The Home Mission
Part 1 out of 4
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THE HOME MISSION.
By T. S. ARTHUR.
A VISION OF CONSOLATION
POWER OF KINDNESS
BEAR AND FORBEAR
THE SOCIAL SERPENT
THE YOUNG MOTHER
THE GENTLE WARNING
"MY FORTUNE'S MADE"
THE GOOD MATCH
THE BROTHER'S TEMPTATION
THE HOME OF TASTE
THE TWO SISTERS
THE EVENING PRAYER
A PEEVISH DAY, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
A GLEAM OF SUNSHINE ON THE PATH OF A MONEY-LENDER
ENGAGED AT SIXTEEN
THE LOVE SECRET
IF it were possible to trace back to their beginnings, in each
individual, those good or evil impulses that have become ruling
affections, in most cases the origin would not be found until we had
reached the home of childhood. Here it is that impressions are made,
which become lasting as existence itself. But the influence of home
is not alone salutary or baneful in early years. Wherever a home
exists, there will be found the nursery of all that is excellent in
social or civil life, or of all that is deformed. Every man and
woman we meet in society, exhibit, in unmistakable characters, the
quality of their homes. The wife, the husband, the children, the
guest, bear with them daily a portion of the spirit pervading the
little circle from which they have come forth. If the sun shines
there, a light will be on their countenances; but shadows, if clouds
are in the sky of home. If there be disorder, defect of principle,
discord among the members, neglect of duty, and absence of kind
offices, the sphere of those who constitute that home can hardly be
salutary. They will add little to the common stock of good in the
social life around them. We need not say how different will be the
influence of those whose home-circle is pervaded by higher, purer,
and truer principles.
A word to the wise is, we are told, sufficient. He, therefore, who
speaks a true word in the ear of the wise, has planted a seed that
will surely spring up and yield good fruit. May we hope that all
into whose hands this little book is destined to come are wise, and
that the few suggestive words spoken therein, as "hints to make home
happy," will fall into good ground. If this be so, "The Home
Mission" will not be fruitless. Though no annual reports of what it
has accomplished are made, its silent and unobtrusive work, we
trust, will be none the less effectual.
THE HOME MISSION.
A VISION OF CONSOLATION.
THE tempest of grief which, for a time, had raged so wildly in the
heart of Mrs. Freeland, exhausted by its own violence, sobbed itself
away, and the stricken mother passed into the land of dreams.
To the afflicted, sleep comes with a double blessing--rest is given
to the wearied body and to the grieving spirit. Often, very often,
the Angel of Consolation bends to the dreaming ear, and whispers
words of hope and comfort that from no living lips had yet found
And it was so now with the sleeping mother. A few hours only had
passed since she stood looking down, for the last time, on the fair
face of her youngest born. Over his bright, blue eyes, into whose
heavenly depths she had so loved to gaze, the pale lids had closed
for ever. Still lingered around his lips the smile left there by the
angels, as, with a kiss of love, they received his parting spirit.
In the curling masses of his rich, golden hair, the shadows nestled
away, as of old, while his tiny fingers held a few white blossoms,
as with a living grasp. Was it death or sleep? So like a sleeping
child the sweet boy lay, that it seemed every moment as if his lips
would unclose, his eyes open to the light, and his voice come to the
listening ear with its tones of music.
If to the mother had come this illusion, it remained not long. Wild
with grief, she turned away as the sweet face she had so loved to
gaze upon was hidden from her straining eyes for ever.
Hidden from her eyes, did we say? Only hidden from her natural eyes.
Still he was before the eyes of her spirit in all his living beauty.
But, to her natural affections, he was lost--even as he had faded
from before her natural eyes; and, in the agony of bereavement, it
seemed that her heart would break. Back to her darkened chamber she
went. Her nearest and dearest friends gathered around, seeking
lovingly to sustain her in her great affliction; but she refused to
At length, as at first said, the tempest of grief, which, for a
time, raged so violently in the heart of Mrs. Freeland, sobbed
itself away, and the stricken mother passed into the land of dreams.
For the most part, dreams are fantastic. Yet they are not always so.
In states of deep sorrow or strong trial, when the heart turns from
the natural world, hopeless of aid or consolation, truth often comes
in dreams and similitudes.
The mother found herself in the company of two beautiful maidens, in
the very flower of youth; and as she gazed earnestly into their
faces, which seemed transparent from an inward celestial light, she
saw expectation therein--loving expectation. They stood beneath the
eastern portico of a pleasant dwelling, around which stately
trees--the branches vocal with the song of feathered
minstrels--lifted their green tops far up into the crystal air.
Flowers of a thousand hues and sweet odours were woven into forms
and figures of exquisite beauty upon the carpet of living green
spread over the teeming earth, while groups of little children
sported one with another, and mingled their happy voices with the
melody of birds.
Yet, amid all this external joy and beauty, the hand of grief still
lay upon the mother's heart; and when she looked upon the sportive
infants around her, she sighed for her own babe. Even as she sighed,
one of the maidens turned to her and said, while her whole
countenance was lit up with a glow of delight--
"It has come. A new babe is born unto heaven."
And, as she spoke, she gathered her arms quickly to her bosom, and
the wondering mother saw lying thereon her own child. The other
maiden was already bending over the infant--already had she greeted
its coming with a kiss of love. Quickly both retired within the
dwelling, and the bereaved mother went with them, eager to receive
the babe she had lost.
"Oh, my child! my child!" she said. "Give me my child."
And ere the words had died upon her lips, the maiden who had
received the babe gave it into her arms, when she clasped it with a
wild delight, and rained tears of gladness upon its face.
For a time, the two maidens looked upon the mother in silence, and
in their bright countenances love and pity were blended. At length,
one of them said to her, (and she smiled sweetly, and spoke with an
exquisite, penetrating tenderness,)--
"Your heart is full of love for your babe?"
"He is dearer to me than life--dearer than a thousand lives,"
replied the mother quickly, drawing the babe closer to her bosom.
"Love seeks to bless the object of its regard."
There was a meaning in the words and tone of the maiden, as she said
this, that caused the mother to look into her face earnestly.
"This is not the land of sickness, of sorrow, of death," resumed the
maiden, "but the land of eternal life and blessedness. Into this
land your babe has been born. You are here only as a visitant, and
must soon return to bear a few more trials and pains, a few more
conflicts with evil; but the end is your preparation for these
A shadow fell instantly upon the mother's heart. Tears rushed to her
eyes, and she drew her arms more tightly about her babe.
"Shall we keep this babe in our heavenly home, or will you bear it
with you back to the dark, cold, sad regions of mortality?"
"Do not take from me my more than life!" sobbed the mother wildly.
"Oh! I cannot give you my child;" and more eagerly she hugged it to
For a time there was silence. Then one of the maidens laid gently
her hand upon the mother, and she lifted her bowed head.
"Come," said the maiden.
The mother arose, and the two walked into the open air, and passing
through the group of children sporting on the lawn and in the
gardens, went for what seemed the space of a mile, until they came
to a forest, into the depths of which they penetrated; and, for a
time, the farther they went the darker and more gloomy it became,
until scarcely a ray of light from the arching sky came down through
the dense and tangled foliage. At last they were beyond the forest.
"Look," said the companion.
The mother lifted her eyes--the babe had strangely passed from her
arms. A dwelling, familiar in aspect, stood near, and through an
open window she saw a sick child lying upon a bed, and knew it as
her own. Its little face was distorted by pain and flushed with
fever; and as it tossed restlessly to and fro, its moans filled her
ears. She stretched forth her hands, yearning to give some relief;
even as she did so, the scene faded from her view, and next she saw
an older child, bearing still the linaments of her own. There was
the same broad, white forehead and clustering curls; the same large,
bright eyes and full, ruddy lips; but, alas! not the soft vail of
innocence which had given the features of the babe such a heavenly
charm. The fine brow was contracted with passion; the eyes flashed
with an evil light; and the lips were tightly drawn, and with
something of defiance, against the teeth. The boy was resisting,
with a stern determination, the will of the parents--was setting at
naught those early salutary restraints which are the safeguard of
"Oh! my unhappy boy!" cried the mother.
The scene changed as she spoke. The boy, now grown up to manhood,
once more stood before her. Alas! how had the light of innocence
faded from his countenance, giving place to a shadow of evil, the
very darkness of which caused a cold shudder to pass through the
"Look again," said the maiden, as this scene was fading.
But the mother hid her face in her hands, and turned weeping away.
"Look again." And this time there was something so heart-cheering in
the maiden's voice, that the mother lifted her tearful eyes. She was
back again in the beautiful place from which she had gone forth a
little while before, and her babe, beautiful as innocence itself,
lay sweetly sleeping in the arms of the lovely maiden who had
received it on its first entrance into heaven. With a heart full of
joy, the mother now bent over the slumbering babe, kissing it again
"Grieving mother," said the angel-maiden, in tones of flute-like
softness, "God saw that it would not be good for your child to
remain on earth, and he therefore removed it to this celestial
region, where no evil can ever penetrate. To me, as an angel-mother,
it has been given; and I will love it and care for it with a love as
pure and tender as the love that yearns in your bosom. As its
infantile mind opens, I will pour in heavenly instruction, that it
may grow in wisdom and become an angel. Will you not let me have it
"But why may I not remain here and be its heavenly mother? Oh! I
will love and care for it with a tenderness and devotion equal to,
if not exceeding yours."
Even while the mother spoke there was a change. She saw before her
other objects of affection. There was her husband, sitting in deep
dejection, sorrowing for the loss of one who was dear as his own
life; while three children, the sight of whom stirred her maternal
heart to its profoundest depths, lay sleeping in each other's arms,
the undried tears yet glistening on their lashes.
The wife and mother stretched forth her hands toward these beloved
ones, eager to be with them again and turn their grief into
gladness. But, in a moment, there passed another change. The
pleasant home in which her children had been sheltered for years, no
longer held them; the fold had been broken up and the tender lambs
scattered. One of these little ones the mother saw, sitting apart
from a group of sportive children, weeping over some task work. The
bloom on her cheek had faded--its roundness was gone--the light of
her beautiful eyes was quenched in tears. And, as she looked, a
woman came to the child and spoke to her harshly. She was about
springing forward, when another scene was presented. Her first-born,
a noble-spirited boy, to whose future she had ever looked with pride
and pleasure, stood before her. Alas! how changed. Every thing about
him showed the want of a mother's care and considerate affection;
and from his dear, young face had already vanished the look of
joyous innocence she had so loved to contemplate.
Again the mother was in the presence of the angel-maiden, to whose
loving arms a good God had confided the babe, which, in his wisdom,
he had removed from the earth. And the angel-maiden, as she looked
first at the babe in her arms and then at the mother, smiled sweetly
"He is safe here; will you not let him remain?"
And, with a gushing heart, the mother answered, "Not for worlds
would I take him with me into the outer life of nature. Oh, no! He
is safe--let him remain."
"And you will return to those who still need your love and care?"
"Yes, yes," said the mother, earnestly. "Let me go to them again.
Let me be their angel on earth."
And she bent hastily to the heaven-born babe, kissing it with
There came now another change. The mother was back again in her
chamber of sorrow; and undried tears were yet upon her cheeks. But
she was comforted and reconciled to the great affliction which had
been sent for good from heaven.
Those who saw Mrs. Freeland in the first wild grief that followed
the loss of her babe, wondered at her serene composure when she came
again among them. And they wondered long, for she spoke not of this
Vision of Consolation. It was too sacred a thing to be revealed, to
any save the companion of her life.
THERE are few positions in social life of greater trial and
responsibility than that of a step-mother; and it too rarely happens
that the woman who assumes this position, is fitted for the right
discharge of its duties. In far too many cases, the widower is
accepted as a husband because he has a home, or a position to offer,
while the children are considered as a drawback in the bargain. But
it sometimes happens, that a true woman, from genuine affection,
unites herself with a widower, and does it with a loving regard for
his children, and with the purpose in her mind of being to them, as
far as in her power lies, a wise and tender mother.
Such a woman was Agnes Green. She was in her thirty-second year when
Mr. Edward Arnold, a widower with four children, asked her to become
his wife. At twenty-two, Agnes had loved as only a true woman can
love. But the object of that love proved himself unworthy, and she
turned away from him. None knew how deep the heart-trial through
which she passed--none knew how intensely she suffered. In part, her
pale face and sobered brow witnessed, but only in part; for many
said she was cold, and some even used the word heartless, when they
spoke of her. From early womanhood a beautiful ideal of manly
excellence had filled her mind; and with this ideal she had invested
one who proved false to the high character. At once the green things
of her heart withered and for a long time its surface was a barren
waste. But the woman was yet strong in her. She must love something.
So she came forth from her heart-seclusion, and let her affections,
like a refreshing and invigorating stream, flow along many channels.
She was the faithful friend, the comforter in affliction, the wise
counsellor. More than once had she been approached with offers of
marriage, by men who saw the excellence of her character, and felt
that upon any dwelling, in which she was the presiding spirit, would
rest a blessing. But none of them were able to give to the even
pulses of her heart a quicker motion.
At last she met Mr. Arnold. More than three years had passed since
the mother of his children was removed by death, and, since that
time, he had sought, with all a father's tenderness and devotion, to
fill her place to them. How imperfectly, none knew so well as
himself. As time went on, the want of a true woman's affectionate
care for his children was more and more felt. All were girls except
the youngest, their ages ranging from twelve downward, and this made
their mother's loss so much the more a calamity. Moreover, his
feeling of loneliness and want of companionship, so keenly felt in
the beginning, instead of diminishing, increased.
Such was his state of mind when he met Agnes Green. The attraction
was mutual, though, at first, no thought of marriage came into the
mind of either. A second meeting stirred the placid waters in the
bosom of Agnes Green. Conscious of this, and fearful lest the
emotion she strove to repress might become apparent to other eyes,
she assumed a certain reserve, not seen in the beginning, which only
betrayed her secret, and at once interested Mr. Arnold, who now
commenced a close observation of her character. With every new
aspect in which this was presented, he saw something that awakened
admiration; something that drew his spirit nearer to her as one
congenial. And not the less close was her observation.
When, at length, Mr. Arnold solicited the hand of Agnes Green, she
was ready to respond. Not, however, in a selfish and self-seeking
spirit; not in the narrow hope of obtaining some great good for
herself, was her response made, but in full view of her woman's
power to bless, and with an earnest, holy purpose in her heart, to
make her presence in his household indeed a blessing.
"I must know your children better than I know them now, and they
must know me better than they do, before I take the place you wish
me to assume," was her reply to Mr. Arnold, when he spoke of an
And so means were taken to bring her in frequent contact with the
children. The first time she met them intimately, was at the house
of a friend. Mary, the oldest girl, she found passionate and
self-willed; Florence, the second, good-natured, but careless and
slovenly; while Margaret, the third, was in ill health, and
exceedingly peevish. The little brother, Willy, was a beautiful,
affectionate child, but in consequence of injudicious management,
very badly spoiled. Take them altogether, they presented rather an
unpromising aspect; and it is no wonder that Agnes Green had many
misgivings at heart, when the new relation contemplated, and its
trials and responsibilities, were pictured to her mind.
The earnestly-asked question by Mr. Arnold, after this first
interview,--"What do you think of my children?"--was not an easy one
to answer. A selfish, unscrupulous woman, who looked to the
connection as something to be particularly desired on her own
account, and who cared little about duties and responsibilities,
might have replied, "Oh, they are lovely children!" or, "I am
delighted with them!" Not so Agnes Green. She did not reply
immediately, but mused for some moments, considerably embarrassed,
and in doubt what to say. Mr. Arnold was gazing intently in her
"They do not seem to have made a favourable impression," said he,
speaking with some disappointment in his tone and manner.
A feeble flush was visible in the face of Agnes Green, and also a
slight quiver of the lips as she answered:
"There is too much at stake, as well in your case as my own, to
warrant even a shadow of concealment. You ask what I think of your
children, and you expect me to answer truly?"
"I do," was the almost solemnly-spoken reply.
"My first hurried, yet tolerably close, observation, has shown me,
in each, a groundwork of natural good."
"As their father," replied Mr. Arnold, in some earnestness of
manner, "I know there is good in them,--much good. But they have
needed a mother's care."
"When you have said that, how much has been expressed! If the garden
is not cultivated, and every weed carefully removed, how quickly is
it overrun with things noxious, and how feeble becomes the growth of
all things good and beautiful! It is just so with the mind. Neglect
it, and bad habits and evil propensities will assuredly be quickened
into being, and attain vigorous life."
"My children are not perfect, I know, but--"
Mr. Arnold seemed slightly hurt. Agnes Green interrupted him, by
saying, in a mild voice, as she laid her hand gently upon his arm:
"Do not give my words a meaning beyond what they are designed to
convey. If I assume the place of a mother to your children, I take
upon myself all the responsibilities that the word 'mother'
involves. Is not this so?"
"Thus I understand it."
"My duty will be, not only to train these children for a happy and
useful life here, but for a happy and useful life hereafter."
"It is no light thing, Mr. Arnold, to assume the place of a mother
to children who, for three years, have not known a mother's
affectionate care. I confess that my heart shrinks from the
responsibility, and I ask myself over and over again, 'Have I the
requisite wisdom, patience, and self-denial?'"
"I believe you have," said Mr. Arnold, who was beginning to see more
deeply into the heart of Agnes. "And now," he added, "tell me what
you think of my children."
"Mary has a quick temper, and is rather self-willed, if my
observation is correct, but she has a warm heart. Florence is
thoughtless, and untidy in her person, but possesses a happy temper.
Poor Maggy's ill health has, very naturally, soured her disposition.
Ah, what can you expect of a suffering child, who has no mother?
Your little Willy is a lovely boy, somewhat spoiled--who can wonder
at this?--but possessing just the qualities to win for him kindness
from every one."
"I am sure you will love him," said Mr. Arnold, warmly.
"I have no doubt on that subject," replied Agnes Green. "And now,"
she added, "after what I have said, after showing you that I am
quick to see faults, once more give this matter earnest
consideration. If I become your wife, and take the place of a mother
to these children, I shall, at once,--wisely and lovingly, I
trust,--begin the work of removing from their minds every noxious
weed that neglect may have suffered to grow there. The task will be
no light one, and, in the beginning, there may be rebellion against
my authority. To be harsh or hard is not in my nature. But a sense
of duty will make me firm. Once more, I say, give this matter
serious consideration. It is not yet too late to pause."
Mr. Arnold bent his head in deep reflection. For many minutes he sat
in silent self-communion, and sat thus so long, that the heart of
Agnes Green began to beat with a restricted motion, as if there was
a heavy pressure on her bosom. At last Mr. Arnold looked up, his
eyes suddenly brightening, and his face flushing with animation.
Grasping her hands with both of his, he said:
"I have reflected, Agnes, and I do not hesitate. Yes, I will trust
these dear ones to your loving guardianship. I will place in your
hands their present and eternal welfare, confident that you will be
to them a true mother."
And she was. As often as it could be done before the time appointed
for the marriage, she was brought in contact with the children.
Almost from the beginning, she was sorry to find in Mary, the oldest
child, a reserve of manner, and an evident dislike toward her, which
she in vain sought to overcome. The groundwork of this she did not
know. It had its origin in a remark made by the housekeeper, who,
having learned from some gossipping relative of Mr. Arnold that a
new wife was soon to be brought home, and, also, who this new wife
was to be, made an imprudent allusion to the fact, in a moment of
"Your new mother will soon put you straight, my little lady," said
she, one day, to Mary, who had tried her beyond all patience.
"My new mother! Who's she, pray?" was sharply demanded.
"Miss Green," replied the unreflecting housekeeper. "Your father's
going to bring her home one of these days, and make her your mother,
and she'll put you all right--she'll take down your fine airs, my
"Will she?" And Mary, compressing her lips tightly, and drawing up
her slender form to its full height, looked the image of defiance.
From that moment a strong dislike toward Miss Green ruled in the
mind of Mary; and she resolved, should the housekeeper's assertion
prove true, not only to set the new authority at defiance, but to
inspire, if possible, the other children with her own feelings.
The marriage was celebrated at the house of Mr. Arnold, in the
presence of his own family and a few particular friends, Agnes
arriving at the hour appointed.
After the ceremony, the children were brought forward, and presented
to their new mother. The youngest, as if strongly drawn by invisible
chords of affection, sprung into her lap, and clasped his little
arms lovingly about her neck. He seemed very happy. The others were
cold and distant, while Mary fixed her eyes upon the wife of her
father, with a look so full of dislike and rebellion, that no one
present was in any doubt as to how she regarded the new order of
Mr. Arnold was a good deal fretted by this unexpected conduct on the
part of Mary; and, forgetful of the occasion and its claims, spoke
to her with some sternness. He was recalled to self-possession by
the smile of his wife, and her gently-uttered remark, that reached
only his own ear:
"Don't seem to notice it. Let it be my task to overcome prejudices."
During the evening Mary did not soften in the least toward her
step-mother. On the next morning, when all met, for the first time,
at the breakfast table, the children gazed askance at the calm,
dignified woman who presided at the table, and seemed ill at ease.
On Mary's lip, and in her eye, was an expression so like contempt,
that it was with difficulty her father could refrain from ordering
her to her own room.
The meal passed in some embarrassment. At its conclusion, Mr. Arnold
went into the parlour, and his wife, entering at once upon her
duties, accompanied the children to the nursery, to see for herself
that the two oldest were properly dressed for school. Mary, who had
preceded the rest, was already in contention with the housekeeper.
Just as Mrs. Arnold--so we must now call her--entered the room, Mary
"I don't care what you say, I'm going to wear this bonnet!"
"What's the trouble?" inquired Mrs. Arnold, calmly.
"Why, you see, ma'am," replied the housekeeper, "Mary is bent on
wearing her new, pink bonnet to school, and I tell her she mustn't
do it. Her old one is good enough."
"Let me see the old one," said Mrs. Arnold. She spoke in a very
pleasant tone of voice.
A neat, straw bonnet, with plain, unsoiled trimming, was brought
forth by the housekeeper, who remarked:
"It's good enough to wear Sundays, for that matter."
"I don't care if it is, I'm not going to wear it today. So don't
bother yourself any more about it."
"Oh, yes, Mary, you will," said Mrs. Arnold, very kindly, yet
"No, I won't!" was the quick, resolute answer. And she gazed,
unflinchingly, into the face of her step-mother.
"I'll call your father, my young lady! This is beyond all
endurance!" said the housekeeper, starting for the door.
"Hannah!" The mild, even voice of Mrs. Arnold checked the excited
housekeeper. "Don't speak of it to her father,--I'm sure she doesn't
mean what she says. She'll think better of it in a moment."
Mary was hardly prepared for this. Even while she stood with
unchanged exterior, she felt grateful to her step-mother for
intercepting the complaint about to be made to her father. She
expected some remark or remonstrance from Mrs. Arnold. But in this
she was mistaken. The latter, as if nothing unpleasant had occurred,
turned to Florence, and after a light examination of her dress, said
to the housekeeper:
"This collar is too much soiled; won't you bring me another?"
"Oh, it's clean enough," replied Florence, knitting her brows, and
affecting impatience. But, even as she spoke, the quick, yet gentle
hands of her step-mother had removed the collar from her neck.
"Do you think it clean enough now?" said she, as she placed the
soiled collar beside a fresh one, which the housekeeper had brought.
"It _is_ rather dirty," replied Florence, smiling.
And now Mrs. Arnold examined other articles of her dress, and had
them changed, re-arranged her hair, and saw that her teeth were
properly brushed. While this was progressing, Mary stood a little
apart, a close observer of all that passed. One thing she did not
fail to remark, and that was the gentle firmness of her step-mother,
which was in strong contrast with the usual scolding, jerking, and
impatience of the housekeeper, as manifested on these occasions.
By the time Florence was ready for school, Mary's state of mind had
undergone considerable change, and she half regretted the exhibition
of ill temper and insulting disobedience she had shown. Yet was she
in no way prepared to yield. To her surprise, after Florence was all
ready, her step-mother turned to her and said, in a mild, cheerful
voice, as if nothing unpleasant had occurred,
"Have you a particular reason for wishing to wear your new bonnet,
this morning, Mary?"
"Yes, ma'am, I have." The voice of Mary was changed considerably,
and her eyes fell beneath the mild, but penetrating, gaze of her
"May I ask you the reason?"
There was a pause of some moments; then Mary replied:
"I promised one of the girls that I'd wear it. She asked me to. She
wanted to see it."
"Did you tell Hannah this?"
"No, ma'am. It wouldn't have been any use. She never hears to
"But you'll find me very different, Mary," said Mrs. Arnold,
tenderly. "I shall ever be ready to hear reason."
All this was so far from what Mary had anticipated, that her mind
was half bewildered. Her step-mother's clear sight penetrated to her
Taking her hand, she drew her gently to her side. An arm was then
placed lovingly around her.
"My dear child,"--it would have been a hard heart, indeed, that
could have resisted the influence of that voice, "let us understand
each other in the beginning. You seem to look upon me as an enemy,
and yet I wish to be the very best friend you have in the world. I
have come here, not as an exacting and overbearing tyrant, but to
seek your good and promote your happiness in every possible way. I
will love you; and may I not expect love in return? Surely you will
not withhold that."
As Mrs. Arnold spoke thus, she felt a slight quiver in the hand she
had taken in her own. She continued:
"I cannot hope to fill the place of your dear mother, now in heaven.
Yet even as she loved you, would I love you, my child." The voice of
Mrs. Arnold had become unsteady, through excess of feeling. "As she
bore with your faults, I will bear with them; as she rejoiced over
every good affection born in your heart, so will I rejoice."
Outraged by the conduct of Mary, the housekeeper had gone to Mr.
Arnold, whom she found in the parlour, and repeated to him, with a
colouring of her own, the insolent language his child had used. The
father hurried up stairs in a state of angry excitement. No little
surprised was he, on entering the nursery, to see Mary sobbing on
the breast of her step-mother, whose gentle hands were softly
pressed upon the child's temples, and whose low, soothing voice was
speaking to her words of comfort for the present, and cheerful hope
for the future.
Unobserved by either, Mr. Arnold stood for a moment, and then softly
retired, with a gush of thankfulness in his heart, that he had found
for his children so true and good a mother.
With Mary there was no more trouble. From that hour, she came wholly
under the influence of her step-mother, learning day by day, as she
knew her better, to love her with a more confiding tenderness.
Wonderful was the change produced on the children of Mr. Arnold in a
single year. They had, indeed, found a mother.
It is painful to think how different would have been the result, had
the step-mother not been a true woman. Wise and good she was in her
sphere; loving and unselfish; and the fruit of her hand was sweet to
the taste, and beautiful to look upon.
How few are like her! How few who assume the position of
step-mother,--a position requiring patience, long-suffering, and
unflinching self-denial,--are fitted for the duties they so lightly
take upon themselves! Is it any wonder their own lives are made, at
times, miserable, or that they mar, by passion or exacting tyranny,
the fair face of humanity, in the children committed to their care?
Such lose their reward.
POWER OF KINDNESS.
"TOM! Here!" said a father to his boy, speaking in tones of
The lad was at play. He looked toward his father, but did not leave
"Do you hear me, sir?" spoke the father, more sternly than at first.
With an unhappy face and reluctant step, the boy left his play and
approached his parent.
"Why do you creep along at a snail's pace?" said the latter,
angrily. "Come quickly, I want you. When I speak, I look to be
obeyed instantly. Here, take this note to Mr. Smith, and see that
you don't go to sleep by the way. Now run as fast as you can go."
The boy took the note. There was a cloud upon his brow. He moved
away, but at a slow pace.
"You, Tom! Is that doing as I ordered? Is that going quickly?"
called the father, when he saw the boy creeping away. "If you are
not back in half an hour, I will punish you."
But the words had but little effect. The boy's feelings were hurt by
the unkindness of the parent. He experienced a sense of injustice; a
consciousness that wrong had been done him. By nature he was like
his father, proud and stubborn; and these qualities of his mind were
aroused, and he indulged in them, fearless of consequences.
"I never saw such a boy," said the father, speaking to a friend who
had observed the occurrence. "My words scarcely make an impression
"Kind words often prove most powerful," said the friend. The father
"Kind words," continued the friend, "are like the gentle rain and
the refreshing dews; but harsh words bend and break like the angry
tempest. The first develop and strengthen good affections, while the
others sweep over the heart in devastation, and mar and deform all
they touch. Try him with kind words; they will prove a hundred fold
The latter seemed hurt by the reproof; but it left him thoughtful.
An hour passed away ere his boy returned. At times during his
absence he was angry at the delay, and meditated the infliction of
punishment. But the words of remonstrance were in his ears, and he
resolved to obey them. At last the lad came slowly in with a cloudy
countenance, and reported the result of his errand. Having stayed
far beyond his time, he looked for punishment, and was prepared to
receive it with an angry defiance. To his surprise, after delivering
the message he had brought, his father, instead of angry reproof and
punishment, said kindly, "Very well, my son; you can go out to play
The boy went out, but was not happy. He had disobeyed and disobliged
his father, and the thought of this troubled him. Harsh words had
not clouded his mind nor aroused a spirit of reckless anger. Instead
of joining his companions, he went and sat down by himself, grieving
over his act of disobedience. As he thus sat, he heard his name
called. He listened.
"Thomas, my son," said his father, kindly. The boy sprang to his
feet, and was almost instantly beside his parent.
"Did you call, father?"
"I did, my son. Will you take this package to Mr. Long for me?"
There was no hesitation in the boy's manner. He looked pleased at
the thought of doing his father a service, and reached out his hand
for the package. On receiving it, he bounded away with a light step.
"There is a power in kindness," said the father, as he sat musing,
after the lad's departure. And even while he sat musing over the
incident, the boy came back with a cheerful, happy face, and said--
"Can I do any thing else for you, father?"
Yes, there is the power of kindness. The tempest of passion can only
subdue, constrain, and break; but in love and gentleness there is
the power of the summer rain, the dew, and the sunshine.
BEAR AND FORBEAR.
"DON'T talk to me in such a serious strain, Aunt Hannah. One would
really think, from what you say, that James and I would quarrel
before we were married a month."
"Not so soon as that, Maggy dear. Heaven grant that it may not come
so soon as that! But, depend upon it, child, if you do not make
'bear and forbear' your motto, many months will not have passed,
after your wedding-day, without the occurrence of some serious
misunderstanding between you and your husband."
"If anybody else were to say that to me, Aunt Hannah, I would be
"For which you would be a very foolish girl. But it is generally the
way that good advice is taken, it being an article of which none
think they stand in need."
"But what in the world can there be for James and I to have
differences about? I am sure that I love him most truly; and I am
sure he loves me as fondly as I love him. In mutual love there can
be no strife--no emulation, except in the performance of good
offices. Indeed, aunt, I think you are far too serious."
"Over the bright sky bending above you, my dear niece, I would not,
for the world, bring a cloud even as light as the filmy, almost
viewless gossamer. But I know that clouds must hide its clear, calm,
passionless blue, either earlier or later in life. And what I say
now, is with the hope of giving you the prescience required to avoid
some of the storms that may threaten to break upon your head."
"Neither cloud nor storm will ever come from that quarter of the sky
from which you seem to apprehend danger."
"Not if both you and James learn to bear and forbear in your conduct
toward each other."
"We cannot act otherwise."
"Then there will be no danger."
Margaret Percival expressed herself sincerely. She could not believe
that there was the slightest danger of a misunderstanding ever
occurring between her and James Canning, to whom she was shortly to
be married. The well-meant warning of her aunt, who had seen and
felt more in life than she yet had, went therefore for nothing.
A month elapsed, and the young and lovely Maggy pledged her faith at
the altar. As the bride of Canning, she felt that she was the
happiest creature in the world. Before her was a path winding amid
green and flowery places, and lingering by the side of still waters;
while a sunny sky bent over all.
James Canning was a young lawyer of some talent, and the possessor
of a good income independent of his profession. Like others, he had
his excellencies and his defects of character. Naturally, he was of
a proud, impatient spirit, and, from a child, had been restless
under dictation. As an offset to this, he was a man of strict
integrity, generous in his feelings, and possessed of a warm heart.
Aunt Hannah had known him since he was a boy, and understood his
character thoroughly; and it was this knowledge that caused her to
feel some concern for the future happiness of her niece, as well as
to speak to her timely words of caution. But these words were not
"We've not quarrelled yet, Aunt Hannah, for all your fears," said
the young wife, three or four months after her marriage.
"For which I am truly thankful," replied Aunt Hannah. "Still, I
would say now, as I did before, 'Bear and forbear.'"
"That is, I must BEAR every thing and FORBEAR in every thing. I
hardly think that just, aunt. I should say that James ought to do a
little of this as well as me."
"Yes, it is his duty as well as yours. But you should not think of
his duty to you, Maggy, only of your duty to him. That is the most
dangerous error into which you can fall, and one that will be almost
certain to produce unhappiness."
"Would you have a wife never think of herself?"
"The less she thinks of herself, perhaps, the better; for the more
she thinks of herself, the more she will love herself. But the more
she thinks of her husband, the more she will love him and seek to
make him happy. The natural result of this will be, that her husband
will feel the warmth and perceive the unselfishness of her love;
this will cause him to lean toward her with still greater
tenderness, and prompt him to yield to her what otherwise he might
have claimed for himself."
"Then it is the wife who must act the generous, self-sacrificing
"If I could speak as freely to James as I can speak to you, Maggy, I
should not fail to point out his duty of bearing and forbearing, as
plainly as I point out yours. All should be mutual, of course. But
this can never be, if one waits for the other. If you see your duty,
it is for you to do it, even if he should fail in his part."
"I don't know about that, aunt. I think, as you said just now, that
all this is mutual."
"I am sorry you cannot or will not understand me, Maggy," replied
"I am sorry too, aunt; but I certainly do not. However, don't, pray,
give yourself any serious concern about James and me. I assure you
that we are getting along exceedingly well; and why this should not
continue is more than I can make out."
"Well, dear, I trust that it may. There is no good reason why it
should not. You both have virtues enough to counterbalance all
defects of character."
On the evening of that very day, as the young couple sat at the
tea-table, James Canning said, as his wife felt, rather unkindly, at
the same time that there was a slight contraction of his brow--
"You seem to be very much afraid of your sugar, Maggy. I never get a
cup of tea or coffee sweet enough for my taste."
"You must have a sweet palate. I am sure it is like syrup, for I put
in several large lumps of sugar," replied Margaret, speaking in a
slightly offended tone.
"Taste it, will you?" said Canning, pushing his cup across the table
with an impatient air.
Margaret sipped a little from the spoon, and then, with an
expression of disgust in her face, said--
"Pah! I'd as lief drink so much molasses. But here's the sugar bowl.
Sweeten it to your taste."
Canning helped himself to more sugar. As he did so his wife noticed
that his hand slightly trembled, and also that his brow was drawn
down, and his lips more arched than usual.
"It's a little matter to get angry about," she thought to herself.
"Things are coming to a pretty pass, if I'm not to be allowed to
The meal was finished in silence. Margaret felt in no humour to
break the oppressive reserve, although she would have been glad,
indeed, to have heard a pleasant word from the lips of her husband.
As for Canning, he permitted himself to brood over the words and
manner of his wife, until he became exceedingly fretted. They were
so unkind and so uncalled for. The evening passed unsocially. But
morning found them both in a better state of mind. Sleep has a
wonderful power in restoring to the mind its lost balance, and in
calming down our blinding passions. During the day, our thoughts and
feelings, according with our natural state, are more or less marked
by the disturbances that selfish purposes ever bring; but in sleep,
while the mind rests and our governing ends lie dormant, we come
into purer spiritual associations, and the soul, as well as the
body, receives a healthier tone.
The morning, therefore, found Canning and his wife in better states
of mind. They were as kind and as affectionate as usual in their
words and conduct, although, when they sat down to the breakfast
table, they each experienced a slight feeling of coldness on being
reminded, too sensibly, of the unpleasant occurrence of the previous
evening. Margaret thought she would be sure to please her husband in
his coffee, and therefore put into his cup an extra quantity of
sugar, making it so very sweet that he could with difficulty swallow
it. But a too vivid recollection of what had taken place on the
night before, caused him to be silent about it. The second cup was
still sweeter. Canning managed to sip about one-third of this, but
his stomach refused to take any more. Noticing that her husband's
coffee, an article of which he was very fond, stood, nearly
cup-full, beside his plate, after he had finished his breakfast,
"Didn't your coffee suit you?"
"It was very good; only a little too sweet."
"Then why didn't you say so?" she returned, in a tone that showed
her to be hurt at this reaction upon what she had said on the
previous evening. "Give me your cup, and let me pour you out some
"No, I thank you, Margaret, I don't care about any more."
"Yes, you do. Come, give me your cup. I shall be hurt if you don't.
I'm sure there is no necessity for drinking the coffee, if not to
your taste. I don't know what's come over you, James."
"And I'm sure I don't know what's come over you," Canning thought,
but did not say. He handed up his cup, as his wife desired. After
filling it with coffee, she handed it back, and then reached him the
sugar and cream.
"Sweeten it to your own taste," she said, a little fretfully; "I'm
sure I tried to make it right."
Canning did as he was desired, and then drank the coffee, but it was
with the utmost difficulty that he could do so.
This was the first little cloud that darkened the sky of their
wedded life; And it did not fairly pass away for nearly a week. Nor
then did the days seem as bright as before. The cause was
slight--very slight--but how small a thing will sometimes make the
heart unhappy. How trifling are the occurrences upon which we often
lay, as upon a foundation, a superstructure of misery! Had the
earnestly urged precept of Aunt Hannah been regarded,--had the
lesson--"Bear and Forbear," been well learned and understood by
Margaret, this cloud had never dimmed the sun of their early love. A
pleasant word, in answer to her husband's momentary impatience,
would have made him sensible that he had not spoken with propriety,
and caused him to be more careful in future. As it was, both were
more circumspect, but it was from pride instead of love,--and more
to protect self than from a tender regard for each other.
Only a month or two passed before there was another slight
collision. It made them both more unhappy than they were before. But
the breach was quickly healed. Still scars remained, and there were
times when the blood flowed into these cicatrices so feverishly as
to cause pain. Alas! wounds of the spirit do not close any more
perfectly than do wounds of the body--the scars remain forever.
And thus the weeks and months went by. Neither of the married
partners had learned the true secret of happiness in their holy
relation,--neither of them felt the absolute necessity of bearing
and forbearing. Little inequalities of character, instead of being
smoothed off by gentle contact, were suffered to strike against each
other, and produce, sometimes, deep and painful wounds--healing, too
often, imperfectly; and too often remaining as festering sores.
And yet Canning and his wife loved each other tenderly, and felt,
most of their time, that they were very happy. There were little
things in each that each wished the other would correct, but neither
felt the necessity of self-correction.
The birth of a child drew them together at a time when there was
some danger of a serious rupture. Dear little Lilian, or "Lilly," as
she was called, was a chord of love to bind them in a closer union.
"I love you more than ever, Maggy," Canning could not help saying to
his wife, as he kissed first her lips and then the soft cheek of his
child, a month after the babe was born.
"And I am sure I love you better than I did, if that were possible,"
returned Margaret, looking into her husband's face with a glance of
As the babe grew older the parent's love for it continued to
increase, and, with this increase, their happiness. The chord which
had several times jarred harshly between them, slept in profound
But, after this sweet calm, the surface of their feelings became
again ruffled. One little incongruity of character after another
showed itself in both, and there was no genuine spirit of
forbearance in either of them to meet and neutralize any sudden
effervescence of the mind. Lilly was not a year old, before they had
a serious misunderstanding that made them both unhappy for weeks. It
had its origin in a mere trifle, as such things usually have. They
had been taking tea and spending an evening with a friend, a widow
lady, for whom Mrs. Canning had a particular friendship. As there
was no gentleman present during the evening, the time passed rather
heavily to Canning, who could not get interested in the conversation
of the two ladies. Toward nine o'clock he began to feel restless and
impatient, and to wonder if his wife would not soon be thinking
about going home. But the time passed wearily until ten o'clock, and
still the conversation between the two ladies was continued with
undiminished interest, and, to all appearance, was likely to
continue until midnight.
Canning at length became so restless and wearied that he said,
thinking that his wife did not probably know how late it was,--
"Come, Margaret, isn't it 'most time to go home?"
Mrs. Canning merely looked into her husband's face, but made no
More earnestly than ever the ladies now appeared to enter upon the
various themes for conversation that presented themselves, all of
which were very frivolous to the mind of Canning, who was
exceedingly chafed by his wife's indifference to his suggestion
about going home. He determined, however, to say no more if she sat
all night. Toward eleven o'clock she made a movement to depart, and
after lingering in the parlor before she went up stairs to put on
her things, and in the chamber after her things were on, and on the
stairs, in the passage, and at the door, she finally took the arm of
her husband and started for home. Not a word was uttered by either
until they had walked the distance of two squares, when Margaret,
unable to keep back what she wanted to say any longer, spoke thus,--
"James, I will thank you, another time, when we are spending an
evening out, not to suggest as publicly as you did to-night that it
is time to go home. It's very bad manners, let me tell you, in the
first place; and in the second place, I don't like it at all. I do
not wish people to think that I have to come and go just at your
beck or nod. I was about starting when you spoke to me, but sat an
hour longer just on purpose."
The mind of Canning, already fretted, was set on fire by this.
"You did?" he said.
"Yes, I did. And I can tell you, once for all, that I wish this to
be the last time you speak to me as you did to-night."
It was as much as the impatient spirit of Canning could do to keep
"It's the last time I will ever speak to you at all," and then
leaving her in the street, with the intention of never seeing her
again. But suddenly he thought of Lilly, and the presence of the
child in his mind kept back the mad words from his lips. Not one
syllable did he utter during their walk home, although his wife said
much to irritate rather than soothe him. Nor did a sentence pass his
lips that night.
At the breakfast table on the next morning, the husband and wife
were coldly polite to each other. When the meal was completed,
Canning retired to his office, and his wife sought her chamber to
weep. The latter half repented of what she had done, but her
contrition was not hearty enough to prompt to a confession of her
fault. The fact that she considered her husband to blame, stood in
the way of this.
Reserve and coldness marked the intercourse of the unhappy couple
for several weeks; and then the clouds began to break, and there
were occasional glimpses of sunshine.
But, before there was a clear sky, some trifling occurrence put them
again at variance. From this time, unhappily, one circumstance after
another transpired to fret them with each other, and to separate,
rather than unite them. Daily, Canning grew more cold and reserved,
and his wife met him in a like uncompromising spirit. Even their
lovely child--their darling blue-eyed Lilly--with her sweet little
voice and smiling face, could not soften their hearts toward each
To add fuel to this rapidly enkindling fire of discord, was the fact
that Mrs. Canning was on particularly intimate terms with the wife
of a man toward whom her husband entertained a settled and
well-grounded dislike, and visited her more frequently than she did
any one of her friends. He did not interfere with her in the matter,
but it annoyed him to hear her speak, occasionally, of meeting Mr.
Richards at his house, and repeating the polite language he used to
her, when he detested the character of Richards, and had not spoken
to him for more than a year.
One day Mrs. Canning expressed a wish to go in the evening to a
"It will be impossible for me to go to-night, or, indeed, this
week," Canning said. "I am engaged in a very important case, which
will come up for trial on Friday, and it will take all my time
properly to prepare for it. I shall be engaged every evening, and
perhaps late every night."
Mrs. Canning looked disappointed, and said she thought he might
spare her one evening.
"You know I would do so, Margaret, with pleasure," he replied, "but
the case is one involving too much to be endangered by any
consideration. Next week we will go to a party."
When Canning came home to tea, he found his wife dressed to go out.
"I'm going to the party, for all you can't go with me," said she.
"Indeed! With whom are you going?"
"Mrs. Richards came in to see me after dinner, when I told her how
much disappointed I was about not being able to go to the party
to-night. She said that she and her husband were going, and that it
would give them great pleasure to call for me. Am I not fortunate?"
"But you are not going with Mr. and Mrs. Richards?"
"Indeed I am! Why not?"
"Margaret! You must not go."
"Must not, indeed! You speak in quite a tone of authority, Mr.
Canning;" and the wife drew herself up haughtily.
"Authority, or no authority, Margaret"--Canning now spoke calmly,
but his lips were pale--"I will never consent that my wife shall be
seen in a public assembly with Richards. You know my opinion of the
"I know you are prejudiced against him, though I believe unjustly."
"Madness!" exclaimed Canning, thrown off his guard. "And this from
"I don't see that you have any cause for getting into a passion, Mr.
Canning," said his wife, with provoking coolness. "And, I must say,
that you interfere with my freedom rather more than a husband has
any right to do. But, to cut this matter short, let me tell you,
once for all, that I am going to the assembly to-night with Mr. and
Mrs. Richards. Having promised to do so, I mean to keep my promise."
"Margaret, I positively forbid your going!" said Canning, in much
"I deny your right to command me! In consenting to become your wife,
I did not make myself your slave; although it is clear from this,
and other things that have occurred since our marriage, that you
consider me as occupying that position."
"Then it is your intention to go with this man?" said Canning, again
speaking in a calm but deep voice.
"Certainly it is."
"Very well. I will not make any threat of what I will do, Margaret.
But this I can assure you, that lightly as you may think of this
matter, if persevered in, it will cause you more sorrow than you
have ever known. Go! Go against my wish--against my command, if you
will have it so--and when you feel the consequence, lay the blame
upon no one but yourself. And now let me say to you, Margaret, that
your conduct as a wife has tended rather to estrange your husband's
heart from you than to win his love. I say this now, because I may
"James! It is folly for you to talk to me after that fashion,"
exclaimed Margaret, breaking in upon him. "I--"
But before she could finish the sentence, Canning had left the room,
closing the door hard after him.
Just an hour from this time, Mr. and Mrs. Richards called in their
carriage for Mrs. Canning, who went with them to the assembly. An
hour was a long period for reflection, and ought to have afforded
sufficient time for the wife of Canning to come to a wiser
determination than that from which she acted.
Not half a dozen revolutions of the carriage wheels had been made,
however, before Margaret repented of what she had done. But it was
now too late. The pleasure of the entertainment passed before her,
but it found no response in her breast. She saw little but the pale,
compressed lip and knit brow of her husband, and heard little but
his word of disapproval. Oh! how she did long for the confused
pageant that was moving before her, and the discordant mingling of
voices and instruments, to pass away, that she might return and tell
him that she repented of all that she had done.
At last the assembly broke up, and she was free to go back again to
the home that had not, alas! proved as pleasant a spot to her as her
imagination had once pictured it.
"And that it has not been so," she murmured to herself, "he has not
been all to blame."
On being left at the door, Mrs. Canning rang the bell impatiently.
As soon as admitted, she flew up stairs to meet her husband,
intending to confess her error, and beg him earnestly to forgive her
for having acted so directly in opposition to his wishes. But she
did not find him in the chamber. Throwing off her bonnet and shawl,
she went down into the parlours, but found all dark there.
"Where is Mr. Canning?" she asked of a servant.
"He went away about ten o'clock, and has not returned yet," was
This intelligence caused Mrs. Canning to lean hard on the
stair-railing for support. She felt in an instant weak almost as an
Without further question, she went back to her chamber, and looked
about fearfully on bureaus and tables for a letter addressed to her
in her husband's handwriting. But nothing of this met her eye. Then
she sat down to await her husband's return. But she waited long.
Daylight found her an anxious watcher; he was still away.
The anguish of mind experienced during that unhappy night, it would
be vain for us to attempt to picture. In the morning, on descending
to the parlour, she found on one of the pier-tables a letter bearing
her name. She broke the seal tremblingly. It did not contain many
words, but they fell upon her heart with an icy coldness.
"MARGARET: Your conduct to-night has decided me to separate myself
from a woman who I feel neither truly loves nor respects me. The
issue which I have for some time dreaded has come. It is better for
us to part than to live in open discord. I shall arrange every thing
for your comfortable support, and then leave the city, perhaps for
ever. You need not tell our child that her father lives. I would
rather she would think him dead than at variance with her mother.
These were the words. Their effect was paralyzing. Mrs. Canning had
presence of mind enough to crush the fatal letter into her bosom,
and strength enough to take her back to her chamber. When there, she
sunk powerless upon her bed, and remained throughout the day too
weak in both body and mind to rise or think. She could do little
else but feel.
Five years from the day of that unhappy separation, we find Mrs.
Canning in the unobtrusive home of Aunt Hannah, who took the almost
heart-broken wife into the bosom of her own family, after the
passage of nearly a year had made her almost hopeless of ever seeing
him again. No one knew where he was. Only once did Margaret hear
from him, and that was on the third day after he had parted from
her, when he appeared in the court-room, and made a most powerful
argument in favour of the client whose important case had prevented
his going with his wife to the assembly. After that he disappeared,
and no one could tell aught of him. A liberal annuity had been
settled upon his wife, and the necessary papers to enable her to
claim it transmitted to her under a blank envelope.
Five years had changed Margaret sadly. The high-spirited, blooming,
happy woman, was now a meek, quiet, pale-faced sufferer. Lilly had
grown finely, all unconscious of her mother's suffering, and was a
very beautiful child. She attracted the notice of everyone.
"Aunt Hannah," said Margaret, one day after this long, long period
of suffering, "I have what you will call a strange idea in my mind.
It has been visiting me for weeks, and now I feel much inclined to
act from its dictates. You know that Mr. and Mrs. Edwards are going
to Paris next month. Ever since Mrs. Edwards mentioned it to me, I
have felt a desire to go with them. I don't know why, but so it is.
I think it would do me good to go to Paris and spend a few months
there. When a young girl, I always had a great desire to see London
and Paris; and this desire is again in my mind."
"I would go, then," said Aunt Hannah, who thought favourably of any
thing likely to divert the mind of her niece from the brooding
melancholy in which it was shrouded.
To Paris Mrs. Canning went, accompanied by her little daughter, who
was the favourite of every one on board the steamer in which they
sailed. In this gray city, however, she did not attain as much
relief of mind as she had anticipated. She found it almost
impossible to take interest in any thing, and soon began to long for
the time to come when she could go back to the home and heart of her
good Aunt Hannah. The greatest pleasure she took was in going with
Lilly to the Gardens of the Tuileries, and amid the crowd there to
feel alone with nature in some of her most beautiful aspects. Lilly
was always delighted to get there, and never failed to bring
something in her pocket for the pure white swans that floated so
gracefully in the marble basin into which the water dashed cool and
sparkling from beautiful fountains.
One day, while the child was playing at a short distance from her
mother, a man seated beside a bronze statue, over which drooped a
large orange tree, fixed his eyes upon her admiringly, as hundreds
of others had done. Presently she came up and stood close to him,
looking up into the face of the statue. The man said something to
her in French, but Lilly only smiled and shook her head.
"What is your name, dear?" he then said in English.
"Lilly," replied the child.
A quick change passed over the man's face. With much more interest
in his voice, he said--
"Where do you live? In London?"
"Oh no, sir; I live in America."
"What is your name besides Lilly?"
"Lilly Canning, sir."
The man now became strongly agitated. But he contended vigorously
with his feelings.
"Where is your mother, dear?" he asked, taking her hand as he spoke,
and gently pressing it between his own.
"She is here, sir," returned Lilly, looking inquiringly into the
"Yes, sir. We come here every day."
"Where is your mother now?"
"Just on the other side of the fountain. You can't see her for the
"Is your father here, also?" continued the man.
"No, I don't know where my father is." "Is he dead?" "No, sir;
mother says he is not dead, and that she hopes he will come home
soon. Oh! I wish he would come home. We would all love him so!"
The man rose up quickly, and turning from the child, walked
hurriedly away. Lilly looked after him for a moment or two, and then
ran back to her mother.
On the next day Lilly saw the same man sitting under the bronze
statue. He beckoned to her, and she went to him.
"How long have you been in Paris, dear?" he asked.
"A good many weeks," she replied.
"Are you going to stay much longer?"
"I don't know. But mother wants to go home."
"Do you like to live in Paris?"
"No, sir. I would rather live at home with mother and Aunt Hannah."
"You live with Aunt Hannah, then?"
"Yes, sir. Do you know Aunt Hannah?" and the child looked up
wonderingly into the man's face.
"I used to know her," he replied.
Just then Lilly heard her mother calling her, and she started and
ran away in the direction from which the voice came. The man's face
grew slightly pale, and he was evidently much agitated. As he had
done on the evening previous, he rose up hastily and walked away.
But in a short time he returned, and appeared to be carefully
looking about for some one. At length he caught sight of Lilly's
mother. She was sitting with her eyes upon the ground, the child
leaning upon her, and looking into her face, which he saw was thin
and pale, and overspread with a hue of sadness. Only for a few
moments did he thus gaze upon her, and then he turned and walked
hurriedly from the garden.
Mrs. Canning sat alone with her child that evening, in the
handsomely-furnished apartments she had hired on arriving in Paris.
"He told you that he knew Aunt Hannah?" she said, rousing up from a
state of deep thought.
"Yes, ma. He said he used to know her."
A servant opened the door, and said that a gentleman wished to see
"Tell him to walk in," the mother of Lilly had just power to say. In
breathless suspense she waited for the space of a few seconds, when
the man who had spoken to Lilly in the Gardens of the Tuileries
entered and closed the door after him.
Mrs. Canning raised her eyes to his face. It was her husband! She
did not cry out nor spring forward. She had not the power to do
"That's him now, mother!" exclaimed Lilly.
"It's your father!" said Mrs. Canning, in a deeply breathed whisper.
The child sprung toward him with a quick bound and was instantly
clasped in his arms.
"Lilly, dear Lilly!" he sobbed, pressing his lips upon her brow and
cheeks. "Yes! I am your father!"
The wife and mother sat motionless and tearless with her eyes fixed
upon the face of her husband. After a few passionate embraces,
Canning drew the child's arms from about his neck, and setting her
down upon the floor, advanced slowly toward his wife. Her eyes were
still tearless, but large drops were rolling over his face.
"Margaret!" he said, uttering her name with great tenderness.
He was by her side in time to receive her upon his bosom, as she
sunk forward in a wild passion of tears.
All was reconciled. The desolate hearts were again peopled with
living affections. The arid waste smiled in greenness and beauty.
In their old home, bound by threefold cords of love, they now think
only of the past as a severe lesson by which they have been taught
the heavenly virtue of forbearance. Five years of intense suffering
changed them both, and left marks that after years can never efface.
But selfish impatience and pride were all subdued, and their hearts
melted into each other, until they became almost like one heart.
Those who meet them now, and observe the deep, but unobtrusive
affection with which they regard each other, would never imagine,
did they not know their previous history, that love, during one
period of that married life, had been so long and so totally
THE SOCIAL SERPENT.
A LADY, whom we will call Mrs. Harding, touched with the destitute
condition of a poor, sick widow, who had three small children,
determined, from an impulse of true humanity, to awaken, if
possible, in the minds of some friends and neighbours, an interest
in her favour. She made a few calls, one morning, with this end in
view, and was gratified to find that her appeal made a favourable
impression. The first lady whom she saw, a Mrs. Miller, promised to
select from her own and children's wardrobe a number of cast-off
garments for the widow, and to aid her in other respects, at the
same time asking Mrs. Harding to call in on the next day, when she
would be able to let her know what she could do.
Pleased with her reception, and encouraged to seek further aid for
the widow, Mrs. Harding withdrew and took her way to the house of
another acquaintance. Scarcely had she left, when a lady, named
Little, dropped in to see Mrs. Miller. To her the latter said, soon
after her entrance:
"I've been very much interested in the case of a poor widow this
morning. She is sick, with three little children dependent on her,
and destitute of almost every thing. Mrs. Harding was telling me
"Mrs. Harding!" The visitor's countenance changed, and she looked
unutterable things. "I wonder!" she added, in well assumed surprise,
and then was silent.
"What's the matter with Mrs. Harding?" asked Mrs. Miller.
"I should think," said Mrs. Little, "that she was in nice business,
running around, gossiping about indigent widows, when some of her
own relatives are so poor they can hardly keep soul and body
"Is this really so?" asked Mrs. Miller.
"Certainly it is. I had it from my chambermaid, whose sister is cook
next door to where a cousin of Mrs. Harding's lives, and she says
they are, one half of their time, she really believes, in a starving
"But does Mrs. Harding know this?"
"She ought to know it, for she goes there sometimes, I hear."
"She didn't come merely to gossip about the poor widow," said Mrs.
Miller. "Her errand was to obtain something to relieve her
"Did you give her any thing?" asked Mrs. Little.
"No; but I told her to call and see me to-morrow, when I would have
something for her."
"Do you want to know my opinion of this matter?" said Mrs. Little,
drawing herself up, and assuming a very important air.
"What is your opinion?"
"Why, that there is no poor widow in the case at all."
"You needn't look surprised. I'm in earnest. I never had much faith
in Mrs. Harding, at the best."
"I _am_ surprised. If there was no poor widow in the case, what did
she want with charity?"
"She has poor relations of her own, for whom, I suppose, she's
ashamed to beg. So you see my meaning now."
"You surely wrong her."
"Don't believe a word of it. At any rate, take my advice, and be the
almoner of your own bounty. When Mrs. Harding comes again, ask her
the name of this poor widow, and where she resides. If she gives you
a name and residence, go and see for yourself."
"I will act on your suggestion," said Mrs. Miller. "Though I can
hardly make up my mind to think so meanly of Mrs. Harding; still,
from the impression your words produce, I deem it only prudent to
be, as you term it, the almoner of my own bounty."
The next lady upon whom Mrs. Harding called, was a Mrs. Johns, and
in her mind she succeeded in also awakening an interest for the poor
"Call and see me to-morrow," said Mrs. Johns, "and I'll have
something for you."
Not long after Mrs. Harding's departure, Mrs. Little called, in her
round of gossipping visits, and to her Mrs. Johns mentioned the case
of the poor widow, that matter being, for the time, uppermost in her
"Mrs. Harding's poor widow, I suppose," said Mrs. Little, in a
half-sneering, half-malicious tone of voice.
Mrs. Johns looked surprised, as a matter of course.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Oh, nothing, much. Only I've heard of this destitute widow before."
"Yes, and between ourselves,"--the voice of Mrs. Little became low
and confidential--"it's the opinion of Mrs. Miller and myself, that
there is no poor widow in the case."
"Mrs. Little! You astonish me! No poor widow in the case! I can't
understand this. Mrs. Harding was very clear in her statement. She
described the widow's condition, and very much excited my
sympathies. What object can she have in view?"
"Mrs. Miller and I think," said the visitor, "and with good reason,
that this poor widow is only put forward as a cover."
"As a cover to what?"
"To some charities that she has reasons of her own for not wishing
to make public."
"Still in the dark. Speak out more plainly."
"Plainly, then, Mrs. Johns, we have good reasons for believing, Mrs.
Miller and I, that she is begging for some of her own poor
relations. Mrs. Miller is going to see if she can find the widow."
"Indeed! That's another matter altogether. I promised to do
something in the case, but shall now decline. I couldn't have
believed such a thing of Mrs. Harding! But so it is; you never know
people until you find them out."
"No, indeed, Mrs. Johns. You never spoke a truer word in your life,"
replied Mrs. Little, emphatically.
On the day following, after seeing the poor widow, ministering to
some of her immediate wants, and encouraging her to expect more
substantial relief, Mrs. Harding called, as she had promised to do,
on Mrs. Miller. A little to her surprise, that lady received her
with unusual coldness; and yet, plainly, with an effort to seem
"You have called about the poor widow you spoke of yesterday?" said
"Such is the object of my present visit."
"What is her name?"
"Where did you say she lived?"
The residence was promptly given.
"I've been thinking," said Mrs. Miller, slightly colouring, and with
some embarrassment, "that I would call in and see this poor woman
"I wish you would," was the earnest reply of Mrs. Harding. "I am
sure, if you do so, all your sympathies will be excited in her
As Mrs. Harding said this, she arose, and with a manner that showed
her feelings to be hurt, as well as mortified, bade Mrs. Miller a
formal good-morning, and retired. Her next call was upon Mrs. Johns.
Much to her surprise, her reception here was quite as cold; in fact,
so cold, that she did not even refer to the object of her visit, and
Mrs. Johns let her go away without calling attention to it herself.
So affected was she by the singular, and to her unaccountable change
in the manner of these ladies, that Mrs. Harding had no heart to
call upon two others, who had promised to do something for the
widow, but went home disappointed, and suffering from a troubled and
depressed state of feeling.
So far as worldly goods were concerned, Mrs. Harding could not boast
very large possessions. She was herself a widow; and her income,
while it sufficed, with economy, to supply the moderate wants of her
family, left her but little for luxuries, the gratification of
taste, or the pleasures of benevolence. Quick to feel the wants of
the needy, no instance of destitution came under her observation
that she did not make some effort toward procuring relief.
What now was to be done? She had excited the sick woman's hopes--had
promised that her immediate wants, and those of her children, should
be supplied. From her own means, without great self-denial, this
could not be effected. True, Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Johns had both
promised to call upon the poor widow, and, in person, administer
relief. But Mrs. Harding did not place much reliance on this; for
something in the manner of both ladies impressed her with the idea
that their promise merely covered a wish to recede from their first
"Something must be done" said she, musingly. And then she set
herself earnestly to the work of devising ways and means. Where
there is a will there is a way. No saying was ever truer than this.
It was, perhaps, a week later, that Mrs. Little called again upon
"What of Mrs. Harding's poor widow?" said the former, after some
ill-natured gossip about a mutual friend.
"Oh, I declare! I've never thought of the woman since," replied Mrs.
Miller, in a tone of self-condemnation. "And I promised Mrs. Harding
that I would see her. I really blame myself."
"No great harm done, I presume," said Mrs. Little.
"I don't know about that. I'm hardly prepared to think so meanly of
Mrs. Harding as you do. At any rate, I'm going this day to redeem my
"The promise I made Mrs. Harding, that I would see the woman she
spoke of, and relieve her, if in need."
"You'll have all your trouble for nothing."
"No matter, I'll clear my conscience, and that is something. Come,
wont you go with me?"
Mrs. Little declined the invitation at first; but, strongly urged by
Mrs. Miller, she finally consented. So the two ladies forthwith took
their way toward the neighbourhood in which Mrs. Harding had said
the needy woman lived. They were within a few doors of the house,
which had been very minutely described by Mrs. Harding, when they
met Mrs. Johns.
"Ah!" said the latter, with animation, "just the person, of all
others, I most wished to see. How could you, Mrs. Miller, so greatly
wrong Mrs. Harding?"
"Me wrong her, Mrs. Johns? I don't understand you." And Mrs. Miller
looked considerably astonished.
"Mrs. Little informed me that you had good reasons for believing all
this story about a poor widow to be a mere subterfuge, got up to
cover some doings of her own that Mrs. Harding was ashamed to bring
to the light."
"Mrs. Little!" There was profound astonishment in the tones of Mrs.
Miller, and her eyes had in them such an indignant light, as she
fixed them upon her companion, that the latter quailed under her
"Acting from this impression," resumed Mrs. Johns, "I declined
placing at her disposal the means of relief promised; but, instead,
told her that I would myself see the needy person for whom she asked
aid. This I have, until now, neglected to do; and this neglect, or
indifference I might rather call it, has arisen from a belief that
there was no poor widow in the case. Wrong has been done, Mrs.
Miller, great wrong! How could you have imagined such baseness of
"And there _is_ a poor, sick widow, in great need?" said Mrs.
Miller, now speaking calmly, and with regained self-possession.
"There is a sick widow," replied Mrs. Johns, "but not at present in
great need. Mrs. Harding has supplied immediate wants."
"Well, Mrs. Little!" Mrs. Miller again turned her eyes, searchingly,
upon her companion.
"I--I--thought so. It was my impression--I had good reason
for--I--I" stammered Mrs. Little.
"It should have been enough for you to check a benevolent impulse in
my case by your unfounded suggestions. Not content with this,
however, you must use my name in still further spreading your unjust
suspicions, and actually make me the author of charges against a
noble-minded woman, which had their origin in your own evil
"I will not bear such language!" said the offended Mrs. Little,
indignantly; and turning with an angry toss of the head, she left
the ladies to their own reflections.
"I am taught one good lesson from this circumstance," said Mrs.
Miller, as they walked away; "and that is, never to even seem to
have my good opinion of another affected by the allegations and
surmises of a social gossip. Such people always suppose the worst,
and readily pervert the most unselfish actions into moral offences.
The harm they do is incalculable."
"And, as in the present case," remarked Mrs. Johns, "they make
others responsible for their base suggestions. Had Mrs. Little not
coupled your name with the implied charges against Mrs. Harding, my
mind would not have been poisoned against her."
"While not a breath of suspicion had ever crossed mine until Mrs.
Little came in, and wantonly intercepted the stream of benevolence
about to flow forth to a needy, and, I doubt not, most worthy
"We have made of her an enemy. At least you have; for you spoke to
her with smarting plainness," said Mrs. Johns.
"Better the enmity of such than their friendship," replied Mrs.
Miller. "Their words of detraction cannot harm so much as the poison
of evil thoughts toward others, which they ever seek to infuse. Your
dearest friend is not safe from them, if she be pure as an angel.
Let her name but pass your lips, and instantly it is breathed upon,
and the spotless surface grows dim."
THE YOUNG MOTHER.
[The following brief passage is from our story, "The Wife," in the
series "Maiden," "Wife," and "Mother."]
A NEW chord vibrated in Anna's heart, and the music was sweeter far
in her spirit's ear, than any before heard. She was changed.
Suddenly she felt that she was a new creature. Her breast was filled
with deeper, purer, and tenderer emotions. She was a mother! A babe
had been born to her! A sweet pledge of love lay nestling by her
side, and drawing its life from her bosom. She was happy--how happy
cannot be told. A mother only can _feel_ how happy she was on first
realizing the new emotions that thrill in a young mother's heart.
As health gradually returned to her exhausted frame, and friends
gathered around her with warm congratulations, Anna felt that she
was indeed beginning a new life. Every hour her soul seemed to
enlarge, and her mind to be filled with higher and purer thoughts.
Before the birth of her babe, she suffered much more than even her
husband had supposed, both in body and mind. Her spirits were often
so depressed that it required her utmost effort to receive him with
her accustomed cheerfulness at each period of his loved return. But,
living as she did in the ever active endeavour to bless others, she
strove daily and hourly to rise above every infirmity. Now, all was
peace within--holy peace. There came a Sabbath rest of deep,
interior joy, that was sweet, unutterably sweet. Body and spirit
entered into this rest. No wind ruffled the still, bright waters of
her life. She was the same, and yet not the same.
"I cannot tell you, dear husband! how happy I am," she said, a few
weeks after her babe was born. "Nor can I describe the different
emotions that pervade my heart. When our babe is in my arms, and
especially when it lies at my bosom, it seems as if angels were near
"And angels are near you," replied her husband. "Angels love
innocence, and especially infants, that are forms of innocence. They
are present with them, and the mother shares the blessed company,
for she loves her babe with an unselfish love, and this the angels
can perceive, and, through it, affect her with a measure of their
"How delightful the thought! Above all, is the mother blessed. She
suffers much--her burden is hard to bear--the night is dark--but the
morning that opens upon her is the brightest a human soul knows
during its earthly pilgrimage. And no wonder. She has performed the
highest and holiest of offices--she has given birth to an immortal
being--and her reward is with her."
Hartley had loved his wife truly, deeply, tenderly. Every day, he
saw more and more in her to admire. There was an order, consistency,
and harmony in her character as a wife, that won his admiration. In
the few months they had passed since their marriage, she had filled
her place to him, perfectly. Without seeming to reflect how she
should regulate her conduct toward her husband, in every act of her
wedded life she had displayed true wisdom, united with unvarying
love. All this caused his heart to unite itself more and more
closely with hers. But now, that she held to him the twofold
relation of a wife and mother, his love was increased fourfold. He
thought of her, and looked upon her, with increased tenderness.
"Mine, by a double tie," he said, with a full realization of his
words, when he first pressed his lips upon the brow of his child,
and then, with a fervour unfelt before, upon the lips of his wife.
"As you have been a good wife, you will be a good mother," he added,
THE GENTLE WARNING.
"Do not accept the offer, Florence," said her friend Carlotti.
A shade of disappointment went over the face of the fair girl, who
had just communicated the pleasing fact that she had received an
offer of marriage.
"You cannot be happy as the wife of Herman Leland," added Carlotti.
"How little do you know this heart," returned the fond girl.
"It is because I know it so well that I say what I do. If your love
be poured out for Herman Leland, Florence, it will be as water on
the desert sand."
"Why do you affirm this, Carlotti?"
"A woman can truly love only the moral virtue of her husband."
"I do not clearly understand you."
"It is only genuine goodness of heart that conjoins in marriage."
"Just so far as selfish and evil affections find a place in the mind
of either the husband or wife, will be the ratio of unhappiness in
the marriage state. If there be any truth in morals, or in the
doctrine of affinities, be assured that this is so. It is neither
intellectual attainments nor personal attractions that make
happiness in marriage. Far, very far from it. All depends upon the
quality of the affections. If these be good, happiness will come as
a natural consequence; but if they be evil, misery will inevitably
follow so close a union."
"Then you affirm that Mr. Leland is an evil-minded man?"
"Neither of us know him well enough to say this positively,
Florence. Judging from what little I have seen, I should call him a
selfish man; and no selfish man can be a good man, for selfishness
is the basis of all evil."
"I am afraid you are prejudiced against him, Carlotti."
"If I have had any prejudices in the matter, Florence, they have
been in his favour. Well-educated, refined in his manners, and
variously accomplished, he creates, on nearly all minds, a
favourable impression. Such an impression did I at first feel. But
the closer I drew near to him, the less satisfied did I feel with my
first judgment. On at least two occasions, I have heard him speak
lightly of religion."
"Of mere cant and sectarianism, perhaps."
"No; he once spoke lightly of a mother for making it a point to
require all her children to repeat their prayers before going to
bed. On another occasion, he alluded to one of the sacraments of the
church in a way that produced an inward shudder. From that time, I
have looked at him with eyes from which the scales have been
removed; and the more I seek to penetrate beneath the surface of his
character, the more do I see what repels me. Florence, dear, let me
urge you, as one who tenderly loves you and earnestly desires to see
you happy, to weigh the matter well ere you assent to this
"I'm afraid, Carlotti," said Florence in reply to this, "that you
have let small causes influence your feelings toward Mr. Leland. We
all speak lightly, at times, even on subjects regarded as
sacred--not because we despise them, but from casual
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