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THE WEDDING GUEST:
A FRIEND OF THE BRIDE AND BRIDEGROOM.
EDITED BY T.S. ARTHUR.
THERE is no relation in life so important—none involving so much of happiness or misery, as that of husband and wife. Yet, how rarely is it, that the parties when contracting this relation, have large experience, clear insight into character, or truly know themselves! In each other, they may have the tenderest confidence, and for each other the warmest love; but, only a brief time can pass ere they will discover that the harmonious progression of two minds, each of which has gained an individual and independent movement is not always a thing of easy attainment. Too soon, alas! is felt a jar of discord—too soon self-will claims an individual freedom of action that is not fully accorded; and unless there is wisdom and forbearance, temporary or permanent unhappiness is sure to follow.
Much has been written on the true relation of married partners, and we cannot do a better service to the bride and bridegroom, than by gathering words of wisdom on this subject from all sources within our reach, and presenting them in as attractive a form as possible. And this we have done in the present volume, to which, as the title-page indicates, we bear only the relation of editor. In it will be found pictures of life, serious counsel, earnest admonition, and hints and suggestions, which, if wisely followed, will keep the sky bright with sunshine, or scatter the gathering clouds ere they break in angry storms. May this "WEDDING GUEST" receive as warm a welcome as we desire.
THE EVENING BEFORE MARRIAGE 7 THE WIFE 14 MARRIAGE 30 THE BRIDE'S SISTER 34 LOVE vs. HEALTH 35 THE YOUNG HOUSEKEEPER 45 TO AN ABSENT WIFE 57 THE WORD OF PRAISE 58 LETTERS TO A YOUNG WIFE FROM A MARRIED LADY 71 THE WIFE 82 BE GENTLE WITH THY WIFE 83 A TRUE TALE OF LIFE 84 MAN AND WOMAN 102 THE FAIRY WIFE—AN APOLOGUE 106 A BRIEF HISTORY, IN THREE PARTS, WITH A SEQUEL 109 ELMA'S MISSION 111 LIVING LIKE A LADY 128 LADY LUCY'S SECRET 133 A WORD FOR WIVES 144, NO JEWELLED BEAUTY 147 THE FIRST MARRIAGE IN THE FAMILY 148 ONLY A FEW WORDS 156 THE TWO HOMES 163 LOVE'S FAIRY RING 170 FANNIE'S BRIDAL 172 THE LOVER AND THE HUSBAND 182 NELLIE 185 A HOME IN THE HEART 192 A LEAF FROM A FAMILY JOURNAL 193 TRIFLES 205 DOMESTIC HAPPINESS 224 A SYLVAN MORALITY; OR, A WORD TO WIVES 282 PASSAGES FROM A YOUNG WIFE'S DIARY 245 HINTS AND HELPS FOR MARRIED PARTNERS 254 THREE WAYS OF MANAGING A WIFE 285
THE WEDDING GUEST.
THE EVENING BEFORE MARRIAGE.
"WE shall certainly be very happy together!" said Louise to her aunt on the evening before her marriage, and her cheeks glowed with a deeper red, and her eyes shone with delight. When a bride says we, it may easily be guessed whom of all persons in the world she means thereby.
"I do not doubt it, dear Louise," replied her aunt. "See only that you continue happy together."
"Oh, who can doubt that we shall continue so! I know myself. I have faults, indeed, but my love for him will correct them. And so long as we love each other, we cannot be unhappy. Our love will never grow old."
"Alas!" sighed her aunt, "thou dost speak like a maiden of nineteen, on the day before her marriage, in the intoxication of wishes fulfilled, of fair hopes and happy omens. Dear child, remember this—even the heart in time grows cold. Days will come when the magic of the senses shall fade. And when this enchantment has fled, then it first becomes evident whether we are truly worthy of love. When custom has made familiar the charms that are most attractive, when youthful freshness has died away, and with the brightness of domestic life, more and more shadows have mingled, then, Louise, and not till then, can the wife say of the husband, 'He is worthy of love;' then, first, the husband say of the wife, 'She blooms in imperishable beauty.' But, truly, on the day before marriage, such assertions sound laughable to me."
"I understand you, dear aunt. You would say that our mutual virtues alone can in later years give us worth for each other. But is not he to whom I am to belong—for of myself I can boast nothing but the best intentions—is he not the worthiest, noblest of all the young men of the city? Blooms not in his soul, every virtue that tends to make life happy?"
"My child," replied her aunt, "I grant it. Virtues bloom in thee as well as in him; I can say this to thee without flattery. But, dear heart, they bloom only, and are not yet ripened beneath the sun's heat and the shower. No blossoms deceive the expectations more than these. We can never tell in what soil they have taken root. Who knows the concealed depths of the heart?"
"Ah, dear aunt, you really frighten me."
"So much the better Louise. Such fear is right; such fear is as it should be on the evening before marriage. I love thee tenderly, and will, therefore, declare all my thoughts on this subject without disguise. I am not as yet an old aunt. At seven-and-twenty years, one still looks forward into life with pleasure, the world still presents a bright side to us. I have an excellent husband. I am happy. Therefore, I have the right to speak thus to thee, and to call thy attention to a secret which perhaps thou dost not yet know, one which is not often spoken of to a young and pretty maiden, one, indeed, which does not greatly occupy the thoughts of a young man, and still is of the utmost importance in every household: a secret from which alone spring lasting love and unalterable happiness."
Louise seized the hand of her aunt in both of hers. "Dear aunt! you know I believe you in everything. You mean, that enduring happiness and lasting love are not insured to us by accidental qualities, by fleeting charms, but only by those virtues of the mind which bring to each other. These are the best dowry which we can possess; these never become old."
"As it happens, Louise. The virtues also, like the beauties of the body, can grow old, and become repulsive and hateful with age."
"How, dearest aunt! what is it you say? Name me a virtue which can become hateful with years."
"When they have become so, we no longer call them virtues, as a beautiful maiden can no longer be called beautiful, when time has changed her to an old and wrinkled woman."
"But, aunt, the virtues are nothing earthly."
"How can gentleness and mildness ever become hateful?"
"So soon as they degenerate into insipid indolence and listlessness."
"And manly courage?"
"Becomes imperious rudeness."
"And modest diffidence?"
"Turns to fawning humility."
"And noble pride?"
"To vulgar haughtiness."
"And readiness to oblige?"
"Becomes a habit of too ready friendship and servility."
"Dear aunt, you make me almost angry. My future husband can never degenerate thus. He has one virtue which will preserve him as he is for ever. A deep sense, an indestructible feeling for everything that is great and good and noble, dwells in his bosom. And this delicate susceptibility to all that is noble dwells in me also, I hope, as well as in him. This is the innate pledge and security for our happiness."
"But if it should grow old with you; if it should change to hateful excitability; and excitability is the worst enemy of matrimony. You both possess sensibility. That I do not deny; but beware lest this grace should degenerate into an irritable and quarrelsome mortal."
"Ah, Dearest aunt, if I might never become old! I could then be sure that my husband would never cease to love me."
"Thou art greatly in error, dear child! Wert thou always as fresh and beautiful as to-day, still thy husband's eye would by custom of years become indifferent to these advantages. Custom is the greatest enchantress in the world, and in the house one of the most benevolent of fairies. She render's that which is the most beautiful, as well as the ugliest, familiar. A wife is young, and becomes old; it is custom which hinders the husband from perceiving the change. On the contrary, did she remain young, while he became old, it might bring consequences, and render the man in years jealous. It is better as kind Providence has ordered it. Imagine that thou hadst grown to be an old woman, and thy husband were a blooming youth; how wouldst thou then feel?"
Louise rubbed her chin, and said, "I cannot tell."
Her aunt continued: "But I will call thy attention to at secret which—"
"That is it," interrupted Louise, hastily, "that is it which I long so much to hear."
Her aunt said: "Listen to me attentively. What I now tell thee, I have proved. It consists of two parts. The first part, of the means to render a marriage happy, of itself prevents every possibility of dissension; and would even at last make the spider and the fly the best of friends with each other. The second part is the best and surest method of preserving feminine attractions."
"Ah!" exclaimed Louise.
"The former half of the means, then: In the first solitary hour after the ceremony, take thy bridegroom, and demand a solemn vow of him, and give him a solemn vow in return. Promise one another sacredly, never, not even in mere jest, to wrangle with each other; never to bandy words or indulge in the least ill-humour. Never! I say; never. Wrangling, even in jest, and putting on an air of ill-humour merely to tease, becomes earnest by practice. Mark that! Next promise each other, sincerely and solemnly, never to have a secret from each other under whatever pretext, with whatever excuse it may be. You must, continually and every moment, see clearly into each other's bosom. Even when one of you has committed a fault, wait not an instant, but confess it freely—let it cost tears, but confess it. And as you keep nothing secret from each other, so, on the contrary, preserve the privacies of your house, marriage state and heart, from father, mother, sister, brother, aunt, and all the world. You two, with God's help, build your own quiet world. Every third or fourth one whom you draw into it with you, will form a party, and stand between you two! That should never be. Promise this to each other. Renew the vow at each temptation. You will find your account in it. Your souls will grow as it were together, and at last will become as one. Ah, if many a young pair had on their wedding day known this simple secret, and straightway practised it, how many marriages were happier than, alas, they are!"
Louise kissed her aunt's hand with ardour. "I feel that it must be so. Where this confidence is absent, the married, even after wedlock, are two strangers who do not know each other. It should be so; without this, there can be no happiness. And now, aunt, the best preservative of female beauty?"
Her aunt smiled, and said: "We may not conceal from ourselves that a handsome man pleases us a hundred times more than an ill-looking one, and the men are pleased with us when we are pretty. But what we call beautiful, what in the men pleases us, and in us pleases the men, is not skin and hair and shape and colour, as in a picture or a statue; but it is the character, it is the soul that is within these, which enchants us by looks and words, earnestness, and joy, and sorrow. The men admire us the more they suppose those virtues of the mind to exist in us which the outside promises; and we think a malicious man disagreeable, however graceful and handsome he may be. Let a young maiden, then, who would preserve her beauty, preserve but that purity of soul, those sweet qualities of the mind, those virtues, in short, by which she first drew her lover to her feet. And the best preservative of virtue, to render it unchanging and keep it ever young, is religion, that inward union with the Deity and eternity and faith—is piety, that walking with God, so pure, so peaceful, so beneficent to mortals.
"See, dear heart," continued the aunt, "there are virtues which arise out of mere experience. These grow old with time, and alter, because, by change of circumstances and inclination, prudence alters her means of action, and became her growth does not always keep pace with that of our years and passions. But religious virtues can never change; these remain eternally the same, because our good is always the same, and that eternity the same, which we and those who love us are hastening to enter. Preserve, then, a mind innocent and pure, looking for everything from God; thus will that beauty of soul remain, for which thy bridegroom to-day adores thee. I am no bigot, no fanatic; I am thy aunt of seven-and-twenty. I love all in innocent and rational amusements. But for this very reason I say to thee—be a dear, good Christian, and thou wilt as a mother, yes, as a grandmother, be still beautiful."
Louise threw her arms about her neck, and wept in silence, and whispered, "I thank thee, angel!"
ROSA LEE was dressed in her bridal garments, and as she knelt in all the bloom of her maidenly beauty, angels must have rejoiced over her; for the spirit of the maiden was in a heaven of love, and she knelt in the fulness of her joy, to pour out her gratitude to the Heavenly Father, that "seeth in secret." Yes, alone in her chamber, the young girl bowed herself for the last time, and as the thought flashed over her mind, that when next she should kneel in that consecrated place, it would not be alone, but that manly arms would bear up her drooping form, and two voices would mingle as one in the holy prayer, a gushing tenderness flooded the heart of the beautiful bride, and light as from Heaven pervaded her whole being, and she could only murmur, "Oh, how beautiful it is to love!"
But bustling steps and voices approach; and Rosa hears one step that sends at thrill to her heart. In the next moment, the maiden, with the rosy glow of love upon her cheek, and the heaven-light yet beaming in her eyes, stood face to face with her lover. Her eyes met his, in that calm, confiding look of an unbounded affection, and, as her hand rested on his arm, strength seemed to flow into her from him, and she looked serene and placid as pure water, that reflects the moonbeams of heaven; and yet, her smiles came and went like these same waters when the ripples sparkle in the glad sunshine.
The bridal party moved forward to the festive hall, where sympathizing friends were gathered to greet them, as a married pair, and the heart of Rosa opened to the holy marriage ceremony with a sense of heavenly rapture.
To her it was as a new and beautiful revelation, when she heard the oft-repeated words, "In the beginning created He them male and female." Ah, yes. It was beautiful to realize that she was created for her beloved Paul, and that in all the vast peopled universe of God, there was not another being so adapted to him as she was.
Ah, this was the beautiful marriage joy, that earth so seldom witnesses. These were of "those whom God hath joined together." And Paul Cleves felt it in his inmost soul, as he turned towards his congratulating friends with his delicate and beautiful bride leaning upon his arm.
Ah, how he watched every vibration of her feelings! suddenly she had become the pulse of his own soul. As a maiden, he had loved her with a wondrous tenderness and devotion. But now, as a wife! There was at once a new and quite different relation established between them.
Paul was so filled with this new perception of blessedness, that he would fain have left the gay company, that he might pour out the beautiful thought that possessed him, to gladden the heart of Rosa; and when he looked his wish to her, she smiled, and whispered to him, "Eternity is ours, and we are not to live for ourselves alone." And here was a new mystery to him. She was revealed to him as another self, with power to read his every thought. And yet it was it better self, for she prompted him to disinterested acts; and away went the glad Paul to shower his attentions upon all those to whom life came not so joyously. And an aged grandmother, and a palsied aunt, almost feared that the handsome bridegroom had forgotten his fair bride, in his warm and kindly interest for them.
Happy Paul! he had found an angel clothed in flesh and blood, who was for ever to stand between him and his old hard, selfish nature. Something of this thought passed through his mind, as his eye glanced over the crowd in search of his beloved and beautiful one. But she, on the other side, was quite near. He felt her soft presence, and as he turned he caught the light of her loving smile.
Yes, she appreciated his self-sacrifice, and as he gazed upon her, his delighted mind and satisfied heart felt a delicious sense of the coming joy of the eternal future.
And the gay bridal passed away, but its light and its joy seemed to overflow all the coming days. And Paul Cleves at length found himself in that reality of which he had so often dreamed, and for which he had so passionately yearned. Yes, he was in his own quiet home, with Rosa by his side.
Months had passed; he had settled into the routine of his business, and she in that of her domestic life; and now it was evening. Paul had come to his home from the labours of the day, with a beautiful hope in his heart; for to him his home was the open door of Heaven. He carried into it no hard, selfish thought, but entered it with the certainty of blessedness, and peace, and love.
Rosa's heart was in her eyes, when it was time for Paul to come. How carefully she foresaw his every want! And when she had prepared everything that her active love could suggest to promote his pleasure and comfort, then she took her place at the window to watch for his coming. This evening watch was a beautiful time to the young wife, for she said "Now, will I think of God, who made for me a being to love." And at this time, it was always as if the great sun of Heaven shone upon her.
And now, Paul passes the bridge, to which Rosa's eye can but just reach. And—is it not wonderful?—Paul's figure is distinguished, even if there be many others, in the dim twilight, crossing that bridge. Ah! how well she knows his figure; to her it is the very form of her love. She sees her whole thoughts and desires embodied in him. And now, he passes the corner of a projecting building, which for a time partially conceals him from her sight.
And how her delight increases as he approaches; the nearer he comes, the more her heart opens to the Divine sun of Heaven. She feels as if she could draw its radiations down upon him. She waits at the window to catch his first glad look of recognition, then she flies to the door, and no sooner is it opened and closed again, than Paul clasps her to his heart, and presses upon her warm lips such kisses as can join heart to heart.
The evening meal being over, then Paul turns to his peculiar delight—to listening to Rosa's thoughts and feelings. All day, he hears of worldly things; but with Rosa he hears of heavenly things. Her heart feeds upon his thoughts, and assimilates them into new and graceful forms of feminine beauty, and Paul sits and listens, full of love and wonder, to his own thoughts, reproduced by the vivid perceptive powers of his wife. For instance, this morning Paul was reading in the Bible, as he always does to Rosa, before he leaves for his business, and he paused on the words, "then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, and full of years, and was gathered to his people;" and he remarked that in this verse there was a most striking affirmation of a future existence; for that Abraham being gathered to "his people," must imply that these people yet lived, or why should mention be made of that fact? And now, in this beautiful evening hour, when Paul asked Rosa what she had been thinking of all day, behold she had a whole Heaven-world to open before him. With her arms clasped around his neck, and her clear, bright eyes looking into his, she answered—
"Oh, Paul, I have been so happy all day. Do you remember what you told me about Abraham being gathered to 'his people' this morning? Well, I have been thinking about it, with such a delight in the thought of those living people, to whom we will be gathered after death. You left me with a beautiful thought, dear Paul, and it seemed as if the angels gathered around me, and told me so many more things, that I have written all my thoughts down."
"Where are they?" said Paul, feeling such a delight in the possession of these written thoughts. And Rosa, drawing a paper from her pocket, leans her cheek upon his head, and reads:—
"'Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, and full of years, and was gathered to his people.' How beautiful is this verse of the holy Word of God! It seems to open to us a glimpse of Heaven.
"After death, we are told, that he was 'gathered to his people.' What a blessed rest and enjoyment comes over us, even in this world, when we find ourselves with 'our people!'
"When congenial spirits meet, all strife and contention ceases; and how each hastens to give to the other of the fulness of his thought and feeling! Such moments in our life are as if Heaven had come down to us, and fleeting and transient as the moment may be, its memory lives with us as a heavenly light, fed from above; and when we realize a continued existence of the harmony of thought and feeling of an ever-flowing communication of pure sentiments, of kindly affections, and of that delight in perceiving good and truth in others, which makes them one with us,—then we have a glimpse of that Heaven to which Abraham ascended, and in which he was 'gathered to his people.'
"I love to read this verse, and imagine what the angels would think if they could hear the words as I read them. And, truly, although angels do not hear through our gross material atmosphere, can they not see the image of what we read in our minds? It is beautiful to think that they can; and it is pleasant to conceive how an angelic, perfectly spiritual mind would understand these words, 'And Abraham gave up the ghost.' The angels would see that the spirit of Abraham had laid off that gross material covering, which was not the real man—only the appearance of a man. To angels, this body, which appears to us so tangible, must be but the ghost of a reality, for to them the spirit is the reality.
"With us, in this outer existence, the laying off of the body is death, that symbol of annihilation; it is as if our life ceased, because we no longer grasp coarse material nature. But with the angels, the laying off of the body is birth; it is the beginning of a beautiful, new existence. The spirit then moves and acts in a spiritual world of light and beauty. It no longer moves dimly in that dark, material world which is as but a lifeless, ghostly counterpart of the living, eternal spirit-world.
"Thus, it seems to me, the angels would understand the words 'And Abraham gave up the ghost.' And the words which follow would have for them a far different signification than to us. For with us 'old age' presents the idea of the gradual wasting away and deterioration of the powers of the body it is the shadow from the darkened future, foretelling the end of life. But angels see the spirit advancing from one state of wisdom to another, and to grow old in Heaven must be altogether different from growing old on earth; and we can only conceive of a spirit as growing for ever more active, intelligent, and beautiful, from the heavenly wisdom and love in which it develops. Imagine an angel, who has lived a thousand years in Heaven; his faculties must have all this time been perfecting and expanding in new powers and activities; whereas, on earth, the material body, in 'threescore years and ten,' becomes so cumbrous and heavy, so disorganized and worn out, that the spiritual body can no longer act in it; hence 'an old man, full of years,' appears to the angels as one whose spirit has passed through so many changes of state; consequently has thought and loved so much that it has increased in activity, life, and power, and thus spiritual progression must be onward to an eternal youth.
"Does it not thrill the soul with the joy of a beautiful hope to imagine Abraham, or any loving spirit, as rising from the material to the spiritual world, 'full of years,' or states of wisdom and love, for ever to grow young among his 'own people?'
"What to Abraham, now, were all of those flocks, and herds, and men servants, and maid servants, that had made his earthly riches? They were nothing more to him, in his new heavenly life, than that ghost of a, body 'he gave up.' The only riches he could carry with him were his spiritual riches—his powers of thinking and feeling. All of his outer life was given to him to develop these powers. All of his natural surroundings were as a body to his natural thoughts and feelings, in which they might grow to the full stature of a man, that he might become 'full of years,' or states.
"And thus to us is given a natural world; and its duties and ties are all important, for within the natural thought and feeling the spiritual thought and feeling grows, as does the soul in its material body. And like as the soul ever feels within itself a separate existence, higher, and above that of its material organization, so also does the spiritual thought and feeling realize itself in its world of natural thoughts and affections; it sighs to be gathered to its 'own people,' even while it loves its natural ties. And, now and then, it has beautiful glimpses of the consociation of spirits according to spiritual affinities.
"The love of the spirit, thus warmed into life, should descend into its natural ties. Uncongenial brothers and sisters are often thrown together and bound by the most indissoluble natural ties. We should cultivate these natural affections and family ties as types of the beautiful spiritual consociations of Heaven.
"Our spirit must grow in the constant exercise of natural affections, or we can have no capacity for the spiritual. If in this world we live morose, ungenial lives, crushing down the budding affections, and the active thoughts springing from them, can we ever be angels? No, assuredly not; for the angels are like the Heavenly Father, in whose light of love they live. They delight to do good to every created being, whether good or evil. They would not, and could not recognise an evil person as a congenial spirit, but for the sake of awakening in him some spark of a beautiful love, a disinterested thought and affection; they would crown his whole life with loving kindness and tender compassion. A true, heavenly angel could be happy in the effort to do good to the most fallen human spirit; and should not we imitate them, that we may be as one of them, one in thought and feeling with them?
"To love!—love with our every power of being—is the only eternal reality. From love springs thought; and thought and affection are the flesh and blood of the spirit. The spirit grows upon what it feeds, as does the body upon its material food; and to stint the spirit of its food is a sad detriment to our after-life.
"A perception of the heavenly life should arouse us to a power of loving every human being that we come in contact with, and make us realize that to love and serve is the happiness of angels, and the principle which conjoins men and angels to God."
When the last word was breathed, as it were, in a soft, holy brightness, from Rosa's lips, Paul sealed them with a kiss. How much he had learned from the perception of a mind that was so wholly gentle and feminine, that its substance seemed all of love; of a love that received the impression only of heavenly things!—while he, with all of his brilliant talents and masculine understanding, felt that his contact was with this hard outer world of material facts and realities; and that oftentimes the very density of the atmosphere in which his mind dwelt obscured and clouded the delicate moral perceptions of his being.
But Rosa saw above him, and revealed to him those beautiful inner truths that were to give form and character to his outer life. Yes; Paul had uncongenial brothers and sisters, and his more refined tastes and pursuits would have led him away from them. But Rosa, with her womanly tact, and grace, and lovingness, led him out from the mists of selfishness into the halo of a more genial and beautiful light, and he felt his heart grow warm with an inexpressible love.
"Ah, Rosa," he said, "there comes over me a new and more beautiful perception of the holy marriage relation; and, like another Adam, I realize that an Eve is created for me from my own breast. My thought grows so living in you, Rosa,—this morning, so unconsciously, was taken from me but a dry rib, and now God grants to me this beautiful Eve! Ah, Rosa, my heart is so full of gratitude for the beautiful gift of your thoughts to me,—I realize so fully that you are a 'help meet for me.'"
Happy Rosa! She gazed into Paul's eyes, and caressed him with her soft touches, and said—
"Oh, Paul, Paul! when I look at you, and think that some day you will be an angel of Heaven, and that I will see your glorious, spirit-beauty, my heart is so happy; for then I can feel, dear Paul, that our love stretches far away beyond this world and this life; and if I love you so much here, what will it be when I see you in the beautiful heavenly light?"
"Your fancy is dreaming of what I will be; and can you not dream for me of how bright and beautiful my Rosa will be in that heavenly light?"
"Ah, yes," said Rosa, "that too is pleasant, for I love to be beautiful, dear Paul, for your sake; and today I was thinking of how happy I should make you—not I, but the Lord will make you happy, dear Paul, through me; and is not that a beautiful thought—that it is God loving us through each other?"
How holy love grew at once to Paul! though at first he did not see this beautiful truth as clearly as did Rosa. But she went on, in her loving way, and very soon she raised him into that inner sunshine in which she dwelt, and then he saw it all clearly, for she said—
"You know, dear Paul, that we read in the Bible that 'God is a sun, and that He is the fountain of life,' and thus all life flows from Him into us, just as in the tiny flowers upon the earth comes the warm living ray of the material sun, developing in them beautiful colours and odours—so the life-ray from God fills us with warm affections. We are but dead forms—the power and the life is in Him, and if we were cut off from Him, how could we love each other?"
Paul was convinced, and did not fail to make Rosa realize the Heaven-derived life and power that was in him. And as they kneeled together in their evening devotions, and Paul clasped his wife in his arms, how clearly he felt the influence of that Divine sun upon his soul, filling it with a gushing, yearning tenderness for his beloved and beautiful one; and how fervently he prayed that the light might grow in her, and through her descend to him! Beautiful are the prayers of such loving hearts, for the inner door of their existence then opens, and the great King of Glory enters in, and they are in the Lord, and the Lord is in them.
Yes, Paul had found a wife—not an external type or shadow of one to mock and vex his soul with an unsatisfactory pretence, but a most blessed and eternal reality. He was married not only in the sight of men, but before God and the angels. And the heart of Rosa responded to his mind as truly and unfailingly as his heart beat to the breath of his lungs. She was as his inner life, and he felt himself strong to guard and protect her as he would his own existence. She had become one with him, and henceforth there was no separate existence for these two.
So serenely and lovingly flowed their life in its interior light and beauty, that cares and anxieties seemed scarce to touch their states. True, these came to them in the guise of those calamities and disappointments, that so often sweep as the destructive tornado over the lower lives of the earth-loving children of men. But as their affections were spiritual, they were not wounded by the earth-sorrows. Their treasures were laid up above, where "moth and rust doth not corrupt." Paul realized this when he saw Rosa hold her dead baby in her arms and smile through her tears. And yet this was her "little Paul" that she loved with such an intense delight and devotion; because in him, all the day long, she saw that wonderful life of God manifested in such a heavenly innocence and purity, as in a tiny image of her own Paul. Yet, when the spirit of the child was gone, she adorned the clay form in which it had dwelt, with such loving care, and laid it in its little coffin, that her hand might serve it to the very last, and then turned and rested her head in the bosom of her husband as a wounded bird in its downy nest.
Paul's love seemed to lift her to the Heaven to which her baby had gone; and when, after a few days, she urged him to leave her and go to his office where his duties called him, Paul feared that she would feel lonely, and would fain have stayed beside her. But she said—
"No, dear Paul; I shall never be alone again; the spirit of the child will be with me: it is so beautiful to have loved him on earth, for now I can love him in Heaven." And so Paul left her, not as one in a dark land of sorrow, but floating in a world of light and love. And how eagerly he hastened back to his gentle, stricken dove, and folded her to his heart, as though he would shield her from all sorrow! But he scarce found a sorrow; she was all light and joy, and said—
"Oh, Paul, I am so happy, for I have been thinking all day how happy the angels must be to have my little Paul with them! It seemed to me that I could see them adorning him with heavenly garments, and I could see his happy smile; and I was glad that he was no longer oppressed by his weak, earthly body. Yes, he is now a blessed angel in Heaven, and is it not beautiful, dear Paul, that we have given an angel to Heaven?"
Thus was the earth-sorrow turned to a heavenly joy. And though other children were born to Paul and Rosa, yet their chief delight in them was, that they were to be angels in Heaven. How often Rosa said, "Paul, they are the children of the Lord—not ours; only we have the loving work to teach them for Heaven."
Through Rosa, Paul realized this beautiful truth, and earnestly strove to impart truth to the tender and impressible minds of his children; he presented it to them in the most beautiful and attractive forms. But it was Rosa that made them love it and live in it; it was the teachings of the father that fell like "golden grains" in the earth of their minds; but it was the gentle, never-ceasing culture of the mother, that caused it to spring up into the sunshine of Heaven, and bear the fruit of kind and loving actions. When Paul saw this, he felt himself a man in the true sense of the word; one, who could perform the highest uses in life, without being clogged and thwarted by the want of concert in action by his partner in life. Thus it is that a harmony of thought and feeling produces a harmony in action.
And how elevated and noble became all the ends of Paul's life! It was Rosa that elevated and refined them, and directed them Heavenward. It was beautiful to see how she could draw down the light of Heaven into all the outer life. Everything on earth seemed to her but the symbol of something in Heaven. And when Paul once gave her money, she thanked him with such a grateful warmth of affection, that he laughingly asked her, if she loved money, that she was so grateful for it. She answered, "Yes, Paul; I love your money, because you have worked for it; and when you give it to me, it seems to our outer life what truth is to our inner life. If you gave me no truth, I could not adorn your inner life with love; and if you gave me no money, I could not adorn your outer life with good. I could not alone attain either money or truth. I should be very poor, dear Paul, both spiritually and naturally, without you. But you, as a husband, bring me truth and money. With the first I call the angels around you; with the second I call earthly friends around you; and thus, both your inner and outer life are made glad and warm and genial."
And Paul knew this; for his home was beautiful,—a feminine taste and tact reigned through it, and Rosa's diffusive charity made him the centre of a circle to whom he dispensed not only earthly goods, but the noble thoughts of his large understanding. And Paul realized that while he guided all things by his wisdom, given to him of God, Rosa was as the motive power to his existence. Her influence pervaded his every thought and feeling, and while it made his life upon earth so full and perfect, it allied him to Heaven; and thus he held her in his house and heart as the Holy of holies.
Happy is the earth if it have one pair of such married ones, for through such, the Spirit and life of God descend upon the earth, and bind it to Heaven. But blessed, yea most blessed will be the earth when it has many such, for then the heavenly sunshine will flood the whole earth with its light and glory, and the Lord, who is the centre and source of this glorious Sun, will see His image reflected, in its mercy and tender beauty, in the lives of the dwellers upon earth, even as it now is seen by Him in those of the dwellers in Heaven, and thus will the "kingdom of God" come upon earth "as it is in Heaven."
IN the truest sense of the word, woman was created to be man's comforter, a joyous helpmate in hours of sunshine, a soother, when the clouds darken and the tempests howl around his head; then, indeed, we perceive the divinely beautiful arrangement which marriage enforces. Man in his wisdom, his rare mental endowments, is little fitted to bear adversity. He bows before the blast, like the sturdy pine which the wintry storm, sweeping past, cracks to its very centre; while woman, as the frail reed, sways to and fro with the fierce gust, then rises again triumphant towards the blackening sky. Her affection, pure and steadfast, her unswerving faith and devotion, sustain man in the hour of darkness, even as the trailing weed supports and binds together the mighty walls of some mouldering ruin.
Would you know why so many unhappy marriages seem to falsify the truth that they are made in Heaven? Why we see daily diversity of interests, and terrible contentions, eating the very life away, like the ghoul in the Arabian tales, that prayed on human flesh? It is that women are wrongly educated. Instructed, trained, to consider matrimony the sole aim, the end of their existence, it matters not to whom the Gordian knot is tied, so that the trousseau, wedding, and eclat of bridehood follow. Soon the brightness of this false aurora borealis fades from the conjugal horizon; and the truths of life, divested of all romance, in bitterness and pain rise before them. Unfitted for duties which must be fulfilled, physically incapacitated for the responsibilities of life—mere school-girls in many instances—the chains they have assumed become cables of iron, whose heavy weight crushes into the heart, erasing for ever the footprints of affection, and leaving instead the black marks of deadly hate. Then comes the struggle for supremacy. Man in his might and power asserts his will, while woman, unknowing her sin, unguided by the divine light of love, neglects, abandons her home; then come ruin, despair, and death. God help those mistaken ones, who have thus hurried into union, ignorant of each other's prejudices, opinions, and dispositions, when too late they discover there is not, nor ever can be, affinity between souls wide as the poles asunder.
Notwithstanding these miserable unions, we must consider marriage divine in its origin, and alone calculated to make life blessed. Who can imagine a more blissful state of existence than two united by the law of God and love, mutually sustaining each other in the jostlings of life; together weathering its storms, or basking beneath its clear skies; hand in hand, lovingly, truthfully, they pass onward. This is marriage as God instituted it, as it ever should be, as Moore beautifully says—
"There's a bliss beyond all that the minstrel has told, When two that are linked in one heavenly tie, With heart never changing and brow never cold, Love on through all ills, and love on till they die!"
To attain this bliss, this union of the soul, as well as of hands, it is necessary that much should be changed. Girls must not think, as soon as emancipated from nursery control, that they are qualified to become wives and mothers. If woman would become the true companion of man, she must not only cultivate her intellect, but strive to control her impulses and subdue her temper, so that while yielding gently, gracefully, to what appears, at the time, perhaps, a harsh requirement, she may feel within the "calm which passeth all understanding." There must be a mutual forbearance, no fierce wrestling to rule. If there is to be submission, let the wife show how meekly Omnipotent love suffereth all things. Purity, innocence, and holy beauty invest such a love with a halo of glory.
Man, mistake not then thy mate, and hereafter, bitterly repenting, exclaim at the curse of marriage. No, no, with prudent foresight, avoid the ball-room belle—seek thy twin soul among the pure-hearted, the meek, the true. Like must mate with like; the kingly eagle pairs not with the owl, nor the lion with the jackal. Neither must woman rush blindly, heedlessly, into the noose, fancying the sunny hues, the lightning glances of her first admirer, true prismatic colours. She must first chemically analyze them to be sure they are not reflected light alone, from her own imagination. That frightsome word to many, "old maid," ought not to exercise any influence over her firmly balanced mind; better far, however, lead a single life, than form a sinful alliance, that can only result in misery and wretchedness. Some of the purest and best women that ever lived, have belonged to that much decried, contemned sisterhood.
Wed not, merely to fly from an opprobrious epithet; assume not the holy name of wife, to one who brings trueness of heart, wealth of affection, whilst you have nought to offer in return but cold respect. Your first love already lavished on another: believe me, respect, esteem, are but poor, weak talismans to ward off life's trials. Rise superior to all puerile fancies; bear nobly the odium of old maidism, if such be thy fate, and if, like Sir Walter Scott's lovely creation, Rebecca, you are separated by an impassable gulf from your heart's chosen, or have met and suffered by the false and treacherous, take not any chance Waverley who may cross your path. Like the high-souled Jewess, resolve to live on singly, and strive with the means God has given you, to benefit, to comfort your suffering sisters.
Would man and woman give to this all-important subject, so vital to their life-long happiness, the consideration it requires, we should not so often meet with men broken in spirit—memento mori legibly written on their countenances; with women prematurely old—unloving wives, careless husbands. Meditate long before you assume ties to endure to your life's end, mayhaps to eternity. Pause even on the altar-stone, if only there thou seest thy error; for a union of hands, without hearts, is a sin against high heaven. Remember,
"There are two angels that attend, unseen; Each one of us; and in great books record Our good and evil deeds. He who writes down The good ones, after every action, closes His volume; and ascends with it to God; The other keeps his dreadful day-book open Till sunset, that we may repent; which doing, The record of the action fades away, And leaves a line of white across the page."
THE BRIDE'S SISTER.
OH, sister, darling, though I smile, the tears are in my heart, And I will strive to keep them there, or hide them if they start; I know you've seen our mother's glance ofttimes so full of woe, The grief-sob rises to the lips that bid her first-born go.
It is not that she doubts his love to whom thou'st given thine,— The fear that he may coldly look upon his clasping vine; But, oh, she feels however loved and cherished as his wife, Though calm her lily may float down upon the stream of life;
Yet, by her own glad married years, she knows that clouds will stray, And tears will sometimes fill thy cup, though kissed by love away; And she will not be near her flower to lay it on her breast— 'Tis thus—'tis thus the young birds fly, and leave the lonely nest!
Oh, sister, darling, I shall miss thy footfall on the stair, Beside my own, when good-words have followed good-night prayer; And miss thee from our pleasant room, and miss thee when I sleep, And feel no more thy twining arms and soft breath on my cheek.
And I shall gaze with tearful eyes upon thy vacant chair— Sweet sister, wherefore, wherefore go, 'tis more than I can bear! Forgive me, Lizzie, do not weep—I'm strong again, and calm, "Our Father" for my aching heart will send a spirit-balm.
Now let me bind this snowy veil amid thy silken hair, The white moss-rose and orange buds upon thy bosom fair; How beautiful you are to-night! Does love such charms impart? An angel's wing methinks has stirred the waters of your heart;
So holy seem its outlets blue where sparkle yet the tears, Like stars that tremble in the sky when not a cloud appears. Art ready now? The evening wanes; the guests will soon be here, And the glad bridegroom waits his own. God bless thee, sister dear!
LOVE vs. HEALTH.
ABOUT a mile from one of the Berkshire villages, and separated from it by the Housatonic, is one of the loveliest sites in all our old county. It is on an exhausted farm of rocky, irregular, grazing ground, with a meadow of rich alluvial soil. The river, which so nearly surrounds it as to make it a peninsula "in little," doubles around a narrow tongue of land, called the "ox-bow"—a bit of the meadow so smooth, so fantastic in its shape, so secluded, so adorned by its fringe of willows, clematises, grape-vines, and all our water-loving shrubs, that it suggests to every one, who ever read a fairy tale, a scene for the revels of elves and fairies. Yet no Oberon—no Titania dwelt there; but long ago, where there are now some ruinous remains of old houses, and an uncouth new one, stood the first frame house of the lower valley of the Housatonic. It was inhabited by the last Indian who maintained the dignity of a Chief, and from him passed to the first missionary to the tribe. There Kirkland, the late honoured President of Harvard College, was born, and there his genial and generous nature received its first and ineffaceable impressions. Tenants, unknown to fame, succeeded the missionary.
The Indian dwelling fell to decay; and the property has now passed into the bands of a poet, who, rumour says, purposes transforming it to a villa, and whose occupancy will give to it a new consecration.
Just before its final high destiny was revealed, there dwelt there a rustic pair, who found out, rather late in life, that Heaven had decreed they should wear together the conjugal yoke. That Heaven had decreed it no one could doubt who saw how well it fitted, and how well they drew together.
They had one child—a late blossom, and cherished as such. Little Mary Marvel would have been spoiled, but there was nothing to spoil her. Love is the element of life, and in an atmosphere of love she lived. Her parents were people of good sense—upright and simple in their habits, with no theories, nor prejudices, ambitions, or corruptions, to turn the child from the inspirations of Heaven, with which she began her innocent life.
When little Mary Marvel came to be seven years old, it was a matter of serious consideration how she was to be got to the district school on "the plain" (the common designation of the broad village street), full a mile from the Marvels secluded residence. Mrs. Marvel was far better qualified than the teachers of the said school, to direct the literary training of her child. She was a strong-minded woman, and a reader of all the books she could compass. But she had the in-door farm-work to do—cheese to make, butter to churn, &c. and after little Mary had learned to read and spell, she must be sent to school for the more elaborate processes of learning—arithmetic, geography, &c.
"Now, Julius Hasen," said Marvel to his only neighbour's son, "don't you want to call, as you go by, days, with your little sister, and take our Mary to school? I guess she won't be a trouble. She could go alone; but, somehow, mother and I shall feel easier—as the river is to pass, &c.—if you are willing."
A kind boy was Julius; and, without hesitation, he promised to take Marvel's treasure under his convoy. And, for the two years following, whenever the district school was in operation, Julius might be seen conducting the two little girls down the hill that leads to the bridge. At the bridge they loitered. Its charm was felt, but indefinable. It was a spell upon their senses; they would look up and down the sparkling stream till it winded far away from sight, and at their own pretty faces, that smiled again to them, and at Julius skittering the stones along the water, (a magical rustic art!) That old bridge was a point of sight for pictures, lovelier than Claude painted. For many a year, the old lingered there, to recall the poetry of their earlier days; lovers, to watch the rising and setting of many a star, and children to play out their "noon-times" and twilights. Heaven forgive those who replaced it with a, dark, dirty, covered, barn-like thing of bad odour in every sense! The worst kind of barbarians, those, who make war—not upon life, but upon the life of life—its innocent pleasures!
But, we loiter with the children, when we should go on with them through the narrow lane intersecting broad, rich meadows, and shaded by pollard willows, which form living and growing posts for the prettiest of our northern fences, and round the turn by the old Indian burying-ground. Now, having come to "the plain," they pass the solemn precincts of the village Church, and that burying-ground where, since the Indian left his dead with us, generations of their successors are already lain. And now they enter the wide village street, wide as it is, shaded and embowered by dense maples and wide-stretching elms; and enlivened with neatly-trimmed court-yards and flower-gardens, It was a pleasant walk, and its sweet influences bound these young people's hearts together. We are not telling a love-story, and do not mean to intimate that this was the beginning of one—though we have heard of the seeds nature implants germinating at as early a period as this, and we remember a boy of six years old who, on being reproved by his mother for having kept his book open at one place, and his eye fixed on it for half an hour, replied, with touching frankness—
"Mother, I can see nothing there but Caroline Mitchell! Caroline Mitchell!"
Little Mary Marvel had no other sentiment for Julius than his sister had. She thought him the kindest and the best; and much as she reverenced the village pedagogues, she thought Julius's learning profounder than theirs, for he told them stories from the Arabian Nights—taught them the traditions of Monument Mountain—made them learn by heart the poetry that has immortalized them, and performed other miracles of learning and teaching, to which the schoolmaster didn't approach!
Children's judgments are formed on singular premises, but they are usually just conclusions. Julius was an extraordinary boy, and, fortunately, he was selected on that account, and not because he was sickly and could do nothing else (not uncommon grounds for this election), for a liberal education. Strong of heart and strong in body, he succeeded in everything, and without being a charge to his father. He went through college—was graduated with honour—studied law—and, when Mary Marvel was about nineteen, he came home from his residence in one of our thriving Western cities, for a vacation in his full legal business.
His first visit was to the Marvels, where he was received with as much warmth as in his father's home. As he left the house, he said to his sister Anne, who was with him—
"How shockingly poor Mary is looking!"
"Shockingly! Why, I expected you would say she was so pretty!"
"Pretty! My dear Anne, the roses on your cheek are worth all the beauty that is left in her pale face. What have they done to her? When you were children, she was at robust, round little thing—and so strong and cheerful—you could hear her voice half a mile, ringing like a bell; and now it's 'Hark from the tomb a doleful sound!' When I last saw her—let me see—four years ago—she was—not perhaps a Hebe—but a wholesome-looking girl."
"Julius!—what an expression!"
"Well, my dear, it conveys my meaning, and, therefore, is a good expression. What has been the matter? Has she had a fever? Is she diseased?"
"Julius! No! Is that the way the Western people talk about young ladies?—Mary is in poor health—rather delicate; but she does not look so different from the rest of our girls—I, you know, am an exception."
"Thank Heaven, you are, my dear Anne, and thank our dear, sensible mother, who understands the agents and means of health."
"But Mary's mother is a sensible woman too."
"Not in her treatment of Mary, I am sure. Tell me how she lives. What has she been about since I was here?"
"Why, soon after you went away, you know, I wrote to you that she had gone to the—School. You know her parents are willing to do everything for her—and Mary was very ambitious. They are hard students at that school. Mary told me she studied from eight to ten hours a day. She always got sick before examination, and had to send home for lots of pills. I remember Mrs. Marvel once sending her four boxes of Brandreth's at a time. But she took the first honours. At the end of her first term, she came home, looking, as you say, as if she had had a fever."
"And they sent her back?"
"Why, yes, certainly—term after term—for two years. You know Mary was always persevering; and so was her mother. And now they have their reward. There is not a girl anywhere who surpasses Mary for scholarship."
"Truly, they have their reward—infatuated people!" murmured Hasen. "Have they taken any measures to restore her health, Anne?"
"Oh, yes. Mrs. Marvel does not permit her to do any hard work. She does not even let her sweep her own room; they keep a domestic, you know; and, last winter, she had an air-tight stove in her room, and it was kept constantly warm, day and night. The draft was opened early; and Mrs. Marvel let Mary remain in bed as long as she pleased; and, feeling weak, she seldom was inclined to rise before nine or ten."
"Go on, Anne. What other sanitary measures were pursued?"
"Just such as we all take, when we are ill. She doctors, if she is more unwell than usual; and she rides out almost every pleasant day. There is nothing they won't do for her. There is no kind of pie or cake, sweetmeat or custard, that Mrs. Marvel does not make to tempt her appetite. If she wants to go to 'the plain,' Mr. Marvel harnesses, and drives over. You know, father would think it ridiculous to do it for me."
"Worse than ridiculous, Anne!—What does the poor girl do? How does she amuse herself?"
"I do believe, Julius, you are interested in Mary Marvel!"
"I am. I was always curious as to the different modes of suicide people adopt. Has she any occupation—any pleasure?"
"Oh, yes; she reads for ever, and studies; she is studying German now."
"What in the world makes you pity Mary, Julius?"
"Because, Anne, she hag been deprived of nature's best gift—defrauded of her inheritance: a sound constitution from temperate, active parents. One may have all the gifts, graces, charms, accomplishments, under Heaven, and, if they have not health, of what use or enjoyment are they? If that little, frail body of Mary Marvel's contained all that I have enumerated, it would be just the reverse of Pandora's box—having every good, but one curse that infected all."
"Dear Julius, I cannot bear to hear you talk so of Mary. I expected you would like her so much. I—I—hoped—. She is so pretty, so Lovely—she is fit for Heaven."
"She may be, Anne,—I do not doubt it; but she is very unfit for earth. What has her good, devoted, sensible, well-informed mother been about? If Mary had been taught the laws of health, and obeyed them, it would have been worth infinitely more to her than all she has got at your famous boarding-school, Ignorance of these laws is culpable in the mothers—disastrous, fatal to the daughters. It is a disgrace to our people. The young women now coming on, will be as nervous, as weak, as wretched, as their unhappy mothers—languishing embodiments of diseases—mementos of doctors and pill-boxes, dragging out life in air-tight rooms, religiously struggling to perform their duties, and dying before they have half finished the allotted term of life. They have no life—no true enjoyment of life!"
"What a tirade, Julius! Any one would think you were a cross old bachelor!"
"On the contrary, my dear Anne, it is because I am a young bachelor and desire not to be a much older one, that I am so earnest on this subject. I have been travelling now for two months in rail-cars and steamers, and I could fill a medical journal with cases of young women, married and single, whom I have met from town and country, with every ill that flesh is heir to. I have been an involuntary auditor of their charming little confidences of 'chronic headaches,' nervous feelings,' 'weak-backs,' 'neuralgia,' and Heaven knows what all!"
"Oh, Julius! Julius!"
"It is true, Anne. And their whole care is, gentle and simple, to avoid the air; never to walk when they can ride; never to use cold water when they can get warm; never to eat bread when they can get cake, and so on, and so on, through the chapter. In the matter of eating and drinking, and such little garnitures as smoking and chewing, the men are worse. Fortunately, their occupations save most of them from the invalidism of the women. You think Mary Marvel beautiful?"
"No—not beautiful, perhaps,—but very, very pretty, and so loveable!"
"Well," rejoined Julius, coldly, after some hesitation, "Mary is pretty; her eye is beautiful; her whole face intelligent, but so pale, so thin—her lips so colourless—her hands so transparent, that I cannot look at her with any pleasure. I declare to you, Anne, when I see a woman with a lively eye, a clear, healthy skin, that shows the air of Heaven visits it daily—it may be, roughly—if it pleases, Heaven to roughen the day,—an elastic, vigorous step, and a strong, cheerful voice, I am ready to fall down and do her homage!"
Julius Hasen was sincere and zealous in his theory, but he is not the first man whose theories Love has overthrown. "Love laughs at locksmiths." and mischievously mocks at the stoutest bars and bolts of resolution.
Hasen passed the summer in his native town. He renewed his intimacy with his old neighbours. He perceived in Mary graces and qualities that made him feel the heavenly and forget the earthly; and, in spite of his wise, well-considered resolution, in three months he had impressed on her "pale cheek" the kiss of betrothal, and slipt an the third finger of her "transparent hand," the "engagement ring!"
But, we must do Julius Hasen justice. When his laughing sister rallied him on his inconsistency, he said—
"You are right, Anne; but I adhere to my text, though I must now uphold it as a beacon—not as an example. I must say with the Turk—'It was written.'"
He was true to himself and true to his wife; and, at the risk of shocking our young lady readers, we must betray that, after the wedding-ring, Hasen's first gift to Mary was—"The Principles of Physiology applied to the Preservation of Health, and the Improvement of Physical and Mental Education; by Andrew Combe, M. D." This book (which should be studied by every Mother in the United States) he accompanied by a solemn adjuration, that she would study and apply it. He did not stop here. After his marriage, he bought two riding-horses—mounted his bride on one and himself on the other, and thus performed the greater part of the journey to Indiana—only taking a rail-car for convenience, or a steamer for repose!
And, arrived at his Western home, and with the hearty acquiescence of his wife, who only needed to know the right, to pursue it, she began a physical life in obedience to the laws laid down by the said oracle, Andrew Combe.
Last fall, six years since his marriage, he brought his wife and two children to visit his Eastern friends. In reply to compliments on all hands, on his wife's improved health and beauty, he laughingly proposed to build, on the site of the old Indian dwelling, a quadrangular Temple, dedicated to the Four Ministers to Health—Air, Water, Exercise, and Regimen!
THE YOUNG HOUSEKEEPER.
"I HOPE, Emily, that you don't think I expect you to work—to spend the bright morning hours in the kitchen, when we commence keeping house," said George Brenton to his young wife.
This remark was made as he left the room, in reply to something which Emily had been saying relative to their projected plan of housekeeping. Mrs. Anderson, her mother, entered the parlour at one door, as her son-in-law left it by another. "And I hope," said she, "that, for your own sake as well as your husband's, you will not think of fulfilling his expectations—that is, strictly speaking."
"And why not? George is always pleased to have any suggestion of his attended to, however indirectly it may be made."
"He would not be pleased, if on trial it should compromise any of his customary enjoyments. George's income, as yet, is not sufficient to authorize you to keep more than one girl, who must be the maid-of-all-work; and even if you should be so fortunate as to procure one who understands the different kinds of household labour, there will be times when it will be necessary for you to perform some part of it yourself—much more to superintend it."
"But, mother, you know how I always hated the kitchen."
"This is a dislike which necessity will, or at least ought to overcome. You have never felt that there was much responsibility attached to the performance of such household tasks as I have always required of you, and in truth there never has been, as I could always have very well dispensed with them. I required them for your own good, rather than my own. Before habits of industry are formed, necessity is the only thing which will overcome our natural propensity to indulge in indolence."
"I am sure that I am not indolent. I always have my music, embroidery, or reading to attend to. As to being chained down to household drudgery, I cannot think of it, and I am certain that it would be as much against George's wishes as mine."
"It would undoubtedly be gratifying to him, whenever he had an hour or two, which he could spend at home, to see you tastefully dressed, and to have you at leisure so as to devote your time wholly to him."
"You make George out to be extremely selfish, which I am sure he is not."
"No, not more so than we all are."
"Why, mother, I am sure you are not selfish. You are always ready to sacrifice your own enjoyment for the sake of promoting that of others."
"I have been subjected to a longer course of discipline, than either you or George. I have lived long enough to know, that the true secret of making ourselves happy is to endeavour to make others so. This is, at least, the case with all those whose finer sensibilities have not been blunted, or, more properly speaking, have been rightly cultivated. But it will do no good to enter into a metaphysical discussion of the subject. The course proper to be pursued by a woman, whose husband's income is rather limited, appears to me perfectly plain."
"The course proper for me to pursue, is that which will best please George."
"Certainly, and that is precisely what I would advise you to do; but I don't think that literally acting upon this suggestion of his, respecting domestic duties, will please him for any great length of time."
Emily made no reply to this. She had decided in her own mind to obey the wishes of George, more especially as they exactly accorded with her own.
A few weeks from the time of the foregoing conversation, George and Emily Brenton commenced housekeeping. Their house was neatly and handsomely furnished, and through the influence of Emily's mother, Experience Breck, a girl thirty-five years old, who well understood domestic, labour, undertook to perform the duties of chambermaid, laundress, and cook, for what all concerned considered a reasonable compensation.
Their home, to make use of George's words, the first time he saw Emily's parents after everything was satisfactorily arranged, "was a little paradise." Pedy (the diminutive for Experience) was the best of cooks and clear-starchers, and never had he tasted such savory soups, and meat roasted so exactly to a turn, or such puddings and such pastry; and never had it been his fortune to wear shirt-bosoms and collars, which so completely emulated the drifted snow.
"And Emily too—she was the dearest and most cheerful of wives, and so bright an atmosphere always surrounded her, that one might almost imagine that she was a bundle of animated sunbeams. She was always ready to sing and play to him, or to listen while he read to her from some favourite author."
This eulogy was succeeded by an invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Anderson to dine with them the ensuing day, that they might judge for themselves that he did not colour the picture of their domestic bliss too highly.
The invitation was accepted; and Emily could not help taking her mother aside to tell her that since they saw each other, she had done nothing but read and play on the beautiful harp her uncle gave her, except that when she grew tired of these, she sewed a little; "and yet," she added, with a bright smile, "George has never given me, an unkind look—much more an unkind word."
"And you have been housekeeping four whole days."
"Eight days, mother!"
"It is only four days since everything was arranged, and you commenced talking your meals regularly at home."
"I know, but then if we can live happily four days, we can four years."
"Yes, if Pedy could always live with you."
"She appears to be quite well satisfied with her situation," was Emily's answer.
There was one at work, however, though neither he nor they realized it, who was sapping their happiness at its very foundation. This was an honest, intelligent farmer, by the name of Simon Lundley, who one day, when in the city, happened to overhear the praises bestowed on Pedy Breck by George Brenton, touching her excellence as a cook and clear-starcher.
"If," thought he, "she could do these well, the same good judgment would direct her how to excel in making butter and cheese; and as his mother, who kept his house, was growing old and infirm, it appeared to him that it would be convenient for her to have some person to assist her in the performance of these and other onerous duties belonging to the in-door work of a farm. He had seen Pedy a few months previous, when on a visit to a sister who resided in the neighbourhood of his home, and remembered of having thought it strange that she had never married as well as her sister, as she was remarkably good-looking." Simon Lundley, therefore, the next Sunday, about sunset, arrayed in a suit of substantial blue broadcloth, boldly presented himself at George Brenton's front door, and inquired if Miss Breck was at home. It proved to be a fortunate, as well as a bold step. Pedy recognised him at once, and had a kind of a vague prescience as to the object of his visit, or such might have been the inference drawn from the deep crimson which suddenly suffused her cheeks.
From that time he visited her regularly every Sunday, and it was soon decided that they should be married in season to enable her to pack the fall butter. This decision she, for sometime, delayed to communicate to Emily, from sheer bashfulness. She could not, she said, when she at last had wrought herself up to what appeared to her the very pinnacle of boldness, make up her mind to tell her before, for the life of her, but then, she did suppose that Simon kind of had her promise that she would be married to him in just three weeks from the next Sunday.
Emily immediately called on her mother to communicate to her the melancholy information. Mrs. Anderson saw that these were what might be termed "minor trials," for her daughter in prospective. She hoped that she would be discreet enough not to allow them to be magnified into what might appropriately be called major trials.
"Don't you think, mother," said Emily, "that you can manage to find, me a girl as good as Pedy?"
"I think it will be impossible. Pedy is a kind of rara avis in all that appertains to housekeeping. She excels in everything. You will be obliged now to limit your expectations. If you can obtain a girl who knows how to cook well, it is the best you can hope to do. Even that, I am afraid, will prove very difficult."
"It appears to me that if girls who are obliged to work for a living understood what was for their good, they would be at more pains to inform themselves relative to what is expected of them."
"A great difficulty lies in the want of competent teachers. Such things are not known by instinct; and experience, though a good, is a slow teacher."
"If I have got to stay in the kitchen all the time to teach a girl, I may as well do the work myself."
"I will do the best I can for you, but you must not expect me to find you a girl who will fill Pedy's place, and do not, for your own sake—leaving George out of the question—be too afraid of the kitchen."
Mrs. Anderson fulfilled the promise she made her daughter. She did her best, and felt tolerably well satisfied at being able to find a girl who had done the cooking in a large family in the country for more than a year.
Pedy Breck left Mrs. Brenton on Saturday after tea, and Deborah Leach took her place on Monday morning. Emily gave her a few general directions and as usual, seated herself in the parlour with her books, her music, and her embroidery, as resources against ennui. Deborah, also, was abundantly provided with the means to keep her out of idleness. She said to herself, after receiving the directions from Emily, that she "guessed there wouldn't be time for much grass to grow under her feet that day."
Deborah did not possess Pedy's "sleight" at doing housework, and she felt a little discouraged when she found that, besides washing and preparing the dinner, she would be obliged to wash the dishes and do the chamber-work.
"I should think that she might take care of her own chamber," she said to herself; "and I don't think it would hurt her delicate hands a great deal, even if she should wash the dishes."
In consideration of its being washing-day, George had sent home beefsteak for dinner, and Pedy, the same as she always did, had made some pies on Saturday, and placed them in the refrigerator for Sunday and Monday. Deborah had not been much accustomed to broiling steaks, as the family where she had been living considered it more economical, when butter brought such a high price, to fry them with slices of pork; but knowing the celebrity of her predecessor in everything pertaining to the culinary art, she exerted her skill to the utmost, and succeeded in doing them very well, and in tolerable season, so that George, after he came home, had to wait for dinner only ten minutes, which passed away very quickly, as time always did when he was with Emily.
Deborah's first attempt at pastry was a decided failure. It was plain that she had never been initiated into the mysteries of making puff paste, nor did she, when telling over what she called her grievances to a friend, think it worth while, she said, "to pomper the appetite by making pies sweet as sugar itself, when there were thousands of poor souls in the world that would jump at a piece of pie a good deal sourer than what Mr. Brenton and his idle, delicate wife pretended wasn't fit to eat. She was sure that she put two heapin' spoonfuls of sugar into the gooseberry pie, and half as much into the apple pie, and Miss Brenton might make her fruit pies, as she called 'em, herself the next time, for 'twas a privilege she didn't covet by no means."
But Mrs. Brenton did not covet the privilege more than she did, and after a great show of firmness on the subject, declaring to herself and her intimate friend that she never would give up, and that there was no use talkin' about it, she concluded she would try again, if Mrs. Brenton would stand right at her elbow and tell her the exact quantity of ingredences she must put into each pie.
"I s'pose you calc'late to do the ironing?" she said to Emily, on Saturday morning.
"No, I am sure I don't," was Emily's reply. "I thought you had done it."
"Well, I havn't—I expected that you were agoing to do it. Miss Hodges, the woman I lived with before I came here, always did it, and she was the richest and genteelest woman in the place. She used to say there wasn't that girl on the face of the earth, that she would trust to starch and iron her fine linens and muslins, and laces."
Emily merely said that she was not in the habit of doing such things herself, and that she should expect her to do them.
Deborah went about her task very unwillingly. She told Emily that she knew she should sp'ile the whole lot, and she proved a true prophetess. The shirt-bosoms and collars bore indisputable evidence that she was not stinted for fuel, the hot flat-iron having left its full impress upon some, while "Charcoal Sketches," of a kind never dreamed of by Neal, were conspicuous on others. As for the muslins and laces, being of a frailer fabric, they gave way beneath the vigorous treatment to which they were subjected, and exhibited mere wrecks of their former selves. Not a single article was wearable which had passed through the severe ordeal of being starched and ironed by Deborah, and what was still more lamentable, many of them could not even, like an antique painting or statue, be restored.
"This is too bad," said George, as he contemplated his soiled and scorched linen. "It appears to me, Emily, that you might have seen what the girl was about before she spoiled the whole."
"How could I," said Emily, "when she was in the kitchen and I was in the parlour—hem-stitching your linen handkerchiefs? Pedy never needed any overseeing."
Some linen of a coarser texture which had passed through Pedy's hands, was obliged to be resorted to on the present occasion, while Emily concealed her chagrin from George on account of the destruction of some Brussels lace, the gift of the same generous uncle who gave her the harp. She silently made up her mind that for the future she would not trust such articles to the unskilful Deborah.
Hitherto George, who probably had recalled to mind what he had said to Emily previous to commencing housekeeping, had never, except in a playful manner, alluded to the ill-dressed food which daily made its appearance on the table. To-day, however, when they returned from church and sat down to dinner, probably owing to being a little sore on the subject of the soiled linen, Emily saw him knit his brows in rather a portentous manner, while, in no very amiable tone of voice, he said—
"It appears to me that this girl don't understand how to do anything as it ought to be done—not even to boil a piece of corned beef. This is as salt as the ocean, and hard as a flint. If the girl has common sense, I am sure she could do better if you would give her a few directions. I confess that I am tired of eating ill-cooked meat, half-done vegetables, and heavy bread, and of drinking a certain muddy decoction, dignified by the name of coffee."
"Such food is, of course, no more palatable to me than to you; but I thought, by what I have heard you stay, that you would not be pleased when you came home to dinner to see me with a flushed face and in an unbecoming dress, which must be the case if I undertake to do the principal part of the cooking myself, and to superintend the whole."
"We must try and get some one that will do better," said George.
"I don't think that it will be of any use," replied Emily. "We may as well try her another week."
The truth was, she had had, for several days, a dim perception that the indolence she had indulged in since released from her mother's influence, was not half so delightful as she had anticipated. Her physical and mental energies had remained so entirely quiescent, that she began to think it would be rather a luxury to be a little fatigued. She moreover half suspected that Deborah might, and would do better, if not embarrassed with that feeling of hurry and perplexity, which so many of what in colloquial phrase are sometimes termed slow-moulded people, experience when obliged to divide their attention among a variety of objects.
Monday morning, Emily determined that she would turn over a new leaf: and a bright leaf it proved to be. She told Deborah, that for the future she should take care of her own room, prepare the dessert, and starch and iron all the nicer articles.
"I am glad to hear you say so, ma'am, I am sure," said Deborah, "for when I have to keep going from one thing to another, my head spins around like a top, and I can't do a single thing as it ought to be done. How Pedy Breck got along so smooth and slick with the work, I don't know, nor never shall. I can make as good light bread as ever was—I won't give up to anybody—but when I made the last, my mind was all stirred up with a puddin'-stick as 'twere, and I couldn't remember whether I put any yeast into it or not."
From this time all went well. Deborah, in her slow way, proved to be a treasure. She told Emily that, "Give her time, nobody could beat her at a boiled dish, apple-dumplings, or a loaf of bread," and the result proved that her words were no vain boast."
"I have concluded to follow your advice," said Emily, the next time she saw her mother, "and look into the kitchen occasionally."
"I am glad to hear it, and I have no doubt that you will enjoy yourself much better for it."
"I am certain that I shall—I do already. You can't imagine what queer, fretful-looking lines were beginning to show themselves on George's brow. He would have looked old enough for a grandfather in a few years, if I had gone on trying to realize the hope he expressed, that I would abstain from the performance of all household tasks. And I should have looked quite as old as he, I suspect, for I believe that the consciousness of neglected duties is one of the heaviest burdens which can be borne."
TO AN ABSENT WIFE.
'TIS Morn:—the sea breeze seems to bring Joy, health, and freshness on its wing; Bright flowers, to me all strange and new, Are glittering in the early dew, And perfumes rise from every grove, As incense to the clouds that move Like spirits o'er yon welkin clear,— But I am sad—thou are not here!
'Tis Noon:—a calm, unbroken sleep Is on the blue waves of the deep; A soft haze, like a fairy dream, Is floating over wood and stream; And many a broad magnolia flower, Within its shadowy woodland bower, Is gleaming like a lovely star,— But I am sad—thou art afar!
'Tis Eve:—on earth the sunset skies Are painting their own Eden dyes; The stars come down and trembling glow, Like blossoms in the waves below; And like an unseen sprite, the breeze Seems lingering midst these orange trees, Breathing its music round the spot,— But I am sad—I see thee not!
'Tis Midnight:—with a soothing spell The far-off tones of ocean swell— Soft as a mother's cadence mild, Low bending o'er her sleeping child; And on each wandering breeze are heard The rich notes of the mocking bird, In many a wild and wondrous lay,— But I am sad—thou art away!
I sink in dreams:—low, sweet, and clear, Thy own dear voice is in my ear:— Around my cheek thy tresses twine— Thy own loved hand is clasped in mine, Thy own soft lip to mine is pressed— Thy head is pillowed on my breast; Oh, I have all my heart holds dear, And I am happy—thou art here!
THE WORD OF PRAISE.
A LITTLE thing is a sunbeam—a very little thing. It streams through our casement, making the cheerful room still more cheerful; and yet so accustomed are we to its presence, that we notice it not, and heed not its exhilarating effect.
But its absence would be quickly seen and felt. The unfortunate prisoner in his dimly-lighted cell would hail with rapture that blessed stream of light; and the scarcely less imprisoned inmates of the more obscure streets of our crowded cities would welcome it as a messenger from Heaven.
It is even thus with the sunbeams of the human heart. Trifling things they are in themselves, for the heart is wonderfully constituted, and it vibrates to the slightest touch; but without them life is a blank—all seems cold and lifeless as the marble slab which marks the spot where the departed loved one lies.
A gloomy home was that of Henry Howard, and yet all the elements of human happiness seemed to be there. Wealth sufficient to secure all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life, was theirs, and both husband and wife were regarded by their numerous acquaintances as exceedingly intelligent and estimable people—and so indeed they were. The light tread of childhood was not wanting in their home, although its merry laugh was seldom heard, for the little children seemed to possess a gravity beyond their years, and that glad joyousness which it is so delightful to witness in infancy, was with them seldom or never visible.
Life's sunbeams seemed strangely wanting, yet the why and wherefore was to the casual observer an unfathomable mystery.
Years before, that wife and mother had left the home of her childhood a happy and trusting bride. Scarcely seventeen, the love which she had bestowed upon him who was now her husband, was the first pure affections of her virgin heart, and in many respects he was worthy of her love, and, as far as was in his nature, returned it. Her senior by many years, he was possessed of high moral principles, good intellectual endowments, and an unblemished reputation among his fellow men.
But there was a cold, repulsive manner, at variance sometimes with his more interior feelings, which could ill meet the warm, affectionate disposition of his young wife, who, cherished and petted in her father's house, looked for the same fond endearments from him to whom she had given all.
Proud of her beauty and intelligence, charmed with her sprightliness and wit, the man was for a time lost in the lover, and enough of fondness and affection were manifested to satisfy the confiding Mary, who had invested her earthly idol with every attribute of perfection. But as months passed on, and he again became immersed in his business, his true character, or, more properly speaking, his habitual manners, were again resumed, and the heart of the wife was often pained by an appearance of coldness and indifference, which seemed to chill and repulse the best affections of her nature.
Tears and remonstrance were useless, for the husband was himself unaware of the change. Was not every comfort amply provided, every request complied with? What more could any reasonable woman desire?
Alas! he knew but little of a woman's heart; of that fountain of love which is perpetually gushing forth toward him who first caused its waters to flow: and still less did he know of the fearful effect of the constant repressing of each warm affection. He dreamed not that the loving heart could become cold and dead, and that his own icy nature would soon be rejected in the devoted being who now clung to him so fondly.
It was but in little things that he was deficient, mere trifles, but still they constituted the happiness or woe of the wife of his bosom.
The loving glance was seldom returned, the affectionate pressure of the hand seemed unfelt, the constant effort to please remained unnoticed. One word of praise, one kindly look, was all that was desired, but these were withheld, and the charm of life was gone.
Gradual was the change. Bitter tears were shed, and earnest endeavours to produce a happier state of things were sometimes made, but in vain. Oh! could the husband but have known how wistfully that young creature often gazed upon him as he sat at the evening meal upon his return from business, and partook of luxuries which her hand had prepared in the hope of eliciting some token of approbation—could he have seen the anxious care with which domestic duties were superintended, the attention paid to the toilette, the constant regard to his most casually expressed wishes, surely, surely he would have renounced for ever that cold, repulsive manner, and clasped to his bosom the gentle being whom he had so lately vowed to love and cherish.
But he saw it not—felt it not. Still proud of her beauty and talents, he loved to exhibit her to an admiring world, but the fond endearments of home were wanting. He knew nothing of the yearnings of that devoted heart; and while the slightest deviation from his wishes was noticed and reprimanded, the eager and intense desire to please was unheeded—the earnestly desired word of praise was never spoken.
The first year of wedded life passed away, and a new chord was awakened. Mary had become a mother; and as she pressed the babe to her bosom, new hopes were aroused. The clouds which had gathered around her seemed passing away, and the cheering sunbeams again broke forth. The manifest solicitude of her husband in the hour of danger, the affection with which he had gazed on the countenance of his first-born, were promises of happy days to come.
But, alas! these hopes were but illusory. All that a father could do for the welfare of an infant was scrupulously performed, but its expanding intellect, its innocent playfulness, soon remained unmarked—apparently uncared for.
"Is he not lovely?" exclaimed the fond mother, as the babe stretched his little hands and crowed a welcome as the father entered.
"He seems to be a good, healthy child," was the quiet reply. "I see nothing, particularly lovely in an infant six months old, and if I did I would not tell it so. Praise is very injurious to children, and you should school yourself from the first, Mary, to restrain your feelings, and utter no expressions which will have a tendency to foster the self-esteem common to us all. Teach your children to perform their duties from a higher motive than the hope of praise."
A chill like that of mid-winter came over the heart of the wife as she listened to the grave rebuke.
There was truth in the words. Our duties should be performed from higher motives than the approbation of our fellow men; but that little word of praise from those we love—surely, surely it cannot be hurtful. It is one of life's brightest sunbeams, encouraging the weak, soothing the long-suffering, bringing rest to the weary and hope to the desponding.
Something of this Mary longed to urge, but her husband had already turned away, and the words died on her lips.
Time passed on. Another and another child had been added to the number, until four bright little faces were seen around the family table. The father seemed unchanged. Increasing years had altered neither the outer nor the inner man, but in the wife and mother few would have recognized the warm-hearted, impulsive girl, who ten years before had left her fathers home, with bright visions of the future floating before her youthful mind.
Whence came that perfect calmness of demeanour, that almost stoical indifference to all that was passing around her? To husband, children, and servants she was the same. Their comfort was cared for, the routine of daily duties strictly performed, but always with that cold, lifeless manner, strangely at variance with her natural disposition.
But the change had come gradually, and the husband noticed it not. To him, Mary had only grown more matronly, and, wisely laying aside the frivolity of girlhood, had acquired the sedateness of riper years. True, there were moments when his indifference was somewhat annoying. Although he never praised, he often blamed, and his lightest word of rebuke was at first always met with a gush of tears, but now there was no sign of emotion; the placid countenance remained unchanged, and quietly he was told that his wishes should be attended to. Certainly this was all that he could desire, but he would have liked to feel that his pleasure or displeasure was a matter of more consequence than it now appeared to be.
And yet the warm affections of the heart were not all dead. They slumbered—were chilled, paralyzed, starving for want of their proper and natural nourishment, but there was still life, and there were times when the spirit again thrilled with rapture, as the loving arms of childhood were twined around the mother's neck, or the curly head rested upon her bosom.
But to the little ones, as to others, there was the same cold uniformity of manner, a want of that endearing tenderness which forms so close a tie between mother and child. Their health, and the cultivation of their minds, were never neglected, but the education of the heart remained uncared for, and the spot which should have bloomed with good and true affection, was but a wilderness of weeds.
The two eldest children were promising boys of seven and nine years old. Full of health, and buoyant, although constantly repressed spirits, they thought not and cared not for aught save the supply of their bodily wants; but with the third child, the gentle Eva, it was far otherwise. From infancy her little frame had been so frail and delicate, that it seemed as if the spirit was constantly struggling to leave its earthly tenement; but her fifth year was rapidly approaching, and still she lingered a blessed minister of love in that cheerless home.
How wistfully she gazed upon the mother's face as she unweariedly performed the many little offices necessary for her comfort, but ever with the same frigid, unchanging manner! How earnestly she longed for that manifestation of tenderness which she had never felt! Even the stern father spoke to her in gentler and more subdued tones than was his wont, and would sometimes stroke the silky hair from her white forehead, and call her his "poor child."
But it was the fondness of a mother's love for which the little one yearned, and with unerring instinct she felt that beneath that calm and cold exterior, the waters of the fountain were still gushing. Once, when after a day of restless pain she had sunk into an uneasy slumber, she was aroused by the fervent pressure of that mother's kiss, and through her half-opening eyelids she perceived the tears which were flowing over her pale face. In an instant the arms of the affectionate child were clasped about her neck, and the soft voice whispered,—
"Dearest mother, do you not love your little Eva?"
But all emotion was instantly repressed, and quietly as ever came the answer—
"Certainly, my child, I love you all. But lie down now, and take some rest. You have been dreaming."
"'Twas such a happy dream," murmured the patient little sufferer, as obedient to her mother's words she again closed her eyes, and lay motionless upon her pillow. Once more she slept, and a sweet smile beamed upon her countenance, and her lips moved as if about to speak. The watchful mother bent over her.
"Kiss me again, dear mother," lisped the slumberer. "Call me your dear little Eva."
None could tell the workings of that stricken heart, as hour after hour the mother watched by her sleeping child; but the dawn of morning found her still the same; statue-like as marble, that once speaking face reflected not the fires within.
Day after day passed on, and it was evident that the spirit of the innocent child would soon rejoice in its heavenly home.
She could no longer raise her wasted little form from the bed of pain, but still her deep blue eyes gazed lovingly upon those around her, and her soft voice spoke of patience and submission.
The last hour drew near, and the little sufferer lay in her mother's arms. The destroyer claimed but the frail earthly covering, and even now the immortal soul shone forth in its heavenly brightness.
"Am I not going to my Father in Heaven?" she whispered, as she gazed earnestly upon her mother's face.
"Yes, dearest, yes," was the almost inaudible reply.
"And will the good angels watch over me, and be to me as a mother?" again asked the child.
"Far, far better than any earthly parent, my dear one."
A radiant smile illumined the countenance of the dying child. The fond words of her mother were sweet music to her ear.
The father approached, and bent over her.
"My little Eva," he whispered, "will you not speak to me?"
"I love you, dear father," was the earnest answer, "and when I am in Heaven I will pray for you, and for my poor mother;" and again those speaking eyes were riveted upon the mother's face, as if she would read her inmost griefs.
The physician entered, and, in the vain hope of prolonging life, judged it necessary to make some external applications to relieve the difficulty of breathing, which was fast increasing. The pain was borne without a murmur.
"Do I not try to be patient, mother?" whispered that little voice.
"Yes, darling, you are a dear, patient, good little girl."
An expression of happiness, amounting almost to rapture, beamed in Eva's face, at these words of unqualified praise.
"Oh, mother! dear, dear mother," she exclaimed, "will you not always call your little Eva your dear, good little girl? Oh, I will try to be so very good if you will. My heart is so glad now," and with the strength produced by the sudden excitement, she clasped her feeble arms about her mother's neck.
"Her mind begins to wander," whispered the physician to the father; but there was no reply. A sudden light had broken upon that stern man, and motionless he stood, and listened to the words of his dying child.
But she had already sunk back in an apparent slumber, and hour after hour those calm but agonized parents sat watching by her side, at times almost believing that the spirit had indeed gone, so deep was the repose of that last earthly slumber.
At length she aroused, and with the same beautiful smile which had played upon her features when she sunk to rest, again exclaimed,
"I am so very happy, dear mother; will you call me your good little Eva once more?"
In a voice almost suffocated with emotion, the desired words were again breathed forth, and long and fervent kisses imprinted upon the child's pale cheek.
"My heart is so glad!" she murmured. "Oh, mother, kiss my brothers when I am gone, and smile upon them and call them good. It is like the sunlight on a cloudy day.
"Put your face close to mine, dear father, and let me whisper in your ear. Call poor mother good, sometimes, and kiss her as you do me, now that I am dying, and she will never look so sad any more."
"I will, my precious child! I will!" And the head of the strong man bowed upon his breast, and he wept.
A change passed over the countenance of the little one.
"The angels will take me now," she whispered. The eyelids closed, there was no struggle, but the parents saw that her mission on earth was ended. Henceforth she would rejoice in the world where all is light and love.
The mother wept not as she gazed upon that lifeless clay. She wept not as she laid the little form upon the bed, and straightened the limbs already stiffening in the embrace of death; but when her husband clasped her to his bosom, and uttered words of endearing affection, a wild scream burst from her lips, and she sunk back in his arms, apparently as unconscious as the child who lay before them.
A long and alarming state of insensibility was succeeded by weeks of fever and delirium.
How many bitter but useful lessons did the husband learn as he watched by her bed-side! Often in the still hours of the night, when all save himself slumbered, she would gaze upon him with that earnest, loving, but reproachful look, which he well remembered to have seen in years gone by, and murmur,
"Just one kind glance, Henry, one little kiss, one word of love and praise."
And then as he bent fondly over her, that cold, fixed expression, which she had so long worn, would again steal over her countenance, and mournfully she added,
"Too late, too late. The heart is seared and dead. See, little Eva stands and beckons me to the land of love. Yes, dear one, I come."
But the crisis came, and though feeble as an infant, the physicians declared the danger past. Careful nursing, and freedom from excitement, would restore the wife and mother to her family.
With unequalled tenderness did her husband watch over her, but with returning health returned also that unnatural frigidity of manner. There was no response to his words or looks of love.
Was it, indeed, too late? Had his knowledge of the wants of a woman's heart come only when the heart, which once beat for him alone, had become as stone?