FROM WEALTH TO POVERTY;
THE TRICKS OF THE TRAFFIC.
A Story of the Drink Curse
BY THE REV. AUSTIN POTTER.
"I will ask him for my place again; he shall tell me I am a drunkard. Had I as many mouths as Hydra, such an answer would stop them all. To be now a sensible man, by-and-bye a fool, and presently a beast" —Othello, Act II.
TO THE FRIENDS OF PROHIBITION THE WORLD OVER THIS BOOK IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
BY THE AUTHOR.
My reasons for writing this story were principally two. The first was my undying hatred of the rum traffic, which, in the days of the long ago, caused me and those dear to me to endure intense hardship and suffering; and the second was my desire to expose the unprincipled measures which were employed by the liquor party in order to render the Dunkin Act non-effective, and thus bring it into disrepute.
What I have written has been taken from personal experience and observation; and as I have resided in three counties where the Act was in force, and have since visited several others, the data, which served as a foundation for what follows, was not gleaned from any particular locality.
The picture I herein present of the plottings of the liquor party, and the cruel treachery to which they resorted in order to bring their conspiracy to defeat the law to a successful issue, is not overdrawn; and, let me ask, can there be any doubt but there are in existence at the present time plots similar to the one laid bare in this book, which have for their object the obstruction of the Scott Act in the counties where it has been or may be carried, thus if possible to bring it into such contempt among the unthoughtful, who will not examine back of the effect for the cause, as to finally secure its repeal. Of one thing we may be certain, if an unscrupulous use of money and the resorting to "ways that are dark" will accomplish their purpose, these conspirators will not fail of success.
It has been my aim in this book to help educate public sentiment, so that if the same tactics are resorted to as were in the places where the Dunkin Act was in force, my readers will not aid the violators of the law by joining in the senseless cry, "the Scott Act is a failure," but that they will, to the extent of their ability, assist those who are determined that it, like every law which has been placed on our statute books for the protection of the subject, must and shall be respected, and that the violators of its enactments shall be brought to summary and condign punishment: for except it is backed by public sentiment it, though much superior to the Dunkin Act, will fail just as signally.
In regard to the principal characters who appear in these pages, they are not mere creations of my imagination; for Richard and Ruth Ashton were real personages, with whom I was well acquainted, as were all the prominent individuals of this story.
The descriptions given of the murders and suicides, also of Morris throwing the tumbler at his son, and of the scene when Allie Ashton was insulted by Joe Porter and the latter was knocked down by Frank Congdon, are all taken from events which really occurred.
For what I have written I offer no apology, but will simply state that I have only been animated with a sincere desire to do my little all to sweep the drink curse from our country and the world.
CHAPTER I. A Departure.
CHAPTER II. Richard and Ruth Ashton.
CHAPTER III. On the down grade.
CHAPTER IV. Sail for America and meet a kindly welcome.
CHAPTER V. Good resolution—A tempter and a fall.
CHAPTER VI. Arrival in Canada—A friendly host—Applies for a situation.
CHAPTER VII. Mr. and Mrs. Gurney.
CHAPTER VIII. Ashton meets with friends and secures a situation.
CHAPTER IX. Ruth's misgivings and mental agony.
CHAPTER X. All in Canada.
CHAPTER XI. Aunt Debie and her friends.
CHAPTER XII. A worthy Sheriff and Judge—Dr. Dalton.
CHAPTER XIII. Ruth Ashton's introduction to Aunt Debie—Ruth's dilemma.
CHAPTER XIV. A happy home.
CHAPTER XV. Mr. and Mrs. Gurney's satisfaction with Ashton— Mutual congratulations.
CHAPTER XVI. Ashton revisits old scenes.
CHAPTER XVII. Mr. Howe gives his views in regard to Canada.
CHAPTER XVIII. The banquet, and what followed.
CHAPTER XIX. A startling newspaper item to Mr. and Mrs. Reid.
CHAPTER XX. A base plot, and what it led to.
CHAPTER XXI. Utterly broken—Blasted hopes.
CHAPTER XXII. The Dunkin Act—A discussion in which strong language is used.
CHAPTER XXIII. The conspirators formulating their scheme.
CHAPTER XXIV. Alderman Toper's flattering opinion of the "Dodger".
CHAPTER XXV. The friends of temperance rejoicing over their victory.
CHAPTER XXVI. In which the reader listens to a tete-a-tete between mother and daughter.
CHAPTER XXVII. Barton's despair, and what it led to.
CHAPTER XXVIII. The conspirators perfecting the details of their conspiracy.
CHAPTER XXIX. Mr. Brown's opinion of the trial, and the presiding magistrates.
CHAPTER XXX. The insult to Allie Ashton—Her gallant defender.
CHAPTER XXXI. Richard Ashton and little Mamie—Mamie's dream.
CHAPTER XXXII. A bar-room settlement of a misunderstanding.
CHAPTER XXXIII. The home and family of Morris—He nearly kills little Harry.
CHAPTER XXXIV. Tom Flatt's hut—A description of the scene in which he murders his wife.
CHAPTER XXXV. John, jun.'s wedding—Barton's murder—Luella Sealy's suicide and Ginsling's tragical death.
CHAPTER XXXVI. Some of the characters who helped the repeal— A hoodlum's victory.
CHAPTER XXXVII. Death of little Mamie—A promise.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. Richard Ashton murderously attacked—His death.
CHAPTER XXXIX. Mr. Gurney speaks his mind—Death of Dr. Dalton And Aunt Debie.
CHAPTER XL. Conclusion.
"Richard, you will keep from drink, will you not, dear?" and the speaker, in order to make her pleading irresistible, kissed the one to whom these words were addressed again and again; and, as with a hand upon each shoulder, she looked lovingly into his eyes, there was an added pathos which, to a man of Richard Ashton's sympathetic and sensitive nature, was all powerful.
"Well, Ruth, dear, God helping me, I will again be a man, and when I am tempted I will think of my dear little wife and my darling children at home; and remembering how they love me, though I have been such an indifferent husband and father to them, I will not touch nor taste the cursed stuff."
The tears gleamed in his eyes as he thus spoke, but feeling his manhood was being compromised he endeavored to suppress them, the effort, however, was in vain, for the deepest depths of a noble, sensitive nature had been wrought upon by the loving appeal of his wife and the pent-up feeling, gathering force by the very effort which he had made to suppress it, manifested itself in a series of short, choking sobs. He returned the kisses of his wife, clasped her convulsively to him, and, as he looked down into the upturned face, his eyes manifested an affection which found no expression in speech. He stooped down and fondly kissed his children and then opening the door, with satchel in hand, he darted out, only looking back when his wife called to him, as she stood with her three little ones on the threshold—
"Remember, Richard, your wife and children will pray for you, that our Father in heaven may preserve you from danger, give you strength to resist temptation, and bring you back in safety to those who love you better than their own lives."
He stood looking back for a moment, and as he saw his wife and children still gazing intently after him, he murmured, "God bless you, my darlings;" and turning again, walked rapidly on until he was lost to view.
RICHARD AND RUTH ASHTON.
Richard Ashton was a native of the town of G——, in the county of B——, England. His father, who was a draper in good circumstances, had given his son a liberal education and had brought him up to his own calling. The son, a young man of quick parts, took advantage of the opportunities so generously offered to him and prosecuted his studies with commendable success, and by the time he was a stripling of sixteen was possessed of knowledge that few of his years could boast.
Richard was also an omniverous reader, and, as his father possessed a good library, he, from a very early period had literally devoured the contents of the books which lined its shelves, and thus became well versed in history, both ancient and modern, in the biographies of most of the celebrated men of all ages, and was also well acquainted with the most eminent poets, from Chaucer to Tennyson, ever having an apt quotation at his command to fasten home a maxim or make more pungent a witticism. In fact he had further developed a mind naturally broad by making his own the best thoughts of the ages, and his sensitive nature could not, knowingly, have given pain to a worm—no one that was worthy appealed in vain to his generosity, and it seemed to be the endeavor of his life to gain happiness by making those with whom he associated happy. With his genial disposition, sparkling wit, skill at repartee, and brilliant conversational powers, it was not at all surprising, with such a nature and such accomplishments, joined to an exceedingly handsome person he should have been voted a good fellow by the men and a "catch" by the young ladies who had entered that interesting period when they are considered eligible candidates for matrimony. And as he had, over and above his accomplishments, good prospects for the future, the mammas of the aforementioned young ladies should not receive severe censure if they did each exercise the utmost skill to secure for a son-in-law the coveted prize. But these delicate manifestations were not productive of the results which, it was whispered by the Mrs. Grundies of the neighborhood, would have been most agreeable to the parties interested, for his heart had long been given to one who was in all respects worthy of its best affections. It afforded him, however, no little amusement to find himself the object of so much attention, and he quietly enjoyed the situation, while the parties in question endeavored to out-manoeuvre each other, as they strove, as they supposed without appearing to strive, to capture the object of their ambition. There was such subtle tact exhibited and such powers of delicate blandishment displayed that he was convinced women were born diplomatists, and he now had some conception of how it was that in a broader field some of the sex had wielded such an influence over kings and statesmen as to be the powers behind the throne which ruled empires and kingdoms for their benison or their bane. He certainly would have possessed extraordinary attributes if his vanity had not been flattered, by being conscious he was thought worthy of such flattering attention; though his thoughts were tinged with cynicism when exhibitions of selfishness were not wanting in his fair friends, and as, sometimes, delicate hints were faintly outlined which darkened character, and inuendoes were whispered to the detriment of rivals, by lips that seemed moulded only to breathe blessings or whisper love.
As we have previously stated, Richard Ashton had met his fate years before, when, as a young man of eighteen, he attended a social party given by a Mrs. Edmunds, whose husband was a great friend of his father's, and a member of the same guild. He was there introduced to a modest, unpretentious, but yet cultivated and refined country maiden, Ruth Hamilton by name, who was a niece of his host. We will not say it was a case of love at first sight, though they certainly were, from the first, mutually attracted each to the other, for, when he entered into conversation, he found her so modest and unaffected, yet with a mind so well furnished—seeming to have an intelligent conception of every topic upon which they touched, as they ranged at will in their conversation, evincing such acumen of intellect and such practical comprehension of subjects of which many of her sex, who made much greater pretentious, were entirely ignorant, that Ashton, concluded she was a treasure, indeed, which he would make his own, if possible.
She might not by some be called a beauty, for she could not boast of classic regularity of feature; but no one could be long in her presence without yielding the, tribute which, at first sight, he was chary of giving. She was fair of complexion—not of a pallid hue, but tenderly tinted, like a peach blossom, and so transparent that the blue veins could be plainly discerned as they made their delicate tracery across her low, broad brow. Her mouth was small, but expressive, and her lips red and fresh as a rosebud. She had glorious gray eyes, large and expressive, luminous and deep, which in repose spoke of peace and calm, but which, when excited by mirth or by a witticism, glowed and scintillated like wavelets in the golden light of the sun.
Two such spirits, so alike in taste and yet so opposite in temperament and complexion, could scarcely fail to be mutually attractive; for he was dark and she fair; his temper was as the forked lightning's flash, quick and sometimes destructive, while she was ever calm, gentle, and self-possessed. In fact, they were the complement each of the other, and it was not long ere he had wooed and won her, and obtained the consent of her guardians to make her his wife.
They were married one beautiful day in the bright Spring-time, when nature had donned her loveliest dress, and the air was fragrant with the breath of flowers and vocal with the songs of birds. As they stood together at the altar—he with his wavy raven locks swept back from his broad brow, with his dark eyes flashing with intelligence; she with a face that rivalled in fairness the wreath of orange blossoms that crowned her luxuriant tresses of gold—they presented a picture of manly strength and sweet, womanly beauty that is seldom equalled and scarcely ever excelled.
As the guests congratulated them upon the happy consummation of their ardent desires, and expressed the hope that life would be to them as a summer's day with few clouds, they had every reason to believe their most sanguine hopes would be realized. Alas! many a day that has had a rosy morn, sweet with the breath of flowers and jocund with the voice of birds, has been dark with clouds and flashing angry lightnings ere noon. What a blessing it is that God in His mercy allows us to revel in the sunshine of the present, and does not darken our clear sky with the clouds of coming woe.
ON THE DOWN GRADE.
A short time after their marriage Richard inherited the business and property of his father, whose health had been failing for years, and who died quite unexpectedly. His mother never recovered from the shock, but in a short time followed her loved husband to the grave. So the son was left with a good business and ample means, seeming to be on the road to opulence.
As the years rolled on business prospered, and the prattle of children's voices gladdened their home. First a boy came, with the fair hair and large dreamy eyes of the mother; then, two years later, a girl with the dark eyes and the raven black hair of the father, and their cup of bliss seemed full to overflowing.
Circumstances, however, had already occurred which caused Ruth very much uneasiness of mind, and sometimes when a friend called she had to absent herself for a short time until she had removed the traces of her tears.
Richard had joined the "Liberal Club," and as he threw his whole soul into anything which he deemed worthy of his attention, his wife soon had grave fears that it absorbed too much of his time. Hours which should have been devoted to business were spent in discussing the political issues of the day, and she felt they suffered serious loss, for there were left to his employees important transactions which should have had his undivided attention; and the course he had pursued had alienated some of his best customers. The Liberal Club of which he was a member was composed of the most ultra of the Radicals in that section of country—in fact a great many of its members had been participants in the Chartist agitation, and, a short time after Ashton joined, they invited Henry Vincent, the celebrated agitator, to deliver an address, he, while he remained in town, being the guest of Ashton. This gave great offence to many of his best customers—not only to those who were ultratories, but also to the whigs, and, as a consequence, many of them left him and gave their patronage to rival establishments.
This, however, was not the worst feature of the case; there was another and a stronger motive power to accelerate his already rapid descent. He, with many more of the prominent members of the "Liberal Club," was also among those who are called liberals in their religious views. This could not be tolerated for a moment by those among his customers who were decided in their religious convictions, for they were fully convinced that a person who held such opinions was a dangerous man in any community. They therefore withdrew their patronage, which completed the ruin of his formerly prosperous business, for it did not afterwards pay running expenses.
This state of things greatly alarmed Ruth, and was the source of much sorrow. But there were greater sorrows to follow.
When we are struggling with difficulties and environed by circumstances which have a tendency to make us miserable, we must not imagine that we have sounded the deepest depths of the abyss of woe, for if we do we may discover there are depths we have not yet fathomed. This Ruth Ashton soon bitterly realized, for her husband had of late frequently returned from the Club so much under the influence of liquor as to be thick in his speech and wild, extravagant and foolish in his actions, which caused her many hours of unutterable anguish.
When he first began to drink she was not seriously alarmed, it being the custom in England, at their convivial parties, to pledge each other in wine; and since on such occasions it frequently happened that they imbibed, enough, not only to make them a little exuberant but also quite intoxicated, she thought she must not expect her husband to be different from other men in this respect, as it was at most only a venial offence. But now when his troubles thickened, and his friends one after another left him, and he began to drink more deeply to drown his cares and to stimulate him to meet his difficulties, her partial anxiety deepened into agony, strong and intense. She made loving remonstrance, appealing to him if he loved wife and children to leave the "Club," and not destroy his business and thus involve them all in ruin. Also, frequently, when the children were fast asleep in their little cot, as she looked with a mother's tenderness and pride upon them, thinking what a picture of innocence and beauty they presented as their heads nestled lovingly together on the pillow—the raven-black and gold mingling in beautiful confusion—she would kneel beside them, and as the deepest, holiest feelings of her heart were stirred, she would pray that the one who was so dear to them all might be redeemed from evil and become again a loving husband, a kind father, and a child of God.
Richard at first received her gentle remonstrance with good-natured banter, and generally turned it off with a playful witticism. He asked her if she had not enough confidence in him to believe he was sufficiently master of himself to take a glass with a friend without degenerating into a sot, and he used very strong expletives when speaking of those who were so weak as not to be able to take a glass without making fools of themselves.
But he would not allow even Ruth to influence him in regard to his political predilections, for, when she tried to persuade him to take a more moderate course, he sternly replied he would not desist from exercising what he believed to be his right, not even for her, much as he loved her. He said it was his proud boast that he was a Briton, and as such he would be free—free not only to hold his opinions, but to act upon his convictions, and any man who would withdraw his support from him because he would not be a slave was a petty tyrant, and if such an one was not a Nero it was because he lacked the power, not the spirit.
So matters went from bad to worse with Richard Ashton, not only in regard to the moral, but, also, in the financial aspect of the case. In fact he had soon to draw so largely on his banker that the money his father had left him, outside of the business, began to be seriously diminished. Josh Billings says, "When a man begins to slide down hill he finds it greased for the occasion." And certainly the case of Richard Ashton illustrated the truth of the aphorism, for when he once began to go down hill his descent was so rapid that he soon reached the bottom; and became bankrupt in capital and character. He now began to talk of selling out and going to America: "There," he said, with much emphasis, "I shall be free."
SAILS FOR AMERICA, AND MEETS A KINDLY WELCOME.
Ruth was now suffering keenly. She loved her husband with such an intense passion that even his folly did not cool its ardor, and when others denounced him in the harshest terms she spoke only in tenderness. And when many of her friends went so far as to advise her to leave him, and so save to herself and children some remnant of her fortune, she indignantly protested against their giving her any such advice. She said she would remain faithful to her marriage vow, no matter what suffering and obloquy it might involve. Not but her idol had fallen very low. She had been so proud of him, proud of his manly bearing, his strength of character. Proud of his ability, which, to her, seemed to enter the regions of genius. "Oh!" she said, as she mourned over her blasted hopes, her vanished dream of bliss, "I never expected this." She suffered as only such a sensitive, noble, cultured woman could suffer, and suffered the more because she would give voice to no complaint. The heart was at high pressure, and the valve was close shut.
But she did not give up her endeavors to save him. She tried by gentle endearing tenderness to win him from destruction; and when she found this did not avail she passionately appealed to him to stop ere he had involved them all in ruin.
"Oh Richard!" she would say, "Why do you drink? You know your business is now nearly ruined. Your friends have nearly all deserted you. You are fast losing your self-respect, wrecking your health, and dragging your wife and children down with you. Consider, my darling, what you are sacrificing, and don't be tempted to drink again!"
She might have reminded him of how he formerly boasted of his strength, and denounced the weakness of the habitual drunkard, but she refrained from so doing. She determined, no matter what she suffered, never to madden him by a taunt or unkind word, but to save him if possible by love and gentleness. He as yet, though harsh and peevish to others, had never spoken an unkind word to her. He had once or twice been unnecessarily severe to the children, which caused pain to her mother's heart, but she had by a quiet word thrown oil upon the troubled waters of her husband's soul, and applied a balm to the wounded hearts of her children.
Sometimes, when she with tears in her eyes appealed to him, he would promise not to drink again. There is no doubt but it was his intention to keep his word, but yet it was invariably broken. The fact was he had become a slave to drink, such a slave that neither what he owed to wife, nor children, nor man, nor God, could restrain him. His word was broken; his honor stained, his wife and children ruined, his God sinned against, and he had become that thing which formerly he so despised—a poor, miserable drunkard.
His friends had seen this for some time, and now he himself could not fail to recognize his awful situation; for his thirst for spirituous liquor had become so strong that he would sacrifice everything he held dear on earth to obtain it—in fact, it had become a raging, burning fever, which nothing but rum could allay.
Reader, do not be too strong in your words of scorn and condemnation. You may never have been tried. People who boast of their purity and strength may never have been environed by temptation. "Let him that is without fault cast the first stone."
A few weeks after he had expressed to his wife his determination to sell out and go to America, two men, who were mutual friends of his, and who were members of the "Liberal Club," casually met on the street. After the usual compliments, one said to the other: "By-the-bye, Saunders, did you hear that Ashton had sold out to Adams and was going to sail for America next week?"
"No; is that so? Well, I expected something would happen. The poor fellow has been going to the bad very rapidly of late. Who would have thought he was so weak? I take it that a man who cannot drink a social glass with a friend without degenerating into a sot has very little original strength of character."
"It is all very well to talk, Bell; I have frequently heard Ashton express himself in the same manner, and yet you see what he is to-day. There was not a member of the Club his equal when it was first formed. In fact, he was the master spirit of the society. Not one of all the members could approach him in culture, in brilliancy, or in legislative ability. You remember that in a former conversation we thought it strange he should associate with us, when he would be welcomed as a peer by those who, at least, consider themselves our betters; and you expressed it as your opinion that he, like Milton's Satan, would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven."
"But, Charley, is he completely bankrupt?"
"Well, I guess I might almost say so, for it is reported he has used up all the capital which was left him by his father and has drawn heavily on his wife's means. From what I hear, I would conclude he has but a few hundred pounds left to take him to America. I pity his wife. She was a charming girl, so beautiful, so clever, and yet so modest. Many a man envied Ashton his prize. And you know that many an eligible girl would like to have stood in her shoes and been the bride of Richard Ashton, for he was considered one of the best catches in the matrimonial market. Such is life; then it was high noon with him, and all smiled upon him; now, none so poor as to do him reverence."
This conversation gives a true outline of the actual state of affairs. Richard Ashton, at the date of which we are speaking, found absolute ruin staring him in the face, and he now knew he must either sell or be sold out. He wisely chose the former alternative, while there was some chance of saving a little for himself.
Poor Ruth, it almost broke her heart. Her guardian had died before her husband had so utterly fallen, and his wife had preceded him to the grave. She had now lost every near relative, with the exception of her husband and children. But every one who had been at all intimate with her was her friend, and ready to give sympathy and help. She felt grateful for the many expressions of kindness she had received, and it was a severe trial to sever the cords which bound her to those whom she had known so long, and to leave her dear native land and old home to go among strangers who were thousands of miles away. But though it was hard to part, she thought it would be for the best—it could scarcely be for the worse. She was rashly advised by some not to go, as they said, "there was no knowing how utterly he might fall, and then, if she were among strangers, she and her children might be brought down to the deepest depths of poverty and woe." But she nobly replied, "he is my husband and the father of my children, and no matter how he is despised by others he is inexpressibly dear to me, and I will never forsake him 'till death do us part,' no matter what may befall."
Soon after the conversation I have just narrated ensued, Richard Ashton settled up his business gathered the small remnant of his fortune together, and he and his family set sail for that land of promise—America. It was with sad forebodings that Ruth bade her friends a long, and, as it proved to be, a final farewell.
She stood upon the deck of the gallant vessel that bore them away, and as she saw the land she loved so well slowly fade from view and grow dimmer and dimmer as the distance lengthened, until it seemed as a haze upon the dreary waste of waters, there was a feeling of inexpressible sadness took possession of her. She involuntarily drew closer to her husband, and gave expression to the emotions of her soul by sobbing as though her heart would break. He lovingly threw his arm around her waist and drew her closely to him, soothing her sorrow by loving caresses. As the old look shone in his eye, he gently whispered, "God helping me, my darling, I will be a better man, and, as far as I can, I will redeem the past."
After landing in New York he remained there a short time to visit some old friends, and then pushed through to the beautiful city of Rochester, where a relative of his resided. Here he purchased an unpretentious but cozy little cottage, situated not far from Mt. Hope. It had a latticed porch, which was in summer-time covered with honeysuckles; and the cottage was embosed in flowering trees and morning glories. It had at the back a very fine garden, which also contained numerous peach trees and a delightful snuggery of a summer-house, whose sides were covered with lattice-work, over which clambered the vine, and through whose interstices, in their season, hung bunches of luscious grapes. In the front there was a nice lawn, with circular flower beds; in attending to which Ruth and her two children (Eddie and Allie) spent many happy hours.
After a short delay, he, through the influence of his friends, obtained employment as book-keeper for a large dry goods firm in the city. When he first began his engagement, his salary was comparatively small; but when his capabilities were recognized, his employer, who was a man of gentlemanly instincts, and was also generous in his dealings with those of his employees who were capable and industrious, raised his salary to an amount which not only enabled them to live respectably, but also to deposit something in the savings-bank each week, preparatory for a rainy day.
Ruth's face began to wear the old radiant look of calm peace, if not exuberant joy, which shone in her eye in the days of yore, and she, for two years, was able to send home to her friends in the old home land "glad tidings of great joy." But, alas! the dream was short as it was blissful. He met one day an old companion of his, with whom he had associated in his native town, and was induced by him, after much persuasion, to join in a friendly glass for the sake of "Auld Lang Syne." He met Ruth when she ran to the gate to welcome him that night with what seemed to her loving heart a cold repulse, for he was drunk—yes, my dear reader— crazily, brutally drunk. His poor wife was as much stunned as if he had been brought home dead. She stood pale as death, with lips tightly pressed, with wide open eyes staring wildly. Poor little Eddie and Allie ran to their mother and nestled close to her for protection, as birdlings run to the cover of the mother in seasons of danger. And even poor little Mamie, for they had been blessed by a little girl, whom they had thus named, shortly after they arrived in Rochester, cuddled her head more closely to her mother's bosom, and clung to her as if in mortal terror of one whom she usually greeted with the fondest tokens of welcome.
From that time forward his descent to Avernus was very rapid. He soon lost his situation and was unable to secure another. He also became dissatisfied with the country. It is generally men who are their own worst enemies, who become agitators against the existing order of things.
The time of which I am writing was immediately after the American War, and, at that period, there was a great deal of dissatisfaction felt and expressed against England, because there were so many of her citizens who sympathized with the Southern cause. And if any of the more ignorant discovered a man to be an Englishman, he was almost certain to seize the opportunity to rail against his country. Ashton had to endure a great deal of this; for, in the hotels he met a great many returned soldiers, among whom there was a large percentage of the Fenian element; for the majority of the rank and file of these miscreants were tavern loafers. Their denunciation of England was not only strong, but blatant and couched in language both blasphemous and obscene. This Ashton felt he could not endure, this land of freedom was far too free for him. He said he loved liberty, but not license, and, therefore, stimulated by the spirit of patriotism, and by another spirit, which in his case was far the more potent, he resolved to move to Canada, to shelter again under the protecting folds of the "Union Jack." I have already given the reader to understand, in another chapter, that he acted upon that resolution.
GOOD RESOLUTIONS; A TEMPTER, AND A FALL.
On the morning we introduced him to the reader he took the train to Charlotte and secured a berth on the steamer Corinthian for a port on the Canadian side, and as it would not start for an hour after he arrived, he thought he would endeavor to compose his perturbed mind by a quiet walk up the river. For in his sober moments he suffered intensely from the "pricks of an outraged conscience," and more than once he had been tempted to take his own life, but the thought of wife and children had restrained him from the rash and cowardly act. It may be, there was intermingled with that the thought, as Shakespeare says—
"Which makes cowards of us all, And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of."
He now resolved, God helping him, he would never drink again, but he would establish a home in the strange land whither he was journeying, and live a sober, industrious life. But even as he made these resolves his craving, burning appetite came tempting him; and as he strove against it, he shut his teeth and knit his brow, and involuntarily clenched his hand as if about to struggle with a mortal foe, and stamped his foot as he hissed through his clenched teeth, "I will be free." Ah, Richard! don't begin to boast before you have gained the victory, depend more upon God than self, you surely need his aid, for here comes a tempter.
"Hallo, Ashton, is that you? What is the matter with you? Why, one would suppose you had an attack of the blues. At what were you glaring so fiercely? You look as if you had a live Fenian before you and was striking for the Old Land with a determination to give no quarter. How came you here, and whither are you bound?" And the speaker, with a quizzical smile upon his face, which half concealed and half revealed an underplay of devilish mockery, put his hand familiarly upon the shoulder of Ashton, and then grasped him by the hand and gave it a hearty shake. But if a good judge of human nature had been by, he would have concluded his manner was assumed for the occasion—that he was simply acting, and was a failure at the role he had assumed.
I have not given to the reader the expletives with which he adorned his conversation, nor do I intend to do so, for though he, like others who indulge in the habit of swearing, may have thought it was both ornamental and emphatic, I don't think so. Besides, I have hopes that these pages may be read by the young, and I do not wish to give, even in the conversations which I may transcribe, anything that is profane or impure; for if I did I might inoculate their young minds with an evil virus, which I would not knowingly do.
This person, who now accosted Ashton, was the one who acted imp to his satanic majesty in leading him to his last fall, and here he was again to tempt him. Well would it be for you, Richard Ashton, if you would contemptuously spurn him as you would kick a rabid dog from your path.
I have noticed this person before in these pages but I will now give him a more elaborate introduction to the reader; but as he is an unsavory subject I will make the introduction as brief as possible.
His name was Stanley Ginsling, he was the youngest son of an English gentleman, of considerable property, and of more pride, whose estate lay in the vicinity of Ashton's native town. His father intended him for the Church, not because there were any manifestations that he was peculiarly qualified for holy orders, either by mental or moral endowments, but because he did not know what else to do with him, he concluded he would make him a parson.
So, after he had gone through a certain course by private tuition he was sent to Eton, preparatory to going to Oxford.
He then got through his studies in some manner, though it was generally understood by his mates that he was better acquainted with the brands of his favorite liquors and cigars than he was with the works of the authors which filled up the list of his college curriculum.
But when he entered Oxford he threw off all restraint and gave himself up to a life of utter dissipation, and before long his father received a polite note from the college authorities, intimating that to save further disgrace he had better call his worthy son home.
After this he became a dissipated tavern lounger, a barnacle on the good ship of society, a miserable sponge.
He soon found, as he sententiously expressed it, that it was not agreeable for him to remain under the kindly shelter of the paternal mansion; so he, prodigal like, took the portion his father gave him and spent it in riotous living. But he was determined not to feed on husks, if unmitigated cheek and unblushing effrontery could bring him better fare.
It was while he was a gentleman lounger about town he first met Richard Ashton, who, at that time, had become too much demoralized to be very choice in the selection of his associates. And Ginsling was rather intelligent—had a fine person and pleasing address, and had it not been for his moral depravity and lack of every noble instinct, he might have made his mark in society.
So Ashton, the ultra radical, and Ginsling, the young scion of extreme toryism, used to fraternize in their drinking bouts, and though they would, when sufficiently stimulated, boozily wrangle over their cups, there was in their common dissipation a ground for mutual understanding. But in his sober moments the radical had the most supreme contempt for his tory associate, and, sometimes, could not suppress its manifestation. The other, however, was too great a toady to be too thin skinned. It was not convenient for him to be over-sensitive. In fact he was willing to swallow such insults ad infinitum if their donors would only furnish the wherewithall to wash them down.
After Ashton left England he felt somewhat lonely, and then his father had become so utterly estranged from him because of his conduct, that his situation became unpleasant even for him; so he determined to sail for America. Learning that Ashton had settled in Rochester, he made his way to that city. He arrived there at the latter part of the year 1864, towards the close of the American War; and shortly after his arrival, meeting with his old comrade, as we have informed the reader, the latter, strange to say, had power enough over him to seduce him to his fall. And now, when Ashton was leaving Rochester in order to get away from his old associates, and was making resolutions of reform, here he was again as his tempter to lead him astray.
At his salute Ashton looked up with a dazed, faraway look upon his face, and then, as he slowly realized his position, he thought how foolish he must have appeared to another who had witnessed his fierce gesticulations and heard his wild and incoherent murmurings. The thought covered him with confusion, and he did not for a moment gain sufficient control of his faculties to answer his interlocutor in a rational manner.
The other, however, relieved his embarrassment by continuing in a bantering tone: "Why, Ashton, one would suppose by your actions you were the principal of some terrible tragedy, and that just now you were suffering from the "pricks of an outraged conscience." I declare you have mistaken your calling; you would have made your fortune on the stage. Why, your looks just now would have done for either Hamlet in the crazy scene, or Macbeth when talking to Banquo's ghost. But if you are suffering I have something which will reach the seat of the ailment; as the Scripture puts it, it is "A balm for all our woes, and a cordial for our fears." Here it is, Ashton. I have just been up to Charley's to have this dear little friend of mine replenished. How do you like the looks of it?" And suiting the action to the word he held up before him a beautiful little brandy flask. Then detaching the silver cup from the bottle it partially covered, he filled it full to the brim. "Here, Ashton, take this potheen," he said, "it will settle your perturbed spirits, comfort your soul, and drive dull care away."
Ashton's hand shot forward mechanically to take the proffered glass, and then he drew it hastily back.
"No, Quisling," he said, "I will not touch it. Curse the stuff; it has wrought enough ruin with mine and me. I was just swearing I would never drink again, and I was in earnest. I know I must have appeared to you as some gibbering maniac, but I was fighting my craven appetite for strong drink. Oh how hard the struggle has been; its fierceness is only known to God and myself. It comes upon me when I am least prepared to defend myself, and tortures me with the cruel malignity of a devil. And then I beat it back, and it comes upon me again. But I must triumph or go under; for if it is not liberty with me it will soon be death."
He then turned fiercely upon Ginsling, and said—
"Why do you dog my footsteps like a shadow? Have you not wrought ruin enough? Curse you; it was an evil day for me when you crossed the Atlantic, for had you not done so, I would have been a respectable and happy man to-day. It was you who urged me to drink, and, listening to you, brought me down from the happy and prosperous man that you found, to the miserable wreck you now look upon! A thing for angels and good men to pity, and for devils and evil men to despise. Leave me, if you have any pity, and do not tempt me more."
If there had been the slightest instinct of honor in the creature to whom these words were addressed, the appeal would not have been in vain. But his original stock of this attribute had been limited, and he had long since disposed of the little he once possessed. Such an attribute as honor or pity was viewed by him as a useless incumbrance, for he was a miserable, heartless wretch, seeking the gratification of his own depraved appetite, and careless of who might suffer.
He laughed with a seeming bluff heartiness when Ashton had finished speaking, but the laugh sounded hollow and insincere.
Novelists are ever introducing upon their pages, as the villain of the story, the smooth, oily rogue: as if they considered such ones were alone capable of cunning roguery and subtle diabolism. But there is many a mean soul disguised by a bluff, hearty exterior, and the mask is much the more difficult to penetrate. It is said of such an one—"He says hard things, but you always see the worst of him, for he puts his worst side out." Shakespeare's rogue, honest Jack Falstaff, was brusk and blunt, but he carried a rascal's heart, and there are many now living who are just as great blusterers, and are equally as cowardly and as base.
"Ha, ha! Ashton! this is too good to last! You know you have assumed the role of the Prodigal Son before, but you have come back to the riotous living again." Come, old fellow, take a little; it will do you good. I believe you used to be an orthodox Methodist, and, therefore, must be considerably versed in Scripture, and you know that Paul advised Timothy to "take a little wine for his stomach's sake, and for his oft infirmities."
When Ginsling had finished speaking, a look of unutterable scorn passed over the face of Ashton, and he glared at the former with fierce contempt, and once or twice he seemed as if about to reply, but, though his quivering lips and the contortions of his face showed violent emotion, he for a time uttered no response, as if he could not find words adequate to express his burning thoughts, till suddenly starting he said—"Pshaw! you miserable rascal, it was an evil day for me when I first met you. Have you not wrought ruin enough? Why do you come again to tempt me? Leave me or I will not be responsible for the consequences." And, turning upon his heel, he abruptly left him.
"Whew—but that's cool," whispered Ginsling, "but old fellow you are not going to escape me that easily. I have come down here for a purpose, and I am going to succeed in my undertaking, or my name is not Stanley Ginsling."
And I might here give the reader to understand that it was not mere accident which brought Ginsling to Charlotte that day, he had come with a fixed purpose of meeting Ashton, enticing him to drink, and then accompanying him upon his journey and getting as much out of him as possible. He had heard Ashton say it was his intention to start for Canada, and he concluded that he was too good a quarry for an old hunter like himself to lose. And as it did not matter to him whether he spent the instalments, which were regularly forwarded from home, in the United States or in Canada; he resolved to meet Ashton at Charlotte, and be the companion of his voyage. This accounts for his coming upon the latter as we have just narrated.
He did not allow Ashton, who was walking rapidly away after he had done speaking, to proceed far before he called after him, "Stop!"
The latter turned to learn what he wanted, for he began to have a little compunction of conscience, because he had treated him so rudely, and under the impulse of the new change of feeling waited until Ginsling had caught up.
"Now Ashton," he said, "I think you have treated me in a manner which is very hard for a gentleman of spirit to endure." As he said this he saw the faint outline of a sneer curling the lip of his companion. But taking no notice he hastily continued, "But I have known you too long to be over-sensitive at what you say or do, I would endure more from you, old fellow, than from any man on earth. Let us be friends, Ashton, for the sake of our friendship in 'Merry England.'"
"I am sure, Ginsling, I don't want to part with you in anger, and if I have wounded your feelings you must remember it was under strong provocation. Drink has been my ruin, and the ruin of those I love best on earth. It has certainly been 'Our Curse,' and through it I have been most cruel to those I love best and for whom, when I am myself, I would sacrifice my life to defend from evil or danger. This morning I promised my wife, as I have at least a score of times before, that I would keep sober, and, while struggling against my appetite, and determined to conquer, no matter how much suffering the struggle might entail, you came up, as my evil genius, to tempt me to my ruin, I could scarcely endure your solicitations, but your rough banter drove me wild."
"Well, old fellow, let it all pass, I was not aware of the mood you were in, or I would have been more careful how I addressed you. I am sure I would be the last man in the world who would knowingly cause you pain. And to lead you astray, I can assure you, is far from my purpose. I would rather do what I could to help you. And, in my opinion, if I can prevail upon you to take a few spoonfuls of brandy I will do this most effectively; why, man, a glass is just what you want. A little, under certain circumstances, will benefit any one who takes it; especially is this the case with one who is as you are now. Why, you are all unnerved—see how your hands tremble, and your whole system seems as if it wanted toning up. Now if you break off too suddenly it may be serious for you, while if you take a little, to brace you up, such disagreeable consequences will not follow. I hate a man to drink too much, for, if he does, he is sure to make a fool of himself, but a little will do any man good."
The tone and manner of Ginsling when he thus addressed Ashton was subdued and gentlemanly, for he had not so far degenerated as to have lost altogether the grace and polish which the refined associations of his youth had given to him. His language, also, sounded reasonable to the one to whom it was addressed, for, though Ashton had become an awful example of the ultimate issue of moderate drinking, at least in some cases, he would still argue in its favor, and when the advocates of prohibition would point to those who had fallen victims to the pernicious habit, he would answer that it was the abuse and not the use of intoxicating liquor which produces the evil.
So Ginsling, who had frequently heard him thus argue, adroitly stole an arrow out of his own quiver, and addressed him as he had frequently heard him address others. And there was just enough truth mixed with the sophistry of his argument to carry conviction to the mind of one as unstable as Ashton; for he did feel all unnerved. He had broken off suddenly from a long-continued drunken spree, and was beginning to have premonitions of something which he dreaded only second to death. He had already twice suffered the horrors of delirium tremens, and he now had good cause for fearing another attack. It was to this Ginsling referred when he said if he broke off suddenly it might lead to serious consequences. So, after what seemed to be a desperate struggle—the better instincts of his nature endeavoring to overcome the craving of his appetite and the sophistry of his tempter—he concluded he would just take a little now to help him over this one trouble, and then he would give it up forever. He argued to himself, "I could not live through another attack, for I am sure the dreadful suffering is akin to the horrors of the host."
"Well, Ginsling," he said, "I think I will take your advice." He was half ashamed thus to speak, because he was about to do something for which his conscience strongly condemned him, and also because he felt he was manifesting weakness and vacillation in the presence of one whom he, in his heart, despised, and who, after this, would hold similar sentiments in regard to himself. "I do feel a little unlike myself this morning, and as the wind is rather squally, and the captain says when we shoot out beyond the point the lake will be wild, I need a little something to settle my stomach; I have a fearful dread of sea-sickness." He said this partly to justify his conduct to his companion, but more to convince himself he was about to take a step which was not only perfectly justifiable, but, under the circumstances, a manifestation of wisdom.
If a man is about to perform an action of doubtful propriety, he is never at a loss to find arguments to defend the course he is about to pursue, and though he may not be able to satisfy his conscience, he can, at least to some extent, deaden the acuteness of its pangs. Richard Ashton endeavored to justify his present action to himself, in the moment which intervened between his new-formed resolution and its consummation. The reader is no doubt aware, from experience, that a great deal will pass through the mind in the space of a single moment, and that sometimes a man's weal or woe, for time, yea, and for eternity, depends upon a decision which has to be thus hastily given. It was one of these crucial moments which Ashton was now passing through. Alas! his decision was far from being a wise one, and he could not deceive himself so completely as not to partially feel this; for, try how he would, he could not banish the thought that yielding to the tempter might entail a train of misery horrible to contemplate. Then Ruth's pale, pleading face, all suffused with tears, came up vividly before him, as he last saw her, and as he remembered the promise given, for a moment he hesitated, but finally he subdued every better feeling, and reaching forth his hand, took the glass which Ginsling temptingly offered, and drained it to the dregs.
One glass such as he had thus taken was sufficient to make Ashton regardless of consequences, and, therefore, it was not long before it was followed by another and more copious one. In short, in half an hour after he had met Ginsling he was wild and reckless, and the latter had accomplished his purpose, for Ashton was spending his money as freely as though he had the coffers of a Rothschild or an Astor. In short, ere the steamboat had started he had to be helped on board, for he was utterly helpless.
ARRIVAL IN CANADA: A FRIENDLY HOST APPLIES FOR A SITUATION.
It was a beautiful morning when the boat landed at the picturesque little Canadian town of L——. The first that Ashton knew of the arrival was when he was awakened from his drunken stupor by being violently shaken by Ginsling; and, as he gained consciousness, he heard that worthy saying, with a subdued voice: "Come, wake up, Ashton, for we are again on British soil. Why, is not that strain enough to cause any true Briton to rise from the dead?"
He was at last aroused, and his first sensation was that he had a terrible pain in his head, a horrible thirst, and a certain vague realization that he heard the strains of "Rule Britannia." He staggered out to the bar, for he felt he must soon have a drink, or he could not live. Ginsling also stepped up without being invited; for that worthy could not righteously be charged with too much modesty, as he never was backward in helping himself at a friend's expense.
They immediately, after securing their luggage, stepped out upon the wharf, where there was a large crowd gathered, listening to the music of a band—each member of which was dressed in the garb of a British soldier—as it played patriotic airs, such as "Rule Britannia," "God Save the Queen," etc. The reason of this manifestation of patriotism will be readily understood when we inform the reader that it was the Queen's Birthday.
Ashton, for a moment or two, almost thought he was back in Old England again, and he was so carried away by the grand old airs that if a recruiting sergeant had presented himself just then he might have taken a step in haste of which he would have repented at leisure.
"Come, Ashton, don't stand there in that daft fashion, or the Canucks will imagine you are one of the irresponsibles who lately arrived in New York from Europe, and that the cute Yankees have quietly shipped you over to John Bull's domains."
He was aroused by the voice of Ginsling out of his day-dream to realize that several cabbies were exerting the utmost of their lung power in crying up the merits of their respective hotels.
"British American, sir—the best house in town. Won't cost you a cent to ride there, sir."
"Don't you believe that fellow," shouted another. "Come to the Tarlton; it is the only house in town which is fit to kape a gentleman like you, sir." And then several others shouted out in full chorus, each endeavoring to say something more witty than the other; and if push, rough bantering wit, and imperturbable good nature could secure success, certainly each would have had a bus full.
But Ashton had caught the name "British American," and as he, just then, was feeling intensely loyal, he determined to put up there, and he intimated to the runner his resolution. Ginsling, who was waiting for him to decide, jumped aboard also, and they were soon quartered at the aforementioned hotel, which they found, if not of the very highest grade, at least eminently respectable. The charges, also, were exceedingly moderate.
The room he had given to him looked out upon the blue waters of noble Ontario, which swept far away to the south, until it laved the shores he had left but a few hours before—a land now associated in his mind with so much of happiness and of misery, and which yet contained those who were inexpressibly dear to him.
He had no sooner secured a room than he sat down to write a note to Ruth; for, demoralized as he was, he did not forget his promise. He found, however, that his head was in a perfect whirl, and that his hand was so unsteady as to make the accomplishment of the task almost an impossibility; but he managed, in an almost illegible scrawl, to inform her of his safe arrival. He asked her to excuse the brevity of his communication, as he was still suffering from the effects of his stormy voyage across the lake, which had shattered, for the time being, his nervous system. He ended by sending his love to her and the children, and asking her to write immediately, as he was anxious to hear from his darlings at home.
The next two weeks were passed in continuous drunkenness. He would awaken each morning feeling, as those who have passed through the ordeal say has to be experienced in order to have the faintest idea of what it is; his lips and throat were as dry as withered leaves; his brain seemed on fire, and his bloodshot eyes, gleaming out from his pale, emaciated face, appeared as though they might have belonged to one of Canada's dark-visaged aborigines in the savage state rather than to their present intellectual, though dissipated, owner.
In his sober moments he would think of his wife and children, and there was in the thought a mingling of shame and agony which almost drove him wild; then he would remember the purport of his journey, for which he had not yet made the slightest endeavor; and when, on examination, he found his stock of money was almost gone, and that he would soon have either to secure a situation or be a penniless vagrant in a strange land, it added to his despair.
"I say, Mr. Ashton," said the polite landlord of the hotel one morning, as he was about to take his first drink, "did you not give me to understand you were looking for a situation in some dry goods or clothing establishment?"
"Yes, Mr. Rumsey, that is what I am after; but God knows how I will succeed; for I have done nothing, nor am I, as I am now, in a fit state to do anything; for who would engage such a wretch as I am?"
Rumsey pitied him; for he was a man who was too good for the business in which he was engaged.
"I will give you a light glass, Ashton," he said; "but you must sober off. I like you, and therefore will not let you kill yourself with drink at this establishment; so for your sake, and also to keep up the reputation of my house, I must limit you to-day to two more glasses. And if you will excuse me for presuming to interfere with your business, I would advise you to cut the acquaintance of that precious companion of yours. I gave him a bit of my mind last night, and told him pretty emphatically what I thought of him. Why, man, have you entirely lost possession of your senses, to let a leech like that loafer drain you dry? I will give you this drink now, one after breakfast, and one after dinner; then you must eat something, for I do not believe that during the last three days you have taken enough to keep a pigeon alive. If you find that in trying to sober off you are likely to be sick, I will send for the doctor, and he will help you through. You told me you were a married man; for the sake of your wife and children you must get over this spree."
Ashton took the proffered glass with his hand shaking as if he had the ague, and with the eagerness of one who was perishing for want of a drink.
"Oh, landlord," he said, "that was only a taste; I must have more. Do, please, give me more."
"No, sir, not a drop," said Mr. Rumsey, with considerable sternness. "If you must have it, you will have to go to some other house to get it. I am not willing to be in any way responsible for what is sure to follow. Come, now, and have some breakfast—a bit of toast, a poached egg—and be yourself; for I want to become acquainted with the bona fide Mr. Ashton. I have not met him yet; you have not been sober since you came here."
"Well, sir, I will take your advice; and there is one who, when I tell her, will thank you, as I cannot. She has not a very high opinion of your guild, and she has strong reason not to have. God help me—how am I to get over this?"
"Well, Mr. Ashton, if others would stop selling liquor, I would willingly never sell another glass, for I could live comfortably here on the income I derive from the travelling public and my summer guests; for, to tell you the truth, I don't like the business, especially when I see its effects as exhibited in cases like your own; but while others sell I must, or I would lose my business. It is a case of self-preservation, and you know that 'self-preservation is the first law of nature.'"
"Or, in other words," said Ashton, "'every man for himself, and Satan take the hindmost.'"
Ashton made the trial, and, though he had to pass through the fiery ordeal of intense suffering, yet, aided by the judicious treatment of his host, he was brought safely through.
He had, in the meantime, received a letter from his wife, and each of his children, breathing out love to him. Each one expressing the deepest anxiety as to the nature and result of his illness, and praying that he would soon be back with those who loved him so truly.
"Ashton," said Mr. Rumsey, his host, one morning, "this is the thing which will just suit you, if you can secure it," and he handed a copy of the Daily Globe to Ashton, at the same time pointing to an advertisement which read as follows: "A good managing clerk wanted for a dry goods and clothing establishment in the town of Bayton. He must be a man of matured experience. Apply Box 152, Post Office."
"That will just suit me," said Ashton. "What is the distance to Bayton?"
"About ninety miles. I suppose you think of applying personally? I should advise you by all means to do so."
Ashton immediately set about making the necessary preparation, and next morning started for the above-mentioned town, upon which journey we will leave him for the present.
MR. AND MRS. GURNEY.
Mr. and Mrs. Gurney sat in their cosy sitting-room, which was plainly but tastefully furnished; but though quiet, one could not fail to realize that it was the home of people of more than ordinary intelligence and culture. They both had passed life's meridian, and were, at the time we introduce them to our readers, verging upon three score years. They were dressed in deep mourning, and the look of subdued sadness which overcast their thoughtful faces told they had lately "passed under the rod." But suffering had not made them hard and cynical, but richer in grace and goodness, riper, sweeter, mellower. Each had learned to say with Asaph, "My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever."
They certainly had reason to mourn. God had blessed them with four children; children of whom they had just cause to be proud, for they early displayed talents which marked them as above mediocrity, but one after another, just after they had reached manhood and womanhood, they had fallen victims to that insidious disease, consumption, and the aged couple were left in their declining years, sad and lonely, like two aged trunks stript of their foliage, bare and alone.
Mr. Gurney had been for years engaged in the dry goods and clothing trade, and had intended his last surviving son should take the business, but Providence had ordered otherwise, taking him away just at the time when the father was about to carry out his long cherished scheme.
After they had laid in the grave the body of their beloved, for a while a cloud of intense sorrow hung over their home, though they had faith to believe it was lined with the silver of their Father's love.
They were too intelligent, and their grief was too intense for much outward manifestation, but each knew the pregnancy of the other's sorrow from their individual experiences; and by gentle ministrations of love each endeavored to soothe and ease the burdened heart of the other.
Mrs. Gurney found some relief in attending to her household duties—to the plants and flowers in the conservatory—for they had one of considerable size. This latter had been the special duty of her daughter who had preceded her brother by a few weeks to the grave. And as the mother now engaged in this "labor of love," each plant and flower that received her gentle attention would suggest some tender recollection of the loved and lost. As she trained them to their supports and trellises she would remember that the white fingers which had so frequently and lovingly performed the task were now cold in death.
But there was one—a night blooming cereus—which was a particular favorite of Grace's, and which, even after she knew she had not long to live, she hoped she would be spared to see bloom. But when she perceived she was failing so rapidly—quietly, peacefully, sinking to rest—she said—
"Mamma, darling, I have looked forward with a great deal of expectancy to the time when my cereus should bloom, I now know my hope in this respect will not be realized, but I want you, mother, when it opens out its pure white petals and its fragrance perfumes the midnight air to remember I shall be in heaven—among fairer flowers, with sweeter perfume; for they have not been cursed by sin. And while you mourn at my absence remember I am with Jesus— 'Absent from the body, present with the Lord.'"
And now as the mother tended these flowers, and lovingly lingered near this special favorite, around which such tender memories lingered, the flood-gates of her soul were mercifully lifted up and she "eased her poor heart with tears."
Thus the mother, who was constitutionally the frailer of the two, and was the one from whom the children had inherited the tendency to the disease which had carried them off so prematurely, seemed to come back to herself, so to speak, and she soon manifested a subdued cheerfulness as she set about managing the domestic economy of her home.
But Mr. Gurney did not recover so rapidly; there seemed to be no outlet to his feelings—nothing to ease his burdened heart.
He had given his business into the hands of his clerks, and had concluded to sell out and permanently retire from active life. He went with his wife on a journey to the seaside, to a quiet watering-place, hoping that change of scene might divert his attention from his sorrows and enable him, at least to some extent, to recover his wonted health and spirits. But he returned unbenefited, and his wife and friends began to have grave fears for his life. They consulted an eminent physician, who advised him not to give up his business, but to devote to it as much of his attention as his strength would permit; and this advice coinciding with his own judgment, he concluded to act upon it; but as none of his employees hardly came up to his ideal of what a managing clerk should be, he thought he had better advertise for a responsible man, who thoroughly understood the business, and who could keep the books, while he could do the buying and attend to the outlying duties of the firm.
It was in accordance with this idea that he inserted the advertisement in the Globe which brought Richard Ashton to answer in person.
ASHTON MEETS WITH FRIENDS AND SECURES A SITUATION.
"Have you received any answer to your advertisement, dear?" asked Mrs. Gurney of her husband.
"Yes, dear, I received a telegram this morning from a man who lives in L——, who said he thought he would suit me. He stated he could give first-class references, and that he had been in the business from a boy. He also stated he would make personal application, and would take the next train for this place: so I am expecting him on the 7 o'clock. I left word with Johnson to drive him here, and he may arrive at any moment."
"But, my dear," said his wife, "is it not rather risky for him to come? You may not like his appearance, and if even in this respect everything is satisfactory, his credentials may not be so."
"I am sure I cannot help that," replied Mr. Gurney. "I did not state in the advertisement that parties who wished to engage should make personal application, and I have no doubt but I shall receive applications by letter. If individuals come from a distance to apply, it must be at their own risk."
Their conversation was here interrupted by the ringing of the door-bell, and in a moment after the servant reported that a Mr. Ashton wished to see Mr. Gurney.
"That is the name of the person in question," Mr. Gurney remarked. "Show him in, Sarah;" and in a moment after Ashton was ushered into their presence.
"Mr. Gurney, I presume," he said, with that ease and grace that good breeding and familiarity with good society alone gives to a man.
"I sent you a telegram," Ashton continued, "making application for the situation, in answer to your advertisement; and I have now come in person, as I stated I would."
Mr. Gurney, who had risen, extended to him his hand—then introduced him to his wife, and in a few moments, by his cordial reception, made him completely at his ease.
His appearance, and, still more, his manner, impressed Mr. and Mrs. Gurney favorably, and they both concluded he was a very intelligent person.
He produced his credentials, which were highly satisfactory; but Mr. and Mrs. Gurney were too keen observers not to notice the marks of dissipation which his two weeks' debauch had stamped upon his face. The former, however, possessed too much of the courtesy which distinguishes the true gentleman to give utterance to a word which would wound even the most sensitive person, if he could do his duty and avoid it. Though, if it lay in the way of his duty, he immediately entered into its performance, but in the least offensive manner possible.
He said to Richard Ashton, in his most kindly tone: "You will pardon me, I am sure, for asking you another question. I would not do so only it is necessary that I should exercise the utmost caution in order that I may secure a person who has not only ability and experience, but who also is a man of good character and temperate habits—who, in short, would be every way reliable. Pardon me if I ask, in all kindness, would you in every respect till up my requirements?"
This was a plain question, put with the most gentle courtesy, but yet in a straightforward manner; and if Ashton had wished in any way to equivocate, he felt he could not do so without utterly destroying his chances of employment. To do him justice, however, let us state he never, even for a moment, entertained a thought of so doing. He felt he was being weighed in the balance, and would probably be found wanting, but he resolved he would not endeavor to bring down the scale in his favor, either by equivocation or dealing in untruths. In fact, he immediately concluded to make a clean breast of it, and give him, in as few words as possible, a history of his life, and then leave him to deal with his case. Acting upon this thought, he in a few moments graphically and pathetically told his sad story.
"I will not ask you to decide to-night," he said after he had finished, "but if it is agreeable to you I will call in the morning. I would like you would give me a decided answer by that time if possible, and," he added, "if you conclude to engage me I will endeavor so to devote myself to your interest as never to give you cause to regret it."
Mr. Gurney immediately agreed to this arrangement, as he thought it would be better to have a few hours to carefully consider the matter, and to talk it over with his wife. In fact, he had been so much wrought upon by the sad recital, as to entirely unfit him for a calm and judicious consideration of the business in hand. So, making an appointment for the next day at 9 a.m., he saw Ashton to the door, and bade him good night.
Ashton, as he walked rapidly away, was very despondent. He had but slight hope of securing the situation; for, he reasoned to himself, had a person of similar character come to him seeking a position, when he was in business, no matter how much he might sympathise with him he never would have thought of engaging him.
He wisely determined, however, to hope for the best. He was sure he would like the situation, for he had formed a very high opinion of Mr. Gurney. He considered him a very superior person—cultured, but plain, and practical, and it was because he knew he possessed the latter attribute he had no hopes of being engaged.
But had he been capable of reading Mrs. Gurney's mind, and could he also have known the influence she possessed over her husband, he would not have been so despondent. His story had not been half told before she had been so affected by its touching pathos as to be unable to repress her tears, and before he had finished she had resolved she would exert all the influence she possessed over her husband to persuade him to take Ashton on trial; for she felt it would be a noble thing to aim at the redemption of this man from evil, and to give help, hope, and joy to his wife and children, of whom he had spoken so tenderly.
"Well, Martha," said Mr. Gurney, after Ashton had departed, "would it be safe for us to employ him?"
He asked this in all sincerity; for he was a man who consulted his wife in relation to all his business affairs. He said, "he looked upon marriage as a partnership, the wife being an interested member of the firm." And as he firmly believed this, he made it a rule never to enter into any business transaction without seeking her counsel, in regard to it, and he boasted that some of the best hits he had made in business had been the outcome of acting upon her advice.
"Well, my dear," she said in answer to his question, "I am strongly in favor of giving him a chance. He is certainly a man of more than ordinary intelligence, and he could not have that ease and grace of manner which he possesses in so eminent a degree had he not associated with the best society. It is certainly a great pity he has become a victim of strong drink, but, then, if he had not he would never have applied for the situation."
"But, Martha," interjected Mr. Gurney, "do you think it would be in conformity with sound wisdom to engage him after the confession he has made?"
"Yes, James, I really do, and one of the strongest reasons for my thinking so is because of that confession. If he had protested he had not been drinking, as most men in his circumstances would have done, then I should have opposed your engaging him, but he was so straightforward that he has certainly enlisted my sympathy in his favor; and then I really think God guided him here. We have always been advocates of temperance, and if there is one thing more than any other for which I feel like praising Him, it is because he has enabled us to deliver some of our fellow-mortals from lives of intemperance, and it may be, some from drunkard's graves. But this has been done without any great sacrifice upon our parts—that is, we have not had to run any great risk. Now we are placed in different circumstances, and we have an opportunity of possibly saving one of our fellow-creatures if we are only willing to risk a little trouble and loss in order to accomplish our object. Now, don't you think, James, the Lord has sent him here just to try us?"
"It has not thus occurred to me," he answered; but he did not make any further remark, wishing to hear all his wife had to say before doing so.
"I think, James," she continued, "the reason that the cause of temperance has not gained greater triumphs, has been because its advocates have not been willing to make sacrifices enough: let us not fail in this respect. There is no doubt but you would employ Mr. Ashton if you had no fear he would again fall, for he seems to me in every way suited for the position—if we had any doubt in this respect his credentials should remove it. But, unfortunately, he has been a great drinker, and, therefore, if you employ him, it may involve you in trouble, and in the end it may result in loss; but if you do not employ him it will be because you are afraid of these things, that is, it will be a matter of selfishness, and you will practically say you are a friend of temperance until it becomes a matter which may affect your interest, but when it touches you there you will draw back and go no further, though by being willing to risk a little you may be the means of saving this man, and of giving succor to his wife and helpless children. I think, James, looking at it in this light, you should give him a trial for a month or two if you can agree as to terms."
She had grown quite eloquent, ere she was through, for her heart was enlisted, and she was determined, if possible, to save this man. And, as she had listened to his description of his wife and children, she felt as if she almost knew Mrs. Ashton, and was certain she should esteem her very highly. So, she brought all her powers of persuasion to bear upon her husband, that she might persuade him to her way of thinking.
Mr. Gurney had listened to his wife attentively until she waited for an answer, and then he scarcely knew what to say in reply. He had, in fact, as we have stated, been also touched by Ashton's graphic story, and he felt he would be willing to sacrifice a great deal to save him; he also felt the force of her logic when she argued if he were a true temperance man he would be willing to make great sacrifice in order to rescue one of the victims of the rum traffic, but he thought he would be running almost too much risk to employ him under the circumstances. It was under the influence of these counter currents of thought he made his reply:
"Well, Martha," he said, "I should like to engage the man, and I have concluded, if he did not drink, he would just suit me, but, according to his own statement, he has not only fallen once, but several times, and we have no guarantee that he will not fall again. The fact is, judging from almost universal experience, he is more likely to fall than not, and if I should employ him, and after he had charge of the business he should give way to his besetting sin, he would not only cause me serious loss, but care and worry, which, in my delicate state of health, I should, if possible, avoid. Really, dear, I am in a strait betwixt two; I should like very much to help him, for, I will candidly confess, that no stranger, in so short a period of time, ever took hold of my feelings as he has done, and yet to put him in charge of my business, after the confession he has made, seems so contrary to the dictates of sound judgment as, in fact, to be actually courting trouble. But, my dear, let us not say anything more about it to-night; we will pray over it, and, in the morning, we will decide what to do. God will guide us in this as He has in all our past transactions, when we have gone to Him for guidance."
"I am perfectly content, dear, to leave it in His hands," said his wife, "but I am nearly satisfied now that it is His will we should employ Mr. Ashton. We will lay all the matter before him, and let us also bring this poor victim of strong drink, and his wife and children, before the Throne of Grace."
Mr. Gurney, after praying for Divine direction, and seriously considering the matter, concluded he would give Ashton a trial. He saw his wife would be seriously disappointed if he did not do so, and he wished to gratify her as far as he possibly could. He also thought if he took him for a comparatively limited period, on trial, there would be no great risk in it. He, however, determined to give him to understand the retaining of his position entirely depended upon his good behavior.
Ashton, when he called in the morning, was agreeably surprised to learn that Mr. Gurney had concluded to try him for a short period, if they could agree as to salary, and as he was willing to accept a very moderate one until he had satisfied his employer he was worthy of something better, they were not long in coming to terms.
So the matter was settled, and Ashton was able to write home to his wife that he bad secured a situation.
"I think, my darling," he said, "I shall like the place very much. Mr. and Mrs. Gurney (my employer and his wife) seem to be an excellent couple. I should judge, from appearances, they are in very easy circumstances, and very intelligent and cultured.
"Bayton is a beautiful, cosy, old-fashioned town, containing, I should think, about three thousand inhabitants, and there is a fine river running through the centre of it, nearly, if not quite, as large as the Genesee. Its houses are, most of them, embowered in trees; in fact, it appears like an English town Americanized, and its inhabitants seem to have more the characteristics of Americans than Canadians.
"The business of which I am to have the management is the best dry goods and clothing establishment in the place. I am to remain on trial for a month, and then, if I give satisfaction and like the situation, I am to have a permanent engagement.
"I hope, my dear, at least for once, that old Father Time will fly with rapid wings. I do so long to see you all again. Tell Eddie that this is a famous river for fish, and will furnish him with rare sport. Also tell Allie that Bayton is a famous place for flower culture, almost every house having a flower garden in front of it to beautify it and to fill the air with fragrant perfumes.
"I was glad to learn that papa's darling little Mamie was well; and growing finely. You must not let her forget me. I hope Eddie and Allie are paying strict attention to their studies; for if they do, success is almost certain, and in after years they will rejoice because of their present self-denial.
"And now, my darling, good-bye for the present. Kiss all the children for their papa.
"Your affectionate husband,
RUTH'S MISGIVINGS AND MENTAL AGONY.
It is now time that we should return to Ruth and her children.
After her husband had left her, as we narrated in the first chapter, she was very sad, almost desolate, and she felt she must retire to hold communion with Him who promised to give rest to the weary soul who came to Him; so, leaving little Mamie in care of Eddie and Allie, she retired to her room to weep and also to pray. She was literally following the injunction of her Saviour—praying to her Father in secret that He might reward her openly. The reward she longed for was that He would protect her husband and influence him to walk aright.
As she was thus alone—and yet not alone, for God was with her— her memory took her back to the sunny days of her girlhood. How bright those halcyon days appeared! She was in fancy again walking amid the green fields and by the hedgerows of dear old England, plucking the daisies from the meadows and listening to the sweet strains of the lark as it carolled its lay to the morning. Sunny visions of the past, with loved faces wandering in their golden light, flitted before her; and her heart was filled with sadness as she remembered the breaks that Time, with his relentless hand, had made in that once happy number. She found herself unconsciously repeating—
"Friend after friend departs— Who hath not lost a friend? There is no union here of hearts That hath not here an end."
Then the thoughts of the days when Richard Ashton came wooing, of moonlight walks, of music and literature—these incidents of joyful days flitted before her, each for a moment, and then vanished away, like dissolving views. Some who sought her then were now opulent, filling positions of honor and great responsibility; and some of her associates who then envied her, because she was more sought after than they, were now presiding over palatial homes.
As these visions of the happy days of yore passed like fairy dreams before her she heaved an involuntary sigh as she passionately exclaimed: "Oh drink, thou hast been our curse; turning our happiness into misery; our Eden of bliss into a waste, weary wilderness of poverty and woe!"
"Mamma, mamma, may I tum, I have such a petty flower to show oo."
It was the voice of little Mamie, and, as her mother opened the door, she came in, an almost perfect picture of innocent beauty; as with eyes sparkling with delight she held up to her mother a large and beautiful pansy.
"Isn't that petty, mamma? and wasn't Eddie a dood boy to get it for me? Now, mamma, I'm dust going to save it for papa. Will you put it up for him?"
Mrs. Ashton hastily turned away her head, and wiped her eyes, so that her child might not see traces of her recent tears. She then turned, and taking Mamie in her arms brushed her golden curls, which, young as she was, hung down her back, falling in rippling waves of sunlight over her fair young form, and assured her she would put away the flower for dear papa.
Little Mary, or as they called her Mamie, was born, as we have already noticed, a short time after they came to Rochester. She was a beautiful child, and in some respects seemed to resemble each of her parents; for she had the complexion and large, dreamy eyes of her mother and the features of her father. And in disposition and mental characteristics she also inherited qualities from both father and mother; for she possessed the sprightly animation of the former which ever and anon bubbled over in gentle, kindly mischief. While she, also, possessed the guileless trustfulness of the latter, and seemed never so happy as when she nestled peacefully in the arms of one she loved, and listened to a simple story of the good in other days, or was charmed by some beautiful song or hymn, which it was her delight to help sing.