The Iron Rule
T.S. Arthur

Part 3 out of 3

father, until she acquired a great influence over him. This
influence she had tried to make effectual in bringing about a
reconciliation between him and her sister's husband; but, up to this
time, her good offices were not successful. The old man's prejudices
remained strong--he was not prepared to yield; and Markland's
self-love having been deeply wounded by Mr. Howland, he was not
disposed to make any advances toward healing the breach that
existed. As for Mary, she cherished too deeply the remembrance of
her father's unbending severity toward his children--in fact his
iron hand had well nigh crushed affection out of her heart--to feel
much inclined to use any influence with her husband. And so the
separation, unpleasant and often painful to both parties, continued.
To Mrs. Howland it was a source of constant affliction. Much had she
done toward affecting a reconciliation; but the materials upon which
she tried to impress something of her own gentle and forgiving
spirit were of too hard a nature.

On the afternoon of the day on which Andrew returned so
unexpectedly, almost like one rising from the dead, Mrs. Howland was
alone, Martha having gone out to visit a friend. She was sitting in
her chamber thinking of the long absent one--she had thought of him
a great deal of late--when she heard the street door open and shut,
and then there came the sound of a man's feet along the passage. She
bent her head and listened. It was not the sound of her husband's
feet--she knew his tread too well. Soon the man, whoever he was,
commenced ascending the stairs; then he came toward her door, and
then there was a gentle tap. The heart of Mrs. Howland was, by this
time, beating violently. A moment or two passed before she had
presence of mind sufficient to go to the door and open it.

"Andrew! Andrew! Oh, Andrew, my son!" she cried, in a glad, eager
voice, the instant her eyes rested on the fine figure of a tall,
sun-burnt man, and as she spoke, she flung her arms around his neck,
and kissed him with all the fondness of a mother caressing her babe.

"Mother! dear, dear mother!" came sobbing from the lips of Andrew,
as he returned her embrace fervently.

"Am I dreaming? or, is this all really so?" murmured the happy
mother, pushing her son from her, yet clinging to him with an
earnest grasp, and gazing fondly upon his face.

"It is no dream, mother," returned Andrew, "but a glad reality.
After a long, long absence I have come back."

"Long--long! Oh, it has been an age, my son! How could you? But
hush, my chiding heart! My wandering one has returned, and I will
ask no questions as to his absence. Enough that I look upon his face

Andrew now led his mother to a seat, and taking one beside her,
while he still held her hand tightly, and gazed with a look of
tenderness into her face, said--

"You have grown old in nine years, mother; older than I had

"Do you wonder at it, my son?" significantly inquired Mrs. Howland.

"I ought not to wonder, perhaps," replied Andrew, a touch of sadness
in his voice. "There is such a thing as living too fast for time."

"You may well say that," answered Mrs. Howland, with visible
emotion, "Years are sometimes crowded into as many days. This has
been my own experience."

Both were now silent for a little while.

"And how are all the rest, mother?" asked Andrew, in a more animated

"Your father has failed a good deal of late," replied Mrs. Howland,
as she partly averted her eyes, doubtful as to the effect such
reference might have.

"He has failed almost as much as you have, mother," was the
unexpected reply. "I saw him a little while ago."

"Did you!" ejaculated Mrs. Howland, a light of pleasure and surprise
breaking over her face.

"Yes; I called first at his store."

"I'm glad you did. Poor man! He has had his own troubles, and, I'm
afraid, is falling into difficulties again. He has looked very
unhappy for a week or two. Last night I hardly think he slept an
hour at a time, and to-day he scarcely tasted food."

"I found him in trouble," said Andrew, "and fortunately was able to
give him the relief he needed."

Mrs. Howland looked wonderingly into her son's face.

"I have not come back empty-handed, mother," said Andrew. "A year
ago, when thousands of miles from home, I heard of father's
troubles. I was about returning to see you all again, and to make
P--my future abiding place, if I could find any honest employment;
but this intelligence caused me to change my mind. News had just
been received of the wonderful discoveries of gold in California,
and I said to myself, 'If there is gold to be had there, I will find
it.' I was not thinking of myself when I made this resolution, but
of you and father. In this spirit I made the long and wearisome
overland journey, and for more than eight, months worked amid the
golden sands of that far off region. And my labor was not in vain. I
accumulated a large amount of grains and lumps of the precious
metal, and then hurried homeward to lay the treasures at your feet.
Happily, I arrived at the most fitting time."

Mrs. Howland was deeply affected by this relation, so strange and so
unlooked for in every particular.

"And now, mother, what of Mary?" said Andrew, before time was given
for any remark upon this brief narrative. "Has she and her husband
yet been reconciled to father?"

"No; and my heart has grown faint with hope deferred in relation to
this matter. I think Mary's husband is too (sic) unyieldiug. Your
father, I know, regrets the unkind opposition he made to their
marriage; and has seen many good reasons for changing his opinion of
Mr. Markland's character. But you know his unbending disposition. If
they would yield a little--if they would only make the first step
toward a reconciliation, he would be softened in a moment. And then,
oh, how much happier would all be!"

"They must yield; they must take the first step," said Andrew,
rising from his chair.

That reconciliation would be the top sheaf of my happiness, today,"
replied Mrs. Howland.

"It shall crown your rejoicing," said Andrew, in a positive tone.
"Where do they live?"

Mrs. Howland gave the direction asked by her son, who departed
immediately on his errand of good will.

For a time after Andrew left the store of his father, Mr. Howland
sat half bewildered by the strange occurrence that had just taken
place, while his heart felt emotions of tenderness going deeper and
deeper toward its centre. Though confessed to no one, he had felt
greatly troubled in regard to the iron discipline to which he had
subjected his wayward boy, and had tried for years, but in vain, to
force from his mind the conviction that upon his own head rested the
sin of his ruin. Long since had he given him up as lost to this
world, and, he sadly feared, lost in the next. To have him return,
as he did, without even a foreshadowing sign of his coming, was an
event that completely broke down his feelings. Moreover, he was
touched by the spirit in which his son came back; a spirit of
practical forgiveness; the first act flowing from which was the
conference of a great benefit.

"There was good in the boy," sighed the old man, as he mused on what
had just occurred. "Alas! that it should have been so long
overshadowed. A milder course might have done better. Ah, me! we are
weak and shortsighted mortals."

Mr. Howland remained in his store until the late mails were
distributed at the post-office, when, unexpectedly, a letter came
from Edward. It contained a draft for a thousand dollars, and was in
these words--

"DEAR FATHER--I received your two letters. To the first returned no
answer; I need hardly give you the reason. It was a hard, harsh,
insulting letter, charging me with extensive frauds on you and
others, assuming that I was in possession of large sums of money
thus obtained, and imperiously demanding restitution. As to your
sources of information, I know nothing; but I trust, that before you
take such stories for granted, you will, at least, look well to
their authenticity. Your second letter was in a different tone, and
awoke in me a far different spirit from that awakened by the one
first received. I am pained to hear of your great embarrassment,
which I did not anticipate. I thought that the extension of time you
received, would enable you to meet all demands, and deeply regret
that such has not proved to be the case. Enclosed, I send you a
draft for one thousand dollars, which I have raised with great
difficulty; I wish, for your sake, that it were ten times the
amount. But it is the best I can do. When I came here I had about
fifteen hundred dollars in money; upon this I commenced business,
and have done tolerably well, but I am still on the steep up-hill
side, and it is far from certain whether I will go up or down from
the point I now occupy. Give my love to mother and Martha,

Affectionately yours,


Mr. Howland mused for (sic) sometime after receiving the letter;
then he turned to his desk, and wrote briefly, as follows--

"MY DEAR SON--I have your letter enclosing a draft for one thousand
dollars. I thank you for the remittance, but, happily, have received
aid from an unexpected quarter, and do not now need the money. With
this I return the draft you sent. I regret any injustice I may have
done you in a former letter, and hope you will forgive a too warm
expression of my feelings.

Yours, &c.,


This letter was dispatched by the Southern mail, and then Mr.
Howland turned his steps homeward. He felt strangely. There was a
pressure on his bosom; but it was not the pressure of trouble that
had rested upon it so long, but a pressure of conflicting emotions,
all tending to soften and subdue his feelings, to bend the iron man,
and to mould his spirit into a new and better form. With a lively
pleasure was he looking forward to the second meeting with Andrew in
the presence of his mother, but he did not know how great a
pleasure, beyond his anticipations, was in store for him.

On arriving at his house, Mr. Howland opened the door and went in.
He had passed along the entry but a few paces, when some one stepped
from the parlor. He paused, and looked up. It was his daughter Mary
who stood before him. In her arms was a sweet little girl, and on
her face was a smile, the warmth and light of which were on his
heart in an instant.


It was the only word she uttered. The tone of her voice, and the
expression of her face told all he wished to know.

"My dear child!" fell warmly from the lips of Mr. Howland, as he
grasped his daughter's hand, and then kissed tenderly both her own
lips and those of her babe.

"Dear father!" murmured Mary, as she leaned her head, in tears, upon
his breast.

At this moment there was a movement of feet in the parlor, and the
husband of Mary presented himself. An open, frank, forgiving
expression was on his face, as he came forward and offered his hand,
which was instantly seized by Mr. Howland, in a hearty pressure.
Andrew and his mother joined the group, and, with smiles and
pleasant words, made perfect the sphere of happiness.

"My children," said Mr. Howland, at length, speaking in a trembling
voice, "my cup is full to-night. I must leave you a little while, or
it will run over."

And saying this, he gently disengaged himself, and passed up to his
chamber, where he remained alone for over half an hour. When he
joined the family, his manner was greatly subdued, and in his speech
there was a softness which none had known before.

In the glad reunion of that evening, how many heart-wounds were
healed, how many old scars covered over and hidden!


SHOCKED as was Emily Winters at the sight of Andrew, bleeding in the
hands of the watchman, and by the subsequent newspaper report of his
bad conduct; and estranged from her early regard for him, as she had
been, by these and other things that she had heard, the young girl
could not entirely banish from her mind the image of the boy who had
been to her so gentle and affectionate since the early and innocent
days of childhood. In spite of all her efforts to turn her thoughts
away from him, they were ever turning toward him; and, as time
passed on, and his long absence left all in doubt concerning his
fate, his memory became to her something like a hallowed thing.

In passing on to the estate of womanhood, Emily, who possessed more
than common beauty, attracted admirers, and from two or three of
these she received offers of marriage. But in each case the suitor
had failed to win her heart, and she was too true a woman to give
her hand to any one unless her heart could go also.

In at least one case her father took sides with the lover, and urged
his suit with a degree of feeling that resulted in a partial
estrangement of affection. But he afterward had cause to be well
satisfied with Emily's decision in the case.

On the morning that had succeeded the day of Andrew Howland's return
to P--, Emily Winters, who had long since ceased to think of the
young man as alive, was informed that a gentleman had called, and
wished to see her.

"Who is he?" was the natural inquiry.

"I don't know," replied the servant.

"You should have asked his name."

"I did so, but he said that it was no matter."

After making some slight change in her dress, Emily went down to the
parlor. As she entered, a gentleman arose and advanced a few steps
toward her.

"Miss Winters!" said he, while he fixed his eyes intently on her

The young lady bowed slightly in return, while she looked at him

"You don't know me?" said the stranger, with perceptible
disappointment in his voice.

Emily dropped her eyes for a moment to the floor, and then lifted
them again to his countenance. There was a gentle suffusion on her
face, as she slowly shook her head.

"I have seen you before," she remarked, "but I cannot, at this
moment, tell where."

"Years have passed since we met," replied the stranger, with
something of sadness in his voice; "but I had hoped you would not
forget me."

As he spoke, he came nearer, and held out his hand, which Emily did
not hesitate to take.

At the moment of this contact, a light flashed on the maiden's face,
and she exclaimed, with sudden emotion--

"Andrew Howland! Can it be?"

And she stepped back a pace or two, and sunk upon a chair. Andrew
did not relinquish her hand, but sat down by her side, replying, as
he did so--

"Yes, Emily, it is even so. After a long, long absence, I have come
back to my old home, wiser and better, I trust, than when I went

It was some time before Emily looked up or replied; but she did not
make a motion to withdraw the hand which Andrew held with no slight

"How often, Emily," continued Andrew, seeing that she remained
silent, "have I thought of the sweet hours we spent together as
children--hours, too often, of stolen delight. Their remembrance
has, many a time, saved me from evil when strongly tempted. But for
that, and the memory of my mother, I should long since have become a
castaway on the ocean of life."

The voice of Andrew became tremulous as he uttered the last
sentence. It was then that Emily raised her eyes from the floor,
gently withdrawing her hand at the same time, and fixed them upon
his face. His words had sent her thoughts back to the old time when
they were children together, and when, to be within him, was one of
her highest pleasures; and, not only that, his words and tones had
reached her heart, and awakened therein an echo.

"It is a long time since you went away," said Emily. "A very long

"Yes; it is a long time. But, the weary slow-passing years are
ended, and I am back again among early scenes and old friends, and
back, I trust, to remain."

"How is your mother?" inquired Emily, after a slight pause.

"I found her much changed--older by twice the number of years that
have elapsed since I went away."

But all that passed between Andrew Howland and Emily Winters in the
hour they spent together at this first meeting, after so long an
absence, we cannot write. For a time, their intercourse was marked
by a reserve and embarrassment on the part of Emily; but this
insensibly wore off, and, ere the young man went away, their hearts,
if not their lips, had spoken to each other almost as freely as in
the days of childhood.

Not many months elapsed ere the tender regard that was spontaneously
awakened in their bosoms when children, and which had never ceased
to exist, led them into a true marriage union, to which no one
raised even a whisper of opposition. Almost at the very time that
Andrew was holding his first interview with Emily, Mr. Winters was
listening to a brief account of his return, with some of the
pleasing incidents immediately attendant thereon. In a meeting with
the young man shortly afterward, he was (sic) prepossesed in his
favor, and when he saw that he was disposed to renew the old
intimate relations with Emily, he did not in the least object.

Thus, after a lapse of over twenty-five years, two families, each
possessed of substantial virtues, and with social qualities forming
a plane for reciprocal good feeling, but which had been forced apart
by the narrow prejudice and iron will of Mr. Howland, came together
in a marriage of two of its members. Alas! how much of wrong and
suffering appertained to that long period during which they were
thus held apart! How many scars from heart-wounds were left; and
these not always painless!

Can any summing up of the causes and consequences set forth in our
story give force to the lessons it teaches? We think not; and
therefore leave it with the reader to do its own work.


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