Finger Posts on the Way of Life
T. S. Arthur
Part 3 out of 4
THE LITTLE BOUND-BOY.
IN a miserable old house, in Commerce street, north of Pratt street
Baltimore,--there are fine stores there now--lived a shoemaker,
whose wife took a particular fancy to me as a doctor, (I never felt
much flattered by the preference,) and would send for me whenever
she was sick. I could do no less than attend her ladyship. For a
time I tried, by pretty heavy bills, to get rid of the honour; but
it wouldn't do. Old Maxwell, the husband, grumbled terribly, but
managed to keep out of my debt. He was the reputed master of his
house; but I saw enough to satisfy me that if he were master, his
wife was mistress of the master.
Maxwell had three or four apprentices, out of whom he managed to get
a good deal of work at a small cost. Among these was a little
fellow, whose peculiarly delicate appearance often attracted my
attention. He seemed out of place among the stout, vulgar-looking
boys, who stitched and hammered away from morning until night in
their master's dirty shop.
"Where did you get that child?" I asked of the shoemaker one day.
"Whom do you mean? Bill?"
"Yes, the little fellow you call Bill."
"I took him out of pure charity. His mother died about a year and a
half ago, and if I hadn't taken him in, he would have gone to the
poor house as like as not."
"Who was his mother?"
"She was a poor woman, who sewed for the slopshops for a living--but
their pay won't keep soul and body together."
"And so she died?"
"Yes, she died, and I took her child out of pure charity, as I have
"Is he bound to you?"
"Oh yes. I never take a boy without having him bound."
"What was his mother's name?"
"I believe they called her Mrs. Miller."
"Did you ever meet with her?"
"No: but my wife knew her very well. She was a strange kind of
woman--feeling something above her condition, I should think. She
was always low-spirited, my wife says, but never complained about
any thing. Bill was her only child, and he used to go for her work,
and carry it home when it was finished. She sent him out, too, to
buy every thing. I don't believe she would have stirred beyond her
own door if she had starved to death."
"Pride, I reckon."
"Pride? Why should she be proud?"
"Dear knows! Maybe she once belonged to the bettermost class of
people, and was afraid of meeting some of them in the street."
This brief conversation awoke an interest in my mind for the lad. As
I left the shop, I met him at the door with a large bucket of water
in his hand--too heavy for his strength. I looked at him more
narrowly than I had ever done before. There was a feminine delicacy
about every feature of his face, unusual in boys who ordinarily
belong to the station he was filling. His eyes, too, had a softer
expression, and his brow was broader and fairer. The intentness with
which I looked at him, caused him to look at me as intently. What
thoughts were awakened in his mind I could not tell. I put my hand
upon his head, involuntarily; but did not speak to him; and then
passed on. I could not help turning to take another glance at the
boy. He had turned also. I saw that there were tears in his eyes.
"Poor fellow!" I murmured, "he is out of his place." I did, not go
back to speak to him, as I wished afterward that I had done, but
kept on my way.
Not having occasion to visit the shoemaker's wife again for some
months, this boy did not, during the time, fall under my notice. It
was midwinter when I next saw him.
I was preparing to go out one stormy morning in February, when a lad
came into my office. He was drenched to the skin by the rain, that
was driving fiercely along under the pressure of a strong
northeaster, and shivering with cold. His teeth chattered so that it
was some time before he could make known his errand. I noticed that
he was clad in a much worn suit of common corduroy, the cracks in
which, here and there, showed the red skin beneath, and proved
clearly enough that this was all that protected him from the bitter
cold. One of his shoes gaped widely at the toe; and the other was
run down at the heel so badly, that part of his foot and old ragged
stocking touched the floor. A common sealskin cap, with the front
part nearly torn off, was in his hand. He had removed this from his
head on entering, and stood, with his eyes now resting on mine, and
now dropping beneath my gaze, waiting for me to ask his errand. I
did not recognise him.
"Well, my little man," I said, "is any one sick?"
"Please sir, Mr. Maxwell wants you to come down and see Johnny."
"Mr. Maxwell! Do you live with Mr. Maxwell?"
I now recognized the lad. He was a good deal changed since I last
saw him, and changed for the worse.
"What is the matter with Johnny?" I asked.
"I believe he's got the croup."
"Indeed! Is he very sick?"
"Yes, sir. He can't hardly breathe at all, and goes all the time
just so--" Imitating the wheezing sound attendant upon constricted
"Very well, my boy, I will be there in a little while, But, bless
me! you will get the croup as well as Johnny, if you go out in such
weather as this and have on no warmer clothing than covers you now.
Come up to the stove and warm yourself--you are shivering all over.
Why did not you bring an umbrella?"
"Mr. Maxwell never lets me take the umbreller," said the boy
"He doesn't? But he sends you out in the rain?"
"Oh yes--always. Sometimes I am wet all day."
"Doesn't it make you sick?"
"I feel bad, and ache all over sometimes after I have been wet; and
sometimes my face swells up and pains me so I can't sleep."
"Do not your feet get very cold? Have you no better shoes than
"I've got a better pair of shoes: but they hurt my feet so I can't
wear them. Thomas, one of the boys, gave me these old ones."
"Why do they hurt your feet? Are they too small?"
"No, sir, I don't think they are. But my feet are sore."
I feared as much as this. "What is the matter with your feet?" I
"I don't know, sir. The boys say that nothing's the matter with
them, only they're a little snow-burnt."
"How do they feel?"
"They burn and itch, and are so tender I can hardly touch them. I
can't sleep at nights sometimes for the burning and itching."
I examined the boy's feet, and found them red, shining and tumefied,
with other indications of a severe attack of chilblains.
"What have you done for your feet?" I asked. "Does Mr. Maxwell know
they are so bad?"
"I showed them to him, and he said it was only a snow-burn, and that
I must put my feet in snow and let it draw the cold out."
"Did you do so?"
"Yes, sir, as long as I could bear it; but it hurt dreadful bad. Mr.
Maxwell said I didn't keep them in half long enough."
"Were they better afterward?"
"Yes, sir, I think they were; but I go out so much in the snow, and
get them wet so often, that they can't get well."
"What is your name?" I asked.
"Is your mother alive?"
The tone and manner of the boy, when he gave a half inarticulate
negative, made me regret having asked the question. It was a
needless one, for already knew that his mother was dead. It was
meant, however, as a preliminary inquiry, and, having been made, I
proceeded to question him, in order to learn something, briefly, of
"Were you born in Baltimore?" I continued.
"Have you any relatives here?"
"Mr. P----W----is my uncle."
"Mr. W----?" I said, in surprise.
"Yes, sir--mother said he was my uncle."
"Is he your mother's brother?"
"Did he ever come to see your mother?"
"No, sir, he never came near us, and mother never went to see him."
"What was the reason?"
"I don't know, sir."
The child continued to look intently in my face, but I questioned
him no further. I knew Mr. W----very well, and settled it at once in
my mind that I would call and see him about the lad. I stood musing
for some moments after the boy's last reply, and then said--
"Tell Mr. Maxwell, that I will call down in about half an hour: Run
home as quickly as you can, and try and keep out of the rain."
The sad, rebuking earnestness with which the boy looked at me, when
I said this, touched my feelings. He had, evidently, expected more
than a mere expression of sympathy; but I did not think it right to
create any false hopes in his mind. I meant to do all I could to
relieve his wretched condition; but did not know how far I would be
I found, on visiting the child of Maxwell, that I had quite a severe
case of croup on my hands. His respiration was very difficult, and
sounded as if the air were forced through a metallic tube. There was
a good deal of fever, and other unfavourable symptoms. The
albuminous secretion was large, and the formation of the false
membrane so rapid as to threaten suffocation. I resorted to the
usual treatment in such cases, and, happily, succeeded in producing
a healthy change in the course of a few hours. So urgent had been
the case, that, in attending to it, my mind had lost sight of the
little boy on my first and second visits. As I was leaving the house
on the morning succeeding the day on which I had been called in, I
met him coming along the passage with an armful of wood. The look he
gave me, as he passed, rebuked my forgetfulness, and forced me to
turn back and speak to his master.
"Look here, Maxwell," I said, speaking decidedly, but in a voice so
low that my words could not be heard distinctly by others in the
room--"you must take better care of that boy Bill, or you will get
"How so, doctor? I am not aware that I ill-treat him," returned the
shoemaker, looking up with surprise.
"He is not clothed warmly enough for such weather as this."
"You must be mistaken. He has never complained of not feeling warm."
I took hold of Maxwell's pantaloons. They were made of coarse, thick
cloth, and I perceived that there were thick woollen drawers under
"Take off these heavy trowsers and drawers," said I, and in place of
them put on a pair of half-worn corduroy pantaloons, "and go out of
doors and stand in the rain until you are drenched to the skin. The
experiment will enable you to decide for yourself whether Bill is
warmly enough clad."
I spoke with earnestness. Either my manner, or what I said, produced
a strong effect upon the shoemaker. I could see that I had offended
him, and that he was struggling to keep down a feeling of anger that
was ready to pour itself forth upon me for having presumed to remark
upon and interfere with his business.
"Understand me," said I, wishing to prevent the threatened outbreak
of passion, "I speak as a physician, and my duty as a physician
requires me to do so. The knowledge of, and the experience in
diseases, which I possess, enable me to understand better than other
men the causes that produce them, and to give, as I should give, to
the unthinking, a warning of danger. And this I give to you now."
"All very well, doctor," returned Maxwell, "if you don't raise false
"Do you think I have done so in the present case?"
"I don't think any thing about it. I know you have."
"Then you think the lad warmly enough clothed?"
"If I did not think so, I would dress him more warmly."
"You have on three times the thickness of clothing that he has." I
fixed my eyes intently on the man as I spoke.
"And his blood is three times as warm as mine. I need not tell you
"How do you know?"
"How do I know?" speaking contemptuously--"does not everybody know
"How hot do you suppose your blood is?"
"I don't know."
"Let us suppose it to be eighty degrees. Three times eighty would be
two hundred and forty. Water boils at two hundred and twelve. If it
be indeed true that the lad's blood is above the boiling-point, I
must agree with you that his clothes are quite sufficient to keep
out the cold at any season."
"You understand me well enough, doctor," replied Maxwell, exhibiting
a good deal of confusion. "I mean that a boy's blood is much warmer
than a man's, which, with his greater activity, causes him to be
less affected by cold. I have seen a good deal of boys, and have
been a boy myself, and know all about it."
"Generally speaking, what you affirm about the greater warmth of
young persons is true," I said to this. "But there are many
exceptions. It is true, where there is good health, good spirits,
plenty of good food, and activity. But it is not true where these
are lacking. Nor is it true in any case to the extent you seem to
imagine. Particularly is it not true in the case of the boy about
whom we are conversing."
"Why not in his case, doctor? I can see no reason."
"He has not the vital activity of most boys of his age, and
consequently not the warmth of body. His face is pale and thin, and
his limbs have not the fulness of youth. He has no activity in his
"Because he is a lazy fellow," replied the shoemaker, knitting his
brows. "He wants the strap two or three times a day; that would make
his blood circulate freely enough."
"Brutal wretch!" I could hardly keep from exclaiming. But for the
boy's sake I put a curb upon my feelings.
"In doing so," I quietly replied, "you would be guilty of sad
cruelty and injustice. The lad can no more help what you call
laziness, than you could help being born with gray eyes. It his
natural bodily temperament. He has not the robust constitution we
see in most boys; and this is his misfortune, not his fault."
Maxwell replied to this by pushing out his lips, drawing up his
chin, half closing his eyes, and nodding his head in a very
contemptuous manner; saying almost as plainly as words could express
it--"All gammon, doctor! You needn't try to come over me with that
kind of nonsense."
Satisfied that it would be useless to say any thing more upon the
subject at that time, I turned away, remarking as I did so--
"If you are not influenced by my advice in this matter, you may
chance to feel more potent reasons. A word to the wise is
The shoemaker made no reply, and we parted. My first impression was
to go immediately to Mr. W----and apprize him of the condition of
his nephew. But a little reflection convinced me that it would be
much better to make some previous inquiries in regard to his family,
and endeavour to ascertain the reason of his estrangement from his
sister. I would then be able to act with more certainty of success.
I soon obtained all the information I desired. The history was an
impressive one. I will give it as briefly as possible.
Anna W----, at the age of twenty, was esteemed and beloved by all
who knew her. Her family was one of wealth and standing, and she
moved in our first circles. She had but one brother, to whom she was
tenderly attached. Philip was her elder by some years. Among the
many who sought the regard of Anna, was a young man named Miller,
who had been for years the intimate friend of her brother. Extremely
fond of his sister, and highly valuing his friend for his many
estimable qualities, Philip was more than gratified when he saw
evidences of attachment springing up between them.
Besides Miller, Anna had another suitor, a young man named
Westfield, who had become quite intimate with her, but who had made
no open declaration of love before Miller came forward and offered
for her hand. Westfield loved Anna passionately, but hesitated to
declare his feelings, long after he had come to the conclusion that
without her for his companion through life, existence would be
undesirable. This arose from the fact of his not being certain in
regard to the maiden's sentiments, Anna was always kind, but
reserved. She was, he could see, ever pleased to meet him; but how
far this pleasure was the same that she experienced in meeting other
friends, he could not tell. While thus hesitating, business required
him to go to New Orleans, and spend some months there. Before
leaving he called three several times upon Miss W----, with the
intention of making known his sentiments, but each time shrank from
the avowal, and finally resolved that he would make the declaration
in writing immediately on his arrival at New Orleans. With this
object in view, he asked her if she were willing to correspond with
him. Anna hesitated a moment or two before replying, and then
assented with a blushing cheek.
For some months before this, Miller had shown more than his usual
attentions to the sister of his friend; and these had been
sufficiently marked to attract Anna's notice. He was a man of
intelligence, fine attainments, honourable sentiments, and of good
personal appearance. To his attractions the maiden was by no means
insensible. But Westfield had a prior claim upon her heart--she
admired the former, but loved the latter unacknowledged to herself.
Immediately on his arrival at New Orleans, Westfield wrote to Anna,
but did not speak of the true nature of his feelings. The letter
touched upon all subjects but the one nearest to his heart. Anna
replied to it briefly, and with evident reserve. This threw such a
damper upon the young man, that he did not write again for nearly
two months, and then not with the warmth and freedom that had
distinguished his first letter.
Meantime, Miller grew more and more constant in his attentions to
Anna: To second these attentions, Philip W----frequently alluded to
his friend in terms of admiration. Gradually Anna became interested
in the young man, and pleased whenever he made her a visit. When
Westfield asked the privilege of opening a correspondence with her,
she believed, from many corroborating circumstances, that he
designed formally addressing her, and that the correspondence would
lead to that result. But as his letters, with the lapse of time,
grew less and less frequent, and more constrained and formal, she
was led to form a different opinion. During all this time Miller's
attentions increased, and Anna's feelings became more and more
interested. Finally, an offer of marriage was made, and, after due
reflection accepted. Three days afterward Miss W----received the
"NEW ORLEANS, June.8th, 18--.
"MY DEAR ANNA,
"A letter from an intimate and mutual friend prompts me at once to
open to you my whole heart. For many months--nay, for more than a
year--I have loved you with an ardour that has made your image ever
present with me, sleeping or waking. Often and often have I resolved
to declare this sentiment, but a foolish weakness has hitherto kept
me silent; and now the danger of losing you constrains me to speak
out as abruptly as freely. When I asked the privilege of opening a
correspondence with you, it was that I might, in my very first
epistle, say what I am now saying; but the same weakness and
hesitation remained. Many times I wrote all I wished to say, folded
and sealed the letter, and--cast it into the flames. I had not the
courage to send it. Foolish weakness! I tremble to think of the
consequences that may follow. Dear Anna!--I will thus address you
until you forbid the tender familiarity, and bid my yearning heart
despair--Dear Anna! write me at once and let me know my fate. Do not
wait for a second post. Until I hear from you I shall be the most
unhappy of mortals. If your heart is still free--if no promise to
another has passed your lips, let me urge my suit by all the
tenderest, holiest, and purest, considerations. No one can love you
with a fervour and devotion surpassing mine; no heart can beat
responsive to your own more surely than mine; no one can cherish you
in his heart of hearts, until life shall cease, more tenderly than I
will cherish you. But I will write no more. Why need I? I shall
count the days and hours until your answer come.
"Yours, in life and death,
Tears gushed from the eyes of Anna W----, as she read the last line
of this unlooked for epistle, her whole frame trembled, and her
heart beat heavily in her bosom. It was a long time before she was
sufficiently composed to answer the letter. When she did answer, it
was, briefly, thus--
"BALTIMORE, June 28, 18--.
"MR. H. WESTFIELD.
"Dear Sir:--Had your letter of the 18th, come a week earlier, my
answer might have been different. Now I can only bid you forget me.
"Forget you?" was the answer received to this. "Forget you? Bid me
forget myself! No, I can never forget you. A week!--a week earlier?
Why should a single week fix our fates for ever. You are not
married. That I learn from my friend. It need not, then, be too
late. If you love me, as I infer from your letter, throw yourself
upon the magnanimity of the man to whom you are betrothed, and he
will release you from your engagement. I know him. He is
generous-minded, and proud. Tell him he has not and cannot have your
whole heart. That will be enough. He will bid you be free."
The reply of Anna was in these few words. "Henry Westfield; it is
too late. Do not write to me again. I cannot listen to such language
as you use to me without dishonour."
This half-maddened the young man. He wrote several times urging Anna
by every consideration he could name to break her engagement with
Miller. But she laid his letters aside unanswered.
An early day for the marriage was named. The stay of Westfield at
the South was prolonged several months beyond the time at first
determined upon. He returned to Baltimore a month after the proposed
union of Anna with Miller had been consummated.
Although induced, from the blinding ardency of his feelings, to urge
Anna to break the engagement she had formed, this did not arise from
any want of regard in his mind to the sacredness of the marriage
relation. So suddenly had the intelligence of her contract with
Miller come upon him, coupled with the admission that if his
proposal had come a week earlier it might have been accepted, that
for a time his mind did not act with its usual clearness. But, when
the marriage of her he so idolized took place, Westfield, as a man
of high moral sense, gave up all hope, and endeavoured to banish
from his heart the image of one who had been so dearly beloved. On
his return to Baltimore, he did not attempt to renew his
acquaintance with Anna. This he deemed imprudent, as well as wrong.
But, as their circle of acquaintance was the same, and as the
husband and brother of Anna were his friends, it was impossible for
him long to be in the city without meeting, her. They met a few
weeks after his return, at the house of a friend who had a large
company. Westfield saw Anna at the opposite side of one of the
parlours soon after he came in. The question of leaving the house
came up and was some time debated. This he finally determined not to
do, for several reasons. He could not always avoid her; and the
attempt to do so would only make matters worse, for it would attract
attention and occasion remarks. But, although he remained with the
company, he preferred keeping as distant as possible from Anna. His
feelings were yet too strong. To meet her calmly was impossible, and
to meet her in any other way, would, he felt, be wrong. While he
thus thought and felt, the husband of Anna touched him on the arm
"Come! I must introduce you to my wife. You were one of her old
friends, but have not once called upon her since your return from
the South. She complains of your neglect, and, I think, justly.
Westfield could not hesitate. There was no retreat. In a space of
time shorter than it takes to write this sentence, he was standing
before the young bride, struggling manfully for the mastery over
himself. This was only partial--not complete. Anna, on the contrary,
exhibited very few, if any signs of disturbance. She received him
with a warm, frank, cordial manner, that soon made him feel at
ease--it caused a pleasant glow in his bosom. As soon as they had
fairly entered into conversation, the young husband left them. His
presence had caused Westfield to experience some restraint; this
gave way as soon as he withdrew to another part of the room, and he
felt that no eye but an indifferent one was upon him. An hour passed
like a minute. When supper was announced, Westfield offered his arm
to conduct Anna to the refreshment room. She looked around for her
husband, and, not seeing him, accepted. the attention. Just as they
were about leaving the parlour, Miller came up, and Westfield
offered to resign his wife to his care, but he politely declined
taking her from his arm. At supper, the husband and the former lover
seemed to vie with each other in their attention to Anna, who never
felt happier in her life. Why she experienced more pleasurable
feelings than usual, she did not pause to inquire. She was conscious
of being happy, and that was all.
From that time, Westfield became a regular visiter at the house of
Mr. Miller, with whom he was now more intimate than before. He came
and went without ceremony, and frequently spent hours with Anna
while her husband was away. This intimacy continued for two or three
years without attracting any attention from the social gossips who
infest every circle.
"It is high time you were married."
"Westfield, why don't you go more into company?"
"I really believe you are in love with Mrs. Miller."
Were laughing remarks often made by his friends, to which he always
made some laughing answer; but no one dreamed of thinking his
intimacy with Anna an improper one. He was looked upon as a warm
friend of both her husband and herself, and inclined to be something
of an "old bachelor." If she were seen at the theatre, or on the
street, with Westfield, it was looked upon almost as much a matter
of course as if she were with her husband. It is but fair to state,
that the fact of his ever having been an avowed lover was not known,
except to a very few. He had kept his own secret, and so had the
object of his misplaced affection.
No suspicion had ever crossed the generous mind of Miller, although
there were times when he felt that his friend was in the way, and
wished that his visits might be less frequent and shorter. But such
feelings were of rare occurrence. One day, about three years after
his marriage, a friend said to him, half in jest, and half in
"Miller, a'n't you jealous of Westfield?"
"Oh yes--very jealous," he returned, in mock seriousness.
"I don't think I would like my wife's old flame to be quite as
intimate with her as Westfield is with your wife."
"Perhaps I would be a little jealous if I believed him to be an old
"Don't you know it?"
The tone and look that accompanied this question, more than the
question itself, produced an instant revulsion in Miller's feelings.
"No, I do not know it!" he replied, emphatically--"Do _you_ know
Conscious that he had gone too far, the friend hesitated, and
"Why have you spoken to me in the way that you have done? Are you
jesting or in earnest?"
Miller's face was pale, and his lip quivered as he said this.
"Seriously, my friend," replied the other, "if you do not know that
Westfield was a suitor to your wife, and only made known his love to
her after you had offered her your hand, it is time that you did
know it. I thought you were aware of this."
"No, I never dreamed of such a thing. Surely it cannot be true."
"I know it to be true, for I was in correspondence with Westfield,
and was fully aware of his sentiments. Your marriage almost set him
As soon as Miller could get away from the individual who gave him
this startling information, he turned his steps homeward. He did not
ask himself why he did so. In fact, there was no purpose in his
mind. He felt wretched beyond description. The information just
conveyed, awakened the most dreadful suspicions, that would not
yield to any effort his generous feelings made to banish them.
On arriving at home, (it was five o'clock in the afternoon,) he
found that his wife had gone out; and further learned that Westfield
had called for her in a carriage, and that they had ridden out
together. This information did not, in the least, tend to quiet the
uneasiness he felt.
Going up into the chambers, he noticed many evidences of Anna's
having dressed, herself to go out, in haste. The door of the
wardrobe stood open, and also one of her drawers, with her bunch of
keys lying upon the bureau. The dress she had on when he left her at
dinner-time, had been changed for another, and, instead of being
hung up, was thrown across a chair.
The drawer that stood open was her private drawer, in which she kept
all her trinkets, and little matters particularly her own. Its
contents her husband had never seen, and had never desired to see.
Now, however, something more than mere curiosity prompted him to
look somewhat narrowly into its contents. In one corner of this
drawer he found a small casket, beautifully inlaid, that had never
before come under his notice. Its workmanship was costly and
exquisite. He lifted it and examined it carefully, and then taking
the bunch of keys that lay before him, tried the smallest in the
lock. The lid flew open. A few letters, and a small braid of hair,
were its only contents. These letters were addressed to her under
her maiden name. The husband was about unfolding one of them, when
he let it fall suddenly into the casket, saying, as he did so--
"No, no! I have no right to read these letters. They were not
addressed to my wife." With an effort he closed the drawer and
forced himself from the room. But the fact that Westfield had been a
suitor for the hand of Anna, and was now on terms of the closest
intimacy with her, coming up vividly in his mind, he came, after
some reflection, to the firm conclusion that he ought to know the
contents of letters treasured so carefully--letters that he had
every reason now to believe were from Westfield. Their post-mark he
had noticed. They were from New Orleans.
After again hesitating and debating the question for some time, he
finally determined to know their contents. He read them over and
over again, each sentence almost maddening him. They were from
Westfield. The reader already knows their contents. From their
appearance, it was evident that they had been read over very many
times; one of them bore traces of tears. For some time the feelings
of Miller were in a state of wild excitement. While this continued,
had his wife or Westfield appeared, he would have been tempted to
commit some desperate act. But this state gradually gave way to a
more sober one. The letters were replaced carefully, the casket
locked, and every thing restored to its former appearance. The
husband then sat down to reflect, as calmly as was in his power,
upon the aspect of affairs. The more he thought, the more closely he
compared the sentiments of the letters so carefully treasured with
the subsequent. familiarity of his wife with Westfield, the more
satisfied was he that he had been deeply and irreparably
wronged--wronged in a way for which there was no atonement.
As this conviction fully formed itself in his mind, the question of
what he should do came up for immediate decision. He had one child,
about eighteen months old, around whom his tenderest affections had
entwined themselves; but when he remembered that his friend's
intimacy with his wife had run almost parallel with their marriage,
a harrowing suspicion crossed his mind, and made his heart turn from
the form of beauty and innocence it had loved so purely.
The final conclusion of the agonized husband was to abandon his wife
at once, taking with him the corroborating evidence of her
unfaithfulness. He returned to her private drawer, and taking from
it the letters of Westfield and the braid of hair, placed them in
his pocket. He then packed his clothes and private papers in a
trunk, which he ordered to be sent to Gadsby's Hotel. Half an hour,
before his wife's return, he had abandoned her for ever.
When Mrs. Miller came home, it was as late as tea-time. She was
accompanied by Westfield, who came into the house with his usual
familiarity, intending to share with the family in their evening
meal, and enjoy a social hour afterward.
Finding that her husband was not in the parlour--it was past the
usual hour of his return--nor anywhere in the house, Mrs. Miller
inquired if he had not been home.
"Oh yes, ma'am," said the servant to whom she spoke, "he came home
more than two hours ago."
"Did he go out again?" she asked, without suspicion of any thing
"Yes, ma'am. He went up-stairs and stayed a good while, and then
came down and told Ben to take his trunk to Gadsby's."
The face of Mrs. Miller blanched in an instant. She turned quickly
away and ran up to her chamber. Her drawer, which she had not
noticed before, stood open. She eagerly seized her precious casket;
this, too, was open, and the contents gone! Strength and
consciousness remained long enough for her to reach the bed, upon
which she fell, fainting.
When the life-blood once more flowed through her veins, and she was
sufficiently restored to see what was passing around her, she found
the servants and Westfield standing by her bedside. The latter
looked anxiously into her face. She motioned him to come near. As he
bent his ear low toward her face, she whispered--
"Leave me. You must never again visit this house, nor appear to be
on terms of intimacy with me."
"Go, Mr. Westfield. Let what I have said suffice. Neither of us have
acted with the prudence that should have governed our conduct, all
things considered. Go at once! In time you will know enough, and
more than enough."
Westfield still hesitated, but Mrs. Miller motioned him away with an
imperative manner; he then withdrew, looking earnestly back at every
A glass of wine and water was ordered by Anna, after drinking which,
she arose from the bed, and desired all her domestics to leave the
Meantime, her husband was suffering the most poignant anguish of
mind. On retiring to a hotel, he sent for the brother of his wife,
and to him submitted the letters he had taken from Anna's casket.
After they had been hurriedly perused, he said--
"You know the intimacy of Westfield with Anna. Put that fact
alongside of these letters and their careful preservation, and what
is your conclusion?"
"Accursed villain!" exclaimed W----, grinding his teeth and stamping
upon the floor, his anger completely overmastering him. "His life
shall pay the price of my sister's dishonour. Madness!"
"You think, then, as I do," said the husband, with forced calmness,
"that confidence, nay, every thing sacred and holy, has been
"Can I doubt? If these were his sentiments," (holding up the letters
of Westfield,) "before my sister's marriage, can they have changed
immediately afterward. No, no; our confidence has been basely
betrayed. But the wretch shall pay for this dearly."
On the next day W----called upon Westfield in company with a friend
who had possession of the letters, and who read them as a
preliminary explanation of the cause of the visit.
"Did you write those letters?" W----asked, with a stern aspect.
"I certainly did," was the firm reply. "Do you question my right to
"No: not your right to make known to my sister your sentiments
before marriage, but your right to abuse her husband's confidence
"Who dares say that I did?"
"I dare say it," returned the brother, passionately.
"You! Bring your proof."
"I want no better proof than the fact that, entertaining sentiments
such as are here avowed, you have visited her at all times, and
under nearly all circumstances. You have abused a husband's and a
brother's confidence. You have lain like a stinging viper in the
bosom of friendship."
"It is false!" replied Westfield, emphatically.
W----'s feelings were chafed to the utmost already. This remark
destroyed entirely the little self-control that remained. He sprang
toward Westfield, and would have grappled his throat, had not his
friend, who had feared some such result, been perfectly on his
guard, and stepped between the two men in time to prevent a
Nothing was now left W----but to withdraw, with his friend. A
challenge to mortal combat followed immediately. A meeting was the
result, in which Westfield was severely wounded. This made public
property of the whole matter; and as public feeling is generally on
the side of whoever is sufferer, quite a favourable impression of
the case began to prevail, grounded upon the denial of Westfield to
the charge of improper intimacy with Mrs. Miller. But this feeling
soon changed. The moment Mrs. Miller heard that Westfield had been
seriously wounded by her brother, she flew to his bedside, and
nursed him with unwearying devotion for three weeks; when he died of
inflammation arising from his wound.
This act sealed her fate: it destroyed all sympathy for her; it was,
in the mind of every one, proof positive of her guilt. When she
returned home, the house was closed against her. An application for
a divorce had already been laid before the legislature; then in
session at Annapolis, and, as the inferential proofs of defection
were strongly corroborated by Mrs. Miller's conduct after the
hostile meeting between Westfield and her brother, the application
was promptly granted, with the provision of five hundred dollars a
year for her support. The decision of the legislature, with
information of the annual amount settled upon her, were communicated
through the attorney of her husband. Her only answer was a prompt
and indignant refusal to accept the support the law had awarded her.
From that moment she sank into obscurity with her child, and with
her own hands earned the bread that sustained both their lives. From
that moment until the day of her death, all intercourse with her
family and friends was cut off. How great were her sufferings, no
one can know. They must have been nearly up to the level of human
I learned this much from one who had been intimate with all the
circumstances. He remembered the duel very well, but had never
before understood the true cause. My informant had no knowledge
whatever of Mrs. Miller from the time of her divorce up to the
period of my inquiries. Miller himself still lived. I had some
slight acquaintance with him.
Under this aspect of things, I hardly knew what course to pursue in
order to raise the lad at Maxwell's above his present unhappy
condition. I entertained, for some time, the idea of communicating
with his father and uncle on the subject; but I could not make up my
mind to do this. The indignation with which they had thrown off his
erring mother, and the total oblivion that had been permitted to
fall upon her memory, made me fearful that to approach them on the
subject would accomplish no good for the boy, and might place me in
a very unpleasant position toward them. Thus far I had kept my own
counsel, although the nature of my inquiries about Mrs. Miller had
created some curiosity in the minds of one or two, who asked me a
good many questions that I did not see proper to answer directly.
"The child is innocent, even if the mother were guilty." This I said
to myself very frequently, as a reason why I should make every
effort in my power to create an interest in favour of little Bill,
and get him out of the hands of his master, who, in my view, treated
him With great cruelty. In thinking about the matter, it occurred to
me that in case Mrs. Miller were innocent of the derelictions
charged upon her, she would leave some evidence of the fact, for the
sake of her child at least. So strongly did this idea take hold of
my mind, that I determined to question Bill closely about his mother
as early as I could get an opportunity. This did not occur for
several weeks. I then met the boy in the street, hobbling along with
difficulty. I stopped him and asked him what ailed his feet. He said
they were sore, and all cracked open, and hurt him so that he could
"Come round to my office and let me see them," said I.
"I am going to take these shoes to the binder's,"--he had a package
of "uppers" in his hand--"and must be back in twenty minutes, or Mr.
Maxwell says he will give me the strap." The boy made this reply,
and then hobbled on as fast as he could.
"Stop, stop, my lad," I called after him. "I want you for a little
while, and will see that Mr. Maxwell does not give you the strap.
You must come to my office and get something done for your feet."
"They are very bad," he said, turning round, and looking down at
them with a pitiable expression on his young face.
"I know they are, and you must have something done for them
"Let me go to the binder's first."
"Very well. Go to the binder's. But be sure to come to my office as
you return; I want to see you particularly."
My words made the blood rush to the child's pale face. Hope again
was springing up in his bosom.
In about ten minutes he entered my office. His step was lighter, but
I could see that each footfall gave him pain. The first thing I did
was to examine his feet. They were in a shocking condition. One of
them had cracked open in several places, and the wounds had become
running sores; other parts were red and shining, and much swollen, I
dressed them carefully. When I came to replace his shoes, I found
them so dilapidated and out of shape, as to be no protection to his
feet whatever, but rather tending to fret them, and liable to rub
off the bandages I had put on. To remedy this, I sent my man out for
a new pair, of soft leather. When these were put on, and he stood
upon, his feet, he said that they did not hurt him at all. I needed
not his declaration of the fact to convince me of this, for the
whole expression of his face had changed. His eyes were no longer
fixed and sad; nor were his brows drawn down, nor his lips
"I think you told me that your name was Miller?" I said to him, as
he stood looking earnestly in my face after the dressing of his feet
"Yes, sir," he replied.
"And that your mother was dead?"
"I think you said that W----was your uncle?"
"Yes, sir. Mother told me that he was my uncle."
"Is your father living?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Did your mother ever speak to you about him?"
"Then you can't tell whether he is living or not?"
"No, sir; but I suppose he is dead."
"Why do you think so?"
"Because I never saw him, nor heard mother speak of him."
"You are sure your name is Miller?"
"Oh yes, sir."
"And that Mr. W----is your uncle?"
"My mother said he was."
"Did you ever see him?"
"Why don't you go, to see him, and tell him who you are?"
"I asked mother, one day, to let me do so, but she said I must never
think of such a thing."
"I don't know."
"And so you never went to see him?"
"No, indeed; mother said I must not." This was said with great
"What became of your mother's things after she died?"
"The woman we rented from took them all. Mother owed her, she said."
"Indeed! Where did you live?"
"In Commerce street, three or four doors from Mr. Maxwell's. Mother
rented a room up-stairs."
"Does the woman live there still?"
"Do you ever go to see her?"
"No, sir; she won't let me come into the house."
"I cannot tell. She was going to send me to the poorhouse, when Mr.
Maxwell took me in. I have often and often wanted to see the room
where we lived in, and where mother died, but she wouldn't let me go
up. One day I begged and cried for her to let me go up--I wanted to,
so bad; but she called me a dirty little brat, and told me to go
about my business, or she would get Mr. Maxwell to give me a
beating. I never have tried to go there since."
"What is the woman's name?"
"Her name is Mrs. Claxon."
"And she lives three or four doors from Mr. Maxwell's?"
"I am going home with you in a little while, and will get you to
show me the house. Your mother had some furniture in her room?"
"Yes, sir. We had a bureau, and a bedstead, and a good many things."
"Do you know what was in the bureau?"
"Mother had a beautiful little box that was always locked. It had
letters in it, I think."
"Did you ever see her reading them?"
"Oh yes, often, when she thought I was asleep; and she would cry,
sometimes, dreadful hard."
"This box Mrs. Claxon kept?"
"Yes, sir; she kept every thing."
"Very well. We will see if we can't make her give up some of the
"If she will give me that little box, she may have every thing
else," said the lad.
"Why are you so desirous to have that box?"
"I sometimes think if I could get that box, and all the letters and
papers it had in it, that I would be able to know better who I am,
and why I mustn't go and see my uncle, who is rich, and could take
me away from where I am now."
"You don't like to live with Mr. Maxwell, then?"
"Oh no, sir."
I did not question him as to the reason; that was unnecessary.
After putting up one or two prescriptions, (we had not then fallen
into the modern more comfortable mode of _writing_ them,) I told the
boy that I would walk home with him, and excuse him to his master
for having stayed away so long. I had no great difficulty in doing
this, although the shoemaker seemed at first a little fretted at my
having taken up the lad's cause again. In passing to his shop, the
house where Mrs. Claxon lived was pointed out to me. Before leaving,
I made Maxwell promise to let the boy come up on the next evening to
get his feet dressed, telling him, what was true, that this was
necessary to be done, or very serious consequences might follow.
I then called upon Mrs. Claxon. She was a virago. But the grave and
important face that I put on when I asked if a Mrs. Miller did not
once live in her house, subdued her. After some little hesitation,
she replied in the affirmative.
"I knew as much," I said, thinking it well to let her understand
from the beginning that it would not do to attempt deception.
"She died here, I believe?" I continued.
"Yes, sir; she died in my house."
"She left some property in your hands, did she not?"
"Property? Humph! If you call an old bed and bedstead, with other
trumpery that didn't sell for enough to pay her back rent,
_property_, why, then, she did leave property."
"Of course," I said, calmly. "Whatever she left was property; and,
of course, in taking possession of it, you did so under a regular
legal process. You took out letters of administration, I presume,
and brought in your bill against the effects of the deceased, which
was regularly passed by the Orphans' Court, and paid out of the
amount for which the things sold."
The effect of this was just what I desired. The woman looked
frightened. She had done no such thing, as I knew very well.
"If you have proceeded in this way," I resumed, "all is well enough;
but if you have not done so, I am sorry to say that you will most
likely get yourself into trouble."
"How so, sir?" she asked, with increasing alarm.
"The law is very rigid in all these matters. When a person dies,
there must be a regular administration upon his property. The law
permits no one to seize upon his effects. In the case of Mrs.
Miller, if you were legally authorized to settle her estate, you
can, of course, account for all that came into your hands. Now, I am
about instituting a rigid examination into the matter, and if I do
not get satisfaction, shall have you summoned to appear before the
Orphans' Court, and answer for your conduct. Mrs. Miller was highly
connected, and it is believed had papers in her possession of vital
importance to the living. These were contained in a small casket of
costly and curious workmanship. This casket, with its contents, must
be produced. Can you produce them?"
"Y-y-yes!" the alarmed creature stammered out.
"Very well. Produce them at once, if you wish to save yourself a
world of trouble."
The woman hurried off up-stairs, and presently appeared with the
"It is locked," she said. "I never could find the key, and did not
like to force it open. She handed me the box as she spoke.
"Yes, this is it," I remarked, as if I was perfectly familiar with
the casket. "You are sure the contents have not been disturbed?"
"Oh yes: very sure."
"I trust it will be found so. I will take possession of the casket.
In a few days you will hear from me."
Saying this, I arose and left the house. I directed my steps to the
shop of a locksmith, whose skill quickly gave me access to the
contents. They consisted mainly of papers, written in a delicate
female hand; but there were no letters. Their contents were, to me,
of a most gratifying kind. I read on every, page the injured wife's
innocence. The contents of the first paper I read, I will here
transcribe. Like the others, it was a simple record of feelings,
coupled with declarations of innocence. The object in view, in
writing these, was not fully apparent; although the mother had
evidently in mind her child, and cherished the hope that, after her
death, these touching evidences of the wrong she had endured, would
cause justice to be done to him.
The paper I mentioned was as follows, and appeared to have been
written a short time after her divorce:--
"That I still live, is to me a wonder. But a few short months ago I
was a happy wife, and my husband loved me with a tenderness that
left my heart nothing to ask for. I am now cast off from his
affections, driven from his home, repudiated, and the most horrible
suspicions fastened upon me; And worse, the life of one who never
wronged me by a look, or word, or act--in whose eyes my honour was
as dear as his own--has been murdered. Oh! I shall yet go mad with
anguish of spirit! There are heavy burdens to bear in this life; but
none can be heavier than that which an innocent wife has to endure,
when all accuse her as I am accused, and no hope of justice is left.
"Let me think calmly. Are not the proofs of my guilt strong? Those
letters--those fatal letters--why did I keep them? I had no right to
do so. They should have been destroyed. But I never looked at them
from the day I gave my hand with my heart at the altar to one who
now throws me off as a polluted wretch. But I knew they were there,
and often thought of them; but to have read over one line of their
contents, would have been false to my husband; and that I could not
be, under any temptation. I think Westfield was wrong, under the
circumstances, to visit me as constantly as he did; but my husband
appeared to like his company, and even encouraged him to come. Many
times he has asked him to drive me out, or to attend me to a concert
or the theatre, as he knew that I wished to go, and he had business
that required his attention, or felt a disinclination to leave home.
In not a single instance, when I thus went out, would not my
pleasure have been increased, had my husband been my companion; and
yet I liked the company of Westfield--perhaps too well. The remains
of former feelings may still have lingered, unknown to me, in my
heart. But I was never false to my husband, even in thought; nor did
Westfield ever presume to take the smallest liberty. Indeed, whether
in my husband's presence, or when with me, his manner was polite,
and inclined to be deferential rather than familiar. I believe that
the sentiments he held toward me before my marriage, remained; and
these, while they drew him to my side, made him cherish my honour
and integrity as a wife, as he would cherish the apple of his eye.
And yet he has been murdered, and I have been cast off, while both
were innocent! Fatal haste! Fatal misjudgment! How suddenly have I
fallen from the pinnacle of happiness into the dark pit of despair!
Alas! alas! Who can tell what a day may bring forth?"
Another, and very important paper, which the casket contained, was a
written declaration of Mrs. Miller's innocence, made by Westfield
before his death. It was evidently one of his last acts, and was
penned with a feeble and trembling hand. It was in these impressive
"Solemnly, in the presence of God, and without the hope of living
but a few hours, do I declare that Mrs. Anna Miller is innocent of
the foul charges made against her by her husband and brother, and
that I never, even in thought, did wrong to her honour. I was on
terms of close intimacy with her, and this her husband knew and
freely assented to. I confess that I had a higher regard for her
than for any living woman. She imbodied all my highest conceptions
of female excellence. I was never happier than when in her company.
Was this a crime? It would have been had I attempted to win from her
any thing beyond a sentiment of friendship. But this I never did
after her marriage, and do not believe that she regarded me in any
other light than as her own and her husband's friend. This is all
that, as a dying man, I can do or say. May heaven right the
innocent! HENRY WESTFIELD."
Besides the paper in the handwriting of Mrs. Miller, which I have
given, there were many more, evidently written at various times, but
all shortly after her separation from her husband. They imbodied
many touching allusions to her condition, united with firm
expressions of her entire innocence of the imputation under which
she lay. One sentiment particularly arrested my attention, and
answered the question that constantly arose in my mind, as to why
she did not attempt, by means of Westfield's dying asseveration, to
establish her innocence. It was this:--
"He has prejudged me guilty and cast me off without seeing me or
giving me a hearing, and then insulted me by a legislative tender of
five hundred dollars a year. Does he think that I would save myself,
even from starvation, by means of his bounty? No--no--he does not
know the woman he has wronged."
After going over the entire contents of the casket, I replaced them,
and sent the whole to Mr. Miller, with a brief note, stating that
they had come into my possession in rather a singular manner, and
that I deemed it but right to transmit them to him. Scarcely half an
hour had elapsed from the time my messenger departed, before Miller
himself entered my office, pale and agitated. I had met him a few
times before, and had a slight acquaintance with him.
"This is from you, I believe, doctor?" he said, holding up the note
I had written him.
"How did you come in possession of the casket you sent me?" he
continued as he took the chair I handed him.
I was about replying, when he leaned over toward me, and laying his
hand upon my arm, said, eagerly--
"First tell me, is the writer of its contents living?"
"No," I replied; "she has been dead over two years."
His countenance fell, and he seemed, for some moments, as if his
heart had ceased to beat. "Dead!" he muttered to himself--"dead! and
I have in my hands undoubted proofs of her innocence."
The expression of his face became agonizing.
"Oh, what would I not give if she were yet alive," he continued,
speaking to himself. "Dead--dead--I would rather be dead with her
than living with my present consciousness."
"Doctor," said he, after a pause, speaking in a firmer voice, "let
me know how those papers came into your hands?" I related, as
rapidly as I could, what the reader already knows about little Bill
and his mother dwelling as strongly as I could upon the suffering
condition of the poor boy.
"Good heavens!" ejaculated Miller, as I closed my narrative--"can
all this indeed be true? So much for hasty judgment from
appearances! You have heard the melancholy history of my wife?"
I bowed an assent.
"From these evidences, that bear the force of truth, it is plain
that she was innocent, though adjudged guilty of one of the most
heinous offences against society. Innocent, and yet made to suffer
all the penalties of guilt. Ah, sir--I thought life had already
brought me its bitterest cup: but all before were sweet to the taste
compared with the one I am now compelled to drink. Nothing is now
left me, but to take home my child. But, as he grows up toward
manhood, how can I look him in the face, and think of his mother
whom I so deeply wronged."
"The events of the past, my dear sir," I urged, "cannot be altered.
In a case like this, it is better to look, forward with hope, than
backward with self-reproaches."
"There is little in the future to hope for," was the mournful reply
"But you have a duty to perform, and, in the path of duty, always
"You mean to my much wronged and suffering child. Yes, I have a
duty, and it shall be performed as faithfully as lies in my power.
But I hope for little from that source."
"I think you may hope for much. Your child I have questioned
closely. He knows nothing of his history; does not even know that
his father is alive. The only information he has received from his
mother is, that W----is his uncle."
"Are you sure of this?"
"Oh yes. I have, as I said, questioned him very closely on this
This seemed to relieve the mind of Mr. Miller. He mused for some
minutes, and then said--
"I wish to see my son, and at once remove him from his present
position. May I ask you to accompany me to the place where he now
"I will go with pleasure," I returned, rising.
We left my office immediately, and went direct to Maxwell's shop. As
we entered, we heard most agonizing cries, mingled with hoarse angry
imprecations from the shoemaker and the sound of his strap. He was
whipping some one most severely. My heart misgave me that it was
poor little Bill. We hurried into the shop. It was true. Maxwell had
the child across his knees, and was beating him most cruelly.
"That is your son," I said, in an excited voice to Miller, pointing
to the writhing subject of the shoemaker's ire. In an instant
Maxwell was lying four or five feet from his bench in a corner of
his shop, among the lasts and scraps of leather. A powerful blow on
the side of his head, with a heavy cane, had done his. The father's
hand had dealt it. Maxwell rose to his feet in a terrible fury, but
the upraised cane of Miller, his dark and angry countenance, and his
declaration that if he advanced a step toward him, or attempted to
lay his hand again upon the boy, he would knock his brains out,
cooled his ire considerably.
"Come, my boy," Miller then said, catching hold of the hand of the
sobbing child--"let me take you away from this accursed den for
"Stop!" cried Maxwell, coming forward at this; "you cannot take that
boy away. He is bound to me by law, until he is twenty-one. Bill!
don't you dare to go."
"Villain!" said Miller, in a paroxysm of anger, turning toward
him--"I will have you before the the court in less than twenty-four
hours for inhuman treatment of this child--of _my child_."
As Miller said this, the trembling boy at his side started and
looked eagerly in his face.
"Oh, sir! Are you indeed my father?" said he, in a voice that
thrilled me to the finger ends.
"Yes, William; I am your father, and I have come to take you home."
Tears gushed like rain over the cheeks of the poor boy. He shrank
close to his father's side, and clung to him with a strong grasp,
still looking up into a face that he had never hoped to see, with a
most tender, confiding, hopeful, expressive countenance.
The announcement of the fact subdued the angry shoemaker. He made a
feeble effort at apology, but was cut short by our turning abruptly
from him and carrying of the child he had so shamefully abused.
I parted from the father and son at the first carriage-stand that
came in our way. When I next saw Bill, his appearance was very
different indeed from what it was when I first encountered him. His
father lived some ten years from this time during the most of which
period William was at school or college. At his death he left him a
large property, which remained with him until his own death, which
took place a few years ago. He never I believe, had the most distant
idea of the cause which had separated his mother from his father.
That there had been a separation he knew too well but, he always
shrank from inquiring the reason, and had always remained in
ignorance of the main facts here recorded.
"YOU remember Anna May, who sewed for you about a year ago?" said
one fashionably-dressed lady to another.
"That pale, quiet girl, who made up dresses for the children?"
"The one I sent you."
"Oh yes; very well. I had forgotten her name. What has become of
her? If I remember rightly, I engaged her for a week or two in the
fall; but she did not keep her engagement."
"Poor thing!" said the first lady, whose name was Mrs. Bell, "she'll
keep no more engagements of that kind."
"Why so? Is she dead?" The tone in which these brief questions were
asked, evinced no lively interest in the fate of the poor
"Not dead; but very near the end of life's weary pilgrimage."
"Ah, well! we must all die, I suppose--though it's no pleasant thing
to think about. But I am glad you called in this morning"--the
lady's voice rose into a more cheerful tone--"I was just about
putting on my things to go down to Mrs. Bobinet's opening. You
intend going, of course. I shall be so delighted to have you along,
for I want to consult your taste about a bonnet."
"I came out for a different purpose altogether, Mrs. Ellis," said
Mrs. Bell, "and have called to ask you to go with me."
"To see Anna May."
"What!--that poor seamstress of whom you just spoke?" There was a
look of unfeigned surprise in the lady's countenance.
"Yes; the poor seamstress, Anna May. Her days in this world are
nearly numbered. I was to see her yesterday, and found her very low.
She cannot long remain on this side the river of death. I am now on
my way to her mother's house. Will you not go with me?"
"No, no," replied Mrs. Ellis, quickly, while a shadow fell over her
face; "why should I go? I never took any particular interest in the
girl. And as for dying, every thing in relation thereto is
unpleasant to me. I can't bear to think of death: it makes me
shudder all over."
"You have never looked in the face of death," said Mrs. Lee.
"And never wish to," replied Mrs. Ellis, feelingly. "Oh, if it
wasn't for this terrible consummation, what a joyful thing life
"Anna May has looked death in the face; but does not find his aspect
so appalling. She calls him a beautiful angel, who is about to take
her by the hand, and lead her up gently and lovingly to her Father's
There came into the face of Mrs. Ellis a sudden look of wonder.
"Are you in earnest, Mrs. Bell?"
"Altogether in earnest."
"The mind of the girl is unbalanced."
"No, Mrs. Ellis; never was it more evenly poised. Come with me: it
will do you good."
"Don't urge me, Mrs. Bell. If I go, it will make me sad for a week.
Is the sick girl in want any comfort?--I will freely minister
thereto. But I do not wish to look upon death."
"In this aspect it is beautiful to look upon. Go with me, then. The
experience will be something accompany you through life. The image
of frightful monster is in your mind; you may now have it displaced
by the form of an angel."
"How strangely you talk, Mrs. Bell! How can death be an angel? Is
any thing more terrible than death?"
"The phantom called death, which a diseased imagination conjures up,
may be terrible to look upon; but death itself is a kind messenger,
whose it is to summon us from this world of shadows and changes, to
a world of eternal light and unfading beauty. But come, Mrs. Ellis;
I must urge you to go with me. Do not fear a shock to your feelings,
for none will be experienced."
So earnest were Mrs. Bell's persuasions, that her friend at last
consented to go with her. At no great distance from the elegant
residence of Mrs. Ellis, in an obscure neighbourhood, was a small
house, humble in exterior, and modestly, yet neatly attired within.
At the door of this house the ladies paused, and were admitted by a
woman somewhat advanced in years, on whose mild face sorrow and holy
resignation were beautifully blended.
"How is your daughter?" inquired Mrs. Bell, as soon as they were
seated in the small, neat parlour.
"Not so strong as when you were here yesterday," was answered, with
a faint smile. "She is sinking hourly."
"But continues in the same tranquil, heavenly state?"
"Oh yes." There was a sweet, yet touching earnestness in the
mother's voice. "Dear child! Her life has been pure and unselfish;
and now, when her change is about to come, all is peace, and hope,
and patient waiting for the time when she will be clothed upon with
"Is she strong enough to see any one?" asked Mrs. Bell.
"The presence of others in no way disturbs her. Will you walk up
into her chamber, friends?"
The two ladies ascended the narrow stairs, and Mrs. Ellis found
herself, for the first time in many years, in the presence of one
about to die. A slender girl, with large, mild eyes, and face almost
as white as the pillow it pressed, was before her. The unmistakable
signs of speedy dissolution were on the pale, shrunken features; not
beautiful, in the ordinary acceptation of beauty, but from the pure
spirit within. Radiant with heavenly light was the smile that
instantly played upon her lips.
"How are you to-day, Anna?" kindly inquired Mrs. Bell, as she took
the shadowy hand of the dying girl.
"Weaker in body than when you were here yesterday," was answered;
"but stronger in spirit."
"I have brought Mrs. Ellis to see you. You remember Mrs. Ellis?"
Anna lifted her bright eyes to the face of Mrs. Ellis, and said--
"Oh yes, very well;" and she feebly extended her hand. The lady
touched her hand with an emotion akin to awe. As yet, the scene
oppressed and bewildered her. There was something about it that was
dreamlike and unreal. "Death! death!" she questioned with herself;
"can this be dying?"
"Your day will soon close, Anna," said Mrs. Bell, in a cheerful
"Or, as we say," quickly replied Anna, smiling, "my morning will
soon break. It is only a kind of twilight here. I am waiting for the
"My dear young lady," said Mrs. Ellis, with much earnestness,
bending over the dying girl as she spoke--the newness and
strangeness of the scene had so wrought upon her feelings, that she
could not repress their utterance--"Is all indeed as you say? Are
you inwardly so calm, so hopeful, so confident of the morning?
Forgive me such a question, at such a moment. But the thought of
death has ever been terrible to me; and now, to see a fellow-mortal
standing, as you are, so near the grave, and yet speaking in
cheerful tones of the last agony, fills me with wonder. Is it all
real? Are you so full of heavenly tranquillity?"
Was the light dimmed in Anna's eyes by such pressing questions? Did
they turn her thoughts too realizingly upon the "last agony?" Oh no!
Even in the waning hours of life, her quickest impulse was to render
service to another. Earnest, therefore, was her desire to remove
from the lady's mind this fear of death, even though she felt the
waters of Jordan already touching her own descending feet.
"God is love," she said, and with an emphasis that gave to the mind
of Mrs. Ellis a new appreciation of the words. "In his love he made
us, that he might bless us with infinite and eternal blessings, and
these await us in heaven. And now that he sends an angel to take me
by the hand and lead me up to my heavenly home, shall I tremble and
fear to accompany the celestial messenger? Does the child, long
separated from a loving parent, shrink at the thought of going home,
or ask the hours to linger? Oh no!"
"But all is so uncertain," said Mrs. Ellis, eager to penetrate
further into the mystery.
"Uncertain!" There was something of surprise in the voice of Anna
May. "God is truth as well as love; and both in his love and truth
he is unchangeable. When, as Divine Truth, he came to our earth, and
spake as never man spake, he said, 'In my Father's house are many
mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.' The heavens and the
earth may pass away, Mrs. Ellis, but not a jot or tittle of the
divine word can fail."
"Ah! but the preparation for those heavenly mansions!" said Mrs.
Ellis. "The preparation, Anna! Who may be certain of this?"
The eyes of the sick girl closed, the long lashes resting like a
dark fringe on her snowy cheek. For more than a moment she lay
silent and motionless; then looking up, she answered--
"God is love. If we would be with him, we must be like him."
"How are we to be like him, Anna?" asked Mrs. Ellis.
"He is love; but not a love of himself. He loves and seeks to bless
others. We must do the same."
"And have you, Anna"--
But the words died on the lips of the speaker. Again had the
drooping lashes fallen, and the pale lids closed over the beautiful
eyes. And now a sudden light shone through the transparent tissue of
that wan face--a light, the rays of which none who saw them needed
to be told were but gleams of the heavenly morning just breaking for
the mortal sleeper.
How hushed the room--how motionless the group that bent forward
toward the one just passing away! Was it the rustle of angels
garments that penetrated the inward sense of hearing?
It is over! The pure spirit of that humble girl, who, in her sphere,
was loving, and true, and faithful, hath ascended to the God in
whose infinite love she reposed a childlike and unwavering
confidence. Calmly and sweetly she went to sleep, like an infant on
its mother's bosom, knowing that the everlasting arms were beneath
and around her.
And thus, in the by-ways and obscure places of life, are daily
passing away the humble, loving, true-hearted ones. The world
esteems them lightly; but they are precious in the sight of God.
When the time of their departure comes, they shrink not back in
fear, but lift their hands trustingly to the angel messenger, whom
their Father sends to lead them up to their home in heaven. With
them is the true "Euthanasy."
"Is not that a new experience in life?" said Mrs. Bell, as the two
ladies walked slowly homeward. With a deep sigh, the other
"New and wonderful. I scarcely comprehend what I have seen. Such a
lesson from such a source! How lightly I thought of that poor
sewing-girl, who came and went so unobtrusively! How little dreamed
I that so rich a jewel was in so plain a casket! Ah! I shall be
wiser for this--wiser, and I may hope, better. Oh, to be able to die
as she has died!--what of mere earthly good would I not cheerfully
"It is for us all," calmly answered Mrs. Bell. "The secret we have
just heard--we must be like God."
"He loves others out of himself, and seeks their good. If we would
be like him, we must do the same."
Yes; this is the secret of an easy death, and the only true secret.
THREE SCENES IN THE LIFE OF A WORLDLING.
"IT is in vain to urge me, brother Robert. Out into the world I must
go. The impulse is on me. I should die of inaction here."
"You need not be inactive. There is work to do. I shall never be
"And such work! Delving in and grovelling close to the very ground.
And for what? Oh no, Robert. My ambition soars beyond your 'quiet
cottage in a sheltered vale.' My appetite craves something more than
simple herbs and water from the brook. I have set my heart on
attaining wealth; and, where there is a will there is always a way."
"Contentment is better than wealth."
"A proverb for drones."
"No, William; it is a proverb for the wise."
"Be it for the wise or simple, as commonly understood, it is no
proverb for me. As a poor plodder along the way of life, it were
impossible for me to know content. So urge me no further, Robert. I
am going out into the world a wealth-seeker, and not until wealth is
gained do I purpose to return."
"What of Ellen, Robert?"
The young man turned quickly toward his brother, visibly disturbed,
and fixed his eyes upon him with an earnest expression.
"I love her as my life," he said, with a strong emphasis on his
"Do you love wealth more than life, William?"
"If you love Ellen as your life, and leave her for the sake of
getting riches, then you must love money more than life."
"Don't talk to me after this fashion. I cannot bear it. I love Ellen
tenderly and truly. I am going forth as well for her sake as my own.
In all the good fortune that comes as the meed of effort, she will
be a sharer."
"You will see her before you leave us?"
"No. I will neither pain her nor myself by a parting interview. Send
her this letter and this ring."
A few hours later, and the brothers stood with tightly grasped
hands, gazing into each other's faces.
"Farewell, William. Think of the old homestead as still your home.
Though it is mine, in the division of our patrimony, let your heart
come back to it as yours. Think of it as home; and, should fortune
cheat you with the apples of Sodom, return to it again. Its doors
will ever be open, and its hearth-fire bright for you as of old.
And they turned from each other, one going out into the restless
world, an eager seeker for its wealth and honours; the other to
linger among the pleasant places dear to him by every association of
childhood, there to fill up the measure of his days--not idly, for
he was no drone in the social hive.
On the evening of that day, two maidens sat alone, each in the
sanctuary of her own chamber. There was a warm glow on the cheeks of
one, and a glad light in her eyes. Pale was the other's face, and
wet her drooping lashes. And she that sorrowed held an open letter
in her hand. It was full of tender words; but the writer loved
wealth more than the maiden, and had gone forth to seek the mistress
of his soul. He would "come back;" but when? Ah, what a vail of
uncertainty was upon the future! Poor stricken heart! The other
maiden--she of the glowing cheeks and dancing eyes--held also a
letter in her hand. It was from the brother of the wealth-seeker;
and it was also full of loving words; and it said that, on the
morrow, he would come to bear her as a bride to his pleasant home.
TEN years have passed. And what of the wealth-seeker? Has he won the
glittering prize? What of the pale-faced maiden he left in tears?
Has he returned to her? Does she share now his wealth and honour?
Not since the day he went forth from the home of his childhood has a
word of intelligence from the wanderer been received; and, to those
he left behind him, he is now as one who has passed the final
bourne. Yet he still dwells among the living.
In a far-away, sunny clime, stands a stately mansion. We will not
linger to describe the elegant exterior, to hold up before the
reader's imagination a picture of rural beauty, exquisitely
heightened by art, but enter its spacious hall, and pass up to one
of its most luxurious chambers. How hushed and solemn the pervading
atmosphere! The inmates, few in number, are grouped around one on
whose white forehead Time's trembling finger has written the word
"Death." Over her bends a manly form. There--his face is toward you.
Ah! You recognise the wanderer--the wealth-seeker. What does he
here? What to him is the dying one? His wife! And has he, then,
forgotten the maiden whose dark lashes lay wet on her pale cheeks
for many hours after she read his parting words? He has not
forgotten, but been false to her. Eagerly sought he the prize, to
contend for which he went forth. Years came and departed; yet still
hope mocked him with ever-attractive and ever-fading illusions.
To-day he stood with his hand just ready to seize the object of his
wishes--to-morrow, a shadow mocked him. At last, in an evil hour, he
bowed down his manhood prostrate even to the dust in mammon-worship,
and took to himself a bride, rich in golden attractions, but poorer,
as a woman, than even the beggar at his father's gate. What a thorn
in his side she proved!--a thorn ever sharp and ever piercing. The
closer he attempted to draw her to his bosom, the deeper went the
points into his own, until, in the anguish of his soul, again and
again he flung her passionately from him.
Five years of such a life! Oh, what is there of earthly good to
compensate therefor? But, in this last desperate throw, did the
worldling gain the wealth, station, and honour he coveted? He had
wedded the only child of a man whose treasure might be counted by
hundreds of thousands; but, in doing so, he had failed to secure the
father's approval or confidence. The stern old man regarded him as a
mercenary interloper, and ever treated him as such. For five years,
therefore, he fretted and chafed in the narrow prison whose gilded
bars his own hands had forged. How often, during that time, had his
heart wandered back to the dear old home, and the beloved ones with
whom he had passed his early years And ah! how many, many times came
between him and the almost hated countenance of his wife, the
gentle, loving face of that one to whom he had been false! How often
her soft blue eyes rested on his own! How often he started and
looked up suddenly, as if her sweet voice came floating on the air!
And so the years moved on, the chain galling more deeply, and a
bitter sense of humiliation as well as bondage robbing him of all
pleasure in life.
Thus it is with him when, after ten years, we find him waiting, in
the chamber of death, for the stroke that is to break the fetters
that so long have bound him. It has fallen. He is free again. In
dying, the sufferer made no sign. Sullenly she plunged into the dark
profound, so impenetrable to mortal eyes, and as the turbid waves
closed, sighing, over her, he who had called her wife turned from
the couch on which her frail body remained, with an inward "Thank
God! I am a man again!"
One more bitter drug yet remained for his cup. Not a week had gone
by, ere the father of his dead wife spoke to him these cutting
"You were nothing to me while my daughter lived--you are less than
nothing now. It was my wealth, not my child, that you loved. She has
passed away. What affection would have given to her, dislike will
never bestow on you. Henceforth we are strangers."
When next the sun went down on that stately mansion which the
wealth-seeker had coveted, he was a wanderer again--poor,
humiliated, broken in spirit.
How bitter had been the mockery of all his early hopes! How terrible
the punishment he had suffered!
ONE more eager, almost fierce struggle with alluring fortune, in
which the worldling came near steeping his soul in crime, and then
fruitless ambition died in his bosom.
"My brother said well," he murmured, as a ray of light fell suddenly
on the darkness of his spirit: "Contentment _is_ better than wealth.
Dear brother! Dear old home! Sweet Ellen! Ah, why did I leave you?
Too late! too late! A cup, full of the wine of life, was at my lips;
but I turned my head away, asking for a more fiery and exciting
draught. How vividly comes before me now that parting scene! I am
looking into my brother's face. I feel the tight grasp of his hand.
His voice is in my ears. Dear brother! And his parting words, I hear
them now, even more earnestly than when they were first
spoken:--'Should fortune cheat you with the apples of Sodom, return
to your home again. Its doors will ever be open, and its
hearth-fires bright for you as of old.' Ah! do the fires still burn?
How many years have passed since I went forth! And Ellen? But I dare
not think of her. It is too late--too late! Even if she be living
and unchanged in her affections, I can never lay this false heart at
her feet. Her look of love would smite me as with a whip of
The step of time had fallen so lightly on the flowery path of those
to whom contentment was a higher boon than wealth, that few
footmarks were visible. Yet there had been changes in the old
homestead. As the smiling years went by, each, as it looked in at
the cottage-window, saw the home circle widening, or new beauty
crowning the angel brows of happy children. No thorn in his side had
Robert's gentle wife proved. As time passed on, closer and closer
was she drawn to his bosom; yet never a point had pierced him. Their
home was a type of paradise.
It is near the close of a summer day. The evening meal is spread,
and they are about gathering around the table, when a stranger
enters. His words are vague and brief, his manner singular, his air
slightly mysterious. Furtive, yet eager glances go from face to
"Are these all your children?" he asks, surprise and admiration
mingling in his tones.
"All ours. And, thank God! the little flock is yet unbroken."
The stranger averts his face. He is disturbed by emotions that it is
impossible to conceal.
"Contentment is better than wealth," he murmurs. "Oh that I had
earlier comprehended this truth!"
The words were not meant for others; but the utterance had been too
distinct. They have reached the ears of Robert, who instantly
recognises in the stranger his long wandering, long mourned brother.
The stranger is on his feet. A moment or two the brothers stand
gazing at each other, then tenderly embrace.
How the stranger starts and trembles! He had not seen, in the quiet
maiden, moving among and ministering to the children so
unobtrusively, the one he had parted from years before--the one to
whom he had been so false. But her voice has startled his ears with
the familiar tones of yesterday.
"Ellen!" Here is an instant oblivion of all the intervening years.
He has leaped back over the gloomy gulf, and stands now as he stood
ere ambition and lust for gold lured him away from the side of his
first and only love. It is well both for him and the faithful maiden
that he can so forget the past as to take her in his arms and clasp
her almost wildly to his heart. But for this, conscious shame would
have betrayed his deeply repented perfidy.
And here we leave them, reader. "Contentment is better than wealth."
So the wordling proved, after a bitter experience--which may you
be spared! It is far better to realize a truth perceptively, and
thence make it a rule of action, than to prove its verity in a
life of sharp agony. But how few are able to rise into such a
"YOU are a sly girl, Mary."
"Not by general reputation, I believe, Mrs. Martindale."
"Oh no. Every one thinks you a little paragon of propriety. But I
can see as deep as most people."
"You might as well talk in High Dutch to me, Mrs. Martindale. You
would be equally intelligible."
"You are a very innocent girl, Mary."
"I hope I am. Certainly I am not conscious of wishing harm to any
one. But pray, Mrs. Martindale, oblige me by coming a little nearer
to the point."
"You don't remember any thing about Mrs. Allenson's party--of
"It would be strange if I did not."
"Oh yes. Now you begin to comprehend a little."
"Do speak out plainly, Mrs. Martindale!"
"So innocent! Ah me, Mary! you are a sly girl. You didn't see any
thing of a young man there with dark eyes and hair, and a beautiful
white, high forehead?"
"If there was an individual there, answering to your description, it
is highly probable that I did see him. But what then?"
"Oh, nothing, of course!"
"You are trifling with me, Mrs. Martindale."
"Seriously, then, Mary, I was very much pleased to notice the
attentions shown you by Mr. Fenwick, and more pleased at seeing how
much those attentions appeared to gratify you. He is a young man in
"I am sure I saw nothing very particular in his attentions to me;
and I am very certain that I was also more gratified at the
attentions shown by him, than I was by those of other young men
"Of course not."
"You seem to doubt my word?"
"Oh no--I don't doubt your word. But on these subjects young ladies
feel themselves privileged to--to"----
"To what, Mrs. Martindale?"
"Nothing--only. But don't you think Mr. Fenwick a charming young
"I didn't perceive any thing very remarkable about him."
"He did about you. I saw that, clearly."
"How can you talk so to me, Mrs. Martindale?"
"Oh la! Do hear the girl! Did you never have a beau, Mary?"
"Yes, many a one. What of it?"
"And a lover too?"
"I know nothing about lovers."
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