Finger Posts on the Way of Life
T. S. Arthur
Part 1 out of 4
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FINGER POSTS ON THE WAY OF LIFE.
BY T. S. ARTHUR.
OUR title, though savouring of quaintness, is yet in keeping with
the object of this volume. As we press onward in the journey of
life, to each of us the path is new and strange. Often it is rough
and thorny; often it winds through places beset with difficulties
and danger; often the sky is so dark that we can scarcely see the
narrow line upon which our advancing footsteps may rest in safety.
As "Finger-Posts on the Way of Life," pointing the wary traveller in
the right direction, has this little book been written. It does not,
professedly, take the high mission of the preacher; yet, while its
end is to guide in natural life, the author is never unmindful of
the fact that all natural life is for the sake of spiritual life,
and that no one can live well in the true sense, who does not live
for Heaven. He trusts, therefore, that while these "finger-posts"
indicate the path in which to walk safely through the world, they
will point, as well, to the narrow way that leadeth to Life Eternal.
SHADOWS FROM A CLOUDED BROW
WILL IT PAY?
THE LAY PREACHER
HOW TO DESTROY A GOOD BUSINESS
THE TWO INVALIDS
BLESSING OF A GOOD DEED
PAYING THE DOCTOR
THE LITTLE BOUND-BOY.
THREE SCENES IN THE LIFE OF A WORLDLING
THE RETURN; OR, WHO IS IT?
SHADOWS FROM A CLOUDED BROW.
A LITTLE thing clouded the brow of Mrs. Abercrombie--a very little
thing. But if she had known how wide the shadows were often
diffused, and how darkly they fell, at times, on some hearts, she
would have striven more earnestly, we may believe, to keep the sky
of her spirit undimmed.
It will not be uninstructive to note the incidents, in a single day,
of Mrs. Abercrombie's life--to mark the early cloud upon her brow,
and then to glance at the darkly falling shadows.
Mr. Abercrombie was a man of sensitive feelings, and though he had
striven for many years to overcome his sensitiveness, he had been no
more able to change this hereditary weakness than the leopard his
spots or the Ethiopian his skin. At home, the lightest jar of
discord disturbed him painfully, and the low vibration ceased not,
often, for many hours. The clouded brow of his wife ever threw his
heart into shadow; and the dusky vail was never removed, until
sunlight radiated again from her countenance. It was all in vain
that he tried to be indifferent to these changeful moods--to keep
his spirits above their influence: in the very effort at
disenthralment he was more firmly bound.
From some cause, unknown to her husband, there was a cloud on the
brow of Mrs. Abercrombie one morning, as she took her place at the
breakfast-table. Mr. Abercrombie was reading, with his usual
interest, the newspaper, and the children were sporting in the
nursery, when the bell summoned them to the dining-room. All
gathered, with pleasant thoughts of good cheer, around the table,
and Mr. Abercrombie, after helping the little ones, was about
mentioning to his wife some pleasant piece of news which he had just
been reading, when, on lifting his eyes to her countenance, he saw
that it was clouded. The words died on his lips; a shadow darkened
over his feelings, and the meal passed in almost total silence--at
least so far as he was concerned. Once or twice he ventured a remark
to Mrs. Abercrombie; but the half-fretful tone in which she replied,
only disturbed him the more.
Soon the pleasant aspect of the children's countenances changed, and
they became captious and irritable. Both parents were fretted at
this reaction upon their own states of mind, and manifested, at some
slight misconduct on the part of one or two of the children, a
degree of ill-nature that instantly transferred itself to those
against whom it was directed, and became apparent in their
intercourse one with another.
Before summoned from the nursery, these children were playing
together in the utmost harmony and good feeling; on returning
thereto, the activity of another and far less amiable spirit was
manifest; and instead of merry shouts and joyous laughter, angry
words and complaining cries sounded through the apartment.
As Mr. Abercrombie left the house, Mrs. Abercrombie entered the
nursery, attracted by the notes of discord. Had there been sunshine
on her countenance, and firm but gentle remonstrance on her tongue,
a quick change would have become apparent. But, ere this, the
shadows she had thrown around her had darkened the atmosphere of her
dwelling, and were now reflected back upon her heart, enshrouding it
in deeper gloom. The want of harmony among her children increased
her mental disturbance, obscured her perceptions, and added to her
state of irritability. She could not speak calmly to them, nor
wisely endeavour to restore the harmony which had been lost. Her
words, therefore, while, by their authoritative force, they subdued
the storm, left the sky black with clouds that poured down another
and fiercer tempest the moment her presence was removed.
But this state of things could not be permitted. The mother
reappeared, and, after some hurried inquiries into the cause of
disturbance among her children, took for granted the statement of
those who were most forward in excusing themselves and accusing
others, and unwisely resorted to punishment--unwisely, in the first
place, because she decided hastily and from first appearances; and
in the second place, because she was in no state of mind to
administer punishment. The consequence was, that she punished those
least to blame, and thereby did a great wrong. Of this she was made
fully aware after it was too late. Then, indignant at the, false
accusation by which she had been led into the commission of an
unjust act, she visited her wrath with undue severity, and in
unseemly passion, upon the heads of the real offenders.
By this time the children were in a state of intimidation. It was
plain that their mother was fairly aroused, and each deemed it best
to be as quiet and inoffensive as possible. The reappearance of
harmony being thus restored, Mrs. Abercrombie, whose head and heart
were now both throbbing with pain, retired in a most unhappy state
of mind to her chamber, where she threw herself into a large chair,
feeling unutterably wretched.
And what was the origin of all this discord and misery? Why came
that cloud, in the beginning, to the brow of Mrs. Abercrombie--that
cloud, whose shadow had already exercised so baleful an influence?
The cause was slight, very slight. But do not, fair reader, blame
Mrs. Abercrombie too severely, nor say this cause was censurably
inadequate. The touch of a feather will hurt an inflamed part. Ah!
does not your own experience in life affirm this. Think of the last
time the cloud was on your brow, and ask yourself as to the adequacy
of the cause.
"But what was the cause?" you inquire. Well, don't smile: a pair of
gaiters had been sent home for Mrs. Abercrombie, late on the evening
previous, and one of her first acts in the morning was to try them
on. They did not fit! Now, Mrs. Abercrombie intended to go out on
that very morning, and she wished to wear these gaiters. "Enough to
fret her, I should say!" exclaims one fair reader. "A slight cause,
indeed!" says another, tossing her curls; "men are great
We crave pardon, gentle ladies all, if, in our estimate of causes,
we have spoken too lightly of this. But we have, at least, stated
the case fairly. Mrs. Abercrombie's brow was clouded because the new
gaiters did not fit her handsome foot--a member, by the way, of
which she was more than a little vain.
For an hour Mrs. Abercrombie remained alone in her chamber, feeling
very sad; for, in that time, reflection had come, and she was by no
means satisfied with the part she had been playing, nor altogether
unconscious of the fact that from her clouded brow had fallen the
shadows now darkening over her household. As soon as she had gained
sufficient control of herself to act toward her children more wisely
and affectionately, the mother took her place in the nursery, and
with a tenderness of manner that acted like a charm, attracted her
little ones to her side, and inspired them with a new and better
spirit. To them sunshine was restored again; and the few rays that
penetrated to the mother's heart, lighted its dim chambers, and
touched it with a generous warmth.
But the shadows from Mrs. Abercrombie's clouded brow fell not alone
upon her household. The spirit that pervades the home-circle is
often carried forth by those who go out into the world. It was so in
this case. Mr. Abercrombie's feelings were overcast with shadows
when he entered the store. There was a pressure, in consequence,
upon his bosom, and a state of irritability which he essayed, though
feebly and ineffectually, to overcome.
"Where is Edward?" he inquired, soon after his arrival.
Edward was a lad, the son of a poor widow, who had recently been
employed in Mr. Abercrombie's store.
"He hasn't come yet," was answered.
"Not come yet?" said Mr. Abercrombie, in a fretful tone.
"This is the third time he has been late within the past week, is it
"Very well: it shall be the last time."
At this moment the boy came in. Mr. Abercrombie looked at him
sternly for a moment, and then said--
"You won't suit me, sir. I took you on trial, and am satisfied. You
can go home."
The poor lad's face crimsoned instantly, and he tried to say
something about his mother's being sick, but Mr. Abercrombie waved
his hand impatiently, and told him that he didn't wish to hear any
Scarcely had the boy left the presence of Mr. Abercrombie, ere this
hasty action was repented of. But the merchant's pride of
consistency was strong: he was not the man to acknowledge an error.
His word had passed, and could not be recalled. Deeper were the
shadows that now fell upon his heart--more fretted the state of mind
Ah! the shadows would have been deeper still, could he have seen
that unhappy boy a little while afterward, as, with his face buried
in the pillow that supported the head of his sick mother, he sobbed
until his whole frame quivered. Had Mr. Abercrombie only asked the
reason why his appearance at the store was so late on this morning,
he would have learned that the delay had been solely occasioned by
needful attendance on his sick and almost helpless mother; and on a
little further ininquiry, humanity would have dictated approval rather
than censure and punishment. But, touching all this painful consequence
of his ill-nature, the merchant knew nothing. How rarely do we
become cognizant of the evil wrought upon others by our hasty and
The shadow was still on Mr. Abercrombie's feelings, when, half an
hour afterward, a man came to him and said--
"It will be impossible for me to lift the whole of that note
"You'll have to do it," was the quiet answer. Mr. Abercrombie
frowned darkly as he thus replied.
"Don't say that, Mr. Abercrombie. I only want help to the amount of
two hundred dollars."
"I do say it. You must raise the money somewhere else. I don't like
this way of doing business. When a man gives his note, he should
make it a point of honour to pay it."
"Oh, very well," said the man. "I'm sorry if I've troubled you. I'll
get the money from a friend. Good morning."
And he turned off abruptly, and left the store. Mr. Abercrombie felt
rebuked. He had a large balance in the bank, and could have
accommodated him without the smallest inconvenience. In another
state of mind he would have done so cheerfully.
"O dear!" sighed the unhappy merchant, speaking mentally; "what has
come over me? I'm losing all control of myself. This will never,
never do. I must set a guard upon my lips."
And he did so. Conscious of his state of irritability, he subdued
his tones of voice, and restrained utterance when tempted to angry
or inconsiderate speech. Not again during the day was he guilty of
such inexcusable conduct as in the instances mentioned; yet the
shadow remained upon his feelings, strive as he would to throw off
the gloomy impression.
It was late in the day when Mr. Abercrombie turned his steps
homeward. How little was he satisfied with himself! And now, when he
remembered, with painful distinctness, the clouded brow of his wife,
how little promise was there of home-sunlight, to dispel the gloom
of his own feelings!
As the hand of the merchant rested upon his own door, he almost
dreaded to enter. He shrank from meeting that clouded visage. The
shadows were dark when he left in the morning, and experience told
him that he need scarcely hope to find them dispelled. Happily,
though still in the sky, the clouds were broken, and gleams of
sunshine came breaking through. Ah! if they had only possessed
sufficient power to disperse the shadows that all day long had been
gathering around the heart of Mr. Abercrombie! But that was
impossible. Self-respect had been forfeited; and a consciousness of
having, in his impatient haste, acted unjustly, haunted his
thoughts. And so, the shadows that were not to be dispersed by the
feeble sun-rays from the countenance of his wife, gradually diffused
themselves, until the light that struggled with them grew pale.
"Did you know," said Mrs. Abercrombie, breaking in upon the
oppressive silence that succeeded, after all had retired for the
night but herself and husband, "that the mother of Edward Wilson is
very poor and in a decline?"
"I was not aware of it," was the brief response.
"It is so. Mrs. Archer was here this afternoon, and was telling me
about them. Mrs. Wilson, who, until within a few weeks past, has
been able to earn something, is now so weak that she cannot leave
her bed, and is solely dependent on the earnings of her son. How
much do you pay him?"
"Only three dollars a week," answered Mr. Abercrombie, shading his
face with his hand.
"Only three dollars! How can they live on that? Mrs. Archer says
that Edward is one of the best of lads--that he nurses his mother,
and cares for her with unfailing tenderness; indeed, he is her only
attendant. They are too poor to pay for the services of a domestic.
Could you not afford to increase his wages?"
"I might, perhaps," said Mr. Abercrombie, abstractedly, still
shading his face.
"I wish you could," was the earnest reply. "It will be a real
Mr. Abercrombie made no response; and his wife pursued the subject
no further. But the former lay awake for hours after retiring to
bed, pondering the events of the day which had just closed.
The sun had gone down amid clouds and shadows; but the morrow dawned
brightly. The brow of Mrs. Abercrombie was undimmed as she met her
family at the breakfast-table on the next morning, and every
countenance reflected its cheerful light. Even Mr. Abercrombie, who
had something on his conscience that troubled him, gave back his
portion of the general good feeling. Lighter far was his step as he
went forth and took his way to his store. His first act on his
arriving there, was, to ease his conscience of the pressure thereon,
by sending for Edward Wilson, and restoring him to his place under
new and better auspices.
And thus the shadows passed; yet, not wholly were they expelled. The
remembrance of pain abides long after the smarting wound has healed,
and the heart which has once been enveloped in shadows, never loses
entirely its sense of gloomy oppression. How guarded all should be
lest clouds gather upon the brow, for we know not on whose hearts
may fall their shadows.
I DID not hear the maiden's name; but in my thought I have ever
since called her "Gentle Hand." What a magic lay in her touch! It
When and where, it matters not now to relate--but once upon a time
as I was passing through a thinly peopled district of country, night
came down upon me, almost unawares. Being on foot, I could not hope
to gain the village toward which my steps were directed, until a
late hour; and I therefore preferred seeking shelter and a night's
lodging at the first humble dwelling that presented itself.
Dusky twilight was giving place to deeper shadows, when I found
myself in the vicinity of a dwelling, from the small uncurtained
windows of which the light shone with a pleasant promise of good
cheer and comfort. The house stood within an enclosure, and a short
distance from the road along which I was moving with wearied feet.
Turning aside, and passing through an ill-hung gate, I approached
the dwelling. Slowly the gate swung on its wooden hinges, and the
rattle of its latch, in closing, did not disturb the air until I had
nearly reached the little porch in front of the house, in which a
slender girl, who had noticed my entrance, stood awaiting my
A deep, quick bark answered, almost like an echo, the sound of the
shutting gate, and, sudden as an apparition, the form of an immense
dog loomed in the doorway. I was now near enough to see the savage
aspect of the animal, and the gathering motion of his body, as he
prepared to bound forward upon me. His wolfish growl was really
fearful. At the instant when he was about to spring, a light hand
was laid upon his shaggy neck, and a low word spoken.
"Don't be afraid. He won't hurt you," said a voice, that to me
sounded very sweet and musical.
I now came forward, but in some doubt as to the young girl's power
over the beast, on whose rough neck her almost childish hand still
lay. The dog did not seem by any means reconciled to my approach,
and growled wickedly his dissatisfaction.
"Go in, Tiger," said the girl, not in a voice of authority yet in
her gentle tones was the consciousness that she would be obeyed;
and, as she spoke, she lightly bore upon the animal with her hand,
and he turned away, and disappeared within the dwelling.
"Who's that?" A rough voice asked the question; and now a
heavy-looking man took the dog's place in the door.
"Who are you? What's wanted?" There was something very harsh and
forbidding in the way the man spoke. The girl now laid her hand upon
his arm, and leaned, with a gentle pressure, against him.
"How far is it to G----?" I asked, not deeming it best to say, in
the beginning, that I sought a resting-place for the night.
"To G----!" growled the man, but not so harshly as at first. "It's
good six miles from here."
"A long distance; and I'm a stranger, and on foot," said I. "If you
can make room for me until morning, I will be very thankful."
I saw the girl's hand move quickly up his arm, until it rested on
his shoulder, and now she leaned to him still closer.
"Come in. We'll try what can be done for you."
There was a change in the man's voice that made me wonder.
I entered a large room, in which blazed a brisk fire. Before the
fire sat two stout lads, who turned upon me their heavy eyes, with
no very welcome greeting. A middle-aged woman was standing at a
table, and two children were amusing themselves with a kitten on the
"A stranger, mother," said the man who had given me so rude a
greeting at the door; "and he wants us to let him stay all night."
The woman looked at me doubtingly for a few moments, and then
"We don't keep a public-house."
"I'm aware of that, ma'am," said I; "but night has overtaken me, and
it's a long way yet to G----."
"Too far for a tired man to go on foot," said the master of the
house, kindly, "so it's no use talking about it, mother; we must
give him a bed."
So unobtrusively, that I scarcely noticed the movement, the girl had
drawn to the woman's side. What she said to her, I did not hear, for
the brief words were uttered in a low voice; but I noticed, as she
spoke, one small, fair hand rested on the woman's hand. Was there
magic in that gentle touch? The woman's repulsive aspect changed
into one of kindly welcome, and she said:
"Yes, it's a long way to G----. I guess we can find a place for him.
Have you had any supper?"
I answered in the negative.
The woman, without further remark, drew a pine table from the wall,
placed upon it some cold meat, fresh bread and butter, and a pitcher
of new milk. While these preparations were going on, I had more
leisure for minute observation. There was a singular contrast
between the young girl I have mentioned and the other inmates of the
room; and yet, I could trace a strong likeness between the maiden
and the woman, whom I supposed to be her mother--browned and hard as
were the features of the latter.
Soon after I had commenced eating my supper, the two children who
were playing on the floor, began quarrelling with each other.
"John! go off to bed!" said the father, in a loud, peremptory voice,
speaking to one of the children.
But John, though he could not help hearing, did not choose to obey.
"Do you hear me, sir? Off with you!" repeated the angry father.
"I don't want to go," whined the child.
"Go, I tell you, this minute!"
Still, there was not the slightest movement to obey; and the little
fellow looked the very image of rebellion. At this crisis in the
affair, when a storm seemed inevitable, the sister, as I supposed
her to be, glided across the room, and stooping down, took the
child's hands in hers. Not a word was said; but the young rebel was
instantly subdued. Rising, he passed out by her side, and I saw no
more of him during the evening.
Soon after I had finished my supper, a neighbour came in, and it was
not long before he and the man of the house were involved in a warm
political discussion, in which were many more assertions than
reasons. My host was not a very clear-headed man; while his
antagonist was wordy and specious. The former, as might be supposed,
very naturally became excited, and, now and then, indulged himself
in rather strong expressions toward his neighbour, who, in turn,
dealt back wordy blows that were quite as heavy as he had received,
and a good deal more irritating.
And now I marked again the power of that maiden's gentle hand. I did
not notice her movement to her father's side. She was there when I
first observed her, with one hand laid upon his temple, and lightly
smoothing the hair with a caressing motion. Gradually the high tone
of then disputant subsided, and his words had in them less of
personal rancour. Still, the discussion went on; and I noticed that
the maiden's hand, which rested on the temple when unimpassioned
words were spoken, resumed its caressing motion the instant there
was the smallest perceptible tone of anger in the father's voice. It
was a beautiful sight; and I could but look on and wonder at the
power of that touch, so light and unobtrusive, yet possessing a
spell over the hearts of all around her. As she stood there, she
looked like an angel of peace, sent to still the turbulent waters of
human passion. Sadly out of place, I could not but think her, amid
the rough and rude; and yet, who more than they need the softening
and humanizing influences of one like the Gentle Hand.
Many times more, during that evening, did I observe the magic power
of her hand and voice--the one gentle yet potent as the other.
On the next morning, breakfast being over, I was preparing to take
my departure, when my host informed me that if I would wait for half
an hour he would give me a ride in his wagon to G----, as business
required him to go there. I was very well pleased to accept of the
invitation. In due time, the farmer's wagon was driven into the road
before the house, and I was invited to get in. I noticed the horse
as a rough-looking Canadian pony, with a certain air of stubborn
endurance. As the farmer took his seat by my side, the family came
to the door to see us off.
"Dick!" said the farmer, in a peremptory voice, giving the rein a
quick jerk as he spoke.
But Dick moved not a step.
"Dick! you vagabond! get up." And the farmer's whip cracked sharply
by the pony's ear.
It availed not, however, this second appeal. Dick stood firmly
disobedient. Next the whip was brought down upon him, with an
impatient hand; but the pony only reared up a little. Fast and sharp
the strokes were next dealt to the number of a half-dozen. The man
might as well have beaten his wagon, for all his end was gained.
A stout lad now came out into the road, and catching Dick by the
bridle, jerked him forward, using, at the same time, the customary
language on such occasions, but Dick met this new ally with
increased stubbornness, planting his forefeet more firmly, and at a
sharper angle with the ground. The impatient boy now struck the pony
on the side of his head with his clenched hand, and jerked cruelly
at his bridle. It availed nothing, however; Dick was not to be
wrought upon by any such arguments.
"Don't do so, John!" I turned my head as the maiden's sweet voice
reached my ear. She was passing through the gate into the road, and,
in the next moment, had taken hold of the lad and drawn him away
from the animal. No strength was exerted in this; she took hold of
his arm, and he obeyed her wish as readily as if he had no thought
beyond her gratification.
And now that soft hand was laid gently on the pony's neck, and a
single low word spoken. How instantly were the tense muscles
relaxed--how quickly the stubborn air vanished.
"Poor Dick!" said the maiden, as she stroked his neck lightly, or
softly patted it with a child-like hand.
"Now, go along, you provoking fellow!" she added, in a half-chiding,
yet affectionate voice, as she drew upon the bridle. The pony turned
toward her, and rubbed his head against her arm for an instant or
two; then, pricking up his ears, he started off at a light, cheerful
trot, and went on his way as freely as if no silly crotchet had ever
entered his stubborn brain.
"What a wonderful power that hand possesses!" said I, speaking to my
companion, as we rode away.
He looked at me for a moment as if my remark had occasioned
surprise. Then a light came into his countenance, and he said,
"She's good! Everybody and every thing loves her."
Was that, indeed, the secret of her power? Was the quality of her
soul perceived in the impression of her hand, even by brute beasts!
The father's explanation was, doubtless, the true one. Yet have I
ever since wondered, and still do wonder, at the potency which lay
in that maiden's magic touch. I have seen something of the same
power, showing itself in the loving and the good, but never to the
extent as instanced in her, whom, for a better name, I must still
call "Gentle Hand."
A gentle touch, a soft word. Ah! how few of us, when the will is
strong with its purpose, can believe in the power of agencies so
apparently insignificant! And yet all great influences effect their
ends silently, unobtrusively, and with a force that seems at first
glance to be altogether inadequate. Is there not a lesson for us all
WILL IT PAY?
"I WANT an hour of your time this morning," said Mr. Smith, as he
entered the counting-room of his neighbour, Mr. Jones.
"Will it pay?" inquired Mr. Jones, smiling.
"Not much profit in money," was answered.
Mr. Jones shrugged his shoulders, and arched his eye-brows.
"Time is money," said he.
"But money isn't the all-in-all of life. There's something else in
the world besides dollars."
"Oh yes; and the man that has the dollars can command as much of
this 'something else' that you speak of as he pleases."
"I'm not so sure of that," replied Mr. Smith. "I can tell you
something that money will not procure."
"A contented mind."
"I'll take that risk at a very low percentage, so far as I am
concerned," answered Mr. Jones.
"But, as to this hour of my time that you ask? What is the object?"
"You remember Lloyd who used to do business on the wharf?"
"Yes; what of him? I thought he died in New Orleans a year ago."
"So he did."
"Not worth a dollar!"
"Not worth many dollars, I believe. He was never a very shrewd man,
so far as business was concerned, though honourable and
kind-hearted. He did not prosper after leaving our city."
"Honourable and kind-hearted!" returned Mr. Jones, with a slight air
of contempt. "Such men are as plenty as blackberries. I can point
them out to you by the dozen in every square; but it does not pay to
be on too intimate terms with them."
"You are very apt to suffer through their amiable weaknesses."
"Is this your experience?" inquired Mr. Smith.
"My experience is not very extensive in that line, I flatter
myself," said Mr. Jones; "but I know of some who have suffered."
"I was speaking of Mr. Lloyd."
"Yes--what of him?"
"I learned this morning that his widow arrived in our city
yesterday, and that she needs friendly aid and counsel. It seems to
me that those who knew and esteemed her husband ought not to regard
her with indifference. I propose to call upon her and inquire as to
her needs and purposes, and I want you to accompany me."
"Can't do it," answered Mr. Jones, very promptly.
"It won't pay," returned Mr. Jones.
"I don't expect it to pay in a business sense," said Mr. Smith;
"but, surely, humanity has some claim to consideration."
"Humanity! humph. Humanity don't pay, Mr. Smith; that's my
experience. I've helped two or three in my time, and what return do
you suppose I received?"
"The pleasing consciousness of having done good to your neighbour."
"Not a bit of it. I lost my money for my pains, and made enemies
into the bargain. When I demanded my own, I received only
insult--that's my experience, Mr. Smith, and the experience of
ninety-nine in a hundred who listen to the so-called claims of
humanity. As I said before--it doesn't pay."
"Then you will not go with me to see Mrs. Lloyd?"
"No, sir. You don't catch me hunting up the widows of broken
merchants. Let them go to their own friends. I'd soon have plenty of
rather unprofitable business on my hands, if I were to engage in
affairs of this kind."
"I hardly think it will pay to talk with you on this subject any
longer," said Mr. Smith.
"I'm just of your opinion," was the laughing answer, "unless I can
induce you to let Mrs. Lloyd remain in ignorance of your benevolent
intentions, and mind your own concerns, like a sensible man."
"Good morning," said Mr. Smith.
"Good morning," replied Jones; "in a week or two I shall expect to
hear your report on this widow-hunting expedition."
"It will pay, I reckon," said Mr. Smith, as he passed from the
"Pay," muttered Jones, a sneer now curling his lip, "_he'll_ have to
pay, and roundly, too, unless more fortunate than he deserves to
A little while after the departure of Mr. Smith, a sallow,
sharp-featured man, with a restless eye, entered the store of Mr.
"Ah, Perkins!" said the latter, familiarly, "any thing afloat
"Well, yes, there is; I know of one operation that is worth looking
"Will it pay, friend Perkins? That's the touchstone with me. Show me
any thing that will pay, and I'm your man for a trade."
"I can get you fifty shares of Riverland Railroad stock, at
"Can you?" The face of Jones brightened.
"All right. I'll take it."
"Give me your note at sixty days, and I'll have the shares
transferred at once."
In five minutes from the time Perkins entered the store of Mr.
Jones, he left with the merchant's note for over four thousand
dollars in his hand. The shares in the Riverland Railroad had been
steadily advancing for some months, and Mr. Jones entertained not
the shadow of a doubt that in a very short period they would be up
to par. He had already purchased freely, and at prices beyond
eighty-two dollars. The speculation he regarded as entirely safe,
and one that would "pay" handsomely.
"I think that will pay a good deal better than hunting up the poor
widows of insolvent merchants," said Mr. Jones to himself, as he
walked the length of his store once or twice, rubbing his hands
every now and then with irrepressible glee. "If I'd been led off by
Smith on that fool's errand, just see what I would have lost.
Operations like that don't go a begging long. But this gentleman
knows in what quarter his interest lies."
Not long after the departure of Perkins, a small wholesale dealer,
named Armor, came into the store of Mr. Jones.
"I have several lots that I am anxious to close out this morning,"
said he. "Can I do any thing here?"
"What have you?" asked Mr. Jones.
"Ten boxes of tobacco, fifty prime hams, ten boxes Havana cigars,
some rice, &c."
Now, these were the very articles Mr. Jones wanted, and which he
would have to purchase in a day or two. But he affected indifference
as he inquired the price. The current market rates were mentioned.
"No temptation," said Mr. Jones, coldly.
"They are prime articles, all; none better to be had," said the
"If I was in immediate want of them, I could give you an order;
"Will you make me an offer?" inquired Armor, somewhat earnestly. "I
have a good deal of money to raise to-day, and for cash will sell at
Mr. Jones mused for some time. He was not certain whether, in making
or requiring an offer, he would get the best bargain out of his
needy customer. At last he said--
"Put down your prices to the very lowest figure, and I can tell you
at a word whether I will close out these lots for you. As I said
before, I have a good stock of each on hand."
For what a small gain will some men sacrifice truth and honour!
The dealer had notes in bank that must be lifted, and he saw no way
of obtaining all the funds he needed, except through forced sales,
at a depression on the market prices. So, to make certain of an
operation, he named, accordingly, low rates--considerably below
Mr. Jones, who was very cunning, and very shrewd, accepted the
prices on two or three articles, but demurred to the rest, and these
the most important of the whole. Finally, an operation was made, in
which he was a gainer, in the purchase of goods for which he had
almost immediate sale, of over two hundred dollars, while the needy
merchant was a loser by just that sum.
"That paid!" was the self-congratulatory ejaculation of Mr. Jones,
"and handsomely, too. I should like to do it over again, about a
dozen times before night. Rather better than widow speculations--ha!
We shall see. On leaving the store of his neighbour, Mr. Smith went
to the hotel at which he understood Mrs. Lloyd had taken lodgings,
and made inquiry for her. A lady in deep mourning, accompanied by
two daughters, one a lovely girl, not over twenty years of age, and
the other about twelve, soon entered the parlour.
"Mrs. Lloyd, I believe," said Mr. Smith.
The lady bowed. As soon as all parties were seated, the gentleman
"My name is Smith. During your former residence in this city, I was
well acquainted with your husband. Permit me to offer my heartfelt
sympathy in the painful bereavement you have suffered."
There was a slight pause, and then Mr. Smith resumed--
"Hearing of your return to this city, I have called to ask if there
are any good offices that I can render you. If you have any plans
for the future--if you want advice--if a friend in need will be of
service--do not hesitate to speak freely, My high regard for your
husband's memory will not suffer me to be indifferent to the welfare
of his widow and children."
Mr. Smith had not purposed making, when he called, so general a
tender of service. But there was something in the lady's fine
countenance which told him that she had both independence and
decision of character, and that he need not fear an abuse of his
Touched by such an unexpected declaration, it was some moments
before she could reply. She then said--
"I thank you, in the name of my departed husband, for this
unlooked-for and generous offer. Though back in the city, which was
formerly my home, I find myself comparatively a stranger. Yesterday
I made inquiry for Mr. Edward Hunter, an old and fast friend of Mr.
Lloyd's, and to my pain and regret learned that he was deceased."
"Yes, madam; he died about two months ago."
"With him I purposed consulting as to my future course of action;
but his death has left me without a single friend in the city to
whose judgment I can confide my plans and purposes."
"Mr. Hunter was one of nature's noblemen," said Mr. Smith, warmly;
"and you are not the only one who has cause to mourn his loss. But
there are others in our city who are not insensible to the claims of
humanity--others who, like him, sometimes let their thoughts range
beyond the narrow sphere of self."
"My object in returning to this place," resumed Mrs. Lloyd, "was to
get started in some safe and moderately profitable business. A short
time before my husband's removal, by the death of a distant relative
I fell heir to a small piece of landed property, which I recently
sold in New Orleans. By the advice of my agent there, I have
invested the money in fifty shares of Riverland Railroad stock,
which he said I could sell here at a good advance. These shares are
now in the hands of a broker, named Perkins, who is authorized to
sell them at eighty-two dollars a share."
"He'll find no difficulty in doing that, ma'am. I would have taken
them at eighty-three."
At this stage of the conversation, Perkins himself entered the
"Ah, Mr. Smith!" said he, "I called at your place of business this
morning, but was not so fortunate as to find you in. I had fifty
shares of Riverland stock, the property of Mrs. Lloyd here, which I
presumed you would like to buy."
"You were not out of the way in your presumption. Have you made the
"Oh yes. Not finding you in, I saw Mr. Jones, who took the shares at
"At what price?"
"Eighty-two. I have his note at sixty days for the amount, which you
know is perfectly good."
"Mrs. Lloyd need not have the slightest hesitation in accepting it;
and if she wishes the money, I can get it cashed for her." Then
rising, he added, "I will leave you now, Mrs. Lloyd, as business
requires both your attention and mine. To-morrow I will do myself
the pleasure to call on you again."
As Mr. Smith bowed himself out, he noticed, more particularly, the
beautiful smile of the elder daughter, whose eyes, humid from
grateful emotion, were fixed on his countenance with an expression
that haunted him for hours afterward.
"I hardly think that paid," was the remark of Mr. Jones, on meeting
Mr. Smith some hours afterward.
"What?" asked the latter.
"Your visit to Lloyd's widow."
"Why do you say so?"
"You lost a bargain which came into my hands, and on which I could
get an advance of a hundred dollars to-morrow."
"Ah, what was it?"
"Perkins had fifty shares of Riverland stock, which he was
authorized to sell at eighty-two. He called on you first; but
instead of being on hand, in business hours, you were off on a
charity expedition. So the ripe cherry dropped into my open mouth. I
told you it wouldn't pay, neighbour Smith."
"And yet it has paid, notwithstanding your prophecy," said Smith.
"In what way?"
But Mr. Smith was not disposed to cast his pearls before swine, and
so evaded the direct question. He knew that his mercenary neighbour
would trample under foot, with sneering contempt, any expression of
the pure satisfaction he derived from what he had done--would
breathe upon and obscure the picture of a grateful mother and her
daughter, if he attempted to elevate it before his eyes. It had
paid, but beyond this he did not seek to enlighten his
Three days later, Mr. Jones is at his desk, buried in calculations
of profit and loss, and so much absorbed is he, that he has not
noticed the entrance of Perkins the broker, through whom he obtained
the stock from Mrs. Lloyd.
"How much of the Riverland Railroad stock have you?" inquired the
broker, and in a voice that sent a sudden fear to the heart of the
"A hundred shares. Why do you ask?" was the quick response.
"I'm sorry for you, then. The interest due this day is not
"What!" Mr. Jones starts from his desk, his lips pale and quivering.
"There's something wrong in the affairs of the company, it is
whispered. At any rate, the interest won't be paid, and the stock
has tumbled down to thirty-five dollars. If you'll take my advice
you'll sell. The first loss is usually the best in these cases--that
is my experience."
It is very plain that one operation hasn't paid, for all its golden
promise--an operation that would hardly have been effected by Mr.
Jones, had he accompanied Mr. Smith on the proposed visit to Mrs.
Lloyd. The fifty shares of stock, which came, as he thought, so
luckily into his hand, would, in all probability, have become the
property of another.
And not a week glided by ere Mr. Jones became aware of the fact that
another operation had failed to pay. A cargo of coffee and sugar
arrived one morning; the vessel containing it had been looked for
daily, and Mr. Jones fully expected to receive the consignment; he
was not aware of the arrival until he met the captain in the street.
"Captain Jackson! How are you? This is really an unexpected
pleasure!" exclaimed the merchant, as he grasped the hand of the
individual he addressed, and shook it warmly.
Captain Jackson did not seem equally gratified at meeting the
merchant. He took his hand coldly, and scarcely smiled in return.
"When did you arrive?" asked Mr. Jones.
"Indeed! I was not aware of it. For over a week I have been
The captain merely bowed.
"Will you be around to my store this afternoon?" asked Mr. Jones.
"I presume not."
There was now, on the part of Mr. Jones, an embarrassed pause. Then
"Shall I have the sale of your cargo?"
"No, sir," was promptly and firmly answered.
"I have made the consignment to Armor."
"To Armor!" exclaimed Mr. Jones, in ill-concealed surprise.
"He's a perfectly fair man, is he not?" said the captain.
"Oh yes. Perfectly fair. He'll do you justice, without doubt. Still
I must own to being a little disappointed, you were satisfied with
the way your business was done last time."
"Not altogether, Mr. Jones," said Captain Jackson. "You were a
little too sharp for, me--rather too eager, in securing your own
advantage, to look narrowly enough to mine. Such was my impression,
and it has, been confirmed since my arrival this morning."
"That's a grave charge, Captain Jackson," said Mt. Jones; "You must
"I'm a plain spoken, and a straightforward sort of a man, sir." The
captain drew himself up, and looked particularly dignified. "The
truth is, as I have said, I thought you were rather too sharp for me
the last time. But I determined to try you once more, and to watch
you as closely as a cat watches a mouse. I was on my way to your
store, when I met an old friend, in business here, and, put to him
the direct question as to what he thought of your fairness in trade.
'He's sharp,' was the answer. 'He will not take an undue advantage?'
said I. 'Your idea as to what constitutes an undue advantage would
hardly agree with that of Mr. Jones,' replied my friend. And then he
related the circumstance of your finding Armor in a tight place last
week, and getting from him a lot of goods for two hundred dollars
less than they were worth. I went to Armor, and, on his confirming
the statement, at once placed my cargo in his hands. The commissions
will repair his loss, and give him a few hundred dollars over. I'm
afraid of men who are too sharp in dealing. Are you satisfied with
"Good morning, sir," said Mr. Jones.
"Good morning," returned, Captain Jackson. And bowing formally, the
two men separated.
That didn't pay," muttered Jones between his teeth, as he moved on
with his eyes cast to the ground, even in his chagrin and
mortification using his favourite word--
"No, it, didn't pay," And, in truth, no operations of this kind do
really pay. They may seem to secure advantage, but always result in
loss--if not in lose of money, in loss of that which should be
dearer to a man than all the wealth of the Indies--his self-respect
and virtuous integrity of character.
On the evening of that day, a pleasant little company was assembled
at the house of Mr. Smith, made up of the merchant's own family and
three guests--Mrs. Lloyd and her daughters. Through the advice of
Mr. Smith, and by timely action on his part, a house of moderate
capacity had been secured, at a great bargain, for the sum of three
thousand dollars, to which it was proposed to remove, as soon as
furniture, on the way from New Orleans, should arrive. The first
story of this house was already fitted up as a store; and, as the
object of Mrs. Lloyd was to get into business in a small way, the
purchase of the property was made, in order as well to obtain a good
location as to make a safe investment. With the thousand dollars
that remained, it was proposed to lay in a small stock of fancy
In the few interviews held with Mrs. Lloyd by the merchant, he was
struck with the beautiful harmony of her character, and especially
with her womanly dignity. As for the eldest daughter, something
about her had charmed him from the very beginning. And now when, for
the first time, this interesting family were his guests for a social
evening--when he saw their characters in a new aspect--and when he
felt, through the quick sympathy of a generous nature, how grateful
and happy they were--he experienced a degree of satisfaction such as
never pervaded the breast of any man whose love of mere gain was the
measure of his good-will toward others.
How different was the social sphere in the house of Mr. Jones on
that evening! The brow of the husband and father was clouded, and
his lips sealed in silence; or if words were spoken, they were in
moody tones, or uttered in fretfulness and ill-nature. The wife and
children caught from him the same repulsive spirit, and, in their
intercourse one with the other, found little sympathy or affection.
There was a chilling shadow on the household of the merchant; it
fell from the monster form of his expanding selfishness, that was
uplifted between the sunlight of genuine humanity and the neighbour
he would not regard. Alas! on how many thousands and thousands of
households in our own land rests the gigantic shadow of this
"Will it pay?" is the eager question we hear on all sides, as we
mingle in the business world.
"_Has_ it paid?" Ah, that is the after-question! Reader, is the
monster's shadow in your household? If so, it has _not_ paid.
THE LAY PREACHER.
WHETHER the Rev. Andrew Adkin had or had not a call to preach, is
more than we can say. Enough, that he considered it his duty to
"hold forth" occasionally on the Sabbath; and when "Brother Adkin"
saw, in any possible line of action, his duty, he never took counsel
Brother Adkin kept a store in the town of Mayberry, and being a man
of some force of character, and not, by any means, indifferent to
this world's goods, devoted himself to business during the six days
of the week with commendable assiduity. It is not the easiest thing
in the world to banish, on the Sabbath, all concern in regard to
business. Most persons engaged in trade, no matter how religiously
inclined, have experienced this difficulty. Brother Adkin's case
did, not prove an exception; and so intrusive, often, were these
worldly thoughts and cares, that they desecrated, at times, the
pulpit, making the good man's voice falter and his hands tremble, as
he endeavoured, "in his feeble way," to break the bread of life.
He had his own trials and temptations--his own stern "exercises of
mind," going to the extent, not unfrequently, of startling doubts as
to the reality of his call to preach.
"I don't see much fruit of my labour," he would sometimes say to
himself, "and I often think I do more harm than good."
Such thoughts, however, were usually disposed of, as suggestions of
A week in the life of Brother Adkin will show the peculiar
influences that acted upon him, and how far his secular pursuits
interfered with and marred his usefulness as a preacher.
Monday morning had come round again. He had preached twice on the
Sabbath--once to a strange congregation, and with apparent good
effect, and once to a congregation in Mayberry. In the latter case,
he was favoured with little freedom of utterance. The beginning of
the secular week brought back to the mind of Mr. Adkin the old
current of thought, and the old earnest desire to get gain in
business. On the Sabbath he had taught the people that love was the
fulfilment of the law,--now, he had regard only to his own
interests; and, although he did not adopt the broad, unscrupulous
maxim, that all is fair in trade, yet, in every act of buying and
selling, the thought uppermost in his mind was, the amount of gain
to be received in the transaction.
"What are you paying for corn to-day?" asked a man, a stranger to
"Forty-eight cents," was answered.
"Is this the highest market rate?" said the man.
"I bought fifty bushels at that price on Saturday," replied Mr.
Now, since Saturday, the price of corn had advanced four cents, and
Mr. Adkin knew it. But he thought he would just try his new customer
with the old price, and if he chose to sell at that, why there would
be so much gained.
"I have forty bushels," said the man.
"Very well, I'll take it at forty-eight cents. Where is it?"
"My wagon is at the tavern."
"You may bring it over at once. My man is now at leisure to attend
to the delivery."
The corn was delivered and paid for, and both parties, for the time
being, were well satisfied with the transaction.
The day had nearly run to a close, and Mr. Adkin was in the act of
estimating his gains, when the man from whom he had purchased the
corn entered his store.
"Look here, my friend," said the latter speaking rather sharply,
"you paid me too little for that corn."
"How so?" returned Mr. Adkin, in well-affected surprise.
"You was to pay the highest market price," said the man.
"I offered you forty-eight cents."
"And I asked you if that was the highest rate, didn't I?"
"I told you that I had bought fifty bushels at that price on
"Oh, ho! Now I comprehend you," said the man, with a sarcastic curl
of his lip. "I was recommended to you as a preacher, and one who
would deal fairly with me. I asked you a plain question, and you
purposely misled me in your answer, to the end that you might get my
corn at less than the market value. You have cheated me out of
nearly two dollars. Much good may it do you!"
And saying this, he turned on his heel and left the store. Mr. Adkin
was, of course, no little disturbed. The charge of dishonesty in
dealing at first aroused his indignation; but as he grew calmer and
thought over the affair, his conscience troubled him. As a Christian
man, and especially as a Christian minister, he could not reconcile
his dealing with strict gospel requirements. The more he reflected,
the more closely he brought his conduct to the standard of Christian
principles, the less was he satisfied with himself. The final result
was, a determination to go to the man on the next morning, and pay
him the balance due him on the market price of his corn. But, when
he sought for him, he was not to be found, having gone back to his
home, a few miles from the village.
On the next day he sent for a bill, which had been standing a good
while. His clerk brought back some impertinent and altogether
"Did Mr. Giles say that?" he asked, his eyes flashing indignantly.
"His exact words," replied the clerk.
"Very well. I'll not send to him again," said Mr. Adkin. "He thinks,
because I am a preacher, that he can treat me as he pleases, but
I'll let him know that being a preacher doesn't make me any the less
a man, nor any the less inclined to protect myself."
So Mr. Giles was served with a summons, to answer for debt, before
the week was out.
On the day following, a certain lady, a member of the congregation
in Mayberry to which he preached, whenever, from sickness or other
causes, the regular minister was absent, came into Mr. Adkin's
store. Her manner was considerably excited.
"There's a mistake in your bill, Mr. Adkin," said she, in rather a
sharp tone of voice.
"If so, Mrs. Smith, the remedy is a very simple one," replied Mr.
Adkin. Her manner had disturbed him, yet he concealed the
disturbance under a forced suavity of manner. "Where does the
"Why, see here. You've got me charged with six yards of muslin and
five pounds of butter that I never got!"
"Are you certain of this, Mrs. Smith?"
"Certain! Be sure I'm certain! D'ye think I'd say I hadn't the
things, if I had them? I'm not quite so bad as that, Mr. Adkin!"
"Don't get excited about the matter, Mrs. Smith. We are all liable
to mistakes. There's an error here, either on your side or mine, if
it is my error, I will promptly correct it."
"Of course it's your error. I never had either the muslin or the
butter," said Mrs. Smith, positively.
Mr. Adkin turned to his ledger, where Mrs. Smith's account was
"The muslin is charged on the 10th of June."
Mrs. Smith looked at the bill and answered affirmatively.
"You bought a pound of yarn and a straw hat on the same day."
"Yes; I remember them. But I didn't get the muslin."
"Think again, Mrs. Smith. Don't you remember the beautiful piece of
Merrimac that I showed you, and how cheap you thought it?"
"I never had six yards of muslin, Mr. Adkin."
"But, Mrs. Smith, I have distinct recollection of measuring it off,
and the charge is here in my own handwriting."
"I never had it, Mr. Adkin!" said the lady much excited.
"You certainly had, Mrs. Smith."
"I'll never pay for it!"
"Don't say that, Mrs. Smith. You certainly wouldn't want my goods
without paying for them!"
"I never had the muslin, I tell you!"
Argument in the case Mr. Adkin found to be useless. The sale of the
five pounds of butter was as distinctly remembered by him; and as he
was not the man to yield a right when he had no doubt as to its
existence, he would not erase the articles from Mrs Smith bill,
which was paid under protest.
"It's the last cent you'll ever get of my money!" said Mrs. Smith,
as she handed over, the amount of the bill. "I never had those
articles; and I shall always say that I was wronged out of so much
"I'm sure, madam, I don't want your custom, if I'm expected to let
you have my goods for nothing," retorted Mr. Adkin, the natural man
in him growing strong under an allegation that implied dishonesty.
So the two parted, neither feeling good-will toward the other, and
neither being in a very composed state of mind.
Each day in that week brought something to disturb the mind of Mr.
Adkin; and each day brought him into unpleasant business contact
with someone in the town of Mayberry. To avoid, these things was
almost impossible, particularly for a man of Mr. Adkin's
Saturday night came, always a busy night for the storekeeper. It was
ten o'clock, and customers were still coming in, when a lad handed
Mr. Adkin a note, it was from the regularly stationed minister of
the church in Mayberry to which Mr. Adkin belonged. The note stated,
briefly, that the writer was so much indisposed, that he would not
be able to preach on the next day, and conveyed the request that
"Brother Adkin" would "fill the pulpit for him in the morning."
Brother Adkin almost groaned in spirit at this unwelcome and
not-to-be-denied invitation to perform ministerial duties on the
Sabbath. Of theological subjects, scarcely a thought had entered his
mind since Monday morning; and, certainly, the states through which
he had passed were little calculated to elevate his affections, or
make clear his spiritual intuitions.
It was twelve o'clock before Mr. Adkin was able to retire on that
night. As he rested his weary and now aching head on his pillow, he
endeavoured to turn his mind from worldly things, and fix it upon
things heavenly and eternal. But, the current of thought and
affection had too long been flowing in another channel. The very
effort to check its onward course, caused disturbance and obscurity.
There was a brief but fruitless struggle, when overtaxed nature
vindicated her claims, and as the lay preacher found relief from
perplexing thoughts and a troubled conscience, in refreshing
In the half-dreaming, half-waking state that comes with the dawning
of day, Mr. Adkin's thoughts flowed on again in the old channel, and
when full consciousness came, he found himself busy with questions
of profit and loss. Self-accusation and humiliation followed. He
"wrote bitter things against himself," for this involuntary
desecration of the Sabbath.
Rising early, he took his Bible, and after turning over book after
book and scanning chapter after chapter, finally chose a verse as
the text from which he would preach. Hurriedly and imperfectly our
lay preacher conned his subject. Clearness of discrimination, grasp
of thought, orderly arrangement, were out of the question. That
would have been too much for a master mind, under similar
Eleven o'clock came around quickly, and painfully conscious of an
obscure and confused state of mind, Mr. Adkin entered the house of
God and ascended the pulpit. A little while he sat, endeavouring to
collect his thoughts; then he arose and commenced giving out a hymn.
Lifting his eyes from the book, as he finished reading the first
verse, he saw, directly in front of him, the man from whom he had
purchased the forty bushels of corn. He was looking at him fixedly,
and there was on his countenance an expression of surprise and
contempt, that, bringing back, as the man's presence did, a vivid
recollection of the events of Monday, almost deprived Mr. Adkin, for
a moment or two, of utterance. He faltered, caught his breath, and
went on again with the reading. On raising his eyes at the
conclusion of the second verse, Mr. Adkin saw his corn customer
slowly moving down the aisle toward the door of entrance. How keenly
he felt the rebuke! How sadly conscious was he of being out of place
in the pulpit!
After the singing of the hymn, the preacher made a prayer; but it
was cold and disjointed. He had no freedom of utterance. A chapter
was read, an anthem sung, and then Mr. Adkin arose in the pulpit,
took his text, and, ere giving utterance to the first words of his
discourse, let his eyes wander over the congregation. A little to
the right sat Mr. Giles, wearing a very sober aspect of countenance,
and looking at him with knit brows and compressed lips. The sight
caused the words "brother going to law with brother" to pass almost
electrically through his mind. As his glance rebounded from Mr.
Giles quickly, it next rested upon Mrs. Smith, who, with perked head
and a most malicious curling of the lip, said, as plain as manner
could say it--"You're a nice man for a preacher, a'n't you?"
How Mr. Adkin beat about the bushes and wrought in obscurity,
darkening counsel by words without knowledge, during the half hour
that followed the enunciation of his text, need not here be told.
None was more fully conscious than himself of his utter failure to
give spiritual instruction to the waiting congregation. The climax,
so far as he was concerned, was yet to come. As he descended the
pulpit stairs, at the close of the service, some one slipped a piece
of paper into his hand. Glancing at the pencilled writing thereon,
he read the rebuking words:
"The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed."
How could he feed them? Are holy and divine things of such easy
comprehension, that a man may devote the whole energies of his mind
to worldly business during six days, and then become a lucid
expounder of heavenly, mysteries on the Sabbath? The influx of
intelligence into the mind of a speaker, is in exact ratio with the
knowledge he has acquired. He may have, without this previous
preparation, "free utterance," as it is called; but this utterance
brings no rational convictions; it sways only by the power of
contagious enthusiasm. Moreover, as in the case of Mr. Adkin, every
lay preacher takes with him into the pulpit a taint from worldly and
business contact, and his presence there must turn the thoughts of
many hearers from his clerical to his personal character--from the
truth he enunciates, to his practical observance thereof in daily
life. He may be judged falsely; but the fact of his blending the two
separate characters of clergyman and layman, forms an occasion for
false judgment, and detracts from the usefulness of the sacred
Whether Mr. Adkin "held forth" again, we cannot apprize the reader.
New light, and new perceptions of duty certainly came into his mind;
and we may hope that, as he was a well-meaning and conscientious
man, he was led to act wisely in the future.
Having given a true picture of a week in the life of the lay
preacher, our business with him is done. It is for those whom it may
concern to study the sketch, and see if it does not contain some
points worthy their especial consideration.
HOW TO DESTROY A GOOD BUSINESS.
"WELL, Mr. Tompkins, what do you think about it? I wish you would
speak. I've been talking at you for full ten blessed minutes, and
you haven't as much as opened your lips in reply."
"About what?" asked Mr. Tompkins, looking up with an air of
"About what, indeed!" rejoined the lady, in no very melodious tone.
"Why, about that house in Franklin Street, to be sure. What else did
you suppose it was?"
"Oh! ah! yes."
"Mr. Tompkins, why don't you answer me like a man? Oh! ah! yes! I
"Yes, and I hate that just as bad. But you needn't think to put me
off with a 'humph!' Have you made up your mind about buying that
"I've got to make up my mind about something else first."
"Indeed! And what is that, pray?"
"About where the money is to come from."
"Mr. Tompkins, I am out of all patience with you! Its precious
little that I ask for, dear knows! But even that little is never
"If you'll get me the money, Ellen, I'll buy the house with
pleasure," returned Mr. Tompkins, in a quiet voice.
"Me! I wonder where I'd get the money? It's an insult for you to
talk to me in this way, when you keep me as poor as a church mouse
all the time. Every dollar I get from you is like pulling a tooth."
"And causes me as much pain, sometimes."
"I won't put up with such treatment from you, Mr. Tompkins," said
the good lady, passionately, and walked from the room with a stately
step and an effort at dignity. The husband retreated precipitately,
and sought his place of business. He sighed as he took his seat upon
a counting-house stool at the desk, and commenced turning over the
pages of various large account-books. While thus engaged, a person
entered his store, and was shown back to that portion of it where he
had retired. Mr. Tompkins looked up on hearing his name pronounced,
and met the steady eye of one whose presence was not very agreeable
to him just at that time.
"Ah, Mr. Wolford! How are you to-day? I am glad to see you," he
said, with an effort to seem pleased and indifferent.
"Very well. How are you?" was the blunt response.
"Take a chair, Mr. Wolford."
The visitor sat down, with considerable emphasis in his manner,
threw one leg over the other, and leaned back in his chair. Tompkins
was nervous. His effort to seem at ease led him into overaction.
He smiled, or rather smirked--for a smile is always natural, never
forced--and introduced various topics of conversation, one after the
other, with the manner of a man whose thoughts were far away from
his words, and who yet wished to be very agreeable to a personage
from whom he wished a favour.
"What do you think of the news from Washington to-day, Mr. Wolford?
Strange doings there!"
"Our party were completely outgeneralled in that measure."
"Bad news from London."
"Yes, bad enough."
"It has played the mischief with stocks."
"Thank fortune, I don't deal in stocks."
And thus Tompkins run on, and Wolford replied cold and sententiously
for some ten minutes. Then there came a pause, and the two men
looked into each other's faces for a short time, without either of
"The year for which I loaned you ten thousand dollars expires next
week," said Wolford, in a quiet tone, breaking the silence.
"Does it?" returned Tompkins, affecting surprise. "I had no idea the
time was so near being up. Are you sure?"
"I never make mistakes in such matters, Mr. Tompkins, and can't
understand how other people can."
"Creditors are said to have better memories than debtors," replied
Tompkins, attempting something like pleasantry.
"Yes--I know. You will, of course, be prepared to take up the
mortgage upon your property?"
"I am afraid not, Mr. Wolford. Money is exceedingly tight. But as
your security is perfectly good, and you do not want the money, you
will let the matter remain as it is for a little while longer?"
"I loaned you the money for a year, did I not?"
"Very well. The year will be up in a week."
"I would like to borrow the same amount for another year."
"I have no objection to your doing so, if you can find any one who
will lend it."
"Will you not do so?"
"No. I have other use for my money."
"I will increase the interest, if that will be any inducement. Money
in a good business like mine can bear a heavy interest."
"I am not satisfied with the security. Property is falling in
"Not satisfied!'" exclaimed Tompkins, in unfeigned surprise. "The
property is worth double the sum you have advanced for my use."
"I differ with you--and I am not alone in differing."
"Very well, Mr. Wolford," said Tompkins, in a changed tone, that
evinced roused and half-indignant feeling, "you shall be paid. I can
easily transfer the security to some other person, if I find it
necessary to do so, and raise the amount due you."
Wolford, phlegmatic as he was, seemed slightly moved by this
unexpected change in the manner and position of Tompkins. He
narrowly observed the expression of his face, but did not reply. He
was afraid to trust himself to speak, lest he should betray his real
"You will be prepared to pay me next week, then," he at length said,
"Yes, sir. You shall have the money," replied Tompkins.
"Good day." And Wolford retired; not altogether satisfied that he
had gained all he had hoped to gain by the visit.
"Ah me!" sighed Tompkins, turning to his desk as soon as this man
had departed. "Here comes more trouble. That miserly wretch has no
more use for his money than the man in the moon. It seems to give
him delight to make every one feel his power. It is for no other
reason than this, that I am now to be harassed half out of my life
in order to raise ten thousand dollars in a week, besides meeting my
other payments. I must try and get some one to take the mortgage he
is about releasing."
While thus musing, the individual who had just left him was walking
slowly down Market Street, with his eyes upon the pavement, in deep
thought. He was a short, stoutly built old man, dressed in a
well-worn suit of brown broadcloth. His hat was white, large in the
brim, low in the crown, and pulled down so heavily on the high
collar of his coat, that it turned up behind in a very decided way,
indicating the save-all propensities of its owner. His face was as
hard as iron: it was deeply seamed by years or the indulgence of the
baser cupidities of a perverted nature. His lower lip projected
slightly beyond the upper that was pressed closely upon it. His
small gray eyes were deeply sunk beneath a wrinkled forehead, and
twinkled like stars when any thing excited him; usually they were as
calm and passionless as any part of his face.
This man had never engaged, during his whole life, in any useful
branch of business. Money was the god he worshipped, and to gain
this, he was ready to make almost any sacrifice. He started in life
with five thousand dollars--a legacy from a distant relative. To
risk this sum, or any portion of it, in trade, would have been, in
his view, the most egregious folly. His first investment was in six
per cent. ground-rents, from which he received three hundred dollars
per annum. It cost him two hundred to live; he had, therefore, at
the end of the year, a surplus of one hundred dollars. He was
casting about in his mind what he should do with this in, order to
make it profitable, when a hard-pressed tradesman asked him for the
loan of a hundred dollars for a short time. The idea of loaning his
money, when first presented, almost made his hair stand on end. He
shook his head, and uttered a decided "No." It so happened that the
man was so much in need of money, that he became importunate.
"I know you have it, if you would only lend it, Wolford," said he.
"Let me have a hundred dollars for a month, and I will give you a
good interest for it, and security besides."
"What kind of security?" eagerly asked the miser, his face
brightening. The idea had struck him, as being a good one. The man
was a tailor.
"I will let you hold Mr. S----P----'s note, at six months, for one
hundred and fifty dollars, as security."
Wolford shook his head.
"He might die or break, and then where would be my hundred dollars?"
"I would pay it to you."
Wolford continued to shake his head.
"How would a piece of broadcloth answer your purpose?"
"What is it worth?"
"I have a piece of twenty yards, worth eight dollars a yard. It
would bring six and a half under the hammer. You can hold that, if
"How much interest will you pay?"
"I will give you two dollars for the use of one hundred for thirty
"If you will say three, you may have it."
"Three per cent. a month!--thirty-six per cent. a year! Oh no! That
would ruin any man."
"I don't think the operation worth making for less than three
"It is too much, Wolford. But I'll tell you what I'll do. Let it be
for sixty days, and make the interest five dollars."
"I to hold the cloth as security until it is paid?"
"Very well. You shall have the money."
A note for one hundred and five dollars, at sixty days, was drawn
and handed to the young shaver, who paid down one hundred dollars,
and went off with his collateral under his arm.
This transaction opened a new world to Wolford's imagination. Two
and a half per cent. a month, and six per cent. per annum, could
hardly be compared together. He sat down and began to figure up the
result of the one operation in comparison with the other, and found
that while his investment in ground-rents yielded only three hundred
dollars a year, five thousand dollars, at two and a half per cent. a
month, the rate at which he had made the operation just referred to,
would yield fifteen hundred dollars per annum!
From that moment he became dissatisfied with ground-rents as an
investment. As quickly as it could be done, he sold, for one
thousand dollars, a piece of real estate, and, depositing the money
in bank, looked around him for good paper to shave. He did not have
to look very long. Borrowers quickly presented themselves, but no
one got money except on the most tangible kind of security, and at a
ruinous interest. Careful as he tried to be, Wolford was not always
successful in his operations. One or two failures on the part of his
borrowers, made him acquainted at a magistrate's office, where he
acquired another new idea upon which he improved.
"If you wish to invest money safely and profitably, I will put you
in the way of doing it," said a petty dispenser of justice to poor
debtors, rogues and vagabonds, aside to the miser one day, after he
had given judgment against a delinquent borrower.
"How?" eagerly asked Wolford.
"A great many cases of debt are decided by me every week, on amounts
varying from one to fifty dollars," replied the magistrate. "As soon
as a judgment is given, the debtor has to pay the money, find
security, or go to jail, In most cases, the matter is settled by
security for six months, when the debt, with costs and interest, has
to be paid."
"Legal interest?" asked Wolford.
"Certainly," replied the magistrate, with a smile. "It is a legal
matter, and only legal interest can be charged."
"Oh, of course! I didn't think of that."
"Very well: after a judgment is obtained, in five cases out of six
the prosecutor is sick, of the business, and perfectly willing to
sell out the judgment and have no more to do with it. The best
business in the world is to buy these judgments. You can make at
least forty per cent. per annum."
"Forty per cent."
"Forty per cent!" and Wolford's eyes sparkled. "Are you sure?"
"Oh, yes. If I were allowed to buy them, as I am not, I would wish
no better business."
"You think it safe?"
"Nothing can be safer. If the judgment is not paid at the end of six
months, you can go to work immediately, with an execution, on the
property of the original debtor, or his security, as you may think
best, and at once obtain your money."
"Suppose neither of them have any property?"
"I take very good care not to accept bad security. Besides, you will
find but few persons out of whom fifty dollars, or less, may not be
obtained, under the pressure of an execution."
"I like the idea amazingly," said Wolford, thoughtfully. "Forty per
cent. per annum! Capital! I will buy judgments."
"I have two hundred dollars' worth in my desk now, which I have
directions to sell. Do you want them? They have six months to run.
Twenty per cent. off will be just forty dollars--here they are."
Wolford carefully examined the documents which the magistrate placed
in his hands, and, after considering the subject for some time, said
that he would buy them. His check for one hundred and sixty dollars
was received by the magistrate, and the judgments became his
"It's even better than forty per cent. per annum," remarked the
magistrate, as he folded up the check be had received.
"You make over fifty-five per cent."
"Yes--look at it. You have just paid one hundred and sixty dollars
for what will yield you two hundred and six dollars in six
months,--for you must remember that you will get legal interest on
the claim you have bought. Now this is a fraction over fifty-five
per cent. per annum. What do you think of that for an investment?"
"Capital! But have you much of this kind of business?"
"Enough to, keep several thousand dollars constantly employed for
With this brief ejaculation, that came from Wolford's heart, he
turned away and left the office.
On this operation, the magistrate made six per cent. The regular
selling price of judgments was twenty-five per cent., with a
commission of one per cent. for effecting the sale.
In a few months, Wolford had all his money invested in judgments.
This business he continued for several years, meeting with but few
losses. He could then write himself worth twenty-five thousand
dollars, and began to find it necessary to seek for some heavier
investments than buying judgments, even if they did not pay quite so
Loaning money on mortgages of real estate, at about ten per centum,
he found a very safe business; with this he united the shaving of
undoubted paper, at from one to two per cent. a month. Mr. Tompkins
he had frequently shaved so closely as almost to make the blood
come. This was previous to the loan before alluded to. Since that
had been made, Mr. Tompkins rarely found it necessary to put good
paper into Wolford's hands for discount. This the miser considered a
dead loss, and he therefore determined that the loan should be taken
up, and made in some quarter not likely to affect the shaving
The declaration of Mr. Tompkins, that he could easily get some one
else to take the mortgage, was not too well relished by Wolford, If
he were sure this could be done, he would be content to accept an
increase of interest and continue the loan, for the security was of
the very safest kind, and ample.
"I must think about this," said he to himself, as he walked
homeward, after parting with Tompkins. "I rarely make false moves,
and should not like to do so in this case."
WHEN Mr. and Mrs. Tompkins met, at dinnertime, neither of them
appeared in the most happy frame of mind. The lady looked especially
disagreeable. The meal passed in silence, and was eaten with little
As soon as her husband had retired from the house, which he did very
soon after he had left the table, Mrs. Tompkins's manner changed.
"Humph!" said she, tossing her head, "he needn't begin the sulky
game with me. Two can play at that, as he ought to know very well.
I've set my heart on having a handsomer establishment than the
purse-proud Mrs. Gileston, and, what is more, I will be gratified.
Mr. Tompkins is worth two dollars to her husband's one, and yet she
sweeps about the street with the air of a duchess, and never so much
as looks me in the face, though I have been twice introduced to her.
But, I'll be even with my lady! I've set my heart on this, and will
move heaven and earth to accomplish it."
This half-spoken soliloquy will afford the reader some clue to the
character of Mrs. Tompkins. Her husband, to whom she had been
married about ten years, had gradually risen from the position of a
clerk to that of a merchant, in a small way, when the death of a
distant relative put him in possession of about, thirty thousand
dollars. Up to that time, his wife, who was a poor girl when he
married her, had been content to live in a style suited to their
means. But the moment a fortune so large in her eyes, fell to their
share, her ideas expanded, and she suddenly became aware of the fact
that she was a woman of no mean importance.
To Mr. Tompkins, this money came just in time to save him from
failure. He had started, as too many do, without capital, and had
unwisely attempted to do more business than means so limited would
bear. He, consequently, knew the value of money far better than his
wife, and was disposed to invest what he did not require in his
business, in a safe way. She, on the contrary, proposed that they
should, at once, adopt a style of living in consonance with their
"We live very comfortably, as we now are," he said, in answer to a
repetition of her plea for a handsome house, on the evening
following the day of his interview with Wolford. "We live as well as
our means have, until within a few years, enabled us to live."
Mrs. Tompkins rejoined--
"With improved fortunes, we should adopt a different style."
"I don't think we should be in any particular hurry about it," said
the husband. "Let the change, if any be made, come gradually."
"All eyes are upon us," was Mrs. Tompkins's answer to this. "And
everybody expects us to take a different and higher place in
"It is my opinion," said the husband, "that we are free to live in
any style that may suit us."
"It is all very well to say that, Mr. Tompkins, but it will not do.
We must, while in the world, do as the world does. People in our
circumstances do not live in a rented house;--we should have a
dwelling of our own, and that a handsome one--handsomer than
Gileston's house, about which there, is so much talk."
"Gileston's house!" said Mr. Tompkins, in surprise. "Why that house
didn't cost a cent less than twenty-five thousand dollars."
"Well, suppose it did not. What then?"
"Do you imagine that we can build a house at an expense of
twenty-five thousand dollars?"
"Why not, Mr. Tompkins?"
"Where is the money to come from?"
"There it is again! But I can tell you."
"I wish to my heart you would, for it's more than I can."
"Take it out of bank, where it lies rusting."
"What's the matter?"
"How much do you suppose I have in bank tonight?"
"Dear knows! Forty or fifty thousand dollars, I suppose."
"Just seventy-nine dollars and ten cents! And what is more, I have
two thousand dollars to pay to-morrow, five hundred on the day
after, and ten or twelve thousand more to make up within the next
two weeks. If You will tell me where all this money is to come from,
I will build you a dozen houses: as it is, you must build your own
castles--in the air."
A flood of tears answered this bitterly spoken reply. Her tears, the
lady had found, on more occasions than one, to have a powerful
effect upon her husband. It must be said for her, that she did not
believe a word of what Mr. Tompkins had alleged in regard to the
balance of his bank account. For a man who had been in a good
business for a number of years, and had received a legacy of thirty
thousand dollars, to be so near out of cash, was to her mind
preposterous. She knew he had invested nearly twenty thousand
dollars in property, but what of that? Her tears disturbed Mr.
Tompkins, as they always did.
"What I tell you is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth," said he, in a calm, but serious voice, after, the sobs of
his wife had begun to die away. "And now, what would you have me
"You can do just as you please, Mr. Tompkins. It is nothing to me.
You know your own business best." This was said with an offended
air, in which was something of indifference.
"You are unreasonable, Ellen."
"Very likely I am; at least in your eyes. I believe you never had a
very exalted opinion of your wife's good sense: nor much regard for
"I believe, Ellen," returned the husband, "that few men regard the
happiness of their wives more than I have regarded the happiness of
mine. Perhaps if I had been less considerate, it might have been
better for all."
"Considerate, indeed! Oh, yes! You're very considerate to buy old
warehouses to rent, in place of a decent dwelling for your family!
Very considerate that--wasn't it?"
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