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THE LIGHTS AND SHADOWS OF REAL LIFE.
BY T. S. ARTHUR.
To all, as they pass through the world, come "light and shadow." Though the sun may be in the heavens, clouds often intervene, and cast deep shadows about our footsteps. But, it is a truth which we cannot too deeply lay to heart, that, in our life, as in nature, the exhalations which form the obscuring cloud arise from below. They are not born in the pure heavens, but spring out of the earth beneath. If there was nothing evil in the mind, there would be no cloud in the sky of our being,—all would be "eternal sunshine."
If, therefore, in this book the lights and shadows are blessed; if, in a word, the clouds often hang heavy and remain long in the sky, the fault is in those whose histories we have written. But the sky does not always remain dark. As the heart becomes filled with better purposes through the trials and pains of adversity, or comes out purer from the furnace of affliction, the clouds disperse, and the blessed sunlight comes again. Lay this up for your consolation, all ye who are in trouble and affliction, and look hopefully in the future. It will not always remain dark as in the present time.
ACCOMPANYING this volume, is a brief auto-biography. In circulating Mr. Arthur's "Sketches of Life and Character," the publisher met so frequently with an expressed desire to know something of one whose writings had made him a general favorite that he was led to solicit a personal sketch, to go with a new collection of his writings. It is but due to the author to say, that his concurrence in the matter was not without considerable reluctance. From this sketch it will be seen that Mr. Arthur is a self-made man, and that he has gained his present enviable position through long and patient labor, and against the pressure of much that was adverse and discouraging. In his elevation he has this pleasing reflection, that in seeking to gain a high place for himself, he has dragged no one down, but rather, sought to carry along, in his upward way, all who could be induced to go with him.
The portrait given in this volume, was engraved from one recently painted by Lambdin, and is considered a very good likeness. Mr. Arthur is now in his forty-second year, and looks somewhat younger than the artist has represented him.
For the information of those who wish to procure Mr. Arthur's Temperance Tales, the publisher would state, that in "Lights and Shadows of Real Life," are included all the stories contained in the recently issued edition of "Illustrated Temperance Tales," besides nearly two hundred pages of additional matter, thus making a larger, more miscellaneous, and more acceptable book for all readers.
In compliance with the earnest request of the publisher of this volume, I have, with a reluctance that I find it difficult to overcome, consented to furnish a brief sketch personal to myself. Although my name has been constantly appearing for some twelve or fifteen years, yet I have lost none of that, shrinking from notoriety and observation which made me timid and retiring when a boy. The necessity to write as a means of livelihood, and to write a great deal, has brought me so frequently before the public, that I have almost ceased to think about the matter as any thing more than an ordinary occurrence; but, now, when called upon to write about myself, I find that the edge of a natural sensitiveness is quite as keen as ever. But, I will call the feeling a weakness, and try to repress it until I have finished my present task.
I was born in the year 1809, near Newburgh, Orange County, New York; and my eyes first opened on the beautiful scenery of the Hudson. My earliest recollection is of Fort Montgomery, some six miles below West Point, on the river, where my parents resided for a few years previous to 1817. In the Spring of that year, they removed to Baltimore, which became my place of residence until 1841, when I came to Philadelphia, where I have since lived.
My early educational advantages were few. There were no public schools in Maryland, when I was a boy, and, as my father had a large family and but a moderate income, he could afford to send his children to school only for a limited period. He knew the value, however, of a good education, and did all for us in his power. Especially did he seek to inspire his children with a regard for religious truth, and, both by precept and example, to lead them into the practice of such things as were honest and of good rest. In all this, he was warmly seconded by a mother who still survives; and for whom, it is but just to say, that her children feel the tenderest regard—and well may they do so, for they owe her much.
At school, I was considered a very dull boy. My memory was not retentive, and I comprehended ideas and formulas expressed by others in a very imperfect manner. I needed a careful, judicious, and patient teacher, who understood the character of my mind, and who was able to come down to it with instruction in the simplest and clearest forms; thus helping me to think for myself and to see for myself. Instead of this, I was scolded and whipped because I could not understand things that were never explained. As, for instance, a slate and pencil were placed in my hands after I had learned to read, upon which was a sum in simple addition for which I was required to find an answer. Now, in the word, "Addition," as referring to figures, I saw no meaning. I did not comprehend the fact, in connexion with it, that two and two made four. True, I had learned my "Addition Table," but, strangely enough, that did not furnish me with any clue towards working out the problem of figures set for me on my slate. I was then in my ninth year; and I can remember, to this day, with perfect distinctness, how utterly discouraged I became, as day by day went by, and still I had not found a correct result to any one of my sums, nor gained a single ray of light on the subject. Strange as it may seem, I remained for several months in simple addition before I knew how to sum up figures, and then the meaning of addition flashed, in a sudden thought upon my mind, while I was at play. I had no trouble after that. During the next week, I escaped both scolding and "belaboring" (a favorite phrase of my teacher's), and then passed on to subtraction. Five minutes devoted to an explanation, in some simple form, of what "Addition" meant, would have saved me the loss of months, to say nothing of the pain, both mental and bodily, that I suffered during the time.
With such a mind and such a teacher, it is no wonder that I made but little progress during the few years that I went to school. Beyond reading and writing, Arithmetic and English Grammar included the entire range of my studies. As for Arithmetic, I did not master half the common rules, and Grammar was to my mind completely unintelligible.
In the end, my teacher, declared that it was only wasting time and money to send me to school, and advised my father to put me out to a trade. This was done. I left home and entered upon an apprenticeship shortly after passing my thirteenth year.
If I found it extremely difficult to comprehend ideas as expressed in ordinary written forms, I was not without thoughts of my own. I had an active mind, and soon after entering upon my apprenticeship the desire for knowledge became strong. As food for this was supplied, even though in a stinted measure, the desire gained strength, and I began a system of self-education that was continued for years afterwards. Of course, the system was a very imperfect one. There was no one to select books for me, nor to direct my mind in its search after knowledge. I was an humble apprentice boy, inclined from habit to shrink from observation, and preferring to grope about in the dark for what I was in search off, rather than intrude my wants and wishes upon others. Day after day I worked and thought, and night after night I read and studied, while other boys were seeking pleasure and recreation. Thus, through much discouragement, the years passed by; and thus time went on, until I attained the age of manhood, when, defective sight compelled me to give up the trade I had been acquiring for over seven years.
Beyond this trade, my ability to earn a living was small. My efforts at self-education had been guided by no definite aims in life. I had read, studied and thought, more to gratify a desire for knowledge than to gain information with the end of applying it to any particular use. The consequence was, that on reaching manhood, I entered the world at a great disadvantage. My trade, to learn which I had spent so many years, could not be followed, except at the risk of losing my sight, which had failed for the three preceding years with such rapidity that I was now compelled to use glasses of strong magnifying power. I had but slight knowledge of figures, and was not, therefore, competent, to take the situation of a clerk. At this point in my life, I suffered from great discouragement of mind. Through the kind offices of a friend, a place was procured for me in a counting room, at a very small salary, where but light service was required, and where I found but few opportunities for acquiring a knowledge of business. Here I remained for over three years, almost as much shut out from contact with the business world as when an apprentice, and with plenty of time on my hands for reading and writing, which I improved.
The necessity for a larger income caused me to leave this place, and accept of one in which a higher ability was required. In 1833 I went to the West as agent for a Banking Company; but the institution failed and I returned to Baltimore, out of employment. During all this time, I was devoting my leisure moments to writing, not that I looked forward to authorship as a trade—nothing could have been more foreign to my thoughts;—I continued to write, as I had begun, prompted by an impulse that I felt little inclination to resist.
At this point in my life, I was induced, in association with a friend who was as fond of writing as myself, to assume the editorial charge of a literary paper. And here began, in earnest, my literary labors, that have since continued with only brief periods of intermission.
As an author, I have never striven for mere reputation; have never sought to make a name. Circumstances, over which I had little control, guided my feet, and I walked onward in the path that opened before me, not doubting but that I was in the right way. If other employment had offered; if I had received a good business education, and been able, through that means, to have advanced myself in the world, I would, like thousands of others who had an early fondness for literary pursuits, soon have laid aside my pen and given to trade the best energies of my mind. But Providence guided my feet into other paths than these. They were rough and thorny at times, and I often fainted by the way; yet renewed strength ever came when I felt the weakest. If my earnest labor has not been so well rewarded in a money-sense as it might have been had I possessed a business education at the time of my entrance upon life, my reward in another sense has been great. Though I have not been able to accumulate wealth, I have gained what wealth alone cannot give, a wide-spread acknowledgment that in my work I have done good to my fellow men. This acknowledgment comes back upon me from all directions, and I will not deny that it affords me a deep interior satisfaction. Could it be otherwise? And with this heart-warming satisfaction, there arises ever in my mind a new impulse, prompting to still more earnest efforts in the cause of humanity.
My choice of temperance themes has not arisen from any experience in my own person of the evils of intemperance, but from having been an eye and ear witness to some of the first results of Washingtonianism, and seeing, in the cause, one worthy the best efforts of my pen. The temperance cause I recognized as a good cause, and I gave it the benefit of whatever talent I possessed. And I have the pleasant assurance, from very many who have had better opportunities to know than myself, that my labor has not been in vain. Thus much I have ventured to write of myself. Beyond this, let my works speak for me. I can say no more.
Philadelphia, May, 1850.
T. S. A.
THE FACTORY GIRL. THE TWO PICTURES. BRANDY AS A PREVENTIVE. THE TEMPERANCE PLEDGE. TIME, FAITH, ENERGY. FLUSHED WITH WINE. SWEARING OFF. THE FAILING HOPE. TAKING TOLL. THOU ART THE MAN. THE TOUCHING REPROOF. THE TEMPERANCE SONG. THE DISTILLER'S DREAM. THE RUINED FAMILY. THE RUMSELLERS DREAM. HOW TO CURE A TOPER. THE BROKEN PLEDGE. THE WANDERER'S RETURN. JIM BRADDOCK'S PLEDGE. WINE ON THE WEDDING NIGHT. THE ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT. THE IRON WILL. A CURE FOR LOW SPIRITS. THREE HUNDRED A YEAR. I'LL SEE ABOUT IT. THE FIERY TRIAL. THE SISTERS. THE MAIDEN'S ERROR.
THE FACTORY GIRL.
THERE was something wrong about the affairs of old Mr. Bacon. His farm, once the best tilled and most productive in the neighbourhood, began to show evidences of neglect and unfruitfulness; and that he was going behindhand in the world, was too apparent in the fact, that, within two years he had sold twenty acres of good meadow, and, moreover, was under the necessity of borrowing three hundred dollars on a mortgage of his landed property. And yet, Mr. Bacon had not laid aside his habits of industry. He was up, as of old, with the dawn, and turned not his feet homeward from the field until the sun had taken his parting glance from the distant hill-tops.
A kind-hearted, cheerful-minded man was old Mr. Bacon, well liked by all his neighbours, and loved by his own household. His two oldest children died ere reaching the age of manhood; three remained. Mary Bacon, the eldest of those who survived, now in her nineteenth year, had been from earliest childhood her father's favourite; and, as she advanced towards womanhood, she had grown more and more into his heart. In his eyes she was very beautiful; and his eyes, though partial, did not deceive him very greatly, for Mary's face was fair to look upon.
We have said that Mr. Bacon was a kind-hearted cheerful-minded man. And so he was; kind-hearted and cheerful, even though clouds were beginning to darken above him, and a sigh from the coming tempest was in the air. Yet not so uniformly cheerful as of old, though never moody nor perverse in his tempers. Of the change that was in progress, the change from prosperity to adversity, he did not seem to be painfully conscious.
Yes, there was something wrong about the affairs of old Mr. Bacon. A habit indulged through many years, had acquired a dangerous influence over him, and was gradually destroying his rational ability to act well in the ordinary concerns of life. As a young man, Mr. Bacon drank "temperately," and he drank "temperately" in the prime of life; and now, at sixty, he continued to drink "temperately," that is, in his own estimation. There were many, however, who had reason to think differently. But Mr. Bacon was no bar-room lounger; in fact, he rarely, if ever, went to a public house; it was in his own home and among his household treasures, that he placed to his lips the cup of confusion.
The various temperance reforms had all found warm advocates among his friends and neighbours; but Mr. Bacon stood aloof. He would have nothing to do in these matters.
"Let them join temperance societies who feel themselves in danger," was his good natured answer to all argument or persuasion addressed to him on the subject.
He did not oppose nor ridicule the movement. He thought it a good thing; only, he had in it no personal interest.
And so Mr. Bacon went on drinking "temperately" until habit, from claiming a moderate indulgence, began to make, so it seemed to his friends, rather unreasonable demands. Besides this habit of drinking, Mr. Bacon had another habit, that of industry; and, what was unusual, the former did not abate the latter, though it must be owned that it sadly interfered with its efficiency. He was up, as we have said, with the dawn, and all the day he was busy at work; but, somehow or other, his land did not produce as liberally as in former times, and there was slowly creeping over every thing around him an aspect of decay. Moreover, he did not manage, as well as formerly, the selling part of his business. In fact, his shrewdness of mind was gone. Alcohol had confused his brain. Gradually he was retrograding; and, while more than half conscious of the ruin that was in advance of him, he was not fully enough awake to feel seriously alarmed, nor to begin anxiously to seek for the cause of impending evil. And so it went on until Mr. Bacon, suddenly found himself in the midst of real trouble. The value of his farm, which, after parting with the twenty acres of meadow land, contained but twenty-five acres, had been yearly diminishing in consequence of bad culture, and defective management of his stock had reduced that until it was of little consequence.
The holder of the mortgage was a man named Dyer, who kept a tavern in the village that lay a mile distant from the little white farm-house of Mr. Bacon. When Dyer commenced his liquor-selling trade, for that was his principal business, he had only a few hundred dollars; now he was worth thousands, and was about the only man in the neighbourhood who had money to lend. His loans were always made on bond and mortgage, and, it was a little remarkable, that he was never known to let a sober, industrious farmer or store-keeper have a single dollar. But, a drinking man, who was gradually wasting his substance, rarely applied to him in vain; for he was the cunning spider watching for the silly fly. More than one worn-out and run-down farm had already come into his hands, through the foreclosure of mortgages, at a time of business depression, when his helpless victims could find no sympathizing friends able to save them from ruin.
One day, in mid-winter, as Mr. Bacon was cutting wood at his rather poorly furnished wood pile, the tavern-keeper rode up. There was something in his countenance that sent a creeping sense of fear to the heart of the farmer.
"Good morning, Mr. Dyer," said he.
"Good morning," returned the tavern-keeper, formally. His usual smile was absent from his face.
"Sharp day, this."
"Yes, rather keen."
"Won't you walk in and take something?"
"No, thank you. H-h-e-em!"
There was a pause.
The farmer's eye sunk beneath the cold steady look of Dyer.
"Mr. Bacon, I guess I shall have to call on you for them three hundred dollars," said the tavern-keeper, in a firm voice.
"Can't pay that mortgage now, Mr. Dyer," returned Bacon, with a troubled expression; "no use to think of it."
"Rather a cool way to treat a man after borrowing his money. I told you when I lent it that I might want it at almost any time."
"Oh! no, Mr. Dyer. It was understood, distinctly, that from four to six months' notice would be given," replied Mr. Bacon, positively.
"Preposterous!" ejaculated the tavern-keeper. "Never thought of such a thing. Six months notice, indeed!"
"That was the agreement," said Mr. Bacon, firmly.
"Is it in the bond?"
"No, it was verbal, between us."
Dyer shook his head, as he answered,—
"No, sir. I never make agreements of that kind; the money was to be paid on demand, and I have ridden over this morning to make the demand."
"It is midwinter, Mr. Dyer," was replied in a husky voice.
"You know that a small farmer, like me, cannot be in possession, at this season, of the large sum you demand."
"That is your affair, Mr. Bacon. I want my money now, and must have it."
There was a tone of menace in the way this was said that Mr. Bacon fully understood.
"I haven't thirty dollars, much less three hundred, in my possession," said he.
"Borrow it, then."
"Impossible! money has not been so scarce for years. Every one is complaining."
"You'd better make the effort, Mr. Bacon, I shall be sorry to put you to any trouble, but my money will have to be forthcoming."
"You will not enter up the mortgage?" said the farmer.
"It will certainly come to that, unless you can pay it."
"That is what I call oppression!" returned Mr. Bacon, in momentary indignation, for the utterance of which he was as quickly repentant.
"Good morning," said Dyer, suddenly turning his horse's head, and riding off at a brisk trot.
For nearly five minutes, old Mr. Bacon stood with his axe resting on the ground, lost in painful thought. Then he went slowly into the house, and sitting down before the fire, let his head sink upon his breast, and there mused on the trouble that was closing around him. But there came no ray of light, piercing the thick darkness that had fallen so suddenly.
Nothing was then said to his family on the subject, but it was apparent to all that something was wrong, for the lips that gave utterance to so many pleasant words, and parted so often in cheerful smiles, were still silent."
"Are you not well, to-day?" asked Mrs. Bacon, as the family gathered around the dinner-table, and she remarked her husband's unusually sober face.
"Not very well," he replied.
"What ails you, father?" said Mary, with tender concern in her voice, and her eyes were turned upon him with affectionate earnestness.
"Nothing of much consequence, child," was answered evasively. "I shall be better after dinner."
And as Mr. Bacon spoke he poured out a larger glass of brandy than usual—he always had brandy on the table at dinner time—and drank it off. This soon took away the keen edge of suffering from his feelings, and he was able to affect a measure of cheerfulness. But he did not deceive the eyes of Mrs. Bacon and Mary.
"I wonder what ails father!" said Mary, as soon as she was alone with her mother.
"I don't know," answered Mrs. Bacon, thoughtfully, "he seems troubled about something."
"I saw that Mr. Dyer, who keeps tavern over in Brookville, talking with father at the wood-pile this morning."
"You did!" Mrs. Bacon spoke with a new manifestation of interest.
"Yes; and I thought, as I looked at him out of the window, that he appeared to be angry about something."
Mrs. Bacon did not reply to this remark. Soon after, on meeting her husband, she said to him,
"What did Mr. Dyer want this morning?"
"Something that he will not get," replied Mr. Bacon.
"The money he loaned you?"
"It's impossible to pay it back now, in the dead of winter," said Mrs. Bacon, in a troubled tone of voice, "he ought to know that."
"And he does know it."
"What did you tell him?"
"That to lift the mortgage now was out of the question."
"Won't he be troublesome? You remember how he acted towards poor old Mr. Peabody."
"I know he's a hard-hearted, selfish man. I don't believe that there is a spark of humanity about him. But he'll scarcely go to extremities with me. I don't fear that."
"Did he threaten?"
"Yes. But I hardly think that he was in earnest."
How far this last remark of old Mr. Bacon was correct, the following brief conversation will show. It took place between Dyer and a miserable pettyfogging lawyer, in Brookville, named Grant.
"I've got a mortgage on old Bacon's farm that I wish entered up," said the tavern-keeper, on calling at the lawyer's office.
"Can't he pay it off?" inquired Grant.
"Of course not. He's being running down for the last six or seven years, and is now on his last legs."
"And so you mean to trip him up before he falls of himself." The lawyer spoke in an unfeeling tone and with a sinister smile.
"If you please to say so," returned Dyer. "I've wanted that farm of his for some time past. When I took the mortgage on it my object was not a simple investment at legal interest; you know that I can do better with money than six per cent a year."
"I should think you could," responded the lawyer, with a chuckle.
"When I loaned Bacon three hundred dollars, of course I never expected to get the sum back again. I understood, perfectly well, that sooner or later the mortgage would have to be entered up."
"And the farm becomes yours for half its real value."
"Are you not striking to soon?" suggested the lawyer.
"Some friend may loan him the amount."
Dyer shook his head.
"It's a tight time in Brookville."
"And still better for my purpose," said Dyer, in a low, meaning, voice; "drunkards have few friends; none, in fact, willing to risk their money on them. Put the screws to Bacon, and his farm will drop into my hands like a ripe cherry."
"You can hardly call Bacon a drunkard. You never see him staggering about, nor lounging in bar-rooms."
"Do you remember his farm seven years ago?"
"Look at it now."
"There's a great difference, certainly."
"Isn't there! What's the reason of this?"
"Intemperance, I suppose."
"Drunkenness!" said the tavern-keeper. "That is the right word. He don't spend much in bar-rooms, but look over his store bill and you'll find rum a large item."
"Poor Bacon! He's a good sort of a man," remarked the lawyer. "I can't help feeling sorry for him. He's his own worst enemy."
"I want you to push this matter through in the quickest possible time," said Dyer, in a sharp, firm voice.
"Very well. It shall be done. I know my business."
"And I know mine," returned the tavern-keeper.
On the next day, Mr. Bacon was formally notified that proceedings had been instituted for the satisfaction of the mortgage. This was bringing the threatened evil before his eyes in the most direct aspect. In considerable alarm and perturbation, he called over to see Dyer.
"You cannot mean to press this matter on to the utmost extremity," said he, on meeting the tavern-keeper, the hard aspect of whose features gave him little room for hope.
"I certainly mean to get my three hundred dollars," was replied.
"Can you not wait until after next harvest?"
"I have already told you that I want my money now," said Dyer, with affected anger. "If you can pay me, well; if not, I will get my own by aid of the Sheriff."
"That is a hard saying, Mr. Dyer," returned the farmer, in a subdued voice.
"Nevertheless, it is a true one, friend Bacon, true as gospel."
"I haven't the money, nor can I borrow it, Mr. Dyer."
"Your misfortune, not mine. Though I must say, it is a little strange."
"What is strange?"
"That a man who has lived in this community as long as you have, can't find a friend willing to loan him three hundred dollars to save his farm from the Sheriff. There's something wrong."
Yes, there was something wrong, and poor old Mr. Bacon felt it now more deeply than ever. Another feeble effort at remonstrance was made, when Mr. Dyer coldly referred him to Grant the lawyer, who had now entire control of the business. But he did not go to him. He felt that to do so would be utterly useless.
Regular proceedings were entered upon for the settlement of the mortgage, and hurried to an issue as speedily as possible. It was all in vain that Mr. Bacon sought to borrow three hundred dollars, or to find some person willing to take the mortgage on his farm, and let him continue to pay the interest. It was a season when few had money to spare, and those who could have advanced the sum required, hesitated about investing it where there was little hope of getting the amount back again except by execution and sale. For, Mr. Bacon, in consequence of his intemperance, was steadily running behindhand; and all his neighbours knew it.
The effect of this trouble on the mind of Mr. Bacon was to cause him to drink harder than before. His cheerful temper gave place to a silent moodiness, when in partial states of sobriety, which where now of rare occurrence, and he lost all interest in things around him. A greater part of his time was spent in wandering restlessly about his house or farm, but he put his hand to scarcely any work.
Deeply distressed were Mrs. Bacon and Mary. Each of them had called, at different times on Mr. Dyer, in the hope of moving him by persuasion to turn from his purpose.
But, only in one way would he agree to an amicable settlement, and that was, by taking the farm for the mortgage and three hundred dollars cash; by which means he would come into possession of property worth from twelve to fifteen hundred dollars. This offer he repeated to Mary, who was the last to call upon him in the hope of turning him from his purpose.
"No! Mr. Dyer," said the young girl firmly, even while tears were in her eyes. "My father will not let the place go at a third of its real value."
"He over-estimates its worth," replied Dyer, with some impatience, "and he'll find this out when it comes under the hammer."
"You will not, I am sure you will not, sacrifice my father's little place,—the home of his children," said Mary, in an appealing voice.
"I shall certainly let things take their course," replied the tavern-keeper. "Tell your father, from me, that he has nothing to hope for from any change in my purpose, and that he need make no more efforts to influence me. I will buy the place, as I said, for six hundred dollars, its full value, or I will sell it for my claim."
And saying this, the man left, abruptly, the room in which his interview with Mary was held, and she, hopeless of making any impression on his feelings, arose and retired from the house, taking, with a sad heart, her way homeward. Never before had Mary, a gentle-hearted, quiet, retiring girl, been forced into such rough contact with the world at any point. Of this act of intercession for her father, Mr. Bacon knew nothing. Had she dropped (sic) a a word of her purpose in his hearing, he would have uttered a positive interdiction. He loved Mary as the apple of his eye, and she loved him with a tender, self-devoted affection. To him, she was a choice and beautiful flower, and even though his mind had become, in a certain degree, degraded and debased by intemperance, there was in it a quick instinct of protection when any thing approached his child.
Slowly and thoughtfully, with her eyes bent upon the ground, did Mary Bacon pursue her way homeward; and she was not aware of the approach of footsteps behind her, until a man stood by her side and pronounced her name.
"Mr. Green!" said she, in momentary surprise, pausing as she looked up.
Mr. Green was a farmer in easy circumstances, whose elegant and highly cultivated place was only a short distance from her father's residence. He was, probably, the richest man in the neighbourhood of Brookville; though, exceedingly close in all money matters. Mr. Bacon would have called upon him for aid in his extremity, but for two reasons. One was, Mr. Green's known indisposition to lend money, and the other was the fact that he had several times talked to him about his bad drinking habits; at which liberty he had taken offence, and retorted rather sharply for one of his mild temper.
The colour mounted quickly to Mary's face, as she paused and lifted her eyes to the countenance of Mr. Green. The fact was, she had been thinking about him, and, just at the moment he came to her side, she had fully made up her mind to call upon him before going home.
"Well Mary," said he, kindly, and he took her hand.
Mary's lips quivered, but she could not utter a word.
Mr. Green moved on, still holding her hand, and she moved by his side.
"I'm sorry to hear," said Mr. Green, "that your father is in trouble. I learned it only an hour ago."
"That is just what I was coming to see you about," replied Mary, with a boldness of speech that surprised even herself.
"Indeed! Then you were coming to see me," said Mr. Green, in a voice that was rather encouraging than otherwise.
"Yes, sir. But father knows nothing of my purpose."
"Oh! Well, Mary, what is it you wish to say to me?"
The young girl's bosom was heaving violently. Some moments passed ere she felt calm enough to proceed. Then she said—
"Mr. Dyer has a mortgage on father's place for three hundred dollars, and is going to sell it."
"Mr. Dyer is a hard man, and your father should not have placed himself in his power," remarked Mr. Green.
"Unhappily, he is in his power."
"So it seems. Well, what do you wish me to do in the case?"
"To lend me three hundred dollars," said Mary, promptly. Thus encouraged to speak, she did not hesitate a moment.
"Lend you three hundred dollars! returned Mr. Green, rather surprised at the directness of her request. "For what use?"
"To pay off this mortgage, of course," replied Mary.
"But, who will pay me back my money?" inquired Mr. Green.
"I will," said Mary, confidently. "You! Pray where do you expect to get so much money from?"
"I expect to earn it," was firmly answered.
Mr. Green paused, and turning towards Mary, looked earnestly into her young face that was lit up with a beautiful enthusiasm.
"Earn it, did you say?"
"Yes, sir, I will earn and pay it back to you, if it takes a lifetime to do it in."
"How will you earn it, Mary?"
Mary let her eyes fall to the ground, and stood for a moment or two. Then looking up, she said—
"I will go to Lowell."
"And work in a factory?"
Mr. Green moved on again, but in silence, and Mary walked with an anxious heart by his side. For the distance of several hundred yards they passed along and not a word was spoken.
"To Lowell?" at length dropped from the lips of Mr. Green, in a tone half interrogative, half in surprise. Mary did not respond, and the silence continued until they came to a point in the road where their two ways diverged.
"Have you thought well of this, Mary?" said Mr. Green, as he paused here, and laid his hand upon a gate that opened into a part of his farm.
"Why should I think about it, Mr. Green?" replied Mary. "It is no time to think, but to act. Hundreds of girls go into factories, and it will be to me no hardship, but a pleasure, if thereby I can help my father in this great extremity."
"Is he aware of your purpose?"
"Oh, no sir! no!"
"He would never listen to such a thing."
"Not for a moment."
"Then will you be right in doing what he must disapprove?"
"It is done for his sake. Love for him is my prompter, and that will bear me up even against his displeasure."
"But he may prevent your going, Mary."
"Not if you will do as I wish."
"Lend me three hundred dollars on my promise to you that I will immediately go to Lowell, enter a factory, and remain at work until the whole sum is paid back again from my earnings."
"I will then take the money and pay off the mortgage. This will release father from his debt to Mr. Dyer, and bring me in debt to you."
"Father is an honest and an honourable man."
"He is, Mary," said Mr. Green. His voice slightly trembled, for he was touched by the words of the gentle girl.
"He will not be able to pay you the debt in my stead."
"And, therefore, deeply reluctant as he may be to let me go, he cannot say nay."
"Walk along with me to my house," said Mr. Green, as he pushed open the gate at which he stood, "I must think about this a little more."
The result was according to Mary's wishes. Mr. Green was a true friend of Mr. Bacon's, and he saw, or believed that he saw, in his daughter's proposition, the means of his reformation. He, therefore, returned into the village, and going to the office of Grant, satisfied the mortgage on Mr. Bacon's property, and brought all the papers relating thereto away and placed them in Mary's hands.
"Now," said he, on doing this, "I want your written promise to pay me the three hundred dollars in the way proposed. I will draw up the paper, and you must sign it."
The paper was accordingly drawn up and signed. It stipulated that Mary was to start for Lowell within three weeks, and that she was to have two years for the full payment of the debt.
"My brave girl!" said Mr. Green, as he parted with Mary. "No one will be prouder of you than I, if you accomplish the work to which you are about devoting yourself. Happy would I be, had I a daughter with your true heart and noble courage."
Mary's heart was too full to thank him. But her sweet young face was beaming with gratitude, as she turned away and hurried homeward.
Mr. Bacon was walking uneasily, backwards and forwards in the old porch, when Mary entered the little garden gate. She advanced towards him with a bright face, holding out as she did so, a small package of papers.
"Good news, father!" she exclaimed. "Good news!
"How? What, child?" eagerly asked the old man, his mind becoming suddenly bewildered.
"The mortgage is paid, and here is the release!" said Mary, still holding out the package of papers.
"Paid! Paid, Mary! Who paid it?" returned Mr. Bacon, with the air of a man awaking from a dream.
"I have paid it, father dear!" answered Mary, in a trembling voice; and she kissed the old man's cheek, and then laid her face down upon his breast.
"You, Mary?" Where did you get money?"
"I borrowed it," murmured the happy girl.
"Mary! Mary! what does this mean?" said the old man, pushing back her face and gazing into it earnestly. "Borrowed the money! Why, who would lend you three hundred dollars? Say, child!"
"I borrowed it of Mr. Green," replied Mary, and as she said this, she glided past her father and entering into the house, hurried away to her mother. But ere she had time to inform her of what she had done, the father joined them, eager for some further explanations. When, at last, he comprehended the whole matter, he was, for a time like a man stricken down by a heavy blow.
"Never," said he, in the most solemn manner, "will I consent to this. Mr. Green must take back his money. Let the farm go! It shall not be saved at this price."
But he soon comprehended that it was too late to recall the act of his daughter. The money had already passed into the hands of Dyer, and the mortgage been cancelled. Still, he was fixed in his purpose that Mary should not leave home to spend two long years of incessant toil in a factory, and immediately called on Mr. Green in order to make with him some different arrangement for the payment of the loan. But, to his surprise and grief, he found that Mr. Green was unyielding in his determination to keep Mary to her contract.
"Surely! surely! Mr. Green, "urged the distressed father," you will not hold my dear child to this pledge, made under circumstances of so trying a nature? You will not punish—I say punish—a gentle girl like her for loving her father too well."
"If there is any hardship in the case," replied Mr. Green, calmly, "you are at fault, and not me, Mr. Bacon."
"Why do you say that?" inquired the old man.
"For the necessity which drove your child to this act of self-sacrifice, you are responsible."
"Oh sir! is this a time to wound me with words like these? Why do you turn a seeming act of kindness into the sharpest cruelty?"
"I speak to you but the words of truth and soberness, Mr. Bacon. These, no man should shrink from hearing. Seven years ago, your farm was the most productive in the neighborhood, and you in easy circumstances. What has produced the sad change now visible to all eyes? What has taken from you the ability to manage your affairs as prosperously as before? What has made it necessary for your child to leave her father's sheltering roof and bury herself for two long years in a factory, in order to save you from total ruin? Go home, Mr. Bacon, and answer these questions to your own heart, and may the pain you now suffer lead you to act more wisely in the future."
"My daughter shall not go!" exclaimed the old man, passionately.
"I hold her written pledge to repair to Lowell at the expiration of three weeks, and to repay the loan I made her in two years. Will you compel her to violate her contract?"
"I will execute another mortgage on my farm and pay you back the loan."
"Act like a wise man," said Mr. Green. "Let your daughter carry out her noble purpose, and thus relieve you from embarrassment."
"No, no, Mr. Green! I cannot think of this. Oh, sir! pity me! Do not force my child away! Do not lay so heavy a burden on one so young. Think of her as your own daughter, and do to me as you would yourself wish to be done by."
But Mr. Green was deaf to all these appeals. He was a man of great firmness of purpose, and not easily turned to the right nor to the left.
During the next three weeks, Mr. Bacon tried every expedient in his power, short of a total sacrifice of his little property, to raise the money, but in vain. Except for a circumstance new in his life, he would, in his desperation, have accepted Dyer's offer of six hundred dollars for his farm, and thus prevented Mary's departure for Lowell—that circumstance was his perfect sobriety. Not since the day when Mr. Green charged upon him the responsibility of his child's banishment from her father's house, had he tasted a drop of strong drink. His mind was therefore clear, and he was restrained by reason from acts of rashness, by which his condition would be rendered far worse than it was already.
Bitter indeed were the sufferings of Mr. Bacon, during the quick passage of the three weeks—at the expiration of which time Mary was to leave home, in compliance with her contract—and the more bitter, because his mind was unobscured by drink. At last, the moment of separation came. It was a clear cold morning towards the latter end of March, when Mary left, for the last time, her little chamber, and came down stairs dressed for her journey. Ever, in the presence of her father and mother, during the brief season of preparation, had she maintained a cheerful and confident exterior; but, in her heart, there was a painful shrinking back from the trial upon which she was about entering. On going by the door of Mary's chamber, a few minutes before she came down, Mrs. Bacon saw her daughter kneeling at her bedside, with her face deeply buried among the clothes. Not till that moment did she fully comprehend the trial through which her child was passing.
The stage was at the door, and Mary's trunk strapped up in the boot before she came down. In the porch stood her father and mother, and her younger brother and sister, waiting her appearance.
"Good bye, father," said the excellent girl, in a cheerful voice, as she reached out her hand.
Mr. Bacon caught it eagerly, and essayed to speak some tender and encouraging words. But though his lips moved, there was no sound upon the air.
"God bless you!" was at length uttered in a sobbing voice. A fervent kiss was then pressed upon her lips, and the old man turned away and staggered rather than walked back into the house.
More calmly the mother parted with her child. It was a great trial for Mrs. Bacon, but she now fully comprehended the great use to flow from Mary's self-devotion, and, therefore, with her last kiss, breathed a word of encouragement.
"It is for your father. Let that sustain you to the end." A few moments more, and the stage rolled away, bearing with it the very sunlight from the dwelling of Mr. Bacon. Poor old man! Restlessly did he wander about for days after Mary's departure, unable to apply himself, except for a little while at a time, to any work; but his inquietude did not drive him back to the cup he had abandoned. No, he saw in it too clearly the cause of his present deep distress, to look upon and feel its allurement. What had banished from her pleasant home that beloved child, and sent her forth among strangers to toil from early morning until the going down of the sun? Could he love the cause of this great evil? No! There was yet enough virtue in his heart to save him. Love for his child was stronger than his depraved love of strong drink. A few more ineffectual efforts were made to turn Mr. Green from his resolution to hold Mary to her contract, and then the humbled father resigned himself to the necessity he could not overcome, and with a clearer mind and a newly awakened purpose, applied himself to the culture of his farm, which, in a few months, had a more thrifty appearance than it had presented for years.
In the mean time, Mary had entered one of the mills at Lowell, and was doing her work there with a brave and cheerful spirit. Some painful trials, to one like her, attended her arrival in the city and entrance upon the duties assumed. But daily the trials grew less, and she toiled on in the fulfilment of her contract with Mr. Green, happy under the ever present consciousness that she had saved her father's property, and kept their homestead as the gathering place of the family. At the end of three months, she came back and spent a week. How her young heart bounded with joy at the great change apparent in every thing about the house and farm, but, most of all, at the change in her father. He was not so light of word and smilingly cheerful as in former times, but he was sober, perfectly sober; and she felt that the kiss with which he welcomed her brief return, was purer than it had ever been.
On the very day Mary came back, she called over to see Mr. Green, and paid him thirty-seven dollars on account of the loan, for which he gave her a receipt. Then he had many questions to ask about her situation at Lowell, and how she bore her separation from home, to all of which she gave cheerful answers, and, in the end, repeated her thanks for the opportunity he had given her to be of such great service to her father.
Mr. Green had a son who, during his term at college, exhibited talents of so decided a character that his father, after some deliberation, concluded to place him under the care of an eminent lawyer in Boston. In this position he had now been for two years, and was about applying for admission to the bar. As children, Henry Green and Mary Bacon had been to the same school together, and, as children, they were much attached to each other. Their intercourse, as each grew older, was suspended by the absence of Henry at college, and by other circumstances that removed the two families from intimate contact, and they had ceased to think of each other except when some remembrance of the past brought up their images.
After paying Mr. Green the amount of money which she had saved from her earnings during the first three months of her factory life, Mary left his house, and was walking along the carriage way leading to the public road, when she saw a young man enter the gate and approach her.
Although it was three years since she had met Henry Green, she knew him at a glance, but he did not recognize her, although struck with something familiar in her face as he bowed to her in passing.
"Who can that be?" said he to himself, as he walked thoughtfully along. "I have seen her before. Can that be Mary Bacon? If so, how much she has improved!"
On meeting his father, the young man asked if he was right in his conjecture about the young person he had just passed, and was answered in the affirmative.
"She was only a slender girl when I saw her last. Now, she is a handsome young woman," said Henry.
"Yes, Mary has grown up rapidly," replied Mr. Green, evincing no particular interest in the subject of his remark.
"How is her father doing now?" asked Henry.
"Better than he did a short time ago," was replied
"I'm glad to hear that. Does he drink as much as ever?"
"No. He has given up that bad habit."
"Indeed! Then he must be doing better."
"He ran himself down very low," said Mr. Green, "and was about losing every thing, when Mary, like a brave, right-minded girl, stepped forward and saved him."
"Mary! How did she do that, father?"
"Dyer had a mortgage of three hundred dollars on his farm, and was going to sell him out in mid-winter, when nobody who cared to befriend him had money to spare. On the very day I heard about his trouble, Mary called on me and asked the loan of a sum sufficient to lift the mortgage.
"But how could she pay you back that sum?" asked the young man in surprise.
"I loaned her the amount she asked," replied Mr. Green, "and she has just paid me the first promised instalment of thirty-seven dollars."
"How did she get the money?"
"She earned it with her own hands."
"You surprise me," said Henry. "And so, to save her father from ruin, she has devoted her young life to toil in a factory?"
"Yes; and the effect of this self-devotion has been all that I hoped it would be. It has reformed her father. It has saved him in a double sense."
"Noble girl!" exclaimed the young man, with enthusiasm.
"Yes, you may well say that, Henry," replied Mr. Green. "In the heart of that humble factory girl is a truly noble and womanly principle, that elevates her, in my estimation, far above any thing that rank, wealth, or social position alone can possibly give."
"But father," said Henry, "is it right to subject her to so severe a trial? It will take a long, long time, for her to earn three hundred dollars. Does not virtue like hers—"
"I know what you would say," interrupted Mr. Green. "True I could cancel the obligation and derive great pleasure from doing so, but it is the conclusion of my better judgment, all things considered, that she be permitted to fill up the entire measure of her contract. The trial will fully prove her, and bring to view the genuine gold of her character. Moreover, it is best for her father that she should seem to be a sufferer through his intemperance. I say seem, for, really, Mary experiences more pleasure than pain from what she is doing. The trial is not so great as it appears. Her reward is with her daily, and it is a rich reward."
Henry asked no further question, but he felt more than a passing interest in what he had heard. In the course of a week, Mary returned to Lowell and he went back to Boston.
Three months afterwards, Mary again came home to visit her parents, and again called upon Mr. Green to pay over to him what she had been able to save from her earnings. It so happened that Henry Green was on a visit from Boston, and that he met her, as before, as she was retiring from the house of his father. This time he spoke to her and renewed their old acquaintance, even going so far as to walk a portion of the way home with her. At the end of another three months, they met again. Brief though this meeting was, it left upon the mind of each the other's image more strongly impressed than it had ever been. In the circle where Henry Green moved in Boston, he met many educated, refined, and elegant young women, some of whom had attracted him strongly; but, in the humble Mary Bacon, whose station in life was that of a toiling factory girl, he saw a moral beauty whose light threw all the allurements presented by these completely into shadow.
Six months went by. Henry Green had been admitted to the bar, and was now a practising attorney in Boston. It was in the pleasant month of June and he had come home to spend a few weeks with his family. One morning, a day or two after his return, as he sat conversing with his father, the form of some one darkened the door.
"Ah Mary!" said the elder Mr. Green rising and taking the hand of Mary Bacon, which he shook warmly. "My son, Henry," he added, presenting the blushing girl to his son, who, in turn, took her hand and expressed the pleasure he felt at meeting her. Knowing the business upon which Mary had called, Henry, not wishing to be present at its transaction, soon retired. As he did so, Mary drew out her purse and took therefrom a small roll of bank bills, saying, as she handed it to Mr. Green,
"I have come to make you another payment."
With a grave, business-like air, Mr. Green took the money and, after counting it over, went to his secretary and wrote out a receipt.
"Let me see," said he, thoughtfully, as he came back with the receipt in his hand. "How much does this make? One, two, three, four, five quarterly payments. One hundred and eighty-seven dollars and a half. You'll soon be through, Mary. There is nothing like patience, perseverance, and industry. How is your father this morning?"
"Very well, sir."
"I think his health has improved of late."
"And so has every thing around him. I was looking at his farm a few days ago, and never saw crops in a finer condition. And how is your health, Mary."
"Pretty good," was replied, though not with much heartiness of manner.
Mr. Green now observed her more closely, and saw that her cheeks were thinner and paler than at her last visit. He did not remark on it, however, and, after a few words more of conversation, Mary arose and withdrew.
It was, perhaps, an hour afterwards, that Henry said to his father,
"Mary Bacon doesn't look as well as when I last saw her."
"So it struck me," returned Mr. Green.
"I'm afraid she has taken upon her more than she has the strength to accomplish. She is certainly paler and thinner than she was, and is far from looking as cheerful and happy as when I saw her six months ago."
Mr. Green did not reply to this, but his countenance assumed a thoughtful expression.
"Mary is a good daughter," he at length said, as if speaking to himself.
"There is not one in a thousand like her," replied Henry, with a warmth of manner that caused Mr. Green to lift his eyes to his son's face.
"I fully agree with you in that," he answered.
"Then, father," said Henry, "why hold her any longer to her contract, thus far so honorably fulfilled. The trial has proved her. You see the pure gold of her character."
"I have long seen it," returned Mr. Green.
"Her father is thoroughly reformed."
"So I have reason to believe."'
"Then act from your own heart's generous impulses, father, and forgive the balance of the debt."
"Are you certain that she will accept what you ask me to give? Will her own sense of justice permit her to stop until the whole claim is satisfied?" asked Mr. Green.
"I cannot answer for that father," returned Henry. "But, let me beg of you to at least make the generous offer of a release."
Mr. Green went to his secretary, and, taking a small piece of paper from a drawer, held it up, and said—
"This, Henry, is her acknowledgment of the debt to me. If I write upon it 'satisfied,' will you take it to her and say, that I hold the obligation no farther."
"Gladly!" was the instant reply of Henry. "You could not ask me to do a thing from which I would derive greater pleasure."
Mr. Green took up his pen and wrote across the face of the paper, in large letters, "satisfied," and then, handing it to his son, said—
"Take it to her, Henry, and say to her, that if I had given way to my feelings, I would have done this a year ago. And now, let me speak a word for your ear. Never again, in this life, may a young woman cross your path, whose character is so deeply grounded in virtue, who is so pure, so unselfish, so devoted in her love, so strong in her good purposes. Her position is humble, but, in a life-companion, we want personal excellences, not extraneous social adjuncts. You have my full consent to win, if you can, this sweet flower, blooming by the way-side. A proud day will it be for me, when I can call her my daughter. I have long loved her as such."
More welcome words than these Mr. Green could not have spoken to his son. They were like a response to his own feelings. He did not, however, make any answer, but took the contract in silence and quickly left the room.
The reader can easily anticipate what followed. Mary did not go back to Lowell. A year afterwards she was introduced to a select circle of friends in Boston as the wife of Henry Green, and she is now the warmly esteemed friend and companion of some of the most intelligent, refined, right-thinking, and right-feeling people in that city. Her husband has seen no reason to repent of his choice.
As for old Mr. Bacon, his farm has continued to improve in appearance and value ever since his daughter paid off the mortgage; and as he, once for all, banished liquor from his house, he is in no danger of having his little property burdened with a new encumbrance. His cheerfulness has returned, and he bears as of old, the reputation of being the best tempered, best hearted man in the neighborhood.
Two beautiful children, a boy and a girl, the oldest but six years of age, came in from school one evening, later than usual by half an hour. Both their eyes were red with weeping, and their cheeks wet with tears. Their father, Mr. Warren, who had come home from his business earlier than usual, had been waiting some time for their return, and wondering why they stayed so late. They were his only children, and he loved them most tenderly. They had, a few weeks before, been entered at a school kept by a lady in the neighborhood—not so much for what they would learn, as to give occupation to their active minds.
"Why, Anna! Willy!" exclaimed Mr. Warren, as the children came in, "what's the matter? Why have you stayed so late?"
Anna lifted her tearful eyes to her father's face, and her lip curled and quivered. But she could not answer his question.
Mr. Warren took the grieving child in his arms, and as he drew her to his bosom, said to Willy, who was the oldest—
"What has made you so late, dear?"
"Miss Roberts kept us in," sobbed Willy.
"Kept you in!" returned Mr. Warren, in surprise. "How came that?"
"Because we laughed," answered the child, still sobbing and weeping.
"What made you laugh?"
"One of the boys made funny faces."
"And did you laugh too, dear?" asked the father of Anna.
"Yes, papa. But I couldn't help it. And Miss Roberts scolded so, and said she was going to whip us."
"And was that all you did?"
"Yes, indeed, papa," said Willy.
"I'll see Miss Roberts about it," fell angrily from the lips of Mr. Warren. "It's the last time you appear in her school. A cruel-minded woman!"
And then the father soothed his grieving little ones with affectionate words and caresses.
"Dear little angels!" said Mr. Warren to his wife, shortly afterwards, "that any one could have the heart to punish them for a sudden outburst of joyous feelings! And Anna in particular, a mere babe as she is, I can't get over it. To think of her being kept in for a long half hour, under punishment, after all the other children had gone home. It was cruel. Miss Roberts shall hear from me on the subject."
"I don't know, dear, that I would say any thing about it," remarked the mother, who was less excited about the matter, "I don't think she meant to be severe. She, doubtless, forgot that they were so very young."
"She'd no business to forget it. I've no idea of my children being used after this fashion. The boy that made them laugh should have been kept in, if any punishment had to be inflicted. But it's the way with cruel-minded people. The weakest are always chosen as objects of their dislike."
"I am sure you take this little matter too much to heart," urged the mother. "Miss Roberts must have order in her school, and even the youngest must conform to this order. I do not think the punishment so severe. She had to do something to make them remember their fault, and restrain their feelings in future; and she could hardly have done less. It is not too young for them to learn obedience in any position where they are introduced."
But the over fond and tender father could see no reason for the punishment his little ones had received; and would not consent to let them go again to the school of Miss Roberts. To him they were earth's most precious things. They were tender flowers; and he was troubled if ever the winds blew roughly upon them.
Seven years have passed. Let us visit the home of Mr. Warren and look at him among his children. No; we will not enter this pleasant house—he moved away long ago. Can this be the home of Mr. Warren! Yes. Small, poor, and comfortless as it is! Ah! there have been sad changes.
Let us enter. Can that be Warren? That wretched looking creature—with swollen, disfigured face and soiled garments—who sits, half stupid, near the window? A little flaxen-haired child is playing on the floor. It is not Anna. No; seven years have changed her from the fairylike little creature she was when her father became outraged at her punishment in Miss Roberts' school! Poor Anna! That was light as the thistle down to what she has since received from the hands of her father. The child on the floor is beautiful, even in her tattered clothes. She has been playing for some time. Now her father calls to her in a rough, grumbling voice.
"Kate! You, Kate, I say!"
Little Kate, not five years old, leaves her play and goes up to where her parent is sitting.
"Go and get me a drink of water," said he in a harsh tone of authority.
Kate takes a tin cup from a table and goes to the hydrant in the yard. So pleased is she in seeing the water run, that she forgets her errand. Three or four times she fills the cup, and then pours forth its contents, dipping her tiny feet in the stream that is made. In the midst of her sport, she hears an angry call, and remembering the errand upon which she has been sent, hurriedly fills her cup again and bears it to her father. She is frightened as she comes in and sees his face; this confuses her; her foot catches in something as she approaches, and she falls over, spilling the cup of water on his clothes. Angrily he catches her up, and, cruel in his passion, strikes her three or four heavy blows.
"Now take that cup and get me some water!" he cries, in a loud voice, "and if you are not here with it in a minute, I'll beat the life half out of you! I'll teach you to mind when your spoken to, I will! There! Off with you!"
Little Kate, smarting from pain, and trembling with fear, lifts the cup and hurries away to perform her errand. She drops it twice from her unsteady hands ere she is able to convey it, filled with water, to her parent, who takes it with such a threatening look from his eyes, that the child shrinks away from him, and goes from the room in fear.
An hour passes, and the light of day begins to fade.
Evening comes slowly on, and at length the darkness closes in. But twice since morning has Warren been from the house, and then it was to get something to drink. The door at length opens quietly, and a, little girl enters. Her face is thin and drooping, and wears a look of patient suffering.
"You're late, Anna," says the mother, kindly.
"Yes, ma'am. We had to stay later for our money. Mr. Davis was away from the store, and I was afraid I would have to come home without it. Here it is."
Mrs. Warren took the money.
"Only a dollar!" There was disappointment in her tones as she said this.
"Yes, ma'am, that is all," replied Anna, in a troubled voice. "I spoiled some work, and Mr. Davis said I should pay for it, and so he took half a dollar from my wages."
"Spoiled your work!" spoke up the father, who had been listening. "That's more of your abominable carelessness!"
"Indeed, father; I couldn't help it," said Anna, "one of the girls—"
"Hush up, will you! I want none of your lying excuses. I know you! It was done on purpose, I have not the least doubt."
Anna caught her breath, like one suddenly deprived of air. Tears rushed to her eyes and commenced falling over her cheeks, while her bosom rose and fell convulsively.
"Come, now! None of that!" said the cruel father sternly. "Stop your crying instantly, or I will give you something to cry for! A pretty state of things, indeed, when every word must be answered by a fit of crying!"
The poor child choked down her feelings as best she could, turning as she did so from her father; that he might not see the still remaining traces of her grief which it was impossible at once to hide.
Not a single dollar had the idle, drunken father earned during the week, that he had not expended in self-indulgence; and yet, in his brutality, he could roughly chide this little girl, yet too young for the taskmaster, because she had lost half a dollar of her week's earnings through an accident, the very nature of which he would not hear explained. So grieved was the poor child at this unkindness, that when supper was on the table she shrunk away from the room.
"Come, Anna, to your supper," called the mother.
"I don't wish any thing to eat," replied the child, in a faint voice.
"Oh, yes; come and get something."
"Let her alone!" growls the father. "I never humor sulky children. She doesn't deserve any supper."
The mother sighs. While the husband eats greedily, consuming, himself, more than half that is on the table, she takes but a few mouthfuls, and swallows them with difficulty.
After supper, Willy, who is just thirteen, and who has already been bound out as an apprentice to a trade, comes home. He has a tale of suffering to tell. For some fault his master has beaten him until the large purple welts lie in meshes across his back from his shoulders to his hips.
"How comes all this?" asks Mr. Warren. There is not the smallest sign of sympathy in his voice.
Willy relates the cause, and tells it truly. He was something to blame, but his fault needed not the correction of stripes even lightly applied.
"Served you right!" said the father, when the story was ended. "No business to have acted so. Do as you are told, and mind your work, and you'll escape flogging. Otherwise, I don't care how often you get it. You've been spoiled at home, and it'll do you good to toe the mark. Did your master know you were coming home to-night?"
"No, sir," replied the boy, with trembling lips, and a choking voice.
"Then what did you come for? To get pitied? Do right and you'll need no pity."
"Oh, James, don't speak so to the child!" said Mrs. Warren, unable to keep silence.
This was answered by an angry look.
"You must go back to your master, boy," said the father, after a pause. "When you wish to come home, ask his consent."
"He doesn't object to my coming home," said Willy, his voice still quivering.
"Go back, I tell you! Take your hat, there, and go back. Don't come here any more with your tales!"
The boy glanced towards his mother, and read pity and sympathy in her countenance, but she did not countermand the order; for she knew that if she did so, a scene of violence would follow.
"Ask to come home in the morning," said she to her boy, as she held his hand tightly in hers at the door. He gave her a look of tender thankfulness, and then went forth into the darkness, feeling so sad and wretched that he could not repress his tears.
Seven years. And was only this time required to effect such a change! Ah! rum is a demon! How quickly does it transform the tender husband and parent into a cruel beast! Look upon these two pictures, ye who tarry long at the wine! Look at them, but do not say they are overdrawn! They have in them only the sober hues and subdued colors of truth.
BRANDY AS A PREVENTIVE.
THE cholera had made its appearance in New York, and many deaths were occurring daily. Among those who weakly permitted themselves to feel an alarm amounting almost to terror, was a Mr. Hobart, who, from the moment the disease manifested itself, became infested with the idea that he would be one of its victims.
"Doctor," said he to his family physician, meeting him one day in the street, "is there nothing which a man can take that will act as a preventive to cholera?"
"I'll tell you what I do," replied the doctor.
"Well, what is it?"
"I take a glass of good brandy twice a day. One in the morning and the other after dinner."
"Indeed! And do you think brandy useful in preventing the disease?"
"I think it a protection," said the doctor. "It keeps the system slightly stimulated; and is, besides, a good astringent."
"A very simple agent," remarked Mr. Hobart.
"Yes, the most simple that we can adopt. And what is better, the use of it leaves no after bad consequences, as is too often the case with medicines, which act upon the system as poisons."
"Sometimes very bad consequences arise from the use of brandy," remarked Mr. Hobart. "I have seen them in my time."
"Drunkenness, you mean."
"People who are likely to make beasts of themselves had better let it alone," said the doctor, contemptuously. "If they should take the cholera and die, it will be no great loss to the world."
"And you really think a little good brandy, taken daily, fortifies the system against the cholera?"
"Seriously I do," replied the doctor. "I have adopted this course from the first, and have not been troubled with a symptom of the disease."
"I feel very nervous on the subject. From the first I have been impressed with the idea that I would get the disease and die."
"That is a weakness, Mr. Hobart."
"I know it is, still I cannot help it. And you would advise me to take a little good brandy?"
"Yes, every day."
"I am a Son of Temperance."
"No matter; you can take it as medicine under my prescription. I know a dozen Sons of Temperance who have used brandy every day since the disease appeared in New York. It will be no violation of your contract. Life is of too much value to be put in jeopardy on a mere idea."
"I agree with you there. I'd drink any thing if I thought it would give me an immunity against this dreadful disease."
"You'll be safer with the brandy than without it."
"Very well. If you think so, I will use it."
On parting with the doctor, Mr. Hobart went to a liquor store and ordered half a gallon of brandy sent home. He did not feel altogether right in doing so, for it must be understood, that, in years gone by, Mr. Hobart had fallen into the evil habit of intemperance, which clung to him until he run through a handsome estate and beggared his family. In this low condition he was found by the Sons of Temperance, who induced him to abandon a course whose end was death and destruction, and to come into their Order. From that time all was changed. Sobriety and industry were returned to him in many of the good things of this world which he had lost, and he was still in the upward movement at the time when the fatal pestilence appeared.
On going home at dinner time, Hobart's wife said to him, with a serious face—
"A demijohn, with some kind of liquor in it, was sent here to-day."
"Oh, yes," he replied, it is brandy that Doctor L—ordered me to take as a cholera preventive."
"Brandy!" ejaculated Mrs. Hobart, with an expression of painful surprise in her voice and on her countenance, that rather annoyed her husband.
"Yes. He says that he takes it every day as a preventive, and directed me to do the same."
"I wouldn't touch it if I were you. Indeed I wouldn't," said Mrs. Hobart, earnestly.
"Why wouldn't you?"
"You will violate your contract with the Sons of Temperance."
"Not at all. Brandy may be used as a medicine under the prescription of a physician. I wouldn't have thought of touching it had not Doctor L—ordered me to do so."
"You are not sick, Edward."
"But there is death in the very air I breathe. At any moment I am liable to be struck down by an arrow sent from an unseen bow, unless a shield be interposed. Such a shield has been placed in my hands. Shall I not use it?"
Mrs. Hobart knew her husband well enough to be satisfied that remonstrance and argument would be of no avail, now that his mind was m de up to use the brandy; and yet so distressed did she feel, that she couldn't help saying, with tears in her eyes—
"Eaward,(sic) let me beg of you not to touch it."
"Would you rather see me in my coffin?" replied Mr. Hobart, with some bitterness. "Death may seem a light thing to you, but it is not so to me."
"You are not sick," still urged the wife.
"But I am liable, as I said just now, to take the disease every moment."
"You will be more liable, with your system stimulated and disturbed by brandy. Let well enough alone. Be thankful for the health you have, and do not invite disease."
"The doctor ought to know. He understands the matter better than you or I. He recommends brandy as a preventive. He takes it himself."
"Because he likes it, no doubt."
"It is silly for you to talk in that way," replied the husband, with much impatience. "He isn't rendered more liable to the disease by taking a little pure brandy, for he says that it keeps him perfectly well."
"A glass of brandy every day may have been his usual custom," urged Mrs. Hobart. "In that case, in its continuance, no change was produced. But your system has been untouched by the fiery liquid for nearly five years, and its sudden introduction must create disturbance. It is reasonable."
"The doctor ought to know best," was replied to this. "He has prescribed it, and I must take it. Life is too serious a matter to be trifled with. 'An ounce of preventive is worth a pound of cure,' you know."
"I am in equal danger with yourself," said Mrs. Hobart; "and so are the children."
"Undoubtedly. And I wish you all to use a little brandy."
"Not a drop of the poison shall pass either my lips or those of the children," replied Mrs. Hobart, with emphasis.
"As you please," said the husband, coldly, and turned away.
"Edward!" Mrs. Hobart laid her hand upon his arm. "Edward! Let me beg of you not to follow this advice."
"Why will you act so foolishly? Has not the doctor ordered the brandy? I look to him as the earthly agent for the preservation of my health and the saving of my life. If I do not regard his advice, in what am I to trust?"
"Remember the past, Edward," said the wife, solemnly.
"I do remember it. But I fear no danger."
Mrs. Hobart turned away sadly, and went up to her chamber to give vent to her feelings alone in tears. Firm to his purpose of using the preventive recommended by the doctor, Mr. Hobart, after dinner, took a draught of brandy and water. Nearly five years, as his wife remarked, had elapsed since a drop of the burning fluid had passed his lips. The taste was not particularly agreeable. Indeed, his stomach rather revolted as the flavor reached his palate.
"It's vile stuff at best," he remarked to himself, making a wry face. "Fit only for medicine. Not much danger of my ever loving it again. I wish Anna was not so foolish. A flattering opinion she has of her husband!"
The sober countenance of his wife troubled Mr. Hobart, as he left home for his place of business earlier by half an hour than usual. Neither in mind nor body were his sensations as pleasant as on the day before. The brandy did something more than produce an agreeable warmth in his stomach. A burning sensation soon followed its introduction, accompanied by a feeling of uneasiness that he did not like. In the course of half an hour, this unnatural heat was felt in every part of his body, but more particularly about his head and face; and it was accompanied by a certain confusion of mind that prevented his usual close application to business during the afternoon.
Towards evening, these disagreeable consequences of the glass of cholera-preventive he had taken in a great measure subsided; but there followed a dryness of the palate, and a desire for some drink more pleasant to the taste than water. In his store was a large pitcher of ice-water; but, though thirsty, he felt no inclination to taste the pure beverage; but, instead, went out and obtained a glass of soda water. This only made the matter worse. The half gill of syrup with which the water was sweetened, created, in a little while, a more uneasy feeling. Still, there was no inclination for the water that stood just at hand, and which he had daily found so refreshing during the hot weather. In fact, when he thought of it, it was with a sense of repulsion.
In this state, the idea of a cool glass of brandy punch, or a mint julep, came up in his mind, and he felt the draught, in imagination, at his lips.
"A little brandy twice a day; so the doctor said." This was uttered half aloud.
Just at the moment a slight pain crossed his stomach. It was the first sensation of the kind he had experienced since the epidemic he so much dreaded had appeared in the city; and it caused a slight shudder to go through his frame, for he was nervous in his fear of cholera.
"A little mint with the brandy would make it better still. I don't like this feeling. I'll try a glass of brandy and mint." Thus spoke Mr. Hobart to himself.
Putting on his hat, he went forth for the purpose of getting some brandy and mint. As he stepped into the street the pain was felt again, and more distinctly. The effect was to cause a slight perspiration to manifest itself on the face and forehead of Mr. Hobart, and to make, in his mind, the necessity for the brandy and mint more imperative. He did not just like to be seen going boldly in at the door of a refectory or drinking-house in a public place, for he was a Son of Temperance, and any one who knew this and happened to see him going in, could not, at the same time, know that he was acting under his physician's advice. So he went off several blocks from the neighborhood in which his store was located, and after winding his way along a narrow, unfrequented street, came to the back entrance of a tavern, where he went in, as he desired, unobserved.
Years before, Hobart had often stood at the bar where he now found himself. Old, familiar objects and associations brought back old feelings, and he was affected by an inward glow of pleasure.
"What! you here?" said a man who stood at the bar, with a glass in his hand. He was also a member of the Order.
"And you here!" replied Mr. Hobart.
"It isn't for the love of it, I can assure you," remarked the man, as he looked meaningly at his glass. "These are not ordinary times."
"You are right there," said Hobart. "A little brandy sustains and fortifies the system. That all admit."
"My physician has ordered it for me. He takes a glass or two every day himself, and tells me that, so far, he has not been troubled with the first symptom."
"Indeed. That is testimony to the point."
"So I think."
"Who is your physician?"
"He stands high. I would at any time trust my life in his hands."
"I am willing to do so." Then turning to the bar-keeper, Mr. Hobart said—"I'll take a glass of brandy and water, and you may add some mint."
"Perhaps you'll have a mint julep?" suggested the barkeeper, winking aside to a man who stood near, listening to what passed between the two members of the Order.
"Yes—I don't care—yes. Make it a julep," returned Hobart. "It's the brandy and mint I want. I've had a disagreeable sensation," he added, speaking to the friend he had met, and drawing his hand across his stomach as he spoke, "that I don't altogether like. Here it is again!"
"A little brandy will help it."
"I hope so."
When the mint julep was ready, Hobart took it in his hand and retired to a table in the corner of the room, and the man he had met went with him.
"Ain't you afraid to tamper with liquor?" asked this person, a little seriously, as he observed the relish with which Hobart sipped the brandy. Some thoughts had occurred to himself that were not very pleasant.
"Oh, no. Not in the least," replied Mr. Hobart. "I only take it as a medicine, under my physician's order; and I can assure you that the taste is quite as disagreeable as rhubarb would be. I believe the old fondness has altogether died out."
"I'm afraid it never dies out," said the man, whose eyes told him plainly enough, that it had not died out in the case of the individual before him, notwithstanding his averment on the subject.
"I feel much better now," said Mr. Hobart, after he had nearly exhausted his glass. "I had such a cold sensation in my stomach, accompanied by a very disagreeable pain. But both are now gone. This brandy and mint have acted like a charm. Dr. L—understands the matter clearly. It is fortunate that I saw him this morning. I would not have dared to touch brandy, unless under medical advice; and, but for the timely use of it, I might have been dangerously ill with this fatal epidemic."
After sitting a little while longer, the two men retired through the back entrance to escape observation.
"How quickly these temperance men seize hold of any excuse to get a glass of brandy," said the bar-keeper to a customer, as soon as Hobart had retired, laughing in a half sneer as he spoke. "They come creeping in through our back way, and all of them have a pain! Ha! ha!"
"I've taken a glass of brandy and water, every day for the last five years," replied the man to whom this was addressed, "and I continue it now. But I can tell you what, if I'd been an abstainer, you wouldn't catch me pouring it into my stomach now. Not I! All who do so are more liable to the disease."
"So I think," said the bar-tender. "But every one to his liking. It puts money in our till. We've done a better business since the cholera broke out, than we've done these three years. If it were to continue for a twelve month we would make a fortune."
This was concluded with a coarse laugh, and then he went to attend to a new customer for drink.
For all Mr. Hobart had expressed himself so warmly in favor of brandy, and had avowed his freedom from the old appetite, he did not feel altogether right about the matter. There was a certain pressure upon his feelings that he could not well throw off. When he went home in the evening, he perceived a shadow on the brow of his wife; and the expression of her eyes, when she looked at him, annoyed and troubled him.
After supper, the uneasiness he had felt during the afternoon, returned, and worried his mind considerably. The fact was, the brandy had already disturbed the well balanced action of the lower viscera. The mucous membrane of the whole (sic) alementry canal had been stimulated beyond health, and its secretions were increased and slightly vitiated. This was the cause of the uneasiness he felt, and the slight pains which had alarmed him. By ten o'clock his feelings had become so disagreeable, that he felt constrained to meet them with another "mouthful," of brandy. Thus, in less than ten hours, Mr. Hobart had wronged his stomach by pouring into it three glasses of brandy; entirely disturbing its healthy action.
The morning found Mr. Hobart far from feeling well. His skin was dry and feverish and his mouth parched. There was an uneasy sensation of pain in his head. Immediately upon rising he took a strong glass of brandy. That, to use his own words, "brought him up," and made him feel "a hundred per cent better." During the forenoon, however, a slight diarrhoea manifested itself. A thrill of alarm was the consequence.
"I must check this!" said he, anxiously. And, in order to do so, another and stronger glass of brandy was taken.
In the afternoon, the diarrhoea appeared again. It was still slight, and unaccompanied by pain. But, it was a symptom not to be disregarded. So brandy was applied as before. In the evening, it showed itself again.
"I wish you would give me a little of that brandy," said he to his wife. "I'm afraid of this, it must be stopped."
"Hadn't you better see the doctor?"
"I don't think it necessary. The brandy will answer every purpose."
"I have no faith in brandy," said Mrs. Hobart. Poor woman! she had cause for her want of faith!
"I have then," replied her husband. "It's the doctor's recommendation. And he ought to know."
"You were perfectly well before you commenced acting on his advice."
"I was well, apparently. But, it is plain that the seeds of disease were in me. There is no telling how much worse I would have been."
"Nor how much better. For my part I charge it all on the brandy."
"That's a silly prejudice," said Mr. Hobart, with a good deal of impatience. "Every one knows that brandy is a remedy in diseases of this kind; not a producing cause."
Mrs. Hobart was silent. But she did not get the brandy. That was more than she could do. So her husband got it himself. But, in order to make the medicinal purpose more apparent, he poured the liquor into a deep plate, added some sugar, and set it on fire.
"You will not object to burnt brandy at least," said he. "That you know to be good."
Mrs. Hobart did not reply. She felt that it would be useless. Only a disturbance of harmony could arise, and that would produce greater unhappiness. The brandy, after having parted with its more volatile qualities, was introduced into Mr. Hobart's stomach, and fretted that delicate organ for more than an hour.
"I thought the burnt brandy would be effective," said Mr. Hobart on the next morning. "And it has proved so." In order not to lose this good effect, he fortified himself before going out with some of the same article, unburnt. But, alas! By ten o'clock the diarrhoea showed itself again, and in a more decided form.
Oh dear!" said he in increased alarm. "This won't do. I must see the doctor." And off he started for Doctor L—'s office. But, on the way he could not resist the temptation to stop at a tavern for another glass of brandy, notwithstanding he began to entertain a suspicion as to the true cause of the disturbance. The doctor happened to be in. "I think I'd better have a little medicine, doctor," said he, on seeing his medical adviser. A stitch in time, you know."
"Ain't you well?"
"No," and Mr. Hobart gave his symptoms.
"An opium pill will do all that is required," said the doctor.
"Shall I continue the brandy?" asked the patient.
"Have you taken brandy every day since I saw you?" inquired the doctor.
"Yes; twice, and sometimes three times."
"Ah!" The doctor looked thoughtful.
"Shall I continue to do so?"
"Perhaps you had better omit it for the present. You're not in the habit of drinking any thing?"
"No. I haven't tasted brandy before for five years."
"Indeed! Yes, now, I remember you said so. You'd better omit it until we see the effect of the opium. Sudden changes are not always good in times like these."
"I don't think the brandy has hurt me," said Mr. Hobart.
"Perhaps not. Still, as a matter of prudence, I would avoid it. Let the opium have a full chance, and all will be right again."
An opium pill was swallowed, and Mr. Hobart went back to his place of business. It had the intended effect. That is, it cured one disease by producing another—suspended action took the place of over-action. He was, therefore, far from being in a state of health, or free from danger in a cholera atmosphere. There was one part of the doctor's order that Mr. Hobart did not comply with. The free use of brandy for a few days rekindled the old appetite, and made his desire for liquor so intense, that he had not, or, if he possessed it, did not exercise the power of resistance.
Sad beyond expression was the heart of Mrs. Hobart, when evening came, and her husband returned home so much under the influence of drink as to show it plainly. She said nothing to him, then, for that she knew would be of no avail. But next morning, as he was rising, she said to him earnestly and almost tearfully.
"Edward, let me beg of you to reflect before you go further in the way you have entered. You may not be aware of it, but last night you showed so plainly that you had been drinking that I was distressed beyond measure. You know as well as I do, where this will end, if continued. Stop, then, at once, while you have the power to stop. As to preventing disease, it is plain that the use of brandy has not done so in your case; but, rather, acted as a predisposing cause. You were perfectly well before you touched it; you have not been well since. Look at this fact, and, as a wise man, regard its indications."
Truth was so strong in the words of his wife, that Mr. Hobart did not attempt to gainsay them.
"I believe you are right," he replied with a good deal of depression apparent in his manner. "I wish the doctor had kept his brandy advice to himself. It has done me no good."
"It has done you harm," said his wife.
"Perhaps it has. Ah, me! I wish the cholera would subside."
"I think your fear is too great," returned Mrs. Hobart. "Go on in your usual way; keep your mind calm; be as careful in regard to diet, and you need fear no danger."
"I wish I'd let the brandy alone!" sighed Mr. Hobart, who felt as he spoke, the desire for another draught.
"So do I. Doctor L—must have been mad when he advised it."
"So I now think. I heard yesterday of two or three members of our Order who have been sick, and every one of them used a little brandy as a preventive."
"It is bad—bad. Common sense teaches this. No great change of habit is good in a tainted atmosphere. But you see this now, happily, and all will yet be well I trust."
"Yes; I hope so. I shall touch no more of this brandy preventive. To that my mind is fully made up."
Mrs. Hobart felt hopeful when she parted with her husband. But she knew nothing of the real conflict going on in his mind between reason and awakened appetite—else had she trembled and grown faint in spirit. This conflict went on for some hours, when, alas! appetite conquered.
At dinner time Mrs. Hobart saw at a glance how it was. The whole manner of her husband had changed. His state of depression was gone, and he exhibited an unnatural exhilaration of spirits. She needed not the sickening odor of his breath to tell the fatal secret that he had been unable to control himself.
It was worse at night. He came home so much beside himself that he could with difficulty walk erectly. Half conscious of his condition, he did not attempt to join the family, but went up stairs and groped his way to bed. Mrs. Hobart did not follow him to his chamber. Heartsick, she retired to another room, and there wept bitterly for more than an hour. She was hopeless. Up from the melancholy past arose images of degradation and suffering too dreadful to contemplate. She felt that she had not strength to suffer again as she had suffered through many, many years. From this state she was aroused by groans from the room where her husband lay. Alarmed by the sounds, she instantly went to him.
"What is the matter?" she asked, anxiously.
"Oh! oh! I am in so much pain!" was groaned half inarticulately.
"In pain, where?"
"Oh! oh!" was repeated, in a tone of suffering; and then he commenced vomiting.
Mrs. Hobart placed her hand upon his forehead and found it cold and clammy. Other and more painful symptoms followed. Before the doctor, who was immediately summoned, arrived, his whole system had become prostrate, and was fast sinking into a state of collapse. It was a decided case of cholera.
"Has he been eating any thing improper?" asked Doctor L—, after administering such remedies, and ordering such treatment as he deemed the case required.
"Has he eaten no green fruit?"
"Nothing, to my knowledge, replied Mrs. Hobart. "We have been very careful in regard to food."
"Nor unripe vegetables?"
Mrs. Hobart shook her head.
"Nothing of the kind."
"That is strange. He was well a few days ago."
"Yes, perfectly, until he began to take a little brandy every day as a preventive."
"Ah!" The doctor looked thoughtful. "But it couldn't have been that. I take a little pure brandy every day, and find it good. I recommend it to all my patients."
Mrs. Hobart sighed. Then she asked—"Do you think him dangerous?"
"I hope not. The attack is sudden and severe. But much worse cases recover. I will call round again before bed time."
The doctor went away feeling far from comfortable. Only a few hours before he, had left a man sick with cholera beyond recovery, who had, to his certain knowledge, adopted the brandy-drinking-preventive-system but a week before; and that at his recommendation. And here was another case.
At eleven o'clock Dr. L—called to see Mr. Hobart again, and found him rapidly sinking. Not a single symptom had been reached by his treatment. The poor man was in great pain. Every muscle in his body seemed affected by cramps and spasms. His mind, however, was perfectly clear. As the doctor sat feeling his pulse, Hobart said to him—
"Doctor L—, it is too late!"
"Oh, no. It is never too late," replied the doctor. "Don't think of death; think of life, and that will help to sustain you. You are not, by any means, at the last point. Hundreds, worse than you now are, come safely through. I don't intend to let you slip through my hands."
"Doctor," said the sick man, speaking in a solemn voice, "I feel that I am beyond the reach of medicine. I shall die. What I now say I do not mean as a reproach. I speak it only as a truth right for you to know. Do you see my poor wife?"
The doctor turned his eyes upon Mrs. Hobart, who stood weeping by the bedside.
"When she is left a widow, and my children orphans," continued the patient, "remember that you have made them such!"
"Me! Why do you say that, Mr. Hobart?" The doctor looked startled.
"Because it is the truth. I was a well man, when you, as my medical adviser, recommended me to drink brandy as a protection against disease. I was in fear of the infection, and followed your prescription. From the moment I took the first draught my body lost its healthy equilibrium; and not only my body, but my mind. I was a reformed man, and the taste inflamed the old appetite. From that time until now I have not been really sober."
The doctor was distressed and confounded by this declaration. He had feared that such was the case; but now it was charged unequivocally.
"I am pained at all this," he replied, "In sinning I sinned ignorantly."
But, ere he could finish his reply, the sick man became suddenly worse, and sunk into a state of insensibility.
"If it be in human power to save his life," murmured the doctor—"I will save it."
Through the whole night he remained at the bed-side, giving, with his own hands, all the remedies, and applying every curative means within reach. But, when the day broke, there was little, if any change for the better. He then went home, but returned in a couple of hours.
"How is your husband?" he asked of the pale-faced wife as he entered. She did not reply, and they went up to the chamber together. A deep silence reigned in the room as they entered.
"Is he asleep?" whispered the doctor.
"See!" The wife threw back the sheet.
"O!" was the only sound that escaped the doctor's lips. It was a prolonged sound, and uttered in a tone of exquisite distress. The white and ghastly face of death was before him.
"It is your work!" murmured the unhappy woman, half beside herself in her affliction.
"Madam! do not say that!" ejaculated the physician. "Do not say that!"
"It is the truth! Did he not charge it upon you with his dying breath?"
"I did all for the best, madam! all for the best! It was an error in his case. But I meant him no harm."
"You put poison to his lips, and destroyed him. You have made his wife a widow and his children orphans!"
"Madam!—"The doctor knit his brows and spoke in a stern voice. But, ere he had uttered a word more, the stricken-hearted woman gave a wild scream and fell upon the floor. Nature had been tried beyond the point of endurance, and reason was saved at the expense of physical prostration.
A few weeks later, and Doctor L—, in driving past the former residence of Mr. Hobart, saw furniture cars at the door. The family were removing. Death had taken the husband and father, and the poor widow was going forth with her little ones from the old and pleasant home, to gather them around her in a smaller and poorer place. His feelings at the moment none need envy.
How many, like Mr. Hobart, have died through the insane prescription of brandy as a preventive to cholera! and how many more have fallen back into old habits, and become hopeless drunkards! Brandy is not good for health at any time; how much less so, when the very air we breathe is filled with a subtle poison, awaiting the least disturbance in the human economy to affect it with disease.
THE TEMPERANCE PLEDGE.
"I WANT a quarter of a dollar, Jane."
This was addressed by a miserable creature, bloated and disfigured by intemperance, to a woman, whose thin, pale face, and heart-broken look, told but too plainly that she was the drunkard's wife.
"Not a quarter of a dollar, John? Surely you will not waste a quarter of a dollar of my hard earnings, when you know that I can scarcely get food and decent clothes for the children?"
As the wife said this, she looked up into her husband's face with a sad appealing expression.
"I must have a quarter, Jane," said the man firmly.
"O, John! remember our little ones. The cold-weather will soon be here, and I have not yet been able to get them shoes. If you will not earn any thing yourself, do not waste the little my hard labor can procure. Will not a sixpence do? Surely that is enough for you to spend for—"
"Nothing will do but a quarter, Jane, and that I must have, if I steal it!" was the prompt and somewhat earnest reply.
Mrs. Jarvis laid aside her work mechanically and, rising, went to a drawer, and from a cup containing a single dollar in small pieces, her little all, took out a quarter of a dollar, and turning to her husband, said, as she handed it to him—
"Remember, that you are taking the bread out of your children's mouths!"
"Not so bad as that, I hope, Jane," said the drunkard, as he clutched the money eagerly; something like a feeble smile flitting across his disfigured and distorted countenance.
"Yes, and worse!" was the response, made in a sadder tone than that in which the wife had at first spoken.
"How worse, Jane?"
"John!" and the wife spoke with a sudden energy, while her countenance lighted up with a strange gleam. "John, I cannot bear this much longer! I feel myself sinking every day. And you—you who pledged yourself—"
Here the voice of the poor woman gave way, and covering her face with her hands, she bent her head upon her bosom, and sobbed and wept hysterically.
The drunkard looked at her for a moment, and then turning hurriedly, passed from the room. For some moments after the door had closed upon her husband, did Mrs. Jarvis stand, sobbing and weeping. Then slowly returning to her chair near the window, she resumed her, work, with an expression of countenance that was sad and hopeless.