"'I do not think, Mr. Perkins,' he would say to me, sometimes, 'that I can let you have my Eugenia, unless you will go South. I am sure I cannot part with her again.'
"'Why not come North, Mr. Ballantine?' I would suggest.
"But he would shake his head as he made some disparaging remark in regard to the North, and playfully insist that I must go with him to the sunny South. It was about the first of September that I asked that our marriage might take place at an early day. But the father shook his head.
"'Be content that the flower is to be yours. Do not become too eager to pluck it from its parent stem, I must have my dear girl with me for at least one winter. In the spring she shall be yours.'
"'Oh, no! Mr. Ballantine,' I said in alarm. 'You are not going to rob me of her for so long a time?' I spoke with warmth.
"'Rob you of her!' ejaculated the father, in seeming half indignation. 'You are unreasonable and very selfish, my dear boy! Here you have had her for five years, and after a little while are to have her for life, and yet are unwilling to give me even the boon of a few short months with my own child. You are not generous!'
"I felt the rebuke, and confessed that I had been moved by too selfish feelings.
"'If you think the time long,' he added, 'all you have to do is to take a packet and come round—we shall welcome you with joy.'
"'That I shall no doubt be compelled to do, for I will not be able to exist for five or six long months away from Eugenia.'
"'So I should suppose. Well, come along; and after I get you there, I will see if I can't inoculate you with a love of southern people, southern habits, and southern manners. I am sanguine that you will like us.'
"'Well, perhaps so,' I said. 'But we will see.'
"The time for the departure of Mr. Ballantine and his daughter was set for the first of October. The few remaining days passed on fleet wings, and then, after completing the necessary arrangements, Eugenia left Troy with her father for New York, thence to go by sea to her native city. I accompanied them down the river, and spent two days with them in the city, previous to the sailing of the ship Empress, in which they were to embark. Our parting was tender, yet full of hope for a speedy meeting. I had already made up my mind to visit New Orleans about January, and remain there during the winter. Our marriage was then to be solemnized.
"After the sailing of the Empress, I returned to Troy, to await the news of her safe arrival at New Orleans. I felt gloomy and desolate, and for my uncompanionable humor received sundry playful jibes or open-rebukes from my friends. In about a week I began to examine the shipping lists of the New York papers, in the hope of seeing some notice of the good ship that contained my heart's best treasure. But no record of her having been spoken at sea met my eyes as I scanned the newspapers day after day with an eager and increasing hope, until four, five, and six weeks had passed away. So much troubled had I now become, that I went down to New York to see the owners of the ship.
"'Has the Empress arrived out yet?' I asked, on entering the counting-room.
"'Not at the latest dates,' was the reply, made in a voice expressive of concern.
"'Is not her passage a very long one?'
"'We should have had news of her arrival ten days ago.'
"'Has she been spoken on the passage?'
"'Never but once, and that after she was three days out.'
"'Is she a good ship?' I next inquired.
"'None better out of this port,' was the prompt answer.
"For ten days I remained in New York, eagerly examining each morning the shipping lists, and referring to all the southern papers to which I could get access. I met during that time but one reference to the Empress, and that was contained in a paragraph alluding to her long passage, and expressing great fears for her safety. This thrilled my heart with a more palpable and terrible fear. On the next day but one, I met in a New Orleans paper a further allusion to her, coupled with the remark that a suspicious-looking vessel, clipper-built, with a black hull, had been seen several times during the past few weeks cruising in the Gulf, and expressing a fear lest she had come across the Empress. I thought this would have driven me beside myself. But why prolong this painful narration by attempting to describe my feelings, as day after day, week after week, and month after month passed, and no tidings came of the missing ship? From the day I parted with Eugenia, I have neither seen her nor heard from her. The noble vessel that bore her proudly away neither reached her destination, nor returned back with her precious freight. All—all found a grave in the dark depths of the ocean.
"It is a terrible thing, my friend, to be thus reft of all you hold dearest in life. If I had seen her touched by the hand of disease, and watched the rose fading from her cheek, leaf after leaf falling away, until death claimed at last his victim, I could have borne the severe affliction with some degree of fortitude. Even if she had been struck down suddenly at my side, there would have been something for the bruised heart to rest upon. But to be taken from me thus! Her fate shrouded in a most fearful mystery! Oh! it is terrible!"
And the young man set his teeth firmly, and clenched his hands, in a powerful struggle with his still o'ermastering feelings. At length he resumed, a calmer voice—
"No matter what terrors or violence attended her death—no matter how deep she lies in the unfathomable sea, her spirit is with the blessed angels, for she was pure and good. This ought to be enough for me. The agonies of a fearful departure are long since over. And why should I recall them, and break up afresh the tender wounds that bleed at the slightest touch? Henceforth I will strive to look away from the past, and onward, in pleasing hope, to that future time when we shall meet where there will be no more parting."
"She must have been a lovely creature indeed," said Milford, some minutes after his friend had ceased, holding, as he spoke, the miniature in his hand, and looking at it attentively.
"She was lovely as innocence itself," was the half abstracted reply.
"Although I never saw her, yet there is an expression in her face that is familiar"—Milford went on to say—"very familiar; but it awakens, I cannot tell why, a feeling of pain. This face is a happy face; and yet t seems every moment as if it would change into a look of sadness—yea, of deep sorrow and suffering."
"This may arise, and no doubt does, from the melancholy history connected with her, that I have just related."
"Perhaps that is the reason," Milford returned, thoughtfully. "And yet I know not how to account for the strangely familiar expression of her face."
"Did you ever see a picture in your life that had not in it some feature that was familiar?" asked Perkins.
"Perhaps not," the friend replied, and then sat in mental abstraction for some moments. He was not satisfied with this explanation, and was searching his memory for the original of that peculiar expression which had struck him so forcibly. He was sure that it did exist, and that he had looked upon it no very long time before. But he tried in vain to fix it. The impression floated still in his mind only as a vague idea.
"There! I have it!" he at length exclaimed, but with something of disappointment in his tones. "I remember that the young seamstress we were speaking of a few days ago, a single glimpse of whose face I obtained, had that very look which strikes me as familiar in this picture. I thought I had seen it somewhere else."
Perkins started, and looked surprised and agitated. But this was only momentary.
"Now you speak of her," he said, calmly, "I remember that I always thought of Eugenia when I saw her, which is no doubt the reason why I have felt strongly interested for the young stranger, who has doubtless seen better days. I related to you, I believe, the adventure I had near the bridge, in which she was concerned?"
"You did. I wonder what in the world takes her over to Charlestown so often? She goes, I believe, almost every day, and usually late in the afternoon. Several persons have spoken of her to me; but none seemed to know her errand there, or to have any knowledge of her whatever."
"There is some mystery connected with her, certainly. This afternoon I went in to make some inquiries in regard to her of Berlaps. I was just in time to hear Michael, his salesman, give her some insulting language, for which I rebuked the fellow sharply."
"Indeed! How did she take it?" said Milford.
"She did not seem to notice him, but glided quickly past, as he bent over the counter toward her, and left the store."
"Did you see her face?"
"No. Her vail was closely drawn, as usual," answered Perkins.
"I don't know why it is, but there is something about this young female that interests me very much. Have you yet learned her name?"
"It is Lizzy Glenn—so I was told at the clothing store for which she works."
"Lizzy Glenn! An assumed name, in all probability."
"Very likely. It sounds as if it might be," said Perkins.
"If I were you," remarked the friend, "I would learn something certain about this stranger; if for no other reason, on account of the singular association of her, in your involuntary thought, with Miss Ballantine. She may be a relative; and, if so, it would afford a melancholy pleasure to relieve her from her present unhappy condition, for the sake of the one in heaven."
"I have already tried to find her; but she was not at the number where Michael said she resided."
"She may not have given him the right direction," said Milford.
"So he pretends to infer. But I would rather believe that Michael has purposely deceived me than that she would be guilty of falsehood."
"If I see her again," said Milford, "I will endeavor, by all means, to discover her place of residence."
"Do, if you would oblige me. It is my purpose not to lose sight of her at our next meeting, be it where it may. Our present conversation has awakened a deeper interest, and stimulated a more active curiosity. I am no blind believer in chance, Milford. I do not regard this meeting with the stranger as something only fortuitous. There is a Providence in all the events of life, and I am now firmly assured that these encounters with the seamstress are not merely accidental, as the world regards accidents, but events in a chain of circumstances that, when complete, will result in positive good. Of the nature of that good—as to who will be blessed or benefitted—I do not pretend to divine. I only feel ready to act my part in the drama of life. I must and will know more about this stranger."
HENRY GASTON LEAVES HOME WITH SHARP.
AS little Henry, after parting with his mother, hurried on by the side of Mr. Sharp, who took his way directly across the bridge leading over to Charlestown, where he had left the chaise in which he had ridden from Lexington, a handsome carriage, containing a mother and three happy children, about the age of himself, Emma, and the sister who had just died, drove rapidly by. The children were full of spirits, and, in their thoughtless glee, called out gayly, but with words of ridicule, to the poor, meanly-clan child, who was hurrying on at almost a run beside the man who had become his master. Their words, however, were heeded not by the full-hearted boy. His thoughts were going back to his home, and to his much-loved mother.
This incident is mentioned here, as a striking illustration of the practical working of that system of grinding the poor, especially poor females, by which many men make fortunes, or at least acquire far more than a simple competence for life. That carriage belonged to Berlaps, and those happy children were his. But how could he buy a carriage and horses, and build fine houses, and yet not be able to pay more than the meagre pittance for his work that the reader has seen doled out to his half-starving workwomen? How could his children be fed and clothed sumptuously every day, and the widow, who worked for him from early dawn until the silent watches of midnight, not be able to get wholesome bread and warm garments for her little ones, unless he took more than his just share of the profits upon his goods? If he could only afford to pay seven cents for coarse shirts, and so on, in proportion, up through the entire list of articles made, how came it that the profits on these very articles enabled him to live in elegance, build houses, and keep his own carriage and horses?
Such questions apply not alone to, the single instance of Berlaps, here introduced. They are pertinent in their application to all who add to their profits for the purpose of a grand aggregate, at the expense of reducing the pay, even a few cents, upon the hard-toiling workwoman, whose slender income, at best, is barely sufficient to procure the absolute necessaries of life. This cutting down of women's wages, until they are reduced to an incompetent pittance, is a system of oppression too extensive, alas! in this, as well as many other countries. It is one of the quiet and safe means by which the strong oppress the weak—by which the selfish build themselves up, cruelly indifferent to the sufferings of those who are robbed of a just compensation for their labor. The record of a conversation overheard between two of the class alluded to will illustrate this matter. They were tailors—or, rather, what are sometimes called slop-shop, or clothing men. Let it not be supposed that tailors alone are the oppressors of workwomen. In most of the employments at which females engage, especially such as admit of a competition in labor, advantage is taken of the eager demand for work, and prices reduced to the lowest possible standard. In the eager scramble for monopolizing more than a just share of custom, or to increase the amount of sales by the temptation of extremely moderate rates, the prices of goods are put down to the lowest scale they will bear. If, in doing this, the dealer was content with a profit reduced in some proportion to the increase of his sales, no one would have a right to complain. He would be free to sell his goods at cost, or even below cost, if that suited his fancy. Instead of this, however, the profits on his articles are often the same that they were when prices were ten or fifteen per cent. higher, and he reaps the advantage of a greatly increased sale, consequent upon the more moderate rates at which he can sell. The evil lies in his cutting down his operatives' wages; in taking off of them, while they make no party to his voluntary reduction of prices, the precise amount that he throws in to his customer as a temptation to buy more freely. But to the promised dialogue—
"Money don't come in hand-over-fist, as it ought to come," remarked Grasp, of the flourishing firm of Grasp & Co., Merchant Tailors, of Boston, to the junior partner of the establishment. "The nimble sixpence is better than the slow shilling, you know. We must make our shears eat up cloth a little faster, or we sha'n't clear ten thousand dollars this year by one-third of the sum."
"Although that would be a pretty decent business these times."
"I don't call any business a decent one that can be bettered," replied Grasp, contemptuously.
"But can ours be bettered?"
"By selling more goods."
"How are we to do that?"
"By putting down the prices, and then making a confounded noise about it. Do you understand?"
"I do. But our prices are very low now."
"True. But we may reduce them still further, and, by so doing, increase our sales to an extent that will make our business net us beyond the present income quite handsomely. But, to do this, we must cut down the prices now paid for making up our clothes. In this way, we shall be able to greatly increase our sales, with but a slight reduction upon our present rates of profit."
"But will our workmen stand it? Our needlewomen, particularly, work very low now."
"They'll have to stand it!" replied Grasp; "most of them are glad to get work at any price. Women, with half a dozen hungry mouths around them, don't stand long to higgle about a few cents in a garment, when there are so many willing to step in and take their places. Besides, what are three or four cents to them on a vest, or pair of pants, or jacket? The difference in a week is small and will not be missed—or, at the worst, will only require them to economize with a little steadier hand; while upon the thousands of garments we dispose of here, and send away to other markets, it will make a most important aggregate on the right side of profit and loss."
"There is no doubt of that," replied the partner, the idea of the aggregate of three or four cents on each garment occupying his mind, and obscuring completely, for a time, every other idea. "Well, I'm with you," he said, after a little while, "in any scheme for increasing profits. Getting along at the rate of only some two or three thousand a year is rather slow work. Why, there's Tights, Screw, & Co., see how they're cutting into the trade, and carrying every thing before them. Tights told me that they cleared twenty thousand dollars last year."
"No doubt of it. And I'll make our house do the same before three years roll over, or I'm no prophet."
"If we are going to play this cutting-down game, we had better begin at once."
"Oh, certainly. The sooner the better. But first, we must arrange a reduced scale of prices, and then bring our whole tribe of workwomen and others down to it at once. It will not do to hold any parley with them. If we do, our ears will be dinned to death with trumped-up tales of poverty and distress, and all that sort of thing, with which we have no kind of concern in the world. These are matters personal to these individuals themselves, and have nothing to do with our business. No matter what prices we paid, we would have nothing but grumbling and complaint, if we allowed an open door on that subject."
"Yes, there is no doubt of that. But, to tell the truth, it is a mystery to me how some of these women get along. Very few make over two dollars a week, and some never go beyond a dollar. Many of them are mothers, and most of them have some one or more dependent upon them. Food, rent, clothes, and fuel, all have to come out of these small earnings By what hocus-pocus it is done, I must confess, puzzles me to determine."
"Oh, as to that," returned Grasp, "it is, no doubt, managed well enough. Provisions, and every thing that poor people stand in need of, are very cheap. The actual necessaries of life cost but little, you know. How far above the condition of the starving Irish, or the poor operatives in the manufacturing portions of England, is that of the people who work for us! Think of that for a moment."
"True-very true," replied the partner. "Well," ha continued, "I think we had better put the screws on to our workwomen and journeymen at once. I am tired of plodding on at this rate."
"So am I. To-night, then, after we close the store, we will arrange our new bill of prices, and next week bring all hands down to it."
And they were just as good as their word. And it happened just as they said—the poor workwomen had to submit.
But we must return from our digression.
The child who, under the practical operation of a system of which the above dialogue gives some faint idea, had to go out from his home at the tender age of ten years, because his mother, with all her hard toil, early and late, at the prices she obtained for her labor, could not earn enough to provide a sufficiency of food and clothes for her children—that child passed on, unheeding, and, indeed, unhearing the jibes of the happier children of his mother's oppressor; and endeavored, sad and sorrowful as he felt, to nerve himself with something of a manly feeling. At Charlestown, Mr. Sharp got into his chaise, and, with the lad he had taken to raise, drove home.
"Well, here is the youngster, Mrs. Sharp," he said, on alighting from his vehicle. "He is rather smaller and punier than I like, but I have no doubt that he will prove willing and obedient."
"What is his name?" asked Mrs. S., who had a sharp chin, sharp nose, and sharp features throughout; and, with all, rather a sharp voice. She had no children of her own—those tender pledges being denied her, perhaps on account of the peculiar sharpness of her temper.
"His name is Henry," replied her husband.
"Henry Gaston, I believe. Isn't that it, my boy?"
Henry replied in the affirmative. Mr. Sharp then said—
"You can go in with Mrs. Sharp, Henry. She will tell you what she wants you to do."
"Yes, come along." And Mrs. Sharp turned away as she spoke, and retired into the more interior portion of the house, followed by the boy.
"Mrs. Sharp will tell you what she wants you to do?" Yes, that' tells the story. From this hour the child is to become the drudge—the hewer of wood and drawer of water—for an unfeeling woman, whose cupidity and that of her husband have prompted them to get a little boy as a matter of saving—one who could do the errands for the shop and the drudgery for the house. There was no thought for, and regard toward the child to be exercised. He was to be to them only an economical little machine, very useful, though somewhat troublesome at times.
"I don't see that your mother has killed you with clothes," said Mrs. Sharp to him, after taking his bundle and examining it, and then surveying him from head to foot. "But I suppose she thinks they will do well enough; and I suppose they will. There, do you see that wooden pail there? Well, I want you to take it and go to the pump across the street, down in the next square, and bring it full of water."
Henry took the pail, as directed, and went and got the water. This was the beginning of his service, and was all well enough, as far as it went. But from that time he had few moments of relaxation, except what the night gave him, or the quiet Sabbath. All through the first day he was kept busy either in the house or shop, and, before night, had received two or three reprimands from Mrs. Sharp, administered in no very affectionate tones.
When night came, at last—it had seemed a very long day to him—and he was sent to bed alone, in the dark, he put off his clothes and laid himself down, unable, as he did so, to restrain the tears and sobs. Poor child! How sadly and yearningly did his heart go back to the narrow apartment, every nook and corner of which were dear to him, because his mother's presence made all sunshine there! And bow earnestly did he long to be with her again! But he soon sank away to sleep, from which he did not awaken until the half angry voice of Mrs. Sharp chided him loudly for "lazying it away" in bed until after sunrise. Quickly getting up and dressing himself, he went down and commenced upon a new day of toil. First he had to bring in wood, then to grind the coffee, afterward to bring water from the pump, and then to scour the knives for breakfast. When these were done, he was sent into the shop to see if Mr. Sharp didn't want him, where he found plenty to occupy his attention. The shop was to be sprinkled and swept out, the counter to be dusted, and various other little matters to be attended to, which occupied him until breakfast time. After he had finished this meal, Mrs. Sharp managed to find him plenty to do for some hours, and then her husband laid out work for him, at which he devoted himself all the rest of the day, except when he was wanted in the kitchen for some purpose or other. And so it continued, day after day, from morning until night. Not an hour's relaxation was allowed the child; and if, from weariness or disheartened feeling, he sometimes lingered over a piece of work, a severe scolding or some punishment from Mrs. Sharp was sure to follow.
Thus things went on, every day adding to the cold of a rapidly advancing northern winter. But Mrs. Sharp still thought, according to her first conclusions in regard to Henry's clothes, that "they would do." They were not very warm, it is true—that she could not help admitting. "But then he is used to wearing thinner clothes than other children," she reasoned, "or else his mother would have put warmer ones on him. And, any how, I see no use in letting him come right down as a dead expense upon our hands. He hasn't earned his salt yet, much less a winter suit of clothes."
But the poor little fellow was no more used to bearing exposure to the chilling winds of winter than she had been when a child. He therefore shrunk shiveringly in the penetrating air whenever forced to go beyond the door. This did not fail to meet the eye of Mrs. Sharp—indeed, her eye was rarely off of him when he was within the circle of its vision—and it always irritated her. And why? It reproved her for not providing warmer clothes for the child; and hurt her penurious spirit with the too palpable conviction that before many weeks had passed they would be compelled to lay out some money for "the brat," as she had begun frequently to designate him to her husband, especially when she felt called upon to complain of him for idleness, carelessness, dulness, stupidity, wastefulness, uncleanliness, hoggishness, or some other one of the score of faults she found in a child of ten years old, whom she put down to work as steadily as a grown person.
A single month made a great change in his external appearance; such a change as would have made him unfamiliar even to his mother's eye. While under her care, his clothes, though poor, had always been whole and clean—his skin well washed, and his hair combed smoothly. Now, the color of his thin jacket and trowsers could scarcely have been told for the dust and grease which had become imbedded in their texture. His skin was begrimed until it was many shades darker, and his hair stood stiffly about his head, in matted portions, looking as if a comb had not touched it for weeks. One would hardly have imagined that so great a change could have passed upon a boy in a few weeks as had passed over him. When he left his mother's humble abode, there was something about him that instantly attracted the eye of almost any one who looked at him attentively, and won for him favorable impressions. His skin was pure and white, and his mild blue eyes, with their expression of innocent confidence, looked every one in the face openly. Now there was something repulsive to almost every one about the dirty boy, who went moping about with soiled face and hands, a cowed look, and shrinking gait. Scarcely any one seemed to feel a particle of sympathy for him, either in or out of the house where he dwelt.
Time passed on, and New Year's day rapidly approached, the anxiously longed-for time, to which Henry had never ceased to look forward since he left his mother's presence. Every passing day seemed to render his condition more and more uncomfortable. The air grew colder and colder, and the snow lay all around to the depth of many inches. A suit of cloth clothes had been "cooked up" for him out of an old coat and trowsers that had long since been worn threadbare by Mr. Sharp. Thin though they were, they yet afforded a most comfortable substitute for those their welcome appearance had caused him to throw aside. But the pair of shoes he had worn when he left Boston were still considered good enough, if thought of at all, notwithstanding they gaped largely at the toes, and had been worn so thin in the soles that scarcely the thickness of a knife-blade lay between his feet and the snow-covered ground. In regard to sleeping, he was not much better off. His bed was of straw, upon the floor, in a large unplastered garret, and but scantily supplied with covering. Here he would creep away alone in the dark every night, on being driven away to bed from crouching beside the warm kitchen fire after his daily toil was done, and get under the thin covering with all his clothes on. There he would lie, all drawn up into a heap to keep warm, and think of his mother, and long for New Year's day to come, until sleep would lock up his senses in unconsciousness.
At last it was New Year's eve, but the poor child had heard no word about going home. He could sleep but little through that night for thinking about the promised return to his mother on the next day, and for the dread he felt lest Mr. Sharp had forgotten, or would disregard his promise. The bright morning of another new year at length arose, clear and piercingly cold, and Henry crept early from his bed, and went down stairs to make the fires as usual. When Mr. Sharp at length made his appearance, he looked wishfully and inquiringly into his face, but no notice whatever was taken of him, except to give him some order, in the usual short, rough tone in which he always addressed him.
"Ain't I going home to see my mother to-day, sir?" was on his tongue, but he feared to utter it.
After breakfast he watched every movement of Mr. Sharp, expecting each moment to see him go out and get the chaise ready to take him to Boston. But no such idea was in the mind of the thoughtless, unfeeling master. Nine, ten, and eleven o'clock came and went, and the poor child's anxious heart began to fail him. Several times he was on the point of recalling to the mind of Mr. Sharp, his promise to his mother that he should be sent home at New Year's, but as often his timid heart caused him to shrink back. At last dinner-time came, and yet nothing was said, nor were there any indications that the boy was to go home. The meal passed, and then Henry was directed to go on some errand about a mile away.
"But ain't I going home to-day, Mr. Sharp?" said he, with a sudden, despairing resolution, looking up with tearful eyes, as he spoke.
"What's that?" eagerly asked Mrs. Sharp, coming forward. "What's that, ha?"
The frightened boy slunk back, and stood with his eyes upon the floor.
"Go where, did he say, Mr. Sharp?"
"Go to see his mammy, to be sure!" replied the hatter, in a half-sneering tone of surprise.
"His mammy, indeed! And pray what put that into his head, I should like to know?"
"Mr. Sharp told mother he would send me home to see her on New Year's day," the child ventured to says in explanation.
"Clear out! Off with you, Mr. Assurance!" exclaimed Sharp, in an angry voice, at this, half raising his hand to strike the lad. "How dare you!"
Henry started back trembling, at once conscious that all hope of seeing her he had so pined to meet for many long and weary days of suffering and privation, was at an end. Slowly he left the house, shrinking in the cold blast, and went on his errand through the hard frozen snow.
"Did any one ever hear such impudence!" ejaculated Mrs. Sharp, in breathless surprise. "Sent home on New Year's day to his mammy! A pretty how-do-you-do, upon my word! the dirty little ill-conditioned brat!"
"I believe, now I come to think of it," said Sharp, "that I did say something of the kind to his mother, just to pacify her, though I had no thought of doing it; and, indeed, I don't suppose she cares any great deal about seeing him. She didn't look as if she could keep soul and body together long."
"If she wanted to see him so dreadful bad, why didn't she keep him at home with her tied all the while to her apron string?" said the unfeeling woman.
"She would have had to work a little harder to have done that. No doubt she was glad enough to get rid of the burden of supporting him."
"Well, all that I can say is, that any mother who is not willing to work to take care of her children, don't deserve to see them."
"So say I," returned the husband.
"And as to Henry's going home, I wouldn't hear to any such thing. He'd not be a bit too good to trump up any kind of stories about not being treated well, so as to prevails upon her not to let him come back. I know just how boys like him talk when they get a chance to run home. Even when they do come back, they're never worth a cent afterward."
"Oh, no! As to his going home, that is out of the question this winter," replied Sharp. "If his mother cares about seeing him, she'll find her way out here."
With a sadder heart than ever did poor Henry grope his way up into the cold garret that night, with but one thought and one image in his mind, the thought of home and the image of his mother. He dreamed of her all night. He was at home. Her tender voice was in his ear, and his head rested on her bosom. She clothed him in warmer garments, and set him beside her at the table, upon which was tempting food. But morning came at last, and he was awakened from visions of delight to a more painful consciousness of his miserable condition by the sharp, chiding voice of his cruel mistress. Slowly, with stiffened limbs and a reluctant heart did he arise, and enter upon the repulsive and hard duties of another day.
As he had not been permitted to go home, his next consolatory thought was that his mother would come out at once to see him. This hope he clung to day after day, but he clung to it in vain. It mattered not that, every-time the shop-door opened when he was in it, he turned with a quickened pulse to see if it were not his mother, or that he would pause and listen, when back in the house, to hear if the strange voice that came suddenly from the shop, were not the voice of her he so longed to see. She came not; nor was any word from her brought to him.
And thus passed the whole of the severe month of January, the long and cold winter adding greatly to his other causes of suffering.
HENRY GASTON'S TREATMENT BY SHARP.
A BOY of more robust constitution and fuller of blood than Henry Gaston, with that activity which a fine flow of animal spirits and a high degree of health give, would have cared little for the exposure to which he was subjected at Sharp's, even if clad no more comfortably. But Henry had little of that healthy warmth natural to the young. He was constitutionally delicate, and this caused him to feel more keenly the chilling intensity of the cold to which he was frequently exposed without sufficient clothing. His whole dress, intended to protect him from the cold of a remarkably severe and trying winter, was a thin shirt, the remains of one worn for nearly a year; the jacket and trowsers, thin and threadbare, that Mrs. Sharp had made for him out of some worn-out garment which her husband had thrown aside, and which were now rent in many places; a pair of dilapidated yarn stockings, with feet like a honey-comb. His shoes, the pair given him by his mother, had been half-soled once, but were again so far gone that his stockings protruded in several places, and yet neither his master nor mistress seemed to take any notice of their condition, and he was afraid to ask for a new pair. When it rained or snowed, or, worse, when it rained with or after the snow, as it had done several times within a week, his shoe were but a poor protection for his feet. The snow and water went through them as through a sieve.
Before the first of February, the poor boy was almost crippled with the chilblains. Through the day, he hobbled about as best he could, often in great pain; and at night the tender skin of his feet, irritated by the warmth of the bed, would keep him awake for hours with a most intolerable burning and itching.
"Why don't you walk straight? What do you go shuffling along in that kind of style for?" said Sharp to him one day, toward the last of January.
"My feet are so sore," replied Henry, with a look of suffering, blended with patient endurance.
"What's the matter with them, ha?" asked his master glancing down at the miserable apologies for shoes and stockings that but partially protected the child's feet front the snow whenever he stepped beyond the threshold.
"They're frosted, sir," said Henry.
"Frosted, ha? Pull off your shoes and stockings, and let me see."
Henry drew off an old shoe, tied on with various appliances of twine and leather strings; and then removed a stocking that, through many gaping holes, revealed the red and shining skin beneath. That little foot was a sight to pain the heart of any one but a cruel tyrant. The heel, in many places, was of a dark purple, and seemed as if mortification were already begun. And in some places it was cracked open, and exhibited running sores.
"Take off your other shoe and stocking," said Sharp, in authoritative tone.
Henry obeyed, trembling all the while. This foot exhibited nearly the same marks of the progress of the painful disease.
"What have you done for it?" asked Sharp, looking Henry in the face with a scowl.
"Nothing but to put a little candle-grease on it at night before I went to bed," replied the child.
"Come out here with me. I'll doctor you," said his master, turning away and disappearing through the back door. Henry followed as quickly as he could walk on his bare feet, that seemed ready to give way under him at ever step. When he got as far as the kitchen, he found Sharp waiting for him in the door.
"Here, jump out into that snow-bank!" said he, pointing to a pile of snow that had been shoveled up only that morning, after a fall through the night, and lay loose and high.
The poor boy looked down at his crippled, and, indeed, bleeding feet, and, as may well be supposed, hesitated to comply with the peremptory order.
"Do you hear, sir?" exclaimed his master, seizing him by the collar, and pushing him out into the yard. Then catching him by one arm, he set him in the centre of the snow-bank, his naked feet and legs going down into it some twelve or eighteen inches.
"Now stand there until I tell you to come out!"
The child did not scream, for he had already learned to bear pain without uttering even the natural language of suffering; although the agony he endured for the next minute was terrible. At the end of that time, a motion of the head of his master gave him to understand that the ordeal was over.
"Now take that bucket of cold water, and let him put his feet into it," said he to a little girl they had just taken to raise, and who stood near the kitchen window, her heart almost ready to burst at the cruelty inflicted upon the only one in the house with whom she had a single feeling in common.
The girl quickly obeyed, and sat down on the floor beside the bucket of water. She handled tenderly the blood-red feet of the little boy, ever and anon looking up into his face, and noting with tender solicitude, the deep lines of suffering upon his forehead.
"There, that will do," said Sharp, who stood looking on, "and now run up stairs and get a better pair of stockings for Henry."
"What do you want with a better pair of stockings?" said Mrs. Sharp, a few moments after, bustling down into the kitchen.
"Why, I want them for Henry," replied her husband.
"Want them for Henry!" she exclaimed, in surprise. "Where's the ones he had on?"
"There are some old rags in the shop that he had on; but they won't do now, with such feet as he's got."
"What's the matter with his feet, I'd like to know," inquired Mrs. Sharp.
"Why, they're frosted."
"Let him put them in snow, then. That'll cure 'em. It's nothing but a little snow-burn, I suppose."
"It's something a little worse than that," replied Sharp, "and he must have a comfortable pair of stockings. And here, Anna, do you run around to Stogies, and tell him to send me three or four pairs of coarse shoes, about Henry's size."
Anna, the little girl, disappeared with alacrity, and Mr. Sharp, turning to his wife, said:
"Henry must have a good, warm pair of stockings, or we shall have him sick on our hands."
"Well, I'll find him a pair," replied Mrs. Sharp, going off up stairs. In the mean time, Henry still sat with his feet in the cold water. But the pain occasioned by the snow was nearly all gone. Mrs. Sharp came down with the stockings, and Anna came in with the shoes at the same moment. On lifting the child's feet from the water, the redness and inflammation had a good deal subsided. Mrs. Sharp rubbed them with a little sweet oil, and then gave him the stockings to put on. He next tried the shoes; and one pair of them fitted him very well. But his feet were too sore and tender for such hard shoes; and when they were on, and tied up around the ankles, he found that after getting up they hurt him most dreadfully in his attempt to walk. But he hobbled, as best he could, into the shop.
"Throw them dirty things into the street!" were the only words addressed to him by Sharp, who pointed at his wet apologies for shoes and stockings, still lying upon the floor.
Henry did as directed, but every step he took was as if he were treading upon coals of fire. His feet, now enveloped in a closely fitting pair of woolen stockings, and galled by the hard and unyielding leather of the new shoes, itched and burned with maddening fervor.
"Here, carry this hat home," said his master, as he came in from the street, not seeming to notice the expression of suffering that was on his face, nor the evident pain with which he walked.
Henry took the hat and started out. He was but a few paces from the shop, before he found that the shoes rubbed both heels, and pressed upon them at the same time so hard as to produce a sensation at each step as if the skin were torn off. Sometimes he would stop and wait a moment or two, until the intolerable pain subsided, and then he would walk on again with all the fortitude and power of endurance he could command. In this extreme suffering, the uppermost thought in his mind, when on the street, kept his eyes wandering about, and scanning every female form that came in sight, in the ever-living hope of seeing his mother. But the sigh of disappointment told too frequently, that he looked in vain. He had not proceeded far, when the pains in his feet became so acute that he paused, and leaned against a tree-box, unable for a time to move forward a single step. While resting thus, Doctor R—, who had been called to visit a patient in Lexington, came past and noticed him. There was something about the child, although so changed that he did not recognize him, that aroused the doctor's sympathies, and he ordered his man to drive up to the pavement and stop.
"Well, my little man, what's the matter?" said he, leaning out of his carriage window.
Henry looked up into his face, but did not reply. He knew Doctor R—instantly. How strong a hope sprang up in his heart—the hope of hearing from or being taken back to his mother! The kind-hearted physician needed no words to tell him that the little boy was suffering acutely. The flushed face, the starting eye, and the corrugation of the brow, were language which he understood as plainly as spoken words.
"What ails you, my little boy!" he said in a voice of tender concern.
The feelings of Henry softened under the warmth of true sympathy expressed in the countenance and tone of Doctor R—, and still looking him steadily in the face, essayed, but in vain, to answer the question.
"Are you sick, my boy?" asked the doctor, with real and increasing concern for the poor child.
"My feet hurt me so that I can hardly walk," replied Henry, whose tongue at last obeyed his efforts to speak.
"And what ails your feet?" asked Doctor R—.
"They've been frosted, sir."
"Frosted, indeed! poor child! Well, what have you done for them?"
"Nothing—only I greased them sometimes at night; and to-day my master made me stand in the snow."
"The cruel wretch!" muttered Doctor R—between his teeth. "But can't you walk up as far as the drug store at the corner, and let me see your feet?" continued the doctor.
"Yes, sir" replied the child, though he felt that to take another step was almost impossible.
"You'll come right up, will you," urged the doctor.
"Yes, sir," returned Henry, in a low voice.
"Then I'll wait for you. But come along as quickly as you can;" and so saying, the doctor drove off. But he could not help glancing back, after he had gone on about the distance of half a square, for his heart misgave him for not having taken the little fellow into his carriage. He soon caught a glimpse of him on the sidewalk, slowly and laboriously endeavoring to work his way along, but evidently with extreme suffering. He at once gave directions to the driver to turn back; and taking Henry into the carriage, hurried on to the office. The child, when lifted in, sank back upon the seat, pale and exhausted. Doctor R—asked him no question; and when the carriage stopped, directed the driver to carry him in. He then, with his own hands, carefully removed his shoes and stockings. "My poor, poor child!" said he in pity and astonishment, on beholding the condition of Henry's feet. The harsh remedy prescribed by Sharp, if the subsequent treatment had been tender and judicious, might have been salutary; but, after it, to confine the boy's feet in hard, tight new shoes, and to send him out upon the street, was to induce a high state of inflammation, and, in the advanced state of the chilblains, to endanger mortification. Several of the large ulcerous cracks, which were bleeding freely, the doctor dressed, and then, cutting a number of short strips of adhesive plaster, he applied them to the skin over the heel and foot, in various directions, so as almost completely to cover every portion of the surface.
"How does that feel?" he asked, looking into Henry's face with an air of relief and satisfaction after he had finished the first foot.
"It feels a good deal better," replied the child, his voice and the expression of his countenance both indicating that he no longer suffered so excruciatingly as he had but a short time previously.
The other foot was soon dressed in the same way. Doctor R—then went back into the house and got a loose pair of stockings and a light pair of shoes, belonging to one of the apothecary's children, from their mother. These fitted Henry comfortably, and when he stood down upon his feet he did not experience any pain.
"That feels a good deal better, don't it?" said the doctor, smiling.
"Yes, indeed it does," and Henry looked his gratitude; and yet, blended with that look, was an expression that seemed to the doctor an appeal for protection.
"You're afraid to go back now, ain't you, since you've stayed so long?" he asked, in a tone meant to encourage the child's confidence.
"Indeed I am. Mr. Sharp will be almost sure to beat me."
"What a very devil incarnate the man must be!" muttered Dr. R—to himself, taking three or four strides across the floor. "I shall have to take the little fellow home, and browbeat his master, I suppose," he continued. Then addressing Henry, he said, aloud—
"Well, I'll take you home to him in my carriage, and settle all that for you, my little man; so don't be frightened."
Acting upon this resolution, Dr. R—soon drove up before the hatter's shop, and, lifting out Henry himself, led him into the presence of his astonished master.
"What's the matter now?" asked the latter, roughly, and with a forbidding aspect of countenance.
"The matter is simply this, sir," responded Doctor R—, firmly. "I found this little boy of yours on the street absolutely unable to get along a step further; and on taking him into the drug store above, and examining his feet, I found them in a most shocking condition! Why, sir, in twelve hours mortification would have commenced, when nothing could have saved his life but the amputation of both limbs." The sober earnestness of Doctor R—caused Sharp to feel some alarm, and he said—
"I had no idea, doctor, that he was as bad as that."
"Well, he is, I can assure you, and it is a fortunate thing that I happened to come across him. Why, I haven't seen so bad a case of chilblains these ten years."
"What ought I to do for him, doctor?" asked Sharp, in real concern.
"I have done all that is necessary at present," replied the doctor. "But he must be suffered to have rest; and, as you value his limbs, don't let him be exposed to the wet or cold until his feet are healed, and the tenderness and soreness are both gone."
"I shall attend to your direction, most certainly," said Sharp, his manner greatly changed from what it was when the doctor came in. "But, really, doctor," he continued, "I had no idea that there was any danger in getting the feet a little frosted."
"The chilblains are not only extremely painful," replied Doctor R—, "but there is great danger, where the feet are exposed to wet and cold, as Henry's must have been to get in the condition they are, of mortification supervening. That little boy will require great care, or he will stand a chance of being crippled for life. Good-morning!"
Poor Henry! How eagerly had he hung upon the doctor's words; how almost agonizing had been his desire for even the slightest intimation that he was remembered by the physician, to whose mistaken kind offices he was indebted for the place he held in the family of Sharp! But all was in vain. A dozen times he was on the eve of asking for his mother; but, as often, weak timidity held him back. In the presence of his master, fear kept him dumb. It seemed to him as if life would go out when he saw Doctor R—turn away from the shop and enter his carriage. A deep darkness fell upon his spirit.
As Doctor R—rode off in his carriage, he could not help congratulating himself on the good deed he had performed. Still he did not feel altogether satisfied about the boy. He had been so much concerned for his distressed situation, that he had failed to make any inquiries of him in regard to his friends; and for this he blamed himself, because it was clear that, if the child had friends they ought to know his condition. He blamed himself for this thoughtlessness, and a consciousness of having performed but half of his duty to the poor boy caused a shade of concern to steal over him, which he could not shake off.
And Henry, as he stood frightened in the shop, felt, as the carriage-wheels rattled away, the hope that had awakened faint and trembling in his heart, sinking into the gloom of despair. One who could have told him of his mother; one who, if he had only taken the courage to have mentioned his name, could have taken tidings of his condition to her, or perhaps would have carried him home, had been beside him for half an hour, and he had not spoken out. And now he was gone. He felt so sick and weak that he could hardly stand.
From his sad, waking dreams he was roughly startled by the loud, sharp voice of his mistress, who, attracted by the strong expressions of Doctor R—, now entered the shop, exclaiming—
"What's all this? What's that little wretch been doing now, ha?"
"I wish I'd never seen him!" muttered Sharp, but in a tone that left no doubt on the mind of his wife that something more than usually annoying had occurred.
"What's the matter? What's he been doing? Not stealing, I hope; though I shouldn't wonder."
"He's sick, and you've got to take care of him," was the dogged answer of Sharp.
"Sick! He looks sick, don't he?" The tones of the virago were full of contempt.
Any eye but hers would have seen sickness, sorrow, suffering, and want in the pale, frightened face of the poor boy, as he stood trembling beside the counter, and actually clinging to it for support.
"Who was that in here, just now?" she added.
"Doctor R—, of Boston," replied the hatter, who knew the doctor by sight very well.
"What did he want?"
"He picked Henry up in the street and took him over to the drug store at the corner. Then he brought him home in his carriage. He says that he must be taken care of, or he will become a cripple; that it's the worst case of chilblains he ever saw; and that his feet are in danger of mortification."
"I don't believe a word of it. Here I you go off up-stairs," speaking sharply, and with a threatening look to the child. "I'd like to know what business he has to come here, meddling in affairs that don't concern him."
Henry, thus spoken to, let go of the counter, by which he was sustaining himself, and attempted to move toward the door. As he did so, his face grew deadly pale. He staggered across the shop, fell against the wall, and then sank down upon the floor. Mrs. Sharp sprang toward him, not with any humane intention, we are sorry to say; but, ere she had grasped the boy's arm, and given him the purposed jerk, the sight of his ashen, lifeless face prevented the outrage. Exhausted nature could bear nothing more, and protected herself in a temporary suspension of her power. Henry had fainted, and it was well that it was so. The fact was a stronger argument in his favor than any external exhibition of suffering that could have been given.
The hatter and his wife were both alarmed at an event so unexpected by either of them. Henry was quickly removed to a chamber, and every effort made to restore him. It was not a very long time before the machinery of life was again in motion; its action, however, was feeble, as even his oppressors could see. Self-interest, and fear of consequences, if not humanity, prompted more consideration for the boy, and secured for him a few days respite. After that, the oppressed and his oppressors assumed their old relations.
LIZZY GLENN FINDS IN MRS. GASTON AN OLD FRIEND.
"I DON'T think I've seen any thing of Lizzy Glenn for a week," remarked Berlaps to his man Michael one day during the latter part of December. "Has she any thing out?"
"Yes. She has four of our finest shirts."
"How long since she took them away?"
"It's over a week—nearly ten days."
"Indeed! Then she ought to be looked after. It certainly hasn't taken her all this time to make four shirts."
"Well, I don't know. She gets along, somehow, poorly enough," replied Michael. "She's often been a whole week making four of them."
While this conversation was going on, the subject of it entered. She came in with a slow, feeble step, and leaned against the counter as she laid down the bundle of work she had brought with her. Her half-withdrawn vail showed her face to be very pale, and her eyes much sunken. A deep, jarring cough convulsed her frame for a moment or two, causing her to place her hand almost involuntarily upon her breast, as if she suffered pain there.
"It's a good while since you took these shirts out, Lizzy," said Berlaps, in a tone meant to reprove her for the slowness with which she worked.
"Yes, it is," she replied, in a low, sad tone. "I can't get along very fast. I have a constant pain in my side. And there are other reasons."
The last sentence was spoken only half aloud, but sufficiently distinct for Berlaps to hear it.
"I don't expect my workwomen," he said a little sharply, "to have any reasons for not finishing my work in good season, and bringing it in promptly. Ten days to four shirts is unpardonable. You can't earn your salt at that."
The young woman made no reply to this, but stood with her eyes drooping to the floor, and her hands leaning hard upon the counter to support herself.
Berlaps then commenced examining the shirts. The result of this examination seemed to soften him a little. No wonder; they were made fully equal to those for which regular shirt-makers receive from seventy-five cents to a dollar a piece.
"Don't you think you can make five such as these in a week—or even six?" he asked, in a somewhat changed tone.
"I'm afraid not," was the reply. "There's a good day's work on each one of them, and I cannot possibly sit longer than a few hours at a time. And, besides, there are two or three hours of every day that I must attend to other duties."
"Well, if you can't I suppose you can't," said the tailor, in a disappointed, half-offended tone, and turned away from the counter and walked back to his desk, from which he called out to his salesman, after he had stood there for about a minute—
"Pay her for them, Michael, and if you have any more ready give her another lot."
Since the sharp rebuke given by Mr. Perkins, Michael had treated Lizzy with less vulgar assurance. Sometimes he would endeavor to sport a light word with her, but she never replied, nor seemed to notice his freedom in the least. This uniform, dignified reserve, so different from the demeanor of most of the girls who worked for them, coupled with the manner of Perkins's interference for her, inspired in his mind a feeling of respect for the stranger, which became her protection from his impertinences. On this occasion, he merely asked her how many she would have, and on receiving her answer, handed her the number of shirts she desired.
As she turned to go out, Mrs. Gaston, who had just entered, stood near, with her eyes fixed upon her. She started as she looked into her face. Indeed, both looked surprised, excited, then confused, and let their eyes fall to the floor. They seemed for a moment to have identified each other, and then to have become instantly conscious that they were nothing but strangers—that such an identification was impossible. An audible sigh escaped Lizzy Glenn, as she passed slowly out and left the store. As she reached the pavement, she turned and looked back at Mrs. Gaston. Their eyes again met for an instant.
"Who is that young woman?" asked Mrs. Gaston.
"Her name is Lizzy Glenn," replied Michael.
"Do you know any thing about her?"
"Nothing—only that she's a proud, stiff kind of a creature; though what she has to be proud of, is more than I can tell."
"How long has she been working for you?"
"A couple of months or so, if I recollect rightly."
"Where does she live?" was Mrs. Gaston's next question.
"Michael gave her the direction, and then their intercourse had entire reference to business."
After the subject of this brief conversation between Mrs. Gaston and Michael left the store of Mr. Berlaps, she walked slowly in the direction of her temporary home, which was, as has before been mentioned, in an obscure street at the north end. It consisted of a small room, in an old brick house, which had been made by running a rough partition through the centre of the front room in the second story, and then intersecting this partition on one side by another partition, so as to make three small rooms out of one large one. These partitions did not reach more than two-thirds of the distance to the ceiling, thus leaving a free circulation of air in the upper and unobstructed portion of the room. As the house stood upon a corner, and contained windows both in front and on the end, each room had a window. The whole were heated by one large stove. For the little room that Lizzy Glenn occupied including fire, she paid seventy-five cents a week. But, as the house was old, the windows open, and the room that had been cut up into smaller ones a large one; and, moreover, as the person who let them and supplied fuel for the stove took good care to see that an undue quantity of this fuel was not burned she rarely found the temperature of her apartment high enough to be comfortable. Those who occupied the other two rooms, in each of which, like her own, was a bed, a couple of chairs, and a table, with a small looking-glass, were seamstresses, who were compelled, as she was, to earn a scanty subsistence by working for the slop-shops. But they could work many more hours than she could, and consequently earned more money than she was able to do. Her food—the small portion she consumed—she provided herself, and prepared it at the stove, which was common property.
On returning from the tailor's, as has been seen, she laid her bundle of work upon the bed, and seated herself with a thoughtful air, resting her head upon her hand. The more she thought, the more she seemed disturbed; and finally arose, and commenced walking the floor slowly. Suddenly pausing, at length she sighed heavily, and went to the bed upon which lay her work, took it up, unrolled the bundle, and seating herself by the table, entered once more upon her daily toil. But her mind was too much disturbed, from some cause, to permit her to pursue her work steadily. In a little while she laid aside the garment upon which she had begun to sew, and, leaning forward, rested her head upon the table, sighing heavily as she did so, and pressing one hand hard against her side, as if to relieve pain. A tap at the door aroused her from this state of abstraction. As she turned, the door was quietly opened, and the woman she had seen at the tailor's a short time before, entered. She started to her feet at this unexpected apparition, and gazed, with a look of surprise, inquiry, and hope, upon her visitor.
"Can it be Mrs. Gaston? But no! no!" and the young creature shook her head mournfully.
"Eugenia!" exclaimed Mrs. Gaston, springing forward, and instantly the two were locked in each other's arms, and clinging together with convulsive eagerness.
"But no, no! It cannot be my own Eugenia," said Mrs. Gaston, slowly disengaging herself, and holding the young woman from her, while she read over every feature of her pale, thin face. "Surely I am in a strange dream!"
"Yes, I am your own Eugenia Ballantine! my more than mother! Or, the wreck of her, which a wave of life's ever restless ocean has heaved upon the shore."
"Eugenia Ballantine! How can it be! Lost years ago at sea, how can she be in this room, and in this condition! It is impossible! And yet you are, you must be, my own dear Eugenia."
"I am! I am!" sobbed the maiden, leaning her head upon the bosom of Mrs. Gaston, and weeping until tears fell in large drops upon the floor.
"But the sea gives not up its dead," said Mrs. Gaston, in a doubting, bewildered tone.
"True—but the sea never claimed me as a victim."
"And your father?"
The maiden's face flushed a moment, while a shade of anguish passed over it.
"At another time, I will tell you all. My mind is now too much agitated and confused. But why do I find you here? And more than all, why as a poor seamstress, toiling for little more than a crust of bread and a cup of water? Where is your husband? Where are your children?"
"Three years ago," replied Mrs. Gaston, "we removed to this city. My husband entered into business, and was unsuccessful. He lost every thing, and about a year ago died, leaving me destitute. I have struggled on, since then, the best I could, but to little purpose. The pittance I have been able to earn at the miserable prices we are paid by the tailors has scarcely sufficed to keep my children from starving. But one of them"—and the mother's voice trembled—"my sweet Ella! was not permitted to remain with me, when I could no longer provide things comfortable for my little ones. A few short weeks ago, she was taken away to a better world. It was a hard trial, but I would not have her back again. And Henry, the dear boy, you remember—I have been forced to let him go from my side out into the world. I have neither seen nor heard from him since I parted with him. Emma alone remains."
Mrs. Gaston's feelings so overcame her at this relation, that she wept and sobbed for some time.
"But, my dear Eugenia!—my child that I loved so tenderly, and have so long mourned as lost," she said, at length, drawing her arm affectionately around Miss Ballantine, "in better and happier times, we made one household for more than five pleasant years. Let us not be separated now, when there are clouds over our heads and sorrow on our paths. Together we shall be able to bear up better and longer than when separated. I have a room, into which I moved a week since, that is pleasanter than this. One room, one bed, one fire, and one light, will do for two as well as one. We shall be better able to contend with our lot together. Will you come with me, Eugenia?"
"Will I not, Mrs. Gaston? Oh, to be once more with you! To have one who can love me as you will love me! One to whom I can unburden my heart—Oh, I shall be too happy!"
And the poor creature hung upon the neck of her maternal friend, and wept aloud.
"Then come at once," said Mrs. Gaston. "You have nothing to keep you here?"
"No, nothing," replied Eugenia.
"I will get some one to take your trunk." And Mrs. Gaston turned away and left the room. In a little while, she came back with a man, who removed the trunk to her humble dwelling-place. Thence we will follow them.
"And now, my dear Eugenia," said Mrs. Gaston, after they had become settled down, and their minds had assumed a more even flow, "clear up to me this strange mystery. Why are you here, and in this destitute condition? How did you escape death? Tell me all, or I shall still think myself only in the bewildering mazes of a dream."
LIZZY GLENN'S NARRATIVE TO MRS. GASTON.
WITHOUT venturing the remotest allusion to her parting with her lover, Miss Ballantine commenced her narrative by saying—
"When I left New York with my father, for New Orleans, no voyage could have promised fairer. Mild, sunny weather, with good breezes and a noble ship, that scarcely seemed to feel the deep swell of the ocean, bore us pleasantly on toward the desired port. But, when only five days out, an awful calamity befel us. One night I was awakened from sleep by a terrific crash; and in a little while the startling cry of 'The ship's on fire!' thrilled upon my ear, and sent an icy shudder to my heart. I arose from my berth, and put on my clothes hastily. By this time my father had come, dreadfully agitated, into the cabin; and while his own lips quivered, and his own voice trembled, he endeavored to quiet my fears, by telling me that there was no danger; that the ship had been struck with lightning; but that the fire occasioned thereby would readily be put out.
"When I ascended to the deck, however, I saw that we had little to hope for. While the masts and rigging were all enveloped in flame, a dense smoke was rising from the hold, indicating that the electric fluid, in its descent through the ship, had come in contact with something in the cargo that was highly combustible. Passengers and crew stood looking on with pale, horror-stricken faces. But the captain, a man of self-possession, aroused all from their lethargy by ordering, in a loud, clear voice, the masts and rigging to be cut away instantly. This order was obeyed. Over went, crashing and hissing, three noble masts, with their wealth of canvas, all enveloped in flames, quenching the heaven-enkindled fires in the ocean. Then all was breathless and silent as the grave for some moments, when a broad flash lit up the air, and revealed, for an instant, the dismantled deck upon which we stood, followed by a pealing crash that made the ship tremble. The deep silence that succeeded was broken by the voice of the captain. His tones were cheerful and confident.
"'All will now be well!' he cried. 'We are saved from fire, and our good hull will bear us safely up until we meet a passing ship.'
"'But there is fire below, captain,' said one.
"'It cannot burn without air,' he replied, in the same tone of confidence. 'We will keep the hatches closed and sealed; and it must go out.'
"This took a load from my bosom. I saw that what he said was reasonable. But when daylight came, it showed the smoke oozing out through every crevice in the deck. The floors, too, were hot to the feet, and indicated An advanced state of the fire within. All was again terror and confusion, but our captain still remained self-possessed. He saw that every hope of saving the ship was gone; and at once ordered all the boats made ready, and well stored with provisions. To the first and second mates, with a portion of the crew, he assigned two of the boats, and in the third and largest he embarked himself with four stout men and the passengers, twelve in all. The sky was still overcast with clouds, and the sea rolled heavily from the effects of the brief but severe storm that had raged in the night. Pushing off front the doomed vessel, we lingered near for a couple of hours to see what her fate would be. At the end of that time, the dense smoke which had nearly hidden her from our view, suddenly became one enveloping mass of flame. It was a beautiful, yet appalling sight, to see that noble vessel thus burning upon the breast of the sea! For nearly an hour her form, sheeted in fire, stood out distinctly against the face of the sky, and then she went down, and left only a few charred and mutilated fragments afloat upon the surface to tell of her doom.
"During the night that followed, it stormed terribly, and in it our boat was separated from the other two. We never met again, and for all I have ever learned to the contrary, those that were saved in them from the burning ship perished from hunger, or were overwhelmed by some eager wave of the ocean.
"The four men of the ship's crew, with the captain and male passengers, labored alternately at the oars, but with little effect. Heavy seas, and continued stormy weather, rendered of little avail all efforts to make much headway toward any port. Our main hope was that of meeting with some vessel. But this hope mocked us day after day. No ship showed her white sails upon the broad expanse of waters that stretched, far as the eye could reach, in all directions. Thus ten days passed, and our provisions and water were nearly exhausted. Three of the passengers had become already very ill, and all of us were more or less sick from exposure to the rain and sea. On the twelfth day, two of our number died and were cast overboard. Others became sick, and by the time we had been floating about thus for the space of twenty days, only four of the twelve remained. Most of them died with a raging fever. The captain was among the number, and there was now no one to whom we could look with confidence. My father still lived though exceedingly ill. Our companions were now reduced to a young man and his sister.
"A bag of biscuit still remained, and a small portion of water. Of this, none but myself could eat. The rest were too sick. Three days more passed, and I was alone with my father! The brother and his sister died, and with my own hands I had to consign them to their grave in the sea. I need not attempt to give any true idea of my feelings when I found myself thus alone, with my father just on the brink of death, afar in the midst of the ocean. He was unconscious; and I felt that I was on the verge of delirium. A strong fever made the blood rush wildly through my veins, causing my temples to throb as if they would burst. From about this time consciousness forsook me. I can recollect little more until I found myself lying in a berth, on board of a strange vessel. I was feeble as an infant. A man, with the aspect of a foreigner, sat near me. He spoke to me, but in a foreign tongue. I understood, and could speak French, Spanish, and Italian; but I had never studied German, and this man was a Hollander. Of course, I understood but a word here and there, and not sufficient to gain any intelligence from what he said, or to make him comprehend me, except when I asked for my father. Then he understood me, and pointing across the cabin, gave me to know that my father was with me in the the ship, though very sick.
"Small portions of nourishing food were now offered at frequent intervals; and, as my appetite came back keenly, and I took the scanty supply that was allowed me, I gradually gained strength. In a week I was able to leave my berth, and to walk, with the assistance of the captain of the vessel, for he it was whom I had first seen on the restoration of consciousness, to the state-room in which my father lay. Oh! how he had changed! I hardly recognized him. His face had grown long and thin, his eyes were sunken far back in his head, and his hair, that had been scarcely touched with the frosts of age when we left New York, was white! He did not know me, although he looked me feebly in the face. The sound of my voice seemed to rouse him a little, but he only looked at me with a more earnest gaze, and then closed his eyes. From this time I was his constant nurse, and was soon blessed with finding him gradually recovering. But as health came back to his body, it was too appallingly visible that his reason had been shattered. He soon came to know me, to speak to me, and to caress me, with more than his usual fondness; but his mind was—alas! too evidently—imbecile. As this state of mental alienation showed itself more and more distinctly, on his gradually acquiring physical strength, it seemed as if the painful fact would kill me. But we are formed to endure great extremes of bodily and mental anguish. The bow will bend far before it breaks.
"After I had recovered so as to leave my berth entirely, and when, I suppose, the captain thought it would be safe to question me, he brought a map, and indicated plainly enough that he wished me to point out the country I was from. I laid my hand upon the United States. He looked surprised. I glanced around at the ship, and then pointed to the map with a look of inquiry. He placed his finger near the Island of St. Helena. It was now my turn to look surprised. By signs I wished him to tell me how we should get back; and he indicated, plainly enough, that he would put us on board of the first vessel he met that was returning either to Europe or the United States, or else would leave us at the Cape of Good Hope. But day after day passed, and we met no returning vessel. Before we reached the Cape, a most terrific storm came on, which continued many days, in which the ship lost two of her masts, and was driven far south. It seemed to me as if my father and I had been doomed to perish in the ocean, and the sea would not, therefore, relinquish its prey. It was ten or twelve days before the storm had sufficiently abated to leave the vessel manageable in the hands of the captain and crew, and then the captain's reckoning was gone. He could get his latitude correctly, but not his longitude, except by a remote approximation. His first observation, when the sky gave an opportunity, showed us to be in latitude forty-five degrees south. This he explained to me, and also the impracticability of now making the Cape, pointing out upon the map the Swan River Settlement in Australia as the point he should endeavor first to make. A heavy ship, with but one mast, made but slow progress. On the third day another storm overtook us, and we were driven before the gale at a furious rate. That night our vessel stuck and went to pieces. Six of us escaped, my father among the rest, and the captain, in a boat, and were thrown upon the shore of an uninhabited island. In the morning there lay floating in a little protected cove of the island barrels of provisions, as pork, fish, bread, and flour, with chests, and numerous fragments of the ship, and portions of her cargo. The captain and sailors at once set about securing all that could possibly be rescued from the water, and succeeded in getting provisions and clothing enough to last all of us for many months, if, unfortunately, we should not earlier be relieved from our dreadful situation. My father had become strong enough to go about and take care of himself, but his mind was feebler, and he seemed more like an old man in his second childhood than one in the prime of life as he was. He was not troublesome to any one, nor was there any fear of trusting him by himself. He was only like an imbecile old man—and such even the captain thought him.
"A thing which I failed to mention in its place, I might as well allude to here. On recovery from that state of physical exhaustion in which the humane captain of the Dutch East Indiaman had found me, my hand rested accidentally upon the pocket of my father's coat, which hung up in the state-room that had been assigned to them. His pocket-book was there. It instantly occurred to me to examine it, and see how much money it contained, for I knew that, unless we had money, before getting back, we would be subjected to inconvenience, annoyance, and great privation; and as my father seemed to be so weak in mind, all the care of providing for our comfort, I saw, would devolve upon me. I instantly removed the pocket-book, which was large. I found a purse in the same pocket, and took that also. With these I retired into my own state-room, and fastening the door inside, commenced an examination of their contents. The purse contained twenty eagles; and in the apartments of the pocket-book were ten eagles more, making three hundred dollars in gold. In bank bills there were five of one thousand dollars each, ten of one hundred dollars, and about two hundred dollars in smaller amounts, all of New York city banks. These I took and carefully sewed up in one of my under garments, and also did the same with the gold. I mention this, as it bears with importance upon our subsequent history.
"A temporary shelter was erected; a large pole with a white flag fastened to it, as a signal to any passing vessel, was set up; and the captain, with two of his men, set out to explore the island. They were gone for two days. On returning, they reported no inhabitants, but plenty of good game, if any way could be devised to take it. No vessel appearing, after the lapse of some twelve or fifteen days, the men set about building for us a more comfortable place of shelter. One of these men had been a carpenter, and as an axe and saw, and some few tools, had come ashore on pieces of the wreck, and in chests, he was enabled to put up a very comfortable tenement, with an apartment for me partitioned off from the main room.
"Here we remained for I can scarcely tell how long. It was, I believe, for about a year and a half; during which time two of the men died, and our party was reduced to four. About this period, when all of us began to feel sick from hope deferred, and almost to wish that we might die, a heavy storm came up, with wind from the north-west, and blew heavily for three or four days. On the morning of the fourth day, when the wind had subsided, a vessel, driven out of her course, was seen within a few leagues of the land. Signals were instantly made, and our eyes gladdened by the sight of a boat which was put off from the ship. In this we soon embarked, and, with a sensation of wild delight, found ourselves once more treading the deck of a good vessel. She was an English merchantman, bound for Canton. We made a quick passage to that port, where we found a vessel just ready to sail for Liverpool. In this I embarked, with my father, who still remained in the same sad state of mental derangement. No incident, worthy of referring to now, occurred on our passage to Liverpool, whence we embarked for New Orleans, at which place we arrived, after having been absent from our native land for the long space of nearly three years! How different were my feelings, my hopes, my heart, on the day I returned to that city eight years from the time I left it as a gay child, with the world all new and bright and beautiful before me! I need not draw the contrast. Your own thoughts can do that vividly enough.
"You can scarcely imagine the eagerness with which I looked forward to an arrival in my native city. We had friends there, and a fortune, and I fed my heart with the pleasing hope that skillful physicians would awaken my father's slumbering reason into renewed and healthy activity. Arrived there at last, we took lodgings at a hotel, where I wrote a brief note to my father's partner, in whose hands all the business had been, of course, during our absence, stating a few facts as to our long absence and asking him to attend upon us immediately. After dispatching this note, I waited in almost breathless expectation, looking every moment to see Mr. Paralette enter. But hour after hour passed, and no one came. Then I sent notes to two or three of my father's friends, whom I recollected, but met with no response during the day. All this strange indifference was incomprehensible to me. It was, in part, explained to my mind on the next morning, when one of the persons to whom I had written called, and was shown up into our parlor by request. There was a coldness and reserve about him, combined with a too evident suspicion that it was not all as I had said. That my father was not Mr. Ballantine, nor I his daughter—but both, in fact, impostors! And certain it is that the white-headed imbecile old man bore but little resemblance to the fine, manly, robust form, which my father presented three years before. The visitor questioned and cross-questioned me; and failed not to hint at what seemed to him discrepancies, and even impossibilities in my story. I felt indignant at this; at the same time my heart sank at the suddenly flashing conviction that, after all our sufferings and long weary exile from our home, we should find ourselves but strangers in the land of our birth—be even repulsed from our own homestead.
"Our visitor retired after an interview of about half an hour, giving me to understand pretty plainly that he thought both my father and myself impostors. His departure left me faint and sick at heart. But from this state I aroused myself, after a while, and determined to go and see Mr. Paralette at once. A servant called a carriage, and I ordered the driver to take me to the store of Ballantine & Paralette.
"'There is no such firm now, madam,' he said; 'Mr. Ballantine was lost at sea some years ago. It is Paralette & Co. now.'
"'Drive me there, then,' I said, in a choking voice.
"In a few minutes the carriage stopped at the place I had designated, and I entered the store formerly kept by my father. Though I had been absent for eight years, yet every thing looked familiar, and nothing more familiar than the face of Mr. Paralette, my father's partner. I advanced to meet him with a quick step; but his look of unrecognition, and the instant remembrance that he had not attended to my note, and moreover that it had been plainly hinted to me that I was an impostor, made me hesitate, and my whole manner to become confused.
"'Eugenia Ballantine is my name,' said I, in a quivering voice. 'I dropped you a note yesterday, informing you that my father and I had returned to the city.'
"He looked at me a moment with a calm, severe, scrutinizing gaze, and then said—
"'Yes, I received your note, and have this moment seen Mr.—, who called upon you. And he corroborates the instant suspicion I had that your story could not be correct. He tells me that the man whom you call your father resembles Moses a great deal more than he does the late Mr. Ballantine. So you see, madam, that your story won't go for any thing here.'
"There was something cold and sneering in the tone, manner, and expression of Mr. Paralette that completely broke me down. I saw, in an instant, that my case was hopeless, at least for the time. I was a lone, weak woman, and during an absence of eight years from my native city, I had grown up from a slender girl into a tall woman, and had, from suffering and privation, been greatly changed, and my countenance marred even since I had attained the age of womanhood. Under these circumstances, with my father changed so that no one could recognize him, I felt that to make my strange story believed would be impossible. From the presence of Mr. Paralette I retired, and went back to the hotel, feeling as if my heart would break. Oh, it was dreadful to be thus repulsed, and at home, too I tried only twice more to make my story believed; failing in these efforts, I turned all my thoughts toward the restoration of my father to mental health, believing that, when this was done, he, as a man, could resume his own place and his true position. I had over six thousand dollars of the money I had taken from my father's pocket-book, and which I had always kept so completely concealed about my person, that no one had the least suspicion of it. Five thousand of this I deposited on interest, and with the residue took a small house in the suburbs of the city, which I furnished plainly, and removed into it with my father. I then employed two of the most skillful physicians in the city, and placed him in their hands, studiously concealing from them our real names and history. For eighteen months he was under medical treatment, and for at least six months of that time in a private insane hospital. But all to no effect. Severe or lenient treatment all ended in the same result. He continued a simple, harmless old man, fond of me as a child is of his mother, and looking up to and confiding in me for every thing.
"At the end of the period I have indicated, I found my means had become reduced to about three thousand dollars. This awoke in my bosom a new cause of anxiety. If my father should not recover his reason in two or three years, I would have nothing upon which to support him, and be compelled to see him taken to some public institution for the insane, there to be treated without that tenderness and regard which a daughter can exercise toward her parent. This fear haunted me terribly.
"It was near the end of the period I have named, that I met with an account of the Massachusetts Insane Hospital, situated in Charlestown in this State. I was pleased with the manner in which patients were represented to be treated, and found that, by investing in Boston the balance of my little property, the income would be sufficient to pay for my father's maintenance there. As for myself, I had no fear but that with my needle, or in some other way, I could easily earn enough to supply my own limited wants. A long conference with one of the physicians who had attended my father, raised my hopes greatly as to the benefits which might result from his being placed in an institution so well conducted.
"As soon as this idea had become fully formed in my mind, I sold off all our little stock of furniture, and with the meager supply of clothing to which I had limited myself, ventured once more to try the perils of the sea. After a quick passage, we arrived in Boston. My father I at once had placed in the asylum, after having invested nearly every dollar I had in bank stock, the dividends from which were guaranteed to the institution for his support, so long as he remained one of its inmates. This was early in the last fall. I had then but a few dollars left, and no income. I was in a strange city, dependent entirely upon my own resources. And what were they? 'What am I to do? Where am I to go for employment?' were questions I found hard indeed to answer. Twenty dollars were all I possessed in the world; and this sum, at a hotel, would not last me, I knew, over two or three weeks. I therefore sought out a private boarding-house, where, under an assumed name, I got a room and my board for two dollars a week. The woman who kept the boarding-house, and to whom I communicated my wish to get sewing, gave me half a dozen plain shirts to make for her husband, for which I received fifty cents each. This was all the work I obtained during the first two weeks I was in the house, and it yielded me only three dollars, when my boarding cost me four. I felt a good deal discouraged after that. I knew no one to whom I could go for work—and the woman with whom I boarded could not recommend me to any place, except to the clothing-stores: but they, she said, paid so badly that she would not advise me to go there, for I could not earn much over half what it would cost me for my board. Still, she added, 'half a loaf is better than no bread.' I felt that there was truth in this last remark, and, therefore, after getting the direction of a clothing-store, I went there and got a few pairs of coarse trowsers. This kind of work was new to me. In my ignorance, I made some portion of them wrong, for which I received abuse from the owner of the shop, and no money. He was not going, he said, to pay me for having his work spoiled.
"Dreadfully disheartened, I returned to my lodgings, and set myself to ponder over some other means of support. I had been, while at school, one of the best French and Spanish scholars in the seminary. I had also given great attention to music, and could have taught it as skillfully as our musical professor. But five years had passed since I touched the keys of a piano or harp, and I had not, during that time, spoken a dozen words in any language except my native tongue. And, even if I had retained all my former skill and proficiency, my appearance was not such as to guarantee me, as a perfect stranger, any favorable reception either from private families or schools. So anxious had I been to make the remnant of my father's property, which a kind Providence had spared to us, meet our extreme need, that I denied myself every thing that I could possibly do without. Having no occasion to go into society, for no one would recognize me as Eugenia Ballantine, I had paid little regard to my external appearance, so far as elegant and fashionable apparel was concerned. I bought sparingly, and chose only plain and cheap articles. My clothes were, therefore, not of a kind, as you may yourself see, to give me, so far as they were concerned, a passport to consideration.
"As two dollars a week would, I knew, in a very short time, exhaust my little stock of money, I determined to try and rent a room somewhere, at the lowest possible rate, and buy my own food. I eat but a little, and felt sure that, by making this arrangement, I could subsist on one dollar a week instead of two, and this much it seemed as if I must be able to earn at something or other. On the day after I formed this resolution I met, in my walks about the city for the purpose, with the room where you found me, for which I paid seventy-five cents a week. There I removed, and managed to live on about one dollar and a quarter a week, which sum, or, at the worst, seventy-five cents or a dollar a week, I have since earned at making fine shirts for Mr. Berlaps at twenty-five cents each. I could have done better than that, but every day I visit my father, and this occupies from two to three hours."
"And how is your father?" asked Mrs. Gaston, wiping her tearful eyes, as Eugenia paused, on ending her narrative.
"He seems calmer, and much more serious and apparently thoughtful since he has been in this institution," Eugenia replied, with something of cheerfulness in her tone. "He does not greet my coming, as he did at first, with childish pleasure, but looks at me gravely, yet with tenderness, when I enter; and, when I go away, he always asks if I will 'come again to-morrow.' He did not do this at first."
"But have you not written to Mr. Perkins since your return?" asked Mrs. Gaston.
Eugenia became instantly pale and agitated. But recovering herself with an effort, she simply replied—
"How could I? To him I had, years before, been lost in the sea. I could not exist in his mind, except as one in the world of spirits. And how did when I came back, or how do I know now, that he has not found another to fill that place in his heart which I once occupied? On this subject I dared make no inquiry. And, even if this were not the case, I am not as I was. I had fortune and social standing when he wooed and won me. Now I am in comparative indigence, and branded as an impostor in my native city. If none recognized and received us in our own home, how could I expect him to do so? And to have been spurned as a mere pretender by him would have broken my heart at once."
Eugenia was greatly moved by this allusion to her former lover and affianced husband. The subject was one upon which she had never allowed herself to thinks except compulsorily, and but for a few moments at a time. She could not bear it. After a silence of some moments, Mrs. Gaston said—
"I have not met with or heard of Mr. Perkins for some years. He remained in Troy about six months after you went away, and, during that period, I saw him very frequently. Your loss seemed, for a time, as if it would destroy his reason. I never saw any one suffer such keen mental distress as he did. The fearful uncertainty that hung around your fate racked his mind with the intensest anguish. At the end of the time I have mentioned, he went to New York, and, I was told, left that city a year afterward; but, whether it is so or not, I never learned. Indeed, I am entirely ignorant as to whether he is now alive or dead. For years I have neither heard of him nor seen him."