Finger Posts on the Way of Life
T. S. Arthur
Part 2 out of 4
At this point of the contest, Mr. Tompkins retired from the field,
his forces reduced and in disorder. He saw but one hope of peace,
and that was by an early surrender, and on the best terms that could
be made. The property that he had purchased yielded him about
fourteen hundred a year. To sell this, and build, with the proceeds,
a splendid mansion, from which no income could possibly arise,
seemed to him an act of egregious folly. But any thing for peace. To
sell it, and put the money in his business, was a much more
desirable act, instead of borrowing money, at an exorbitant
interest, in order to make his payments. He had more than once
thought of doing this. At the time the investment was made, his
business operations were light, and he did not need the use of over
ten thousand dollars of the timely legacy he had received. Since
then his business had increased, and with this increase came the
need of more ready money than he could command. He did not like the
idea of selling his real estate, because he was very confident, from
the many improvements going on in the quarter of the city where it
was situated, that it would double in value in the course of ten
years. He was so confident of this, that he preferred paying a high
rate of interest for money for temporary purposes, rather than sell
his property. So hard did he become pressed at last, that he
resorted to the expedient of raising ten thousand dollars on
mortgage, at ten per centum per annum. Wolford held this mortgage,
as the reader is aware.
It was with painful reluctance that Mr. Tompkins made up his mind to
part with his warehouse property, in order to gratify the love of
display which was the besetting sin of his better half. But, even
should he do that, he would have to let ten thousand dollars go to
clear off the mortgage; and if it brought him twenty-two or three
thousand, or even twenty-five thousand, he would not have enough to
build the elegant mansion his wife desired: and should he build one
in a style not consonant with her exalted ideas, his position,
instead of being better, would be much worse.
The next week, to poor Mr. Tompkins, he was called a rich man, was
one of sad perplexity and anxious deliberation upon what it was best
for him to do. He had great difficulty in raising sufficient money
to meet his payments, independent of the ten thousand dollars
demanded by Wolford. Where that sum was to come from he could not
tell. He had made several applications for a loan to take the place
of the one now upon his property, and had even caused advertisements
to be inserted in the newspapers, addressed to "capitalists," but
During all this time, Mrs. Tompkins was as disagreeable as it was
possible for her to be. When her husband returned home, in the
evening, sick at heart with the toil and anxiety of the day, he was
met by no pleasant words or cheerful smiles. A sober face presided
at his table, where the words were few and coldly spoken.
The period for which Wolford's loan had been made was within two
days of its expiration, when, half beside himself with perplexity,
Mr. Tompkins advertised his property for sale. There were enough who
understood its real value precisely, and were ready to come forward
and offer to purchase. As soon as the miser and usurer saw the
course events were taking, he very kindly informed Mr. Tompkins that
he had just received, unexpectedly, a large sum of money, and should
not want the ten thousand dollars due him.
"You are too late," replied Mr. Tompkins, when he communicated this
"Why so?" asked Wolford.
"I have made up my mind to sell."
"I don't want my money."
"Oh, very well, I can keep it."
"On what security."
"My note of hand."
The miser shrugged his shoulders.
"Don't you like that security?"
"I have no objection to your warehouse property."
"But that I shall sell."
Wolford retired in a dissatisfied mood. He had overreached himself.
In the course of a week the sale was made, and for cash. The
property brought twenty-five thousand dollars. After the mortgage
was released, and his borrowed money account balanced, Mr. Tompkins
had just twelve thousand dollars to his credit in bank, with a
month's heavy payments before him.
On this basis, and with this position of affairs to sustain him, Mr.
Tompkins, feeling in a desperate mood, determined that he would
build himself an elegant residence. The plan was furnished by an
architect, and the work commenced forthwith. Mrs. Tompkins was all
her husband could wish, from the day she was apprized of his
decision in regard to a matter that had so long been near her heart.
He said nothing of the sacrifice he had made, nor intimated any
thing about what might be the ultimate consequence, although every
sober thought of the future awoke a fear. The house, when finished,
cost twenty-three thousand dollars; and when furnished twenty-eight
thousand. It need not be said that Mr. Tompkins was hard run for
money. On the day he moved into his splendid mansion, he borrowed
from Mr Wolford, on a mortgage of his new property, fifteen thousand
dollars, at twelve per cent. per annum. He had but one or two
alternatives--to borrow at this ruinous rate of interest, or fail.
The operation was for one year, without any privilege of renewal;
this was the longest time at which the usurer ever loaned his money.
For one year Mrs. John Tompkins was in her glory. She gave six large
parties during that time, at a heavy cost. Her husband,
notwithstanding the loan of fifteen thousand dollars, was in trouble
about money matters; Business had been unusually dull both in the
spring and fall, and money hard to collect. Nearly ten thousand
dollars, which he had fully expected to receive from distant
customers, failed to come in. As the period for which he had
borrowed from Wolford drew toward its close, he could not but feel
uneasy. From no other quarter had he any hope of raising so large a
sum as fifteen thousand dollars upon his house. He was poring over
his bill-book, one day, when the man he had thought of far more
frequently than was pleasant to him, came in. Mr. Tompkins felt
"Ah--how do you do, Mr. Wolford?" said he, affecting a pleased air.
Wolford looked grave. He had come on business, and to him business
matters were of serious import. He returned the merchant's
salutation with formality, seated himself deliberately, and, resting
his hands upon the head of his cane, looked up with a sinister
expression on his face.
"A fine day this, Mr. Wolford," said Tompkins.
"Yes, very fine. How is business?"
"Dull--terribly dull. I have never known such a business season.
There is absolutely nothing doing."
Wolford made no reply.
"I suppose you have plenty of money to lend," remarked the merchant,
hardly knowing why he said so.
"No--not a dollar. It's tight with me as well as it is with you. And
this brings me to the subject-matter of my visit. You are no doubt
aware that, according to the terms of the loan, you are to return my
fifteen thousand dollars in a few days?"
"Yes, I am aware of it. Must you have it all?"
"Every dollar; and I want three times as much, if I can get it."
"I was in hope you would renew the loan, Mr. Wolford."
"I really don't see how I am to raise fifteen thousand dollars in a
few days--these times."
"You have had long enough to make it up, I am sure. You knew very
well that the loan would come due next week, and that it was only
for one year."
"Yes, I knew all that, very well."
"And yet you are not prepared to pay it?"
"No, I certainly am not to-day. What I may be in a week is more than
I can tell."
Wolford did not want the money he had loaned to Mr. Tompkins--that
is, he had no _use_ for it. But he could never rest contented for
any length of time under the reflection that another person was
enjoying his money. He took an insane delight, too, in making others
feel his power. If Mr. Tompkins had obtained the amount, and
tendered it to Wolford, two weeks before it was due, the miser would
have, in all probability, solicited him to keep it on even better
terms than at first obtained; but to appear anxious about the
matter, was to foreclose all chances of a renewal.
AFTER Wolford had left the store of Mr. Tompkins, the merchant tried
to rally his thoughts, and review the whole matter calmly. Thinking,
however, did not make him feel much better. He could not see his way
clear. If the loan were not paid off, his property would, he had not
the least doubt, be sold forthwith, under the mortgage.
"I was a fool ever to build such a house, and involve myself as I
have done," he murmured, fretfully. "I wish to my heart it was in
the bottom of the sea. Between my wife's extravagance and this
accursed usurer, I shall be ruined at last."
This was uttered almost involuntarily, but it had the effect to give
his thoughts a new direction. After thinking intensely for some
time, he took a long inspiration, compressed his lips tightly as he
breathed out again, and then said, half aloud, and in a tone of
"I will not suffer myself to be made a fool of any longer, by wife
or usurer. Mrs. John Tompkins will have to lay aside a portion of
her dignity, or get some other means of supporting it. I am called a
man, and I will be a man."
On the evening of that day, while seated at the tea-table, Mrs.
"Have you ever noticed, dear, the beautiful equipage of Mrs. Van
"The beautiful establishment of Mrs. Van D----?"
"What kind of an establishment?"
The manner of her husband disturbed the self-satisfaction of Mrs.
Tompkins. Her reply was not in so bland a voice.
"Her carriage and pair, I mean, of course."
"No; I never notice such things."
"You don't, indeed!"
"Don't you ever expect to keep a carriage?"
"I do not."
"I am sure you will."
"You labour under a mistake, Ellen. I have no such intention."
"If I wish for one, I am sure you will gratify me." Mrs. Tompkins
spoke softly and smiled.
"No--not even to gratify you, Ellen." Mr. Tompkins spoke seriously,
and his brow contracted.
"You built this beautiful house to gratify me."
"True--and by doing so have set myself half crazy."
"Mr. Tompkins, I don't understand you. You are in a strange mood
"And so would you be in a strange mood, if you had suffered as much
as I have during the day."
"Suffered! What have you suffered about?"
"Because I built this house."
"You speak in riddles. Why do you not explain yourself?" Mrs.
Tompkins's voice trembled, and there were tears in her eyes.
"I will explain myself, Ellen," said her husband, his manner
becoming serious and earnest: it had been fretful and captious
before. "I was weak enough to yield to your urgent desire to have an
elegant mansion, as you called it, and build this house, at a very
heavy cost. I knew that I was doing wrong at the time, and that both
you and I would live to regret the act of folly. But you held the
reins, and I suffered myself to be driven. The consequence is, that
I am involved in difficulties, and this house has to be sold within
Mr. Tompkins paused. He wished to see the effect of what he had
said. Had an earthquake shaken the house to its foundation, Mrs.
Tompkins could not have been more astonished than she was by this
speech. Her face became deadly pale; she trembled violently from
head to foot, and panted like a frightened hare. To utter a word in
reply was impossible. The husband was startled at the effect
produced, but did not waver an instant in his purpose. The
suddenness of the annunciation had one good effect: it opened the
eyes of Mrs. Tompkins completely. The manner of her husband left no
doubt upon her mind that all he had said was true--that the house
would have to go, spite of all he could do to save it. He might be
to blame for getting into difficulties--might have mismanaged his
business--but that could not alter the present position of things.
On recovering from the shock occasioned by so astounding a
declaration, she did not resort to any of her old tricks to manage
her husband. She felt that they would be useless. As soon as she
could speak, she said, firmly--
"Is all this true?"
"As true as you live and breathe."
"And it is _my_ fault?"
"I am sorry that I cannot say otherwise." There was a good deal of
feeling in the husband's tone as he made this reply. "I need not
relate how I strove to convince you that I could not afford to build
such a house--that to sell my warehouse property, in order to do so,
would be to rob myself of at least seven or eight thousand
dollars--for that property would inevitably increase in value this
amount in the next five years. Already it has been sold at an
advance of three thousand dollars on what I received for it. I need
not relate how unhappy you made both yourself and me, until I
consented to do as you wished. It is all within your remembrance. A
man cannot stand every thing. I had trouble enough, even then, with
my business--but found no compensation at home. In a desperate mood,
I resolved to make home pleasant, if possible. I made the sacrifice,
and here is the result!"
Mrs. Tompkins wept bitterly when her husband ceased speaking. Every
word went to her heart. She saw her folly, nay, her crime, in having
acted as she had done. She was a weak, vain woman, but not all
perverted. Notwithstanding rank weeds had long overgrown the garden
of her mind, some plants of goodly promise yet remained.
On the next day, without hesitating a moment, Mr. Tompkins went to a
real-estate broker, and employed him to sell his house as quickly as
possible. He mentioned this to his wife, as a thing of course, and
suggested the necessity of disposing of their splendid furniture,
and retiring from their too prominent position in the social world.
"There is but one way of safety and peace," he said, "and that way
we must take, whether the entrance to it be smooth or thorny."
"Why need we sell our handsome furniture?" asked Mrs. Tompkins, in a
"For the same reason that we have for selling our house," firmly
returned her husband--"because it is necessary."
Mr. Tompkins spoke so decidedly, that his wife felt that
remonstrance would be unavailing. Having once admitted the truth of
all he had alleged, she had no ground for opposition. Completely
subdued, she became altogether passive, and left her husband to do
just as he pleased. The pressing nature of his affairs made him
prompt to carry out all the reforms he had proposed. In less than a
week he found a purchaser for his house, and was able to sell it on
tolerably fair terms. The real-estate agent who had made the sale
for him, had left his store but a short time after communicating all
the preliminaries of the transaction, when old Wolford entered with
a slow gait and a look of resolution.
"Will you be ready with that money to-morrow?" said he, fixing his
small, keen eyes upon the merchant, and bending his brows.
"No!" was the decisive answer.
"Then I shall foreclose the mortgage."
"You will not do that, certainly," returned Tompkins, in a quiet
tone, something like a smile playing about his lips.
"Won't I? Don't trust to that, my friend. I always keep contracts to
the letter, and exact them from others, when made to me, as rigidly.
You borrowed my money for a year, on a mortgage of your property.
That year is up to-morrow. If the money does not come, I will
immediately have your property sold."
"I have been ahead of you," coolly replied Tompkins.
"What do you mean?"
"I have already sold the property."
The miser seemed stunned by the intelligence.
"Sold it?," he asked, after a moment--"why have you sold it?"
"In order to get out of your clutches, now and for ever. You have
had a good deal of my money in your time, and fool enough have I
been to let you get your fingers upon it! But you will never get
another dollar from me! You were not content with eighteen hundred
dollars a year as the interest on fifteen thousand--wasn't I a fool
to pay it?--but you must try to put your foot still more heavily on
my neck! But you have overreached yourself. Your mortgage on my
property is not worth that!--(snapping his fingers.) Didn't you know
"What do you mean?" Wolford showed considerable alarm.
"You took twelve per cent. per annum?"
"I know I did."
"And that is usury?"
"It is a fair interest. Money is always worth the market price."
"The law says that all over six per cent. is usury; and the taking
of such excess vitiates the transaction."
"Do you mean to put in that plea?"
"Yes, if you take the first step toward foreclosing your mortgage,
or show yourself in my store until I send for you, which I will do
when it is perfectly convenient for me to pay your fifteen thousand
dollars, and not before."
"Oh, take your time, Mr. Tompkins--take your time--I am in no
particular hurry for the money," said Wolford, with an altered tone
and manner--"Just when it is convenient will suit me."
"Are you sure of that?" said the merchant, speaking with a slight
sneer upon his lip.
"Oh, yes! I thought I would need the money now, but I believe I will
not. The mortgage can remain as long as you want it."
"I don't want it long," muttered Tompkins, turning toward his desk,
and taking no further notice of the alarmed and discomfited usurer.
In about two weeks he had the pleasure of handing him the whole
amount of the loan, and getting a release of the property. Wolford
tried to be very affable and apologetic; but he was treated
according to the merchant's estimation of his real character, and
"Free from your clutches, and for ever!" said Mr. Tompkins, speaking
to himself, as he stepped into the street from Wolford's dwelling,
feeling lighter in heart than he had felt for a long time. "What
madness, with the means I have had in my hands, ever to have fed
your avaricious maw!"
Although Mr. Tompkins could see the sky by looking upward, he was
still in the forest, and had a hard journey before him, ere he
gained the pleasant champaign he was seeking so eagerly. The cash he
received on selling his house was barely sufficient to clear it of
all encumbrance. He was, therefore, still hard pressed for money in
his business. The sale of his handsome furniture would help him a
good deal, and he determined, resolutely, to have this done
forthwith. His wife ventured a demurrer, which he immediately
overruled. She had lost the ability to contend with him. A sale at
auction was proposed.
"Just think of the exposure," urged his wife.
"I don't care a fig for that. A protested note would be a worse
exposure. I must have the money. We can board for a couple or three
years, or keep house in a plain way, until I make up some of the
losses sustained by our folly."
Mrs. Tompkins was passive. A vendue was called, and three thousand
dollars in cash realized. This succour came just in time, for it
saved the merchant's credit, and met his pressing demands, until he
could turn the paper given in part payment for his house, into
money. From that time he began to feel his business resting less
heavily upon his shoulders. Money came in about as fast as he needed
it. In a few months he began to have quite a respectable balance in
bank--a thing he had not known for years.
It was a good while before Mrs. Tompkins could hold up her head in
society, where she had, for some time, held it remarkably high. She
never carried it as stately as before. As for Wolford, he but seldom
passed the store of the merchant: when he did so, it was not without
a pang--he had lost a good customer by grinding him too hard, and
could not forgive himself for the error.
THE TWO INVALIDS.
THE chamber in which the sick woman lay was furnished with every
thing that taste could desire or comfort demand. Yet, from none of
these elegant surroundings came there an opiate for the weary
spirit, or a balm to soothe the pain from which she suffered. With
heavy eyes, contracted brow, and face almost as white as the
lace-fringed pillow it pressed, canopied with rich curtains, she
reclined, sighing away the weary hours, or giving, voice to her
discontent in fruitless complainings.
She was alone. A little while before, her attendant had left the
room, taking with her a child, whose glad spirits--glad because
admitted to his mother's presence--had disturbed her.
"Take him out," she had said, fretfully.
"You must go back to the nursery, dear." The attendant spoke kindly,
as she stooped to lift the child in her arms.
"No--no--no. I want to stay here. Do let me stay here, won't you?"
"Mamma is sick, and you disturb her," was answered.
"Oh no. I won't disturb her. I'll be so good."
"Why don't you take him out at once?" exclaimed the mother, in a
harsh, excited voice. "It's too much that I can't have a little
quiet! He's made my head ache already. What does nurse mean by
letting him come over here?"
As the screaming child was borne from the room, the sick woman
clasped her hand to her temples, murmuring--
"My poor head! It was almost quiet; but now it throbs as if every
vein were ready to burst! Why don't they soothe that child?"
But the child screamed on, and his voice came ringing upon her ears.
Nurse was cross, and took no pains to hush his cries; so the
mother's special attendant remained, for some time, away from the
sick-chamber. By slow degrees she succeeded in diverting the child's
mind from his disappointment; but it was many minutes after his
crying ceased before he would consent to her leaving him.
In the mean time the sun's bright rays had found a small opening in
one of the curtains that draped the windows, and commenced pouring
in a few pencils of light, which fell, in a bright spot, on a
picture that hung against the wall; resting, in fact upon the fair
forehead of a beautiful maiden, and giving a hue of life to the
features. It was like a bit of fairy-work--a touch almost of
enchantment. The eyes of the invalid were resting on this picture as
the magic change began to take place.
How the lovely vision, if it might so be called, won her from
thoughts of pain! Ah, if we could say so? Raising herself, she
grasped the pendent tassel of the bell-rope, and rang with a violent
hand; then sank down with a groan, exhausted by the effort, shut her
eyes, and buried her face in the pillow. Leaving the only
half-comforted child, her attendant hastily obeyed the summons.
"The sun is blinding me!" said the unhappy invalid, as she entered
the chamber. "How could you be so careless in arranging the
A touch, and the sweet vision which had smiled all so vainly for the
poor sufferer, was lost in shadows. There was a subdued light, and
almost pulseless silence in the chamber.
"Do take those flowers away, their odour is dreadful to me!"
A beautiful bouquet of sweet flowers, sent by a sympathizing friend,
was removed from the chamber. Half an hour afterward--the attendant
thought her sleeping--she exclaimed--
"Oh, how that does worry me!"
"What worries you, ma'am?" was kindly asked.
"That doll on the mantel. It is entirely out of place here. I wish
you would remove it. Oh, dear, dear! And that
toilette-glass--straighten it, if you please. I can't bear any thing
crooked. And there's Mary's rigolette on the bureau; the careless
child! She never puts any thing away."
These little annoyances were removed, and the invalid was quiet
again--externally quiet, but within all was fretfulness and mental
"There come the children from school," she said, as the ringing of
the door-bell and gay voices were heard below. "You must keep them
from my room. I feel unusually nervous to-day, and my head aches
Yet, even while she spoke, two little girls came bounding into the
"Oh, mother! Dear mother! We've got something good to tell you. Miss
Martin says we've been two of the best"----
The attendant's imperative "H-u-s-h!" and the mother's hand waving
toward the door, the motion enforced by a frowning brow, were
successful in silencing the pleased and excited children, who,
without being permitted to tell the good news they had brought from
school, and which they had fondly believed would prove so pleasant
to their mother's ears, were almost pushed from the chamber.
No matter of surprise is it that a quick revulsion took place in
their feelings. If the voice of wrangling reached, soon after, the
mother's ears, and pained her to the very soul, it lessened not the
pressure on her feelings to think that a little self-denial on her
part, a little forgetfulness of her own feelings, and a
thoughtfulness for them, would have prevented unhappy discord.
And so the day passed; and when evening brought her husband to her
bedside, his kind inquiries were answered only by
complainings--complainings that made, from mental reactions, bodily
suffering the greater. For so long a time had this state of things
existed that her husband was fast losing his wonted cheerfulness of
temper. He was in no way indifferent to his wife's condition; few
men, in fact, could have sympathized more deeply, or sought with
more untiring assiduity to lighten the burden which ill-health had
laid upon her. But, in her case, thought was all turned to self. It
was like the blood flowing back in congestion upon the heart,
instead of diffusing itself healthfully over the system.
Thus it went on--the invalid growing worse instead of better. Not a
want was expressed that money did not supply; not a caprice or fancy
or appetite, which met not a proffered gratification. But all
availed not. Her worst disease was mental, having its origin in
inordinate selfishness. It never came into her. mind to deny herself
for the sake of others; to stifle her complaints lest they should
pain the ears of her husband, children, or friends; to bear the
weight of suffering laid upon her with at least an effort at
cheerfulness. And so she became a burden to those who loved her. In
her presence the sweet voices of children were hushed, and smiles
faded away. Nothing that was gay, or glad, or cheerful came near her
that it did not instantly change into sobriety or sadness.
Not very far away from the beautiful home of this unhappy invalid,
is another sufferer from ill-health. We will look in upon her. The
chamber is poorly furnished, containing scarcely an article the
absence of which would not have abridged the comfort of its
occupant. We enter.
What a light has come into those sunken eyes, and over that pale
face! We take the thin, white hand; a touch of sadness is in our
voice that will not be repressed, as we make inquiries about her
health; but she answers cheerfully and hopefully.
"Do you suffer pain?"
"Yes; but mostly at night. All day long I find so much to interest
me, and so many thoughts about my children fill my mind, that I
hardly find time to think of my own feelings. Care is a blessing."
With what a patient, heavenly smile this is said! How much of life's
true philosophy is contained in that closing sentence! Yes, care is
a blessing. What countless thousands would, but for daily care, be
unutterably miserable. And yet we are ever trying to throw off care;
to rise into positions where we will be free from action or duty.
The voice of a child is now heard. It is crying.
"Dear little Aggy! What can ail her?" says the mother, tenderly. And
she inclines an ear, listening earnestly. The crying continues.
"Poor child! Something is wrong with her. Won't you open the door a
The door is opened, and the sick mother calls the name of "Aggy" two
or three times. But her voice too feeble to reach the distant
We second the mother's wishes, and go for the grieving little one.
"Mother wants Aggy."
What magic words! The crying has ceased instantly, and rainbow
smiles are seen through falling tears.
"Dear little dove! What has troubled it?" How tender and soothing
and full of love is the voice that utters these words! We lift Aggy
upon the bed. A moment, and her fresh warm cheek is close to the
pale face of her mother; while her hand is nestling in her bosom.
The smile that plays so beautifully over the invalid's face has
already answered the question we were about to ask--"Will not the
child disturb you?" But our face has betrayed our thoughts, and she
"I can't bear to have Aggy away from me. She rarely annoys me. A
dear, good child--yet only a child, for whom only a mother can think
wisely. She rarely leaves my room that she doesn't get into some
trouble; but my presence quickly restores the sunshine."
The bell rings. There is a murmur of voices below; and now light
feet come tripping up the stairs. The door opens and two little
girls enter, just from school. Does the sick mother put up her hand
to enjoin silence? Does she repel them,--by look or word? Oh no.
"Well, Mary--well, Anna?" she says, kindly. They bend over and kiss
her gently and lovingly; then speak modestly to the visitor.
"How do you feel, mother?" asks the oldest of the two girls. "Does
your head ache?"
"Not now, dear. It ached a little while ago; but it is better now."
"What made it ache, mother?"
"Something troubled Aggy, and her crying sent a pain through my
temples. But it went away with the clouds that passed from her
darling little face."
"Why, she's asleep, mother!" exclaimed Anna.
"So she is. Dear little lamb! Asleep with a tear on her cheek. Turn
her crib around, love, so that I can lay her in it."
"No, you mustn't lift her," says Mary. "It will make your head
ache." And the elder of the children lifts her baby-sister in her
arms, and carefully lays her in the crib.
"Did you say all your lessons correctly this morning?" now asks the
"I didn't miss a word," answers Mary.
"Nor I," says Anna.
"I'm glad of it. It always does me good to know that you have said
your lessons well. Now go and take a run in the yard for exercise."
The little girls leave the chamber, and soon their happy voices came
ringing up from the yard. The sound is loud, the children in their
merry mood unconscious of the noise they make.
"This is too loud. It will make your head ache," we say, making a
motion to rise, as if going to check the exuberance of their
"Oh no," is answered with a smile. "The happy voices of my children
never disturb me. Were it the sound of wrangling, my weak head would
throb instantly with pain. But this comes to me like music. They
have been confined for hours in school, and health needs a reaction.
Every buoyant laugh or glad exclamation expands their lungs,
quickens the blood in their veins, and gives a measure of health to
mind as well as body. The knowledge of this brings to me a sense of
pleasure; and it is better for me, therefore, that they should be
gay and noisy for a time, after coming out of school, than it would
be if they sat down quietly in the house, or moved about stealthily,
speaking to each other in low tones lest I should be disturbed."
We could not say nay to this. It was true, because unselfish,
"Doesn't that hammering annoy you?" we ask.
"In the new building over the way."
She listens a moment, and then answers--
"Oh no. I did not remark it until you spoke. Such things never
disturb me, for the reason that my mind is usually too much occupied
to think of them. Though an invalid, and so weak that my hands are
almost useless, I never let my thoughts lie idle. A mother, with
three children, has enough to occupy her mind usefully--and useful
thoughts, you know, are antidotes to brooding melancholy, and not
unfrequently to bodily pain. If I were to give way to
weaknesses--and I am not without temptations--I would soon be an
unhappy, nervous, helpless creature, a burden to myself and all
"You need sympathy and strength from others," we remark.
"And I receive it in full measure," is instantly replied. "Not
because I demand it. It comes, the heart-offering of true affection.
Poorly would I repay my husband, children, and friends, for the
thousand kindnesses I receive at their hands, by making home the
gloomiest place on all the earth. Would it be any the brighter for
me that I threw clouds over their spirits? Would they more truly
sympathize with me, because I was for ever pouring complaints into
their ears? Oh no. I try to make them forget that I suffer, and, in
their forgetfulness, I often find a sweet oblivion. I love them all
too well to wish them a moment's sadness."
What a beautiful glow was on her pale countenance as she thus spoke!
We turn from the home of this cheerful invalid with a lesson in our
hearts not soon to be forgotten. Ill-health need not always bring
gloom to our dwellings. Suffering need not always bend the thoughts
painfully to self. The body may waste, the hands fall nerveless to
the side, yet the heart retain its greenness, and the mind its power
"AND so, dear," said Mrs. Waring to her beautiful niece, Fanny
Lovering, "you are about becoming a bride." The aunt spoke tenderly,
and with a manner that instantly broke down all barriers of reserve.
"And a happy bride, I trust," returned the blushing girl, as she
laid her hand in that of her aunt, and leaned upon her confidingly.
"Pray heaven it may be so, Fanny." Mrs. Waring's manner was slightly
serious. "Marriage is a very important step; and in taking it the
smallest error may become the fruitful source of unhappiness."
"I shall make no error, Aunt Mary," cried the lovely girl. "Edward
Allen is one of the best of young men; and he loves me as purely and
tenderly as any maiden could wish to be loved. Oh, I want you to see
him so much!"
"I will have that pleasure soon, no doubt."
"Yes, very soon. He is here almost every evening."
"Your father, I understand, thinks very highly of him."
"Oh yes. He is quite a pet of father's," replied Fanny.
"He's in business, then, I suppose?"
"Yes. He keeps a fancy dry-goods' store, and is doing exceedingly
well--so he says."
Mrs. Waring sat silent for some time, lost in a train of reflection
suddenly started in her mind.
"You look serious, aunt. What are you thinking about?" said Fanny, a
slight shadow flitting over her countenance.
Mrs. Waring smiled, as she answered--
"People at my age are easily led into serious thoughts. Indeed, I
can never contemplate the marriage of a young girl like yourself,
without the intrusion of such thoughts into my mind. I have seen
many bright skies bending smilingly over young hearts on the morning
of their married life, that long ere noon were draped in clouds."
"Don't talk so, dear aunt!" said the fair young girl. "I know that
life, to all, comes in shadow as well as sunshine. But, while the
sky is bright, why dim its brightness by thoughts of the time when
it will be overcast. Is that true philosophy, Aunt Mary?"
"If such forethought will prevent the cloud, or provide a shelter
ere the storm breaks, it may be called true philosophy. But, forgive
me, dear, for thus throwing a shadow where no shadow ought to rest.
I will believe your choice a wise one, and that a happy future
"You cannot help believing this when you see Edward. He will be here
to-night; then you will be able to estimate him truly."
As Fanny had said, the young man called in after tea, when Mrs.
Waring was introduced. Allen responded to the introduction somewhat
coldly. In fact he was too much interested in Fanny herself to think
much, or care much for the stranger, even though named as a
relative. But, though he noticed but casually, and passed only a few
words with Mrs. Waring, that lady was observing him closely, and
noting every phase of character that was presented for observation;
and, ere he left her presence, had read him far deeper than he
"And now, Aunt Mary, tell me what you think of Edward," said Fanny
Lovering, as soon as the young man had departed, and she was alone
with Mrs. Waring.
"I must see him two or three times more ere I can make up my mind in
regard to him," said Mrs. Waring with something evasive in her
manner. "First impressions are not always to be relied on," she
"Ah! I understand you,"--Fanny spoke with a sudden gayety of
manner--"you only wish to tease me a little. Now, confess at once,
dear Aunt Mary, that you are charmed with Edward."
"I am not much given to quick prepossesions," answered Mrs. Waring.
"It may be a defect in my character; but so it is. Mr. Allen, no
doubt, is a most excellent young man. You are sure that you love
"Oh, Aunt Mary! How can you ask such a question? Are we not soon to
"True. And this being so, you certainly should love him. Now, can
you tell me why you love him?"
"My question seems, no doubt, a strange one, Fanny. Yet, strange as
it may appear to you, it is far from being lightly made. Calm your
mind into reflection, and ask yourself, firmly and seriously, why
you love Edward Allen. True love ever has an appreciating regard for
moral excellence--and knowledge must precede appreciation. What do
you know of the moral wisdom of this young man, into whose hands you
are about placing the destinies of your being for time--it may be
for eternity? Again let me put the question--Why do you love Edward
Fanny looked bewildered. No searching interrogations like these had
been addressed to her, even by her parents; and their effect was to
throw her whole mind into painful confusion.
"I love him for his excellent qualities, and because he loves me,"
she at length said, yet with a kind of uncertain manner, as if the
reply did not spring from a clear mental perception.
"What do you mean by excellent qualities?" further inquired Mrs.
Tears came into Fanny's sweet blue eyes, as she answered--
"A young girl like me, dear Aunt Mary, cannot penetrate very deeply
into a man's character. We have neither the opportunity nor the
experience upon which, coldly, to base an accurate judgment. The
heart is our guide. In my own case its instincts, I am sure, have
not betrayed me into a false estimate of my lover. I know him to be
good and noble; and I am sure his tender regard for the maiden he
has asked to become his bride, will ever lead him to seek her
happiness, as she will seek his. Do not doubt him, aunt."
Yet, Mrs. Waring could not help doubting him. The young man had not
impressed her favourably. No word had fallen from his lips during
the evening unmarked by her--nor had a single act escaped
observation. In vain had she looked, in his declarations of
sentiments, for high moral purposes--for something elevated and
manly in tone. In their place she found only exceeding worldliness,
or the flippant commonplace.
"No basis there, I fear, on which to build," said Mrs. Waring,
thoughtfully, after parting with her niece for the night. "Dear,
loving, confiding child! The heart of a maiden is not always her
best guide. Like the conscience, it needs to be instructed; must be
furnished with tests of quality."
On the day following, Mrs. Waring went out alone. Without, seeming
to have any purpose in her mind, she had asked the number of Mr.
Allen's store, whither she went with the design of making a few
purchases. As she had hoped it would be, the young man did not
recognise her as the aunt of his betrothed. Among the articles, she
wished to obtain was a silk dress. Several pieces of goods were
shown to her, one of which suited exactly, both in colour and
"What is the price of this?" she asked.
The answer was not prompt. First, the ticket-mark was consulted;
then came a thoughtful pause; and then the young storekeeper said--
"I cannot afford to sell you this piece of goods for less than a
"A dollar thirty, did you say?" asked Mrs. Waring, examining the
silk more closely.
"Ye--yes, ma'am," quickly replied Allen. "A dollar thirty. And it's
a bargain at that, I do assure you."
Mrs. Waring raised her eyes and looked steadily for a moment or two
into the young man's face.
"A dollar and thirty cents," she repeated.
"Yes, ma'am. A dollar thirty," was the now assured answer. "How many
yards shall I measure off for you?"
"I want about twelve yards."
"There isn't a cheaper piece of goods in market," said the young
man, as he put his scissors into the silk--"not a cheaper piece, I
do assure you. I had a large stock of these silks at the opening of
the season, and sold two-thirds of them at a dollar and a half. But,
as they are nearly closed out, I am selling the remainder at a
trifle above cost. Can I show you any thing else, ma'am?"
"Not to-day, I believe," replied Mrs. Waring, as she took out her
purse. "How much does it come to?"
"Twelve yards at one dollar and thirty cents--just fifteen dollars
and sixty cents," said Allen.
Mrs. Waring counted out the money, and, as she handed it to the
young man, fixed her eyes again searchingly upon him.
"Shall I send it home for you?" he asked.
"No--I will take it myself," said Mrs. Waring, coldly.
"What have you been buying, aunt?" inquired Fanny, when Mrs. Waring
had returned home with her purchase.
"A silk dress. And I want to know what you think of my bargain?"
The silk was opened, and Fanny and her mother examined and admired
"What did you pay for it, sister?" asked Mrs, Lovering, the mother
"A dollar and thirty cents," was answered.
"Not a dollar thirty?" Marked surprise was indicated.
"Yes. Don't you think it cheap?"
"Cheap!" said Fanny. "It isn't worth over a dollar at the outside.
Mr. Allen has been selling the same goods at ninety and
"You must certainly be in error," replied Mrs. Waring.
"Not at all," was the positive assertion. "Where did you get the
A somewhat indefinite answer was given; to which Fanny returned--
"I only wish we had known your intention. Mother would have gone
with you to Edward's store. It is too bad that you should have been
so cheated. The person who sold you the silk is no better than
"If it is as you say," replied Mrs. Waring, calmly, "he is not an
honest man. He saw that I was a stranger, ignorant of current
prices, and he took advantage of the fact to do me a wrong. I am
more grieved for his sake than my own. To me, he loss is only a few
dollars; to him--alas! by what rule can we make the estimate?"
Much more was said, not needful here to repeat. In the evening,
Edward Allen called to see Fanny, who spoke of the purchase made by
Mrs. Waring. Her aunt was present. The silk was produced in evidence
of the fact that she had been most shamefully wronged by some
"For what can you sell goods of a similar quality?" was the direct
question of Fanny.
The moment Allen saw the piece of silk, he recognised it as the same
he had sold in the morning. Turning quickly, and with a flushing
countenance, to that part of the room where Mrs. Waring sat, partly
in the shadow, he became at once conscious of the fact that she was
the purchaser. The eyes of Fanny followed those of the lover, and
then came back to his face. She saw the o'ermantling blush; the
sudden loss of self-possession, the quailing of his glance beneath
the fixed look of Mrs. Waring. At once the whole truth flashed upon
her mind, and starting up, she said, in a blended voice of grief and
"Surely, surely, Edward, you are not the man!"
Before Allen could reply, Mrs. Waring said firmly: "Yes, it is too
true. He is the man!"
At this, Fanny grew deadly pale, staggered toward her mother, and
sunk, sobbing wildly, upon her bosom.
Too much excited and confused for coherent explanation, and too
clearly conscious of his mean dishonesty toward a stranger, Allen
attempted no vindication nor excuse, lest matters should assume even
a worse aspect. A moment or two he stood irresolute, and then
retired from the house. As he did so, Mr. Lovering entered the room
where this little scene had just transpired, and was quite startled
at the aspect of affairs.
"What's this? What has happened? Fanny, child, what in the name of
wonder is the matter? Where's Edward?"
Mr. Lovering spoke hurriedly. As soon as practicable, the whole
affair was related.
"And is that all?" exclaimed Mr. Lovering, in surprise. "Pooh! pooh!
I'm really astonished! I thought that some dreadful thing had
"Don't you regard this as a very serious matter?" inquired Mrs.
"Serious? No! It's a thing of every day occurrence. If you are not a
judge of the goods you attempt to purchase, you must expect to pay
for your ignorance. Shopkeepers have to make up their ratio of
profits in the aggregate sales of the day. Sometimes they have to
sell a sharp customer at cost, rather than lose the sale; and this
must be made up on some one like you."
"Not a serious matter," replied Fanny's aunt, "to discover that the
betrothed of your daughter is a dishonest man?"
"Nonsense! nonsense! you don't know what you are talking about,"
said Mr. Lovering, fretfully. "He's shrewd and sharp, as every
business-man who expects to succeed must be. As to his trade
operations, Fanny has nothing to do with them. He'll make her a kind
husband, and provide for her handsomely. What more can she ask?"
"A great deal more," replied Mrs. Waring, firmly.
"What more, pray?"
"A husband, in whose high moral virtues, and unselfish regard for
the right, she can unerringly confide. One who will never, in his
eager desire to secure for himself some personal end or
gratification, forget what is due to the tender, confiding wife who
has placed all that is dear to her in his guardianship. Brother,
depend upon it, the man who deliberately wrongs another to gain an
advantage to himself, will never, in marriage, make a truly virtuous
woman happy. This I speak thoughtfully and solemnly; and I pray you
take it to heart, ere conviction of what I assert comes upon you too
late. But, I may have said too much. Forgive my plain speaking. From
the fulness of the heart is this utterance."
And so saying, Mrs. Waring passed from the room, and left the
parents of Fanny alone with their weeping child. Few words were
spoken by either Mr. or Mrs. Lovering. Something in the last remarks
of Mrs. Waring had startled their minds into new convictions. As for
the daughter, she soon retired to her own apartment, and did not
join the family again until the next morning. Then, her sad eyes and
colorless face too plainly evidenced a night of sleeplessness and
By a kind of tacit consent on the part of each member of the family,
no allusion, whatever, was made to the occurrences of the day
previous. Evening came, but not as usual came Edward Allen. The next
day, and the next went by, without his accustomed appearance. For a
whole week his visits were omitted.
Grievous was the change which, in that time, had become visible in
Fanny Lovering. The very light of her life seemed to go out
suddenly; and, for a while, she had groped about in thick darkness.
A few feeble rays were again becoming visible; but from a quarter of
the heavens where she had not expected light. Wisely, gently, and
unobtrusively had Mrs. Waring, during this period of gloom and
distress, cast high truths into the mind of her suffering niece--and
from these, as stars in the firmament of thought, came the rays by
which she was able to see a path opening before her. When, at the
end of the tenth day of uncertainty, came a note from Allen, in
these brief words: "If it is Miss Lovering's wish to be free from
her engagement, a word will annul the contract"--she replied, within
ten minutes, "Let the contract be annulled; you are free."
Two weeks later, and Mr. Lovering brought home the intelligence that
Allen was to be married in a few days to a certain Miss Jerrold,
daughter of a man reputed wealthy.
"To Miss Jerrold! It cannot be!" said Mrs. Lovering in surprise.
"I will not believe it, father." Fanny spoke with quivering lips and
a choking voice.
"Who is Miss Jerrold?" asked Mrs. Waring.
"A coarse, vulgar-minded girl, of whom many light things have been
said," replied Mrs. Lovering, indignantly. "But her father is rich,
and she is an only child."
"He never loved you, dear," said Mrs. Waring to Fanny about a week
later, as the yet suffering girl laid her tearful face on her bosom.
The news had just come that Miss Jerrold was the bride of Allen. The
frame of the girl thrilled for a moment or two; then all was calm,
and she replied--
"Not as I wished to be loved. O aunt! what an escape I have made! I
look down the fearful gulf on the very brink of which my feet were
arrested, and shudder to the heart's core. If he could take her, he
never could have appreciated me. Something more than maiden purity
and virtue attracted him. Ah! how could my instincts have been so at
"Dear child," said Mrs. Waring, earnestly, "there can be no true
love, as I have before said to you, without an appreciation of
quality. A fine person, agreeable manners, social position--in a
word, all external advantages and attractions are nothing, unless
virtue be in the heart. It is a man's virtues that a woman must
love, if she loves truly. If she assumes the possession of moral
wisdom, without undoubting evidence, she is false to herself. To
marry under such circumstances is to take a fearful risk. Alas! how
many have repented through a long life of wretchedness. Can a true
woman love a man who lacks principle--who will sacrifice honour for
a few paltry dollars--who will debase himself for gain--whose gross
sensuality suffocates all high, spiritual love? No! no! It is
impossible! And she who unites herself with such a man, must either
shrink, grovelling, down to his mean level, or be inconceivably
Two years later, and results amply justified the timely
interposition of Mrs. Waring, and demonstrated the truth of her
positions. Her beautiful, true-hearted niece has become the bride of
a man possessing all the external advantages sought to be obtained
by Mr. and Mrs. Lovering in the proposed marriage with Mr. Allen;
and what is more and better, of one whose love of truth and goodness
is genuine, and whose appreciation of his wife rests on a perception
of her womanly virtues. As years pass, and their knowledge of each
other becomes more intimate, their union will become closer and
closer, until affection and thought become so blended, that they
will act in all their mutual life-relations as one.
Alas! how different it is already with Edward Allen and the woman he
led to the altar, where each made false vows the one to the other.
There were no qualities to be loved; and to each, person and
principles soon grew repellant. Through sharp practices in business,
Allen is rapidly adding to the fortune already acquired by trade and
marriage; but, apart from the love of accumulation, which keeps his
mind active and excited during business hours, he has no pleasure in
life. He does not love the woman who presides in his elegant home,
and she affects nothing in regard to him. They only tolerate each
other for appearance sake. Sometimes, Fanny Lovering, now Mrs.----,
meets them in public; but never without an almost audibly breathed
"Thank God, that I am not in her place!" as her eyes rest upon the
countenance of Allen, in which evil and selfish purposes have
already stamped their unmistakable meanings.
BLESSING OF A GOOD DEED.
"I SHOULD like to do that, every day, for a year to come," said Mr.
William Everett, rubbing his hands together quickly, in
Mr. Everett was a stock and money broker, and had just made an
"operation," by which a clear gain of two thousand dollars was
secured. He was alone in his office: or, so much alone as not to
feel restrained by the presence of another. And yet, a pair of dark,
sad eyes were fixed intently upon his self-satisfied countenance,
with an expression, had he observed it, that would, at least, have
excited a moment's wonder. The owner of this pair of eyes was a
slender, rather poorly dressed lad, in his thirteenth year, whom Mr.
Everett had engaged, a short time previously, to attend in his
office and run upon errands. He was the son of a widowed mother, now
in greatly reduced circumstances. His father had been an early
friend of Mr. Everett. It was this fact which led to the boy's
introduction into the broker's office.
"Two thousand dollars!" The broker had uttered aloud his
satisfaction; but now he communed with himself silently. "Two
thousand dollars! A nice little sum that for a single day's work. I
wonder what Mr. Jenkins will say tomorrow morning, when he hears of
such an advance in these securities?"
From some cause, this mental reference to Mr. Jenkins did not
increase our friend's state of exhilaration. Most probably, there
was something in the transaction by which he had gained so handsome
a sum of money, that, in calmer moments, would not bear too close a
scrutiny--something that Mr. Everett would hardly like to have
blazoned forth to the world. Be this as it may, a more sober mood,
in time, succeeded, and although the broker was richer by two
thousand dollars than when he arose in the morning, he was certainly
An hour afterward, a business friend came into the office of Mr.
Everett and said--
"Have you heard about Cassen?"
"No; what of him?"
"He's said to be off to California with twenty thousand dollars in
his pockets more than justly belongs to him."
"Too true, I believe. His name is in the list of passengers who left
New York in the steamer yesterday."
"The scoundrel!" exclaimed Mr. Everett, who, by this time, was very
"He owes you, does he?" said the friend.
"I lent him three hundred dollars only day before yesterday."
"A clear swindle."
"Yes, it is. Oh, if I could only get my hands on him!".
Mr. Everett's countenance, as he said this, did not wear a very
"Don't get excited about it," said the other. "I think he has let
you off quite reasonably. Was that sum all he asked to borrow?"
"I know two at least, who are poorer by a couple of thousands by his
But Mr. Everett was excited. For half an hour after the individual
left who had communicated this unpleasant piece of news, the broker
walked the floor of his office with compressed lips, a lowering
brow, and most unhappy feelings. The two thousand dollars gain in no
way balanced in his mind the three hundred lost. The pleasure
created by the one had not penetrated deep enough to escape
obliteration by the other.
Of all this, the boy with the dark eyes had taken quick cognizance.
And he comprehended all. Scarcely a moment had his glance been
removed from the countenance or form of Mr. Everett, while the
latter walked with uneasy steps the floor of his office.
As the afternoon waned, the broker's mind grew calmer. The first
excitement produced by the loss, passed away; but it left a sense of
depression and disappointment that completely shadowed his feelings.
Intent as had been the lad's observation of his employer during all
this time, it is a little remarkable that Mr. Everett had not once
been conscious of the fact that the boy's eyes were steadily upon
him. In fact he had been, as was usually the case too much absorbed
in things concerning himself to notice what was peculiar to another,
unless the peculiarity were one readily used to his own advantage.
"John," said Mr. Everett, turning suddenly to the boy, and
encountering his large, earnest eyes, "take this note around to Mr.
John sprang to do his bidding; received the note and was off with
unusual fleetness. But the door which closed upon his form did not
shut out the expression of his sober face and humid glance from the
vision of Mr. Everett. In fact, from some cause, tears had sprung to
the eyes of the musing boy at the very moment he was called upon to
render a service; and, quicker than usual though his motions were,
he had failed to conceal them.
A new train of thought now entered the broker's mind. This child of
his old friend had been taken into his office from a kind of
charitable feeling--though of very low vitality. He paid him a
couple of dollars a week, and thought little more, about him or his
widowed mother. He had too many important interests of his own at
stake, to have his mind turned aside for a trifling matter like
this. But now, as the image of that sad face--for it was unusually
sad at the moment when Mr. Everett looked suddenly toward the
boy--lingered in his mind, growing every moment more distinct, and
more touchingly beautiful, many considerations of duty and humanity
were excited. He remembered his old friend, and the pleasant hours
they had spent together in years long since passed, ere generous
feelings had hardened into ice, or given place to all-pervading
selfishness. He remembered, too, the beautiful girl his friend had
married, and how proudly that friend presented her to their little
world as his bride. The lad had her large, dark, spiritual
eyes--only the light of joy had faded therefrom, giving place to a
All this was now present to the mind of Mr. Everett, and though he
tried once or twice during the boy's absence to obliterate these
recollections, he was unable to do so.
"How is your mother, John?" kindly asked the broker, when the lad
returned from his errand.
The question was so unexpected, that it confused him.
"She's well--thank you, sir. No--not very well, either--thank you,
And the boy's face flushed, and his eyes suffused.
"Not very well, you say?" Mr. Everett spoke with kindness, and in a
tone of interest. "Not sick, I hope?"
"No, sir; not very sick. But"----
"But what, John," said Mr., Everett, encouragingly.
"She's in trouble," half stammered the boy, while the colour
deepened on his face.
"Ah, indeed? I'm sorry for that. What is the trouble, John?"
The tears which John had been vainly striving to repress now gushed
over his face, and, with a boyish shame for the weakness, he turned
away and struggled for a time with his overmastering feelings. Mr.
Everett was no little moved by so unexpected an exhibition. He
waited with a new-born consideration for the boy, not unmingled with
respect, until a measure of calmness was restored.
"John," he then said, "if your mother is in trouble, it may be in my
power to relieve her."
"O sir!" exclaimed the lad eagerly, coming up to Mr. Everett, and,
in the forgetfulness of the moment, laying his small hand upon that
of his employer, "if you will, you can."
Hard indeed would have been the heart that could have withstood the
appealing, eyes lifted by John Levering to the face of Mr. Everett.
But Mr. Everett had not a hard heart. Love of self and the world had
encrusted it with indifference toward others, but the crust was now
"Speak freely, my good lad," said he, kindly. "Tell me of your
mother. What is her trouble?"
"We are very poor, sir." Tremulous and mournful was the boy's voice.
"And mother isn't well. She does all she can; and my wages help a
little. But there are three of us children; and I am the oldest.
None of the rest can earn any thing. Mother couldn't help getting
behind with the rent, sir, because she hadn't the money to pay it
with. This morning, the man who owns the house where we live came
for some money, and when mother told him that she had none, he got,
oh, so angry! and frightened us all. He said, if the rent wasn't
paid by to-morrow, he'd turn us all into the street. Poor mother!
She went to bed sick."
"How much does your mother owe the man?" asked Mr. Everett.
"Oh, it's a great deal, sir. I'm afraid she'll never be able to pay
it; and I don't know what we'll do."
"Fourteen dollars, sir," answered the lad.
"Is that all?" And Mr. Everett thrust his hand into his pocket.
"Here are twenty dollars. Run home to your mother, and give them to
her with my compliments."
The boy grasped the money eagerly, and, as he did so, in an
irrepressible burst of gratitude, kissed the hand from which he
received it. He did not speak, for strong emotion choked all
utterance; but Mr. Everett saw his heart in his large, wet eyes, and
it was overflowing with thankfulness.
"Stay a moment," said the broker, as John Levering was about passing
through the door. "Perhaps I had better write a note to your
"I wish you would, sir," answered the boy, as he came slowly back.
A brief note was written, in which Mr. Everett not only offered
present aid, but promised, for the sake of old recollections that
now were crowding fast upon his mind, to be the widow's future
For half an hour after the lad departed, the broker sat musing, with
his eyes upon the floor. His thoughts were clear, and his feelings
tranquil. He had made, on that day, the sum of two thousand dollars
by a single transaction, but the thought of this large accession to
his worldly goods did not give him a tithe of the pleasure he
derived from the bestowal of twenty dollars. He thought, too, of the
three hundred dollars he had lost by a misplaced confidence; yet,
even as the shadow cast from that event began to fall upon his
heart, the bright face of John Levering was conjured up by fancy,
and all was sunny again.
Mr. Everett went home to his family on that evening, a
cheerful-minded man. Why? Not because he was richer by nearly two
thousand dollars. That circumstance would have possessed no power to
lift him above the shadowed, fretful state which he loss of three
hundred dollars had produced. Why? He had bestowed of his abundance,
and thus made suffering hearts glad; and the consciousness of this
pervaded his bosom with a warming sense of delight.
Thus it is, that true benevolence carries with it, ever a double
blessing. Thus it is, that in giving, more is often gained than in
eager accumulation or selfish withholding.
PAYING THE DOCTOR.
AFTER a day of unusual anxiety and fatigue, Dr. Elton found himself
snugly wrapped up in a liberal quantity of blankets and bed-quilts,
just as the clock struck twelve one stormy night in February. For
over half an hour he had lain awake, racking his brain in reference
to two or three critical cases which were on his hands; but tired
nature could keep up no longer, and the sweet oblivion of sleep was
stealing over his senses. But just as he had lost himself, the bell
over his head began to ring furiously, and brought him into the
middle of the floor in an instant. Pushing his head out of the
window, he interrogated the messenger below, just too late to save
that individual the trouble of giving the bell-rope another violent
demonstration of his skill.
"Mr. Marvel wants you to come and see Charley immediately," replied
"What's the matter with Charley?"
"He's got the croup, I believe."
"Tell him I'll be there in a moment," said Dr. Elton, drawing in his
head. Hurrying on his clothes, he descended to his office, and,
possessing himself of some necessary medicines, it being too late
for the family to send out a prescription, wrapped his cloak around
him, and turned out into the storm.
It was at least half a mile to the residence of Mr. Marvel, and by,
the time the doctor arrived there, he was cold, wet, and
uncomfortable both in mind and body. Ascending to the chamber, he
was not a little surprised to find Charley, a bright little fellow
of some two years old, sitting up in his crib as lively as a
"O doctor! we've been _so_ frightened!" said Mrs. Marvel, as Dr.
Elton entered. "We thought Charley had the croup, he breathed so
loud. But he don't seem to get any worse. What do you think of him,
Dr. Elton felt his pulse, listened to his respiration, examined the
appearance of his skin, and then said, emphatically--
"I think you'd better all be in bed!"
"It's better to be scared than hurt, doctor," responded Mr. Marvel.
"Humph!" ejaculated Dr. Elton.
"Don't you think you'd better give him something, doctor?" said Mrs.
"What for, ma'am?"
"To keep him from having the croup. Don't you think he's threatened
"Not half as much as I am," replied the doctor, who made a quick
retreat, fearing that he would give way too much to his irritated
feelings, and offend a family who were able to pay.
Next morning, on the debtor side of his ledger, under the name of
Mr. Marvel, Dr. Elton made this entry; _To one night-visit to son,_
$5. "And it's well for me that he's able to pay," added the doctor,
mentally, as he replaced the book in the drawer from which he had
taken it. Scarcely had this necessary part of the business been
performed, when the same messenger who had summoned him the night
before, came post-haste into the office, with the announcement that
Mrs. Marvel wanted him to come there immediately, as Charley had got
a high fever.
Obedient to the summons, Dr. Elton soon made his appearance, and
found both Mr. and Mrs. Marvel greatly concerned about their little
"I'm _so_ 'fraid of the scarlet fever, doctor!" said Mrs. Marvel.
"Do you think it's any thing like that?" she continued with much
anxiety, turning upon Charley a look of deep maternal affection.
Dr. Elton felt of Charley's pulse, and looked at his tongue, and
then wrote a prescription in silence.
"What do you think of him, doctor?" asked the father, much
"He's not dangerous, sir. Give him this, and if he should grow
worse, send for me."
The doctor bowed and departed, and the fond parents sent off for the
medicine. It was in the form of a very small dose of rhubarb, and
poor Charley had to have his nose held tight, and the nauseous stuff
poured down his throat. In the afternoon, when the doctor called, on
being sent for, there were some slight febrile symptoms, consequent
upon excitement and loss of rest. The medicine, contrary to his
expectation, heightened, instead of allaying these; and long before
nightfall he was summoned again to attend his little patient. Much
to his surprise, he found him with a hot skin, flushed face, and
quickened pulse. Mrs. Marvel was in a state of terrible alarm.
"I knew there was more the matter with him than you thought for,
doctor!" said the mother, while Dr. Elton examined his patient. "You
thought it was nothing, but I knew better. If you'd only prescribed
last night, as I wanted you to, all this might have been saved."
"Don't be alarmed, madam," said the doctor, "there is nothing
serious in this fever. It will soon subside."
Mrs. Marvel shook her head.
"It's the scarlet fever, doctor, I know it is!" said she,
passionately, bursting into tears.
"Let me beg of you, madam, not to distress yourself. I assure you
there is no danger!"
"So you said last night, doctor; and just see how much worse he is
As Dr. Elton was generally a man of few words, he said no more, but
wrote a prescription, and went away, promising, however, at the
earnest request of Mrs. Marvel, to call again that night.
About nine o'clock he called in, and found Charley's fever in no
degree abated. Mrs. Marvel was in tears, and her husband pacing the
floor in a state of great uneasiness.
"O doctor, he'll die, I'm sure he'll die!" said Mrs. Marvel, weeping
"Don't be alarmed, my dear madam," replied the doctor. "I assure you
it is nothing serious."
"Oh, I'm 'sure it's the scarlet fever! It's all about now."
"No, madam, I am in earnest when I tell you it is nothing of the
kind. His throat is not in the least sore."
"Yes, doctor, it is sore!"
"How do you know?" responded the doctor, examining Charley's mouth
and throat, which showed not the least symptom of any irritation of
the mucous membrane. "It can't be sore from any serious cause. Some
trifling swelling of the glands is all that can occasion it, if any
Thus assured, and in a positive manner, Mrs. Marvel's alarm in some
degree abated, and after ordering a warm bath, the doctor retired.
About three o'clock the doctor was again sent for in great haste. On
entering the chamber of his little patient, he found his fever all
gone, and he in a pleasant sleep.
"What do you think of him, doctor?" asked Mrs. Marvel, in a low,
"I think he's doing as well as he can."
"But a'n't it strange, doctor, that he should breathe so low? He
looks so pale, and lays so quiet! Are you sure he's not dying?"
"Dying!" exclaimed Dr. Elton,--"he's no more dying than you are!
Really, Mrs. Marvel, yon torment yourself with unnecessary fears!
Nature is only a little exhausted from struggling with the fever, he
will be like a new person by morning."
"Do not mistake the case, doctor, for we are very much concerned,"
said Mr. Marvel.
"I do assure you, sir, that I understand the case precisely; and you
must believe me, when I tell you that no patient was ever in a
better way than your little boy."
Next morning, among other charges made by Dr. Elton, were two
against Mr. Marvel, as follows: _To four visits to son,_ $4. _To one
night-visit to son,_ $5.
"Not a bad customer!" said the doctor, with a smile, as he ran up
the whole account, and then closed the book.
In the constant habit of sending for the doctor on every trifling
occasion, whether it occurred at noonday or midnight, it is not to
be wondered at that a pretty large bill should find its way to Mr.
Marvel at the end of the year. And this was not the worst of it; the
health of his whole family suffered in no slight degree from the
fact of each individual being so frequently under the influence of
medicine. Poor Charley was victimized almost every week; and,
instead of being a fresh, hearty boy, began to show a pale, thin
face, and every indication of a weakened vital action. This
appearance only increased the evil, for both parents, growing more
anxious in consequence, were more urgent to have him placed under
treatment. Dr. Elton sometimes remonstrated with them, but to no
purpose; and yielding to their ignorance and their anxiety, became a
party in the destruction of the boy's health.
"What is that, my dear?" asked Mrs. Marvel of her husband, some ten
months after their introduction to the reader, as the latter
regarded, with no pleasant countenance, a small piece of paper which
he held in his hand.
"Why, it's Dr. Elton's bill."
"Indeed! How much is it?"
"One hundred and fifty dollars!"
"Did you ever hear of such a thing?"
"One hundred and fifty dollars, did you say?"
"Yes, one hundred and fifty dollars. A'n't it outrageous?"
"It's scandalous! It's downright swindling! I'd never pay it in the
world! Who ever heard of such a thing! One hundred and fifty dollars
for one year's attendance! Good gracious!"--and Mrs. Marvel held up
her hands, and lifted her eyes in profound astonishment.
"I can't understand it!" said Mr. Marvel. "Why, nobody's had a spell
of sickness in the family for the whole year. Charley's been a
little sick once or twice; but nothing of much consequence. There
must be something wrong about it. I'll go right off and see him, and
have an understanding about it at once."
Carrying out his resolution on the instant, Mr. Marvel left the
house and proceeded with rapid steps toward the office of Dr. Elton.
He found that individual in.
"Good morning Mr. Marvel! How do you do to-day?" said the doctor,
who understood from his countenance that something was wrong, and
had an instinctive perception of its nature.
"Good morning, doctor! I got your bill to-day."
"Yes, sir; I sent it out."
"But a'n't there something wrong about it, doctor?"
"No, I presume not. I make my charges carefully, and draw off my
bills in exact accordance with them."
"But there must be, doctor. How in the world could you make a bill
of one hundred and fifty dollars against me? I've had no serious
sickness in my family."
"And yet, Mr. Marvel, I have been called in almost every week, and
sometimes three or four times in as many days."
"I'll show you my ledger, if that will satisfy you, where every
visit is entered."
"No, it's no use to do that. I know that you have been called in
pretty often, but not frequently enough to make a bill like this."
"How many night-visits do you suppose I have made to your family,
during the year?"
"I'm sure I don't know. Not more than three or four."
"I've made ten!"
"You must be mistaken, doctor."
"Do you remember that I was called in last February, when you
thought Charley had the croup?"
"And the night after?"
"Yes. That's but two."
"And the night you thought he had the measles?"
"And the night after?"
"Yes. But that's only four."
"And the three times he fell out of bed?"
"Not three times, doctor!"
"Yes, it was three times. Don't you recollect the knob on his head?"
"And the sprained finger?"
"And the bruised cheek?"
"Well, I believe you are right about that, doctor. But that don't
make ten times."
"You have not forgotten, of course, the night he told you he had
swallowed a pin?"
"No, indeed," said the father, turning pale. "Do you think there is
any danger to be apprehended from its working its way into the
"None at, all, I should think. And you remember"--
"Never mind, doctor, I suppose you are right about that. But how can
ten visits make one hundred and fifty dollars?"
"They will make fifty, though, and that is one-third of the bill."
"You don't pretend to charge five dollars a visit, though, doctor?"
"For all visits after ten o'clock at night, we are allowed by law to
charge five dollars."
"Would you get up out of your warm bed after midnight, turn out in a
December storm, and walk half a mile for five dollars?"
"I can't say that I would. But then it's your business."
"Of course it is, and I must be paid for it."
"Any how, doctor, that don't account for the whole of this
"But one hundred day and evening visits here on my ledger will,
"You don't pretend to say you have paid my family a hundred visits,
"I will give you day and date for them, if necessary."
"No, it's no use to do that," said Mr. Marvel, whose memory began to
be a little more active. "I'll give you a hundred dollars, and say
no more about it; that is enough, in all conscience."
"I can't do any such thing, Mr. Marvel. I have charged you what was
right, and can take nothing off. What would you think of a man who
had made a bill at your store of one hundred and fifty dollars, if
he were to offer you one hundred when he came to pay, and ask for a
receipt in full?"
"But that a'n't to the point."
"A'n't it, though? I should like to hear of a case more applicable.
But it's no use to multiply words about the matter. My bill is
correct, and I cannot take a dollar off of it."
"It's the last bill you ever make out of me, remember that, doctor!"
said Mr. Marvel, rising, and leaving the office in a state of angry
"Well, what does he say?" asked Mrs. Marvel, who had waited for her
husband's return with some interest.
"He tried to beat me down that the bill was all right; but I'm too
old a child for that. Why, would you believe it?--he has charged
five dollars for every night-visit."
"That's no better than highway robbery."
"Not a bit. But it's the last money he ever gets out of me."
"I'd never call him in, I know. He must think we're made of money."
"Oh, I suppose we're the first family he's had who wasn't poor, and
he wanted to dig as deep as possible. I hate such swindling, and if
it wasn't for having a fuss I'd never pay him a dollar."
"He's charged us for every poor family in the neighbourhood, I
"No doubt of it. I've heard of these tricks before; but it's the
last time I'll submit to have them played off upon me."
The visit of Mr. Marvel somewhat discomposed the feelings of Dr.
Elton, and he had begun to moralize upon the unthankful position he
held in the community, when he was aroused from his reverie by the
entrance of a servant from one of the principal hotels, with a
summons to attend immediately a young lady who was thought to be
"Who is she?" asked the doctor.
"She is the daughter of Mr. Smith, a merchant from the East."
"Is any one with her?"
"Yes, her father."
"Tell him I will be there immediately."
In the course of fifteen minutes Dr. Elton's carriage drove up to
the door of the hotel. He found his patient to be a young lady of
about seventeen, accompanied by her father, a middle-aged man, whose
feelings were much, and anxiously excited.
At a glance, his practised eye detected symptoms of a serious
nature, and a closer examination of the case convinced him that all
his skill would be called into requisition. With a hot, dry skin,
slightly flushed face, parched lips, and slimy, furred tongue, there
was a dejection, languor, and slight indication of delirium--and
much apparent confusion of mind. Prescribing as he thought the case
required, he left the room, accompanied with the father.
"Well, doctor, what do you think of her?" said Mr. Smith, with a
heavy, oppressed expiration.
"She is ill, sir, and will require attention."
"But, doctor, you don't think my child dangerous, do you?" said the
father with an alarmed manner.
"It is right that you should know, sir, that your daughter is, to
all appearance, threatened with the typhus fever. But I don't think
there is any cause for alarm, only for great care in her physician
"O doctor, can I trust her in your hands? But I am foolish; I know
that there is no one in this city of more acknowledged skill than
yourself. You must pardon a father's fears. Spare no attentions,
doctor--visit her at least twice every day, and you shall be well
paid for your attentions. Save my child for me, and I will owe you
"All that I can do for her, shall be done, sir," said Dr. Elton.
Just relieved from the care of a dangerous case, in its healthy
change, Dr. Elton's mind had relaxed from the anxiety which too
frequently burdened it; for a physician's mind is always oppressed
while the issue, of life or death hangs upon his power to subdue a
disease, which may be too deeply seated to yield to the influence of
medicine. Now, all the oppressive sense of responsibility, the care,
the anxiety, were to be renewed, and felt with even a keener
In the evening he called in, but there was no perceptible change,
except a slight aggravation of all the symptoms. The medicine had
produced no visible salutary effect. During the second day, there
was exhibited little alteration, but on the morning of the third
day, symptoms of a more decided character had supervened--such as
suffused and injected eyes, painful deglutition, an oppression in
the chest, accompanied with a short, dry cough, pains in the back,
loins, and extremities; and a soreness throughout the whole body.
These had not escaped the father's observation, and with the most
painful anxiety did he watch the countenance of the physician while
he examined the case in its new presentation. Much as he tried to
control the expression of his face, he found it impossible. He felt
too deeply concerned, and was too conscious of the frequent
impotence of medicine, when administered with the most experienced
In the afternoon he called again, and found the father, as usual, by
the bedside. His patient seemed to be in a narcotic sleep, and when
roused from it, complained of much giddiness, and soon sunk down
again into a state of torpor.
"What do you think of her now, doctor?" asked the father, in a
hoarse whisper, on the physician's leaving the chamber of his
"It is impossible to form any correct idea respecting a case like
this. I have seen many much worse recover, and have no doubt, as far
as human calculation will go, that your daughter will get well. But
the fever is a tedious one, usually defying all attempts at breaking
it. It must run its course, which is usually some ten or fifteen
days. All we can do is to palliate, and then assist nature, when the
disease has abated its violence."
It is not necessary to trace the progress of the disease from day to
day, until it reached its climax. When the fever did break, and a
soft, gentle moisture penetrated the skin, the patient had but a
spark of life remaining.
At the close of the fifteenth day, when every symptom indicated that
convalescence or death would soon ensue, no one but a physician can
imagine the painful, restless anxiety, which was felt by Dr. Elton.
He took but little food, and slept hardly any during the whole
night, frequently starting from his brief periods of troubled
slumber, in consequence of great nervous excitement.
Early in the morning he called at the room of his patient,
trembling, lest a first glance should dash every hope to the ground.
He entered softly, and perceived the father bending over her with a
pale anxious face. She was asleep. He took her hand, but let it drop
"What is the matter?" asked the father in an alarmed whisper, his
face growing paler.
"She is safe?" responded the doctor, in a low whisper, every pulse
thrilling with pleasant excitement.
The father clasped his hands, looked upward a moment, and then burst
"How can I ever repay you for your skill in saving my child!" he
said, after his feelings had grown calmer.
It was nearly a month before the daughter was well enough to return
home, during most of which time Dr. Elton was in attendance. For
fifteen days he had attended twice a day regularly, and for nearly
as long a period once a day.
While sitting in his office one day about three o'clock, waiting for
his carriage to come up to the door, Mr. Smith entered, and asked
for his bill, as he was about to leave. On examining his
account-book, Dr. Elton found that he had made about fifty visits,
and accordingly he made out his bill fifty dollars.
"How much is this, doctor?" said Mr. Smith, eyeing the bill with
something of doubt in the expression of his countenance.
"Fifty dollars, sir."
"Fifty dollars! Why, surely, doctor, you are not going to take
advantage of me in that way?"
"I don't understand you, sir."
"Why, I never heard of such an extravagant bill in my life. I have
my whole family attended at home for fifty dollars a year, and you
have not been visiting one of them much over a month."
"Such as the bill is, you will have to pay it, sir. It is just, and
I shall not abate one dollar," responded Dr. Elton, considerably
Mr. Smith drew out his pocket-book slowly, selected a fifty-dollar
bill from a large package, handed it to the doctor, took his
receipt, and rising to his feet, said emphatically--
"I am a stranger, and you have taken advantage of me. But remember,
the gains of dishonesty will never prosper!" and turning upon his
heel, left the office.
"Who would be a doctor?" murmured Dr. Elton, forcing the unpleasant
thoughts occasioned by the incident from his mind, and endeavouring
to fix it upon a case of more than usual interest which he had been
called to that day.
A word to the wise is sufficient; it is therefore needless to
multiply scenes illustrative of the manner in which too many people
pay the doctor.
When any one is sick, the doctor is sent for, and the family are all
impatient until he arrives. If the case is a bad one, he is looked
upon as a ministering angel; the patient's eye brightens when he
comes, and all in the house feel more cheerful for hours after. Amid
all kinds of weather, at all hours in the day or night, he obeys the
summons, and brings all his skill, acquired by long study, and by
much laborious practice, to bear upon the disease. But when the sick
person gets well, the doctor is forgotten; and when the bill
appears, complaint at its amount is almost always made; and too
frequently, unless he proceed to legal measures, it is entirely
withheld from him. These things ought not so to be. Of course, there
are many honourable exceptions; but every physician can
exclaim--"Would that their number was greater!"
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