead of the white-kidded, be-ruffled gallants of Eld, you meet a hurrying throng of pale, anxious faces, with tare, tret and speculation in their eyes.
It is a business street, for Mammon has banished Fashion to the golden precincts of Fifth Avenue. The green of Jeems' livery is, like himself, invisible. He has departed this life—gone, like Hiawatha, to the Land of the Hereafter—to the land of spirits, where we can conceive him to be in his element; but he has a "town residence" in an obscure graveyard, with his name and "recommendation" on a stone door-plate. His mundane superiors are reclining beneath the shadow of St. Paul's steeple, where they are regaled with some delectable music (if you would only think so) from the balcony of the Museum opposite, and have the combined benefit of Barnum's scenic-artist and the Drummond light.
The massive door-plate, and highly polished, distorted knocker, no longer grace the oaken panels of number 85; but a republican sign over the family-looking doorway tells you that "the front room, second floor," is occupied by Messrs. Flint & Snarle. After passing up a flight of broad, uncarpeted stairs, you again see the name of that respectable firm painted on a light of ground glass set in the office door. Once on the other side of that threshold, you breathe mercantile air. There have been so many brain-trying interest calculations worked out on those high desks, that the very atmosphere, figuratively speaking, is mathematical.
The sign should not read Flint & Snarle, for Snarle has been dead six months, and it is not pleasant to contemplate a name without an owner—it is not to every one, but Mr. Flint likes to read the sign, and think that Snarle is dead. He was the reverse of Flint, and that his name should have been Snarle at all is odd, for in life he was the quintessence of quietness, and the oil of good nature. But Flint is well named; he is chalcedony at heart. Nobody says this, but everybody knows it. Nell, the pretty match-girl, who sells her wares in Wall-street, never approaches him, nor the newsboys; and blind men, with sagacious, half-fed dogs, steer clear of him by instinct. He doesn't tolerate paupers, and Italian hand-organs with monkey accompaniments—not he.
The man who has not as much money as the surviving senior of Flint & Snarle, is a dog—in Flint's distinguished estimation. His God is not that divine Presence, whose thought
"Shaped the world, And laid it in the sunbeams."
Flint's God is Gold.—
"Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold! Bright and yellow, hard and cold, Molten, graven, hammered and rolled; Heavy to get, and light to hold; Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold; Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled; Spurned by the young, but hugged by the old To the very verge of the church-yard mould; Price of many a crime untold: Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!"
Flint is about fifty-three years of age; but if you could forget his gray hair, and look only at those small, piercing black eyes, you would hardly think him forty. His black dress-coat is buttoned around his somewhat attenuated form, and he wears a stiff white cravat because it looks religious. In this respect, and perhaps in others, you will find Flint's prototype on every corner—people who look religious, if religion can be associated with the aspect of an undertaker.
It is Monday morning.
Mr. Flint sits in his private office reading the letters. There is a window cut in the wall, and he glances through it now and then, eyeing the book-keeper as if the poor careworn fellow were making false entries. On a high consumptive-looking stool sits the office boy, filing away answered letters and sundry bills paid. The stool seems so high and the boy so small, that he at once suggests some one occupying a dangerous position—at a mast-head or on the golden ball of a church-steeple. For thus risking his life, he receives "thirty dollars per year, and clothing." We like to have forgotten that. The said clothing consists of one white cravat full of hinges, and a dilapidated coat, twelve sizes too large for him, his widowed mother supplying the deficiency.
Save the monotonous ticking of a thick-set, croupy clock, and the nervous scratching of pens, not a sound is heard.
Mr. Flint in deep thought, with his thumbs lost in the arm-holes of a white vest, paces up and down his limited sanctum, just as a thoughtful-eyed, velvet-mouthed leopard walks its confined cage, only waiting for a chance to put its paws on somebody. The stool on which the boy is sitting is a rickety concern, and its creakings annoy Mr. Flint, who comes out, and looks over the orphan's shoulder. If his lynx eyes discover a document incorrectly filed, he pinches the delinquent's ears, till he (the orphan) is as red in the face as an August sunset. Mr. Flint chuckles when he gets back to his desk, and seems to enjoy it immensely, for he drums out an exhilarating dead march with his long, wiry fingers on the cover of the letter-book. The pale book-keeper—his hair and eyes are darker than when we first saw him sitting with little Bell at "the round window" in the Old House—continues to write assiduously; and the orphan thinks that he hears fire-bells, his ears ring so.
He's an unfortunate atom of humanity, that office-boy. He was never young. He never passed through the degrading cycles of infancy—never had any marbles or hoops: his limbs were never ignominiously confined by those "triangular arrangements" incidental to babyhood. At five, when other children are bumping their heads over steep stairs, he smoked cinnamon segars, and was a precocious, astute little villain at seven. For thirty-six months he folded books for Harper & Brothers, and at the advanced age of ten years three months, was bound over to the tender mercies of Flint & Snarle for "thirty dollars per year and clothing," (so the indentures read;) but as he is charged with all the inkstands demolished during the term, and one gross of imaginary lead pencils, he generally has about twenty-five dollars to his credit on the 1st of January, which Flint generously offers to keep for him at four per cent. interest, and which offer the ungrateful orphan "firmly but respectfully" declines.
"Mortimer!" cries Mr. Flint, in a quick, snarly voice from the inner office.
The book-keeper lays down the pen which he has just dipped in the ink, and disappears in the little room. Mr. Flint is turning over the leaves of the invoice book.
"In thirteen pages there are no less than two blots and five erasures. You have grown careless in your penmanship lately;" and Mr. Flint closes the book with a report like that of a pocket-pistol, and opens it again. One would suppose the office-boy to be shot directly through the heart; but he survives, and is attacked with a wonderful fit of industry.
"Do you write in your sleep?" inquires Mr. Flint, with a quiet insolence.
Mortimer thinks how often he has toiled over those same pages at hours when he should have been sleeping—hours taken from his life. But he makes no reply. He only bites his lips, and lets his eyes flash. Suddenly a thought strikes him, and, bending over Mr. Flint's shoulder, as if to examine more closely his careless chirography, he takes a small key from an open drawer in the escritoire behind him, and drops it into his vest-pocket. After receiving a petulant reprimand, Mortimer returns to his desk; and again that weary, weary pen scratches over the paper.
After the bank deposit is made up, and Mr. Flint looks over the bill-book, and startles the orphan from a state of semi-somnolency, he goes on 'Change. He is no sooner out, than Mortimer throws Tim a bit of silver coin.
"Get some apples for yourself, Tim."
Tim (he's small of his age) slides down from the high stool with agility, while his two eyes look like interrogation points. He is wondering at this sudden outbreak of munificence, for though "Mr. Mortimer" always had a kind word for Tim, and tried to extricate him from the web of mistakes which Tim was forever spinning around himself, yet Tim never knew him to come down with the "block tin" before, as he eloquently expressed it; and he looks at Mortimer all the time he is getting his cap, and pauses a moment at the door to see if he doesn't repent.
When Tim's feet cease sounding on the stairs, Mortimer goes into the back office, and with the key which he had taken from the drawer, unlocks a small iron hand-safe. His trembling fingers turn over package after package; at last he finds one which seems to be the object of his search. This he hastily conceals in the bosom of his coat. After carefully re-locking the safe, he approaches the escritoire to return the purloined key, but to his dismay he finds the drawer locked. The one above it, however, is unfastened. Drawing this out, he places the key in its right compartment.
Mortimer, in searching for the paper which he has hidden in his bosom, had removed several others from the safe; but in his nervousness he had neglected to replace a small morocco case. He discovers his negligence, and hears foot-falls on the stairs at the same moment. There is no time to re-open the chest: he wraps the case in his handkerchief, and resumes his place at the desk.
Tim returns munching the remains of a gigantic apple, and bearing about him a convicting smell of peanuts. Suddenly Mr. Flint enters, and Tim is necessitated to swallow the core of his russet without that usual preparatory mastication which nature's kindly law suggests. Mr. Flint has made a capital bargain on 'Change, and his face is lighted up with a smile, if fancy can coax such an expression into one. It looks like a gas-light in an undertaker's window.
It is five o'clock. Mr. Flint goes home to doze over a diminutive glass of sherry. He holds it up between his eyes and the light, smiling to see the liquid jewels, and wishes that they were real rubies. Flint! they are red tears, and not jewels which glisten in your glass, for you crushed the poor, and took advantage of the unfortunate to buy this pleasant blood which pulses in your brittle chalice!
That night he thought of a pair of blue, innocent eyes which once looked pleadingly in his—of two tiny arms that were once wound fondly around his neck. Those eyes haunted him into the misty realm of dreams, where myriads of little arms were stretched out to him; and he turned restlessly on his pillow. Ah, Flint, there is an invisible and powerful spirit in the heart of every man that will speak. It whispers to the criminal in his cell; and the downy pillows and sumptuous drapery around the couch of Wealth cannot keep it away at midnight.
There is not a house but has its skeleton. There is a ghastly one in Flint's.
The silvery lips in Trinity steeple chime the hour of eleven; St. Paul's catch it up, and hosts of belfrys toss the hour to and fro like a shuttle-cork. Then the goblin bells hush themselves to sleep again in their dizzy nests, murmuring, murmuring!—and the pen of the pale book-keeper keeps time with the ticking of the office time-piece.
It is nearly twelve o'clock when he reaches the door of a common two-story house in Marion-street. The door is opened before he can turn the bolt with his night-key, and the whitest possible little hand presses his. He draws it within his own, and places his arm around the daintiest little waist that ever submitted to the operation. Then the two enter the front parlor, where the dim light falls on Mortimer and a beautiful girl on the verge of womanhood. She looks into his face, and his lips touch a tress of chestnut hair which has fallen over his shoulder.
"You are very pale. Have you been unwell to-day?"
"No, Daisy," and he bends down and kisses her.
"Why do you persist in sitting up for me? I shall scold if you spoil your cheeks. Kiss me, Daisy."
The girl pouts, and declares she won't, as she coquettishly twines her arms around his neck, and Mortimer has such a kiss as all Flint's bank stock could not buy him—a pure, earnest kiss. He was rich, poor in the world's eye, richer than Flint, with his corpulent money bags, God pity him!
They sit a long while without speaking. Mortimer breaks the silence.
"We are very poor, Daisy."
"Yes, but happy."
"Sometimes. To-night I am not; I am weary of this daily toiling. The world is not a workshop to wear out souls in. Man has perverted its use. Life, and thought, and brain, are but crucibles to smelt gold in. Nobleness is made the slave of avarice, just as a pure stream is taught to turn a mill-wheel and become foul and muddied. The rich are scornful, and the poor sorrowful. O, Daisy, such things should not be! My heart beats when I think how poorly you and your mother are living."
"O, how much we owe you, Mortimer! you are selling your life for us. From morning till night, day after day, you have been our slave. Poor, dear Mortimer, how can we thank you? We can only give you love and prayers. You will not let me help you. Last night, when you found me embroidering a collar, a bit of work which Mrs. Potiphar had kindly given me, you pleasantly cut it in pieces with your pen-knife, and then pawned your gold pencil to pay for ruining Mrs. Potiphar's muslin—too proud to have me work!"
"Why will you pain me, darling? I was complaining for others, not myself. I do not toil as thousands do. I am impulsive and irascible, and do not mean all I say. I am ungrateful; my heart should be full of gratitude to-night, for the cloud which has hung over me the last six months has shown its silver lining."
"What do you mean?" cries Daisy.
"Do you know that you are an heiress?" asks Mortimer, gaily.
Daisy laughs at the idea, and mockingly says, "Yes."
"An heiress to a good name, Daisy! which is better than purple, and linen, and fine gold."
Daisy looks mystified, but forbears to question him, for he complains of sleep. The lovers part at the head of the stairs. Mortimer, on reaching his room, draws a paper from his bosom; he weeps over it, reads it again and again; then he holds it in the flame of a candle. When the ashes have fallen at his feet, he exclaims:
"I have kept my promise, Harvey Snarle! Peace to your memory!"
From a writing-desk in a corner of the room he takes a pile of manuscript, and weary as he is, adds several pages to it. The dream of his boyhood has grown with him—that delightful dream of authorship! How this will-o'-the-wisp of the brain entices one into mental fogs! How it coaxes and pets one, cheats and ruins one! And so that appalling pile of closely-written manuscript is Mortimer's romance? Wasted hours and wasted thought—who would buy or read it?
A down-town clock strikes the hour of two so gently, that it sounds like the tinkling of sheep-bells coming through the misty twilight air from the green meadows. With which felicitous simile we will give our hero a little sleep, after having kept him up two hours after midnight.
Slumber touches his eyelids gently; but Daisy lies awake for hours; at last, falling into a trouble sleep, she dreams that she is an heiress.
Oh, Daisy Snarle!
The bitter cups of Death are mixed, And we must drink and drink again.
R. H. STODDARD.
Sunday Morning—Harvey Snarle and Mortimer—A Tale of Sorrow—The Snow-child—Mortimer takes Daisy's hand—Snarle's death.
Six months previous to the commencement of the last chapter, Mr. Harvey Snarle lay dying, slowly, in a front room of the little house in Marion-street.
It was Sunday morning.
The church bells were ringing—speaking with musical lips to "ye goode folk," and chiming a sermon to the pomp and pride of the city. As Mortimer sat by the window, the houses opposite melted before his vision; and again he saw the old homestead buried in a world of leaves—heard the lapping of the sea, and a pleasant chime of bells from the humble church at Ivytown. And more beautiful than all, was a child with clouds of golden hair, wandering up and down the sea-shore.
"Mortimer?" said the sick man.
Then the dream melted, and the common-looking brick buildings came back again.
"The doctor thought I could not live?" said the man, inquiringly.
"He thought there was little hope," replied Mortimer. "But doctors are not fortune-tellers," he added, cheerfully.
"I feel that he is right—little hope. Where is Daisy?"
"She has lain down for a moment. Shall I call her?"
"Wearied! Poor angel; she watched me last night. I did not sleep much. I closed my eyes, and she smiled to think that I was slumbering quietly. No; do not call her."
After a pause, the sick man said:
"Wet my lips, I have something to tell you."
Mortimer moistened his feverish lips, and sat on the bed-side.
"It comes over me," said the consumptive.
"What? That pain?"
"No; my life. There is something drearier than death in the world."
"Sometimes life," thought Mortimer, half aloud.
The sick man looked at him.
"Why did you say that?"
"I thought it. Life is a bitter gift sometimes. An ambition or a passion possess us, flatters and mocks us. Death is not so dreary a thing as life then."
"He felt that."
"His mind is wandering," murmured Mortimer—"wandering."
"It isn't," said Snarle, slowly. "A passion, a love, made Flint's life bitter."
"Flint! Did he ever love anything but gold?"
"Yes; but it was long ago! We are cousins. We were schoolmates and friends, sharing our boyish sports and troubles with that confiding friendship which leaves us in our teens. We lived together. I can see the old white frame house at Hampton Falls!" and the man passed his emaciated hand over his eyes, as if to wipe out some unpleasant picture. "A niece of my father's came to spend a winter with us. Young men's thoughts run to love. I could but love her, she was so beautiful and good; and while she did a thousand kind things to win my affection, she took a strange aversion to my cousin Flint, who grew rude and impetuous. We were married. But long before that, Flint packed up his little trunk, and, without a word of farewell, left us one night for a neighboring city. Years went by, and from time to time tidings reached us of his prosperity and growing wealth. We were proud of his industry, and thought of him kindly. We, too, were prospering. But the tide of our fortune changed. My father's affairs and mine became complicated. He died, and the farm was sold. One day I stood at Flint's office door, and asked for employment. Evil day! better for me if I had toiled in the fields from morning till night, wringing a reluctant livelihood from the earth, which is even more human than Flint. Wet my lips, boy, and come near to me, that I may tell you how I became his slave; softly, so the air may not hear me."
Mortimer drew nearer to him.
"It was a hard winter for the poor. My darling wife was suffering from the mere want of proper medicines and food. I asked Flint for a little more than the pitiable salary which he allowed me. He smiled, and said that I was extravagant. We had not clothes enough to shield us from the cold! I told him that my wife was sick; and he replied, bitterly, 'poor men should not have wives.' Wet my lips again. Can you love me, boy, after what I shall tell you? I forged a check for a trivial amount!" and Snarle's voice sunk to a hoarse whisper. "Can you love me?"
"Can I love you?" cried Mortimer. He could not see the sick man for his tears. "Can I forget all your kindness. Years ago, when I was a mere child, toiling early and late in Flint's office, did you not take me to your home, a poor hope-broken boy? Have I not grown up with Daisy, like your own child? Not love you?"
Mortimer laid his face on the same pillow with the sick man's.
"I was not sent to prison," continued Snarle, with a shudder; "only my own mind, and soul, and actions were prisoners. I was Flint's! Flint owned me! That little paper which he guards so carefully is the title-deed. O, Mortimer, as you hold my memory dear, destroy that paper—tear it, burn it, trample it out of the world!"
With these words Snarle sank back upon the pillow, from which he had half risen. He went on speaking in a lower tone:
"I have suffered so much that I am sure God will forgive me. Never let the world know—never let my wife and Daisy know that I was a——"
"O, I will promise you, dear father," cried Mortimer, before he could finish the dreadful word. "I will destroy the paper, though twenty Flints guarded it. The man who steals a loaf of bread for famishing lips, is not such a criminal in God's sight as he who steals a million times its value by law to feed his avarice. Think no more of it. The angel who records in his book, has written a hundred good deeds over that unfortunate one. The world's frown is not God's frown, and His heart is open when man's is barred with unforgiveness."
"Thank you, thank you," said Snarle, brightening up a little. "Your words give me comfort. I have not much more to tell. Flint took me into the firm, but I was the same slave. I worked, and worked, and the reapings were his. You have seen it—you know it. And this was his revenge. His wounded love and pride have wrecked themselves on me. He has never crossed the threshold of our door—never laid his eyes on my wife since the time when we were thoughtless boys together. O, how cruel he has been to me! Evening after evening, in midwinter, he has made me bring the last editions of the Express to his house, and never asked me in!"
This was said with such a ludicrous expression, that Mortimer would have laughed if it had been anybody but poor Snarle. Exhausted with talking, the sick man sank into a quiet slumber.
Mortimer sat by his bed-side for an hour, watching the change of expressions in the sleeper's face—the shadow of his dreams coming and going! Then his head drooped upon his bosom, and he slept so soundly that he did not know that Daisy came in the room, and stood beside him, looking in his face with her fond, quiet eyes.
When he awoke, one long dark shadow from the houses opposite slanted into the apartment.
Snarle was looking at him.
"I have been asleep," said Snarle, "and have had such pleasant thoughts that it is painful to find myself in this poor little world again. Ah, me, what will wife and Daisy do in it all alone?"
"Not alone," said Mortimer. "I will watch over them—love them." Then, after a pause: "Father, I love Daisy—I would make her my wife."
"Ah, I wished that; but I did not think it:" and Snarle paused a moment. "Have you told Daisy so?"
"Well," said Snarle, waiting.
"But she does not love me; and that is why I said love would make life bitter."
"Perhaps she does."
"What did Daisy say?"
"She said there were clouds in the morning of her life—(these were her own words)—which had no sunshine in them. Then she called me brother and kissed me, and told me that I must never think of her as my wife. She would be my sister always. And when I speak to her of this, she turns away or hums a pleasant air to mock me."
"She is not our child, Mortimer."
"No, I am not wandering," said Snarle, in reply to Mortimer's look. "She is not our child. We adopted her under strange circumstances. I have not told you this before. Daisy did not wish me to; but it is right that you should know it now. Sit nearer to me."
Mortimer obeyed mechanically.
"One stormy night we were sitting, my wife and I, in the room below. I remember as if it were yesterday, how the wind slammed the window-blinds, and blew out the street-lamps. It was just a year ago that night we lost our little Maye, and we were very sad. We sat in silence, while without the storm increased. The hail and snow dashed against the window-panes, and down the chimney. Every now and then the wind lulled, and everything was still."
Heaven knows why Mr. Snarle ceased speaking just then; but he did, and seemed lost in reverie.
"What was I saying?"
"You were speaking of the storm."
"Yes, yes. It was in one of those pauses of the wind that we heard a low sob under our windows. We did not heed it at first, for sometimes a storm moans like a human voice. It came again so distinctly as to leave no doubt. I opened the hall-door, and groped about in the snow. When I returned to the sitting-room, I held little Daisy in my arms. She was no larger than our Maye who died—our little three-year-old. The child was half frozen, and nothing but a coarse cloak thrown over her night-dress, had saved her from perishing. I reported the circumstance at the police-station, but such things were of too common occurrence to excite much interest. Weeks passed, and then months, and no one answered the advertisements. At last we had learned to love the child so dearly, that we dreaded the thought of parting with it. I asked and obtained permission to adopt the pet, and so Daisy became ours. She is very proud, and the mystery of her birth troubles her; and this——"
Before Snarle could finish the sentence, Daisy herself opened the room door, and came tripping up to the bed-side.
Mortimer took her hand very quietly.
"Daisy," he said, "I love you."
Daisy hid her face in the pillow.
"He has told me everything, and I love you, Daisy!"
Daisy looked up with the tears and sunshine of April in her eyes.
"Do you love me?" he asked.
The girl was silent for a moment, then a sweet little "yes" budded on her lips.
Then Mortimer kissed Daisy, and poor Snarle died happy; for that evening his life-stream ebbed with the tide, and mingled with that ocean which is forever and forever.
REQUIESCAT IN PACE.
A lone ship sailing on the sea: Before the north 'twas driven like a cloud; High on the poop a man sat mournfully: The wind was whistling through mast and shroud, And to the whistling wind thus did he sing aloud.
THE PHANTOM AT SEA.
A Storm in the Tropics—The Lone Ship—The Man at the Wheel—How he sang strange Songs—The Apparition—The Drifting Bark.
The blood-red sun had gone down into the Atlantic. Faint purple streaks streamed up the western horizon, like the fingers of some great shadowy hand clutching at the world.
Huge masses of dark, agate-looking clouds were gathering in the zenith, and the heavy, close atmosphere told the coming of a storm. Now and then the snaky lightning darted across the heavens and coiled itself away in a cloud.
A lone ship stood almost motionless in the twilight.
The sails were close-reefed. Here and there on the forecastle were groups of lazy-looking seamen; and a man walked the quarter-deck, glancing anxiously aloft. The sea was as smooth as a mirror, and that dreadful stillness was in the air which so often preludes a terrific storm in the tropics. A rumbling was heard in the sky like the sound of distant artillery, or heavy bodies of water falling from immense heights.
Then the surface of the sea was broken by mimic waves tipped with froth, and the vast expanse seemed like a prairie in a snow fall.
The lightning became more frequent and vivid, and the thunder seemed breaking on the very topmasts of the vessel. Then the starless night sunk down on the ocean, and the sea raved in the gathering darkness. The storm was at its height: the wind,
"Through unseen sluices of the air,"
tore the shrouds to strings, and bent the dizzy, tapering masts till they threatened to snap. But the bark bore bravely through it, while the huge waves seemed bearing her down to those coral labyrinths, where nothing goes
"But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange."
The thunder sent forth peal after peal, and the heaven was like "a looming bastion fringed with fire." On through the slanting rain sped the ship, creaking and groaning, with its ribs warped and its great oaken spine trembling. The sailors on deck clung to the bulwarks; and below not a soul could sleep, for the thunder and the creaking of cordage filled their ears.
At midnight the storm abated; but the sea still ran dangerously high, and the wind sobbed through the rigging mournfully. The heaven was spangled with tremulous stars, and at the horizon the clouds hung down in gossamer folds—God's robe trailing in the sea!
Toward morning the waves grew suddenly calm, as if they had again heard that voice which of old said, "Peace, be still!" There was no one above decks, save the man at the wheel, who ever and anon muttered to himself, or hummed bits of poetry. He was a man in the mellow of life, in the Indian summer of manhood, which comes a little while before one falls "into the sere and yellow leaf." Once he must have been eminently handsome; but there were furrows on his intellectual forehead not traced by time's fingers. His eyes were peculiarly wild and restless.
The slightest tinge of red fringed the East, and as the man watched it grow deeper and deeper, he sang snatches of those odd sea-songs which Shakespeare scatters through his plays:
"The master, the swabber, the boatswain and I, The gunner and his mate, Loved Mall, Meg, and Marian and Margary, But none of us cared for Kate. For she had a tongue with a twang, Would cry to a sailor, go hang! She loved not the savor of tar or of pitch,— Then to sea, boys, and let her go hang!"
Then his sonorous voice rang out these quaint words to the night:
"Full fathom five thy father lies: Of his bones are coral made: Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade—"
He abruptly broke off, and commenced:
"Break, break, break On thy cold gray stones, O Sea! And I would that my tongue could utter The thoughts that arise in me.
O, well for the fisherman's boy, That he shouts with his sister at play! O, well for the sailor lad, That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on, To the haven under the hill; But oh, for the touch of a vanished hand, And the sound of a voice that is still!
Break, break, break, At the foot of thy crags, O Sea! But the tender grace of a day that is dead Will never come back to me."
Suddenly he paused, while a paleness like death overspread his face; the spokes of the wheel slipped from his hold, and he called for help; but the wind went moaning through the shrouds, and drowned his voice. The sea moaned and the ship drifted with the wind.
"It comes again!" he cried; "the graveyard face! Go! I cannot bear those sad, reproachful eyes—those arms outstretched, asking mercy! Send foul fiends to torture me, and make my dreams hideous nightmares, but not this beautiful form to mock me with its purity, and kill me with its mild reproach. It has gone. But it will come again! It steals on me in the awful hours of night, when the air seems supernatural, and the mind is accessible to fear. It stood by my hammock last night; my conscious soul looked through my closed eyelids, and sleep felt its dreadful presence. If it comes again I will throw myself into the sea! Hush!" he whispered, "it stands by the cabin door, so pale! so pale! Come not near me, pensive ghost. Give me help, somebody! help! help!"
He sunk down by the wheel.
The stars, at the approach of morning, had grown as white as pond-lilies, and the wind had died away; but the same moan came up from the sea. On in the morning twilight drifted the ship for an hour, without a helmsman, save that unseen hand which guides all things—which balances with equal love and tenderness a dew-drop or a world.
I was not always a man of woe.
IN WHICH THERE IS A MADMAN.
Mr. Flint sips vino d'oro—The Stranger—The Letter—Mr. Flint Outwitted—Mr. Flint's Photograph—The Madman's Story—The wrecked Soul—How Mr. Flint is troubled by his Conscience, and dreams of a Pair of Eyes.
The same night on which Mortimer was writing in the books of Flint & Snarle, Mr. Flint sat in the library of his bachelor home, sipping a glass of vino d'oro; and as the bells of Trinity Church fell faintly on his ear, he drew a massive gold watch from his fob, and, patting it complacently on the back, scrutinized its face as if he would look it out of countenance. Then he yawned a couple of times and thought of bed.
"There's a gintleman without, sur," said Michel, putting his comical head in at the library door, "there's a gintleman without, sur," and he emphasized the 'gintleman.'
"What sort of a person, Michel?"
"A very quare one indade. 'Is Mr. Flint in?' sez he. 'He is sur,' sez I. 'I want to see him,' sez he. 'Your kard, sur,' sez I. He stared at me a minit, and laughed. Then, sez he, without the least riverence for your worship, 'Give this to owld Flint!'" And Michel, exploding with laughter, handed Flint a knave of clubs very much soiled.
"Michel!" said Mr. Flint, drawing himself up to his full altitude, "kick him down the steps!"
"Thanks!" said a voice directly behind Michel, who had retreated to the doorway. The voice was so near and unexpected that Michel's crisp hair stood on end with fright.
The door was thrown wide open, and a fine looking man, with the bearing of a sailor, stood between them. Mr. Flint turned as white as his immaculate shirt-bosom; and Michel, whose love of fun had got the better of his scare, regarded the intruder with a quizzical, inquiring air, peculiarly Irish.
"Michel," said Mr. Flint, "you may go."
That gentleman, not expecting such an order, hesitated.
"Michel," said the stranger, "your master speaks to you."
"Sure I heard him, sur."
Michel left the room and carefully closed the door after him; but Flint, who knew his inquiring proclivities, opened it suddenly, and found Michel on all fours with his ear to the key-hole. The door was opened so unexpectedly that the listener did not discover the fact for the space of ten seconds. When he looked up and beheld his master, the intense expression of his face was superbly ludicrous. To say that he shot to the subterranean regions of the kitchen like a flash of lightning, does not border on fiction.
The man laughed—it was a low, peculiar laugh, sadder than some men's tears.
"Are you glad to see me?" and the man repeated his laugh.
"No: you are a devil!"
"I have been away three years, as I promised you."
"Well, what do you want?"
"Have I ever seen you when you did not?"
"No, Flint, you never did. But you saw me once when I had an unstained soul—when I could have looked up to Heaven and said, 'I am poor, Father, but I am honest.' Have you enough money to pay for a lost soul? Oh Flint, I am a wrecked man! If it had only been murder—if I had killed a man in the heat of passion—but a poor innocent babe in the cold snow! The child! the little babe! Ah, Flint, I never see the white snow coming down but I think of it. Those eyes are always with me. They follow me out to sea. They haunt me in the long watches. One night, when a storm had torn our rigging to tatters, and we heard the breakers on the lee-shore, I saw her standing by the binnacle light, and, so help me Heaven! she had grown to be a woman. I fainted at the wheel. You heard of the shipwreck. How could a ship keep clear of the rocks and the helmsman in a trance? Forty souls went down, down! Hist! who said that? Not I. No, not I! I am a maniac!"
"Don't go on that way," pleaded Flint, giving uneasy looks toward the door, which he regretted having locked.
"It is not pleasant."
"Your eyes—your words. What can I do for you?"
The man's excitement lulled for a moment. He replied, carelessly:
"I am not a chameleon; I cannot live on air; I can earn no money. The elements are against me—storms and shipwrecks follow me.... I have not found him yet," he said, abruptly.
Flint turned aside his head, and laughed quietly.
"I am tired of searching for him," said the man, sorrowfully. "I am not going to sea any more." After a pause—"I wish to live among the fishermen off Nantucket. You ask me what I want?"
"I want two or three hundred dollars to fit up a fishing-smack. Give me this, and I will not trouble you again. God knows I don't want to look on your face!"
"And the letter—will you give me the letter?"
"Yes; when I take the money."
The man drew from his bosom several letters, and selected one more worn and crumpled than the rest.
Flint's eyes fed upon it.
"Of course," said Flint, "I have not such an amount in the house. I have a hundred dollars up stairs, and will give you a check for the remainder. Will that do?"
"No and yes; but get the money, and I'll see."
Flint left him alone. From a safe in his bed-chamber he took a small bag of gold, and caressed it for a moment very much as one's grandmother would a pet cat; then he filled up a check, and called Michel.
"Run to the police station, Michel, and tell Captain L.——to send me three or four men."
Michel shot down stairs, and his master followed him leisurely, patting the gold-bag lovingly at every other step.
"Does he think," said Flint's visitor to himself, as the library door closed—"can he think I would part with this paper? He, so full of worldly shrewdness, so simple?"
After awhile the door opened.
"There!" gasped Flint, placing the bag on the table before the man; "the letter! the letter!"
The stranger carelessly threw a rumpled paper toward Flint, who grasped it convulsively. His hand touched a bell-rope, and before the bell had ceased tinkling, a heavy measured tramp came through the entry. Four policemen entered the room in single file, with Michel behind them making comical efforts to keep step.
"Arrest him!" cried Flint, hoarse with passion and triumph, "he has extorted money from me!"
"Flint," said the man, walking toward him, "you know that's a lie!"
Mr. Flint retreated behind the policeman.
"This person," he cried, "is a stranger to me; he forced his way into my house and has threatened my life. Arrest him quickly, for he is no doubt armed!"
"Gentlemen," said the stranger, turning to the officers, "Mr. Flint, I fear, has given you useless trouble. Michel, more glasses!"
At this, that astonished individual went off like a rocket.
"For the love you bear your good name, Mr. Flint", he continued, "look at the paper which you so innocently put in your pocket."
An idea struck Flint, which caused him to turn pale. He tore open the letter; but it was not the one for which he would have given half his fortune. Oh! sagacious, wily, clear-sighted Mr. Flint!
"You had better tell these gentlemen that you have made a mistake, Flint. But, before they go, they must have a glass of wine."
Michel had failed to appear with the extra glasses; but the want of them was elegantly supplied by three silver goblets which stood on the beaufait. And poor, collapsed Flint! he could only bid the officers go, with a wave of his hand.
They were alone.
The sailor, with a scornful curl in his lip, stood by the chair of the merchant, whose dejected countenance, taken in connection with his white cravat, was delightfully comical.
"Flint," commenced the man, "your verdancy is refreshing. Your sweet and child-like simplicity is like a draught of your old wine—it's rare, it's rare."
If anything touched Flint, it was sarcasm. He stood in dread of ridicule, as most men do whose foibles and vices deserve lashing.
"Edward Walters!" he cried, springing to his feet, "you have outwitted me. Well, you are a knave; it is your pride to be one. Your companions will shout to-night, in some obscure den of this city, as you tell them of your ingenuity, and you will be a hero among——"
"Stop, John Flint! For sixteen years to-night my life has been as pure as a child's. The vices of passion and avarice have not touched me. I have borne a sorrow in my heart which shrunk instinctively from sin. During these years I have been poor, very poor." The man paused. "There is a link lost somewhere in my life—was I an age in a madhouse? Let it go. I have loved my fellow-man; I have lingered at the hammock of a sick mess-mate, and closed his eyes kindly when he died; I have spoken words of cheer when my heart was bitterness. I do not say this boastfully, for God's eyes are upon us all. I have done these things to atone for the one great sin of my life, which has stalked through memory like a plague. John Flint, I have had the misfortune to know you for twenty years, and during that time you never have, to my knowledge, performed a single act worthy of being remembered. You have a narrow, malicious mind; you have been tyrannical when you should have been generous; you have been the devil's emissary under the cant of religion. You call Jesus master, but you crucify him daily! There is your photograph, John Flint!"
"You flatter me," remarked that personage, sarcastically; "but go on."
"It is seldom that a rich man has the truth spoken to him plainly—the poor man hears it often enough. Consider yourself favored. You have called me a knave. I will draw some pictures, and I wish you to look at them:
"Many years ago, a seafaring man who had just lost his ship in which his little fortune had been invested, returned to this city sick at heart, and weak from a wound which he had received in the wreck. He had battled many a year against misfortune, and his utmost exertions had barely found bread for his children. He owed money to a heartless and exacting man. He stood before his creditor and said, 'I am beggared, but I will work for you.' The merchant replied, 'Come to my house to-night, and I will find means by which this debt can be liquidated.' The sailor expected reproaches and hard words; so he was surprised at the softness of this speech, and his heart was full of gratitude.
"That night he sat in the parlor of the merchant, who plied him with rare wines, until his mind went from him. Then he made a proposal to the sailor, who, if he had had his senses, would have felled him to the floor. The merchant had been appointed guardian to a motherless babe, which his brother, dying, begged him to love and educate. His ship on the sea, and the bales of merchandize in his warehouses, were not enough to feed his hungry avarice. He needs must have the little inheritance of the babe. Well, while he was speaking, making artful pictures in the eyes of his drugged dupe, the child ran into the room, and twined her arms around the neck of him who should have worshiped her. But he coldly unclasped the little hands and pushed her from him. John Flint, when that man, on Judgment Day, shall cringe before the throne of God, the Evil Angel will trample him down!"
Flint was as white as the marble mantel-piece on which he leaned. Edward Walters stood a short distance in front of him; his eyes were fixed, and he spoke like one who sees what he is describing.
"Then the man—the merchant—wrapped the child in the sailor's cloak. In a few minutes the sailor stood in the stormy street, with a frightened little heart throbbing against his own. The cutting sleet and snow beat in his face, and the wine made a veil before his eyes. It was a fearful night. Not a human form was to be seen; the street lamps were blown out, and the poor mariner drifted to and fro like a deserted ship. He had become mad; the strange events had eaten into his brain. He wrapped the babe closer in his cloak, and placed her in a doorway, out of the cold. He wandered from street to street, then he sank down in the snow. When his senses came to him he had been in a madhouse—God, how many years! Was it ten? The June wind broke through the barred window; it touched his forehead, and it was like a human hand rousing one from a dreamless sleep. One evening soon after, he stood before the merchant, who was sipping his choice cordials, as you were to-night, Flint, and the sailor asked for the child. The man replied: 'The child is dead; you left it in the cold, and it died, or you threw it into the river. I saw a body at the dead-house, weeks afterward, which looked like the child. You committed murder; it was your own act. Suppose you were to be hung for it!' Have I a good memory, John Flint?"
And the man turned his wild eyes on Mr. Flint, who gave no other evidence of not being a statue than a slight tremor of his upper lip.
"What did the madman say to the merchant? He took the cool, calculating villain by the throat, and cried, 'Write me out, in your round, clerkly hand, a full avowal of your guilt in this matter, or I'll strangle you!' The merchant knew he would, so he wrote this document with trembling fingers, and he signed it JOHN FLINT!"
Then the sailor drew from his pocket an old stained letter, and held it up to the light. He looked at it sadly, and then his mind seemed to wander off through a gloomy mist of memories, for his eyes grew gentle and dreamy.
He spoke softly, almost tenderly:
"John Flint, you never saw me weep. Look at me, then. I am thinking of an old country-house which stood in a cluster of trees near a sea-shore. It once held everything that was dear to me—my children. Three years ago I stood with my hand on the gate, and looked into the little garden. It had gone to waste; the wind had beaten down the flower frames; the honeysuckle vines were running wild, and there was the moss of ten years' growth on the broken chimney-pots. The rain had washed the paint off the house, and the windows were boarded up. There was something in the ruin and stillness of the place which spoke to me. Twilight added a gloomy background to the picture. I broke the rusty fastenings of a side door, and entered the deserted building. It may have been fancy, but I saw two forms wandering from room to room, and through the darkened entries; now they would pause, as if listening for foot-steps, then they would move on again, sorrowfully, sorrowfully. In the bedroom over the front door, I saw the shadow of a little coffin! She used to sleep there. Where were my children? Where was trustful old Nanny, that she did not come to me? The house was full of strange shadows, and I fled from it. I did not dare go to the village hard by. There were too many who might have known me. I sat down in the quiet church-yard where my wife had slept many a long year. I sat by a little mound on which a wreath of flowers had been laid—nothing remained of them but stems and the rotting string that had bound them. It had a peaceful look, the grave, and I wished that I had died when my mound would not have been made longer than the one at my side. What did the simple head-stone say? It said: 'LITTLE BELL!'—that was all!"
The sailor grasped Flint's arm.
"Only little Bell!—that was all. But it was all the world to me! What a tale it told! What a tale of weary waiting, and despair, and death! Did her little heart wait for me! Did she sicken and die when I did not come to her? Aye, it said all this and more. And my boy—was he living? was he searching for me? No, not searching, for close by my child's grave, a white stone had these words carved on it:" and the man repeated them slowly,
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF OUR FATHER, LOST AT SEA.
"Not lost at sea," he said, almost inaudibly, "but lost! Ah, I could have died in that quiet place, with the moonlight on me! But I was startled from my grief by the shouts of some men on the roadside, and I turned and fled. Have you looked at the picture, John Flint?"
He spoke so mournfully, that Flint raised his little, sharp eyes, which all this time had been fixed on the carpet; but he made no reply.
"I'll have none of your gold, man. I was weak to want it. Give it to the poor. The shining round pieces may fall like sunlight into some wretched home. To me they are like drops of blood!"
And he pushed the gold from him, and went to the window. He saw the dim eyes of Heaven looking down through the mist—heard the murmurs of the city dying away, and the calm of night entered his soul.
"May you be a better man when we meet again," he said, turning to Flint.
"But the letter," cried Flint, fearfully, "you won't——"
The sailor's lips curled, and something of his former severity returned.
"Take off your sanctimonious cravat," he answered, "wrap charity around you like a robe, that you may be pleasing in God's sight. You sent some gold to convert the Hindoos—the papers said so. Why, man! there is a Heathen Land at your door-step! John Flint, good night!"
The merchant stood alone.
The night wind swayed the heavy curtains to and fro, and half extinguished the brilliant jets of gas. He threw himself into a chair, and a vision of the Past rose up before him—the terrible Past. The ghosts of dead years haunted his brain, and remorse sat on his heart, boding and mysterious, like the Raven of the sweet poet—
"That unhappy master, whom unmerciful disaster Followed fast, and followed faster, till his songs one burden bore!"
That night, as we have said, he dreamt of two blue, innocent eyes, which once looked confidingly in his—of two infant arms which encircled his neck. Those eyes haunted him into the realm of sleep, where myriads of little arms were stretched out to him, and he turned restlessly on his pillow!
He trudged along, unknowing what he sought, And whistled as he went, for want of thought.
MR. FLINT IS PERFECTLY ASTONISHED, AND MORTIMER HAS A VISION.
The Light Heart—A Scene—The Sunny Heart—A Dream of Little Bell—A Hint.
Now that Mortimer Walters had destroyed the record of poor Snarle's guilt, he determined to be no longer a subject of Flint's authority. He had watched for months for an opportunity to become possessed of the forged cheque; and it was with a heart as light as a singing bird's that he tripped up the office stairs an hour before his time the next morning.
Tim was sweeping out.
Sleep had left no cobwebs in his young eyes; but when he saw Mortimer throw open the office door, humming a light-hearted air, he rubbed his eyelids with the sleeve of his dusty coat, as if it were a question in his mind whether or not he was dreaming.
"My last day here!" said Mortimer gaily to himself. "Weary, tiresome old books! my soul has grown sick over you for the last time."
He brushed the dust from off the dull-looking ledger, and went to work. "Won't I astonish him?" he thought, looking up; and he laughed so pleasantly that Tim, who was sweeping the rubbish into a dust-pan, suspended operations, and expressed his surprise in a somewhat dubious ejaculation:
When Mr. Flint came in, he saw the same tall form bending over the accustomed desk that had met his eyes every morning for the last ten years; but he did not see the heart that was leaping with new life. And when, in his usual snarly way, he gave Mortimer orders to make up certain invoices, which would have employed the clerk till midnight, he opened a brief conversation which ended in his utter amazement.
"You will render Bowen & Cleet their account current, and make up the pork sale; it has been standing open long enough. And," added Mr. Flint, "fill up bills of lading for the D. D. coffee."
"I don't think I will," was the quiet reply.
Mr. Flint did not believe his ears.
"You will fill up those bills of lading immediately."
"I won't!" plumply.
This caused Mr. Flint to sink in a chair with astonishment; and Mortimer went on writing.
"Did you say that you wouldn't?" asked Mr. Flint, looking at him.
"My year," said Mortimer, leisurely, "expires to-day, and with it, I am happy to state, my connection with Flint & Snarle."
Mr. Flint hunted twenty seconds for his lost voice.
"Sir!" cried Mortimer, turning to him abruptly, "until now I have borne your tyranny with meekness. We are no longer employer and clerk. We are man and man, with the advantage on my side. If you apply an insulting epithet to me, I shall pull your ears!"
O Tim, how you rubbed your hands, you little villain! How your limbs seemed to be receiving a series of galvanic shocks from an invisible battery! How your eyes sparkled, and your proclivity for fight got uppermost, till you cried out, "Pitch into him, old boy!"
"Go!" hissed Flint, through his closed teeth; "go!" that was all the word he could master.
Mortimer passed out of the office.
The genial sunshine slid from the house-tops, and fell under his feet; a thousand airy forms walked with him, and he felt their presence, though he could not see them.
He wandered through the Park. April had breathed on the cold ground, and the green grass was springing up to welcome her. The leaves were unfolding themselves, and the air was full of spring. The fountain had thrown off its icy manacles, and leaped up with a sense of freedom.
His dreamy eyes saw it all. The black shadows had fallen from him; he had left them with Flint; and a bright day had dawned within him and without him. Everything was tinged with iridescent light, for he looked at the world, as it were, through dew-drops. Happy morning—happy life! when one can put aside the trailing vines of painful memory, and let the warm sunshine of Heaven find its way into the heart.