"Yes; but I cannot understand that sort of thing. A few hundreds a year more or less could be of little moment to a man like Beaufort, and I don't suppose she spent more than you do, my darling. At any rate she was never better dressed. Yet I believe the truth was, that she got frightfully into debt unknown to him; and debt is a sort of thing that multiplies itself in a most astonishing manner, and sows by the wayside the seeds of all sorts of misery. Then people say that when payday came at last, bickerings ensued, their domestic happiness was broken up, Beaufort grew reckless, and plunged into the excitement of the maddest speculations."
"How dreadful!" murmured Lady Lucy.
"Dreadful indeed! I don't know what I should do with such a wife."
"Would not you forgive her if you loved her very much?" asked Lady Lucy, and she spoke in a singularly calm tone of suppressed emotion.
"Once, perhaps, once; and if her fault were the fault of youthful inexperience,—but so much falseness, mean deception, and mental deterioration must have accompanied such transactions, that—in short, I thank Heaven that I have never been put to the trial."
As he spoke, the eyes of Mr. Ferrars were fixed on the leading article of the Times, not on his wife. Presently Lady Lucy glided from the room, without her absence being at the moment observed. Once in her dressing-room, she turned the key, and sinking into a low chair, gave vent to her grief in some of the bitterest tears she had ever shed. She, too, was in debt; "frightfully" her husband had used the right word; "hopelessly" so far as satisfying her creditors, even out of the large allowance Mr. Ferrars made her; and still she had not the courage voluntarily to tell the truth, which yet she knew must burst upon him ere long. From what small beginnings had this Upas shadow come upon her! And what "falseness, mean deception, and mental deterioration" had truly been hers!
Even the fancied relief of weeping was a luxury denied to her, for she feared to show the evidence of tears; thus after a little while she strove to drive them back, and by bathing her face before the glass, and drawing the braids of her soft hair a little nearer her eyes, she was tolerably successful in hiding their trace. Never, when dressing for court or gala, had she consulted her mirror so closely; and now, though the tears were dried, she was shocked at the lines of anguish—those delvers of the wrinkles of age—which marked her countenance. She sat before her looking-glass, one hand supporting her head, the other clutching the hidden letters which she had not yet the courage to open. There was a light tap at the door.
"Who is there?" inquired Lady Lucy.
"It is I, my lady," replied Harris, her faithful maid. "Madame Dalmas is here."
Lady Lucy unlocked the door and gave orders that the visiter should be shown up. With the name had come a flush of hope that some trifling temporary help would be hers. Madame Dalmas called herself a Frenchwoman, and signed herself "Antoinette" but she was really an English Jewess of low extraction, whose true name was Sarah Solomons. Her "profession" was to purchase—and sell—the cast-off apparel of ladies of fashion; and few of the sisterhood have carried the art of double cheating to so great a proficiency. With always a roll of bank-notes in her old leather pocket-book, and always a dirty canvass bag full of bright sovereigns in her pocket, she had ever the subtle temptation for her victims ready.
Madame Dalmas—for she must be called according to the name engraved on her card—was a little meanly-dressed woman of about forty, with bright eyes and a hooked nose, a restless shuffling manner, and an ill-pitched voice. Her jargon was a mixture of bad French and worse English.
"Bon jour, miladi Lucy," she exclaimed as she entered Lady Lucy's sanctum; "need not inquire of health, you look si charmante. Oh, si belle!—that make you wear old clothes so longer dan oder ladies, and have so leetel for me to buy. Milady Lucy Ferrars know she look well in anyting, but yet she should not wear old clothes: no right—for example—for de trade, and de hoosband always like de wife well dressed—ha—ha!"
Poor Lady Lucy! Too sick at heart to have any relish for Madame Dalmas' nauseous compliments, and more than half aware of her cheats and falsehoods, she yet tolerated the creature from her own dire necessities.
"Sit down, Madame Dalmas," she said, "I am dreadfully in want of money; but I really don't know what I have for you."
"De green velvet, which you not let me have before Easter, I still give you four pounds for it, though perhaps you worn it very much since then."
"Only twice—only seven times in all—and it cost me twenty guineas," sighed Lady Lucy.
"Ah, but so old-fashioned—I do believe I not see my money for it. Voyez-vous, de Lady Lucy is one petite lady—si jolie, mais tres petite. If she were de tall grand lady, you see de great dresses could fit small lady, but de leetle dresses fit but ver few."
"If I sell the green velvet I must have another next winter!" murmured Lady Lucy.
"Ah!—vous avez raison—when de season nouveautes come in. I tell you what—you let me have also de white lace robe you show me once, the same time I bought from you one little old pearl brooch."
"My wedding-dress? Oh, no, I cannot sell my wedding-dress!" exclaimed poor Lady Lucy, pressing her hands conclusively together.
"What for not?—you not want to marry over again—I give you twenty-two pounds for it."
"Twenty-two pounds!—why, it is Brussels point, and cost a hundred and twenty."
"Ah, I know—but you forget I perhaps keep it ten years and not sell—and besides you buy dear; great lady often buy ver dear!" and Madame Dalmas shook her head with the solemnity of a sage.
"No, no; I cannot sell my wedding-dress," again murmured the wife. And be it recorded, the temptress, for once, was baffled; but, at the expiration of an hour, Madame Dalmas left the house, with a huge bundle under her arm, and a quiet satisfaction revealed in her countenance, had any one thought it worth while to study the expression of her disagreeable face.
Again Lady Lucy locked her door; and placing a bank note and some sovereigns on the table, she sank into a low chair, and while a few large silent tears flowed down her cheeks, she at last found courage to open the three letters which had hitherto remained, unread, in her apron pocket. The first, the second, seemed to contain nothing to surprise her, however much there might be to annoy; but it was different with the last; here was a gross overcharge, and perhaps it was not with quite a disagreeable feeling that Lady Lucy found something of which she could justly complain. She rose hurriedly and unlocked a small writing-desk, which had long been used as a receptacle for old letters and accounts.
To tell the truth, the interior of the desk did not present a very orderly arrangement. Cards of address, bills paid and unpaid, copies of verses, and papers of many descriptions, were huddled together, and it was not by any means surprising that Lady Lucy failed in her search for the original account by which to rectify the error in her shoemaker's bill. In the hurry and nervous trepidation, which had latterly become almost a constitutional ailment with her, she turned out the contents of the writing-desk into an easy-chair, and then kneeling before it, she set herself to the task of carefully examining the papers. Soon she came to one letter which had been little expected in that place, and which still bore the marks of a rose, whose withered leaves also remained, that had been put away in its folds. The rose Walter Ferrars had given her on the eve of their marriage, and the letter was in his handwriting, and bore but a few days earlier date. With quickened pulses she opened the envelope; and though a mist rose before her eyes, it seemed to form into a mirror in which she saw the by-gone hours. And so she read—and read.
It is the fashion to laugh at love-letters, perhaps because only the silly ones ever come to light. With the noblest of both sexes such effusions are sacred, and would be profaned by the perusal of a third person: but when a warm and true heart is joined to a manly intellect; when reason sanctions and constancy maintains the choice which has been made, there is little doubt that much of simple, truthful, touching eloquence is often to be found in a "lover's" letter. That which the wife now perused with strange and mingled feelings was evidently a reply to some girlish depreciation, of herself, and contained these words:—
"You tell me that in the scanty years of your past life, you already look back on a hundred follies, and that you have unnumbered faults of character at which I do not even guess. Making some allowance for a figurative expression, I will answer 'it may be so.' What then? I have never called you an angel, and never desired you to be perfect. The weaknesses which cling, tendril-like, to a fine nature, not unfrequently bind us to it by ties we do not seek to sever. I know you for a true-hearted girl, but with the bitter lessons of life still unlearned; let it be my part to shield you from their sad knowledge,—yet whatever sorrow or evil falls upon you, I must or ought to share. Let us have no secrets; and while the Truth which gives its purest lustre to your eye, and its richest rose to your cheek, still reigns in your soul, I cannot dream of a fault grave enough to deserve harsher rebuke than the kiss of forgiveness."
What lines to read at such a moment! No wonder their meaning reached her mind far differently than it had done when they were first received. Then she could have little heeded it; witness how carelessly the letter had been put away—how forgotten had been its contents.
Her tears flowed in torrents, but Lucy Ferrars no longer strove to check them. And yet there gleamed through them a brighter smile than had visited her countenance for many a month, A resolve approved by all her better nature was growing firm within her heart; and that which an hour before would have seemed too dreadful to contemplate was losing half its terrors. How often an ascent, which looks in the distance a bare precipice, shows us, when we approach its face, the notches by which we may climb!—and not a few of the difficulties of life yield to our will when we bravely encounter them.
"Why did I fear him so much?" murmured Lady Lucy to herself. "I ought not to have needed such an assurance as this to throw myself at his feet, and bear even scorn and rebuke, rather than prolong the reign of falsehood and deceit. Yes—yes," and gathering a heap of papers in her hand with the "love-letter" beneath them, she descended the stairs.
There is no denying that Lady Lucy paused at the library door—no denying that her heart beat quickly, and her breath seemed well-nigh spent; but she was right to act on the good impulse, and not wait until the new-born courage should sink.
Mr. Ferrars had finished the newspaper, and was writing an unimportant note; his back was to the door, and hearing the rustle of his wife's dress, and knowing her step, he did not turn his head sufficiently to observe her countenance, but he said, good-humouredly,
"At last! What have you been about? I thought we were to go out before luncheon to look at the bracelet I mentioned to you."
"No, Walter—no bracelet—you must never give me any jewels again;" and as Lady Lucy spoke she leaned against a chair for support. At such words her husband turned quickly round, started up, and exclaimed,
"Lucy, my love!—in tears—what has happened?" and finding that even when he wound his arm round her she still was mute, he continued, "Speak—this silence breaks my heart—what have I done to lose your confidence?"
"Not you—I—" gasped the wife. "Your words at breakfast—this letter—have rolled the stone from my heart—I must confess—the truth—I am like Mrs. Beaufort—in debt—frightfully in debt." And with a gesture, as if she would crush herself into the earth, she slipped from his arms and sank literally on the floor.
Whatever pang Mr. Ferrars felt at the knowledge of her fault, it seemed overpowered by the sense of her present anguish—an anguish that proved how bitter had been the expiation; and he lifted his wife to a sofa, bent over her with fondness, called her by all the dear pet names to which her ear was accustomed, and nearer twenty times than once gave her the "kiss of forgiveness."
"And it is of you I have been afraid!" cried Lady Lucy clinging to his hand. "You who I thought would never make any excuses for faults you yourself could not have committed!"
"I have never been tempted."
"Have I? I dare not say so."
"Tell me how it all came about," said Mr. Ferrars, drawing her to him; "tell me from the beginning."
But his gentleness unnerved her—she felt choking—loosened the collar of her dress for breathing space—and gave him the knowledge he asked in broken exclamations.
"Before I was married—it—began. They persuaded me so many—oh, so many—unnecessary things were—needed. Then they would not send the bills—and I—for a long time—never knew—what I owed—and then—and then—I thought I should have the power—but—"
"Your allowance was not sufficient?"' asked Mr. Ferrars, pressing her hand as he spoke.
"Oh, yes, yes, yes! most generous, and yet it was always forestalled to pay old bills; and then—and then my wants were so many. I was so weak. Madame Dalmas has had dresses I could have worn when I had new ones on credit instead, and—and Harris has had double wages to compensate for what a lady's maid thinks her perquisites; even articles I might have given to poor gentlewoman I have been mean enough to sell. Oh, Walter! I have been very wrong; but I have been miserable for at least three years. I have felt as if an iron cage were rising round me—from which you only could free me—and yet, till to-day, I think I could have died rather than confess to you."
"My poor girl! Why should you have feared me? Have I ever been harsh?"
"Oh, no!—no—but you are so just—so strict in all these things—"
"I hope I am; and yet not the less do I understand how all this has come about. Now, Lucy—now that you have ceased to fear me—tell me the amount."
She strove to speak, but could not.
"Three figures or four? tell me."
"I am afraid—yes, I am afraid four," murmured Lady Lucy, and hiding her face from his view; "yes, four figures, and my quarter received last week gone every penny."
"Lucy, every bill shall be paid this day; but you must reward me by being happy."
"Generous! dearest! But, Walter, if you had been a poor man, what then?"
"Ah, Lucy, that would have been a very different and an infinitely sadder story. Instead of the relinquishment of some indulgence hardly to be missed, there might have been ruin and poverty and disgrace. You have one excuse,—at least you knew that I could pay at last."
"Ah, but at what a price! The price of your love and confidence."
"No, Lucy—for your confession has been voluntary; and I will not ask myself what I should have felt had the knowledge come from another. After all, you have fallen to a temptation which besets the wives of the rich far more than those of poor or struggling gentlemen. Tradespeople are shrewd enough in one respect: they do not press their commodities and long credit in quarters where ultimate payment seems doubtful—though—"
"They care not what domestic misery they create among the rich," interrupted Lady Lucy, bitterly.
"Stay: there are faults on both sides, not the least of them being that girls in your station are too rarely taught the value of money, or that integrity in money matters should be to them a point of honour second only to one other. Now listen, my darling, before we dismiss this painful subject for ever. You have the greatest confidence in your maid, and entre nous she must be a good deal in the secret. We shall bribe her to discretion, however, by dismissing Madame Dalmas at once and for ever. As soon as you can spare Harris, I will send her to change a check at Coutts's, and then, for expedition and security, she shall take on the brougham and make a round to these tradespeople. Meanwhile, I will drive you in the phaeton to look at the bracelet."
"Oh, no—no, dear Walter, not the bracelet."
"Yes—yes—I say yes. Though not a quarrel, this is a sorrow which has come between us, and there must be a peace-offering. Besides, I would not have you think that you had reached the limits of my will, and of my means to gratify you."
"To think that I could have doubted—that I could have feared you!" sobbed Lady Lucy, as tears of joy coursed down her cheeks. "But, Walter, it is not every husband who would have shown such generosity."
"I think there are few husbands, Lucy, who do not estimate truth and candour as among the chief of conjugal virtues:—ah, had you confided in me when first you felt the bondage of debt, how much anguish would have been spared you!"
A WORD FOR WIVES.
WHAT is it? A little pencil note, crumpled and worn, as if carried for a long time in one's pocket. I found it in a box of precious things that Fanny's mother had hoarded so choicely, because Fanny had been choice of them. I must read it, for everything of Fanny's is dear to us now. Ah! 'tis a note from a gentleman who was at school with us at F—, whom Fanny esteemed so much, whom we both esteemed for his sterling integrity and his gentleness. It is precious, too, as a reminder of him. I love the remembrance of old schoolfellows,—of frolicsome, foolish, frivolous, loving schooldays. But let me read. 'Tis mostly rubbed out, but here is a place.
"You know full well that long since, 'that dear cousin' permitted me to call her by the endearing name of sister; and may I not, when far away, thinking of bygones, add your name to hers in the sisterly list? You asked me when I had heard from the dear one: she was down here a short hour last week, but what was that among so many who wished to see her?"
Ah! that means me! If I had only known it then! And just now I was wondering if he really loved me, and perhaps felt almost in my secret heart to grieve a bit—to murmur at him. I fear I spoke as he little dreamed then the "dear one" would ever do. What shall I do? I remember him now, in all his young loveliness, in all the excitability of a first love, and my heart kindles too warmly to write what I wished.
What if one had told me then that my home would be in his heart—that my beautiful Alma would be his child! My Alma, my beautiful babe! how sweetly she nestles her little face in his neck. She has stolen her mother's place; little thief! I wonder she does not steal his whole heart to the clear shutting out of her mother!
Little wives! if ever a half suppressed sigh finds place with you, or a half unloving word escapes you to the husband whom you love, let your heart go back to some tender word in those first love—days; remember how you loved him then, how tenderly he wooed you, how timidly you responded, and if you can feel that you have not grown unworthy, trust him for the same fond love now. If you do feel that through many cares and trials of life, you have become less lovable and attractive than then, turn—by all that you love on earth, or hope for in Heaven, turn back, and be the pattern of loveliness that won him; be the "dear one" your attractions made you then. Be the gentle, loving, winning maiden still, and doubt not, the lover you admired will live for ever in your husband. Nestle by his side, cling to his love, and let his confidence in you never fail, and, my word for it, the husband will be dearer than the lover ever was. Above all things, do not forget the love he gave you first. Do not seek to "emancipate" yourself—do not strive to unsex yourself and become a Lucy Stone, or a Rev. Miss Brown, but love the higher honour ordained by our Saviour, of old—that of a loving wife. A happy wife, a blessed mother, can have no higher station, needs no greater honour.
Little wives, remember your first love. As for me, I see again the little crumpled note about the "dear one," and I must go to find love and forgiveness in his arms.
NO JEWELLED BEAUTY.
No jewelled Beauty is my Love, Yet in her earnest face There's such a world of tenderness, She needs no other grace. Her smiles, and voice, around my life In light and music twine, And dear, oh very dear to me, Is this sweet Love of mine.
Oh, joy! to know there's one fond heart Beats ever true to me: It sets mine leaping like a lyre, In sweetest melody; My soul up-springs, a Deity! To hear her voice divine, And dear, oh! very dear to me, Is this sweet Love of mine.
If ever I have sigh'd for wealth, 'Twas all for her, I trow; And if I win Fame's victor-wreath, I'll twine it on her brow. There may be forms more beautiful, And souls of sunnier shine, But none, oh! none so dear to me, As this sweet Love of mine.
THE FIRST MARRIAGE IN THE FAMILY.
"HOME!" How that little word strikes upon the heart strings, awakening all the sweet memories that had slept in memory's chamber! Our home was a "pearl of price" among homes; not for its architectural elegance—for it was only a four gabled, brown country house, shaded by two antediluvian oak trees; nor was its interior crowded with luxuries that charm every sense and come from every clime. Its furniture had grown old with us, for we remembered no other; and though polished as highly as furniture could be, by daily scrubbing, was somewhat the worse for wear, it must be confessed.
But neither the house nor its furnishing makes the home; and the charm of ours lay in the sympathy that linked the nine that called it "home" to one another. Father, mother, and seven children—five of them gay-hearted girls, and two boys, petted just enough to be spoiled—not one link had ever dropped from the chain of love, or one corroding drop fallen, upon its brightness.
"One star differeth from another in glory," even in the firmament of home. Thus—though we could not have told a stranger which sister or brother was dearest—from our gentlest "eldest," an invalid herself, but the comforter and counsellor of all beside, to the curly-haired boy, who romped and rejoiced in the appellation of "baby," given five years before—still an observing eye would soon have singled out sister Ellen as the sunbeam of our heaven, the "morning star" of our constellation. She was the second in age, but the first in the inheritance of that load of responsibility, which in such a household falls naturally upon the eldest daughter. Eliza, as I have said, was ill from early girlhood; and Ellen had shouldered all her burden of care and kindness, with a light heart and a lighter step. Up stairs and down cellar, in the parlour, nursery, or kitchen—at the piano or the wash-tub—with pen, pencil, needle, or ladle—sister Ellen was always busy, always with a smile on her cheek and a warble on her lip.
Quietly, happily, the months and years went by. We never realized that change was to come over our band. To be sure, when mother would look in upon us, seated together with our books, paintings, and needle-work, and say, in her gentle way, with only a half-sigh, "Ah, girls, you are living your happiest days!" we would glance into each other's eyes, and wonder who would go first. But it was a wonder that passed away with the hour, and ruffled not even the surface of our sisterly hearts. It could not be always so—and the change came at last!
Sister Ellen was to be married!
It was like the crash of a thunderbolt in a clear summer sky! Sister Ellen—the fairy of the hearthstone, the darling of every heart—which of us could spare her? Who had been so presumptuous as to find out her worth? For the first moment, this question burst from each surprised, half-angry sister of the blushing, tearful, Ellen! It was only for a moment; for our hearts told us that nobody could help loving her, who had looked through her loving blue eyes, into the clear well-spring of the heart beneath. So we threw our arms around her and sobbed without a word!
We knew very well that the young clergyman, whose Sunday sermons and gentle admonitions had won all hearts, had been for months a weekly visiter to our fireside circle. With baby Georgie on his knee, and Georgie's brothers and sisters clustered about him, he had sat through many an evening charming the hours away, until the clock startled us with its unwelcome nine o'clock warning; and the softly spoken reminder, "Girls, it is bed-time!" woke more than one stifled sigh of regret. Then sister Ellen must always go with us to lay Georgie in his little bed; to hear him and Annette repeat the evening prayer and hymn her lips had taught them; to comb out the long brown braids of Emily's head; to rob Arthur of the story book, over which be would have squandered the "midnight oil;" and to breathe a kiss and a blessing over the pillow of each other sister, as she tucked the warm blankets tenderly about them.
We do not know how often of late she had stolen down again, from these sisterly duties, after our senses were locked in sleep; or if our eyes and ears had ever been open to the fact, we could never have suspected the minister to be guilty of such a plot against our peace! That name was associated, in our minds, with all that was superhuman. The gray-haired pastor, who had gone to his grave six months previous, had sat as frequently on that same oaken arm-chair, and talked with us. We had loved him as a father and friend, and had almost worshipped him as the embodiment of all attainable goodness. And when Mr. Neville came among us, with his high, pale forehead, and soul-kindled eye, we had thought his face also "the face of an angel"—too glorious for the print of mortal passion! Especially after, in answer to an urgent call from the people among whom he was labouring, he had frankly told them that his purpose was not to remain among them, or anywhere on his native shore; that he only waited the guidance of Providence to a home in a foreign clime. After this much—bewailed disclosure of his plans, we placed our favourite preacher on a higher pinnacle of saintship!
But sister Ellen was to be married—and married to Mr. Neville. And then—"Oh, sister, you are not going away, to India!" burst from our lips, with a fresh gush of sobs.
I was the first to look up into Ellen's troubled face. It was heaving with emotions that ruffled its calmness, as the tide-waves ruffle the sea. Her lips were firmly compressed; her eyes were fixed on some distant dream, glassed with two tears, that stood still in their chalices, forbidden to fall. I almost trembled as I caught her glance.
"Sister! Agnes—Emily!" she exclaimed, in a husky whisper. "Hush! be calm! Don't break my heart! Do I love home less than—"
The effort was too much; the words died on her lips. We lifted her to bed, frightened into forgetfulness of her own grief. We soothed her until she, too, wept freely and passionately, and, in weeping, grew strong for the sacrifice to which she had pledged her heart.
We never spoke another word of remonstrance to her tender heart, though often, in the few months that flitted by us together, we used to choke with sobbing, in some speech that hinted of the coming separation, and hurry from her presence to cry alone.
Our mother has told us the tidings with white lips that quivered tenderly and sadly. No love is so uniformly unselfish as a mother's, surely; for though she leaned on Ellen as the strong staff of her declining years, she sorrowed not as we did, that she was going. She, to, was happy in the thought that her child had found that "pearl of price" in a cold and evil world—a true, noble, loving heart to guide and protect her.
Father sat silently in the chimney-corner, reading in the family Bible. He was looking farther than any of us—to the perils that would environ his dearest daughter, and the privations that might come upon her young life, in that unhealthy, uncivilized corner of the globe, whither she was going. Both our parents had dedicated their children to God; and they would not cast even a shadow on the path of self-sacrifice and duty their darling had chosen.
To come down to the unromantic little details of wedding preparations; how we stitched and trimmed, packed and prepared—stoned raisins with tears in our eyes, and seasoned the wedding cake with sighs. But there is little use in thinking over these things. Ellen was first and foremost in all, as she had always been in every emergency, great or small. Nothing could be made without her. Even the bride's cake was taken from the oven by her own fair hands, because no one—servant, sister, or even mother—was willing to run the risk of burning sister Ellen's bride's cake; and "she knew just how to bake it."
We were not left alone in our labours: for Ellen had been loved by more than the home-roof sheltered. Old and young, poor and rich, united in bringing their gifts, regrets, and blessings to the chosen companion of the pastor they were soon to lose. There is something in the idea of missionary life that touches the sympathy of every heart which mammon has not too long seared. To see one, with sympathies and refinements like our own, rend the strong ties that bind to country and home, comfort and civilization, for the good of the lost and degraded heathen, brings too strongly into relief, by contrast, the selfishness of most human lives led among the gayeties and luxuries of time.
The day, the hour came. The ship was to sail from B. on the ensuing week; and it must take away an idol.
She stood up in the village church, that all who loved her, and longed for another sight of her sweet face, might look upon her, and speak the simple words that should link hearts for eternity. We sisters stood all around her, but not too near; for our hearts were overflowing, and we could not wear the happy faces that should grace a train of bridesmaids. She had cheered us through the day with sunshine from her own heart, and even while we are arraying her in her simple white muslin, like a lamb for sacrifice, she had charmed our thoughts into cheerfulness. It seemed like some dream of fairy land, and she the embodiment of grace and loveliness, acting the part of some Queen Titania for little while. The dream changed to a far different reality, when, at the door of her mother's room, she put her hand into that of Henry Neville, and lifted her eye with a look that said, "Where thou goest will I go," even from all beside!
Tears fell fast in that assembly; though the good old matrons tried to smile, as they passed around the bride, to bless her, and bid her good—bye. A little girl, in a patched but clean frock, pushed forward, with a bouquet of violets and strawberry-blossoms in her hand.
"Here, Miss Nelly—please, Miss Nelly," she cried, half-laughing, half-sobbing, "I picked them on purpose for you!"
Ellen stooped and kissed the little eager face. The child burst into tears, and caught the folds of her dress, as though she would have buried her face there. But a strong-armed woman, mindful of the bride's attire, snatched the child away.
"And for what would ye be whimpering in that style, as if you had any right to Miss Ellen?"
"She was always good to me, and she's my Sunday-school teacher," pleaded the little girl, in a subdued undertone.
Agnes drew her to her side, and silently comforted her.
"Step aside—Father Herrick is here!" said one, just then.
The crowd about the bridal pair opened, to admit a white-haired, half-blind old man, who came leaning on the arm of his rosy grand-daughter. Farther Herrick was a superannuated deacon, whose good words and works had won for him a place in every heart of that assembly.
"They told me she was going," he murmured to himself; "they say 'tis her wedding. I want to see my little girl again—bless her!"
Ellen sprang forward, and laid both her white trembling hands in the large hand of the good old man. He drew her near his failing eyes; and looked searchingly into her young, soul-lit countenance.
"I can just see you, darling; and they tell me I shall never see you again! Well, well, if we go in God's way we shall all get to Heaven, and it's all light there!" He raised his hand over her head, and added, solemnly, "The blessing of blessings be upon thee, my child. Amen!"
"Amen!" echoed the voice of Henry Neville.
And Ellen looked up with the look of an angel.
So she went from us! Oh! the last moment of that parting hour has burnt itself into my being for ever! Could the human heart endure the agony of parting like that, realized to be indeed the last—lighted by no ray of hope for eternity! Would not reason reel under the pressure?
It was hard to bear; but I have no words to tell of its bitterness. She went to her missionary life, and we learned at last to live without her, though it was many a month before the little ones could forget to call on "Sister Ellen" in any impulse of joy, grief, or childish want. Then the start and the sigh, "Oh, dear, she's gone—sister is gone!" And fresh tears would flow.
Gone, but not lost; for that First Marriage in the family opened to us a fountain of happiness, pure as the spring of self-sacrifice could make it. Our household darling has linked us to a world of needy and perishing spirits—a world that asks for the energy and the aid of those who go from us, and those who remain in the dear country of their birth. God bless her and her charge! Dear sister Ellen! there may be many another breach in the family—we may all be scattered to the four winds of heaven-but no change can come over us like that which marked the FIRST MARRIAGE.
ONLY A FEW WORDS.
MR. JAMES WINKLEMAN shut the door with a jar, as he left the house, and moved down the street, in the direction of his office, with a quick, firm step, and the air of a man slightly disturbed in mind.
"Things are getting better fast," said he, with a touch of irony in his voice, as he almost flung himself into his leather-cushioned chair. "It's rather hard when a man has to pick his words in his own house, as carefully as if he were picking diamonds, and tread as softly as if he was stepping on eggs. I don't like it. Mary gets weaker and more foolish every day, and puts a breadth of meaning on my words that I never intended them to have. I've not been used to this conning over of sentences and picking out of all doubtful expressions ere venturing to speak, and I'm too old to begin now. Mary took me for what I am, and she must make the most of her bargain. I'm past the age for learning new tricks."
With these and many other justifying sentences, did Mr. Winkleman seek to obtain a feeling of self-approval. But, for all this, he could not shut out the image of a tearful face, nor get rid of an annoying conviction that he had acted thoughtlessly, to say the least of it, in speaking to his wife as he had done.
But what was all this trouble about? Clouds were in the sky that bent over the home of Mr. Winkleman, and it is plain that Mr. Winkleman himself had his own share in the work of producing these clouds. Only a few unguarded words had been spoken. Only words! And was that all?
Words are little things, but they sometimes strike hard. We wield them so easily that we are apt to forget their hidden power. Fitly spoken, they fall like the sunshine, the dew, and the fertilizing rain; but, when unfitly, like the frost, the hail, and the desolating tempest. Some men speak as they feel or think, without calculating the force of what they say; and then seem very much surprised if any one is hurt or offended. To this class belonged Mr. Winkleman. His wife was a loving, sincere woman, quick to feel. Words, to her, were indeed things. They never fell upon her ears as idle sounds. How often was her poor heart bruised by them!
On this particular morning, Mrs. Winkleman, whose health was feeble, found herself in a weak, nervous state. It was only by an effort that she could rise above the morbid irritability that afflicted her. Earnestly did she strive to repress the disturbed beatings of her heart, but she strove in vain. And it seemed to her, as it often does in such cases, that everything went wrong. The children were fretful, the cook dilatory and cross, and Mr. Winkleman impatient, because sundry little matters pertaining to his wardrobe were not just to his mind.
"Eight o'clock, and no breakfast yet," said Mr. Winkleman, as he drew out his watch, on completing his own toilet. Mrs. Winkleman was in the act of dressing the last of five children, all of whom had passed under her hands. Each had been captious, cross, or unruly, sorely trying the mother's patience. Twice had she been in the kitchen, to see how breakfast was progressing, and to enjoin the careful preparation of a favourite dish with which she had purposed to surprise her husband.
"It will be ready in a few minutes," said Mrs. Winkleman. "The fire hasn't burned freely this morning."
"If it isn't one thing, it is another," growled the husband. "I'm getting tired of this irregularity. There'd soon be no breakfast to get, if I were always behind time in business matters."
Mrs. Winkleman bent lower over the child she was dressing, to conceal the expression of her face. What a sharp pain now throbbed through her temples! Mr. Winkleman commenced walking the floor impatiently, little imagining that every jarring footfall was like a blow on the sensitive, aching brain of his wife.
"Too bad! too bad!" he had just ejaculated when the bell rung.
"At last!" he muttered, and strode towards the breakfast-room. The children followed in considerable disorder, and Mrs. Winkleman, after hastily arranging her hair, and putting on a morning cap, joined them at the table. It took some moments to restore order among the little ones.
The dish that Mrs. Winkleman had been at considerable pains to provide for her husband, was set beside his plate. It was his favourite among many, and his wife looked for a pleased recognition thereof, and a lighting up of his clouded brow. But he did not seem even to notice it. After supplying the children, Mr. Winkleman helped himself in silence. At the first mouthful he threw down his knife and fork, and pushed his plate from him.
"What's the matter?" inquired his wife.
"You didn't trust Bridget to cook this, I hope?" was the response.
"What ails it?" Mrs. Winkleman's eyes were filling with tears.
"Oh! it's of no consequence," answered Mr. Winkleman, coldly; "anything will do for me."
"James!" There was a touching sadness blended with rebuke in the tones of his wife; and, as she uttered his name, tears gushed over her cheeks.
Mr. Winkleman didn't like tears. They always annoyed him. At the present time, he was in no mood to bear with them. So, on the impulse of the moment, he arose from the table, and taking up his hat, left the house.
Self-justification was tried, though not, as has been seen, with complete success. The calmer grew the mind of Mr. Winkleman, and the clearer his thoughts, the less satisfied did he feel with the part he had taken in the morning's drama. By an inversion of thought, not usual among men of his temperament, he had been presented with a vivid realization of his wife's side of the question. The consequence was, that, by dinner-time, he felt a good deal ashamed of himself, and grieved for the pain he knew his hasty words had occasioned.
It was in this better state of mind that Mr. Winkleman returned home. The house seemed still as he entered. As he proceeded up stairs, he heard the children's voices, pitched to a low key, in the nursery. He listened, but could not hear the tones of his wife. So he passed into the front chamber, which was darkened. As soon as he could see clearly in the feeble light, he perceived that his wife was lying on the bed. Her eyes were closed, and her thin face looked so pale and death-like, that Mr. Winkleman felt a cold shudder creep through his heart. Coming to the bed-side, he leaned over and gazed down upon her. At first, he was in doubt whether she really breathed or not; and he felt a heavy weight removed when he saw that her chest rose and fell in feeble respiration.
"Mary!" He spoke in a low, tender voice.
Instantly the fringed eyelids parted, and Mrs. Winkleman gazed up into her husband's face in partial bewilderment.
Obeying the moment's impulse, Mr. Winkleman bent down and left a kiss upon her pale lips. As if moved by an electric thrill, the wife's arms were flung around the husband's neck.
"I am sorry to find you so ill," said Mr. Winkleman, in a voice of sympathy. "What is the matter?"
"Only a sick-headache," replied Mrs. Winkleman. "But I've had a good sleep, and feel better now. I didn't know it was so late," she added, her tone changing slightly, and a look of concern coming into her countenance. "I'm afraid your dinner is not ready;" and she attempted to rise. But her husband bore her gently back with his hand, saying,
"Never mind about dinner. It will come in good time. If you feel better, lie perfectly quiet. Have you suffered much pain?"
"Yes." The word did not part her lips sadly, but came with a softly wreathing smile. Already the wan hue of her cheeks was giving place to a warmer tint, and the dull eyes brightening. What a healing power was in his tender tones and considerate words! And that kiss—it had thrilled along every nerve—it had been as nectar to the drooping spirit. "But I feel so much better, that I will get up," she added, now rising from her pillow.
And Mrs. Winkleman was entirely free from pain. As she stepped upon the carpet, and moved across the room, it was with a firm tread. Every muscle was elastic, and the blood leaped along her veins with a new and healthier impulse.
No trial of Mr. Winkleman's patience, in a late dinner, was in store for him. In a few minutes the bell summoned the family; and he took his place at the table so tranquil in mind, that he almost wondered at the change in, his feelings. How different was the scene from that presented at the morning meal!
And was there power in a few simple words to effect so great a change as this! Yes, in simple words, fragrant with the odours of kindness.
A few gleams of light shone into the mind of Mr. Winkleman, as he returned musing to his office, and he saw that he was often to blame for the clouds that darkened so often over the sky of home.
"Mary is foolish," he said, in partial self-justification, "to take my hasty words so much to heart. I speak often without meaning half what I say. She ought to know me better. And yet," he added, as his step became slower, for he was thinking closer than usual, "it may be easier for me to choose my words more carefully, and to repress the unkindness of tone that gives them a double force, than for her to help feeling pain at their utterance."
Right, Mr. Winkleman! That is the common sense of the whole matter. It is easier to strike, than to help feeling or showing signs of pain, under the infliction of a blow. Look well to your words, all ye members of a home circle. And especially look well to your words, ye whose words have the most weight, and fall, if dealt in passion, with the heaviest force.
THE TWO HOMES.
TWO men, on their way home, met at a street crossing, and then walked on together. They were neighbours, and friends.
"This has been a very hard day," said Mr. Freeman in a gloomy voice.
"A very hard day," echoed almost sepulchrally, Mr. Walcott. "Little or no cash coming in—payments Heavy—money scarce, and at ruinous rates. What is to become of us?"
"Heaven only knows," answered Mr. Freeman. "For my part, I see no light ahead. Every day come new reports of failures; every day confidence diminishes; every day some prop that we leaned upon is taken away."
"Many think we are at the worst," said Mr. Walcott.
"And others, that we have scarcely seen the beginning of the end," returned the neighbour.
And so, as they walked homeward, they discouraged each other, and made darker the clouds that obscured their whole horizon.
"Good evening," was at last said, hurriedly; and the two men passed into their homes.
Mr. Walcott entered the room, where his wife and children were gathered, and without speaking to any one, seated himself in a chair, and leaning his head back, closed his eyes. His countenance wore a sad, weary, exhausted look. He had been seated thus for only a few minutes, when his wife said, in a fretful voice,
"More trouble again."
"What's the matter now?" asked Mr. Walcott, almost starting.
"John has been sent home from school."
"What!" Mr. Walcott partly arose from his chair.
"He's been suspended for bad conduct."
"O dear!" groaned Mr. Walcott—"Where is he?"
"Up in his room. I sent him there as soon as he came home. You'll have to do something with him. He'll be ruined if he goes on in this way. I'm out of all heart with him."
Mr. Walcott, excited as much by the manner in which his wife conveyed unpleasant information, as by the information itself, started up, under the blind impulse of the moment, and going to the room where John had been sent on coming home from school, punished the boy severely, and this without listening to the explanations which the poor child; tried to make him hear.
"Father," said the boy, with forced calmness, after the cruel stripes had ceased—"I wasn't to blame; and if you will go with me to the teacher, I can prove myself innocent."
Mr. Walcott had never known his son to tell an untruth; and the words smote with rebuke upon his heart.
"Very well—we will see about that," he answered, with forced sternness, and leaving the room he went down stairs, feeling much worse than when he went up. Again he seated himself in his large chair and again leaned back his weary head, and closed his heavy eyelids. Sadder was his face than before. As he sat thus, his oldest daughter, in her sixteenth year, came and stood by him. She held a paper in her hand—
"Father,—" he opened his eyes.
"Here's my quarter bill. It's twenty dollars. Can't I have the money to take to school with me in the morning?"
"I'm afraid not," answered Mr. Walcott, half sadly.
"Nearly all the girls will bring in their money tomorrow; and it mortifies me to be behind the others." The daughter spoke fretfully. Mr. Walcott waved her aside with his hand, and she went off muttering and pouting.
"It is mortifying," spoke up Mrs. Walcott, a little sharply; "and I don't wonder that Helen feels unpleasantly about it. The bill has to be paid, and I don't see why it may not be done as well first as last."
To this Mr. Walcott made no answer. The words but added another pressure to this heavy burden under which he was already staggering. After a silence of some moments, Mrs. Walcott said,
"The coal is all gone."
"Impossible!" Mr. Walcott raised his head, and looked incredulous. "I laid in sixteen tons."
"I can't help it, if there were sixty tons instead of sixteen; it's all gone. The girls had a time of it to-day, to scrape up enough to keep the fire going."
"There's been a shameful waste somewhere," said Mr. Walcott with strong emphasis, starting up, and moving about the room with a very disturbed manner.
"So you always say, when anything is out," answered Mrs. Walcott rather tartly. "The barrel of flour is gone also; but I suppose you have done your part, with the rest, in using it up."
Mr. Walcott returned to his chair, and again seating himself, leaned back his head and closed his eyes, as at first. How sad, and weary, and hopeless he felt! The burdens of the day had seemed almost too heavy for him; but he had borne up bravely. To gather strength for a renewed struggle with adverse circumstances, he had come home. Alas! that the process of exhaustion should still go on. That where only strength could be looked for, no strength was given.
When the tea bell rung, Mr. Walcott made no movement to obey the summons.
"Come to supper," said his wife, coldly.
But he did not stir.
"Ain't you coming to supper?" she called to him, as she was leaving the room.
"I don't wish anything this evening. My head aches badly," he answered.
"In the dumps again," muttered Mrs. Walcott to herself. "It's as much as one's life is worth to ask for money, or to say that anything is wanted." And she kept on her way to the dining-room. When she returned, her husband was still sitting where she had left him.
"Shall I bring you a cup of tea?" she asked.
"No; I don't wish anything."
"What's the matter, Mr. Walcott? What do you look so troubled about, as if you hadn't a friend in the world? What have I done to you?"
There was no answer, for there was not a shade of real sympathy in the voice that made the queries—but rather a querulous dissatisfaction. A few moments Mrs. Walcott stood near her husband; but as he did Not seem inclined to answer her questions, she turned off from him, and resumed the employment which had been interrupted by the ringing of the tea bell.
The whole evening passed without the occurrence of a single incident that gave a healthful pulsation to the sick heart of Mr. Walcott. No thoughtful kindness was manifested by any member of the family; but, on the contrary, a narrow regard for self, and a looking to him only to supply the means of self-gratification.
No wonder, from the pressure which was on him, that Mr. Walcott felt utterly discouraged. He retired early, and sought to find that relief from mental disquietude, in sleep, which he had vainly hoped for in the bosom of his family. But the whole night passed in broken slumber, and disturbing dreams. From the cheerless morning meal, at which he was reminded of the quarter bill that must be paid, of the coal and flour that were out, and of the necessity of supplying Mrs. Walcott's empty purse, he went forth to meet the difficulties of another day, faint at heart, and almost hopeless of success. A confident spirit, sustained by home affections, would have carried him through; but, unsupported as he was, the burden was too heavy for him, and he sunk under it. The day that opened so unpropitiously, closed upon him, a ruined man!
Let us look in, for a few moments, upon Mr. Freeman, the friend and neighbour of Mr. Walcott. He, also, had come home; weary, dispirited, and almost sick. The trials of the day had been unusually severe; and when he looked anxiously forward to scan the future, not even a gleam of light was seen along the black horizon.
As he stepped across the threshold of his dwelling, a pang shot through his heart; for the thought came, "How slight the present hold upon all these comforts!" Not for himself, but for his wife and children, was the pain.
"Father's come!" cried a glad little voice on the stairs, the moment his foot-fall, sounded in the passage; then quick, pattering feet were heard—and then a tiny form was springing into his arms. Before reaching the sitting-room above, Alice, the oldest daughter, was by his side, her arm drawn fondly within his, and her loving eyes lifted to his face.
"Are you not late, dear?" It was the gentle voice of Mrs. Freeman.
Mr. Freeman could not trust himself to answer. He was too deeply troubled in spirit to assume at the moment a cheerful tone, and he had no wish to sadden the hearts that loved him, by letting the depression from which he was suffering, become too clearly apparent. But the eyes of Mrs. Freeman saw quickly below the surface.
"Are you not well, Robert?" she inquired, tenderly, as she drew his large arm-chair towards the centre of the room.
"A little headache," he answered, with slight evasion.
Scarcely was Mr. Freeman seated, ere a pair of little hands were busy with each foot, removing gaiter and shoe, and supplying their place with a soft slipper. There was not one in the household who did not feel happier for his return, nor one who did not seek to render him some kind office.
It was impossible under such a burst of heart-sunshine, for the spirit of Mr. Freeman long to remain shrouded. Almost imperceptibly to himself, gloomy thoughts gave place to more cheerful ones, and by the time tea was ready, he had half forgotten the fears which had so haunted him through the day. But they could not be held back altogether, and their existence was marked, during the evening, by an unusual silence and abstraction of mind. This was observed by Mrs. Freeman, who, more than half suspecting the cause, kept back from her husband the knowledge of certain matters about which she had intended to speak with him—for she feared they would add to his mental disquietude. During the evening, she gleaned from something he said, the real cause of his changed aspect. At once her thoughts commenced running in a new channel. By a few leading remarks, she drew her husband into conversation on the subject of home expenses, and the propriety of restriction at various points. Many things were mutually pronounced superfluous, and easily to be dispensed with; and before sleep fell soothingly on the heavy eyelids of Mr. Freeman that night, an entire change in their style of living had been determined upon—a change that would reduce their expenses at least one-half.
"I see light ahead," were the hopeful words of Mr. Freeman, as he resigned himself to slumber.
With renewed strength of mind and body, and a confident spirit, he went forth on the next day—a day that he had looked forward to with fear and trembling. And it was only through this renewed strength and confident spirit, that he was able to overcome the difficulties that loomed up, mountain high, before him. Weak despondency would have ruined all. Home had proved his tower of strength—his walled city. It had been to him as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Strengthened for the conflict, he had gone forth again into the world, and conquered in the struggle.
"I see light ahead" gave place to "The morning breaketh."
LOVE'S FAIRY RING.
WHILE Titans war with social Jove, My own sweet wife and I We make Elysium in our love, And let the world go by! Oh! never hearts beat half so light With crowned Queen or King! Oh! never world was half so bright As is our fairy ring, Dear love! Our hallowed fairy ring.
Our world of empire is not large, But priceless wealth it holds; A little heaven links marge to marge, But what rich realms it folds! And clasping all from outer strife Sits love with folded wing, A-brood o'er dearer life in life, Within our fairy ring, Dear love! Our hallowed fairy ring.
Thou leanest thy true heart on mine, And bravely bearest up! Aye mingling love's most precious wine In life's most bitter cup! And evermore the circling hours New gifts of glory bring; We live and love like happy flowers All in our fairy ring, Dear love! Our hallowed fairy ring.
We've known a many sorrows, sweet! We've wept a many tears, And often trod with trembling feet Our pilgrimage of years. But when our sky grew dark and wild, All closelier did we cling; Clouds broke to beauty as you smiled, Peace crowned our fairy ring, Dear love! Our hallowed fairy ring.
Away, grim lords of murderdom; Away, oh! Hate and Strife! Hence, revellers, reeling drunken from Your feast of human life! Heaven shield our little Goshen round From ills that with them spring, And never be their footsteps found Within our fairy ring, Dear love! Our hallowed fairy ring.
IT was to be a quiet wedding. Fannie would have it so; only his relations. She, poor thing, was an orphan, and only spirit-parents could hover around her on this great era of her life.
The bride entered the large, sunny parlour, leaning upon the arm of her stately husband. Her white lace robe, and the fleecy veil upon her head, floated cloud-like around her fragile, almost child-like form. Peace hovered like a white dove over her pure brow, and a truthful earnestness dwelt in the dark brown eyes.
On one side of the room nearest the bay-windows, Where the sunset kept shining and shining between The old hawthorn blossoms and branches so green,
stood the eight brothers of the groom. All tall, dark, stately men, pride in ever black glancing eye; the same curl upon every finely formed lip, harsh upon some, softer upon others, yet still there, tracing the same blood through all; the same inherent qualities of the father transmitted to the sons. One brother was a type of all, differing only as pictures and copies—in the shade and touch.
Upon the opposite aside were seated the five sisters of the groom, not so like one another. One had blue eyes, another auburn curls, one a nose retrousse, a fourth was fresh and rosy, a fifth round-faced; still the same pride had found a resting-place on some fine feature of each face, and stamped it with the seal of sisterhood. The same sap ran in all the branches, and each branch put forth the same leaves.
The thirteen faces had been stern and cold, but when their youngest brother and his fair bride came in, affection and curiosity softened their eyes, as for the first time she appeared before them. Some thought her too delicate, others too young; the sisters, that Harwood could have looked higher; but all felt drawn to that shrinking form and pale countenance; each hand had a warm grasp for hers, each curling lip a sweet smile, and the manly voices softened to welcome her into their proud family. Gracefully she received all, happy and joyful as a child. But the first shadow fell with the sunlight.
"Brothers and sisters," said Harwood pleadingly, "upon this my wedding day cast aside your bitterness of spirit for ever, and become as one—"
"Harwood!" replied quickly the elder sister, "upon this—this happy day, we hide all feelings called forth by the malice and unbrother-like conduct of our brothers, but only for the present; we, can never become reconciled."
A silence fell upon all; strange as it may seem, the sisters were colder and sterner than the brothers. A frown settled upon every brow; the lips curled with contempt. A storm was tossing the waves, but peace breathed upon the waters and all was calm. The presence of the bride restrained angry expressions of feeling.
This was the first knowledge that Fannie had of the family feud; tears stood in her soft eyes, and the rosy lips trembled; but her husband's bright glance, and gentle pressure of her hand, reassured her. There was no more warmth that day—during the ceremony and the brief stay of the newly married. The sisters gathered around the young wife, and the brothers around Harwood. Occasional words were interchanged; but there reigned an invisible barrier, that seemed to say "so far shalt thou come but no farther."
When the carriage stood at the door and Fannie and Harwood stepped in, she stretched out her pretty hand and beckoned to the elder brother and sister; they approached; she took a hand of each, saying in a trembling voice:
"You both breathe the same air; the same beautiful sunlight shines upon you; you pray to the same God, both say 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.' Be examples for those younger—let me join your hands—" But the sister, with a frown, threw aside the little hand rudely, the brother pressed the one he held, but laughed maliciously. The carriage drove on, and the fair head rested sobbing upon the shoulder of her husband. Sadly did he relate to her the family feud, a quarrel of ten years' standing; sisters against brothers, resting on a belief of unfairness in the disposition of the will of a relation. The sisters passed the brothers upon the street without speaking, refused them admittance to their house. Harwood being the youngest, was too young to take part in the quarrel, and had never been expected to do so.
Poor Fannie wept bitterly; but tears more bitter yet were in store for her.
Upon her return from the bridal tour, no sooner was Fannie settled in her new home, than the family feud endeavoured to draw her from her quiet course, to take part for or against. Numberless were the grievances related to her. All that could be said or done, to convince her that the sisters were "sinned against instead of sinning," were brought forward.
"Well, Fannie," said the elder brother, one day, "I met my immaculate elder sister, just coming out of your door. Has she been giving you a catalogue of fraternal sins? She would not speak to me. She carries her head high. It maddens me to think how contemptuously we are treated, and being food for talk beside."
Fannie hesitated; she could not reply, for Jessie had been venting a fit of ill humour upon him, and it was only adding fuel to the fire, to repeat.
"Say, Fannie, what did the old maid say? That it was a, pity we were not all dead?"
"Oh! hush," she replied, holding up her hand reprovingly. "I am very unhappy at your continued disagreements. If," she continued, timidly, "you would but take a little advice—I know I am young, but—
"Let us have it," he returned, quickly, turning away from the pleading eyes.
"You will not be angry with me?"
"No, no; let me hear!"
"You are the eldest; your example, is followed by the seven brothers; your influence with them is great; you give an 'eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.' Jessie and the others may have a foundation for their ill-will. You have never endeavoured to discover what this is. Your pride took offence, and you say to yourself that can never bend. Was this right?"
Her voice trembled, her head drooped, and in spite of her self-command, she burst into tears.
"Fannie! sister Fannie!"
"Don't mind me; I am weak, nervous, foolish. I shall soon be better; but it makes me so very unhappy to see you all at enmity. I had hoped, when I came among you, to have been the olive branch, but—"
"Fannie! dear sister Fannie!" he exclaimed, walking up and down the room, "you have been—we are fire-brands plucked from the burning. You have said all that any one could have said; yes, and done all that could be done; never repeated any malicious speech, selected all the wheat that could be culled from the chaff. You have softened my obdurate heart. I have done wrong; you have shown me to the way of return. If Jessie will come forward and forgive and forget, then will I."
But Fannie knew that it was not so easy to make Jessie be the first to own her errors and forgive. The brothers had done much to make the division wider, in the way of hints and malicious whisperings; and she continued weeping so wildly and hysterically, that the elder brother endeavoured to console her, and was glad when Harwood came, and lifting her in his arms, carried her up to her room.
When he returned, the elder brother still stood by the fire-place. He turned and spoke.
"Fannie is very fragile and pale. Is she not well?"
"Not very. This family feud troubles her. She has taken it to heart. When we were first married, she told me a dozen plans she had made for your reunion, and made me a party to them, but now—"
He sighed; the elder brother sighed more deeply; both were silent; the fire-light leaped up, lighting the room—a fierce, avenging blaze; then died out, and all was gloom. Where were the thoughts of that elder brother? They were wandering among the graves of the past. In his imagination, new ones were there; the names on the tomb-stones were familiar; the thirteen were all there; twelve sleeping; his the only restless, wandering spirit. Fannie stood before him, her face pale and tearful. She pointed to the graves, and said, sadly, "This is the end of all earthly things." That night he knocked at the door of his sister's mansion but gained no admittance.
The anniversary of Fannie's bridal was the counterpart of the original. Sunny and genial, with here and there a white cloud floating near the horizon, denoting a long and happy married life, with but threatening troubles. How was the prophecy realized? Like all riddles of earthly solution, to the contrary?
The eight brothers, with faces of stern grief in the same old corner, side by side; the five sisters sobbing, tearful and quite overwhelmed with sorrow, sat opposite, Their eyes were fixed upon the same pair. Harwood knelt beside a couch in the middle of the room, and there lay Fannie; but how changed! They had all been summoned there, to see that new sister depart for another world; to see the young breath grow fainter and fainter; the bright eyes close for ever on them and their love. Oh! mystery of Life! thee we can know and understand; but, mystery of Death, dark and fearful, only thy chosen ones can comprehend thee. We walk to the verge of the valley of the shadow of death with those we love; but there our steps are stayed, and we look into the black void with wonder and despair. Oh! faith! if ye come not then to the rescue, that death is eternal.
Thus felt the thirteen; all older, care-worn, world-weary, standing beside the mere child-sister of the family, whose star of life was setting from their view behind an impassable mountain.
The sweet face was calm, but a hectic flush lay upon the cheek, as though some life-chord still bound her to earth.
"My child," said the old white-haired physician, "if you have aught to say, speak now; when you will awaken from the sleep this draught will produce, it may then be too late."
"My darling Fannie," said the kneeling Harwood, "for my sake let no thoughts of earth disturb you; all will be well if—"
His voice was broken. He bowed his head upon the wasted hand he held, and wept.
"All will be well," she said, smiling faintly. "I feel it now. Jessie, and you, elder brother, come near; nearer yet. I love you both, love you all. Having no relatives of my own, my husband's are doubly mine. My heart, since our marriage-day, has been living in the hope of your reconciliation. I was too young; I undertook too much. I wept when my health began to fail; I did not then know that God was giving me my wish. I would have died to have seen you all happy. He has heard my prayer; the sacrifice is made; I go happy. Jessie, my dying wish is to see you once more the forgiving girl you were, when you knelt with your brothers at your mother's knee. Oh! the chain of family love is never so rudely broken but it can be renewed. Jessie, the young lover, who died in his youth, would counsel you to forgive. The beloved parent would whisper, 'love thy brother as thyself;' He who bore the cross said 'Father forgive them—.' Jessie, a weak, dying girl begs you, for her sake, to be true to yourself."
Jessie fell upon her brother's neck, and wept. One universal sob arose from lip to lip. Brothers and sisters so long estranged, rushed into each other's arms. Some cried aloud, others' tears flowed silently: some there were, whose calm joys betrayed the disquietude of long years of disunion. They were all recalled by Harwood's voice.
"Fannie! Fannie! This excitement will kill her."
Half raised in the bed, her cheeks scarlet and eyes glowing with perfect delight, the sunlight making a halo around her head, was the young wife. She drank the draught the old physician gave her, with her eyes fixed on her husband. She murmured,
"'Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.'"
With a sigh she dropped back upon the pillow; the eyes closed, the face became waxen white. Soon, those who watched could not tell her slumber from the sleep of death. Silence stole on tiptoe through the room, with her finger on her lip—
While the sunset kept shining and shining between The old hawthorn blossoms and branches so green.
Day was dawning in the watch room; the lamp was dying away, the thirteen with pale expectant faces, now shadowed by fear, now lighted with hope, were motionless. With his face bowed upon his arms, Harwood had neither looked up nor spoken since Fannie slept. The old clock had struck each hour from the dial of time into the abyss of the past. Never before had time seemed to them so precious, worth so much.
The physician with his fingers upon the patient's pulse had sat all night; once he placed his hand over her mouth, and rising with a puzzled look, walked to the window and thrust his head into the vines; then drawing his hand over his eyes, he resumed his place, and all was silent again, save the clock with its monotonous tick, tick, beating as calmly as, though human passions were trifles, and the passing away of a soul from earth, only the falling of the niches of eternity.
The sun arose, and a little bird alighting on a spray near the window, poured a flood of melody into the room. The sleeper smiled; the doctor could have sworn it was so. Her breath comes more quickly, you could see it now, fluttering between her lips; she opened her eyes and fixed them on Harwood; he took her hand and gave her the cordial prepared by the physician.
"She is saved," was telegraphed through the apartment. The brothers prepared to go to their duties. The sisters divided, part to go home, the rest to stay and watch Fannie. Harwood, with a radiant yet anxious face, could not be persuaded to lie down, but still held the little hand and counted the life beats of her heart.
"Ah! well!" said the old doctor to the elder brother, as he buttoned his coat and pressed his hat down upon his head. "Well; there was one great doubt upon my mind—in spite of all favourable symptoms—she was too good for earth;—it says somewhere—and it kept coming into my mind all the night long—'Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.'"
THE LOVER AND THE HUSBAND.
IN his "Dream Life," Ik Marvel thus pleasantly sketches the lover and the husband:—
You grow unusually amiable and kind; you are earnest in your search of friends; you shake hands with your office boy, as if he were your second cousin. You joke cheerfully with the stout washerwoman; and give her a shilling overchange, and insist upon her keeping it; and grow quite merry at the recollection of it. You tap your hackman on the shoulder very familiarly, and tell him he is a capital fellow; and don't allow him to whip his horses, except when driving to the post-office. You even ask him to take a glass of beer with you upon some chilly evening. You drink to the health of his wife. He says he has no wife—whereupon you think him a very miserable man; and give him a dollar, by way of consolation.
You think all the editorials in the morning papers are remarkably well-written,—whether upon your side or upon another. You think the stock-market has a very cheerful look,—with Erie—of which you are a large holder—down to seventy-five. You wonder why you never admired Mrs. Hemans before, or Stoddart, or any of the rest.
You give a pleasant twirl to your fingers, as you saunter along the street; and say—but not so loud as to be overheard—"She is mine—she is mine!"
You wonder if Frank ever loved Nelly one-half as well as you love Madge? You feel quite sure he never did. You can hardly conceive how it is, that Madge has not been seized before now by scores of enamoured men, and borne off, like the Sabine women in Romish history. You chuckle over your future, like a boy who has found a guinea in groping for sixpences. You read over the marriage service,—thinking of the time when you will take her hand, and slip the ring upon her finger; and repeat after the clergyman—"for richer—for poorer, for better—for worse!" A great deal of "worse" there will be about it, you think!
Through all, your heart cleaves to that sweet image of the beloved Madge, as light cleaves to day. The weeks leap with a bound; and the months only grow long when you approach that day which is to make her yours. There are no flowers rare enough to make bouquets for her; diamonds are too dim for her to wear; pearls are tame.—And after marriage, the weeks are even shorter than before; you wonder why on earth all the single men in the world do not rush tumultuously to the altar; you look upon them all, as a travelled man will look upon some conceited Dutch boor, who has never been beyond the limits of his cabbage-garden. Married men, on the contrary, you regard as fellow-voyagers; and look upon their wives—ugly as they may be—as better than none.
You blush a little at first telling your butcher what "your wife" would like; you bargain with the grocer for sugars and teas, and wonder if he knows that you are a married man? You practise your new way of talk upon your office boy: you tell him that "your wife" expects you home to dinner; and are astonished that he does not stare to hear you say it!
You wonder if the people in the omnibus know that Madge and you are just married; and if the driver knows that the shilling you hand to him is for "self and wife?" You wonder if anybody was ever so happy before, or ever will be so happy again?
You enter your name upon the hotel books as "Clarence—and Lady;" and come back to look at it,—wondering if anybody else has noticed it,—and thinking that it looks remarkably well. You cannot help thinking that every third man you meet in the hall, wishes he possessed your wife; nor do you think it very sinful in him to wish it. You fear it is placing temptation in the way of covetous men, to put Madge's little gaiters outside the chamber-door at night.
Your home, when it is entered, is just what it should be—quiet, small,—with everything she wishes, and nothing more than she wishes. The sun strikes it in the happiest possible way; the piano is the sweetest toned in the world; the library is stocked to a charm; and Madge, that blessed wife, is there—adorning and giving life to it all. To think, even, of her possible death, is a suffering you class with the infernal tortures of the Inquisition. You grow twain of heart and of purpose. Smiles seem made for marriage; and you wonder how you ever wore them before!
THERE she sat, with both little hands covering her face. It was twilight, and beyond the little finger glanced a watchful eye towards the door, to see if Theodore would go. She didn't think he would. He came back.
"Is the little child crying?" he asked, relentingly, as he took the pretty fingers, one by one, away from the youthful face, hard as she tried to keep them there. At last she gave up, and broke into a merry laugh.
"You little hypocrite!" said her husband, in rather an incensed tone of voice—men do hate to be gulled into soothing a laughing wife.
"Well! can't I go?" pleaded the enchanting little creature, looking up into his eyes so beseechingly.
"Why, Nellie, it isn't becoming for you to go without me."
"Yes, it is!" she answered, in a very low way, as if she hardly dared say it, and at the same time running her forefinger through the hem of her silk apron. "May I go?" and she lifted up her eyes in the same beseeching way again.
"Why are you so anxious to go, to-night?"
"But that is not a good reason!"
"Well, I want to dance a little!"
"Nellie, I can't possibly go with you, to-night. You are very young—you know nothing of the world and its malice—"
"But I can go with Mr. and Mrs. Williams, next door."
"I can't consent to your going without me, little pet."
Nellie put her apron up to her face, and actually did succeed in squeezing two tears into her eyes. She instantly dropped her apron after this was accomplished, and looked reproachfully into her husband's face. Suddenly a thought darted into her head. "When will you come home?" she asked, with quiet melancholy of manner.
"I fear not before ten or eleven, dear. Good-bye! I am late, now!" He went away, and Nellie sat down and soliloquized.
"Business! old business! If there is anything I hate, beyond all human expression, it is this business. I know it was never intended there should be such a thing. Adam and Eve were put right in a garden, and that shows that it was meant we should play around, and have fun, and live in the country, and cultivate flowers and vegetables to live on. I have always felt so, and I always shall. I don't know that I'd be so particular about living in the country; but the playing part, that's what I'm particular about. If we lived on a farm, I suppose Theodore would wear cowhide boots, and pants too tight and short for him, and a swallow-tailed coat. I declare! I'm afraid I never should have loved him, if I had seen him—in such gear, although I have said forty times that I should have known we were created for each other, if we had met under any circumstances; but I didn't think what a difference clothes make! Isn't he a magnificent-looking man! Wouldn't anybody have been glad to have got him? I think it's the most wonderful thing in the world how he ever thought of such a little giddy thing as I am! Such a great man, and so much older than I am! Thirty-two years old! No wonder he knows so much! Well, I must stop thinking of this! 'To be, or not to be, that is the question!' Shall I go, or shall I not? Would he be very mad about it, or would he not? Let me see! He won't be home before ten or eleven. I can dress and go with Mrs. Williams, and then Fred shall bring me home before ten o'clock; and after a few days, some time when Theodore is in a most delicious humour, and perfectly carried away with my bewitchments, I'll gradually disclose the matter to him, and say I'll never do the like again, and it's among the things of the past, an error which repentance or tears cannot efface; but the painful results will never be forgotten, namely, his look of disapprobation. I wonder if that will do!" Nellie broke into a low, gay laugh. She was a spoilt child; from her cradle she had been idolized, and taught that she could not be blamed for anything. But she buried her face in her hands, and reflected. That day she had received a note from a young gentleman, saying,
"DEAR ELLEN:—Will you come to the ball to-night? I have not seen Alice yet. I am on the rack, in excruciating torture. Your family and your husband don't fancy me, but you have known me from childhood. You ought to show mercy, rather than cruelty. Will you come?
Nellie had read the letter, drowned in tears. How would she have felt, if her family had been so unjustly prejudiced against Theodore? Wouldn't she have expected some help from dear sister Alice? And shouldn't she help Alice in her extremity, even if Theodore should be vexed a little about it? Why did Theodore hate Fred Orton? He never said so; but she knew he didn't like him. Nellie wrote to Mr. Orton:
"POOR, DEAR FRED:—I'll come to the ball and speak with you, if I can. I'll always be your friend, even if my own flesh and blood don't do you justice. If you only knew how good father and mother really are, and that they have heard wrong stories about you, you wouldn't mind it. Your devoted sister
Nellie, dressed in white, looked like a veritable little angel, and went to the ball with Mr. and Mrs. Williams. She spoke with Fred, danced with him, took a letter for Alice, and told him how her precious sister was almost dying of a broken heart. Then, thinking she had spoken rather strongly, she added: "You know she feels so some of the time." When Fred came the second time to ask Nellie to dance, she thought his motion was slightly wavering. She attributed it to the agitation of his heart on hearing about Alice, and he led her out on the floor. His breath was tinctured with brandy. Nellie grew white, and begged him to take her back to her seat. He laughingly, but positively refused. "Good gracious!" she mentally ejaculated, "I shall die with shame to be dancing with a drunken man, and Theodore not here! I never should have believed the stories about Fred, if I hadn't been convinced with my own eyes and nose. Oh! what will Theodore say to me? Oh! if I had only done as he advised. If I had stayed at home—oh! I am so sorry I came! Shall I ever be able to tell Theodore? Suppose it should make trouble between us. Oh! I know now that I am such a miserable, wilful, perverse mortal. I was born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward!" Nellie besought Mr. Williams to convey her home, the instant her agonizing dance was over. He did so. She entered the parlour with beating heart, with green veil on her head, with crape shawl thrown around her pretty figure. Theodore sat there.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands with a start, and then standing as motionless as if she had been shot. Theodore glared at her with a pale face, set lips, and flashing eyes. She said, with quivering lip, "I shall die, if you are going to look at me that way long! Oh, dear! I'm so miserable! I'm always getting my own head snapt off to accommodate other people."
"You have not injured yourself by accommodating me!" responded a deep, ferocious voice.
"It wasn't for my own gratification that I went, Theodore."
"For whose gratification was it, madam?"—There was a shade less of ferocity in the tone.
"For my sister's!"
"Why didn't you tell me why you wanted to go, madam?"
"It was a secret between Alice and me; and I rather thought you liked me, and I might impose on you, as I used to do on the girls at school that liked me. I don't mean impose,"—(Mr. Grenly fairly banged at the fire,)—"I mean—"
"What do you mean, Ellen Grenly?"
"I thought I could do just as I wished, and you'd make up just as the girls used to do."
You thought your husband was like a girl, did you—did you?"
"Yes! I hoped so!"
"Well, madam, you will soon find out that you are married to a man who is not to be trifled with in this way."
"Oh, gracious Peter! what'll you do with me?"
"I'll send you back to your father's—to your pinafores—to your nursery—and I'll leave the country for two or three years, until a divorce can be obtained for separation. You may obtain the divorce, madam. I shall never want to hold one of your perfidious sex in my arms again. Women are one vast bundle of folly."
"I am a vast bundle of folly," sobbed Nellie, spasmodically, "but all of them are not—they're not—I can prove it."
"I desire no proof from a woman of your—of your—of your calibre."
"I never was so sorry for anything in my life, Theodore. If you'll forgive me this time, I'll try and make you such a good wife. I won't disregard your advice, nor anything—nor—"
Mrs. Grenly wiped her tears on the corner of her shawl, and took occasion to look at her husband as she did so.
"You may come here, madam!"
Madam went, knowing the victory was won; her tears were dry in a moment.
"Nellie Grenly, look me right in the eyes!"
And she concentrated her glorious laughing eyes upon him, trying very hard not to make a display of rebellious dimples. He began to doubt whether he had made a judicious request.
"Now, promise me," he said, "that as long as you live, you never will do anything I disapprove of; because it's clear you are a perfect baby."
"Oh! I can see myself in your eyes, just as plain as day!"
"Did you know that your eyes were not all blue, but streaked—and streaked. What's the nature of the eye, tell me? What are its functions? You are always talking about duty, and functions, and all that."
"What?" very sweetly. "Oh! I guess I'll go and get a drink."
"No! you won't stir a step, until you solemnly assure me that you never will go to any place that I advise you against."
"Oh! I hate to make such a promise."
"The reason I ask it, is because thousands of innocent women have been misjudged for innocent actions; and I would not have my little Nellie misjudged, when she is pure as an angel."
"How did you feel, Nellie, when I threatened a separation?"
"I felt as if you couldn't be coaxed into it."
"Get down, this instant!",
And down went Nellie, with a little delicious peal of laughter. A profound silence of four minutes continuance.
"I don't know that I care if you come back."
And back went Nellie, keeping her bewitching little mouth closed, until she could drop her face upon her husband's shoulder, and laugh to her heart's content.
"Do you know, Nellie, that some men would have sulked a month over your conduct to-night? Haven't you got an indulgent husband?"
"That I have. You don't thrust wrong constructions on my folly; and that is the very reason I am going to try and be as good and innocent as you think me. I feel as if I have been acting so wrongly."
A HOME IN THE HEART.
OH! ask not a home in the mansions of pride, Where marble shines out in the pillars and walls; Though the roof be of gold, it is brilliantly cold, And joy may not be found in its torch-lighted halls. But seek for a bosom all honest and true, Where love once awakened will never depart; Turn, turn to that breast like the dove to its nest, And you'll find there's no home like a home in the heart.
Oh! link but one spirit that's warmly sincere, That will heighten your pleasure and solace your care; Find a soul you may trust as the kind and the just, And be sure the wide world holds no treasure so rare. Then the frowns of misfortune may shadow our lot, The cheek-searing tear-drops, of sorrow may start, But a star never dim sheds a halo for him Who can turn for repose to a home in the heart.
A LEAF FROM A FAMILY JOURNAL.
OUR married life had commenced, and this was HOME. As I opened my eyes in our new abode, the rays of the morning sun were penetrating the muslin curtains, the air was, fill with the fragrance of mignionette, and in the adjoining room I heard a loved voice warbling my favourite air.
On the different articles of furniture lay a hundred things to remind me the change which had taken place in mode of life. There lay the bouquet of orange flowers worn by Micelle on our wedding day; here stood her work basket; a little further on, and my eye fell on her small bookcase, ornamented with her school prizes and several other volumes, recent offerings from myself. Thus all my surroundings indicated that I was no longer alone. Till then in my independence I had merely skirted the great army of humanity, measuring all things with regard to my own strength only. I had now entered its ranks; accompanied by a fellow traveller, whose powers and feelings must be consulted, and whose tenderness must be equalled by the protecting love shed around her. A few weeks ago I should have fallen unnoticed and left no void, henceforward my lot lay bound in that of others. I had taken root in life, and for the future must fortify and strengthen myself for the protection of the nests which would in time be formed beneath my shade.
Sweet sense of responsibility, which elevated without alarming me! What had Marcelle and I to fear? Was not our departure on the voyage of life like that of Athenian Theori for the island of Delos, sailing to the sound of harps and songs while crowned with flowers? Did not our hearts beat responsive to the chorus of youth's protecting genii?
Strength said, "What matters the task? Feel you not that to you it will all be easy? It is the weak alone who weigh the burden. Atlas smiled, though he bore the world on his shoulders."
Faith added, "Have confidence, and the mountains which obstruct your path shall vanish like clouds; the sea shall bear you up, and the rainbow shall become a bridge for your feet."
Hope whispered, "Behold, before lies repose after fatigue; plenty will follow after scarcity. On, on, for the desert leads to the promised land."
And lastly, a voice more fascinating than any, added, "Love one another; there is not on earth a surer talisman; it is the 'Open Sesame' which will put you in the possession of all the treasures of creation."
Why not listen to these sweet assurances? "Cherished companions of our opening career, my faith in you is strong; you, who, like unto the military music which animates the soldier's courage, lead us, intoxicated by your melody, on to the battle field of life." What can I fear from a life through which I shall pass with Marcelle's arm entwined in mine? The sun shines on the commencement of our journey; forward over flowery fields, by hedges alive with song, through ever-verdant forests! Let one horizon succeed another! The day is so lovely, and the night yet so distant!
While thus occupied with my newborn happiness, I had risen and joined Marcelle, who had already taken possession of her domestic kingdom.
Everything must be visited with her; her precocious housewifery must be admired; her arrangements must be applauded. First she showed me the little 'salle a manger,' dedicated to the meals which would unite us in the intervals of business: to this cause it owed the air of opulence and brightness which Marcelle had carefully striven to impart to it. China, silver, and glass, sparkled on the shelves. Here lay rich fruits half hidden in moss; there, stood freshly-gathered flowers—everything spoke of the reign of grace and plenty. From thence we passed into the salon, the closed curtains of which admitted only a soft and subdued light, which fell on statuettes ornamenting the consoles, and the gilt frames on the walls: on the tables lay scattered in graceful negligence, albums, elegancies of papier mache, and carved ivory; precious nothings which had constituted the young girl's treasures. At the farther end, the folds of a heavy curtain concealed the bower, sacred to the lady of the castle. Here admittance was at first denied me, and I was obliged to have recourse to entreaty before the drapery was raised for our entrance.
The cabinet was lighted by a small window, over which hung a blind, representing a gothic casement of painted glass, the bright colours of which were now rendered more brilliant by the sunlight which streamed through. The principal furniture consisted of a pretty lounging chair and the work table, near which I had so often seen Marcelle seated with her embroidery when I passed under her aunt's window. Her pretty flower-stand, gay with her favourite flowers, occupied the window in which hung a gilt-wire cage, the melodious prison-house of her pet bird; and lastly, there stood fronting the window, the bureau, consecrated since her school-days, to her intimate correspondence.
She showed it to me with an almost tearful gravity. Everything it contained was a relic, or souvenir. That agate inkstand had belonged to her elder sister, who died just when Marcelle was old enough to know and love her; this mother-of-pearl paper-cutter was a present to her from her aunt, before she became her adopted child; this seal had belonged to her father! She half-opened the different drawers, for me to peep at the treasures they contained. In one were the letters of her dearest school-friend, now married, gone abroad, and therefore lost to her; in another, were family papers; lower down, her certificates for the performance of religious obligations, prizes obtained, and examinations passed—the young girl's humble patent of nobility!—and last of all, in the most secret corner, lay some faded flowers, and the correspondence which, with the consent of her Aunt Roubert, we had interchanged when absent from each other.
In the contents of this bureau, were united all the touching and pleasing reminiscences of her former life; they formed Marcelle's poetic archives, whither she often retired in her hours of solitude. Often, on my return from business, I found her here, smiling, and seemingly perfumed by memories of the past.
Ah! thought I, why have not men also some spot thus consecrated to like holy and sweet remembrances, a sanctuary replete with tokens of family affection, and relics of youth's enthusiasm? Our ancestors, in their pride, cut out of the granite rock safe depositories for the proofs of their empty titles and long pedigrees; is it impossible for us to devote some obscure corner to the annals of the heart, to all that recalls to us our former noble aspirations, and generous hopes?
Time has torn from the walls the genealogical trees of noble families, but he has left space for those of the soul. Let us seek the origin of our decisions, our sympathies, our repugnances, and our hopes, and we shall ever find that they spring from some circumstance of by-gone days. The present is rooted in the past. Who has met by chance with some relic of earlier years, and has not been touched by the remembrances called forth? It is by looking back to the starting-point, that we can best calculate the distance traversed; it is in so doing that we feel either pleasure or alarm. Truly happy is the man who, after gazing on the portrait of his youth, can turn towards the original and find it unimpaired by age!
These reflections were interrupted by the sound of my father's voice, which brought us out of Marcelle's retreat to welcome him. He came to see our new abode, and add his satisfaction to our happiness. He was a gentle stoic, whose courage had ever served as a bulwark to the weak, and whose inflexibility was but another name for entire self-abnegation; he was indulgent to all, because he never forgave himself, and ever veiled severity in gentleness. His wisdom partook neither of arrogance nor passion; it descended to the level of your comprehension, and while pointing upwards, led you by the hand, and guided the ascent. It was a mother who instructed, never a judge who condemned.
Though pleased with my choice, and happy at seeing us united, he had nevertheless refused a place at our fireside. "These first hours of youth are especially your own," he had said to me with a paternal embrace; "an old man would throw a shadow over the meridian sunshine of your joy. It is better that you should regret my absence, than for one moment feel my presence a restraint. Besides, solitude is necessary to you, as well as to me—for you to talk of your hopes for the future, for me to recall remembrances of the past. Some time hence, when my strength is failing, I will come to you, and close my eyes in the shadow of your prosperity."
And all my entreaties had been unavailing: the separation was unavoidable. Now, however, Marcelle sprang forward to meet him, and led him triumphantly across the room, to begin a re-examination of its treasures. My father listened to all, replied to all, and smiled at all. He lent himself to our dreams of happiness, pausing before each new phase, to point out a hope overlooked before, or a joy forgotten. While thus pleasantly occupied, time slipped away unnoticed, until Marcelle's aunt arrived.
Who was there in our native town who did not know Aunt Roubert? The very mention of her name was sufficient to make one gay. Left a widow in early life, and in involved circumstances, she had, by dint of activity, order, and economy, entirely extricated herself from pecuniary difficulty. Of her might be said with truth, that "sa part d'esprit lui avait ete donnee en bon sens." Taking reality for her guide, she had followed in the beaten track of life, carefully avoiding the many sharp flints which caprice scatters in the way. Always on the move, alternately setting people to rights, and grumbling at either them or herself, she yet found time to manage well her own affairs, and to improve those of others—a faculty which had obtained for her the name of "La Femme de menage de la Providence." Vulgar in appearance, she was practical in the extreme, and results generally proved her in the right. Her nature was made up of the prose of life, but prose so clear, so consistent, that, but for its simplicity, it would have been profound.