"Oh! it does seem so dreadful, I wonder what will become of my poor boy?"
"Now, mother I want you to look at this thing in the light of reason and common sense. I am not turning Charles out of the house. He is not poor, though the way he is going on he will be. You know his grandfather has left him a large estate out West, which is constantly increasing in value. Now what I mean to do is to give Charles a chance to set up for himself as attorney, wherever he pleases. Throwing him on his own resources, with a sense of responsibility, may be the best thing for him; but in the present state of things I do not think it advisable to continue our business relations together. For more than twenty-five years our firm has stood foremost at the bar. Ever since my brother and I commenced business together our reputation has been unspotted and I mean to keep it so, if I have to cut off my right hand."
Mrs. Romaine gazed upon the stern sad face of her husband, and felt by the determination of his manner that it was useless to entreat or reason with him to change his purpose; and so with a heavy heart, and eyes drooping with unshed tears, she left the room.
"John," said Mr. Romaine to the waiter, "tell Charles I wish to see him before I go down to the office." Just then Charles entered the room and bade good morning to his father.
"Good morning," replied his father, rather coldly, and for a moment there was an awkward silence.
"Charles," said Mr. Romaine, "after having witnessed the scene of last night, I have come to the conclusion to dissolve the partnership between us."
"Just as you please," said Charles in a tone of cold indifference that irritated his father; but he maintained his self-control.
"I am sorry that you will persist in your downward course; but if you are determined to throw yourself away I have made up my mind to cut loose from you. I noticed last week when you were getting out the briefs in that Sumpter case, you were not yourself, and several times lately you have made me hang my head in the court room. I am sorry, very sorry," and a touch of deep emotion gave a tone of tenderness to the closing sentence. There was a slight huskiness in Charles' voice, as he replied, "Whenever the articles of dissolution are made out I am ready to sign."
"They shall be ready by to-morrow."
"All right, I will sign them."
"And what then?"
"Set up for myself, the world is wide enough for us both."
After Mr. Romaine had left the room, Charles sat, burying his head in his hands and indulging bitter thoughts toward his father. "To-day," he said to himself, "he resolved to cut loose from me apparently forgetting that it was from his hands, and at his table I received my first glass of wine. He prides himself on his power of self-control, and after all what does it amount to? It simply means this, that he has an iron constitution, and can drink five times as much as I can without showing its effects, and to-day if Mr. R.N. would ask him to sign the total-abstinence pledge, he wouldn't hear to it. Yes I am ready to sign any articles he will bring, even if it is to sign never to enter this house, or see his face; but my mother—poor mother, I am sorry for her sake."
Just then his mother entered the room.
"Just what I feared has come to pass. I have dreaded more than anything else this collision with your father."
"Now mother don't be so serious about this matter. Father's law office does not take in the whole world. I shall either set up for myself in A.P., or go West."
"Oh! don't talk of going away, I think I should die of anxiety if you were away."
"Well, as I passed down the street yesterday I saw there was an office to let in Frazier's new block, and I think I will engage it and put out my sign. How will that suit you?"
"Anything, or anywhere, Charlie, so you are near me. And Charlie don't be too stout with your father, he was very much out of temper when you came home last night, but be calm; it will blow over in a few days, don't add fuel to the fire. And you know that you and Miss Roland are to be married in two weeks, and I do wish that things might remain as they are, at least till after the wedding. Separation just now might give rise to some very unpleasant talk, and I would rather if you and your father can put off this dissolution, that you will consent to let things remain as they are for a few weeks longer. When your father comes home I will put the case to him, and have the thing delayed. Just now Charles I dread the consequences of a separation."
"Well, Mother, just as you please; perhaps the publication of the articles of dissolution in the paper might complicate matters."
When Mr. Romaine returned home, his wrath was somewhat mollified, and Mrs. Romaine having taken care to prepare his favorite dishes for dinner, took the opportunity when he had dined to entreat him to delay the intended separation till after the wedding, to which he very graciously consented.
* * * * *
Again there was a merry gathering at the home of Jeanette Roland. It was her wedding night, and she was about to clasp hands for life with Charles Romaine. True to her idea of taking things as she found them, she had consented to be his wife without demanding of him any reformation from the habit which was growing so fearfully upon him. His wealth and position in society like charity covered a multitude of sins. At times Jeanette felt misgivings about the step she was about to take, but she put back the thoughts like unwelcome intruders, and like the Ostrich, hiding her head in the sand, instead of avoiding the danger, she shut her eyes to its fearful reality. That night the wine flowed out like a purple flood; but the men and women who drank were people of culture, wealth and position, and did not seem to think it was just as disgraceful or more so to drink in excess in magnificently furnished parlors, as it was in low Barrooms or miserable dens where vice and poverty are huddled together. And if the weary children of hunger and hard toil instead of seeking sleep as nature's sweet restorer, sought to stimulate their flagging energies in the enticing cup, they with the advantages of wealth, culture and refinement could not plead the excuses of extreme wretchedness, or hard and unremitting drudgery.
"How beautiful, very beautiful," fell like a pleasant ripple upon the ear of Jeanette Roland, as she approached the altar, beneath her wreath of orange blossoms, while her bridal veil floated like a cloud of lovely mist from her fair young head. The vows were spoken, the bridal ring placed upon her finger, and amid a train of congratulating friends, she returned home where a sumptuous feast awaited them.
"Don't talk so loud, but I think Belle Gordon acted wisely when she refused Mr. Romaine," said Mrs. Gladstone, one of the guests.
"Do you, indeed? Why Charles Romaine, is the only son of Mr. Romaine, and besides being the heir he has lately received a large legacy from his grandfather's estate. I think Jeanette has made a splendid match. I hope my girls will do as well."
"I hope on the other hand that my girls will never marry unless they do better."
"Why how you talk! What's the matter with Mr. Romaine?"
"Look at him now," said Mrs. Fallard joining in the conversation. "This is his wedding night and yet you can plainly see he is under the influence of wine. Look at those eyes, don't you know how beautiful and clear they are when he is sober, and how very interesting he is in conversation. Now look at him, see how muddled his eye is—but he is approaching—listen to his utterance, don't you notice how thick it is? Now if on his wedding night, he can not abstain, I have very grave fears for Jeanette's future."
"Perhaps you are both right, but I never looked at things in that light before, and I know that a magnificent fortune can melt like snow in the hands of a drunken man."
"I wish you much joy," rang out a dozen voices, as Jeanette approached them. "Oh Jeanette, you just look splendid! and Mr. Romaine, oh he is so handsome." "Oh Jeanette what's to hinder you from being so happy?" "But where is Mr. Romaine? we have missed him for some time." "I don't know, let me seek my husband." "Isn't that a mouthful?" said Jeanette laughingly disengaging herself from the merry group, as an undefined sense of apprehension swept over her. Was it a presentiment of coming danger? An unspoken prophecy to be verified by bitter tears, and lonely fear that seemed for a moment to turn life's sweetness into bitterness and gall. In the midst of a noisy group, in the dining room, she found Charles drinking the wine as it gave its color aright in the cup. She saw the deep flush upon his cheek, and the cloudiness of his eye, and for the first time upon that bridal night she felt a shiver of fear as the veil was suddenly lifted before her unwilling eye; and half reluctantly she said to herself, "Suppose after all my cousin Belle was right."
"Good morning! Mr. Clifford," said Joe Gough, entering the store of Paul Clifford, the next day after he joined the Reform Club. "I have heard that you wanted some one to help you, and I am ready to do anything to make an honest living."
"I am very sorry," said Paul, "but I have just engaged a young man belonging to our Club to come this morning."
Joe looked sad, but not discouraged, and said, "Mr. Clifford, I want to turn over a new leaf in my life, but everyone does not know that. Do you know of any situation I can get? I have been a book-keeper and a salesman in the town of C., where I once lived, but I am willing to begin almost anywhere on the ladder of life, and make it a stepping-stone to something better."
There was a tone of earnestness in his voice, and an air of determination, in his manner that favorably impressed Paul Clifford and he replied,——
"I was thinking of a friend of mine who wants a helping hand; but it may not be, after all, the kind of work you prefer. He wants a porter, but as you say you want to make your position a stepping-stone to something better, if you make up your mind to do your level best, the way may open before you in some more congenial and unexpected quarter. Wait a few minutes, and I will give you a line to him. No! I can do better than that; he is a member of our Club, and I will see him myself; but before you do, had we better not go to the barber's?"
"I would like to," said Joe, "but I haven't—"
"Haven't the money?"
"Yes, Mr. Clifford, that's the fact, I am not able to pay even for a shave. Oh! what a fool I have been."
"Oh! well never mind, let the dead past, bury its dead. The future is before you, try and redeem that. If you accept it, I will lend you a few dollars. I believe in lending a helping hand. So come with me to the barber's and I'll make it all right, you can pay me when you are able, but here we are at the door, let us go in."
They entered, and in a few moments Joe's face was under the manipulating care of the barber.
"Fix this so," said Joe to the barber, giving him directions how to cut his mustache.
Paul was somewhat amused, and yet in that simple act, he saw a return of self-respect, and was glad to see its slightest manifestations, and it was pleasant to witness the satisfaction with which Joe beheld himself in the glass, as he exclaimed, "Why Mary would hardly know me!"
"Suppose now, we go to the tailor's and get some new rigging?"
"Mr. Clifford," said Joe hesitatingly, "you are very kind, but I don't know when I shall be able to pay you, and—"
"Oh! never mind, when you are able I will send my bill. It will help you in looking for a place to go decently dressed. So let us go into the store and get a new suit."
They entered a clothing store and in a few moments Joe was dressed in a new suit which made him look almost like another person.
"Now, we are ready," said Paul, "appearances are not so much against you."
"Good morning Mr. Tennant," said Paul to the proprietor of a large store. "I heard last night that you wanted help in your store and I have brought you Mr. Gough, who is willing to take any situation you will give him, and I will add, he is a member of our Reform Club."
Mr. Tennant looked thoughtfully a moment, and replied, "I have only one vacancy, and I do not think it would suit your friend. My porter died yesterday and that is the only situation which I can offer him at present."
"I will accept it," said Joe, "if you will give it to me, I am willing to do anything to make an honest living for my family."
"Well you can come to-morrow, or stop now and begin."
"All right," said Joe with a promptness that pleased his employer, and Joe was installed in the first day's regular work he had had for months.
"What! sitting up sewing?" said Belle Gordon entering the neat room where Mrs. Gough was rejuvenating a dress for her older daughter. "Why you look like another woman, your cheeks are getting plump, your eyes are brightening, and you look so happy."
"I feel just like I look, Miss Gordon. Joe has grown so steady, he gets constant work, and he is providing so well for us all, and he won't hear to me taking again that slop-shop work. He says all he wants me to do, is to get well, and take care of the home and children. But you look rather pale, have you been sick?"
"Yes, I have been rather unwell for several weeks, and the doctor has ordered among other things that I should have a plentiful supply of fresh air, so to-morrow as there is to be a free excursion, and I am on the Committee, I think if nothing prevents, I shall go. Perhaps you would like to go?"
"Yes, if Joe will consent, but—"
"Well Joe has pretty high notions, and I think he may object, because it is receiving charity. I can't blame him for it, but Joe has a right smart of pride that way."
"No! I don't blame him, I rather admire his spirit of self-reliance, and I wouldn't lay the weight of my smallest finger upon his self-respect to repress it; still I would like to see your Mamy, and Hatty, have a chance to get out into the woods, and have what I call a good time. I think I can have it so arranged that you can go with me, and serve as one of the Committee on refreshments, and your services would be an ample compensation for your entertainment."
"Well if you put it in that light, I think Joe would be willing for me to go."
"I will leave the matter there, and when your husband comes home you can consult him and send me word. And so you are getting along nicely?"
"Oh! yes indeed, splendidly. Just look here, this is Joe's present," and Mary held up with both hands a beautifully embossed and illustrated Bible. "This was my birth-day present. Oh! Miss Belle, Joe seems to me like another man. Last night we went to a conference and prayer-meeting, and Joe spoke. Did you know he had joined the church?"
"No! when did that happen?"
"Has he become religious?"
"Well I think Joe's trying to do the best he can. He said last night in meeting that he felt like a new man, and if they didn't believe he had religion to ask his wife."
"And suppose they had asked you, what would you have said?"
"I would have said I believe Joe's a changed man, and I hope he will hold out faithful. And Miss Belle I want to be a Christian, but there are some things about religion I can't understand. People often used to talk to me about getting religion, and getting ready to die. Religion somehow got associated in my mind with sorrow and death, but it seems to me since I have known you and Mr. Clifford the thing looks different. I got it associated with something else besides the pall, the hearse, and weeping mourners. You have made me feel that it is as beautiful and valuable for life as it is necessary for death. And yet there are some things I can't understand. Miss Belle will you be shocked if I tell you something which has often puzzled me?"
"I don't know, I hope you have nothing very shocking to tell me."
"Well perhaps it is, and maybe I had better not say it."
"But you have raised my curiosity, and woman like I want to hear it."
"Now don't be shocked, but let me ask you, if you really believe that God is good?"
"Yes I do, and to doubt it would be to unmoor my soul from love, from peace, and rest. It seems to me to believe that must be the first resting place for my soul, and I feel that with me
"To doubt would be disloyalty To falter would be sin.
"But my dear I have been puzzled just as you have, and can say,——
"I have wandered in mazes dark and distressing I've had not a cheering ray my spirit to bless, Cheerless unbelief held my laboring soul in grief."
"And what then?"
"I then turned to the Gospel that taught me to pray And trust in the living word from folly away.
"And it was here my spirit found a resting place, and I feel that in believing I have entered into rest."
"Ah!" said Mary to herself when Belle was gone, "there is something so restful and yet inspiring in her words. I wish I had her faith."
"I am sorry, very sorry," said Belle Gordon, as a shadow of deep distress flitted over her pale sad face. She was usually cheerful and serene in her manner; but now it seemed as if the very depths of her soul had been stirred by some mournful and bitter memory. "Your question was so unexpected and—"
"And what!" said Paul in a tone of sad expectancy, "so unwelcome?"
"It was so sudden, I was not prepared for it."
"I do not," said Paul, "ask an immediate reply. Give yourself ample time for consideration."
"Mr. Clifford," said Belle, her voice gathering firmness as she proceeded, "while all the relations of life demand that there should be entire truthfulness between us and our fellow creatures, I think we should be especially sincere and candid in our dealings with each other on this question of marriage, a question not only as affecting our own welfare but that of others, a relation which may throw its sunshine or shadow over the track of unborn ages. Permit me now to say to you, that there is no gentleman of my acquaintance whom I esteem more highly than yourself; but when you ask me for my heart and hand, I almost feel as if I had no heart to give; and you know it would be wrong to give my hand where I could not place my heart."
"But would it be impossible for you to return my affection?" "I don't know, but I am only living out my [vow] of truthfulness when I say to you, I feel as if I had been undone for love. You tell that in offering your hand that you bring me a heart unhackneyed in the arts of love, that my heart is the first and only shrine on which you have ever laid the wealth of your affections. I cannot say the same in reply. I have had my bright and beautiful day dream, but it has faded, and I have learned what is the hardest of all lessons for a woman to learn. I have learned to live without love."
"Oh no," said Paul, "not to live without love. In darkened homes how many grateful hearts rejoice to hear your footsteps on the threshold. I have seen the eyes of young Arabs of the street grow brighter as you approached and say, 'That's my lady, she comes to see my mam when she's sick.' And I have seen little girls in the street quicken their face to catch a loving smile from their dear Sunday school teacher. Oh Miss Belle instead of living without love, I think you are surrounded with a cordon of loving hearts."
"Yes, and I appreciate them—but this is not the love to which I refer. I mean a love which is mine, as anything else on earth is mine, a love precious, enduring and strong, which brings hope and joy and sunshine over one's path in life. A love which commands my allegiance and demands my respect. This is the love I have learned to do without, and perhaps the poor and needy had learned to love me less, had this love surrounded me more."
"Miss Belle, perhaps I was presumptuous, to have asked a return of the earnest affection I have for you; but I had hoped that you would give the question some consideration; and may I not hope that you will think kindly of my proposal? Oh Miss Gordon, ever since the death of my sainted mother, I have had in my mind's eye the ideal of a woman nobly planned, beautiful, intellectual, true and affectionate, and you have filled out that ideal in all its loveliest proportions, and I hope that my desire will not be like reaching out to some bright particular star and wishing to win it. It seems to me," he said with increasing earnestness, "whatever obstacle may be in the way, I would go through fire and water to remove it."
"I am sorry," said Belle as if speaking to herself, and her face had an absent look about it, as if instead of being interested in the living present she was grouping amid the ashes of the dead past. At length she said, "Mr. Clifford, permit me to say in the first place, let there be truth between us. If my heart seems callous and indifferent to your love, believe me it is warm to esteem and value you as a friend, I might almost say as a brother, for in sympathy of feeling and congeniality of disposition you are nearer to me than my own brother; but I do not think were I so inclined that it would be advisable for me to accept your hand without letting you know something of my past history. I told you a few moments since that I had my day dream. Permit me to tell you, for I think you are entitled to my confidence. The object of that day dream was Charles Romaine."
"Charles Romaine!" and there was a tone of wonder in the voice, and a puzzled look on the face of Paul Clifford.
"Yes! Charles Romaine, not as you know him now, with the marks of dissipation on his once handsome face, but Charles Romaine, as I knew him when he stood upon the threshold of early manhood, the very incarnation of beauty, strength and grace. Not Charles Romaine with the blurred and bloated countenance, the staggering gait, the confused and vacant eye; but Charles Romaine as a young, handsome and talented lawyer, the pride of our village, the hope of his father and the joy of his mother; before whom the future was opening full of rich and rare promises. Need I tell you that when he sought my hand in preference to all the other girls in our village, that I gave him what I never can give to another, the first, deep love of my girlish heart. For nearly a whole year I wore his betrothal ring upon my finger, when I saw to my utter anguish and dismay that he was fast becoming a drunkard. Oh! Mr. Clifford if I could have saved him I would have taken blood from every vein and strength from every nerve. We met frequently at entertainments. I noticed time after time, the effects of the wine he had imbibed, upon his manner and conversation. At first I shrank from remonstrating with him, until the burden lay so heavy on my heart that I felt I must speak out, let the consequences be what they might. And so one evening I told him plainly and seriously my fears about his future. He laughed lightly and said my fears were unfounded; that I was nervous and giving away to idle fancies; that his father always had wine at the table, and that he had never seen him under the influence of liquor. Silenced, but not convinced, I watched his course with painful solicitude. All remonstrances on my part seemed thrown away; he always had the precedent of his father to plead in reply to my earnest entreaties. At last when remonstrances and entreaties seemed to be all in vain, I resolved to break the engagement. It may have been a harsh and hard alternative, but I would not give my hand where my respect could not follow. It may be that I thought too much of my own happiness, but I felt that marriage must be for me positive misery or positive happiness, and I feared that if I married a man so lacking in self-control as to become a common drunkard, that when I ceased to love and respect him, I should be constantly tempted to hate and despise him. I think one of the saddest fates that can befall a woman is to be tied for life to a miserable bloated wreck of humanity. There may be some women with broad generous hearts, and great charity, strong enough to lift such men out of the depths, but I had no such faith in my strength and so I gave him back his ring. He accepted it, but we parted as friends. For awhile after our engagement was broken, we occasionally met at the houses of our mutual friends in social gatherings and I noticed with intense satisfaction that whenever wine was offered he scrupulously abstained from ever tasting a drop, though I think at times his self-control was severely tested. Oh! what hope revived in my heart. Here I said to myself is compensation for all I have suffered, if by it he shall be restored to manhood usefulness and society, and learn to make his life not a thing of careless ease and sensuous indulgence, but of noble struggle and high and holy endeavor. But while I was picturing out for him a magnificent future, imagining the lofty triumphs of his intellect—an intellect grand in its achievements and glorious in its possibilities, my beautiful daydream was rudely broken up, and vanished away like the rays of sunset mingling with the shadows of night. My Aunt Mrs. Roland, celebrated her silver-wedding and my cousin's birth-day by giving a large entertainment; and among other things she had a plentiful supply of wine. Mr. Romaine had lately made the acquaintance of my cousin Jeanette Roland. She was both beautiful in person and fascinating in her manners, and thoughtlessly she held a glass of wine in her hand and asked Mr. Romaine if he would not honor the occasion, by drinking her mother's health. For a moment he hesitated, his cheek paled and flushed alternately, he looked irresolute. While I watched him in silent anguish it seemed as if the agony of years was compressed in a few moments. I tried to catch his eye but failed, and with a slight tremor in his hand he lifted the glass to his lips and drank. I do not think I would have felt greater anguish had I seen him suddenly drowned in sight of land. Oh! Mr. Clifford that night comes before me so vividly, it seems as if I am living it all over again. I do not think Mr. Romaine has ever recovered from the reawakening of his appetite. He has since married Jeanette. I meet her occasionally. She has a beautiful home, dresses magnificently, and has a retinue of servants; and yet I fancy she is not happy. That somewhere hidden out of sight there is a worm eating at the core of her life. She has a way of dropping her eyes and an absent look about her that I do not fully understand, but it seems to me that I miss the old elasticity of her spirits, the merry ring of her voice, the pleasant thrills of girlish laughter, and though she never confesses it to me I doubt that Jeanette is happy. And with this sad experience in the past can you blame me if I am slow, very slow to let the broken tendrils of my heart entwine again?"
"Miss Belle," said Paul Clifford catching eagerly at the smallest straw of hope, "if you can not give me the first love of a fresh young life, I am content with the rich [aftermath?] of your maturer years, and ask from life no higher prize; may I not hope for that?"
"I will think on it but for the present let us change the subject."
* * * * *
"Do you think Jeanette is happy? She seems so different from what she used to be," said Miss Tabitha Jones to several friends who were spending the evening with her.
"Happy!" replied Mary Gladstone, "don't see what's to hinder her from being happy. She has everything that heart can wish. I was down to her house yesterday, and she has just moved in her new home. It has all the modern improvements, and everything is in excellent taste. Her furniture is of the latest style, and I think it is really superb."
"Yes," said her sister, "and she dresses magnificently. Last week she showed me a most beautiful set of jewelry, and a camel's hair shawl, and I believe it is real camel's hair. I think you could almost run it through a ring. If I had all she has, I think I should be as happy as the days are long. I don't believe I would let a wave of trouble roll across my peaceful breast."
"Oh! Annette," said Mrs. Gladstone, "don't speak so extravagantly, and I don't like to hear you quote those lines for such an occasion."
"Why not mother? Where's the harm?"
"That hymn has been associated in my mind with my earliest religious impressions and experience, and I don't like to see you lift it out of its sacred associations, for such a trifling occasion."
"Oh mother you are so strict. I shall never be able to keep time with you, but I do think, if I was off as Jeanette, that I would be as blithe and happy as a lark, and instead of that she seems to be constantly drooping and fading."
"Annette," said Mrs. Gladstone, "I knew a woman who possesses more than Jeanette does, and yet she died of starvation."
"Died of starvation! Why, when, and where did that happen? and what became of her husband?"
"He is in society, caressed and [ ed?] on by the young girls of his set and I have seen a number of managing mammas to whom I have imagined he would not be an objectionable son-in-law."
"Do I know him mother?"
"No! and I hope you never will."
"Well mother I would like to know how he starved his wife to death and yet escaped the law."
"The law helped him."
"Oh mother!" said both girls opening their eyes in genuine astonishment.
"I thought," said Mary Gladstone, "it was the province of the law to protect women, I was just telling Miss Basanquet yesterday, when she was talking about woman's suffrage that I had as many rights as I wanted and that I was willing to let my father and brothers do all the voting for me."
"Forgetting my dear, that there are millions of women who haven't such fathers and brothers as you have. No my dear, when you examine the matter, a little more closely, you will find there are some painful inequalities in the law for women."
"But mother, I do think it would be a dreadful thing for women to vote Oh! just think of women being hustled and crowded at the polls by rude men, their breaths reeking with whiskey and tobacco, the very air heavy with their oaths. And then they have the polls at public houses. Oh mother, I never want to see the day when women vote."
"Well I do, because we have one of the kindest and best fathers and husbands and good brothers, who would not permit the winds of heaven to visit us too roughly, there is no reason we should throw ourselves between the sunshine and our less fortunate sisters who shiver in the blast."
"But mother, I don't see how voting would help us, I am sure we have influence I have often heard papa say that you were the first to awaken him to a sense of the enormity of slavery. Now mother if we women would use our influence with our fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons, could we not have everything we want."
"No, my dear we could not, with all our influence we never could have the same sense of responsibility which flows from the possession of power. I want women to possess power as well as influence, I want every Christian woman as she passes by a grogshop or liquor saloon, to feel that she has on her heart a burden of responsibility for its existence, I hold my dear that a nation as well as an individual should have a conscience, and on this liquor question there is room for woman's conscience not merely as a persuasive influence but as an enlightened and aggressive power."
"Well Ma I think you would make a first class stump speaker. I expect when women vote we shall be constantly having calls, for the gifted, and talented Mrs. Gladstone to speak on the duties and perils of the hour."
"And I would do it, I would go among my sister women and try to persuade them to use their vote as a moral lever, not to make home less happy, but society more holy. I would have good and sensible women, grave in manner, and cultured in intellect, attend the primary meetings and bring their moral influence and political power to frown down corruption, chicanery, and low cunning."
"But mother just think if women went to the polls how many vicious ones would go?"
"I hope and believe for the honor of our sex that the vicious women of the community are never in the majority, that for one woman whose feet turn aside from the paths of rectitude that there are thousands of feet that never stray into forbidden paths, and today I believe there is virtue enough in society to confront its vice, and intelligence enough to grapple with its ignorance."
"Why Mrs. Gladstone," said Miss Tabitha, "you are as zealous as a new convert to the cause of woman suffrage. We single women who are constantly taxed without being represented, know what it is to see ignorance and corruption striking hands together and voting away our money for whatever purposes they choose. I pay as large a tax as many of the men in A.P., and yet cannot say who shall assess my property for a single year."
"And there is another thing," said Mrs. Gladstone, "ought to be brought to the consideration of the men, and it is this. They refuse to let us vote and yet fail to protect our homes from the ravages of rum. My young friend, whom I said died of starvation; foolishly married a dissipated man who happened to be rich and handsome. She was gentle, loving, sensitive to a fault. He was querulous, fault-finding and irritable, because his nervous system was constantly unstrung by liquor. She lacked tenderness, sympathy and heart support, and at last faded and died, not starvation of the body, but a trophy of the soul, and when I say the law helped, I mean it licensed the places that kept the temptation ever in his way. And I fear, that is the secret of Jeanette's faded looks, and unhappy bearing."
No Jeanette was not happy. Night after night would she pace the floor of her splendidly furnished chamber waiting and watching for her husband's footsteps. She and his friends had hoped that her influence would be strong enough to win him away from his boon companions, that his home and beautiful bride would present superior attractions to Anderson's saloon, his gambling pool, and champaign suppers, and for a while they did, but soon the novelty wore off, and Jeanette found out to her great grief that her power to bind him to the simple attractions of home were as futile as a role of cobwebs to moor a ship to the shore, when it has drifted out and is dashing among the breakers. He had learned to live an element of excitement, and to depend upon artificial stimulation, until it seemed as if the very blood in his veins grew sluggish fictitious excitement was removed. His father, hopeless of his future, had dissolved partnership with him, and for months there had been no communication between them; and Jeanette saw with agony and dismay that his life was being wrecked upon the broad sea of sin and shame.
* * * * *
"Where is his father? The child can't live. It is one of the worst cases of croup I have had this year, why didn't you send for me sooner? Where is his father? It is now just twelve o'clock, time for all respectable men to be in the house," said the bluff but kind hearted family doctor looking tenderly upon Jeanette's little boy who lay gasping for breath in the last stages of croup.
"Oh! I don't know," said Jeanette her face crimsoning beneath the doctor's searching glance. "I suppose he is down to Anderson's."
"Anderson's!" said the doctor in a tone of hearty indignation, "what business has he there, and his child dying here?"
"But doctor, he didn't know, the child had fever when he went out, but neither of us thought much of it till I was awakened by his strange and unnatural breathing. I sent for you as soon as I could rouse the servants." "Well rouse them again, and tell them to go down to Anderson's and tell your husband that his child is dying."
"Oh! no not dying doctor, you surely don't mean it." "Yes Jeanette," said the old family doctor, tenderly and sadly, "I can do nothing for him, let me take him in my arms and rest you. Dear little darling, he will be saved from the evils to come."
Just as his life was trembling on its frailest chords, and its delicate machinery almost wound up, Charles Romaine returned, sober enough to take in the situation. He strode up to the dying child, took the clammy hands in his, and said in a tone of bitter anguish, "Charlie, don't you know papa? Wouldn't you speak one little word to papa?" But it was too late, the shadows that never deceive flitted over the pale beauty of the marble brow, the waxen lid closed over the once bright and laughing eye, and the cold grave for its rest had won the child.
If riches could bring happiness, John Anderson should be a happy man; and yet he is far from being happy. He has succeeded in making money, but failed in every thing else. But let us enter his home. As you open the parlor door your feet sink in the rich and beautiful carpet. Exquisite statuary, and superbly framed pictures greet your eye and you are ready to exclaim, "Oh! how lovely." Here are the beautiful conceptions of painters' art and sculptors' skill. It is a home of wealth, luxury and display, but not of love, refinement and culture. Years since, before John Anderson came to live in the city of A.P. he had formed an attachment for an excellent young lady who taught school in his native village, and they were engaged to be married; but after coming to the city and forming new associations, visions of wealth dazzled his brain, and unsettled his mind, till the idea of love in a cottage grew distasteful to him. He had seen men with no more ability than himself who had come to the city almost pennyless, and who had grown rich in a few years, and he made up his mind that if possible he would do two things, acquire wealth and live an easy life, and he thought the easiest way to accomplish both ends was to open up a gorgeous palace of sin and entice into his meshes the unwary, the inexperienced, and the misguided slaves of appetite. For awhile after he left his native village, he wrote almost constantly to his betrothed; but as new objects and interests engaged his attention, his letters became colder and less frequent, until they finally ceased and the engagement was broken. At first the blow fell heavily upon the heart of his affianced, but she was too sensible to fade away and die the victim of unrequited love, and in after years when she had thrown her whole soul into the temperance cause, and consecrated her life to the work of uplifting fallen humanity, she learned to be thankful that it was not her lot to be united to a man who stood as a barrier across the path of human progress and would have been a weight to her instead of wings. Released from his engagement, he entered into an alliance (for that is the better name for a marriage) which was not a union of hearts, or intercommunion of kindred souls; but only an affair of convenience; in a word he married for money a woman, who was no longer young in years, nor beautiful in person, nor amiable in temper. But she was rich, and her money like charity covered a multitude of faults, and as soon as he saw the golden bait he caught at it, and they were married, for he was willing to do almost any thing for money, except work hard for it. It was a marriage however that brought no happiness to either party. Mrs. Anderson was an illy educated, self willed, narrow minded [woman], full of airs and pretensions, the only daughter of a man who had laid the foundation of his wealth by keeping a low groggery, and dying had left her his only heir. John Anderson was selfish and grasping. He loved money, and she loved display, and their home was often the scene of the most pitiful contentions about money matters. Harsh words and bitter recriminations were almost common household usages. The children brought up in this unhealthy atmosphere naturally took sides with their mother and their home was literally a house divided against itself. The foolish conduct of the mother inspired the children with disrespect for their father, who failed to support the authority of his wife as the mother and mistress of the home. As her sons grew older they often sought attractions in questionable places, away from the sombre influences of their fireside, and the daughters as soon as they stood upon the verge of early womanhood learned to look upon marriage as an escape valve from domestic discomforts; and in that beautiful home with all its costly surroundings, and sumptuous furniture, there was always something wanting, there was always a lack of tenderness, sympathy and mutual esteem.
"I can't afford it," said John Anderson, to his wife who had been asking for money for a trip to a fashionable watering place. "You will have to spend the summer elsewhere."
"Can't afford it! What nonsense; is not it as much to your interest as mine to carry the girls around and give them a chance?"
"A chance for what?"
"Why to see something of the world. You don't know what may happen. That English Earl was very attentive last night to Sophronia at Mrs. Jessap's ball."
"An English Count? who is he? and where did he spring from?"
"Why he's from England, and is said to be the only son and heir of a very rich nobleman."
"I don't believe it, I don't believe he is an Earl any more than I am."
"That's just like you, always throw cold water on every thing I say"
"It is no such thing, but I don't believe in picking up strangers and putting them into my bosom; it is not all gold that glitters."
"I know that, but how soon can you let me have some money? I want to go out this afternoon and do some shopping and engage the semptress."
"I tell you, Annette, I have not the money to spare; the money market is very tight, and I have very heavy bills to meet this month."
"The money market tight! why it has been tight ever since I have been married."
"Well you may believe it or not, just as you choose, but I tell you this crusading has made quite a hole in my business."
"Now John Anderson, tell that to somebody that don't know. I don't believe this crusading has laid a finger's weight upon your business."
"Yes it has, and if you read the papers you would find that it has even affected the revenue of the state and you will have to retrench somewhere."
"Well, I'll retrench somewhere. I think we are paying our servants too high wages any how. Mrs. Shenflint gets twice as much work done for the same money. I'll retrench, John Anderson, but I want you to remember that I did not marry you empty handed."
"I don't think I shall be apt to forget it in a hurry while I have such a gentle reminder at hand," he replied sarcastically.
"And I suppose you would not have married me if I had had no money."
"No, I would not," said John Anderson thoroughly exasperated, "and I would have been a fool if I had."
These bitter words spoken in a heat of passion were calculated to work disastrously in that sin darkened home.
For some time she had been suspecting that her money had been the chief inducement which led him to seek her hand, and now her worse suspicions were confirmed, and the last thread of confidence was severed.
"I should not have said it," said Anderson to himself, "but the woman is so provoking and unreasonable. I suppose she will have a fit of sulks for a month and never be done brooding over those foolish words"; and Anderson sighed as if he were an ill used man. He had married for money, and he had got what he bargained for; love, confidence, and mutual esteem were not sought in the contract and these do not necessarily come of themselves.
"Well, the best I can do is to give her what money she wants and be done with it."
* * * * *
"Is not in her room?"
"No sir and her bed has not been rumpled."
"Where in the world can she be?"
"I don't know, but here is a note she left."
"What does she say? read it Annette."
"She says she feels that you were unjust to the Earl and that she hopes you will forgive her the steps she has taken, but by the time the letter reaches you she expects to be the Countess of Clarendon."
"Poor foolish girl, you see what comes of taking a stranger to your bosom and making so much of him."
"That's just like you, John Anderson, every thing that goes wrong is blamed on me. I almost wish I was dead."
"I wish so too," thought Anderson but he concluded it was prudent to keep the wish to himself.
John Anderson had no faith whatever in the pretensions of his new son-in-law, but his vain and foolish wife on the other hand was elated at the dazzling prospects of her daughter, and often in her imagination visited the palatial residence of "My Son, the Earl," and was graciously received in society as the mother of the Countess of Clarendon. She was also highly gratified at the supposed effect of Sophronia's marriage upon a certain clique who had been too exclusive to admit her in their set. Should not those Gladstone girls be ready to snag themselves? and there was that Mary Talbot, did every thing she could to attract his attention but it was no go. My little Sophronia came along and took the rag off the bush. I guess they will almost die with envy. If he had waited for her father's consent we might have waited till the end of the chapter; but I took the responsibility on my shoulders and the thing is done. My daughter, the Countess of Clarendon. I like the ring of the words; but dear me here's the morning mail, and a letter from the Countess, but what does it mean?"
"Come to me, I am in great trouble."
In quick response to the appeal Mrs. Anderson took the first train to New York and found her daughter in great distress. The "Earl" had been arrested for forgery and stealing, and darker suspicions were hinted against him. He had been a body servant to a nobleman who had been travelling for his health and who had died by a lonely farmhouse where he had gone for fresh air and quiet, and his servant had seized upon his effects and letters of introduction, and passed himself off as the original Earl, and imitating his handwriting had obtained large remittances, for which he was arrested, tried and sent to prison, and thus ended the enchanting dream of "My daughter the Countess of Clarendon."
"I cannot ensure your life a single hour, unless you quit business. You are liable to be stricken with paralysis at any moment, if [once?] subject to the [least] excitement. Can't you trust your business in the hands of your sons?"
"Doctor," said John Anderson, "I have only two boys. My oldest went West several years ago, and never writes to us unless he wants something, and as to Frank, if I would put the concern into his hands, he would drink himself into the grave in less than a month. The whole fact is this, my children are the curse of my life," and there was bitterness in the tone of John Anderson as he uttered these words of fearful sorrow.
"Well," said the doctor, "you must have rest and quiet or I will not answer for the consequences."
"Rest and quiet!" said John Anderson to himself, "I don't see how I am to get it, with such a wife as I have always worrying and bothering me about something." "Mr. Anderson," said one of the servants, "Mrs. Anderson says please come, as quick as possible into Mr. Frank's room."
"What's the matter now!"
"I don't know, but Mr. Frank's acting mightily queer; he thinks there are snakes and lizards crawling over him."
"He's got the horrors, just what I expected. Tell me about rest and quiet! I'll be there in a minute. Oh what's the matter? I feel strange," said Anderson falling back on the bed suddenly stricken with paralysis. While in another room lay his younger son a victim to delirium tremens, and dying in fearful agony. The curse that John Anderson had sent to other homes had come back darkened with the shadow of death to brood over his own habitation. His son is dying, but he has no word of hope to cheer the parting spirit as it passed out into the eternity, for him the darkness of the tomb, is not gilded with the glory of the resurrection.
The best medical skill has been summoned to the aid of John Anderson, but neither art, nor skill can bind anew the broken threads of life. The chamber in which he is confined is a marvel of decoration, light streams into his home through panes of beautifully stained glass. Pillows of the softest down are placed beneath his head, beautiful cushions lie at his feet that will never take another step on the errands of sin, but no appliances of wealth can give peace to his guilty conscience. He looks back upon the past and the retrospect is a worse than wasted life; and when the future looms up before him he shrinks back from the contemplation, for the sins of the past throw their shadow over the future. He has houses, money and land, but he is a pauper in his soul, and a bankrupt in his character. In his eager selfish grasp for gold, he has shriveled his intellect and hardened and dried up his heart, and in so doing he has cut himself off from the richest sources of human enjoyment. He has wasted life's best opportunities, and there never was an angel, however bright, terrible and strong, that ever had power to roll away the stone from the grave of a dead opportunity, and what John Anderson has lost in time, he can never make up in eternity. He has formed no taste for reading, and thus has cut himself off from the glorious companionship of the good, the great, and the wise of all ages. He has been selfish, mean and grasping, and the blessing of the poor and needy never fall as benedictions on his weary head; and in that beautiful home with disease and death clutching at his heartstrings, he has wealth that he cannot enjoy, luxuries that pall upon his taste, and magnificence that can never satisfy the restless craving of his soul. His life has been a wretched failure. He neglected his children to amass the ways of iniquity, and their coldness and indifference pierce him like poisoned arrows. Marriage has brought him money, but not the sweet, tender ministrations of loving wifely care, and so he lives on starving in the midst of plenty; dying of thirst, with life's sweetest fountains eluding his grasp.
Charles Romaine is sleeping in a drunkard's grave. After the death of his boy there was a decided change in him. Night after night he tore himself away from John Anderson's saloon, and struggled with the monster that had enslaved him, and for awhile victory seemed to be perching on the banner of his resolution. Another child took the place of the first born, and the dead, and hope and joy began to blossom around Jeanette's path. His mother who had never ceased to visit the house marked the change with great satisfaction and prevailed upon his father to invite Charles and Jeanette to a New Year's dinner (only a family gathering). Jeanette being unwell excused herself from going, and Charles went alone. Jeanette felt a fearful foreboding when she saw him leaving the door, and said to herself, "I hope his father will not offer him wine. I am so afraid that something will happen to him, and yet I hated to persuade him not to go. His mother might think I was averse to his reconciliation with his father."
"It looks very natural to have Charles with us again," said Mrs. Ro[maine] looking fondly on her son.
"Yes, it seems like old times, when I always had my seat next to yours."
"And I hope," said his father, "it will never be vacant so long again."
The dinner hour passed on enlivened by social chat and pleasant reminiscences, and there was nothing to mar the harmony of the occasion. Mrs. Romaine had been careful to keep everything from the table that would be apt to awaken the old appetite for liquor, but after dinner Mr. Romaine invited Charles into the library to smoke. "Here," said he, handing him a cigar, "is one of the finest brands I have smoked lately, and by the way here is some rare old wine, more than 25 years old, which was sent to me yesterday by an old friend and college class mate of mine. Let me pour you out a glass." Charles suddenly became agitated, but as his father's back was turned to him, pouring out the wine, he did not notice the sudden paling of his cheek, and the hesitation of his manner. And Charles checking back his scruples took the glass and drained it, to the bottom.
There is a fable, that a certain king once permitted the devil to kiss his shoulder, and out of those shoulders sprang two serpents that in the fury of their hunger aimed at his head and tried to get at his brain. He tried to extricate himself from their terrible power. He tore at them with his fingers and found that it was his own flesh that he was lacerating. Dormant but not dead was the appetite for strong drink in Charles Romaine, and that one glass awakened the serpent coiled up in his flesh. He went out from his father's house with a newly awakened appetite clamoring and raging for strong drink. Every saloon he passed adding intensity to his craving. At last his appetite overmastered him and he almost rushed into a saloon, and waited impatiently till he was served. Every nerve seemed to be quivering with excitement, restlessness; and there was a look of wild despairing anguish on his face, as he clutched the glass to allay the terrible craving of his system. He drank till his head was giddy, and his gait was staggering, and then started for home. He entered the gate and slipped on the ice, and being too intoxicated to rise or comprehend his situation, he lay helpless in the dark and cold, until there crept over him that sleep from which there is no awakening, and when morning had broken in all its glory, Charles Romaine had drifted out of life, slain by the wine which at [last] had "bitten like an adder and stung like a serpent." Jeanette had waited and watched through the small hours of the night, till nature o'erwearied had sought repose in sleep and rising very early in the morning, she had gone to the front door to look down the street for his coming when the first object that met her gaze was the lifeless form of her husband. One wild and bitter shriek rent the air, and she fell fainting on the frozen corpse. Her friends gathered round her, all that love and tenderness could do was done for the wretched wife, but nothing could erase from her mind one agonizing sorrow, it was the memory of her fatal triumph over his good resolution years ago at her mother's silver wedding. Carelessly she had sowed the seeds of transgression whose fearful yield was a harvest of bitter misery. Mrs. Clifford came to her in her hour of trial, and tried to comfort and sustain the heart-stricken woman; who had tried to take life easy, but found it terribly hard, and she has measurably succeeded. In the home of her cousin she is trying to bear the burden of her life as well as she can. Her eye never lights up with joy. The bloom and flush have left her careworn face. Tears from her eyes long used to weeping have blenched the coloring of her life existence, and she is passing through life with the shadow of the grave upon her desolate heart.
Joe Gough has been true to his pledge, plenty and comfort have taken the place of poverty and pain. He continued his membership with the church of his choice and Mary is also striving to live a new life, and to be the ministering angel that keeps his steps, and he feels that in answer to prayer, his appetite for strong drink has been taken away.
Life with Mrs. Clifford has become a thing of brightness and beauty, and when children sprang up in her path making gladness and sunshine around her home, she was a wife and tender mother, fond but not foolish; firm in her household government, but not stern and unsympathising in her manner. The faithful friend and companion of her daughters, she won their confidence by her loving care and tender caution. She taught them to come to her in their hours of perplexity and trial and to keep no secrets from her sympathising heart. She taught her sons to be as upright in their lives and as pure in their conversation as she would have her daughters, recognizing for each only one code of morals and one law of spiritual life, and in course of time she saw her daughters ripening into such a beautiful womanhood, and her sons entering the arena of life not with the simplicity which is ignorant of danger and evil, but with the sterling integrity which baffles the darts of temptation with the panoply of principle and the armor of uprightness. Unconsciously she elevated the tone of society in which she moved by a life which was a beautiful and earnest expression of patient continuance in well doing. Paul Clifford's life has been a grand success, not in the mere accumulation of wealth, but in the enrichment of his moral and spiritual nature. He is still ever ready to lend a helping hand. He has not lived merely for wealth and enjoyment, but happiness, lasting and true springs up in his soul as naturally as a flower leaps into blossoms, and whether he is loved or hated, honored or forgotten, he constantly endeavors to make the world better by his example and gladdened by his presence feeling that if every one would be faithful to duty that even here, Eden would spring up in our path, and Paradise be around our way.
1. This installment is numbered as a second Chapter I in the original.
2. The original reads "Jeanette Romaine."
3. The original reads "Mr. Roland."
4. The original reads "to showing."
5. The phrase "that of" is repeated in the original.
6. A note from the Christian Recorder follows this paragraph: "[The rest of this chapter was crowded out. It will appear next week.]"
7. The original reads: "if once [or possibly "one"] subject to the lest excitement."
8. The original reads "and there was a tone of bitterness in the tone of John Anderson."
9. The original reads "by an old friend and college and class mate of mine."
10. The original reads "out of those shoulders spring two serpents."