The store at Fairview was sold out, and Mrs. Parker permitted to spend a week with her sisters before parting with them, perhaps, forever. When the final moment of separation came it seemed to her like a death-parting. The eyes of Rachel lingered upon each loved countenance, as if for the last time, and when these passed from before her bodily visions, love kept them as distinct as ever, but distinct in their tearful sadness.
If the wishes and feelings of Rachel Parker had been consulted—if she had been at all considered and her true feelings and character justly appreciated—a removal to the West would never have been determined upon. But her husband's mind was all absorbed in ideas of worldly things. Not possessing the habits and qualities of mind that ensure success in any calling, he was always oppressed with the consciousness that he was either standing still, or going behind-hand. Instead of seeking to better his condition by greater activity, energy, and concentration of thought upon his business, he was ever looking to something beyond it, and to change of place and pursuit as the means of improving his fortunes. This at last, as has been seen, led him off to the West in the ardent hope of becoming in time a wealthy farmer. In an inverse ratio to the hopeful elevation of spirits with which Parker set out upon his journey was the sorrowful depression experienced by his wife. But Rachel kept meekly and patiently her feelings to herself. It was her duty, she felt, to go with her husband. She had united her fortunes with his, and without murmuring or complaining, she was ready to go with him through the world and to stand bravely up by his side in any and all circumstances.
After a journey of five weeks, Benjamin Parker and his wife, with their family of three children, arrived at their new home in the West. It was early in the spring. The main body of the farm, which was densely wooded, lay upon the eastern bank of a small, sluggish river, with broad, marshy bottom-lands. The cabin, which had been put up the year before on a small clearing, stood on an eminence just above this river, and was five miles away from any other human habitation. It consisted of two rooms and a small loft above. One of these rooms had only a ground floor. The windows were not glazed. The last thirty miles of the journey to this wild region had been performed in a wagon, which contained their furniture and a small supply of provisions.
The first night spent in this lonely, cheerless place was one that brought no very pleasant reflections to either Parker or his wife. He was disappointed in his expectations, and she felt as if a heavy hand were pressing upon her bosom.
But there they were, and the only thing for them to do was to make the best of what was in their hands. Parker obtained an assistant and went to work to prepare the cleared ground for spring crops, and his wife, with a babe at her breast and no help, assumed all the duties pertaining to her family. In cooking, washing, milking, sewing, etc., she found enough to occupy all her time late and early. It was a rare thing for her to lay her head upon her pillow without extreme weariness and even exhaustion.
Time went on, and they began to reap the first fruits of their industry. The wilderness and solitary place blossomed. The little clearing widened gradually its circle, and many little comforts, at first wanting, were obtained. Still they suffered many privations and Mrs. Parker far more than her husband imagined.
The first summer, hot and sultry, drew near to its close. Thus far they had been blessed with health. But now slight headache, nausea, and a general feeling of debility were experienced by all. The first to show symptoms of serious illness was the oldest child. She was nearly five years of age, her name was Rachel, and she was aptly named, for she was the image of her mother. The bright eyes, sweet, loving face, and happy voice of little Rachel, that was heard all day long, lightened the mother's toil, refreshed her spirits, and often made her forget the loneliness and seclusion in which they lived. She was like a cool spring in the desert, a bright flower in a barren waste, a ray of sunshine from a wintry sky.
Little Rachel was the first to droop. Saturday was always the busiest day of the week; it was the day of preparation for the Sabbath; for even separate and lonely as they were, this family sacredly regarded the Sabbath as a day of rest from worldly care and labor. It was Saturday, and Mrs. Parker, in the more earnest attention which she gave to her household duties, did not notice that the child was more quiet than usual; nor did the fact of finding her fast asleep on the floor when dinner was ready, cause any thing further than a thought that she had tired herself out with play. At night she refused her supper, and then it was observed for the first time that her eyes were heavy, her hands hot, and that she was affected with a general languor. Her mother undressed her and put her to bed, and the child sank off immediately into a heavy sleep. For some time Mrs. Parker stood bending over her with a feeling of unusual tenderness for the child. She also felt concern, but not arising from any definite cause. The fear of extreme sickness and impending death she had not yet known. That was one of the lessons she had still to learn.
In the morning little Rachel awoke with a severe chill, accompanied by vomiting. A raging fever succeeded to this. The parents became alarmed, and Mr. Parker started off on horseback, for a physician, distant about seven miles. It was noon when the doctor arrived. He did not say much in answer to the anxious questions of the mother, but administered some medicine and promised to call on the next day. At his second visit he found nothing favorable in the symptoms of his little patient. Her fever was higher than on the day before. There had been a short intermission after midnight, which lasted until morning, when it had returned again greatly exacerbated.
Nine days did the fever last without the abatement of a single symptom, but rather a steady increase of all. The little sufferer had not only the violence of a dangerous disease to bear, but there was added to this a system of medical treatment that of itself, where no disease existed, would have made the child extremely ill. In the first place large doses of mercury were given, followed by other nauseous and poisonous drugs; then copious bleeding was resorted to; and then the entire breast of the child was covered with a blister that was kept on until the whole surface of the skin was ready to peel off. Afterward the head was shaved and blistered. During all this time, medicines that the poor sufferer's stomach refused to take were forced down her throat, almost hourly! If there had been any hope of escape from the fever, this treatment would have made death certain.
At the close of the ninth day the physician informed the parents that he could do no more for their child. When Mrs. Parker received this intelligence, there was little change in her external appearance, except that her pale, anxious face grew slightly paler. She tried to say in her heart, as she endeavored to lift her spirit upward—"Thy will be done." But she failed in the pious effort. It was too much to take from her this darling child; this companion of her loneliness; this blossom so gently unfolding and loading the desert air with soul-refreshing sweetness. It was too much—she bowed her spirit in meek endurance, but she could not say—"Thy will be done."
Little Rachel died. The father dug her grave near by their humble dwelling; he made the rough coffin in which they enclosed her; and then bore out the body and laid it in the ground, while the weeping mother stood by his side. Sole mourners were they at these sad funereal rites. No holy words from the book of consolation were read, no solemn hymn was sung—all was silence, heart-oppressing silence.
On the succeeding day Parker had to go for the physician again. His next child was taken sick. His wife was far from being well, and he felt strangely. After the doctor had prescribed for the family, and was about leaving, he took Mr. Parker to an eminence overlooking the river that bounded his farm on the western side, and spoke to him thus:
"My friend, do you see that river, with more than half of its muddy bed exposed to the hot sun? Your farm lies upon its eastern side, and the poisonous miasma that arises from its surface and banks is steadily blown upon you by the south-westerly and westerly winds of summer. Is it any wonder that your family have become sick? I wouldn't live here if you would give me fifty farms like this! Already a whole family have died on this spot, and your's will be the next if you do not leave immediately. You have lost one child; let that suffice. Flee from this place as hurriedly as Lot fled from Sodom. Medical aid I solemnly believe to be useless while you remain here. The village of A— is healthy. Remove your wife and children there immediately. Do not wait for a single day. It is the only hope for their lives."
A warning like this was not a thing to be let go by unheeded. Parker promptly announced to his wife what the doctor had communicated, and ended by saying—
"We must go at once."
"And leave Rachel?" she returned, sadly.
"Our staying here cannot do her any good," replied the husband, in a choking voice.
"I know—I know," quickly answered the mother. "I am weak and foolish. Yes—yes—we had better go."
A few hours sufficed for all needful preparations, and then, with his wife and children in his wagon, Parker mounted one of the horses and drove off for the village of A—, distant a little over ten miles. As they moved away the mother's eyes were turned back upon the little mound of earth beneath which slept the body of her precious child, and remained fixed upon that one spot until by intervening trees all was hidden from her sight. Then her eyes closed, and she leaned her head down against the side of the wagon, while her arm tightened its hold of the babe that was sleeping on her bosom. For a long time she remained lost to all that was around her. Years afterward she said to a friend that the severest trial of her whole life was in leaving her child alone in that wild, desolate place. It seemed as if the little one must feel the desertion.
At the town of A— Parker and his family obtained accommodations in a poor tavern, where they remained for six weeks, during which time every one suffered more or less severely from fevers, contracted in the poisoned atmosphere in which they had been residing. During the time that Parker remained at A— he obtained more information in regard to Western life, and the prospects of a man like himself getting ahead, as a farmer on wild lands than he had ever before had. He learned, too, some particulars about his own farm, of which he was before ignorant. All along the river upon which it was situated, the fall sickness swept off every new-comer, and was in very many instances fatal to the oldest residents. He was assured that if he went back there to live before frost set in, it would be almost certain death.
The loss of his oldest and best-beloved child; the bad location of his farm; and the new and more correct views he had received on the subject of Western life, completely opened the eyes of Parker to the folly he had committed.
"If I could make any thing like a fair sale of my farm, I think I would let it go, and return to the East," he said to his wife, after they had all recovered from the worst effect of the fevers from which they had been suffering.
"If you could do as well at the East, Benjamin, I think we would all be happier there," Rachel replied, in her usual quiet way. Her husband did not notice that the tears sprang instantly to her eyes, nor did he know with what a quick throb her heart answered to his words.
A short time after this, Parker was fortunate enough to meet with a purchaser for his land, who was willing to take it with all its improvements at government price. With seven hundred dollars, the remnant of his property, after an absence of eight months, Parker returned to the East a wiser man, and his wife a more thoughtful, pensive, absent-minded woman. The loss of little Rachel was a sad thing for her. She could not get over it. It would have been some comfort to her if they could have brought back the child's remains, and buried them where her mother had slept for years, and where the body of her father had been so recently laid; but to leave her alone in the wild region where they had buried her, was something of which she could not think without a pang.
On the small sum of money which he had brought back from his western adventure, Parker recommenced his old business in the very town where he lived, and in the store that he occupied at the time of his marriage. As his means were more contracted, he could not do as good a business as the one he had been so foolish as to give up several years before, and he soon fell into his old habit of complaining and perhaps now with more cause. To such complaints his meek-tempered wife would reply in some words of encouragement and comfort, as—
"You do the best you can, and that is as much as can be expected of any one. You plant and sow—the Lord must send the rain and the sunshine."
Back in the old place and among her loving sisters, the heart of Mrs. Parker felt once more the warm sunshine upon it—the gentle dews and the refreshing rain. But a year or two only elapsed before her husband determined to seek some better fortune in another place. Without a complaining word his wife went with him, but her cheek grew paler and thinner afterward, her step slower and her voice even to the ear of her husband sadder. But he was too much absorbed in his efforts to get along in the world to be able to see clearly the true condition of his wife, or, if he at all understood it, to be aware of the cause.
Their new location proved to be an unhealthy one, and the loss of another child drove them away, after a residence of a year. Mrs. Parker suffered here severely from intermittent fever. She was just able to go about when her husband declared his intention to leave the place on account of its being sickly.
"Where do you think of going?" she asked, raising to his her large pensive eyes.
"I have hardly made up my mind yet," he replied. "But I was thinking of R—."
Rachel's eyes fell to the floor, and a gentle sigh escaped from her bosom. This was noticed by her husband.
"Have you any objection to R—?" he asked.
"Why not go back to the old place?" Rachel ventured to say, while her eyes were again fixed upon him, but now earnestly and tearfully.
"Would you rather live there?" he asked, with more than usual tenderness in his voice.
"I have never been happy since we left there," the poor wife replied, sinking forward and biding her tearful face on his breast.
Parker was confounded. He had never dreamed of this. Rachel had always so patiently acquiesced in all that he had proposed to do, that he had imagined her as willing to remove from one place to another as he had been. But now a new truth flashed upon his mind—"Never been happy since we left there?"
"We will go back, Rachel," he said, with some emotion. "If I had only known this!"
And they went back. But somehow or other Rachel Parker did not recover the healthy tone of body or mind that she had lost. By strict attention to business and continuing at it for some years in one place, her husband got along well enough, though he did not get rich. As for Rachel, she gradually declined and three years after her return was laid at rest.
THE SUM OF TRIFLES:
OR, "A PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY GAINED."
BY T. S. ARTHUR.
"SAVING? Don't talk to me about saving!" said one journeyman mechanic to another. "What can a man with a wife and three children save out of eight dollars a week?"
"Not much, certainly," was replied. "But still, if he is careful, he may save a little."
"Precious little!" briefly returned the other, with something like contempt in his tone.
"Even a little is worth saving," was answered to this. "You know the old proverb, 'Many littles make a mickle.' Fifty cents laid by every week will amount to twenty-six dollars in a year."
"Of course, that's clear enough. And a dollar saved every week will give the handsome sum of fifty-two dollars a year. Bat how is the half-dollar or the dollar to be saved, I should like to know? I can't do it, I am sure."
"I can, then, and my family is just as large as yours, and my wages no higher."
"If you say so, I am bound to believe you, but I must own myself unable to see how you do it. Pray, how much do you save?"
"I have saved about seventy-five dollars a year for the last two years."
"You have!" in surprise.
"Yes, and I have it all snugly in the Savings' Bank."
"Bless me! How have you possibly managed to do this? For my part, it is as much as I can do to keep out of debt. My wife is as hard-working, saving a woman as is to be found anywhere. But all won't do. I expect my nose will be at the grindstone all my life."
"How much does your tobacco cost you, Johnson?" asked his companion.
"Nothing, to speak of. A mere trifle," replied the man named Johnson.
"A shilling a week?"
"And you take something to drink, now and then?"
"Nothing but a little beer. I never use any thing stronger."
"I suppose you never take, on an average, more than a glass a day?"
"No, nor that."
"But you occasionally ask a friend to take a glass with you?"
"Of course, that is a thing we all must do, sometimes—"
"Which will make the cost to you about equal to a glass a day?"
"I suppose it will; but that's nothing."
"Six glasses a week at sixpence each, will make just the sum of three shillings, which added to the cost of tobacco, will make fifty cents a week for beer and tobacco, or what would amount to a hundred dollars and over in four years."
"Dear knows, a poor mechanic has few enough comforts without depriving himself of trifles like these," said Johnson.
"By giving up such trifles as these, for trifles they really are, permanent and substantial comforts may be gained. But, besides chewing tobacco and drinking beer, you indulge yourself in a plate of oysters, now and then, do you not?"
"Certainly I do. A hard-working man ought to be allowed to enjoy himself a little sometimes."
"And this costs you two shillings weekly?" said the persevering friend.
"At least that," was replied.
"How often do you take a holiday to yourself?"
"Not often. I do it very rarely."
"Not oftener than once a month?"
"Yes, I suppose I take a day for recreation about once in a month, and that is little enough, dear knows."
"You spend a trifle at such times, of course?"
"Never more than half a dollar. I always limit myself to that, for I cannot forget that I am a poor journeyman mechanic."
"Does your wife take a holiday, too?" asked the friend, with something significant in his look and tone.
"No," was replied. "I often try to persuade her to do so; but she never thinks she can spare time. She has all the work to do, and three children to see after; and one of them, you know, is a baby."
"Do you know that this day's holiday once a month, costs you exactly twenty-two dollars a year?"
"No, certainly not, for it costs no such thing."
"Well, let us see. Your wages per day come to one dollar thirty-three cents and one-third. This sum multiplied by twelve, the number of days lost in the year, gives sixteen dollars. Half a dollar spent a day for twelve days makes six dollars, and six dollars added to sixteen amount to twenty-two. Now, have I not calculated it fairly?"
"I believe you have," replied Johnson, in an altered tone. "But I never could have believed it."
"Add to this, thirteen dollars a year that you pay for oysters, and you have—"
"Not so fast, if you please. I spend no such sum as you name, in oysters."
"Let us try our multiplication again," coolly remarked the friend. "Twenty-five cents a week multiplied into fifty-two weeks, gives exactly thirteen dollars. Isn't it so?"
"Humph! I believe you are right. But I never would have thought of it."
"Add this thirteen dollars to the twenty-two it costs you for twelve holidays in the year, and this again to the price of your beer and tobacco, and you will have just sixty-one dollars a year that might be saved. A little more careful examination into your expenses, would, no doubt, detect the sum of fourteen dollars that might be as well saved as not, which added to the sixty-one dollars, will make seventy-five dollars a year uselessly spent, the exact sum I am able to put into the Savings' Bank."
Johnson was both surprised and mortified, at being thus convinced of actually spending nearly one-fifth of his entire earnings in self-gratification of one kind or another. He promised both himself and his friend, that he would at once reform matters, and try to get a little a-head, as he had a growing family that would soon be much more expensive than it was at present.
Some months afterward, the friend who had spoken so freely to Johnson, met him coming out of a tavern, and in the act of putting tobacco in his mouth. The latter looked a little confused, but said with as much indifference as he could assume:
"You see I am at my old tricks again?"
"Yes, and I am truly sorry for it. I was in hopes you were going to practice a thorough system of economy, in order to get beforehand."
"I did try, but it's no use. As to giving up tobacco, that is out of the question. I can't do it. Nor could you, if you had ever formed the bad habit of chewing or smoking."
"We can do almost any thing, if we try hard enough, Johnson. We fail, because we give up trying. My tobacco and cigars used to cost me just twice what yours cost you, and yet I made a resolution to abandon the use of the vile weed altogether, and what is better, have kept my resolution. So, you see, the thing can be done. All that is wanted, is sufficient firmness and perseverance. I used to like a glass of ale, too, and a plate of oysters, but I saw that the expense was rather a serious matter, and that the indulgence did not do me a particle of good. So I gave them up, also; and if you try hard enough, you can do it, too."
"I don't know—perhaps I might; but somehow or other, it strikes me that seventy or eighty dollars a year, laid by in the Savings' Bank, is rather a dear saving, if made at the expense of every comfort a poor man has. What good is the money going to do?"
"A strange question, that, to ask, Johnson. I will tell you what good it is going to do me. I intend saving every cent I can possibly lay by, until I get five hundred dollars; and then I mean to set up my trade for myself, and become a master-workman. After that, I hope to get along a little faster, and be able to send my children, who will be pretty well advanced by the time, to better schools. I shall also be able, I hope, to get help for my wife, who will need assistance in the house."
"All very well to talk about, but not so easily done," replied Johnson.
"I don't know. For every effect there is an adequate cause. The cause of all this will be the saving of seventy-five dollars a year. This I have been doing for three years, and I hope to be able to do it for three or four years longer. Then the desired effect, in a capital of five hundred dollars, upon which to commence business, will be produced. Is it not so?"
"Yes, I suppose it is. But it is one thing to commence business, and another thing to succeed in it. There are plenty of chances in favor of your losing every cent you have, and then being obliged to go back to journey-work, which will not be the most agreeable thing in the world. For my part, I would much rather enjoy what little I have as I go along, than stint and deny myself every thing comfortable for six or seven years, in order to set up business for myself, and then lose every dollar. It is not every man, I can tell you, who is fit to go into business, nor every man who can succeed, if he does. The fact is, there must be journeymen as well as master-workmen. As for me, I have no taste for going into business, and don't believe I should succeed if I did set up for myself. I expect to work journey-work all my life, and might just as well take my comfort as I go along."
"I shall not attempt to dispute what you say about some men being born to be journeymen, and others to be master-workmen," replied the friend of Johnson, "for I am very well aware that the gifts of all are different; and that some men are so peculiarly constituted, that they would not succeed if they were to set up business for themselves. But the want of a business capacity, or inclination, is no reason at all why a journeyman mechanic should not save every cent he can."
"What good will it do him? He is bound to be a poor worker all his life, and why should he deny himself the few comforts he has as he goes along, in order to lay by a hundred or two dollars?"
"I am surprised to hear you ask such a question, Johnson. But I will answer it by saying, that he should do it for the very reason that I save my money; that is, to enable him to educate his children well, to lighten his own and his wife's toil, when they grow older, and to be able to obtain for his family more of the comforts of life than they now enjoy."
"Don't exactly see how all this is to be achieved. Suppose he get together as much as five hundred dollars; and instead of risking it in business, he send his children to some expensive schools, hire help for his wife, and take some comfort as he goes along; how long do you suppose his five hundred dollars will last? But two years, and then he must come down again and be ten times as unhappy, for it is a much easier matter to get up than to go down."
"Pardon me, Johnson," replied his friend, "but I must say you are a very short-sighted mortal. If you can't imagine any better mode of using your five hundred dollars after you have saved it, I don't blame you for not caring about making the attempt to do so. But I can tell you a better way."
"Well, let us hear it."
"With your five hundred dollars, after you had saved it, you could buy yourself a snug little cottage, with an acre of ground around it. How much rent do you pay now?"
"Seventy-five dollars a year."
"Of course this would be saved after that, which, added to what you were already saving, would make a hundred and fifty dollars a year. Take fifty of that to buy yourself a cow, some pigs, and chickens, and to get lumber for your pig-sty, hen-house and shed for your cow in winter, and you would still have a hundred dollars left, the first year, to go into the Savings' Bank. Your garden, which you could work yourself by rising an hour or two earlier in the morning; your cow, your chickens and your pigs, would make a sufficient saving in your expenses to pay for all additional charges in entering your children at better schools. In three years more, laying by a hundred and fifty dollars a year, which you could easily do, would give you enough to buy another cottage and an acre of ground, which you could easily rent to a good tenant for eighty dollars a year. In three years more, going on with the same economy, you would have seven hundred dollars more to invest, which could be done in property that would yield you seventy or eighty dollars a year additional income. By this time the village would have grown out toward your grounds, and perhaps doubled, may be quadrupled their value for building lots, some of which you could sell, and adding the amount to the savings of a couple of years, be able to build one or two more comfortable little houses on your own lots. Going on in this way, year after year, by the time your ability to work as a journeyman began to fail you, the necessity for work would not exist, for you would have a comfortable property, the regular income from which would more than support you. Now all this may be done, by your simply giving up your tobacco, beer and oysters, and your day's holiday once a month. Is not the result worth the trifling sacrifice, Johnson?"
"It certainly is," was the serious reply. "You have presented a very attractive picture, and I suppose it is a true one."
"It is, you may depend upon it. Every journeyman mechanic, if he be industrious and have a prudent, economical wife, as you have, may accumulate a snug little property, and live quite at his ease, when he passes the prime of life. Is it not all very plain to you."
"It certainly is, and I am determined that I will try to get a-head just in the way that you describe. If you can save seventy-five dollars a year, there is no good reason why I should not do the same."
"None in the world. Only persevere in your economy and self-denial, and you are certain of accomplishing all I have set forth."
We are sorry that we cannot give as good an account of Johnson as we could wish. He tried to be economical, and to break himself of his bad habits of chewing, drinking, and other self-indulgences, for a little while, and then sunk down into his old ways and went on as usual.
Hopelessly his poor wife, now in ill health, is toiling on, and will have to toil on until she sink, from exhaustion, into the grave, and her children become scattered among strangers, to bear the hard lot of the orphan.
How many hundreds are there like Johnson who spend as they go, in self-indulgence, what, if properly hoarded, would make their last days bright with life's declining sunshine.