"And you loved my mother? Say you did!"
The young man spoke with a rising emotion that he could not restrain.
"Every body loved her," replied Jenny, simply and earnestly.
For a few moments Mark concealed his face with his hands, to hide the signs of feeling that were playing over it; then looking up again, he said—
"Jenny, because you knew my mother and loved her, we must be friends. It was a great loss to me when she died. The greatest loss I ever had, or, it may be, ever will have. I have been worse since then. Ah me! If she had only lived!"
Again Mark covered his face with his hands, and, this time, he could not keep the dimness from his eyes.
It was a strange sight to Jenny to see the young man thus moved. Her innocent heart was drawn toward him with a pitying interest, and she yearned to speak words of comfort, but knew not what to say.
After Mark grew composed again, he asked Jenny a great many questions touching her knowledge of his mother; and listened with deep interest and emotion to many little incidents of Jenny's intercourse with her, which were related with all the artlessness and force of truth. In the midst of this singular interview, Mrs. Lee came in and surprised the young couple, who, forgetting all reserve, were conversing with an interest in their manner, the ground of which she might well misunderstand. Jenny started and looked confused, but, quickly recovering herself, introduced Mark as the grandson of Mr. Lofton.
The old lady did not respond to this with the cordiality that either of the young folks had expected. No, not by any means. A flush of angry suspicion came into her face, and she said to Jenny as she handed her the bonnet she hurriedly removed—
"Here—take this into the other room and put it away."
The moment Jenny retired, Mrs. Lee turned to Mark, and after looking at him somewhat sternly for a moment, surprised him with this speech—
"If I ever find you here again, young man, I'll complain to your grandfather."
"Will you, indeed!" returned Mark, elevating his person, and looking at the old lady with flashing eyes. "And pray, what will you say to the old gentleman?"
"Fine doings, indeed, for the likes o' you to come creeping into a decent woman's house when she is away!" resumed Mrs. Lee. "Jenny's not the kind you're looking after, let me tell you. What would your poor dear mother, who is in heaven, God bless her! think, if she knew of this?"
The respectful and even affectionate reference to his mother, softened the feelings of Mark, who was growing very angry.
"Good morning, old lady," said he, as he turned away; "you don't know what you're talking about!" and springing from the door, he hurried off with rapid steps. On reaching a wood that lay at some distance off, Mark sought a retired spot, near where a quiet stream went stealing noiselessly along amid its alder and willow-fringed banks, and sitting down upon a grassy spot, gave himself up to meditation. Little inclined was he now for sport. The birds sung in the trees above him, fluttered from branch to branch, and even dipped their wings in the calm waters of the stream, but he heeded them not. He had other thoughts. Greatly had old Mrs. Lee, in the blindness of her suddenly aroused fears, wronged the young man. If the sphere of innocence that was around the beautiful girl had not been all powerful to subdue evil thoughts and passions in his breast, the reference to his mother would have been effectual to that end.
For half an hour had Mark remained seated alone, busy, with thoughts and feelings of a less wandering and adventurous character than usually occupied his mind, when, to his surprise, he saw Jenny Lawson advancing along a path that led through a portion of the woods, with a basket on her arm. She did not observe him until she had approached within some fifteen or twenty paces; when he arose to his feet, and she, seeing him, stopped suddenly, and looked pale and alarmed.
"I am glad to meet you again, Jenny," said Mark, going quickly toward her, and taking her hand, which she yielded without resistance. "Don't be frightened. Mrs. Lee did me wrong. Heaven knows I would not hurt a hair of your head! Come and sit down with me in this quiet place, and let us talk about my mother. You say you knew her and loved her. Let her memory make us friends."
Mark's voice trembled with feeling. There was something about the girl that made the thought of his mother a holier and tenderer thing. He had loved his mother intensely, and since her death, had felt her loss as the saddest calamity that had, or possibly ever could, befall him. Afloat on the stormy sea of human life, he had seemed like a mariner without helm or compass. Strangely enough, since meeting with Jenny at the cottage a little while before, the thought of her appeared to bring his mother nearer to him; and when, so unexpectedly, he saw her approaching him in the woods, he felt momentarily, that it was his mother's spirit guiding her thither.
Urged by so strong an appeal, Jenny suffered herself to be led to the retired spot where Mark had been reclining, half wondering, half fearful—yet impelled by a certain feeling that she could not well resist. In fact, each exercised a power over the other, a power not arising from any determination of will, but from a certain spiritual affinity that neither comprehended. Some have called this "destiny," but it has a better name.
"Jenny," said Mark, after they were seated—he still retained her hand in his, and felt it tremble—"tell me something about my mother. It will do me good to hear of her from your lips."
The girl tried to make some answer, but found no utterance. Her lips trembled so that she could not speak. But she grew more composed after a time, and then in reply to many questions of Mark, related incident after incident, in which his mother's goodness of character stood prominent. The young man listened intently, sometimes with his eyes upon the ground, and sometimes gazing admiringly into the sweet face of the young speaker.
Time passed more rapidly than either Mark or Jenny imagined. For full an hour had they been engaged in earnest conversation, when both were painfully surprised by the appearance of Mrs. Lee, who had sent Jenny on an errand, and expected her early return. A suspicion that she might encounter young Clifford having flashed through the old woman's mind, she had come forth to learn if possible the cause of Jenny's long absence. To her grief and anger, she discovered them sitting together engaged in earnest conversation.
"Now, Mark Clifford!" she exclaimed as she advanced, "this is too bad! And Jenny, you weak and foolish girl! are you madly bent on seeking the fowler's snare? Child! child! is it thus you repay me for my love and care over you!"
Both Mark and Jenny started to their feet, the face of the former flushed with instant anger, and that of the other pale from alarm.
"Come!" and Mrs. Lee caught hold of Jenny's arm and drew her away. As they moved off, the former, glancing back at Mark, and shaking her finger towards him, said—
"I'll see your grandfather, young man!"
Fretted by this second disturbance of an interview with Jenny, and angry at an unjust imputation of motive, Mark dashed into the woods, with his gun in his hand, and walked rapidly, but aimlessly, for nearly an hour, when he found himself at the summit of a high mountain, from which, far down and away towards the east, he could see the silvery Hudson winding along like a vein of silver. Here, wearied with his walk, and faint in spirit from over excitement, he sat down to rest and to compose his thoughts. Scarcely intelligible to himself were his feelings. The meeting with Jenny, and the effect upon him, were things that he did not clearly understand. Her influence over him was a mystery. In fact, what had passed so hurriedly, was to him more like a dream than a reality.
No further idea of sport entered the mind of the young man on that day. He remained until after the sun had passed the meridian in this retired place, and then went slowly back, passing the cottage of Mrs. Lee on his return. He did not see Jenny as he had hoped. On meeting Mr. Lofton, Mark became aware of a change in the old man's feelings towards him, and he guessed at once rightly as to the cause. If he had experienced any doubts, they would have been quickly removed.
"Mark!" said the old gentleman, sternly, almost the moment the grandson came into his presence, "I wish you to go back to New York to-morrow. I presume I need hardly explain my reason for this wish, when I tell you that I have just had a visit from old Mrs. Lee."
The fiery spirit of Mark was stung into madness by this further reaction on him in a matter that involved nothing of criminal intent. Impulsive in his feelings, and quick to act from them, he replied with a calmness and even sadness in his voice that Mr. Lofton did not expect—the calmness was from a strong effort: the sadness expressed his real feelings:
"I will not trouble you with my presence an hour longer. If evil arise from this trampling of good impulse out of my heart, the sin rest on your own head. I never was and never can be patient under a false judgment. Farewell, grandfather! We may never meet again. If you hear of evil befalling me, think of it as having some connection with this hour."
With these words Mark turned away and left the house. The old man, in grief and alarm at the effect of his words, called after him, but he heeded him not.
"Run after him, and tell him to come back," he cried to a servant who stood near and had listened to what had passed between them. The order was obeyed, but it was of no avail. Mark returned a bitter answer to the message he brought him, and continued on his way. As he was hurrying along, suddenly he encountered Jenny. It was strange that he should meet her so often. There was something in it more than accident, and he felt that it was so.
"God bless you, Jenny!" he exclaimed with much feeling, catching hold of her hand and kissing it. "We may never meet again. They thought I meant you harm, and have driven me away. But, Heaven knows how little of evil purpose was in my heart! Farewell! Sometimes, when you are kneeling to say your nightly prayers, think of me, and breathe my name in your petitions. I will need the prayers of the innocent. Farewell!"
And under the impulse of the moment, Mark bent forward and pressed his lips fervently upon her pure forehead; then, springing away, left her bewildered and in tears.
Mark hurried on towards the nearest landing place on the river, some three miles distant, which he reached just as a steamboat was passing. Waving his handkerchief, as a signal, the boat rounded to, and touching at the rude pier, took him on board. He arrived in New York that evening, and on the next morning started for Washington to see after his application for a midshipman's appointment in the navy. It was on this occasion that the young man became aware of the secret influence of his father against the application which had been made. His mind, already feverishly excited, lost its balance under this new disturbing cause.
"He will repent of this!" said he, bitterly, as he left the room of the Secretary of the Navy, "and repent it until the day of his death. Make a fixture of me in a counting room! Shut me up in a lawyer's office! Lock me down in a medicine chest! Mark Clifford never will submit! If I cannot enter the service in one way I will in another."
Without pausing to weigh the consequences of his act, Mark, in a spirit of revenge towards his father, went, while the fever was on him, to the Navy Yard, and there entered the United States service as a common sailor, under the name of Edward James. On the day following, the ship on board of which he had enlisted was gliding down the Potomac, and, in a week after, left Hampton Roads and went to sea.
From Norfolk, Mr. Clifford received a brief note written by his son, upbraiding him for having defeated the application to the department, and avowing the fact that he had gone to sea in the government service, as a common sailor.
IT was impossible for such passionate interviews, brief though they were, to take place without leaving on the heart of a simple minded girl like Jenny Lawson, a deep impression. New impulses were given to her feelings, and a new direction to her thoughts. Nature told her that Mark Clifford loved her; and nothing but his cold disavowal of the fact could possibly have affected this belief. He had met her, it was true, only three or four times; but their interviews during these meetings had been of a character to leave no ordinary effect behind. So long as her eyes, dimmed by overflowing tears, could follow Mark's retiring form, she gazed eagerly after him; and when he was at length hidden from her view, she sat down to pour out her heart in passionate weeping.
Old Mrs. Lee, while she tenderly loved the sweet flower that had grown up under her care, was not, in all things, a wise and discreet woman; nor deeply versed in the workings of the human heart.
Rumor of Mark's wildness had found its way to the neighborhood of Fairview, and made an unfavorable impression. Mrs. Lee firmly believed that he was moving with swift feet in the way to destruction, and rolling evil under his tongue as a sweet morsel. When she heard of his arrival at his grandfather's, a fear came upon her lest he should cast his eyes upon Jenny. No wonder that she met the young man with such a quick repulse, when, to her alarm, she found that he had invaded her home, and was already charming the ear of the innocent child she so tenderly loved and cared for. To find them sitting alone in the woods, only a little while afterwards, almost maddened her; and so soon as she took Jenny home, she hurried over to Mr. Lofton, and in a confused, exaggerated, and intemperate manner, complained of the conduct of Mark.
"Together alone in the woods!" exclaimed the old gentleman, greatly excited. "What does the girl mean?"
"What does he mean, thus to entice away my innocent child?" said Mrs. Lee, equally excited. "Oh, Mr. Lofton! for goodness' sake, send him back to New York! If he remain here a day longer, all may be lost! Jenny is bewitched with him. She cried as if her heart would break when I took her back home, and said that I had done wrong to Mark in what I had said to him."
"Weak and foolish child! How little does she know of the world—how little of the subtle human heart! Yes—yes, Mrs. Lee, Mark shall go back at once. He shall not remain here a day longer to breathe his blighting breath on so sweet a flower. Jenny is too good a girl to be exposed to such an influence."
The mind of Mr. Lofton remained excited for hours after this interview; and when Mark appeared, he met him as has already been seen. The manner in which the young man received the angry words of his grandfather, was a little different from what had been anticipated. Mr. Lofton expected some explanation by which he could understand more clearly what was in the young man's thoughts. When, therefore, Mark abruptly turned from him with such strange language on his tongue, Mr. Lofton's anger cooled, and he felt that he had suffered himself to be misled by a hasty judgment. That no evil had been in the young man's mind he was sure. It was this change that had prompted him to make an effort to recall him. But, the effort was fruitless.
On Jenny's return home, after her last interview with Mark, she found a servant there with a summons from Mr. Lofton. With much reluctance she repaired to the mansion house. On meeting with the old gentleman he received her in a kind but subdued manner; but, as for Jenny herself, she stood in his presence weeping and trembling.
"Jenny," said Mr. Lofton, after the girl had grown more composed, "when did you first meet my grandson?"
Jenny mentioned the accidental meeting on the day before, and the call at the cottage in the morning.
"And you saw him first only yesterday?"
"What did he say when he called this morning?"
"He asked for my mother."
"Yes. I told him that my mother was dead, and that I lived with Mrs. Lee. He then wanted to see her; but I said that she had gone over to your house."
"What did he say then?"
"He spoke of you, and said you were a good man, and that we no doubt found you a good landlord. I had mentioned that you owned our cottage."
Mr. Lofton appeared affected at this.
"What then?" he continued.
"He told me who he was, and then asked me my name. When I told him that it was Jenny, he said, it was a good name, and that he always liked the sound of it, for his mother's name was Jenny. Then he asked me, if I had known his mother, and when I said yes, he wanted to know if I loved her. I said yes—for you know we all loved her. Then he covered his face with his hands, and I saw the tears coming through his fingers. 'Because you know my mother, and loved her, Jenny,' said he, 'we will be friends.' Afterwards he asked me a great many questions about her, and listened with the tears in his eyes, when I told him of many things she had said and done the last time she was up here. We were talking together about his mother, when Mrs. Lee came in. She spoke cross to him, and threatened to complain to you, if he came there any more. He went away angry. But I'm sure he meant nothing wrong, sir. How could he and talk as he did about his mother in heaven?"
"But, how came you to meet him, in the woods, Jenny?" said Mr. Lofton. "Did he tell you that he would wait there for you?"
"Oh, no, sir. The meeting was accidental. I was sent over to Mrs. Jasper's on an errand, and, in passing through the woods, saw him sitting alone and looking very unhappy. I was frightened; but he told me that he wouldn't hurt a hair of my head. Then he made me sit down upon the grass beside him, and talk to him about his mother. He asked me a great many questions, and I told him all that I could remember about her. Sometimes the tears would steal over his cheeks; and sometimes he would say—'Ah! if my mother had not died. Her death was a great loss to me, Jenny—a great loss—and I have been worse for it.'"
"And was this all you talked about, Jenny," asked Mr. Lofton, who was much, affected by the artless narrative of the girl.
"It was all about his mother," replied Jenny. "He said that I not only bore her name, but that I looked like her, and that it seemed to him, while with me, that she was present."
"He said that, did he!" Mr. Lofton spoke more earnestly, and looked intently upon Jenny's face. "Yes—yes—it is so. She does look like dear Jenny," he murmured to himself. "I never saw this before. Dear boy! We have done him wrong. These hasty conclusions—ah, me! To how much evil do they lead!"
"And you were talking thus, when Mrs. Lee found you?"
"What did she say?"
"I can hardly tell what she said, I was so frightened. But I know she spoke angrily to him and to me, and threatened to see you."
Mr. Lofton sighed deeply, then added, as if the remark were casual—
"And that is the last you have seen of him."
"No, sir; I met him a little while ago, as he was hurrying away from your house."
"You did!" Mr. Lofton started at Jenny's unexpected reply.
"Did he speak to you?"
"Yes; he stopped and caught hold of my hand, saying, 'God bless you, Jenny! We may never meet again. They have driven me away, because they thought I meant to harm you.' But he said nothing wrong was in his heart, and asked me to pray for him, as he would need my prayers."
At this part of her narrative, Jenny wept bitterly, and her auditor's eyes became dim also.
Satisfied that Jenny's story was true in every particular, Mr. Lofton spoke kindly to her and sent her home.
A week after Mark Clifford left Fairview, word came that he had enlisted in the United States' service and gone to sea as a common sailor; accompanying this intelligence was an indignant avowal of his father that he would have nothing more to do with him. To old Mr. Lofton this was a serious blow. In Mark he had hoped to see realized some of his ambitious desires. His daughter Jenny had been happy in her marriage, but the union never gave him much satisfaction. She was to have been the wife of one more distinguished than a mere plodding money-making merchant.
Painful was the shock that accompanied the prostration of old Mr. Lofton's ambitious hopes touching his grandson, of whom he had always been exceedingly fond. To him he had intended leaving the bulk of his property when he died. But now anger and resentment arose in his mind against him as unworthy such a preference, and in the warmth of a moment's impulse, he corrected his will and cut him off with a dollar. This was no sooner done than better emotions stirred in the old man's bosom, and he regretted the hasty act; but pride of consistency prevented his recalling it.
From that time old Mr. Lofton broke down rapidly. In six months he seemed to have added ten years to his life. During that period no news had come from Mark; who was not only angry with both his father and grandfather, but felt that in doing what he had done, he had offended them beyond the hope of forgiveness. He, therefore, having taken a rash step, moved on in the way he had chosen, in a spirit of recklessness and defiance. The ties of blood which had bound him to his home were broken; the world was all before him, and he must make his way in it alone. The life of a common sailor in a government ship he found to be something different from what he had imagined, when, acting under a momentary excitement, he was so mad as to enlist in the service. Unused to work or ready obedience, he soon discovered that his life was to be one not only of bodily toil, pushed sometimes to the extreme of fatigue, but one of the most perfect subordination to the will of others, under pain of corporeal punishment. The first insolent word of authority passed to him by a new fledged midshipman, his junior by at least three years, stung him so deeply that it was only by a most violent effort that he could master the impulse that prompted him to seize and throw him overboard. He did not regret this successful effort at self-control, when, a few hours afterwards, he was compelled to witness the punishment of the cat inflicted on a sailor for the offence of insolence to an officer. The sight of the poor man, writhing under tile brutality of the lash, made an impression on him that nothing could efface. It absorbed his mind and brought it into a healthier state of reflection than it had yet been.
"I have placed myself in this position by a rash act," he said to himself, as he turned, sick at heart, away from the painful and disgusting sight. "And all rebellion against the authority around me will but make plainer my own weakness. I have degraded myself; but there is a lower degradation still, and that I must avoid. Drag me to the gangway, and I am lost!"
Strict obedience and submission was from that time self-compelled on the part of Mark Clifford. It was not without a strong effort, however, that he kept down the fiery spirit within him. A word of insolent command—and certain of the young midshipmen on board could not speak to a senior even if he were old as their father, except in a tone of insult—would send the blood boiling through his veins.
It was only by the narrowest chances that Mark escaped punishment during the first six months of the cruise, which was in the Pacific. If he succeeded in bridling his tongue, and restraining his hands from violence he could not hide the indignant flash of his eyes, nor school the muscles of his face into submission. They revealed the wild spirit of rebellion that was in his heart. Intelligent promptness in duty saved him.
This was seen by his superior officers, and it was so much in his favor when complaints came from the petty tyrants of the ship who sometimes shrunk from the fierce glance that in a moment of struggling passion would be cast upon them. After a trying ordeal of six months, he was favored by one of the officers who saw deeper than the rest; and gathered from him a few hints as to his true character. In pitying him, he made use of his influence to save him from some of the worst consequences of his position.
Jenny Lawson was a changed girl after her brief meeting with Mark Clifford. Before, she had been as light hearted and gay as a bird. But, her voice was no longer heard pouring forth the sweet melodies born of a happy heart. Much of her time she sought to be alone; and when alone, she usually sat in a state of dreamy absent-mindedness. As for her thoughts, they were most of the time on Clifford. His hand had stirred the waters of affection in her gentle bosom; and they knew no rest. Mr. Lofton frequently sent for her to come over to the mansion house. He never spoke to her of Mark; nor did she mention his name—though both thought of him whenever they were together. The oftener Mr. Lofton saw Jenny, and the more he was with her, the more did she remind him of his own lost child—his Jenny, the mother of Mark—now in heaven. The incident of meeting with young Clifford had helped to develop Jenny's character, and give it a stronger type than otherwise would have been the case. Thus, she became to Mr. Lofton companionable; and, ere a year had elapsed from the time Mark went away, Mrs. Lee, having passed to her account, she was taken into his house, and he had her constantly with him. As he continued to fail, he leaned upon the affectionate girl more and more heavily; and was never contented when she was away from him.
It would be difficult to represent clearly Jenny's state of feeling during this period. A simple minded, innocent, true-hearted girl, in whose bosom scarce beat a single selfish impulse, she found herself suddenly approached by one in station far above her, in a way that left her heart unguarded. He had stooped to her, and leaned upon her, and she, obeying an impulse of her nature, had stood firmer to support him as he leaned. Their tender, confiding, and delightful intercourse, continued only for a brief season, and was then rudely broken in upon; forced separation was followed by painful consequences to the young man. When Jenny thought of how Mark had been driven away on her account, she felt that in order to save him from the evils that must be impending over him, she would devote even her life in his service. But, what could she do? This desire to serve him had also another origin. A deep feeling of love had been awakened; and, though she felt it to be hopeless, she kept the flame brightly burning.
Intense feelings produced more active thoughts, and the mind of Jenny took a higher development. A constant association with Mr. Lofton, who required her to read to him sometimes for hours each day, filled her thoughts with higher ideas than any she had known, and gradually widened the sphere of her intelligence. Thus she grew more and more companionable to the old man, who, in turn, perceiving that her mind was expanding, took pains to give it a right direction, so far as external knowledge were concerned.
Soon after Mark went to sea, Jenny took pains to inform herself accurately as to the position and duties of a common sailor on board of a United States' vessel. She was more troubled about Mark after this, for she understood how unfitted he was for the hard service he entered upon so blindly.
One day, it was over a year from the time that Mark left Fairview, Mr. Lofton sent for Jenny, and, on her coming into his room, handed her a sealed letter, but without making any remark. On it was superscribed her name; and it bore, besides, the word "Ship" in red printed letters, "Valparaiso," also, was written upon it. Jenny looked at the letter wonderingly, for a moment or two, and then, with her heart throbbing wildly, left the room. On breaking the seal, she found the letter to be from Mark. It was as follows:
"U. S. SHIP ——, Valparaiso, September 4, 18—,
"MY GENTLE FRIEND.—A year has passed since our brief meeting and unhappy parting. I do not think you have forgotten me in that time; you may be sure I have not forgotten you. The memory of one about whom we conversed, alone would keep your image green in my thoughts. Of the rash step I took you have no doubt heard. In anger at unjust treatment both from my father and grandfather, I was weak enough to enter the United States' service as a sailor. Having committed this folly, and being unwilling to humble myself, and appeal to friends who had wronged me for their interest to get me released, I have looked the hardship and degradation before me in the face, and sought to encounter it manfully. The ordeal has been thus far most severe, and I have yet two years of trial before me. As I am where I am by my own act, I will not complain, and yet, I have felt it hard to be cut off from all the sympathy and kind interest of my friends—to have no word from home—to feel that none cares for me. I know that I have offended both my father and grandfather past forgiveness, and my mind is made up to seek for no reconciliation with them. I cannot stoop to that. I have too much of the blood of the Loftons in my veins.
"But why write this to you, Jenny? You will hardly understand how such feelings can govern any heart—your own is so gentle and innocent in all of its impulses. I have other things to say to you! Since our meeting I have never ceased to think of you! I need no picture of your face, for I see it ever before me as distinctly as if sketched by the painter's art. I sometimes ask myself wonderingly, how it is that you, a simple country maiden, could, in one or two brief meetings, have made so strong an impression upon me? But, you bore my mother's name, and your face was like her dear face. Moreover, the beauty of goodness was in your countenance, and a sphere of innocence around you; and I had not strayed so far from virtue's paths as to be insensible to these. Since we parted, Jenny, you have seemed ever present with me, as an angel of peace and protection. In the moment when passion was about overmastering me, you stood by my side, and I seemed to hear your voice speaking to the rising storm, and hushing all into calmness. When my feet have been ready to step aside, you instantly approached and pointed to the better way. Last night I had a dream, and it is because of that dream that I now write to you. I have often felt like writing before; now I write because I cannot help it. I am moved to do so by something that I cannot resist.
"Yesterday I had a difficulty with an officer who has shewn a disposition to domineer over me ever since the cruise commenced. He complained to the commander, who has, in more than one instance shown me kindness. The commander said that I must make certain concessions to the officer, which I felt as humiliating; that good discipline required this, and that unless I did so, he would be reluctantly compelled to order me to the gangway. Thus far I had avoided punishment by a strict obedience to duty. No lash had ever touched me. That degradation I felt would be my ruin; and in fear of the result I bore much, rather than give any petty officer the power to have me punished. 'Let me sleep over it, Captain,' said I, so earnestly, that my request was granted.
"Troubled dreams haunted me as I lay in my hammock that night. At last I seemed to be afloat on the wide ocean, on a single plank, tossing about with the hot sun shining fiercely upon me, and monsters of the great deep gathering around, eager for their prey. I was weak, faint, and despairing. In vain did my eyes sweep the horizon, there was neither vessel nor land in sight. At length the sun went down, and the darkness drew nearer and nearer. Then I could see nothing but the stars shining above me. In this moment, when hope seemed about leaving my heart forever, a light came suddenly around me. On looking up I saw a boat approaching. In the bow stood my mother, and you sat guiding the helm! She took my hand, and I stepped into the boat with a thrill of joy at my deliverance. As I did so, she kissed me, looked tenderly towards you, and faded from my sight. Then I awoke.
"The effect of all this was to subdue my haughty spirit. As soon as an opportunity offered, I made every desired concession for my fault, and was forgiven. And now I am writing to you, I feel as if there was something in that dream, Jenny. Ah! Shall I ever see your face again? Heaven only knows!
"I send this letter to you in care of my grandfather. I know that he will not retain it or seek to know its contents. Unless he should ask after me, do not speak to him or any one of what I have written to you. Farewell! Do not forget me in your prayers.
The effect of this letter upon Jenny, was to interest her intensely. The swell of emotion went deeper, and the activity of her mind took a still higher character. It was plain to her, when she next came into Mr. Lofton's presence, that his thoughts had been busy about the letter she had received. But he asked her no questions, and, faithful to the expressed wish of Mark, she made no reference to the subject whatever.
One part of Jenny's service to the failing old man, had been to read to him daily from the newspapers. This made her familiar with what was passing in the world, gave her food for thought, and helped her to develop and strengthen her mind. Often had she pored over the papers for some news of Mark, but never having heard the name of the vessel in which he had gone to sea, she had possessed no clue to find what she sought for. But now, whenever a paper was opened, her first search was for naval intelligence.
With what a throb of interest did she one day, about a week after Mark's letter came to hand, read an announcement that the ship —— had been ordered home, and might be expected to arrive daily at Norfolk.
A woman thinks quickly to a conclusion; or, rather, arrives there by a process quicker than thought; especially where her conclusions are to affect a beloved object. In an hour after Jenny had read the fact just stated, she said to Mr. Lofton, who had now come to be much attached to her—
"Will you grant me a favor?"
"Ask what you will, my child," replied Mr. Lofton, with more than usual affection in his tones.
"Let me have fifty dollars."
"Certainly. I know you will use it for a good purpose."
Two days after this Jenny was in Washington. She made the journey alone, but without timidity or fear. Her purpose made her self-possessed and courageous. On arriving at the seat of government, Jenny inquired for the Secretary of the Navy. When she arrived at the Department over which he presided, and obtained an interview, she said to him, as soon as she could compose herself—
"The ship —— has been ordered home from the Pacific?"
"She arrived at Norfolk last night, and is now hourly expected at the Navy Yard," replied the Secretary.
At this intelligence, Jenny was so much affected that it was some time before she could trust herself to speak.
"You have a brother on board?" said the Secretary.
"There is a young man on board," replied Jenny, in a tremulous voice, "for whose discharge I have come to ask."
The Secretary looked grave.
"At whose instance do you come?" he inquired.
"Solely at my own."
"Who is the young man?"
"Do you know Marshal Lofton?"
"I do, by reputation, well. He belongs to a distinguished family in New York, to which the country owes much for service rendered in trying times."
"The discharge I ask, is for his grandson."
"Young Clifford, do you mean?" The Secretary looked surprised as he spoke. "He is not in the service."
"He is on board the ship —— as a common sailor."
"It is too true. In a moment of angry disappointment he took the rash step. And, since then, no communication has passed between him and his friends."
The Secretary turned to the table near which he was sitting, and, after writing a few lines on a piece of paper, rung a small hand-bell for the messenger, who came in immediately.
"Take this to Mr J——, and bring me an answer immediately."
The messenger left the room, and the Secretary said to Jenny—
"Wait a moment or two, if you please."
In a little while the messenger came back and handed the Secretary a memorandum from the clerk to whom he had sent for information.
"There is no such person as Clifford on board the ship ——, nor, in fact, in the service as a common sailor," said the Secretary, addressing Jenny, after glancing at the memorandum he had received.
"Oh, yes, there is; there must be," exclaimed the now agitated girl. "I received a letter from him at Valparaiso, dated on board of this ship. And, besides, he wrote home to his father, at the time he sailed, declaring what he had done."
"Strange. His name doesn't appear in the Department as attached to the service. Hark! There's a gun. It announces, in all probability, the arrival of the ship —— at the Navy Yard."
Jenny instantly became pale.
"Perhaps," suggested the Secretary, "your best way will be to take a carriage and drive down, at once, to the Navy Yard. Shall I direct the messenger to call a carriage for you?"
"I will thank you to do so," replied Jenny, faintly.
The carriage was soon at the door. Jenny was much agitated when she arrived at the Navy Yard. To her question as to whether the ship —— had arrived, she was pointed to a large vessel which lay moored at the dock. How she mounted its side she hardly knew; but, in what seemed scarcely an instant of time, she was standing on the deck. To an officer who met her, as she stepped on board, she asked for Mark Clifford.
"What is he? A sailor or marine?"
"There is no such person on board, I believe," said the officer.
Poor Jenny staggered back a few paces, while a deadly paleness overspread her face. As she leaned against the side of the vessel for support, a young man, dressed as a sailor, ascended from the lower deck. Their eyes met, and both sprung towards each other.
"Jenny! Jenny! is it you!" fell passionately from his lips, as he caught her in his arms, and kissed her fervently. "Bless you! Bless you, Jenny! This is more than I had hoped for," he added, as he gazed fondly into her beautiful young face.
"They said you were not here," murmured Jenny, "and my heart was in despair."
"You asked for Mark Clifford?"
"I am not known in the service by that name. I entered it as Edward James."
This meeting, occurring as it did, with many spectators around, and they of the ruder class, was so earnest and tender, yet with all, so mutually respectful and decorous, that even the rough sailors were touched by the manner and sentiment of the interview; and mole than one eye grew dim.
Not long did Jenny linger on the deck of the ——. Now that she had found Mark, her next thought was to secure his discharge.
IT was little more than half an hour after the Secretary of the Navy parted with Jenny, ere she entered his office again; but now with her beautiful face flushed and eager.
"I have found him!" she exclaimed; "I knew he was on board this ship!"
The Secretary's interest had been awakened by the former brief interview with Jenny, and when she came in with the announcement, he was not only affected with pleasure, but his feelings were touched by her manner. "How is it, then," he inquired, "that his name is not to be found in the list of her crew?"
"He entered the service under the name of Edward James."
"Ah! that explains it."
"And now, sir," said Jenny, in a voice so earnest and appealing, that her auditor felt like granting her desire without a moment's reflection: "I have come to entreat you to give me his release."
"On what ground do you make this request?" inquired the Secretary, gazing into the sweet young face of Jenny, with a feeling of respect blended with admiration.
"On the ground of humanity," was the simple yet earnestly spoken reply.
"How can you put it on that ground?"
"A young man of his education and abilities can serve society better in another position."
"But he has chosen the place he is in."
"Not deliberately. In a moment of disappointment and blind passion he took a false step. Severely has he suffered for this act. Let it not be prolonged, lest it destroy him. One of his spirit can scarcely pass through so severe an ordeal without fainting."
"Does Mr. Lofton, his grandfather, desire what you ask?"
"Mr. Lofton is a proud man. He entertained high hopes for Mark, who has, in this act, so bitterly disappointed them, that he has not been known to utter his name since the news of his enlistment was received."
"And his father?"
Jenny shook her head, sighing—
"I don't know anything about him. He was angry, and, I believe, cast him off."
"And you, then, are his only advocate?"
Jenny's eyes dropped to the floor, and a deeper tinge overspread her countenance.
"What is your relation to him, and to his friends?" asked the Secretary, his manner becoming more serious.
It was some moments before Jenny replied. Then she said, in a more subdued voice:
"I am living with Mr. Lofton. But—"
She hesitated, and then became silent and embarrassed.
"Does Mr. Lofton know of your journey to Washington?"
Jenny shook her head.
"Where did you tell him you were going?"
"I said nothing to him, but came away the moment I heard the ship was expected to arrive at Norfolk."
"Suppose I release him from the service?"
"I will persuade him to go back with me to Fairview, and then I know that all will be forgiven between him and his grandfather. You don't know how Mr. Lofton has failed since Mark went away," added Jenny in a tone meant to reach the feelings of her auditor.
"He looks many years older. Ah, sir, if you would only grant my request!"
"Will the young man return to his family! Have you spoken to him about it?"
"No; I wished not to create hopes that might fail. But give me his release, and I will have a claim on him."
"And you will require him to go home in acknowledgment of that claim."
"I will not leave him till he goes back," said Jenny.
"Is he not satisfied in the service?"
"How could he be satisfied with it?" Jenny spoke with a quick impulse, and with something like rebuke in her voice. "No! It is crushing out his very life. Think of your own son in such a position!"
There was something in this appeal, and in the way it was uttered, that decided the Secretary's mind. A man of acute observation, and humane feelings, he not only understood pretty clearly the relation that Jenny bore to Mark and his family, but sympathised with the young man and resolved to grant the maiden's request. Leaving her for a few minutes, he went into an adjoining room. When he returned, he had a sealed letter in his hand directed to the commander of the ship ——.
"This will procure his dismissal from the service," said he, as he reached it towards Jenny.
"May heaven reward you!" fell from the lips of the young girl, as she received the letter. Then, with the tears glistening in her eyes, she hurriedly left the apartment.
While old Mr. Lofton was yet wondering what Jenny could want with fifty dollars, a servant came and told him that she had just heard from a neighbor who came up a little while before from the landing, that he had seen Jenny go on board of a steamboat that was on its way to New York.
"It can't be so," quickly answered Mr. Lofton.
"Mr. Jones said, positively, that it was her."
"Tell Henry to go to Mr. Jones and ask him, as a favor, to step over and see me."
In due time Mr. Jones came.
"Are you certain that you saw Jenny Lawson go on board the steamboat for New York to-day?" asked Mr. Lofton, when the neighbor appeared.
"Oh, yes, sir; it was her," replied the man.
"Did you speak to her?"
"I was going to, but she hurried past me without looking in my face."
"Had she anything with her?"
"There was a small bundle in her hand."
"Strange—strange—very strange," murmured the old man to himself. "What does it mean? Where can she have gone?"
"Did she say nothing about going away?"
Mr. Lofton's eyes fell to the floor, and he sat thinking for some moments.
"Mr. Jones," said he, at length, "can you go to New York for me?"
"I suppose so," replied Mr. Jones.
"When will the morning boat from Albany pass here?"
"In about two hours."
"Then get yourself ready, if you please, and come over to me. I do not like this of Jenny, and must find out where she has gone."
Mr. Jones promised to do as was desired, and went to make all necessary preparations. Before he returned, a domestic brought Mr. Lofton a sealed note bearing his address, which she had found in Jenny's chamber. It was as follows:
"Do not be alarmed at my telling you that, when you receive this, I will be on a journey of two or three hundred miles in extent, and may not return for weeks. Believe me, that my purpose is a good one. I hope to be back much sooner than I have said. When I do get home, I know you will approve of what I have done. My errand is one of Mercy.
"Humbly and faithfully yours, JENNY."
It was some time before Mr. Lofton's mind grew calm and clear, after reading this note. That Jenny's absence was, in some way, connected with Mark, was a thought that soon presented itself. But, in what way, he could not make out; for he had never heard the name of the ship in which his grandson sailed, and knew nothing of her expected arrival home.
By the time Mr. Jones appeared, ready to start on the proposed mission to New York, Mr. Lofton had made up his mind not to attempt to follow Jenny, but to wait for some word from her. Not until this sudden separation took place did Mr. Lofton understand how necessary to his happiness the affectionate girl had become. So troubled was he at her absence, and so anxious for her safety, that when night came he found himself unable to sleep. In thinking about the dangers that would gather around one so ignorant of the world, his imagination magnified the trials and temptations to which, alone as she was, she would be exposed. Such thoughts kept him tossing anxiously upon his pillow, or restlessly pacing the chamber floor until day dawn. Then, from over-excitement and loss of rest, he was seriously indisposed—so much so, that his physician had to be called in during the day. He found him with a good deal of fever, and deemed it necessary to resort to depletion, as well as to the application of other remedies to allay the over-action of his vital system. These prostrated him at once—so much so, that he was unable to sit up. Before night he was so seriously ill that the physician had to be sent for again. The fever had returned with great violence, and the pressure on his brain was so great that he had become slightly delirious.
During the second night, this active stage of the disease continued; but all the worst symptoms subsided towards morning. Daylight found him sleeping quietly, with a cool moist skin, and a low, regular pulse. Towards mid-day he awoke; but the anxiety that came with thought brought back many of the unfavorable symptoms, and he was worse again towards evening. On the third day he was again better, but so weak as to be unable to sit up.
How greatly did old Mr. Lofton miss the gentle girl, who had become almost as dear to him as a child, during this brief illness, brought on by her strange absence. No hand could smooth his pillow like hers. No presence could supply her place by his side. He was companionless, now that she was away; and his heart reached vainly around for something to lean upon for support.
On the fourth day he was better, and sat up a little. But his anxiety for Jenny was increasing. Where could she be? He read her brief letter over and over again.
"May not return for weeks," he said, as he held the letter in his hand. "Where can she have gone? Foolish child! Why did she not consult with me? I would have advised her for the best."
Late on the afternoon of that day, Jenny, in company with Mark, the latter in the dress of a seaman in the United States service, passed from a steamboat at the landing near Fairview, and took their way towards the mansion of Mr. Lofton. They had not proceeded far, before the young man began to linger, while Jenny showed every disposition to press on rapidly. At length Mark stopped.
"Jenny," said he, while a cloud settled on his face, "you've had your own way up to this moment. I've been passive in your hands. But I can't go on with you any further."
"Don't say that," returned Jenny, her voice almost imploring in its tones. And in the earnestness of her desire to bring Mark back to his grandfather, she seized one of his hands, and, by a gentle force, drew him a few paces in the direction they had been going. But he resisted that force, and they stood still again.
"I don't think I can go back, Jenny," said Mark, in a subdued voice: "I have some pride left, much as has been crushed out of me during the period of my absence, and this rises higher and higher in my heart the nearer I approach my grandfather. How can I meet him!"
"Only come into his presence, Mark," urged Jenny, speaking tenderly and familiarly. She had addressed him as Mr. Clifford, but he had forbidden that, saying—
"To you my name is Mark—let none other pass your lips!"
"Only come into his presence. You need not speak to him, nor look towards him. This is all I ask."
"But, the humiliation of going back after my resentment of his former treatment," said Mark. "I can bear anything but this bending of my pride—this humbling of myself to others."
"Don't think of yourself, Mark," replied Jenny. "Think of your grandfather, on whom your absence has wrought so sad a change. Think of what he must have suffered to break down so in less than two years. In pity to him, then, come back. Be guided by me, Mark, and I will lead you right. Think of that strange dream!"
At this appeal, Mark moved quickly forward by the side of the beautiful girl, who had so improved in every way—mind and body having developed wonderfully since he parted with her—that he was filled all the while by wonder, respect and admiration. He moved by her side as if influenced by a spell that subdued his own will.
In silence they walked along, side by side, the pressure of thought and feeling on each mind being so strong as to take away the desire to speak, until the old mansion house of Mr. Lofton appeared in view. Here Mark stopped again; but the tenderly uttered "Come," and the tearful glance of Jenny, effectually controlled the promptings of an unbroken will. Together, in a few minutes afterwards, they approached the house and entered.
"Where is Mr. Lofton?" asked Jenny of a servant who met them in the great hall.
"He's been very ill," replied the servant.
"Ill!" Jenny became pale.
"Yes, very ill. But he is better now."
"Where is he?"
"In his own chamber."
For a moment Jenny hesitated whether to go up alone, or in company with Mark. She would have preferred going alone; but fearing that, if she parted even thus briefly from Mark, her strong influence over him, by means of which she had brought him, almost as a struggling prisoner, thus far, would be weakened, and be tempted to turn from the house, she resolved to venture upon the experiment of entering Mr. Lofton's sick chamber, in company with his grandson.
"Is he sitting up?" she asked of the servant.
"He's been sitting up a good deal to-day, but is lying down now."
"He's much better?"
"Come," said Jenny, turning to Mark, and moving towards the stairway. Mark followed passively. On entering the chamber of Mr. Lofton, they found him sleeping.
Both silently approached, and looked upon his venerable face, composed in deep slumber. Tears came to the eyes of Mark as he gazed at the countenance of his grandfather, and his heart became soft as the heart of a child. While they yet stood looking at him, his lips moved, and he uttered both their names. Then he seemed disturbed, and moaned, as if in pain.
"Grandfather!" said Mark, taking the old man's hand, and bending over him.
Quickly his eyes opened. For a few moments he gazed earnestly upon Mark, and then tightened his hand upon that of the young man, closed his eyes again, and murmured in a voice that deeply touched the returning wanderer—
"My poor boy! My poor boy! Why did you do so? Why did you break my heart? But, God be thanked, you are back again! God be thanked!"
"Jenny!" said the old man, quickly, as he felt her take his other hand and press it to her lips. "And it was for this you left me! Dear child, I forgive you!"
As he spoke, he drew her hand over towards the one that grasped that of Mark, and uniting them together, murmured—
"If you love each other, it is all right. My blessing shall go with you."
How mild and delicious was the thrill that ran through each of the hearts of his auditors. This was more than they expected. Mark tightly grasped the hand that was placed within his own, and that hand gave back an answering pressure. Thus was the past reconciled with the present; while a vista was opened toward a bright future.
Little more than a year has passed since this joyful event took place. Mark Clifford, with the entire approval of his grandfather, who furnished a handsome capital for the purpose, entered, during the time, into the mercantile house of his father as a partner, and is now actively engaged in business, well sobered by his severe experience. He has taken a lovely bride, who is the charm of all circles into which she is introduced; and her name is Jenny. But few who meet her dream that she once grew, a beautiful wild flower, near the banks of the Hudson.
Old Mr. Lofton could not be separated from Jenny; and, as he could not separate her from her husband, he has removed to the city, where he has an elegant residence, in which her voice is the music and her smiles the ever present sunshine.
A HAPPY-HEARTED child was Madeline Henry, for the glad sunshine ever lay upon the threshold of her early home. Her father, a cheerful, unselfish man, left the world and its business cares behind him when he placed his hand upon the door of entrance to his household treasures. Like other men, he had his anxieties, his hopes and losses, his disappointments and troubles; but he wisely and humanely strove to banish these from his thoughts, when he entered the home-sanctuary, lest his presence should bring a shadow instead of sunshine.
Madeline was just twenty years of age, when, as the wife of Edward Leslie, she left this warm down-covered nest, and was borne to a new and more elegant home.
Mr. Leslie was her senior by eight or nine years. He began his business life at the age of twenty-two, as partner in a well established mercantile house, and, as he was able to place ten thousand dollars in the concern, his position, in the matter of profits, was good from the beginning. Yet, for all this, notwithstanding more than one loving-hearted girl, in whose eyes he might have found favor, crossed his path, he resolutely turned his thoughts away, lest the fascination should be too strong for him. He resolved not to marry until he felt able to maintain a certain style of living.
Thus were the heart's impulses checked; thus were the first tender leaves of affection frozen in the cold breath of mere calculation. He wronged himself in this; yet, in his worldliness and ignorance, did he feel proud of being above, what he called, the weaknesses of other men.
It was but natural that Mr. Leslie should become, in a measure, reserved towards others. Should assume a statelier step, and more set forms of speech. Should repress, more and more, his heart's impulses.
In Leslie, the love of money was strong; yet there was in his character a firmly laid basis of integrity. Though shrewd in his dealings, he never stooped to a system of overreaching. He was not long, therefore, in establishing a good reputation among business men. In social circles, where he occasionally appeared, almost as a matter of course he became an object of interest.
Observation, as it regards character, is, by far, too superficial. With most persons, merely what strikes the eye is sufficient ground for an opinion; and this opinion is freely and positively expressed. Thus, a good reputation comes, as a natural consequence, to a man who lives in the practice of most of the apparent social virtues, while he may possess no real kindness of heart, may be selfish to an extreme degree.
Thus it was with Mr. Leslie. He was generally regarded as a model of a man; and when he, at length, approached Madeline Henry as a lover, the friends of the young lady regarded her as particularly fortunate.
As for Madeline, she rather shrunk, at first, from his advances. There was a coldness in his sphere that chilled her; a rigid propriety of speech and action that inspired too much respect and deference. Gradually, however, love for the maiden, (if by such a term it might be called) fused his hard exterior, and his manner became so softened, gentle and affectionate, that she yielded up to him a most precious treasure—the love of her young and trusting heart.
Just twenty years old, as we have said, was Madeline when she passed, as the bride of Mr. Leslie, from the warm home-nest in which she had reposed so happily, to become the mistress of an elegant mansion. Though in age a woman, she was, in many things, but a child in feelings. Tenderly cared for and petted by her father, her spirit had been, in a measure, sustained by love as an aliment.
One like Madeline is not fit to be the wife of such a man as Edward Leslie. For him, a cold, calculating woman of the world were a better companion. One who has her own selfish ends to gain; and who can find, in fashion, gaiety, or personal indulgence, full compensation for a husband's love.
Madeline was scarcely the bride of a week, ere shadows began to fall upon her heart; and the form that interposed itself between her and the sunlight, was the form of her husband. As a daughter, love had ever gone forth in lavish expression. This had been encouraged by all the associations of home. But, from the beginning of her wedded life, she felt the manner of her husband like the weight of a hand on her bosom, repressing her heart's outgushing impulses.
It was on the fifth evening of their marriage, about the early twilight hour, and Madeline, alone, almost for the first time since morning, sat awaiting the return of her husband. Full of pleasant thoughts was her mind, and warm with love her heart. A few hours of separation from Edward had made her impatient to meet him again. When, at length, she heard him enter, she sprang to meet him, and, with an exclamation of delight, threw her arms about his neck.
There was a cold dignity in the way this act was received by Edward Leslie, that chilled the feelings of his wife. Quickly disengaging her arms, she assumed a more guarded exterior; yet, trying all the while, to be cheerful in manner. We say "trying;" for a shadow had fallen on her young heart—and, to seem cheerful was from an effort. They sat down, side by side, in the pensive twilight close to the windows, through which came fragrant airs; and Madeline laid her hand upon that of her husband. Checked in the first gush of feelings, she now remained silent, yet with her yearning spirit intently listening for words of tenderness and endearment.
"I have been greatly vexed to-day."
These were the very words he uttered. How chilly they fell upon the ears of his expectant wife.
"What has happened?" she asked, in a voice of concern.
"Oh, nothing in reality more than usual. Men in business are exposed to a thousand annoyances. If all the world were honest, trade would be pleasant enough. But you have to watch every one you deal with as closely as if he were a rogue. A man, whom I had confided in and befriended, tried to overreach me today, and it has hurt me a good deal. I couldn't have believed it of him."
Nothing more was said on either side for several minutes. Leslie, absorbed in thoughts of business, so far forgot the presence of his wife, as to withdraw the hand upon which her's was laid. How palpable to her was the coldness of his heart! She felt it as an atmosphere around him.
After tea, Leslie remarked, as he arose from the table, that he wished to see a friend on some matter of business; but would be home early. Not even a kiss did he leave with Madeline to cheer her during his absence. His selfish dignity could not stoop to such childishness.
The young bride passed the evening with no companionship but her tears. When Leslie came home, and looked upon her sober face, he was not struck with its aspect as being unusual. It did not enter his imagination that she could be otherwise than happy. Was she not his wife? And had she not, around her, every thing to make the heart satisfied? He verily believed that she had. He spoke to her kindly, yet, as she felt, indifferently, while her heart was pining for words of warm affection.
This was the first shadow that fell, darkly, across the young wife's path. For hours after her husband's senses were locked in slumber, she lay wakeful and weeping. He understood not, if he remarked the fact, why her cheeks had less color and her eyes less brightness on the morning that succeeded to this, on Madeline's part, never forgotten evening.
We need not present a scene from the sixth, the seventh, or even the twentieth day of Madeline's married life. All moved on with a kind of even tenor. Order—we might almost say, mercantile order—reigned throughout the household. And yet, shadows were filling more and more heavily over the young wife's feelings. To be loved, was an element of her existence—to be loved with expression. But, expressive fondness was not one of the cold, dignified Mr. Leslie's weaknesses. He loved Madeline—as much as he was capable of loving anything out of himself. And he had given her the highest possible evidence of this love, by making her his wife.—What more could she ask? It never occurred to his unsentimental thought, that words and acts of endearment were absolutely essential to her happiness. That her world of interest was a world of affections, and that without his companionship in this world, her heart would feel an aching void.
Who will wonder that, as weeks and months went by, shadows were more apparent on the sunny face of Madeline? Yet, such shadows, when they became visible to casual eyes, did excite wonder. What was there to break the play of sunshine on her countenance?
"The more some people have, the more dissatisfied they are," remarked one superficial observer to another, in reply to some communication touching Mrs. Leslie's want of spirits.
"Yes," was answered. "Nothing but real trouble ever brings such persons to their senses."
Ah! Is not heart-trouble the most real of all with which we are visited? There comes to it, so rarely, a balm of healing. To those external evils which merely affect the personal comfort, the mind quickly accommodates itself. We may find happiness in either prosperity or adversity. But, what true happiness is there for a loving heart, if, from the only source of reciprocation, there is but an imperfect response? A strong mind may accommodate itself, in the exercise of a firm religious philosophy, to even these circumstances, and like the wisely discriminating bee, extract honey from even the most unpromising flower. But, it is hard—nay, almost impossible—for one like Madeline, reared as she was in so warm an atmosphere of love, to fall back upon and find a sustaining power, in such a philosophy. Her spirit first must droop. There must be a passing through the fire, with painful purification. Alas! How many perish in the ordeal!—How many gentle, loving ones, unequally mated, die, daily, around us; moving on to the grave, so far as the world knows, by the way of some fatal bodily ailment; yet, in truth, failing by a heart-sickness that has dried up the fountains of life.
And so it was with the wife of Edward Leslie. Greatly her husband wondered at the shadows which fell, more and more heavily, on Madeline—wondered as time wore on, at the paleness of her cheeks—the sadness which, often, she could not repress when he was by; the variableness of her spirits—all tending to destroy the balance of her nervous system, and, finally, ending in confirmed ill-health, that demanded, imperiously, the diversion of his thoughts from business and worldly schemes to the means of prolonging her life.
Alas! What a sad picture to look upon, would it be, were we to sketch, even in outline, the passing events of the ten years that preceded this conviction on the part of Mr. Leslie. To Madeline, his cold, hard, impatient, and, too frequently, cruel re-actions upon what he thought her unreasonable, captious, dissatisfied states of mind, having no ground but in her imagination, were heavy heart-strokes—or, as a discordant hand dashed among her life-chords, putting them forever out of tune. Oh! The wretchedness, struggling with patience and concealment, of those weary years. The days and days, during which her husband maintained towards her a moody silence, that it seemed would kill her. And yet, so far as the world went, Mr. Leslie was among the best of husbands. How little does the world, so called, look beneath the surface of things!
With the weakness of failing health, came, to Madeline, the loss of mental energy. She had less and less self-control. A brooding melancholy settled upon her feelings; and she often spent days in her chamber, refusing to see any one except members of her own family, and weeping if she were spoken to.
"You will die, Madeline. You will kill yourself!" said her husband, repeating, one day, the form of speech so often used when he found his wife in these states of abandonment. He spoke with more than his usual tenderness, for, to his unimaginative mind had come a quickly passing, but vivid realization, of what he would lose if she were taken from him.
"The loss will scarcely be felt," was her murmured answer.
"Your children will, at least, feel it," said Mr. Leslie, in a more captious and meaning tone than, upon reflection, he would have used. He felt her words as expressing indifference for himself, and his quick retort involved, palpably, the same impression in regard to his wife.
Madeline answered not farther, but her husband's words were not forgotten—"My children will feel my loss." This thought became so present to her mind, that none other could, for a space, come into manifest perception. The mother's heart began quickening into life a sense of the mother's duty. Thus it was, when her oldest child—named for herself, and with as loving and dependent a nature—opened the chamber door, and coming up to her father, made some request that he did not approve. To the mother's mind, her desire was one that ought to have been granted; and, she felt, in an instant, that the manner, as well as the fact of the father's denial, were both unkind, and that Madeline's heart would be almost broken. She did not err in this. The child went sobbing from the room.
How distinctly came before the mind of Mrs. Leslie a picture of the past. She was, for a time, back in her father's house; and she felt, for a time, the ever-present, considerate, loving kindness of one who had made all sunshine in that early home. Slowly came back the mind of Mrs. Leslie to the present, and she said to herself, not passively, like one borne on the current of a down-rushing stream, but resolutely, as one with a purpose to struggle—to suffer, and yet be strong—
"Yes; my children will feel my loss. I could pass away and be at rest. I could lie me down and sleep sweetly in the grave. But, is all my work done? Can I leave these little ones to his tender mer—"
She checked herself in the mental utterance of this sentiment, which referred to her husband. But, the feeling was in her heart; and it inspired her with a new purpose. Her thought, turned from herself, and fixed, with a yearning love upon her children, gave to the blood a quicker motion through the veins, and to her mind a new activity. She could no longer remain passive, as she had been for hours, brooding over her own unhappy state, but arose and left her chamber. In another room she found her unhappy child, who had gone off to brood alone over her disappointment, and to weep where none could see her.
"Madeline, dear!" said the mother, in a loving, sympathetic voice.
Instantly the child flung herself into her arms, and laid her face, sobbing, upon her bosom.
Gently, yet wisely—for there came, in that moment, to Mrs. Leslie, a clear perception of all her duty—did the mother seek to soften Madeline's disappointment, and to inspire her with fortitude to bear. Beyond her own expectation came success in this effort. The reason she invented or imagined, for the father's refusal, satisfied the child; and soon the clouded brow was lit up by the heart's sunshine.
From that hour, Mrs. Leslie was changed. From that hour, a new purpose filled her heart. She could not leave her children, nor could she take them with her if she passed away; and so, she resolved to live for them, to forget her own suffering, in the tenderness of maternal care. The mother had risen superior to the unhappy, unappreciated wife.
All marked the change; yet in none did it awaken more surprise than in Mr. Leslie. He never fully understood its meaning; and, no wonder, for he had never understood her from the beginning. He was too cold and selfish to be able fully to appreciate her character or relation to him as a wife.
Yet, for all this change—though the long drooping form of Mrs. Leslie regained something of its erectness, and her exhausted system a degree of tension—the shadow passed not from her heart or brow; nor did her cheeks grow warm again with the glow of health. The delight of her life had failed; and now, she lived only for the children whom God had given her.
A man of Mr. Leslie's stamp of character too rarely grows wiser in the true sense. Himself the centre of his world, it is but seldom that he is able to think enough out of himself to scan the effect of his daily actions upon others. If collisions take place, he thinks only of the pain he feels, not of the pain he gives. He is ever censuring; but rarely takes blame. During the earlier portions of his married life, Mr. Leslie's mind had chafed a good deal at what seemed to him Madeline's unreasonable and unwomanly conduct; the soreness of this was felt even after the change in her exterior that we have noticed, and he often indulged in the habit of mentally writing bitter things against her. He had well nigh broken her heart; and was yet impatient because she gave signs indicative of pain.
And so, as years wore on, the distance grew wider instead of becoming less and less. The husband had many things to draw him forth into the busy world, where he established various interests, and sought pleasure in their pursuits, while the wife, seldom seen abroad, buried herself at home, and gave her very life for her children.
But, even maternal love could not feed for very many years the flame of her life. The oil was too nearly exhausted when that new supply came. For a time, the light burned clearly; then it began to fail, and ere the mother's tasks were half done, it went out in darkness.
How heavy the shadows which then fell upon the household and upon the heart of Edward Leslie! As he stood, alone, in the chamber of death, with his eyes fixed upon the pale, wasted countenance, no more to quicken with life, and felt on his neck the clinging arms that were thrown around it a few moments before the last sigh of mortality was breathed; and still heard the eager, "Kiss me, Edward, once, before I die!"—a new light broke upon him,—and he was suddenly stung by sharp and self-reproaching thoughts. Had he not killed her, and, by the slowest and most agonizing process by which murder can be committed? There was in his mind a startling perception that such was the awful crime of which he had been guilty.
Yes, there were shadows on the heart of Edward Leslie; shadows that never entirely passed away.
THE THANKLESS OFFICE.
"AN object of real charity," said Andrew Lyon to his wife, as a poor woman withdrew from the room in which they were seated.
"If ever there was a worthy object, she is one," returned Mrs. Lyon. "A widow, with health so feeble that even ordinary exertion is too much for her; yet obliged to support, with the labor of her own hands, not only herself, but three young children. I do not wonder that she is behind with her rent."
"Nor I," said Mr. Lyon in a voice of sympathy. "How much did she say was due to her landlord?"
"She will not be able to pay it."
"I fear not. How can she? I give her all my extra sewing, and have obtained work for her from several ladies; but, with her best efforts she can barely obtain food and decent clothing for herself and babes."
"Does it not seem hard," remarked Mr. Lyon, "that one like Mrs. Arnold, who is so earnest in her efforts to take care of herself and family, should not receive a helping hand from some one of the many who could help her without feeling the effort? If I didn't find it so hard to make both ends meet, I would pay off her arrears of rent for her, and feel happy in so doing."
"Ah!" exclaimed the kind-hearted wife, "how much I wish that we were able to do this. But we are not."
"I'll tell you what we can do," said Mr. Lyon, in a cheerful voice—"or, rather what I can do. It will be a very light matter for, say ten persons, to give a dollar a-piece, in order to relieve Mrs. Arnold from her present trouble. There are plenty who would cheerfully contribute for this good purpose; all that is wanted is some one to take upon himself the business of making the collections. That task shall be mine."
"How glad, James, to hear you say so," smilingly replied Mrs. Lyon. "Oh! what a relief it will be to poor Mrs. Arnold. It will make her heart as light as a feather. That rent has troubled her sadly. Old Links, her landlord, has been worrying her about it a good deal, and, only a week ago, threatened to put her things in the street if she didn't pay up."
"I should have thought of this before," remarked Andrew Lyon. "There are hundreds of people who are willing enough to give if they were only certain in regard to the object. Here is one worthy enough in every way. Be it my business to present her claims to benevolent consideration. Let me see. To whom shall I go? There are Jones, and Green, and Tompkins. I can get a dollar from each of them. That will be three dollars—and one from myself, will make four. Who else is there? Oh! Malcolm! I'm sure of a dollar from him; and, also, from Smith, Todd, and Perry."
Confident in the success of his benevolent scheme, Mr. Lyon started forth, early on the very next day, for the purpose of obtaining, by subscription, the poor widow's rent. The first person he called on was Malcolm.
"Ah, friend Lyon," said Malcolm, smiling blandly. "Good morning! What can I do for you to-day?"
"Nothing for me, but something for a poor widow, who is behind with her rent," replied Andrew Lyon. "I want just one dollar from you, and as much more from some eight or nine as benevolent as yourself."
At the words "poor widow," the countenance of Malcolm fell, and when his visiter ceased, he replied in a changed and husky voice, clearing his throat two or three times as he spoke,
"Are you sure she is deserving, Mr. Lyon?" The man's manner had become exceedingly grave.
"None more so," was the prompt answer. "She is in poor health, and has three children to support with the product of her needle. If any one needs assistance it is Mrs. Arnold."
"Oh! ah! The widow of Jacob Arnold."
"The same," replied Andrew Lyon.
Malcolm's face did not brighten with a feeling of heart-warm benevolence. But, he turned slowly away, and opening his money-drawer, very slowly, toyed with his fingers amid its contents. At length he took therefrom a dollar bill, and said, as he presented it to Lyon,—sighing involuntarily as he did so—
"I suppose I must do my part. But, we are called upon so often."
The ardor of Andrew Lyon's benevolent feelings suddenly cooled at this unexpected reception. He had entered upon his work under the glow of a pure enthusiasm; anticipating a hearty response the moment his errand was made known.
"I thank you in the widow's name," said he, as he took the dollar. When he turned from Mr. Malcolm's store, it was with a pressure on his feelings, as if he had asked the coldly-given favor for himself.
It was not without an effort that Lyon compelled himself to call upon Mr. Green, considered the "next best man" on his list. But he entered his place of business with far less confidence than he had felt when calling upon Malcolm. His story told, Green without a word or smile, drew two half dollars from his pocket, and presented them.
"Thank you," said Lyon.
"Welcome," returned Green.
Oppressed with a feeling of embarrassment, Lyon stood for a few moments. Then bowing, he said—
"Good morning," was coldly and formally responded.
And thus the alms-seeker and alms-giver parted.
"Better be at his shop, attending to his work," muttered Green to himself, as his visitor retired. "Men ain't very apt to get along too well in the world who spend their time in begging for every object of charity that happens to turn up. And there are plenty of such, dear knows. He's got a dollar out of me; may it do him, or the poor widow he talked so glibly about, much good."
Cold water had been poured upon the feelings of Andrew Lyon. He had raised two dollars for the poor widow, but, at what a sacrifice for one so sensitive as himself. Instead of keeping on in his work of benevolence, he went to his shop, and entered upon the day's employment. How disappointed he felt;—and this disappointment was mingled with a certain sense of humiliation, as if he had been asking alms for himself.
"Catch me at this work again!" he said, half aloud, as his thoughts dwelt upon what had so recently occurred. "But this is not right," he added, quickly. "It is a weakness in me to feel so. Poor Mrs. Arnold must be relieved; and it is my duty to see that she gets relief. I had no thought of a reception like this. People can talk of benevolence; but putting the hand in the pocket is another affair altogether. I never dreamed that such men as Malcolm and Green could be insensible to an appeal like the one I made."
"I've got two dollars towards paying Mrs. Arnold's rent," he said to himself, in a more cheerful tone, sometime afterwards; "and it will go hard if I don't raise the whole amount for her. All are not like Green and Malcolm. Jones is a kind-hearted man, and will instantly respond to the call of humanity. I'll go and see him."
So, off Andrew Lyon started to see this individual.
"I've come begging, Mr. Jones," said he, on meeting him. And he spoke in a frank, pleasant manner.
"Then you've come to the wrong shop; that's all I have to say," was the blunt answer.
"Don't say that, Mr. Jones. Hear my story, first."
"I do say it, and I'm in earnest," returned Jones. "I feel as poor as Job's turkey, to-day."
"I only want a dollar to help a poor widow pay her rent," said Lyon.
"Oh, hang all the poor widows! If that's your game, you'll get nothing here. I've got my hands full to pay my own rent. A nice time I'd have in handing out a dollar to every poor widow in town to help pay her rent! No, no, my friend, you can't get anything here."
"Just as you feel about it," said Andrew Lyon. "There's no compulsion in the matter."
"No, I presume not," was rather coldly replied.
Lyon returned to his shop, still more disheartened than before. He had undertaken a thankless office.
Nearly two hours elapsed before his resolution to persevere in the good work he had begun came back with sufficient force to prompt to another effort. Then he dropped in upon his neighbor Tompkins, to whom he made known his errand.
"Why, yes, I suppose I must do something in a case like this," said Tompkins, with the tone and air of a man who was cornered. "But, there are so many calls for charity, that we are naturally enough led to hold on pretty tightly to our purse strings. Poor woman! I feel sorry for her. How much do you want?"
"I am trying to get ten persons, including myself, to give a dollar each."
"Well, here's my dollar." And Tompkins forced a smile to his face as he handed over his contribution—but the smile did not conceal an expression which said very plainly—
"I hope you will not trouble me again in this way."
"You may be sure I will not," muttered Lyon, as he went away. He fully understood the meaning of the expression.
Only one more application did the kind-hearted man make. It was successful; but, there was something in the manner of the individual who gave his dollar, that Lyon felt as a rebuke.
"And so poor Mrs. Arnold did not get the whole of her arrears of rent paid off," says some one who has felt an interest in her favor.
Oh, yes she did. Mr. Lyon begged five dollars, and added five more from his own slender purse. But, he cannot be induced again to undertake the thankless office of seeking relief from the benevolent for a fellow creature in need. He has learned that a great many who refuse alms on the plea that the object presented is not worthy, are but little more inclined to charitable deeds, when on this point there is no question.
How many who read this can sympathise with Andrew Lyon. Few men who have hearts to feel for others but have been impelled, at some time in their lives, to seek aid for a fellow-creature in need. That their office was a thankless one, they have too soon become aware. Even those who responded to their call most liberally, in too many instances gave in a way that left an unpleasant impression behind. How quickly has the first glow of generous feeling, that sought to extend itself to others, that they might share the pleasure of humanity, been chilled; and, instead of finding the task an easy one, it has proved to be hard, and, too often, humiliating! Alas, that this should be! That men should shut their hearts so instinctively at the voice of charity.
We have not written this to discourage active efforts in the benevolent; but to hold up a mirror in which another class may see themselves. At best, the office of him who seeks of his fellow-men aid for the suffering and indigent, is an unpleasant one. It is all sacrifice on his part, and the least that can be done is to honor his disinterested regard for others in distress, and treat him with delicacy and consideration.
GOING TO THE SPRINGS; OR, VULGAR PEOPLE.
"I SUPPOSE you will all be off to Saratoga, in a week or two," said Uncle Joseph Garland to his three nieces, as he sat chatting with them and their mother, one hot day, about the first of July.
"We're not going to Saratoga this year," replied Emily, the eldest, with a toss of her head.
"Indeed! And why not, Emily?"
"Everybody goes to Saratoga, now."
"Who do you mean by everybody, Emily?"
"Why, I mean merchants, shop-keepers, and tradesmen, with their wives and daughters, all mixed up together, into a kind of hodge-podge. It used to be a fashionable place of resort—but people that think any thing of themselves, don't go there now."
"Bless me, child!" ejaculated old Uncle Joseph, in surprise. "This is all new to me. But you were there last year."
"I know. And that cured us all. There was not a day in which we were not crowded down to the table among the most vulgar kind of people."