But still, as Mary toiled on, heavy cares weighed down her heart. Her boy grew larger and larger, and her own health grew feebler in proportion as it needed to be stronger. Sometimes a whole week at a time found her scarce able to crawl from her bed, shaking with ague, or burning with fever; and when there is little or nothing with which to replace them, how fast food seems to be consumed, and clothing to be worn out! And so at length it came to pass that, notwithstanding the labors of the most tireless of needles, and the cutting, clipping, and contriving of the most ingenious of hands, the poor mother was forced to own to herself that her darlings looked really shabby, and kind neighbors one by one hinted and said that she must do something with her boy—that he was old enough to earn his own living; and the same idea occurred to the spirited little fellow himself.
He had often been along by the side of the canal, and admired the horses; for between a horse and Fred there was a perfect magnetic sympathy, and no lot in life looked to him so bright and desirable as to be able to sit on a horse and drive all day long; and when Captain W., pleased with the boy's bright face and prompt motions, sought to enlist him as one of his drivers, he found a delighted listener. "If he could only persuade mother, there was nothing like it." For many nights after the matter was proposed, Mary only cried; and all Fred's eloquence, and his brave promises of never doing any thing wrong, and being the best of all supposable boys, were insufficient to console her.
Every time she looked at the neat, pure little bed, beside her own, that bed hallowed by so many prayers, and saw her boy, with his glowing cheeks and long and dark lashes, sleeping so innocently and trustfully, her heart died within her, as she thought of a dirty berth on the canal boat, and rough boatmen, swearing, chewing tobacco, and drinking; and should she take her darling from her bosom and throw him out among these? Ah, happy mother! look at your little son of ten years, and ask yourself, if you were obliged to do this, should you not tremble! Give God thanks, therefore, you can hold your child to your heart till he is old enough to breast the dark wave of life. The poor must throw them in, to sink or swim, as happens. Not for ease—not for freedom from care—not for commodious house and fine furniture, and all that competence gives, should you thank God so much as for this, that you are able to shelter, guide, restrain, and educate the helpless years of your children.
Mary yielded at last to that master who can subdue all wills—necessity. Sorrowfully, yet with hope in God, she made up the little package for her boy, and communicated to him with renewed minuteness her parting counsels and instructions. Fred was bright and full of hope. He was sure of the great point about which his mother's anxiety clustered—he should be a good boy, he knew he should; he never should swear; he never should touch a drop of spirits, no matter who asked him—that he was sure of. Then he liked horses so much: he should ride all day and never get tired, and he would come back and bring her some money; and so the boy and his mother parted.
Physical want or hardship is not the great thing which a mother need dread for her child in our country. There is scarce any situation in America where a child would not receive, as a matter of course, good food and shelter; nor is he often overworked. In these respects a general spirit of good nature is perceptible among employers, so that our Fred meets none of the harrowing adventures of an Oliver Twist in his new situation.
To be sure he soon found it was not as good fun to ride a horse hour after hour, and day after day, as it was to prance and caper about for the first few minutes. At first his back ached, and his little hands grew stiff, and he wished his turn were out, hours before the time; but time mended all this. He grew healthy and strong, and though occasionally kicked and tumbled about rather unceremoniously by the rough men among whom he had been cast, yet, as they said, "he was a chap that always came down on his feet, throw him which way you would;" and for this reason he was rather a favorite among them. The fat, black cook, who piqued himself particularly on making corn cake and singing Methodist hymns in a style of unsurpassed excellence, took Fred into particular favor, and being equally at home in kitchen and camp meeting lore, not only put by for him various dainty scraps and fragments, but also undertook to further his moral education by occasional luminous exhortations and expositions of Scripture, which somewhat puzzled poor Fred, and greatly amused the deck hands.
Often, after driving all day, Fred sat on deck beside his fat friend, while the boat glided on through miles and miles of solemn, unbroken old woods, and heard him sing about "de New Jerusalem," about "good old Moses, and Paul, and Silas," with a kind of dreamy, wild pleasure. To be sure it was not like his mother's singing; but then it had a sort of good sound, although he never could very precisely make out the meaning.
As to being a good boy, Fred, to do him justice, certainly tried to very considerable purpose. He did not swear as yet, although he heard so much of it daily that it seemed the most natural thing in the world; and although one and another of the hands often offered him tempting portions of their potations, as they said, "to make a man of him," yet Fred faithfully kept his little temperance pledge to his mother. Many a weary hour, as he rode, and rode, and rode through hundreds of miles of unvarying forest, he strengthened his good resolutions by thoughts of home and its scenes.
There sat his mother; there stood his own little bed; there his baby sister, toddling about in her night gown; and he repeated the prayers and sung the hymns his mother taught him, and thus the good seed still grew within him. In fact, with no very distinguished adventures, Fred achieved the journey to Cincinnati and back, and proud of his laurels, and with his wages in his pocket, found himself again at the familiar door.
Poor Fred! a sad surprise awaited him. The elfin shadow that was once ever flitting about the dwelling was gone; the little pattering footsteps, the tireless, busy fingers, all gone! and his mother, paler, sicker, sadder than before, clasped him to her bosom, and called him her only comfort. Fred had brought a pocket full of sugar plums, and the brightest of yellow oranges to his little pet; alas! how mournfully he regarded them now!
How little do we realize, when we hear that such and such a poor woman has lost her baby, how much is implied to her in the loss! She is poor; she must work hard; the child was a great addition to her cares; and even pitying neighbors say, "It was better for her, poor thing! and for the child too." But perhaps this very child was the only flower of a life else wholly barren and desolate. There is often, even in the humblest and most uncultured nature, an undefined longing and pining for the beautiful. It expresses itself sometimes in the love of birds and of flowers, and one sees the rosebush or the canary bird in a dwelling from which is banished every trace of luxury. But the little child, with its sweet, spiritual eyes, its thousand bird-like tones, its prattling, endearing ways, its guileless, loving heart, is a full and perfect answer to the most ardent craving of the soul. It is a whole little Eden of itself; and the poor woman whose whole life else is one dreary waste of toil, clasps her babe to her bosom, and feels proud, and rich, and happy. Truly said the Son of God, "Of such are the kingdom of heaven."
Poor Mary! how glad she was to see her boy again—most of all, that they could talk together of their lost one! How they discoursed for hours about her! How they cried together over the little faded bonnet, that once could scarce be kept for a moment on the busy, curly head! How they treasured, as relics, the small finger marks on the doors, and consecrated with sacred care even the traces of her merry mischief about the cottage, and never tired of telling over to each other, with smiles and tears, the record of the past gleesome pranks!
But the fact was, that Mary herself was fast wearing away. She had borne up bravely against life; but she had but a gentle nature, and gradually she sank from day to day. Fred was her patient, unwearied nurse, and neighbors—never wanting in such kindnesses as they can understand—supplied her few wants. The child never wanted for food, and the mantle shelf was filled with infallible specifics, each one of which was able, according to the showing, to insure perfect recovery in every case whatever; and yet, strange to tell, she still declined. At last, one still autumn morning, Fred awoke, and started at the icy coldness of the hand clasped in his own. He looked in his mother's face; it was sweet and calm as that of a sleeping infant, but he knew in his heart that she was dead.
Months afterwards, a cold December day found Fred turned loose in the streets of Cincinnati. Since his mother's death he had driven on the canal boat; but now the boat was to lie by for winter, and the hands of course turned loose to find employment till spring. Fred was told that he must look up a place; every body was busy about their own affairs, and he must shift for himself; and so with half his wages in his pocket, and promises for the rest, he started to seek his fortune.
It was a cold, cheerless, gray-eyed day, with an air that pinched fingers and toes, and seemed to penetrate one's clothes like snow water—such a day as it needs the brightest fire and the happiest heart to get along at all with; and, unluckily, Fred had neither. Christmas was approaching, and all the shops had put on their holiday dresses; the confectioners' windows were glittering with sparkling pyramids of candy, with frosted cake, and unfading fruits and flowers of the very best of sugar. There, too, was Santa Claus, large as life, with queer, wrinkled visage, and back bowed with the weight of all desirable knickknacks, going down chimney, in sight of all the children of Cincinnati, who gathered around the shop with constantly-renewed acclamations. On all sides might be seen the little people, thronging, gazing, chattering, while anxious papas and mammas in the shops were gravely discussing tin trumpets, dolls, spades, wheelbarrows, and toy wagons.
Fred never had heard of the man who said, "How sad a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes!" but he felt something very like it as he moved through the gay and bustling streets, where every body seemed to be finding what they wanted but himself.
He had determined to keep up a stout heart; but in spite of himself, all this bustling show and merriment made him feel sadder and sadder, and lonelier and lonelier. He knocked and rang at door after door, but nobody wanted a boy: nobody ever does want a boy when a boy is wanting a place. He got tired of ringing door bells, and tried some of the shops. No, they didn't want him. One said if he was bigger he might do; another wanted to know if he could keep accounts; one thought that the man around the corner wanted a boy, and when Fred got there he had just engaged one. Weary, disappointed, and discouraged, he sat down by the iron railing that fenced a showy house, and thought what he should do. It was almost five in the afternoon: cold, dismal, leaden-gray was the sky—the darkness already coming on. Fred sat listlessly watching the great snow feathers, as they slowly sailed down from the sky. Now he heard gay laughs, as groups of merry children passed; and then he started, as he saw some woman in a black bonnet, and thought she looked like his mother. But all passed, and nobody looked at him, nobody wanted him, nobody noticed him.
Just then a patter of little feet was heard behind him on the flagstones, and a soft, baby voice said, "How do 'oo do?" Fred turned in amazement; and there stood a plump, rosy little creature of about two years, with dimpled cheek, ruby lips, and long, fair hair curling about her sweet face. She was dressed in a blue pelisse, trimmed with swan's down, and her complexion was so exquisitely fair, her eyes so clear and sweet, that Fred felt almost as if it were an angel. The little thing toddled up to him, and holding up before him a new wax doll, all splendid in silk and lace, seemed quite disposed to make his acquaintance. Fred thought of his lost sister, and his eyes filled up with tears. The little one put up one dimpled hand to wipe them away, while with the other holding up before him the wax doll, she said, coaxingly, "No no ky."
Just then the house door opened, and a lady, richly dressed, darted out, exclaiming, "Why, Mary, you little rogue, how came you out here?" Then stopping short, and looking narrowly on Fred, she said, somewhat sharply, "Whose boy are you? and how came you here?"
"I'm nobody's boy," said Fred, getting up, with a bitter choking in his throat; "my mother's dead; I only sat down here to rest me for a while."
"Well, run away from here," said the lady; but the little girl pressed before her mother, and jabbering very earnestly in unimaginable English, seemed determined to give Fred her wax doll, in which, she evidently thought, resided every possible consolation.
The lady felt in her pocket and found a quarter, which she threw towards Fred. "There, my boy, that will get you lodging and supper, and to-morrow you can find some place to work, I dare say;" and she hurried in with the little girl, and shut the door.
It was not money that Fred wanted just then, and he picked up the quarter with a heavy heart. The sky looked darker, and the street drearier, and the cold wind froze the tear on his cheeks as he walked listlessly down the street in the dismal twilight.
"I can go back to the canal boat, and find the cook," he thought to himself. "He told me I might sleep with him to-night if I couldn't find a place;" and he quickened his steps with this determination. Just as he was passing a brightly-lighted coffee house, familiar voices hailed him, and Fred stopped; he would be glad even to see a dog he had ever met before, and of course he was glad when two boys, old canal boat acquaintances, hailed him, and invited him into the coffee house. The blazing fire was a brave light on that dismal night, and the faces of the two boys were full of glee, and they began rallying Fred on his doleful appearance, and insisting on it that he should take something warm with them.
Fred hesitated a moment; but he was tired and desperate, and the steaming, well-sweetened beverage was too tempting. "Who cares for me?" thought he, "and why should I care?" and down went the first spirituous liquor the boy had ever tasted; and in a few moments, he felt a wonderful change. He was no longer a timid, cold, disheartened, heart-sick boy, but felt somehow so brave, so full of hope and courage, that he began to swagger, to laugh very loud, and to boast in such high terms of the money in his pocket, and of his future intentions and prospects, that the two boys winked significantly at each other. They proposed, after sitting a while, to walk out and see the shop windows. All three of the boys had taken enough to put them to extra merriment; but Fred, who was entirely unused to the stimulant, was quite beside himself. If they sung, he shouted; if they laughed, he screamed; and he thought within himself he never had heard and thought so many witty things as on that very evening. At last they fell in with quite a press of boys, who were crowding round a confectionery window, and, as usual in such cases, there began an elbowing and scuffling contest for places, in which Fred was quite conspicuous. At last a big boy presumed on his superior size to edge in front of our hero, and cut off his prospect; and Fred, without more ado, sent him smashing through the shop window. There was a general scrabble, every one ran for himself, and Fred, never having been used to the business, was not very skilful in escaping, and of course was caught, and committed to an officer, who, with small ceremony, carried him off and locked him up in the watch house, from which he was the next morning taken before the mayor, and after examination sent to jail.
This sobered Fred. He came to himself as out of a dream, and he was overwhelmed with an agony of shame and self-reproach. He had broken his promise to his dead mother—he had been drinking! and his heart failed him when he thought of the horrors that his mother had always associated with that word. And then he was in jail—that place that his mother had always represented as an almost impossible horror, the climax of shame and disgrace. The next night the poor boy stretched himself on his hard, lonely bed, and laid under his head his little bundle, containing his few clothes and his mother's Bible, and then sobbed himself to sleep.
Cold and gray dawned the following morning on little Fred, as he slowly and heavily awoke, and with a bitter chill of despair recalled the events of the last two nights, and looked up at the iron-grated window, and round on the cheerless walls; and, as if in bitter contrast, arose before him an image of his lost home—the neat, quiet room, the white curtains and snowy floor, his mother's bed, with his own little cot beside it, and his mother's mild blue eyes, as they looked upon him only six months ago. Mechanically he untied the check handkerchief which contained his few clothes, and worldly possessions, and relics of home.
There was the small, clean-printed Bible his mother had given him with so many tears on their first parting; there was a lock of her soft brown hair; there, too, were a pair of little worn shoes and stockings, a baby's rattle, and a curl of golden hair, which he had laid up in memory of his lost little pet. Fred laid his head down over all these, his forlorn treasures, and sobbed as if his heart would break.
After a while the jailer came in, and really seemed affected by the distress of the child, and said what he could to console him; and in the course of the day, as the boy "seemed to be so lonesome like," he introduced another boy into the room as company for him. This was a cruel mercy; for while the child was alone with himself and the memories of the past, he was, if sad, at least safe, and in a few hours after this new introduction he was neither. His new companion was a tall boy of fourteen, with small, cunning, gray eyes, to which a slight cast gave an additional expression of shrewdness and drollery. He was a young gentleman of great natural talent,—in a certain line,—with very precocious attainments in all that kind of information which a boy gains by running at large for several years in a city's streets without any thing particular to do, or any body in particular to obey—any conscience, any principle, any fear either of God or man. We should not say that he had never seen the inside of a church, for he had been, for various purposes, into every one of the city, and to every camp meeting for miles around; and so much had he profited by these exercises, that he could mimic to perfection every minister who had any perceptible peculiarity, could caricature every species of psalm-singing, and give ludicrous imitations of every form of worship. Then he was au fait in all coffee house lore, and knew the names and qualities of every kind of beverage therein compounded; and as to smoking and chewing, the first elements of which he mastered when he was about six years old, he was now a connoisseur in the higher branches. He had been in jail dozens of times—rather liked the fun; had served one term on the chain-gang—not so bad either—shouldn't mind another—learned a good many prime things there.
At first Fred seemed inclined to shrink from his new associate. An instinctive feeling, like the warning of an invisible angel, seemed to whisper, "Beware!" But he was alone, with a heart full of bitter thoughts, and the sight of a fellow-face was some comfort. Then his companion was so dashing, so funny, so free and easy, and seemed to make such a comfortable matter of being in jail, that Fred's heart, naturally buoyant, began to come up again in his breast. Dick Jones soon drew out of him his simple history as to how he came there, and finding that he was a raw hand, seemed to feel bound to patronize and take him under his wing. He laughed quite heartily at Fred's story, and soon succeeded in getting him to laugh at it too.
How strange!—the very scenes that in the morning he looked at only with bitter anguish and remorse, this noon he was laughing at as good jokes—so much for the influence of good society! An instinctive feeling, soon after Dick Jones came in, led Fred to push his little bundle into the farthest corner, under the bed, far out of sight or inquiry; and the same reason led him to suppress all mention of his mother, and all the sacred part of his former life. He did this more studiously, because, having once accidentally remarked how his mother used to forbid him certain things, the well-educated Dick broke out,—
"Well, for my part, I could whip my mother when I wa'n't higher than that!" with a significant gesture.
"Whip your mother!" exclaimed Fred, with a face full of horror.
"To be sure, greenie! Why not? Precious fun it was in those times. I used to slip in and steal the old woman's whiskey and sugar when she was just too far over to walk a crack—she'd throw the tongs at me, and I'd throw the shovel at her, and so it went square and square."
Goethe says somewhere, "Miserable is that man whose mother has not made all other mothers venerable." Our new acquaintance bade fair to come under this category.
Fred's education, under this talented instructor, made progress. He sat hours and hours laughing at his stories—sometimes obscene, sometimes profane, but always so full of life, drollery, and mimicry that a more steady head than Fred's was needed to withstand the contagion. Dick had been to the theatre—knew it all like a book, and would take Fred there as soon as they got out; then he had a first-rate pack of cards, and he could teach Fred to play; and the gay tempters were soon spread out on their bed, and Fred and his instructor sat hour after hour absorbed in what to him was a new world of interest. He soon learned, could play for small stakes, and felt in himself the first glimmering of that fire which, when fully kindled, many waters cannot quench, nor floods drown!
Dick was, as we said, precocious. He had the cool eye and steady hand of an experienced gamester, and in a few days he won, of course, all Fred's little earnings. But then he was quite liberal and free with his money. He added to their prison fare such various improvements as his abundance of money enabled him to buy. He had brought with him the foundation of good cheer in a capacious bottle which emerged the first night from his pocket, for he said he never went to jail without his provision; then hot water, and sugar, and lemons, and peppermint drops were all forthcoming for money, and Fred learned once and again, and again, the fatal secret of hushing conscience, and memory, and bitter despair in delirious happiness, and as Dick said, was "getting to be a right jolly 'un that would make something yet."
And was it all gone, all washed away by this sudden wave of evil?—every trace of prayer, and hope, and sacred memory in this poor child's heart? No, not all; for many a night, when his tempter slept by his side, the child lived over the past; again he kneeled in prayer, and felt his mother's guardian hand on his head, and he wept tears of bitter remorse, and wondered at the dread change that had come over him. Then he dreamed, and he saw his mother and sister walking in white, fair as angels, and would go to them; but between him and them was a great gulf fixed, which widened and widened, and grew darker and darker, till he could see them no more, and he awoke in utter misery and despair.
Again and again he resolved, in the darkness of the night, that to-morrow he would not drink, and he would not speak a wicked word, and he would not play cards, nor laugh at Dick's bad stories. Ah, how many such midnight resolves have evil angels sneered at and good ones sighed over! for with daylight back comes the old temptation, and with it the old mind; and with daylight came back the inexorable prison walls which held Fred and his successful tempter together.
At last he gave himself up. No, he could not be good with Dick—there was no use in trying!—and he made no more midnight resolves, and drank more freely of the dreadful remedy for unquiet thoughts.
And now is Fred growing in truth a wicked boy. In a little while more and he shall be such a one as you will on no account take under your roof, lest he corrupt your own children; and yet, father, mother, look at your son of twelve years, your bright, darling boy, and think of him shut up for a month with such a companion, in such a cell, and ask yourselves if he would be any better.
And was there no eye, heavenly or earthly, to look after this lost one? Was there no eye which could see through all the traces of sin, the yet lingering drops of that baptism and early prayer and watchfulness which consecrated it? Yes; He whose mercy extends to the third and fourth generations of those who love him, sent a friend to our poor boy in his last distress.
It is one of the most refined and characteristic modifications of Christianity, that those who are themselves sheltered, guarded, fenced by good education, knowledge, and competence, appoint and sustain a pastor and guardian in our large cities to be the shepherd of the wandering and lost, and of them who, in the Scripture phrase, "have none to help." Justly is he called the "City Missionary," for what is more truly missionary ground? In the hospital, among the old, the sick, the friendless, the forlorn—in the prison, among the hardened, the blaspheming—among the discouraged and despairing, still holding with unsteady hand on to some forlorn fragment of virtue and self-respect, goes this missionary to stir the dying embers of good, to warn, entreat, implore, to adjure by sacred recollections of father, mother, and home, the fallen wanderers to return. He finds friends, and places, and employment for some, and by timely aid and encouragement saves many a one from destruction.
In this friendly shape appeared a man of prayer to visit the cell in which Fred was confined. Dick listened to his instructions with cool complacency, rolling his tobacco from side to side in his mouth, and meditating on him as a subject for some future histrionic exercise of his talent.
But his voice was as welcome to poor Fred as daylight in a dungeon. All the smothered remorse and despair of his heart burst forth in bitter confessions, as, with many tears, he poured forth his story to the friendly man. It needs not to prolong our story, for now the day has dawned and the hour of release is come.
It is not needful to carry our readers through all the steps by which Fred was transferred, first to the fireside of the friendly missionary, and afterwards to the guardian care of a good old couple who resided on a thriving farm not far from Cincinnati. Set free from evil influences, the first carefully planted and watered seeds of good began to grow again, and he became as a son to the kind family who had adopted him.
THE CANAL BOAT.
Of all the ways of travelling which obtain among our locomotive nation, this said vehicle, the canal boat, is the most absolutely prosaic and inglorious. There is something picturesque, nay, almost sublime, in the lordly march of your well-built, high-bred steamboat. Go, take your stand on some overhanging bluff, where the blue Ohio winds its thread of silver, or the sturdy Mississippi tears its path through unbroken forests, and it will do your heart good to see the gallant boat walking the waters with unbroken and powerful tread; and, like some fabled monster of the wave, breathing fire, and making the shores resound with its deep respirations. Then there is something mysterious, even awful, in the power of steam. See it curling up against a blue sky, some rosy morning—graceful, floating, intangible, and to all appearance the softest and gentlest of all spiritual things; and then think that it is this fairy spirit that keeps all the world alive and hot with motion; think how excellent a servant it is, doing all sorts of gigantic works, like the genii of old; and yet, if you let slip the talisman only for a moment, what terrible advantage it will take of you! and you will confess that steam has some claims both to the beautiful and the terrible. For our own part, when we are down among the machinery of a steamboat in full play, we conduct ourself very reverently, for we consider it as a very serious neighborhood; and every time the steam whizzes with such red-hot determination from the escape valve, we start as if some of the spirits were after us. But in a canal boat there is no power, no mystery, no danger; one cannot blow up, one cannot be drowned, unless by some special effort: one sees clearly all there is in the case—a horse, a rope, and a muddy strip of water—and that is all.
Did you ever try it, reader? If not, take an imaginary trip with us, just for experiment. "There's the boat!" exclaims a passenger in the omnibus, as we are rolling down from the Pittsburg Mansion House to the canal. "Where?" exclaim a dozen of voices, and forthwith a dozen heads go out of the window. "Why, down there, under that bridge; don't you see those lights?" "What! that little thing?" exclaims an inexperienced traveller; "dear me! we can't half of us get into it!" "We! indeed," says some old hand in the business; "I think you'll find it will hold us and a dozen more loads like us." "Impossible!" say some. "You'll see," say the initiated; and, as soon as you get out, you do see, and hear too, what seems like a general breaking loose from the Tower of Babel, amid a perfect hail storm of trunks, boxes, valises, carpet bags, and every describable and indescribable form of what a westerner calls "plunder."
"That's my trunk!" barks out a big, round man. "That's my bandbox!" screams a heart-stricken old lady, in terror for her immaculate Sunday caps. "Where's my little red box? I had two carpet bags and a—My trunk had a scarle—Halloo! where are you going with that portmanteau? Husband! husband! do see after the large basket and the little hair trunk—O, and the baby's little chair!" "Go below—go below, for mercy's sake, my dear; I'll see to the baggage." At last, the feminine part of creation, perceiving that, in this particular instance, they gain nothing by public speaking, are content to be led quietly under hatches; and amusing is the look of dismay which each new comer gives to the confined quarters that present themselves. Those who were so ignorant of the power of compression as to suppose the boat scarce large enough to contain them and theirs, find, with dismay, a respectable colony of old ladies, babies, mothers, big baskets, and carpet bags already established. "Mercy on us!" says one, after surveying the little room, about ten feet long and six high, "where are we all to sleep to-night?" "O me! what a sight of children!" says a young lady, in a despairing tone. "Poh!" says an initiated traveller; "children! scarce any here; let's see: one; the woman in the corner, two; that child with the bread and butter, three; and then there's that other woman with two. Really, it's quite moderate for a canal boat. However, we can't tell till they have all come."
"All! for mercy's sake, you don't say there are any more coming!" exclaim two or three in a breath; "they can't come; there is not room!"
Notwithstanding the impressive utterance of this sentence, the contrary is immediately demonstrated by the appearance of a very corpulent, elderly lady, with three well-grown daughters, who come down looking about them most complacently, entirely regardless of the unchristian looks of the company. What a mercy it is that fat people are always good natured!
After this follows an indiscriminate raining down of all shapes, sizes, sexes, and ages—men, women, children, babies, and nurses. The state of feeling becomes perfectly desperate. Darkness gathers on all faces. "We shall be smothered! we shall be crowded to death! we can't stay here!" are heard faintly from one and another; and yet, though the boat grows no wider, the walls no higher, they do live, and do stay there, in spite of repeated protestations to the contrary. Truly, as Sam Slick says, "there's a sight of wear in human natur'."
But, meanwhile, the children grow sleepy, and divers interesting little duets and trios arise from one part or another of the cabin.
"Hush, Johnny! be a good boy," says a pale, nursing mamma, to a great, bristling, white-headed phenomenon, who is kicking very much at large in her lap.
"I won't be a good boy, neither," responds Johnny, with interesting explicitness; "I want to go to bed, and so-o-o-o!" and Johnny makes up a mouth as big as a teacup, and roars with good courage, and his mamma asks him "if he ever saw pa do so," and tells him that "he is mamma's dear, good little boy, and must not make a noise," with various observations of the kind, which are so strikingly efficacious in such cases. Meanwhile, the domestic concert in other quarters proceeds with vigor. "Mamma, I'm tired!" bawls a child. "Where's the baby's night gown?" calls a nurse. "Do take Peter up in your lap, and keep him still." "Pray get out some biscuits to stop their mouths." Meanwhile, sundry babies strike in "con spirito," as the music books have it, and execute various flourishes; the disconsolate mothers sigh, and look as if all was over with them; and the young ladies appear extremely disgusted, and wonder "what business women have to be travelling round with babies."
To these troubles succeeds the turning-out scene, when the whole caravan is ejected into the gentlemen's cabin, that the beds may be made. The red curtains are put down, and in solemn silence all, the last mysterious preparations begin. At length it is announced that all is ready. Forthwith the whole company rush back, and find the walls embellished by a series of little shelves, about a foot wide, each furnished with a mattress and bedding, and hooked to the ceiling by a very suspiciously slender cord. Direful are the ruminations and exclamations of inexperienced travellers, particularly young ones, as they eye these very equivocal accommodations. "What, sleep up there! I won't sleep on one of those top shelves, I know. The cords will certainly break." The chambermaid here takes up the conversation, and solemnly assures them that such an accident is not to be thought of at all; that it is a natural impossibility—a thing that could not happen without an actual miracle; and since it becomes increasingly evident that thirty ladies cannot all sleep on the lowest shelf, there is some effort made to exercise faith in this doctrine; nevertheless, all look on their neighbors with fear and trembling; and when the stout lady talks of taking a shelf, she is most urgently pressed to change places with her alarmed neighbor below. Points of location being after a while adjusted, comes the last struggle. Every body wants to take off a bonnet, or look for a shawl, to find a cloak, or get a carpet bag, and all set about it with such zeal that nothing can be done. "Ma'am, you're on my foot!" says one. "Will you please to move, ma'am?" says somebody, who is gasping and struggling behind you. "Move!" you echo. "Indeed, I should be very glad to, but I don't see much prospect of it." "Chambermaid!" calls a lady, who is struggling among a heap of carpet bags and children at one end of the cabin. "Ma'am!" echoes the poor chambermaid, who is wedged fast, in a similar situation, at the other. "Where's my cloak, chambermaid?" "I'd find it, ma'am, if I could move." "Chambermaid, my basket!" "Chambermaid, my parasol!" "Chambermaid, my carpet bag!" "Mamma, they push me so!" "Hush, child; crawl under there, and lie still till I can undress you." At last, however, the various distresses are over, the babies sink to sleep, and even that much-enduring being, the chambermaid, seeks out some corner for repose. Tired and drowsy, you are just sinking into a doze, when bang! goes the boat against the sides of a lock; ropes scrape, men run and shout, and up fly the heads of all the top shelfites, who are generally the more juvenile and airy part of the company.
"What's that! what's that!" flies from mouth to mouth; and forthwith they proceed to awaken their respective relations. "Mother! Aunt Hannah! do wake up; what is this awful noise?" "O, only a lock!" "Pray be still," groan out the sleepy members from below.
"A lock!" exclaim the vivacious creatures, ever on the alert for information; "and what is a lock, pray?"
"Don't you know what a lock is, you silly creatures? Do lie down and go to sleep."
"But say, there ain't any danger in a lock, is there?" respond the querists. "Danger!" exclaims a deaf old lady, poking up her head; "what's the matter? There hain't nothin' burst, has there?" "No, no, no!" exclaim the provoked and despairing opposition party, who find that there is no such thing as going to sleep till they have made the old lady below and the young ladies above understand exactly the philosophy of a lock. After a while the conversation again subsides; again all is still; you hear only the trampling of horses and the rippling of the rope in the water, and sleep again is stealing over you. You doze, you dream, and all of a sudden you are started by a cry, "Chambermaid! wake up the lady that wants to be set ashore." Up jumps chambermaid, and up jump the lady and two children, and forthwith form a committee of inquiry as to ways and means. "Where's my bonnet?" says the lady, half awake, and fumbling among the various articles of that name. "I thought I hung it up behind the door." "Can't you find it?" says poor chambermaid, yawning and rubbing her eyes. "O, yes, here it is," says the lady; and then the cloak, the shawl, the gloves, the shoes, receive each a separate discussion. At last all seems ready, and they begin to move off, when, lo! Peter's cap is missing. "Now, where can it be?" soliloquizes the lady. "I put it right here by the table leg; maybe it got into some of the berths." At this suggestion, the chambermaid takes the candle, and goes round deliberately to every berth, poking the light directly in the face of every sleeper. "Here it is," she exclaims, pulling at something black under one pillow. "No, indeed, those are my shoes," says the vexed sleeper. "Maybe it's here," she resumes, darting upon something dark in another berth. "No, that's my bag," responds the occupant. The chambermaid then proceeds to turn over all the children on the floor, to see if it is not under them. In the course of which process they are most agreeably waked up and enlivened; and when every body is broad awake, and most uncharitably wishing the cap, and Peter too, at the bottom of the canal, the good lady exclaims, "Well, if this isn't lucky; here I had it safe in my basket all the time!" And she departs amid the—what shall I say?—execrations?—of the whole company, ladies though they be.
Well, after this follows a hushing up and wiping up among the juvenile population, and a series of remarks commences from the various shelves, of a very edifying and instructive tendency. One says that the woman did not seem to know where any thing was; another says that she has waked them all up; a third adds that she has waked up all the children, too; and the elderly ladies make moral reflections on the importance of putting your things where you can find them—being always ready; which observations, being delivered in an exceedingly doleful and drowsy tone, form a sort of sub-bass to the lively chattering of the upper shelfites, who declare that they feel quite wide awake,—that they don't think they shall go to sleep again to-night,—and discourse over every thing in creation, until you heartily wish you were enough related to them to give them a scolding.
At last, however, voice after voice drops off; you fall into a most refreshing slumber; it seems to you that you sleep about a quarter of an hour, when the chambermaid pulls you by the sleeve. "Will you please to get up, ma'am? We want to make the beds." You start and stare. Sure enough, the night is gone. So much for sleeping on board canal boats.
Let us not enumerate the manifold perplexities of the morning toilet in a place where every lady realizes most forcibly the condition of the old woman who lived under a broom: "All she wanted was elbow room." Let us not tell how one glass is made to answer for thirty fair faces, one ewer and vase for thirty lavations; and—tell it not in Gath!—one towel for a company! Let us not intimate how ladies' shoes have, in a night, clandestinely slid into the gentlemen's cabin, and gentlemen's boots elbowed, or, rather, toed their way among ladies' gear, nor recite the exclamations after runaway property that are heard. "I can't find nothin' of Johnny's shoe!" "Here's a shoe in the water pitcher—is this it?" "My side combs are gone!" exclaims a nymph with dishevelled curls. "Massy! do look at my bonnet!" exclaims an old lady, elevating an article crushed into as many angles as there are pieces in a minced pie. "I never did sleep so much together in my life," echoes a poor little French lady, whom despair has driven into talking English.
But our shortening paper warns us not to prolong our catalogue of distresses beyond reasonable bounds, and therefore we will close with advising all our friends, who intend to try this way of travelling for pleasure, to take a good stock both of patience and clean towels with them, for we think that they will find abundant need for both.
There is one way of studying human nature, which surveys mankind only as a set of instruments for the accomplishment of personal plans. There is another, which regards them simply as a gallery of pictures, to be admired or laughed at as the caricature or the beau ideal predominates. A third way regards them as human beings, having hearts that can suffer and enjoy, that can be improved or be ruined; as those who are linked to us by mysterious reciprocal influences, by the common dangers of a present existence, and the uncertainties of a future one; as presenting, wherever we meet them, claims on our sympathy and assistance.
Those who adopt the last method are interested in human beings, not so much by present attractions as by their capabilities as intelligent, immortal beings; by a high belief of what every mind may attain in an immortal existence; by anxieties for its temptations and dangers, and often by the perception of errors and faults which threaten its ruin. The first two modes are adopted by the great mass of society; the last is the office of those few scattered stars in the sky of life, who look down on its dark selfishness to remind us that there is a world of light and love.
To this class did He belong, whose rising and setting on earth were for "the healing of the nations;" and to this class has belonged many a pure and devoted spirit, like him shining to cheer, like him fading away into the heavens. To this class many a one wishes to belong, who has an eye to distinguish the divinity of virtue, without the resolution to attain it; who, while they sweep along with the selfish current of society, still regret that society is not different—that they themselves are not different. If this train of thought has no very particular application to what follows, it was nevertheless suggested by it, and of its relevancy others must judge.
Look into this school room. It is a warm, sleepy afternoon in July; there is scarcely air enough to stir the leaves of the tall buttonwood tree before the door, or to lift the loose leaves of the copy book in the window; the sun has been diligently shining into those curtainless west windows ever since three o'clock, upon those blotted and mangled desks, and those decrepit and tottering benches, and that great arm chair, the high place of authority.
You can faintly hear, about the door, the "craw, craw," of some neighboring chickens, which have stepped around to consider the dinner baskets, and pick up the crumbs of the noon's repast. For a marvel, the busy school is still, because, in truth, it is too warm to stir. You will find nothing to disturb your meditation on character, for you cannot hear the beat of those little hearts, nor the bustle of all those busy thoughts.
Now look around. Who of these is the most interesting? Is it that tall, slender, hazel-eyed boy, with a glance like a falcon, whose elbows rest on his book as he gazes out on the great buttonwood tree, and is calculating how he shall fix his squirrel trap when school is out? Or is it that curly-headed little rogue, who is shaking with repressed laughter at seeing a chicken roll over in a dinner basket? Or is it that arch boy with black eyelashes, and deep, mischievous dimple in his cheeks, who is slyly fixing a fish hook to the skirts of the master's coat, yet looking as abstracted as Archimedes whenever the good man turns his head that way? No; these are intelligent, bright, beautiful, but it is not these.
Perhaps, then, it is that sleepy little girl, with golden curls, and a mouth like a half-blown rosebud. See, the small brass thimble has fallen to the floor, her patchwork drops from her lap, her blue eyes close like two sleepy violets, her little head is nodding, and she sinks on her sister's shoulder: surely it is she. No, it is not.
But look in that corner. Do you see that boy with such a gloomy countenance—so vacant, yet so ill natured? He is doing nothing, and he very seldom does any thing. He is surly and gloomy in his looks and actions. He never showed any more aptitude for saying or doing a pretty thing than his straight white hair does for curling. He is regularly blamed and punished every day, and the more he is blamed and punished, the worse he grows. None of the boys and girls in school will play with him; or, if they do, they will be sorry for it. And every day the master assures him that "he does not know what to do with him," and that he "makes him more trouble than any boy in school," with similar judicious information, that has a striking tendency to promote improvement. That is the boy to whom I apply the title of "the most interesting one."
He is interesting because he is not pleasing; because he has bad habits; because he does wrong; because, under present influences, he is always likely to do wrong. He is interesting because he has become what he is now by means of the very temperament which often makes the noblest virtue. It is feeling, acuteness of feeling, which has given that countenance its expression, that character its moroseness.
He has no father, and that long-suffering friend, his mother, is gone too. Yet he has relations, and kind ones too; and, in the compassionate language of worldly charity, it may be said of him, "He would have nothing of which to complain, if he would only behave himself."
His little sister is always bright, always pleasant and cheerful; and his friends say, "Why should not he be so too? He is in exactly the same circumstances." No, he is not. In one circumstance they differ. He has a mind to feel and remember every thing that can pain; she can feel and remember but little. If you blame him, he is exasperated, gloomy, and cannot forget it. If you blame her, she can say she has done wrong in a moment, and all is forgotten. Her mind can no more be wounded than the little brook where she loves to play. The bright waters close again, and smile and prattle as merry as before.
Which is the most desirable temperament? It would be hard to say. The power of feeling is necessary for all that is noble in man, and yet it involves the greatest risks. They who catch at happiness on the bright surface of things, secure a portion, such as it is, with more certainty; those who dive for it in the waters of deeper feeling, if they succeed, will bring up pearls and diamonds, but if they sink they are lost forever!
But now comes Saturday, and school is just out. Can any one of my readers remember the rapturous prospect of a long, bright Saturday afternoon? "Where are you going?" "Will you come and see me?" "We are going a fishing!" "Let us go a strawberrying!" may be heard rising from the happy group. But no one comes near the ill-humored James, and the little party going to visit his sister "wish James was out of the way." He sees every motion, hears every whisper, knows, suspects, feels it all, and turns to go home more sullen and ill tempered than common. The world looks dark—nobody loves him—and he is told that it is "all his own fault," and that makes the matter still worse.
When the little party arrive, he is suspicious and irritable, and, of course, soon excommunicated. Then, as he stands in disconsolate anger, looking over the garden fence at the gay group making dandelion chains, and playing baby house under the trees, he wonders why he is not like other children. He wishes he were different, and yet he does not know what to do. He looks around, and every thing is blooming and bright. His little bed of flowers is even brighter and sweeter than ever before, and a new rose is just opening on his rosebush.
There goes pussy, too, racing and scampering, with little Ellen after her, in among the alleys and flowers; and the birds are singing in the trees; and the soft winds brush the blossoms of the sweet pea against his cheek; and yet, though all nature looks on him so kindly, he is wretched.
Let us now change the scene. Why is that crowded assembly so attentive—so silent? Who is speaking? It is our old friend, the little disconsolate schoolboy. But his eyes are flashing with intellect, his face fervent with emotion, his voice breathes like music, and every mind is enchained.
Again, it is a splendid sunset, and yonder enthusiast meets it face to face, as a friend. He is silent—rapt—happy. He feels the poetry which God has written; he is touched by it, as God meant that the feeling spirit should be touched.
Again, he is watching by the bed of sickness, and it is blessed to have such a watcher! anticipating every want; relieving, not in a cold, uninterested way, but with the quick perceptions, the tenderness, the gentleness of an angel.
Follow him into the circle of friendship, and why is he so loved and trusted? Why can you so easily tell to him what you can say to no one else besides? Why is it that all around him feel that he can understand, appreciate, be touched by all that touches them?
And when heaven uncloses its doors of light, when all its knowledge, its purity, its bliss, rises on the eye and passes into the soul, who then will be looked on as the one who might be envied—he who can, or he who cannot feel?
"Few, save the poor, feel for the poor; The rich know not how hard It is to be of needful food And needful rest debarred.
Their paths are paths of plenteousness; They sleep on silk and down; They never think how wearily The weary head lies down.
They never by the window sit, And see the gay pass by, Yet take their weary work again, And with a mournful eye."
L. E. L.
However fine and elevated, in a sentimental point of view, may have been the poetry of this gifted writer, we think we have never seen any thing from this source that ought to give a better opinion of her than the little ballad from which the above verses are taken.
They show that the accomplished authoress possessed, not merely a knowledge of the dreamy ideal wants of human beings, but the more pressing and homely ones, which the fastidious and poetical are often the last to appreciate. The sufferings of poverty are not confined to those of the common, squalid, every day inured to hardships, and ready, with open hand, to receive charity, let it come to them as it will. There is another class on whom it presses with still heavier power—the generous, the decent, the self-respecting, who have struggled with their lot in silence, "bearing all things, hoping all things," and willing to endure all things, rather than breathe a word of complaint, or to acknowledge, even to themselves, that their own efforts will not be sufficient for their own necessities.
Pause with me a while at the door of yonder room, whose small window overlooks a little court below. It is inhabited by a widow and her daughter, dependent entirely on the labors of the needle, and those other slight and precarious resources, which are all that remain to woman when left to struggle her way through the world alone. It contains all their small earthly store, and there is scarce an article of its little stock of furniture that has not been thought of, and toiled for, and its price calculated over and over again, before every thing could be made right for its purchase. Every article is arranged with the utmost neatness and care; nor is the most costly furniture of a fashionable parlor more sedulously guarded from a scratch or a rub, than is that brightly-varnished bureau, and that neat cherry tea table and bedstead. The floor, too, boasted once a carpet; but old Time has been busy with it, picking a hole here, and making a thin place there; and though the old fellow has been followed up by the most indefatigable zeal in darning, the marks of his mischievous fingers are too plain to be mistaken. It is true, a kindly neighbor has given a bit of faded baize, which has been neatly clipped and bound, and spread down over an entirely unmanageable hole in front of the fireplace; and other places have been repaired with pieces of different colors; and yet, after all, it is evident that the poor carpet is not long for this world.
But the best face is put upon every thing. The little cupboard in the corner, that contains a few china cups, and one or two antiquated silver spoons, relics of better days, is arranged with jealous neatness, and the white muslin window curtain, albeit the muslin be old, has been carefully whitened and starched, and smoothly ironed, and put up with exact precision; and on the bureau, covered by a snowy cloth, are arranged a few books and other memorials of former times, and a faded miniature, which, though it have little about it to interest a stranger, is more precious to the poor widow than every thing besides.
Mrs. Ames is seated in her rocking chair, supported by a pillow, and busy cutting out work, while her daughter, a slender, sickly-looking girl, is sitting by the window, intent on some fine stitching.
Mrs. Ames, in former days, was the wife of a respectable merchant, and the mother of an affectionate family. But evil fortune had followed her with a steadiness that seemed like the stern decree of some adverse fate rather than the ordinary dealings of a merciful Providence. First came a heavy run of losses in business; then long and expensive sickness in the family, and the death of children. Then there was the selling of the large house and elegant furniture, to retire to a humbler style of living; and finally, the sale of all the property, with the view of quitting the shores of a native land, and commencing life again in a new one. But scarcely had the exiled family found themselves in the port of a foreign land, when the father was suddenly smitten down by the hand of death, and his lonely grave made in a land of strangers. The widow, broken-hearted and discouraged, had still a wearisome journey before her ere she could reach any whom she could consider as her friends. With her two daughters, entirely unattended, and with her finances impoverished by detention and sickness, she performed the tedious journey.
Arrived at the place of her destination, she found herself not only without immediate resources, but considerably in debt to one who had advanced money for her travelling expenses. With silent endurance she met the necessities of her situation. Her daughters, delicately reared, and hitherto carefully educated, were placed out to service, and Mrs. Ames sought for employment as a nurse. The younger child fell sick, and the hard earnings of the mother were all exhausted in the care of her; and though she recovered in part, she was declared by her physician to be the victim of a disease which would never leave her till it terminated her life.
As soon, however, as her daughter was so far restored as not to need her immediate care, Mrs. Ames resumed her laborious employment. Scarcely had she been able, in this way, to discharge the debts for her journey and to furnish the small room we have described, when the hand of disease was laid heavily on herself. Too resolute and persevering to give way to the first attacks of pain and weakness, she still continued her fatiguing employment till her system was entirely prostrated. Thus all possibility of pursuing her business was cut off, and nothing remained but what could be accomplished by her own and her daughter's dexterity at the needle. It is at this time we ask you to look in upon the mother and daughter.
Mrs. Ames is sitting up, the first time for a week, and even to-day she is scarcely fit to do so; but she remembers that the month is coming round, and her rent will soon be due; and in her feebleness she will stretch every nerve to meet her engagements with punctilious exactness.
Wearied at length with cutting out, and measuring, and drawing threads, she leans back in her chair, and her eye rests on the pale face of her daughter, who has been sitting for two hours intent on her stitching.
"Ellen, my child, your head aches; don't work so steadily."
"O, no, it don't ache much," said she, too conscious of looking very much tired. Poor girl! had she remained in the situation in which she was born, she would now have been skipping about, and enjoying life as other young girls of fifteen do; but now there is no choice of employments for her—no youthful companions—no visiting—no pleasant walks in the fresh air. Evening and morning, it is all the same; headache or sideache, it is all one. She must hold on the same unvarying task—a wearisome thing for a girl of fifteen.
But see! the door opens, and Mrs. Ames's face brightens as her other daughter enters. Mary has become a domestic in a neighboring family, where her faithfulness and kindness of heart have caused her to be regarded more as a daughter and a sister than as a servant. "Here, mother, is your rent money," she exclaimed; "so do put up your work and rest a while. I can get enough to pay it next time before the month comes around again."
"Dear child, I do wish you would ever think to get any thing for yourself," said Mrs. Ames. "I cannot consent to use up all your earnings, as I have done lately, and all Ellen's too; you must have a new dress this spring, and that bonnet of yours is not decent any longer."
"O, no, mother! I have made over my blue calico, and you would be surprised to see how well it looks; and my best frock, when it is washed and darned, will answer some time longer. And then Mrs. Grant has given me a ribbon, and when my bonnet is whitened and trimmed it will look very well. And so," she added, "I brought you some wine this afternoon; you know the doctor says you need wine."
"Dear child, I want to see you take some comfort of your money yourself."
"Well, I do take comfort of it, mother. It is more comfort to be able to help you than to wear all the finest dresses in the world."
* * * * *
Two months from this dialogue found our little family still more straitened and perplexed. Mrs. Ames had been confined all the time with sickness, and the greater part of Ellen's time and strength was occupied with attending to her.
Very little sewing could the poor girl now do, in the broken intervals that remained to her; and the wages of Mary were not only used as fast as earned, but she anticipated two months in advance.
Mrs. Ames had been better for a day or two, and had been sitting up, exerting all her strength to finish a set of shirts which had been sent in to make. "The money for them will just pay our rent," sighed she; "and if we can do a little more this week——"
"Dear mother, you are so tired," said Ellen; "do lie down, and not worry any more till I come back."
Ellen went out, and passed on till she came to the door of an elegant house, whose damask and muslin window curtains indicated a fashionable residence.
Mrs. Elmore was sitting in her splendidly-furnished parlor, and around her lay various fancy articles which two young girls were busily unrolling. "What a lovely pink scarf!" said one, throwing it over her shoulders and skipping before a mirror; while the other exclaimed, "Do look at these pocket handkerchiefs, mother! what elegant lace!"
"Well, girls," said Mrs. Elmore, "these handkerchiefs are a shameful piece of extravagance. I wonder you will insist on having such things."
"La, mamma, every body has such now; Laura Seymour has half a dozen that cost more than these, and her father is no richer than ours."
"Well," said Mrs. Elmore, "rich or not rich, it seems to make very little odds; we do not seem to have half as much money to spare as we did when we lived in the little house in Spring Street. What with new furnishing the house, and getting every thing you boys and girls say you must have, we are poorer, if any thing, than we were then."
"Ma'am, here is Mrs. Ames's girl come with some sewing," said the servant.
"Show her in," said Mrs. Elmore.
Ellen entered timidly, and handed her bundle of work to Mrs. Elmore, who forthwith proceeded to a minute scrutiny of the articles; for she prided herself on being very particular as to her sewing. But, though the work had been executed by feeble hands and aching eyes, even Mrs. Elmore could detect no fault in it.
"Well, it is very prettily done," said she. "What does your mother charge?"
Ellen handed a neatly-folded bill which she had drawn for her mother. "I must say, I think your mother's prices are very high," said Mrs. Elmore, examining her nearly empty purse; "every thing is getting so dear that one hardly knows how to live." Ellen looked at the fancy articles, and glanced around the room with an air of innocent astonishment. "Ah," said Mrs. Elmore, "I dare say it seems to you as if persons in our situation had no need of economy; but, for my part, I feel the need of it more and more every day." As she spoke she handed Ellen the three dollars, which, though it was not a quarter the price of one of the handkerchiefs, was all that she and her sick mother could claim in the world.
"There," said she; "tell your mother I like her work very much, but I do not think I can afford to employ her, if I can find any one to work cheaper."
Now, Mrs. Elmore was not a hard-hearted woman, and if Ellen had come as a beggar to solicit help for her sick mother, Mrs. Elmore would have fitted out a basket of provisions, and sent a bottle of wine, and a bundle of old clothes, and all the et cetera of such occasions; but the sight of a bill always aroused all the instinctive sharpness of her business-like education. She never had the dawning of an idea that it was her duty to pay any body any more than she could possibly help; nay, she had an indistinct notion that it was her duty as an economist to make every body take as little as possible. When she and her daughters lived in Spring Street, to which she had alluded, they used to spend the greater part of their time at home, and the family sewing was commonly done among themselves. But since they had moved into a large house, and set up a carriage, and addressed themselves to being genteel, the girls found that they had altogether too much to do to attend to their own sewing, much less to perform any for their father and brothers. And their mother found her hands abundantly full in overlooking her large house, in taking care of expensive furniture, and in superintending her increased train of servants. The sewing, therefore, was put out; and Mrs. Elmore felt it a duty to get it done the cheapest way she could. Nevertheless, Mrs. Elmore was too notable a lady, and her sons and daughters were altogether too fastidious as to the make and quality of their clothing, to admit the idea of its being done in any but the most complete and perfect manner.
Mrs. Elmore never accused herself of want of charity for the poor; but she had never considered that the best class of the poor are those who never ask charity. She did not consider that, by paying liberally those who were honestly and independently struggling for themselves, she was really doing a greater charity than by giving indiscriminately to a dozen applicants.
"Don't you think, mother, she says we charge too high for this work!" said Ellen, when she returned. "I am sure she did not know how much work we put in those shirts. She says she cannot give us any more work; she must look out for somebody that will do it cheaper. I do not see how it is that people who live in such houses, and have so many beautiful things, can feel that they cannot afford to pay for what costs us so much."
"Well, child, they are more apt to feel so than people who live plainer."
"Well, I am sure," said Ellen, "we cannot afford to spend so much time as we have over these shirts for less money."
"Never mind, my dear," said the mother, soothingly; "here is a bundle of work that another lady has sent in, and if we get it done, we shall have enough for our rent, and something over to buy bread with."
It is needless to carry our readers over all the process of cutting, and fitting, and gathering, and stitching, necessary in making up six fine shirts. Suffice it to say that on Saturday evening all but one were finished, and Ellen proceeded to carry them home, promising to bring the remaining one on Tuesday morning. The lady examined the work, and gave Ellen the money; but on Tuesday, when the child came with the remaining work, she found her in great ill humor. Upon reexamining the shirts, she had discovered that in some important respects they differed from directions she meant to have given, and supposed she had given; and, accordingly, she vented her displeasure on Ellen.
"Why didn't you make these shirts as I told you?" said she, sharply.
"We did," said Ellen, mildly; "mother measured by the pattern every part, and cut them herself."
"Your mother must be a fool, then, to make such a piece of work. I wish you would just take them back and alter them over;" and the lady proceeded with the directions, of which neither Ellen nor her mother till then had had any intimation. Unused to such language, the frightened Ellen took up her work and slowly walked homeward.
"O, dear, how my head does ache!" thought she to herself; "and poor mother! she said this morning she was afraid another of her sick turns was coming on, and we have all this work to pull out and do over."
"See here, mother," said she, with a disconsolate air, as she entered the room; "Mrs. Rudd says, take out all the bosoms, and rip off all the collars, and fix them quite another way. She says they are not like the pattern she sent; but she must have forgotten, for here it is. Look, mother; it is exactly as we made them."
"Well, my child, carry back the pattern, and show her that it is so."
"Indeed, mother, she spoke so cross to me, and looked at me so, that I do not feel as if I could go back."
"I will go for you, then," said the kind Maria Stephens, who had been sitting with Mrs. Ames while Ellen was out. "I will take the pattern and shirts, and tell her the exact truth about it. I am not afraid of her." Maria Stephens was a tailoress, who rented a room on the same floor with Mrs. Ames, a cheerful, resolute, go-forward little body, and ready always to give a helping hand to a neighbor in trouble. So she took the pattern and shirts, and set out on her mission.
But poor Mrs. Ames, though she professed to take a right view of the matter, and was very earnest in showing Ellen why she ought not to distress herself about it, still felt a shivering sense of the hardness and unkindness of the world coming over her. The bitter tears would spring to her eyes, in spite of every effort to suppress them, as she sat mournfully gazing on the little faded miniature before mentioned. "When he was alive, I never knew what poverty or trouble was," was the thought that often passed through her mind. And how many a poor forlorn one has thought the same!
Poor Mrs. Ames was confined to her bed for most of that week. The doctor gave absolute directions that she should do nothing, and keep entirely quiet—a direction very sensible indeed in the chamber of ease and competence, but hard to be observed in poverty and want.
What pains the kind and dutiful Ellen took that week to make her mother feel easy! How often she replied to her anxious questions, "that she was quite well," or "that her head did not ache much!" and by various other evasive expedients the child tried to persuade herself that she was speaking the truth. And during the times her mother slept, in the day or evening, she accomplished one or two pieces of plain work, with the price of which she expected to surprise her mother.
It was towards evening when Ellen took her finished work to the elegant dwelling of Mrs. Page. "I shall get a dollar for this," said she; "enough to pay for mother's wine and medicine."
"This work is done very neatly," said Mrs. Page, "and here is some more I should like to have finished in the same way."
Ellen looked up wistfully, hoping Mrs. Page was going to pay her for the last work. But Mrs. Page was only searching a drawer for a pattern, which she put into Ellen's hands, and after explaining how she wanted her work done, dismissed her without saying a word about the expected dollar.
Poor Ellen tried two or three times, as she was going out, to turn round and ask for it; but before she could decide what to say, she found herself in the street.
Mrs. Page was an amiable, kind-hearted woman, but one who was so used to large sums of money that she did not realize how great an affair a single dollar might seem to other persons. For this reason, when Ellen had worked incessantly at the new work put into her hands, that she might get the money for all together, she again disappointed her in the payment.
"I'll send the money round to-morrow," said she, when Ellen at last found courage to ask for it. But to-morrow came, and Ellen was forgotten; and it was not till after one or two applications more that the small sum was paid.
But these sketches are already long enough, and let us hasten to close them. Mrs. Ames found liberal friends, who could appreciate and honor her integrity of principle and loveliness of character, and by their assistance she was raised to see more prosperous days; and she, and the delicate Ellen, and warm-hearted Mary were enabled to have a home and fireside of their own, and to enjoy something like the return of their former prosperity.
We have given these sketches, drawn from real life, because we think there is in general too little consideration on the part of those who give employment to those in situations like the widow here described. The giving of employment is a very important branch of charity, inasmuch as it assists that class of the poor who are the most deserving. It should be looked on in this light, and the arrangements of a family be so made that a suitable compensation can be given, and prompt and cheerful payment be made, without the dread of transgressing the rules of economy.
It is better to teach our daughters to do without expensive ornaments or fashionable elegances; better even to deny ourselves the pleasure of large donations or direct subscriptions to public charities, rather than to curtail the small stipend of her whose "candle goeth not out by night," and who labors with her needle for herself and the helpless dear ones dependent on her exertions.
OLD FATHER MORRIS.
A SKETCH FROM NATURE.
Of all the marvels that astonished my childhood, there is none I remember to this day with so much interest as the old man whose name forms my caption. When I knew him, he was an aged clergyman, settled over an obscure village in New England. He had enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education, had a strong, original power of thought, an omnipotent imagination, and much general information; but so early and so deeply had the habits and associations of the plough, the farm, and country life wrought themselves into his mind, that his after acquirements could only mingle with them, forming an unexampled amalgam like unto nothing but itself.
He was an ingrain New Englander, and whatever might have been the source of his information, it came out in Yankee form, with the strong provinciality of Yankee dialect.
It is in vain to attempt to give a full picture of such a genuine unique; but some slight and imperfect dashes may help the imagination to a faint idea of what none can fully conceive but those who have seen and heard old Father Morris.
Suppose yourself one of half a dozen children, and you hear the cry, "Father Morris is coming!" You run to the window or door, and you see a tall, bulky old man, with a pair of saddle bags on one arm, hitching his old horse with a fumbling carefulness, and then deliberately stumping towards the house. You notice his tranquil, florid, full-moon face, enlightened by a pair of great round blue eyes, that roll with dreamy inattentiveness on all the objects around; and as he takes off his hat, you see the white curling wig that sets off his round head. He comes towards you, and as you stand staring, with all the children around, he deliberately puts his great hand on your head, and, with deep, rumbling voice, inquires,—
"How d'ye do, my darter? is your daddy at home?" "My darter" usually makes off as fast as possible, in an unconquerable giggle. Father Morris goes into the house, and we watch him at every turn, as, with the most liberal simplicity, he makes himself at home, takes off his wig, wipes down his great face with a checked pocket handkerchief, helps himself hither and thither to whatever he wants, and asks for such things as he cannot lay his hands on, with all the comfortable easiness of childhood.
I remember to this day how we used to peep through the crack of the door, or hold it half ajar and peer in, to watch his motions; and how mightily diverted we were with his deep, slow manner of speaking, his heavy, cumbrous walk, but, above all, with the wonderful faculty of "hemming" which he possessed.
His deep, thundering, protracted "A-hem-em" was like nothing else that ever I heard; and when once, as he was in the midst of one of these performances, the parlor door suddenly happened to swing open, I heard one of my roguish brothers calling, in a suppressed tone, "Charles! Charles! Father Morris has hemmed the door open!"—and then followed the signs of a long and desperate titter, in which I sincerely sympathized.
But the morrow is Sunday. The old man rises in the pulpit. He is not now in his own humble little parish, preaching simply to the hoers of corn and planters of potatoes, but there sits Governor D., and there is Judge R., and Counsellor P., and Judge G. In short, he is before a refined and literary audience. But Father Morris rises; he thinks nothing of this; he cares nothing; he knows nothing, as he himself would say, but "Jesus Christ, and him crucified." He takes a passage of Scripture to explain; perhaps it is the walk to Emmaus, and the conversation of Jesus with his disciples. Immediately the whole start out before you, living and picturesque: the road to Emmaus is a New England turnpike; you can see its mile stones, its mullein stalks, its toll gates. Next the disciples rise, and you have before you all their anguish, and hesitation, and dismay talked out to you in the language of your own fireside. You smile; you are amused; yet you are touched, and the illusion grows every moment. You see the approaching stranger, and the mysterious conversation grows more and more interesting. Emmaus rises in the distance, in the likeness of a New England village, with a white meeting house and spire. You follow the travellers; you enter the house with them; nor do you wake from your trance until, with streaming eyes, the preacher tells you that "they saw it was the Lord Jesus—and what a pity it was they could not have known it before!"
It was after a sermon on this very chapter of Scripture history that Governor Griswold, in passing out of the house, laid hold on the sleeve of his first acquaintance: "Pray tell me," said he, "who is this minister?"
"Why, it is old Father Morris."
"Well, he is an oddity—and a genius too, I declare!" he continued. "I have been wondering all the morning how I could have read the Bible to so little purpose as not to see all these particulars he has presented."
I once heard him narrate in this picturesque way the story of Lazarus. The great bustling city of Jerusalem first rises to view, and you are told, with great simplicity, how the Lord Jesus "used to get tired of the noise;" and how he was "tired of preaching, again and again, to people who would not mind a word he said;" and how, "when it came evening, he used to go out and see his friends in Bethany." Then he told about the house of Martha and Mary: "a little white house among the trees," he said; "you could just see it from Jerusalem." And there the Lord Jesus and his disciples used to go and sit in the evenings, with Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus.
Then the narrator went on to tell how Lazarus died, describing, with tears and a choking voice, the distress they were in, and how they sent a message to the Lord Jesus, and he did not come, and how they wondered and wondered; and thus on he went, winding up the interest by the graphic minutiae of an eye witness, till he woke you from the dream by his triumphant joy at the resurrection scene.
On another occasion, as he was sitting at a tea table, unusually supplied with cakes and sweetmeats, he found an opportunity to make a practical allusion to the same family story. He said that Mary was quiet and humble, sitting at her Savior's feet to hear his words; but Martha thought more of what was to be got for tea. Martha could not find time to listen to Christ. No; she was "'cumbered with much serving'—around the house, frying fritters and making gingerbread."
Among his own simple people, his style of Scripture painting was listened to with breathless interest. But it was particularly in those rustic circles, called "conference meetings," that his whole warm soul unfolded, and the Bible in his hands became a gallery of New England paintings.
He particularly loved the evangelists, following the footsteps of Jesus Christ, dwelling upon his words, repeating over and over again the stories of what he did, with all the fond veneration of an old and favored servant.
Sometimes, too, he would give the narration an exceedingly practical turn, as one example will illustrate.
He had noticed a falling off in his little circle that met for social prayer, and took occasion, the first time he collected a tolerable audience, to tell concerning "the conference meeting that the disciples attended" after the resurrection.
"But Thomas was not with them." "Thomas not with them!" said the old man, in a sorrowful voice. "Why, what could keep Thomas away? Perhaps," said he, glancing at some of his backward auditors, "Thomas had got cold-hearted, and was afraid they would ask him to make the first prayer; or perhaps," said he, looking at some of the farmers, "Thomas was afraid the roads were bad; or perhaps," he added, after a pause, "Thomas had got proud, and thought he could not come in his old clothes." Thus he went on, significantly summing up the common excuses of his people; and then, with great simplicity and emotion, he added, "But only think what Thomas lost! for in the middle of the meeting, the Lord Jesus came and stood among them! How sorry Thomas must have been!" This representation served to fill the vacant seats for some time to come.
At another time Father Morris gave the details of the anointing of David to be king. He told them how Samuel went to Bethlehem, to Jesse's house, and went in with a "How d'ye do, Jesse?" and how, when Jesse asked him to take a chair, he said he could not stay a minute; that the Lord had sent him to anoint one of his sons for a king; and how, when Jesse called in the tallest and handsomest, Samuel said "he would not do;" and how all the rest passed the same test; and at last, how Samuel says, "Why, have not you any more sons, Jesse?" and Jesse says, "Why, yes, there is little David down in the lot;" and how, as soon as ever Samuel saw David, "he slashed the oil right on to him;" and how Jesse said "he never was so beat in all his life."
Father Morris sometimes used his illustrative talent to very good purpose in the way of rebuke. He had on his farm a fine orchard of peaches, from which some of the ten and twelve-year-old gentlemen helped themselves more liberally than even the old man's kindness thought expedient.
Accordingly, he took occasion to introduce into his sermon one Sunday, in his little parish, an account of a journey he took; and how he was "very warm and very dry;" and how he saw a fine orchard of peaches that made his mouth water to look at them. "So," says he, "I came up to the fence and looked all around, for I would not have touched one of them without leave for all the world. At last I spied a man, and says I, 'Mister, won't you give me some of your peaches?' So the man came and gave me nigh about a hat full. And while I stood there eating, I said, 'Mister, how do you manage to keep your peaches?' 'Keep them!' said he, and he stared at me; 'what do you mean?' 'Yes, sir,' said I; 'don't the boys steal them?' 'Boys steal them!' said he. 'No, indeed!' 'Why, sir,' said I, 'I have a whole lot full of peaches, and I cannot get half of them'"—here the old man's voice grew tremulous—"'because the boys in my parish steal them so.' 'Why, sir,' said he, 'don't their parents teach them not to steal?' And I grew all over in a cold sweat, and I told him 'I was afeard they didn't.' 'Why, how you talk!' says the man; 'do tell me where you live?' Then," said Father Morris, the tears running over, "I was obliged to tell him I lived in the town of G." After this Father Morris kept his peaches.
Our old friend was not less original in the logical than in the illustrative portions of his discourses. His logic was of that familiar, colloquial kind which shakes hands with common sense like an old friend. Sometimes, too, his great mind and great heart would be poured out on the vast themes of religion, in language which, though homely, produced all the effects of the sublime. He once preached a discourse on the text, "the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity;" and from the beginning to the end it was a train of lofty and solemn thought. With his usual simple earnestness, and his great, rolling voice, he told about "the Great God—the Great Jehovah—and how the people in this world were flustering and worrying, and afraid they should not get time to do this, and that, and t'other. But," he added, with full-hearted satisfaction, "the Lord is never in a hurry; he has it all to do, but he has time enough, for he inhabiteth eternity." And the grand idea of infinite leisure and almighty resources was carried through the sermon with equal strength and simplicity.
Although the old man never seemed to be sensible of any thing tending to the ludicrous in his own mode of expressing himself, yet he had considerable relish for humor, and some shrewdness of repartee. One time, as he was walking through a neighboring parish, famous for its profanity, he was stopped by a whole flock of the youthful reprobates of the place:—
"Father Morris, Father Morris! the devil's dead!"
"Is he?" said the old man, benignly laying his hand on the head of the nearest urchin; "you poor fatherless children!"
But the sayings and doings of this good old man, as reported in the legends of the neighborhood, are more than can be gathered or reported. He lived far beyond the common age of man, and continued, when age had impaired his powers, to tell over and over again the same Bible stories that he had told so often before.
I recollect hearing of the joy that almost broke the old man's heart, when, after many years' diligent watching and nurture of the good seed in his parish, it began to spring into vegetation, sudden and beautiful as that which answers the patient watching of the husbandman. Many a hard, worldly-hearted man—many a sleepy, inattentive hearer—many a listless, idle young person, began to give ear to words that had long fallen unheeded. A neighboring minister, who had been sent for to see and rejoice in these results, describes the scene, when, on entering the little church, he found an anxious, crowded auditory assembled around their venerable teacher, waiting for direction and instruction. The old man was sitting in his pulpit, almost choking with fulness of emotion as he gazed around. "Father," said the youthful minister, "I suppose you are ready to say with old Simeon, 'Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen thy salvation.'" "Sartin, sartin," said the old man, while the tears streamed down his cheeks, and his whole frame shook with emotion.
It was not many years after that this simple and loving servant of Christ was gathered in peace unto Him whom he loved. His name is fast passing from remembrance, and in a few years, his memory, like his humble grave, will be entirely grown over and forgotten among men, though it will be had in everlasting remembrance by Him who "forgetteth not his servants," and in whose sight the death of his saints is precious.
THE TWO ALTARS,
OR TWO PICTURES IN ONE.
I. THE ALTAR OF LIBERTY, OR 1776.
The wellsweep of the old house on the hill was relieved, dark and clear, against the reddening sky, as the early winter sun was going down in the west. It was a brisk, clear, metallic evening; the long drifts of snow blushed crimson red on their tops, and lay in shades of purple and lilac in the hollows; and the old wintry wind brushed shrewdly along the plain, tingling people's noses, blowing open their cloaks, puffing in the back of their necks, and showing other unmistakable indications that he was getting up steam for a real roistering night.
"Hurrah! How it blows!" said little Dick Ward, from the top of the mossy wood pile.
Now Dick had been sent to said wood pile, in company with his little sister Grace, to pick up chips, which, every body knows, was in the olden time considered a wholesome and gracious employment, and the peculiar duty of the rising generation. But said Dick, being a boy, had mounted the wood pile, and erected there a flagstaff, on which he was busily tying a little red pocket handkerchief, occasionally exhorting Grace "to be sure and pick up fast."
"O, yes, I will," said Grace; "but you see the chips have got ice on 'em, and make my hands so cold!"
"O, don't stop to suck your thumbs! Who cares for ice? Pick away, I say, while I set up the flag of liberty."
So Grace picked away as fast as she could, nothing doubting but that her cold thumbs were in some mysterious sense an offering on the shrine of liberty; while soon the red handkerchief, duly secured, fluttered and snapped in the brisk evening wind.
"Now you must hurrah, Gracie, and throw up your bonnet," said Dick, as he descended from the pile.
"But won't it lodge down in some place in the wood pile?" suggested Grace, thoughtfully.
"O, never fear; give it to me, and just holler now, Gracie, 'Hurrah for liberty;' and we'll throw up your bonnet and my cap; and we'll play, you know, that we are a whole army, and I'm General Washington."
So Grace gave up her little red hood, and Dick swung his cap, and up they both went into the air; and the children shouted, and the flag snapped and fluttered, and altogether they had a merry time of it. But then the wind—good for nothing, roguish fellow!—made an ungenerous plunge at poor Grace's little hood, and snipped it up in a twinkling, and whisked it off, off, off,—fluttering and bobbing up and down, quite across a wide, waste, snowy field, and finally lodged it on the top of a tall, strutting rail, that was leaning, very independently, quite another way from all the other rails of the fence.
"Now see, do see!" said Grace; "there goes my bonnet! What will Aunt Hitty say?" and Grace began to cry.
"Don't you cry, Gracie; you offered it up to liberty, you know: it's glorious to give up every thing for liberty."
"O, but Aunt Hitty won't think so."
"Well, don't cry, Gracie, you foolish girl! Do you think I can't get it? Now, only play that that great rail is a fort, and your bonnet is a prisoner in it, and see how quick I'll take the fort and get it!" and Dick shouldered a stick and started off.
* * * * *
"What upon airth keeps those children so long? I should think they were making chips!" said Aunt Mehetabel; "the fire's just a going out under the tea kettle."
By this time Grace had lugged her heavy basket to the door, and was stamping the snow off her little feet, which were so numb that she needed to stamp, to be quite sure they were yet there. Aunt Mehetabel's shrewd face was the first that greeted her as the door opened.
"Gracie—what upon airth!—wipe your nose, child; your hands are frozen. Where alive is Dick?—and what's kept you out all this time?—and where's your bonnet?"
Poor Grace, stunned by this cataract of questions, neither wiped her nose nor gave any answer, but sidled up into the warm corner, where grandmamma was knitting, and began quietly rubbing and blowing her fingers, while the tears silently rolled down her cheeks, as the fire made the former ache intolerably.
"Poor little dear!" said grandmamma, taking her hands in hers; "Hitty shan't scold you. Grandma knows you've been a good girl—the wind blew poor Gracie's bonnet away;" and grandmamma wiped both eyes and nose, and gave her, moreover, a stalk of dried fennel out of her pocket; whereat Grace took heart once more.
"Mother always makes fools of Roxy's children," said Mehetabel, puffing zealously under the tea kettle. "There's a little maple sugar in that saucer up there, mother, if you will keep giving it to her," she said, still vigorously puffing. "And now, Gracie," she said, when, after a while, the fire seemed in tolerable order, "will you answer my question? Where is Dick?"
"Gone over in the lot, to get my bonnet."
"How came your bonnet off?" said Aunt Mehetabel. "I tied it on firm enough."
"Dick wanted me to take it off for him, to throw up for liberty," said Grace.
"Throw up for fiddlestick! Just one of Dick's cut-ups; and you was silly enough to mind him!"
"Why, he put up a flagstaff on the wood pile, and a flag to liberty, you know, that papa's fighting for," said Grace, more confidently, as she saw her quiet, blue-eyed mother, who had silently walked into the room during the conversation.
Grace's mother smiled and said, encouragingly, "And what then?"
"Why, he wanted me to throw up my bonnet and he his cap, and shout for liberty; and then the wind took it and carried it off, and he said I ought not to be sorry if I did lose it—it was an offering to liberty."
"And so I did," said Dick, who was standing as straight as a poplar behind the group; "and I heard it in one of father's letters to mother, that we ought to offer up every thing on the altar of liberty—and so I made an altar of the wood pile."
"Good boy!" said his mother; "always remember every thing your father writes. He has offered up every thing on the altar of liberty, true enough; and I hope you, son, will live to do the same."
"Only, if I have the hoods and caps to make," said Aunt Hitty, "I hope he won't offer them up every week—that's all!"
"O! well, Aunt Hitty, I've got the hood; let me alone for that. It blew clear over into the Daddy Ward pasture lot, and there stuck on the top of the great rail; and I played that the rail was a fort, and besieged it, and took it."
"O, yes! you're always up to taking forts, and any thing else that nobody wants done. I'll warrant, now, you left Gracie to pick up every blessed one of them chips."
"Picking up chips is girl's work," said Dick; "and taking forts and defending the country is men's work."
"And pray, Mister Pomp, how long have you been a man?" said Aunt Hitty.
"If I ain't a man, I soon shall be; my head is 'most up to my mother's shoulder, and I can fire off a gun, too. I tried, the other day, when I was up to the store. Mother, I wish you'd let me clean and load the old gun, so that, if the British should come——"
"Well, if you are so big and grand, just lift me out that table, sir," said Aunt Hitty; "for it's past supper time."
Dick sprang, and had the table out in a trice, with an abundant clatter, and put up the leaves with quite an air. His mother, with the silent and gliding motion characteristic of her, quietly took out the table cloth and spread it, and began to set the cups and saucers in order, and to put on the plates and knives, while Aunt Hitty bustled about the tea.
"I'll be glad when the war's over, for one reason," said she. "I'm pretty much tired of drinking sage tea, for one, I know."
"Well, Aunt Hitty, how you scolded that pedler last week, that brought along that real tea!"
"To be sure I did. S'pose I'd be taking any of his old tea, bought of the British?—fling every teacup in his face first."
"Well, mother," said Dick, "I never exactly understood what it was about the tea, and why the Boston folks threw it all overboard."
"Because there was an unlawful tax laid upon it, that the government had no right to lay. It wasn't much in itself; but it was a part of a whole system of oppressive meanness, designed to take away our rights, and make us slaves of a foreign power."
"Slaves!" said Dick, straightening himself proudly. "Father a slave!"
"But they would not be slaves! They saw clearly where it would all end, and they would not begin to submit to it in ever so little," said the mother.
"I wouldn't, if I was they," said Dick.
"Besides," said his mother, drawing him towards her, "it wasn't for themselves alone they did it. This is a great country, and it will be greater and greater; and it's very important that it should have free and equal laws, because it will by and by be so great. This country, if it is a free one, will be a light of the world—a city set on a hill, that cannot be hid; and all the oppressed and distressed from other countries shall come here to enjoy equal rights and freedom. This, dear boy, is why your father and uncles have gone to fight, and why they do stay and fight, though God knows what they suffer, and——" and the large blue eyes of the mother were full of tears; yet a strong, bright beam of pride and exultation shone through those tears.
"Well, well, Roxy, you can always talk, every body knows," said Aunt Hitty, who had been not the least attentive listener of this little patriotic harangue; "but, you see, the tea is getting cold, and yonder I see the sleigh is at the door, and John's come; so let's set up our chairs for supper."
The chairs were soon set up, when John, the eldest son, a lad of about fifteen, entered with a letter. There was one general exclamation, and stretching out of hands towards it. John threw it into his mother's lap; the tea table was forgotten, and the tea kettle sang unnoticed by the fire, as all hands crowded about mother's chair to hear the news. It was from Captain Ward, then in the American army, at Valley Forge. Mrs. Ward ran it over hastily, and then read it aloud. A few words we may extract.