Nothing injures a man's prospects in life more than a bad name. My father, an honest, good man, never could rise above it, it depressed him to his dying day. His name was Pan, and no one ever spoke to him without some small joke, a thing which my father's sensitiveness could not bear. He was a gardener and sent the finest of vegetables to market, striving to excel all others—I presume that my taste for horticulture arose from this circumstance.
Adjoining our garden was one that belonged to a man by the name of Patrick O'Brien; he likewise raised fruits and vegetables for sale, and there was a constant strife between him and my father as to who should get the pre-eminence; but it so happened that, although my father had the greatest abundance of large and fine specimens, yet Patrick O'Brien had the largest for the monthly exhibitions. My father was not of a jealous nature, yet he did envy his friend's success; and there is no knowing whether a breach might not have been made in their long tried friendship but for my excellent mother. She always begged my father to try and try again; and, above all, to try for the yearly fair. My father did persevere, and to his great joy, he got three premiums.
"I cannot tell how it has happened, wife," said he, "I have certainly acquired the premiums, but O'Brien's tulips were, to my notion, far more beautiful than mine; and you yourself saw how much larger his salad was; and then the early strawberries—I had the greatest quantity, but his were the largest."
My mother certainly was glad that my father's spirit was elated, but she was of a timid, nervous temperament, and she could not bear excitement of any kind. She therefore trembled very much whilst he stood talking to her, nor was she the less agitated when Patrick O'Brien entered the room.
"Right glad am I, neighbour Pan, that you have the three prizes this day," said honest Patrick, "and you must try your luck again, for there's to be a great prize given next year. Early peas, my boy. Arrah, but won't I try for them; and you have a fine warm spot for them too. But, mistress Pan, for what are you not wishing your husband joy this bright day, seeing he has what he so long wished for?"
"Mr. O'Brien," said my mother, the next day, "it must not be done again; my husband will find it out, and he will die of vexation. Pray discourage him from making the attempt next spring, for he will not bear a disappointment so well then as he has hitherto done. Did no one see you put the large strawberries in his dish?""No, never a creature, and I'm wondering you'll mention a thing to me that I have almost forgotten. I was frightful, though, about the Parrot tulip, for one of the gentlemen would keep talking about it, and I had to keep saying, 'It's not a Parrot, your honour, it's a Bijou.'"
The fact was, that this kind hearted creature could not bear to see my father so crest-fallen, and he determined, as he had borne off so many premiums, to let his friend share the pleasure with him. He slily put three of his finest tulips in the bunch belonging to my father, and, one by one, he put a dozen of his largest strawberries on the dish. He told all this to my poor mother, for which he was very sorry, seeing that it troubled her tender conscience; but, as her husband was not to know of the trick, she endeavoured to forget it also. "And you, too, poor Patrick," said she, "you feel badly at not getting the prizes; you have had them so long that it must be hard for you to lose them now—and particularly when, by rights, you should have them."
"Oh, honey, never you mind me; I care more to name your little baby, when it comes; and if you'll let it be called Patrick, why I have a little matter of money which shall all be his; and we will make the boy a great scholar. I'll bring him up like a gentleman."
I was born on St. Patrick's day; a double reason, as the poor Irishman said, for getting the name; but my mother cared little about that; all she thought of was leaving me to the mercy of heartless strangers. She was in very delicate health, and just lived long enough to hear me call her mother. Her death was a severe blow to my father and my poor godfather, for she was the peacemaker in their little disputes, and the consoler in all their little troubles and miscarriages, of which a gardener, you know, has many. In less than three months I lost my father also; and thus I became entirely thrown on the care of this good and honest Irishman.
As my father was liberal and spirited, it cannot be supposed that he had, in a few short years, made much money; when his effects were sold, and every thing converted into money, there only remained about five hundred dollars. A far greater sum, as Patrick said, than he expected to realize; but nothing at all equal to what was necessary. He was a very sanguine creature, and always had a hope that the next year would do wonders; so putting the money thus obtained from my father's effects into safe hands, he determined on providing for me himself.
Never was there a father so proud of a child as Patrick was of his little godson; and never did a child fare better, for three years, than I did. He dressed me in the finest clothes; and I was never without a lap full of toys; in fact, he could not resist my entreaties for more when we passed a toy shop. He often neglected his work to take me either a riding or walking with him; and even when toiling in the garden, he was uneasy unless I was running around him. But, alas, this state of things was not to last long; he missed my father's excellent example and my mother's gentle hints, so he went on as if his income was never to be diminished, and as if he had thousands at his command.
Like all weak people, the moment his affairs became embarrassed, he gave up all endeavours at retrieving them; he ended by neglecting every thing; and when my nurse presented the quarterly account for my board, poor Patrick had to sell a valuable watch to meet the demand. My little property was in the Savings Bank, and, hitherto, untouched; but much as it was against his inclination—and, oh, how sore a thing it was—he was compelled to take up the year's interest, which he fondly hoped to leave with the principal, to pay the woman for my next quarter.
Thus it went from bad to worse, until it came to utter ruin; and Patrick had sunk so low in public esteem, that he could not obtain even the ordinary wages of a common gardener. He seemed to have lost his skill with his pride, and all was aggravated by the thought of being unable to provide for me as he once intended to do. He used to hug me to him and weep over me, calling on my father, but most frequently on my mother, to scorn him and hate him for breaking his promise, which was to educate me, and give me a gentlemanly trade. He was so true to his trust, however, that he never would touch my little patrimony; he only grieved too much, as I observed, at having to draw upon the interest, little as it was. But five shillings a week was not a sum sufficient to satisfy my nurse. She had taken care of me for three years, and had been well paid by my godfather, who likewise made her several valuable presents; but when it came to the shillings, she at once told Patrick, who was thunderstruck at her hardness of heart, that he must get another place for the little spoilt boy; that she found him so troublesome she could keep him no longer.
I shall not tell of the change that came over me, nor the resistance I made to every new face, for I was turned over to a dozen strangers in the course of a year. Nor shall I tell of poor Patrick's misery at seeing my altered looks and spirits. He rallied a little and went in a gentleman's service as under gardener, that he might not only be near me, but comfort my little heart, which was breaking with ill usage and neglect. Small as the sum was, which Patrick gave for my board, there were miserable creatures who offered to take me for less, so that one woman, with whom I lived, actually farmed me out, keeping two shillings a week out of the scanty allowance. No one can have an idea how poor little orphans are abused when there are no kind friends to interest themselves for them.
I was a very unprepossessing child, neither good looking nor pleasant tempered; not that I was really ill-tempered, but that ill usage had stupified me. I never entered into play with the children of my own age, nor did I seek the amusements that were even within my reach. I loved to be alone, to lie under a tree near a brook, listening to the babbling and murmuring of the waters, and fancying that I heard my mother talking to me. Little as I was, I used to frame long conversations with her, and they had the effect of soothing me. Her gentle spirit was for ever present, and constantly encouraging me to bear all, and suffer in silence, and that when I was a man I should be rewarded. I bless the good Irishman's memory for having so early and so constantly spoken of my parents; particularly of my mother.
A man finds he cannot make his way in the world without honesty and industry, so that, although his father's example may do much, he has to depend upon his own exertions; he must work, he must be honest, or he cannot attain to any enviable rank. But the tender soothings of a mother, her sympathy, her devotedness, her forgiving temper—all this sinks deep in a child's heart; and let him wander ever so wide, let him err or let him lead a life of virtue, the remembrance of all this comes like a holy calm over his heart, and he weeps that he has offended her, or he rejoices that he has listened to her disinterested, gentle admonition.
When I reached the age of eight years I was taught to read, and the eagerness with which I proceeded, mastering every difficulty, and overcoming every impediment from cold, hunger and chilblain, might have shown to an observer how suitable this occupation was to my character. Poor Patrick used to boast of my acquirements to every one who would listen; and every fresh book that I read through, gave him visions of my future glory.
No one can tell how the poor fellow pinched himself to give me this scanty education, but hard necessity had taught me to think; I was compelled to make use of my judgment, young as I was; and, knowing that he had the sum of five hundred dollars in his possession, for my use, I tried to prevail on him to draw out a fifth part of it for the purpose of paying a better board, and getting me a better teacher. If any one could have seen this poor man as I saw him at that time, thin, bowed down by poverty and neglect, ragged and with scarcely a home, they would have wondered that his honesty could have held out as it did when he had what might be considered as so large a sum within his power. He not only did not touch a penny himself, but he would not take a cent of it from the principal. He distrusted his own judgment, and he distrusted mine, for I was such a mere child; yet his anxiety to give me an education was still uppermost, and he wavered for a long time about adopting the only means of accomplishing it.
He had been digging post holes, one day, for a gentleman, and when his task was finished, he began to speak of the books which he saw lying about—it was a printing office—and, as was most natural to him, he spoke of me. He told the printer of his anxieties and his desire that I should have a good education, and finally he spoke of my proposal respecting the money. The printer told Patrick, that it was very good advice, and he had better take it; for if his object was to educate me, there was no other way but this of effecting it, unless he sent me to a charity school. The blood mounted in the poor fellow's cheeks at this suggestion, and he told me that he had great difficulty in commanding his temper, but his love for me conquered.
As soon as he could swallow the affront—an affront, he said, to my father, and to my angel of a mother; for he, too, never separated my feelings from their's—he begged the printer to let him bring me there and see how far I had advanced in my learning; but the man did not seem disposed to grant this favour. Bring the boy to me one year from this, and then I shall be better able to judge, said he; mean time, do you see that he is placed with a good teacher; one that will keep him to his studies.
With a heavy heart, Patrick obeyed him, and I thus obtained a knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic; but he seemed to be failing fast; every time he came to see me he appeared weaker, and was still more wretchedly clad, and I could devise no plan for his comfort. He never complained of his poverty, but of his laziness; and his constant exhortations were, "Patrick, my boy, be industrious; never allow of an idle moment; give over lying under the trees, and do not saunter about when your lessons are over—look at me; I am in rags and despised by every body because I have been an idler."
At the end of the year, in as good a suit of clothes as my poor godfather could manage to procure for me, I was taken to the printer. He cast a look at me as he stood at his desk writing, and then told us to take a seat. His cold manner struck a chill through my heart, and I crowded myself on Patrick's chair that I might feel the warmth of his kindness. There we sat, speechless, for half an hour, until the letters were finished and despatched, and then the man turned his head again and gave another look.
"Will you be for speaking to the boy touching his learning, your honour?" said honest Patrick, his feelings hurt by this coldness of manner; "or shall we come some other time?"
"I have no time to question him now," said the printer, "but if he can read and write—here, my boy, write your name on this leaf—Patrick Pan! hem—Pan, is it?"
"Yes, your honour," said the indignant Irishman, "and it was an honest man that bore it, and gived it to him, and I trust he'll never disgrace it."
"I trust so too," said the man. "He writes legibly, and if you have nothing better to do with him, he may have his food and clothing for the few errands he can do."
"And Patrick, dear," said O'Brien, "will you be liking this employment, sure my son it's a good berth, though a mean one, to what I meant to give you; but you'll be industrious and mind what's told you, and I'll still be looking after you, and you'll have plenty of books, dear, for they are not scarce here."
"The boy will have but little chance of meddling with books," said the printer, "it will be time enough when he is older. Is he to stay now, or do you wish him to come next week? he must be apprenticed to me, you recollect."
Smothering and choking was the poor fellow for a minute or two; he knew that the hundred dollars was all gone, and that my last quarter had just ended. He knew it was entirely out of his power to assist me any further, so with a mighty effort he made the sacrifice—he transferred me to another.
It was but the work of half an hour, and I became this man's property; for twelve years he was to rule my destiny. I looked up in his face whilst he was speaking, and I saw nothing to cheer me; his countenance was only expressive of care and deep thought. I cast another glance at him when my indentures were signed, and there was no change. Poor Patrick never thought of his looks; he was only alive to the misery of having consigned me to another; of having no longer any power or control over my comforts and enjoyments.
When all was over, and the printer had left us together, the poor man burst into tears, bewailing his cruel fate that would not let him alone, as he said, that he might perform his promise of giving me a good education. "I wanted to be industrious," said he, "but something always pulled me back and pointed to a toy or a hobby-horse, or a fine suit of clothes, or a ride, or a pleasant walk, and so all these things being more agreeable to my nature, I left my garden for the pleasure of pleasing you, my poor boy; and now you must work for this nigger, who won't let you touch one of his books even. But remember your mother, Patrick, whatever becomes of you; be honest, and she will be looking down upon you, my jewel; and that will encourage you; and I shall be looking after you too, dear, for all I am—for all I am—in the poor-house. Don't cry, poor fellow, I did not mean to tell you; but where's the use of being proud now, when you can't even get a book to read, but must just be an errand boy and be pushed about any how, and it all comes of my laziness."
"Oh no, Patrick, you have done every thing for me," said I, "and only keep a good heart for twelve years, and then I shall have a trade, and I can make you happy and comfortable; but you must come and see me every day, for I shall miss you so much; and there is such a difference between Mr. Bartlett and you. It will kill me if you don't come every day."
"Well, child, it is idle to stand here making you more unhappy than you need be; I will come as often as I can; but I shall just walk up and down the alley, there, till you get sight of me, for I'll not be after knocking at the door and shaming you before your new acquaintances, and I all in these old rags."
So we parted with many a last look and last speech; I following him, poor, ragged, broken down old creature as he was, as far as my eye could see him, and then sat on the stairs in the hall and cried myself asleep; nor did I awake till the bell rang for dinner. Mr. Bartlett pointed to a little room, as he passed me on coming down stairs, telling me to go there and take my seat at the table as soon as the cook told me that the dinner was ready. The cook cast a surly glance at me, and so did the chambermaid, muttering in audible whispers that "here was more trouble; and wondering what could possess Mr. Bartlett to bring such a mere child in the house, one not big enough to fetch a pail of water."
In the afternoon I was allowed to lounge about the room, no one taking the least notice of me, till the foreman said, "Here is a little errand boy, one of the elder apprentices must take him out when he goes with books and papers, that he may learn to find his way." Then they all cast a look at me, and seeing my tiny size, and how awkward and poorly clad I was, they made themselves very merry at my expense. But small and contemptible as I appeared, they did not think me too small nor too mean for their services. I was made to toil from morning till night, scarcely sitting down to my impoverished meals; for I always had to wait till the elder boys had finished, and I was scarcely seated before I was wanted. By degrees I lost all pride about my outward appearance. From my infancy I was particularly careful to keep my face and hands clean; but now that I was driven about from place to place I had no time. All I could do was to dip my hands and face hastily in a basin, or a pail, or more commonly, under the pump, and either let the water dry off, or else use a pocket-handkerchief. My master never looked after me, nor inquired about me, that I ever heard, so that I was as much neglected as if I was among wild beasts—is not this the case with the most of apprentices?
It was a week, and more, before I had a room to sleep in; and I was forced to lie about on floors, or on benches, wherever my mattress was to be found. At length, by the removal of a young man, I was put up in a small garret room, and in this hole I slept for twelve years. There was one thing, however, which made it endurable; and this was, that the branches of a large buttonwood tree reached up to the window and sheltered it from the afternoon sun; but for this I should have suffered from the heat. Many and many an evening have I been soothed by the gentle rustling of the leaves, as the mild breeze passed over them. It seemed as if the spirit of my mother was there, and I would listen and fancy that I heard her whispering to me, and then I would shut my eyes and let the cool soft air fall on my cheek, and say to myself, Perhaps it is the breath of my mother. To this day, now that I am a man, I still seem to hear that ever-to-beloved voice in the silence of the night, when the summer wind murmurs through the foliage. I used, at that forlorn period of my existence, to give myself up to these delusions till my heart has fairly throbbed with emotion.
I looked around for something to love, but no one ever dreamed of me, all were engaged in their business, or when the day closed, in their own amusement; all that I could draw to me was a poor singed cat, which I coaxed into my garret-room, and domesticated there. I rescued her from the gripe of the cook's son, a hard-hearted little tyrant, who took great pleasure in tormenting animals.
But my unfortunate name—that, too, added to my miseries. I told you it was Pan. I was called Pat from the first; but when they found out my father's name, it was an easy thing to call me Patty Pan; and by this name I went for years. Oh, how hard it was to my sensitive spirit to hear my father's—my mother's name turned into ridicule by these inconsiderate and callous people.
Every Sunday poor Patrick met me in one of the public squares, and there we would talk together, and he would tell me anecdote after anecdote of my parents and their family, always making them out grandees at home. Both my father and mother were from Scotland, and I learned that my mother had displeased her only brother by her marriage, and that his ill-natured conduct towards her caused them to come to America.
"You are come of a good stock, Patrick, dear," said he to me, when I was about fourteen years old, "barring that your uncle was such a nigger. I have written twice to him, my jewel, and its never an answer I've got, so I'll trouble him no more, only I'll just be for telling Mr. Bartlett who you are; and in case your uncle should ever deign to inquire about you, he can answer for you. I've kept all safe, honey; here in this old tobacco-box is the certificates of your parents' marriage, and of your birth, and, oh, wo's me, of their death too; and here is an account of your money in the savings bank, and not a penny has been touched since you began your trade, so that the five hundred dollars are all whole again, and something over."
It was in vain that I entreated the poor fellow to take the interest and spend it on himself; he would not do it; and from seeing his self-denial I found it impossible to make use of it myself, although I was sadly in want of comforts. Often and often would the old man question me as to my usage at the printing office; but I could not bear to tell him how utterly neglected I was; it would have killed him. Every time I saw him he appeared weaker and weaker, and at length his eye-sight failed, and it was with great difficulty that he could grope his way to our accustomed haunts. He never would allow me to come to the alms-house, not so much as to meet him at the door or near it; but I bribed a poor man to lead him to the place and call for him again; this I was enabled to do from the few shillings that I received from Mr. Bartlett on the new year's day and the fourth of July.
My master called me to him, one morning, with some little show of sympathy; he said that Patrick O'Brien was very ill, and that it was doubtful whether he would live till night; that he had been to the alms-house and was satisfied that the poor man was properly treated. I begged to go to him, but Mr. Bartlett said that Patrick had desired that I should not, and that I should not follow him to the grave; but, added he, on seeing my grief, if you really desire to go, I will send you there or go with you myself.
I was so astonished at this unexpected kindness, that my tears dried up in an instant, and I blessed and blessed him over and over again—not by speech, for I was unfit for it, but mentally. My master told me to go to my room and remain there till he sent for me, bidding me say nothing to any one either respecting my poor godfather or what had recently occurred. He need not have enjoined this on me; no one had ever thought it worth while to inquire whence I came, or to whom I belonged. The general opinion was, that I was a poor, spiritless, melancholy creature.
The last link was broken; I followed my only friend to the grave, my master having the humanity to take me in a carriage to the funeral; and I need not tell you that one of the first acts of my life, when I had the power to do it, was to put a stone at the head of poor O'Brien's grave.
But heaven opened one source of pleasure to the poor orphan's heart. If the living denied me their sympathy, the dead did not; I became fond of reading; and all at once, as it were, a flood of light and knowledge entered my whole soul. To indulge myself in this newly found pleasure was scarcely possible, for my labours seemed to increase as I grew older. Indeed there were greater difficulties in the way now than there would have been at first, for then I was a mere cipher, and was only used as a convenience. But there were certain things going on which made it necessary that there should be no spies or tell-tales about; and as I would not join the young men in their irregularities, they thought I meant to ingratiate myself with Mr. Bartlett by exposing them. As the follies they committed were not injurious to our master's interest, I had no intention of exposing them, for he was a hard man and showed them but few favours. My companions, however, became shy of me, and I found that they even preferred to do without my assistance than to have me near them; but I held fast by my integrity; and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I was true to my employer's interests, never injuring them myself nor suffering others to do it.
My only chance of reading was after supper; I then went to my room, and there I sat, devouring book after book, night after night, by the light of my little lamp, with my old cat, either on my lap or on my bed, the only living thing that claimed any companionship with me. When I had exhausted the books in the house, I hired others at the libraries; and thus I went on, my appetite increasing as I proceeded; and my eighteenth year found me exactly in the same round of duty, but with a mind that seemed almost bursting its bounds with the knowledge that I had thus crammed into it.
Just at this period, my uncle, that cruel man, of whom poor O'Brien had so often to speak, wrote to Mr. Bartlett concerning me. He said that, if I would take the name of Parr he would make over to me a tract of land which he owned in Virginia, and that if money were necessary, towards procuring this change of name, I might draw on a certain firm in New York to the amount of two hundred dollars. I was very indignant at first, but Mr. Bartlett seemed resolute in accomplishing the thing, and I at length reluctantly consented to give up the name. In the course of a year, the whole was arranged. I adopted the name of Parr, and Mr. Bartlett, thinking it better to sell the land at a moderate price than to let it lie unproductive, found a purchaser for it, and the money—twelve hundred dollars—was judiciously placed out at good interest.
My fellow-apprentices only laughed amongst themselves when Mr. Bartlett told them that in future I was to be called by another name; but it soon passed out of their thoughts, and I was again left to my own solitude and insignificance.
But the same objections did not exist with respect to the income I derived from my uncle's bounty. I felt a sort of pleasure in spending it; and the first things I purchased was a looking-glass and other little comforts for my forlorn garret-room. Oh, the luxury of a large wash basin, a white towel and pleasant soap; and the infinitely greater luxury of giving a few shillings to the poor objects who solicited charity. The pride of my childhood returned, and I once more took care of my dress and my outward appearance. I no longer went slouching and careless along, inattentive to what was passing, but stopped to let my eye rest on the shop windows; suffering myself to take pleasure in the beauty and brightness that was spread out around me—such a difference is there between the penny-less and crushed spirit and the one who has wealth at command.
But there was still a craving at the heart, which money could not satisfy—I wanted a home, kind fellowship, a brother, a sister, something near and dear, that I could call my own. In my Sunday walks I used to look at the cheerful and happy young people that passed me, selecting first one and then the other as a companion, and held mental conversation with them, trying in this way to cheat myself into the belief that I was of consequence to some one being. Oh, if any one could have guessed at the deep feeling which lay hidden under my cold manner; if they could but have known whence arose the nervous tremblings which assailed me when I performed any little friendly office for strangers!
As to Mr. Bartlett, he never varied his treatment of the work-people; they were all kept at the same distance; he paid them their wages and exacted obedience in return; and when the rules were neglected, or when his commands were disobeyed, he dismissed the offender at once, without remark or dispute. Of all that came and went, I was the only one that served out my apprenticeship. Out of fourteen men and boys, when I left him, there was not one that had been with him four years. But this gave me no advantages. I was no nearer his confidence than I was when I entered his service. I was advanced in the regular way, from step to step, until I had arrived at the highest point; and I did not consider myself as master of the trade until my time was expired. He could not prevent me from feeling gratitude towards him, for I recollected his kindness in going with me to poor O'Brien's grave, and in his care and attention to my interests respecting the change of name and the investment of the money for the Virginia land; but he did not require sympathy, and he never gave it to others.
My last act of duty was to correct the proofs of a very valuable work, requiring a knowledge of the subject matter, almost equal to that of the author. Several had undertaken it, but made so many blunders that the poor author was in despair. Mr. Bartlett was very much mortified, and determined to put back the work until he could procure a competent person to read the proofs. Having been fond of that particular branch of study—Vegetable Physiology—I knew that I could accomplish the task; so I stepped into the office and told Mr. Bartlett that if he had no objection I would read the proofs, for having always had access to works of the kind, the terms made use of were quite familiar. He looked at me with astonishment, having, like the rest of the house, always considered me as a mere automaton; a faithful drudge, who did every thing mechanically. He put the work into my hands, and I laboured at it with care and diligence, so that the work came out without a single erratum. Mr. Bartlett said, "This is well done, Mr. Parr, excellent, and you deserve all our thanks; the author has sent you his grateful thanks and this little box; it contains a compound microscope. I have the pleasure, likewise, of giving you a copy of the work."
But praise from him, respect from my fellow labourers, came too late to satisfy me; the time was approaching when I should be free, when I could at intervals relieve both mind and body from this unnatural monotony, and roam about in the country unrestrained. I hoped likewise to meet with some congenial mind to whom I could pour out my feelings and thoughts; for to this one point all my wishes turned; my whole soul was so swallowed up with this one sentiment that every other passion—wealth, fame, and all, were but things seen at a vast distance. I was born with tender and strong feelings, and a friend was the bounds of my ambition.
At length the day came, St. Patrick's day, blessed be his name, it gave me freedom. My agitation had kept me awake the whole night before, for I had a sort of fear that something would occur to hinder me from leaving the office. As to where I was to go, that never troubled me—green fields, the river, running brooks, trees, birds, and the animals of the country, were all before me, and to me they would speak volumes. If man denied me his sympathy, they would not refuse it; and to the haunts of my childhood, to the very spot where I drew my breath, there I meant to direct my steps. I knew I had not neglected a single duty, nor disobeyed a single command. God had blessed me with health, so that I never had to keep my room for one day even. To be sure, there were times when I had severe headaches, and wretched coughs, and great weakness from night sweats; but I never complained, determined that, when my day of service expired, there should be nothing exacted of me for lost time. I did not know that my master would make me remain, to work out the days that were lost by sickness, but it had been put in my head by some of the apprentices, and I never forgot it.
On this happy, memorable morning, dressed in a full suit of mourning, even to the crape on my new hat, with a valise well filled with good linen, handkerchiefs, and stockings, I entered Mr. Bartlett's private office for the last time. He looked at me with an inquiring eye, as I stood covered with confusion and agitation. "What is the meaning of this, Mr. Parr?" said he, "you seem equipped for a journey."
"I was twenty-one years of age at six o'clock this morning," said I, my face flushed as I could feel by the tingling in my ears.
"Well, what if you were," said he, looking as much surprised as if an apprentice never was to leave his master. "I thought your time was nearly out—this is St. Patrick's day, is it? but you are going to return. You shall have good wages, and I shall take care that you have a good berth."
"No, sir," said I, almost breathless with fear that I should be spell bound,—"no, sir, I intend to travel about in the country this summer; I am going to put head stones to the graves of my father and mother: that is my first purpose, now that I have money and am free. I hope and trust that you think I have served a faithful and honest apprenticeship, and that if I want a situation in a printing office I can ask you for a good character."
"Yes, most assuredly you can; but you need not apply elsewhere. I know your worth, young man, and I have both the power and inclination to serve you. Serve me for five years as well as you have done, and I will make you a partner in the concern."
I thanked him warmly for this gratifying mark of esteem, but I could not accept of his offer, my very heart turned sick at the thought of staying another day even. He was evidently disconcerted, and made several pauses, as if to consider whether he might not propose something more acceptable, but I fortified myself against all that he might urge, and I am sure that an offer to make me his full partner immediately would not have induced me to remain.
I asked for my indentures. "Well," said he, "Mr. Parr, you are not to be moved, I see; but that shall not hinder me from doing you justice; you have served me well, and it is but fair that I should look to your interest. He turned from me and wrote a letter of recommendation to two publishers, one in New York and the other in Boston, and taking his check book from the shelf, he drew a check, which I found was for two hundred dollars. He gave me the three papers, and then proceeded to look for the indenture; he handed it to me, endorsed properly, and after thanking him for his former and present kindness, I asked him if he would allow me to beg one more favour of him, which was that he would still keep for me the certificates of my parents' marriage and my birth, and allow me to draw on him, as usual, for the interest of the mortgage which he held for me. He had previously to this put me in possession of it, and of the money in the savings bank, he having held it in trust for me. He readily promised me this favour, begging me to use the money prudently as hitherto, and in case of any difficulty to apply to him. We shook hands, and I was in the act of picking up my valise to depart when the crape on my hat caught his eye.
"You are in mourning, I perceive," said he, "there is crape on your hat and your clothes are black; I did not know that you had a single relation here."
"Nor have I," said I. "I put on this mourning dress as a mark of affectionate gratitude to my poor godfather, Patrick O'Brien. I had it not in my power to do it before, but as his goodness lives still fresh and green in my memory, why should I omit doing that which I know would gratify his spirit if it should be permitted him to know it?"
"I wish for your sake that he had lived to see this day," said Mr. Bartlett, "but I will not detain you longer; I wish you well from the bottom of my heart."
"There is but one thing more, sir," said I, turning back from the door. "There are several articles belonging to me in my bed room; I have given them to the youngest apprentice, and I wish he may have your sanction to retain them; here is a list of them." He took the list: I left the room, walked hastily through the hall, and shut the street door as I went out—I shut out the whole twelve years from my memory.
It was a clear, cold, bright day; the frost had been out of the ground for some time, so that the roads were dry and the walking pleasant, but the sense of freedom was exquisite. "What," said I, "no calls upon my time, no hurry, no driving? can I call this blessed day my own? is that my sun? that glorious sun which goes careering through the sky, and shedding its brightness all around, filling my eyes with the beautiful pictures which it illuminates?" And thus I went on, step by step, rejoicing, my enraptured soul drinking in new cause for exultation at every turn.
In the whole twelve years I had never eaten a meal out of Mr. Bartlett's house, nor had I ever been within the walls of any other house than his, so strictly did I keep within the limits of my duty. I was exceedingly shy, therefore, of entering a public house, although my hunger was beginning to make itself felt. But I conquered my timidity, and entering a house of entertainment I called for dinner. I was ushered into a neat room, and in the course of half an hour was served with what appeared to me then an excellent dinner. I was covered with confusion because the host would wait on me, and I was equally embarrassed with the services of a goodnatured waiter, who bowed low when I paid for the dinner, and still lower when I refused to take the half dollar change.
I was now completely in the country, and in the neighbourhood of the place that gave me birth. Having a faint recollection of the house in which my parents lived, I determined, if I ever was rich enough, that I would purchase it; for visions of a beautiful river, and a waterfall, and every variety of romantic scenery, were constantly floating before me; and then there was the inspiration of my mother to heighten the picture. I reached the spot at nightfall, and engaged lodgings at the inn—not the one that you now see at the head of the briery lane, but further on; it was destroyed by fire about four years ago; you must all recollect it. Here I remained three weeks, going over the haunts of my early childhood—infancy, I might say—and reviving the almost faded images, by being amongst the same scenes. The willow and the aspen tree, near my spring house, O'Brien helped me to plant when I was about six years old, and under the large elm I used to lie when I first began to read. You need not be surprised that I purchased this little estate as soon as I had the means of doing so; I contemplated it from the moment I entered Mr. Bartlett's employment, and it was a project that never ceased to occupy my thoughts. The house was small, but substantially built; it is the one on the edge of the common, in which Martha's brother lives; and I keep it in neat repair, as I also do the garden in which my father worked; these fine apple trees are of his planting. I made several attempts to purchase the little property which once belonged to my poor godfather, but it belonged to an old man by the name of Banks; he added it to the Oak Valley farm, which I do not regret now, as it has fallen into the hands of our excellent neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Webb.
I knew the precise spot where my parents were buried, for poor Patrick had described it accurately, making a drawing of it upon a piece of paper which I shall preserve to the day of my death; I therefore placed a tomb stone to each grave, with an inscription that satisfied my ardent feelings, but which I have since replaced with others more suited to their humble merits and my more mature judgment. Patrick's grave was about a mile from the city, and, with Mr. Bartlett's assent, I had caused a neat stone to be put over it, as many as six years before this period.
My hard hearted old nurse was then and is still living; that fine, promising boy that was lost at sea, and in whom you all took such an interest, was her only child; for his sake I allow her a small yearly sum, but she has no idea that I am the one that she so cruelly gave up to the ill usage of the poor creatures around her. Poor Patrick, how he hated her; she even taunted him when she afterwards saw him with me, pretending to wonder why he did not dress me in such fine clothes as formerly. He had, in his days of wealth, bought me a hobby horse, the skeleton of which I found about three years ago in an old barn, and which I knew immediately, for the initials of my name were carved underneath by him; it is in complete order again. How it would gratify the poor, kind old man, were he living, for he would know the motives which influenced me in this trifling act.
What a tumult of mind I was in during these three weeks! The country had not the tranquillizing effect that I expected, for I was striving to recall far-gone images and thoughts; I went to every old tree, to the brook, to the river, to the church, and to the pew in which my parents sat, for of this too I had inquired of Patrick. I thought my all of happiness was centred in this one place, and that, though human sympathy was denied me, I might here pass the remainder of my days in peace and quiet, worshipping my Maker, and in doing good to the poor creatures around me. But the money was to be made to purchase these blessings, for I had but eighteen hundred dollars, and it required as many thousands to accomplish this desirable object, and Patrick's last injunction for ever rung in my ears—"never be idle."
I tore myself away from this cherished spot, and walked back again to the city just in time to get in one of the cars for New York, where I arrived the same afternoon. After I had looked at the curiosities which were, to me, so thickly scattered about, I thought it quite time to commence work in earnest. I therefore called on a printer by the name of Blagge and offered my services. He happened, luckily, to be in want of a proof reader, and without entering into any definite agreement, I commenced the work, he having meanwhile written to Mr. Bartlett, that he might be sure of the genuineness of the letter of recommendation. Mr. Blagge was quite pleased with my care and industry, as well as with my knowledge of the subject matter of the work; he said that he could now bring out a book which he had long wished to publish, but that his proof readers were, in general, so profoundly ignorant of science, that he was unwilling to undertake it. I begged him to defer it until the ensuing spring, that I intended to improve myself by attending the lectures, and that I should then be better able to take charge of the work. Meantime he gave me four hundred dollars a year, with a promise of presenting me with tickets to such of the lectures as I chose to attend.
My companions in the office were civil, nay, respectful; for I came amongst them under favourable circumstances, and Mr. Blagge's kind manner towards me had a great effect on them. But they were not suited to me; I looked from one to the other in vain for one of congenial mind; they were all industrious, and some ambitious; but their minds were a blank, and their pursuits, when disengaged from their business, were of a low order. Not one could I find that loved to walk out in the country for the sake of breathing pure air, and of enjoying the soft, tender scenes of nature; their pleasures lay in eating cellars where the best suppers could be had for their limited means, and in playing at some low pastime night after night, such as Domino, All-fours, Vingtun, and other games of chance; and on Sundays to take a sail, or something, in fact, which tended to demoralize rather than improve.
Mr. Blagge was, as I observed, respectful and kind, but he was full of cares and anxieties, having a very large family to support, and with but slender means; in fact, he had been very much embarrassed, and was just recovering from it. It was not to be supposed that he could interest himself in the feelings of a young man with whom he had so slight an acquaintance—one, likewise, who did not ask for his sympathy. I therefore moved on in silence, occupying myself at leisure hours in learning the French and Latin languages, which, with the help of good teachers and books I was enabled to do in the course of a few months. This was a delightful occupation to me, and I soon overcame all the difficulties, excepting the pronunciation, which I was unable to accomplish, as I had no one with whom I could converse. I learned the Latin that I might more fully comprehend the meaning of the technical terms made use of in all the works of science, and which I considered it absolutely necessary to do, as I was so soon to take charge of the reputation of the great forthcoming work.
Here was, therefore, another pleasure, for I now became passionately fond of works of this nature, and my greedy mind devoured all that came within reach. I had nothing to interfere with my plan of study, living entirely alone, and having no associates; I hired a room in which I slept and studied, and I took my breakfast, dinner, and supper, at a cheap ordinary near the office. As I stipulated to labour only between sunrise and sunset, I had as much time as I wanted for exercise and reading, and my practice was to walk from the hour I left the office until it was dark, eat my supper, and then retire to my room. Being an early riser, there was time, therefore, to attend to my dress, for I had again become fastidiously clean. It now appears to me that I hurried from one thing to another, and engaged in every thing so vigorously, to keep off the ever-intruding feeling of loneliness. I wonder if any other human being suffered so acutely on this subject as I did; it seemed as if I would have given all I was worth in the world for one friend.
But heaven at length took pity on my desolate situation, and I was about to be rewarded for all that I had suffered; it came in a way, too, in which a man should be blest—in the form of love.
I was always a regular attendant at divine worship, excepting during the latter part of poor O'Brien's life, being then compelled to walk out with him and talk to him; but after his death I used to go twice every Sunday to church, going to every one that would admit me. Now that I was my own master, and had the means to do it, I hired a seat in a church about three miles out of town, where I could worship God without the fear of having my attention distracted by the restlessness and frivolity of a fashionable city congregation. I gained another object, too; I had a pleasant walk, and the exercise was necessary to my health.
Directly in front of the pew that I occupied sat two ladies and a gentleman, regular attendants likewise; the elderly lady was very lame, and required assistance both in getting in and out of the carriage, and the gentleman, I thought, seemed rather indifferent about her comfort, for he was not as tender and delicate in his attentions as he should have been. Almost the whole trouble of assisting her fell on the young lady, who, I presumed, was her daughter. I had a very great desire to offer my services, but my shyness of strangers prevented me, although every succeeding week I saw that the poor invalid was less and less able to help herself. Standing very near them one day, I found that it was utterly impossible for the young lady to get her aged relative in the carriage without help, so I stepped hastily forward just as the old lady was falling from the step, and in time to catch her in my arms. I lifted her gently in the carriage, seated her comfortably in it, sprung out again, and offered my hand to the young lady. It was the impulse of a moment. The door closed, and the carriage was soon out of sight.
But what a tumult and confusion I was in; what strange feelings overpowered me. There had been magic in the touch of the hand. There had been magic in the glance of her eye, as she turned to thank me. A dreamy softness came over me, and diffused itself through my very soul. I could not imagine why it was that so slight an incident should have affected me so deeply; but I thought of nothing, dreamed of nothing, but the touch of that hand and the glance of that beautiful eye. It was in vain that I took up my pen or my book, in the evening; in a few seconds, my hand dropped and my eye rested on vacancy.
With more than usual care I attended to my dress on the following Sunday, and I was there at the church door sooner than necessary, waiting for the carriage. It did not arrive, and I was compelled to enter and take my seat, as the clergyman had commenced the service. You may imagine my feelings when I saw the lady sitting quietly in her pew, by the side of the old gentleman: they had walked to church, having left the invalid at home; and they had passed me while I was gazing up the road for the carriage. When leaving the church I inquired whether the lady had been prevented from coming to church from indisposition; and a voice, the sweetest and the gentlest that ever fell on human ear, answered my question. I was so startled, both by my own temerity, in thus venturing to address her, and by the uncommon softness of her voice, that I did not hear the import of the words; but the loveliness of the tones remained imprinted on my memory for ever. No music, since, has ever made the like impression.
Sunday was now a day of exquisite enjoyment; for, added to strong devotional feelings, I was breathing the same atmosphere with a being that I considered as all perfection. She appeared to be that for which I had so long sought—a friend, a sister—and I hoped the time was not far distant when I could approach her and again hear that musical voice. In this blissful state the summer passed, unclouded, save that the lady was once absent from church—it was owing to the death of the elderly person who, I discovered, was not her mother, but a distant connexion, who had resided with them for many years; and that the gentleman I supposed to be her father was her uncle. She was an orphan, and her destiny seemed for ever linked with mine, from this circumstance.
Toward the close of the summer, the young lady sometimes came to church alone; and fearing that, when the cold weather set in, I should lose sight of her, perhaps for ever, I determined to make one attempt to interest her in my favour. I had superintended the getting up of a beautiful prayer-book, the type, paper, plates and execution were perfect, and I had one copy exquisitely bound. I even ventured to write the name of this fair being in the first page, and intended to present it to her; but it was a month before I gained courage to make the attempt. At one time I thought to lay it on the ledge of her pew, in silence; but I could not bear that her devotions should be interrupted by what might be considered as an act of levity on my part, so I forbore. I ventured, at last, to address her on coming out of church; and to my surprise, I found myself walking forward with her. She always carried her prayer-book, and I asked permission to look at it; she smiled and gave it to me, and I then took the one intended for her from my pocket, and presented it to her, making my bow suddenly, and hastening with the speed of lightning from her sight—I need not say that the little worn out prayer-book is still a treasure to me.
How she received the book I could not tell, nor had I an opportunity of knowing, on the following Sunday, for it stormed so violently that none but a devoted lover, like myself, would have ventured out. She was not there, nor did I expect to see her; but I had an exquisite pleasure in being in a spot where I had so frequently been near her. On the Saturday following the lectures commenced; I was to attend three, Astronomy, Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, but fearing that my mind was in too unsettled a state to attend to them all, I only entered my name for two—Chemistry and Astronomy.
The lecture room was in a narrow street, badly lighted; and, there being a basement, it became necessary to have a number of steps to the porch. It was November, and there had been a little sleet in the afternoon, so that the steps were slippery, and I could not avoid the reflection that it would be exceedingly unsafe for ladies to pass up and down. It being an introductory lecture, the room was crowded, as it always is, and I therefore stood near the door, not caring to disturb any one by making an attempt to look for a seat. A lady and gentleman sat near to the corner where I stood, and on his getting up, she turned her head. You may judge of my amazement and rapture when I saw it was the lady who was ever present to my mind.
She smiled, and in a moment I was at her side—she spoke, for I could not; I again heard that musical, that charming voice, and the lecturer and the crowd were forgotten. I think she said something pleasing of the book, but my heart beat so violently that I could not tell what it was. She saw my agitation, but thought it proceeded from mere bashfulness, and she therefore talked on, of the lecture and of the crowd. I said yes, no, any thing—but I soon recovered, for of one thing I was now certain—my book was not to be returned; she had spoken graciously of it, and I was the happiest of mortals. My tongue seemed loosened from its long iron bondage, and I poured out my thoughts in a strain that now astonishes me. She listened whilst I explained to her the advantages and pleasures of science, particularly that branch of it which now occupied the attention of the audience. I was the lecturer, and the voice of the one now speaking, which was falling on the ears of all in the room, was like a far distant sound—we heard it not.
The young man who came with her was standing up near us and taking notes; he had come regularly provided with a book and pencil, and seemed more intent on getting information than on the comfort of his charge. He now and then cast a look towards us, and it appeared to me that I had seen him somewhere, but I was too happy to let the subject take hold of my mind. What did I care for him, or all the world, whilst I was drawing in new life at every breath.
Our conversation was carried on in the lowest whispers, so as not to be overheard; but we were far removed from the centre, and there were others talking in louder tones near to us; for of the number who came to listen there were but few who had a real desire to learn. As it afterwards proved, the class was very small, there not being more than fifty of the audience now present. I was overjoyed to hear that the young lady intended to come every night; that she was to remain at a friend's in town, on purpose to attend the lectures; and this gentleman was to be her escort. I learned that he was her uncle's grandson, and that he had a passion for study, particularly chemistry. I exerted all my eloquence to prevail on her to attend the astronomical lectures likewise; but she said, much as she desired it, she feared it was out of her power, but that she would write to her uncle for permission.
The minutes flew, and the audience were making a move to retire before I awakened from this blissful trance. The young man came to us at last, and asked the lady how she was pleased with the lecture. She smiled, and said, very much, and then the crowd pressed on and separated us. I got out as quickly as possible, to have the pleasure of handing her down the slippery steps; and, as if expecting it, her precious hand was ready as soon as I offered mine.
Oh, what visions of happiness floated through my brain that eventful night. Even my dreams were filled with the sweet silvery tones of her voice. It seemed as if angels were hovering round my bed, to sooth and tranquilize my troubled spirit; and not one discordant thought or sound mingled with it. Oh, if man would but give up his whole soul to pure love. If he would let it mix up with his worldly occupations. If he would allow it to be for ever present, how exalted would his nature become; how free from all grossness and immoral thoughts and actions. For my part, it had such an effect upon me that my whole nature was changed. I was, to be sure, free from all vicious tendencies; and I was active in benevolence towards the poor; but my heart was frozen up, and I looked on the world, and those immediately around me, with a cold, averted eye. Now, my full heart seemed bursting to communicate its happiness to others; and I became sensible that it was in my power to impart pleasure although I might receive neither thanks nor sympathy in return.
I was attentive, therefore, to what was passing around me; moving my desk a few feet farther, to give more light to one man, and nailing a cleat between the tall legs of a stool, to give ease to the feet of another. I bought a pot of pomatum, and made one of the young apprentices rub it on his poor cracked and chopped hands, buying him a stout pair of gloves, to protect them from the cold. I helped the book-keeper through an intricate account, begging him not to speak of it to others; a thing which he did not intend to do, being only too fearful that I might mention it myself. My thawed heart expanded to all around me; and, as it acquired warmth, it diffused its sympathies to every thing within its reach. Oh, holy love, when in thy true shape, how benign is thy influence!
The lady's uncle was gracious, and allowed her to attend the astronomical lectures likewise; and I need not say how regular I was in my attendance and devotion; for as the young man was not particularly interested in this study, he sometimes brought the young lady in the room and left her, calling for her either before or after the lecture was over. This he did not scruple to do, as the lady with whom she lived, at present, always accompanied her to this lecture. I brought her note-books and pencils, and assisted her in taking notes, contriving that she should have the most comfortable seat in the room; and all these attentions she received in the kindest manner—she received them as a sister would from a brother, and I was satisfied.
Thus the winter wore away, and the month of February had nearly closed, before the lectures were over. There was still one more evening for each, and then this delightful intercourse was to cease; for I could not devise any plan by which I could gain access to the presence of the young lady; more particularly as the young man had been more than usually vigilant and careful of her, and seemed desirous of preventing her from receiving so much of my attention. Her companion, too, scarcely condescended, of late, to notice me; all of which I saw was painful to the only being for whom I cared. I went, as usual, to the astronomical lecture—it was, as I observed, the last; and she was there also with the same lady, who cast a scornful glance at me as I approached their seat.
I could not imagine what had produced such a change in this lady's manner towards me, unless she had been told of my humble occupation, and that it had mortified her vanity to receive attention from one who might be considered as a journeyman. From the first evening of my meeting the fair creature to whom I had so unresistingly yielded up my heart, I made her acquainted with my actual situation, my prospects and my hopes. It seemed necessarily interwoven in the theme that I was discussing; for I spoke of the difficulties I had to encounter, in consequence of which knowledge came to me slowly; contrasting it with the facilities which were now in my power. Neither she nor I dreamed that high birth or fortune were at all necessary to an intercourse so simple, so unexacting as ours. She redoubled the kindness of her usual manner on seeing that I was a little hurt by her friend's coolness; but she little knew the pain I suffered on hearing that she was not to be at the last chemical lecture—her uncle was in town, and they were to return home on that day.
It came like a death knell to my heart. What, was she to go and not be informed of the tender and enduring love I bore her! Was I never to see her; to hear that voice again! Was this to be the last interview! I could not bear it. I took her note book, tremblingly, from her hand, and wrote as follows—
"You have pierced my heart with grief. You are to leave the city, and I am to see you no more. My whole soul is absorbed in one feeling; and that is, love for you; and now that you are going from me, existence will be a burden. I ask you not to love me in return; that seems impossible. I can never hope to create a passion such as I now feel for you; such as I felt from the moment I first heard your voice. But deign to think of me—no, I cannot give up the thought of calling you mine—at some future day, when fortune has been propitious; or should some evil overtake you, remember me. I must hasten from your presence, for I am unfit to remain here; but if, on reading this, you can feel compassion for my hopeless love, let these few lines remain; but if you have no pity to offer me, tear them out and put them in my hand as you leave the house. I shall be there to receive my doom; but be merciful."
After having written this, in great agony of mind, I turned to her, and our eyes met. She saw that I was uncommonly agitated, and her concern for me prevented her speaking. I bent close to her ear and said, read this immediately—pointing to the page—and remember that my life depends on what you do. I hurried from her, and walked up and down the narrow street until the lecture was over; which, to my fevered apprehensions, seemed never to have an end.
At length the door opened, and I saw one, and another, and then groups, descend the steps; the young lady appearing amongst the last, moving slowly, so as to give me time to see and approach her. When at the bottom of the flight she stopped, for a moment, and as I came near her she said, in a low tone, "Here are the notes, and I have added a few lines to them; good night." It was well she said this, as the giving me the paper, as I requested, would have plunged me into despair. I need not say that I hastened to my lodgings, that I might read the precious contents; for I could not but augur favourably of them from the manner of her giving the paper to me. Under my own impassioned scrawl were these lines.
"Notwithstanding the fear of giving you pain, I must return the leaf; for I should not like to leave it in the book. My whole manner must be a convincing proof that I have a high esteem for your character, and that I feel a strong interest in your welfare; more than this I dare not say. I am entirely dependent on my uncle; and it has been his wish, for many years, to see me the wife of his grandson—the person who has always accompanied me to the lectures. You need not fear that this event will ever take place, as my disinclination to it has long been known to the young man; and neither he nor my uncle have any power to compel me. In saying thus much I do not wish to encourage you, as my uncle is obstinate and unyielding, and would never consent to the addresses of any other man. I hope you may forget me and be as happy as you deserve. I do violence to my feelings in bidding you farewell; but prudence and a regard to your interests dictate it."
Prudence, indeed! What were the prudential reasons? My inability to support her? Surely if she loved me, there were means enough to be comfortable, and I would move mountains to place her in affluence. She has an esteem for me, and she does violence to her feelings in bidding me farewell. I have hopes, therefore, that, as her heart is disengaged, I may, in time, aspire to her love.
In thoughts like these I passed the night; nor did I recover my equanimity for several days; every thing, every thought, that did not relate to her, was irksome and distasteful, and my labours at the office were conducted mechanically. The commencement of the great work was now contemplated. I was told to get ready for it; and, as there was a translation of a very popular French work wanted, Mr. Blagge pressed me to undertake it. Perhaps it was well for me that I was thus suddenly compelled to exertion, for with this depression of spirits I might have sunk into apathy incurable. I likewise owed much to Mr. Blagge's kindness; and being of a grateful nature, determined not to disappoint him.
To work, therefore, I went, reading proofs and attending to the types during the day, and translating at night. Proceeding in this way for six weeks, not allowing myself any exercise but a short walk, between churches, on Sunday. Mr. Blagge was delighted, both with the execution and diligence, and he promised to raise my salary the ensuing year, to six hundred dollars. The French translation was likewise commended; and I felt an honest pride in sending all the papers which spoke of the merits of my performances to the only one whose applause I desired. For this translation I received two hundred dollars; so that my little fortune had increased to two thousand dollars. I saw it with a pleasure that cannot be expressed, for I had now an object in view; and instead, as heretofore, of spending all my income, I began a rigid system of economy, amounting almost to meanness—but thank heaven, my heart was not so exclusively selfish as to forget the poor.
As soon as these two important works were through the press, I went to my accustomed seat in the church, on Sunday; which, as I before mentioned, was three miles out of town; but my disappointment was very great in not seeing the young lady. On inquiry of the sexton, I learned that the family had removed to a country seat, about thirty miles distant; and that they had given up their pew. He could not tell the name of the place to which they had gone; but he promised to inquire, and let me know on the following Sunday. It is impossible to describe my uneasiness at this intelligence. I fancied that what was so desirable a blessing to me would be equally coveted by others; and that her uncle and cousin had removed her from the world that their plans might be the more readily executed. I was fearful that her tender nature might be subdued by importunities; and that she would yield to their wishes, rather than incur their displeasure. I did not flatter myself that her love for me was strong enough to enable her to brave persecution; and how could she be assured of the strength and continuance of mine?
Four long weeks passed and I could gain no further intelligence, than that Mr. Bewcastle, the young lady's uncle, had purchased a farm on the island, three miles from the river and about thirty from the city; that he was devoted to the cultivation of it, and was making preparations for building a large house. My worst fears were realized: these improvements were no doubt in the expectation of his niece's marriage, and I once more abandoned myself to despair. This state of mind, added to the severe labour I had gone through, had so perceptible an effect on my health that Mr. Blagge became concerned. He entreated me to relax a little in my attention to business, but I persevered until the first of August, when fearing that I should really be unable to continue in the office I determined on making an excursion in the country.
I need not say in which direction I bent my steps. In fact, my intention was to explore the whole of the neighbourhood until I heard where Mr. Bewcastle lived, and then to take up my residence near him. I was very fortunate indeed, for the man in whose house I rested the first night, knew the family, and he promised to take me to a friend of his who lived about half a mile from them. It was about ten o'clock the next morning when I reached the house, and as I liked the place and the appearance of the people, I was induced to remain with them, paying them a moderate board. I had a bed-room and parlour entirely to myself, and their kindness soon made me feel myself at home. They saw I was the very sort of lodger they wanted, and they exerted themselves to the utmost to make me comfortable. When I tell you that the landlord of the little inn was old uncle Porter, now living in the small stone house, and that his sister was our kind aunt Martha, you will think how fortunate I was in becoming an inmate of their house.
As I did not then know their worth, I was cautious in my inquiries about the young lady, and it has amused both Martha and myself to recollect how guarded, and with what apparent unconcern I talked and asked questions about the family. I gathered that Mr. Bewcastle was a harsh and obstinate man, loving his own ways and his own money better than any thing in the world excepting his grandson, Mr. Anglesea, who could prevail on him to do almost any thing. That it was talked of amongst the neighbours that he wanted to marry his cousin, or rather second cousin, but that she could not bear him.
I asked if they knew the young lady personally, and they said that she often walked their way and sometimes stopped to speak to Martha, who had when young lived with her parents. That she had called there on her way to church on Sunday last, and they were sorry to see her look so thin and unhappy.
I had to turn away suddenly from the good people to hide my emotion, nor did I dare to resume the conversation for some time, lest they might suspect my designs. I had, of course, no settled plan of proceeding; my first object was to see the young lady and learn the state of her affections; if they were favourable to my hopes I then intended to offer my hand; my love had been hers from the first hour I saw her. I projected a number of schemes either to see her, or get a letter conveyed to her, but I became nervously timid when I attempted to put any one of them in execution. At that time if I could have been sure of our good Martha, I should have been spared two days of great distress, for she, kind soul, would have assisted me immediately. I knew of no better plan, at last, than to get her to take a note to Mr. Bewcastle's, and contrive to give it to the dear lady unobserved by the family, but my hatred of deception was so great I was exceedingly reluctant to practise this little artifice.
Towards the close of the second day, which was passed in wandering through the fields and along the lanes, I made a desperate effort to speak once more on the subject nearest my heart. Aunt Martha came in the little parlour up stairs, and seated herself near to me looking anxiously in my face, it was a motherly tender look, and I felt the tears starting to my eyes. You are quite indisposed, said she, at length, and I told my brother that I would make so bold as to ask you if you had any trouble that we could relieve, and to say if you are short of money that you can stay here a fortnight or longer, and never mind paying us till you can afford it.
I was truly grateful for this kindness, and of course showed her my pocket book full of notes. "What then ails you," said she, "for it is something more than ill health. May I guess?" I told her, smiling, that she might guess, and if she came near the truth, and could assist me, I should be eternally grateful.
"Well, then, I am sure it is connected with Mr. Bewcastle's niece, and if you are the gentleman that I have heard people talk about—are you a printer?"
"Yes," said I, "and I am determined to trust you—my name is Parr; now tell me what you have heard."
"Why, I have heard that one cause of the young lady's aversion to this Mr. Anglesea, is her love for a young printer by the name of Parr."
My face was like scarlet; to hear this talked of publicly—to hear that from others which I would give kingdoms to know was truth, rendered me almost incapable of listening any further.
"Well, you need not answer," said the kind-hearted woman, "I was pretty sure last evening, that you were the very one, and now what can I do to serve you. We both love the young lady, and should be very sorry to see her married to a man she dislikes, particularly as she loves another."
"Oh, do not say that," said I, "there is no reason to say that, I have not the slightest hope that she has any other sentiment for me than friendship."
"No matter, no matter, you are right," said she, "not to expect too much, but if you give me leave I will just let the young lady know that you are here, and then you can see her yourself; perhaps you had better write a few lines."
I thought so too, so I went to my room and wrote as follows:—
"You will not be surprised, dearest lady, to hear that I am once more near to you, nor will I disguise the truth, that my intention is to learn from your own lips, whether my honest and faithful love can ever meet with favour. You spoke kindly in your note to me, but I had not the presumption to make any further advances until my circumstances were so much improved that I could offer you competence. The anxiety of my mind has preyed on my health, and I am now determined to know my fate at once, for this suspense paralyzes all the energies of my soul.
"I learn that you are unhappy; confide but in me, give yourself up to my devoted tender cares, and my whole life shall be spent in loving and protecting you. Be generous, and give peace to my heart by saying that you will endeavour to return my affection, at present I ask no more.
"I do not want fortune, indeed I should infinitely prefer that you had not a cent in the world; if you are not ambitious I have enough to render you happy; my income is now nearly eight hundred dollars a year, and I shall soon have it in my power to increase it to a thousand. I know that your tastes are simple, and with your right-mindedness and my unceasing cares, you will find enough for all that is desirable. Dearest lady, listen to my entreaties, and do not drive me to despair by doubts, either of my love or my ability to make you happy."
Martha Porter took this letter from my trembling hand, and promising to be back by noon, she departed, leaving me in a state to which I cannot look back without great pain—the answer was to seal my fate.
One o'clock, two o'clock came; but Martha Porter did not return; I invented a thousand excuses—it might have been difficult to see the young lady alone—she might be ill—married—every thing pressed on my burning brain at once, and when poor Martha made her appearance at last, I rushed up to my room unable to hear the result of her mission.
A gentle knock at the door, and a gentle voice as I opened it brought some comfort—Martha's face too was in smiles, and a letter was in her hand—she saw that I was stupified, as it were, and unable to ask questions, so she quietly laid the letter on the table, and closing the door, went softly down stairs. Martha, dear Martha Porter, have I not been as a son to thee?
When the tumult of my feelings subsided I ventured to open the precious letter; my eye ran over the lines, but the sense came not, I did not comprehend a word. I sealed myself and prayed for composure, for my reason seemed departing, and as I prayed my strength returned. I am now persuaded that it was a sense of the blissful import of the letter that so completely unmanned me, although I would not allow myself to believe it. The blessed letter was as follows:
"I am convinced of your affection for me, I have known it for a long time, and I am sure that I can trust you. I am indeed very unhappy and with no hope that my uncle will ever cease his persecutions; but for your generous letter I should this day have sent for Martha Porter to confide in her, and to get her to go to the city. Will you love me the less when I say, that it was to see you and to make my situation known to you? But do not suppose that mere personal distress induces me to throw myself on your protection. I esteem you highly, and am perfectly willing to share your fortune be it what it may. Perhaps my repugnance to marry Mr. Anglesea would not have been so great—perhaps if I had never known you, I should have found less difficulty in obeying my uncle. You perceive that I trust in you entirely."
It was not till I had read this dear letter over and over again that I could comprehend the full measure of my felicity; then came a rush of joy, then came an exquisite calm over my troubled heart. My aspiring eye shot a quick glance over days of happiness, of thankfulness, of usefulness, till my beloved and I had finished our duties on earth, and were safely and securely and for ever seated among angels in Heaven.
I was in this tranquil yet exhausted state when the kind Martha again came to the door; she thought by this time that I might be able to hear the particulars of her visit to my angel, and confer with me as to the best mode of proceeding.
"I found her in tears," said she, "which she hastily dried when I entered the room, and after welcoming me, she asked whether any thing particular had brought me to her. I said, yes, something very particular indeed, but that I did not like to tell her all at once. 'Have you a letter?' said she, and oh, Mr. Parr, how the dear young lady coloured. I told her I had, so I gave her your letter and went to the window that she might read it unobserved. She wept a great deal while reading it, and then went immediately to the table to answer it; and when it was finished, and sealed, she called me to her. 'Martha,' said she, again blushing up to the temples, 'do you know the person who wrote this letter?' I told her that I did. 'And can you get this conveyed to the gentleman soon?' I looked at her in surprise; I found she did not know how near you were to her. 'O yes,' said I, 'he shall get it in less than ten minutes, for my dear young lady, he is at our house.' This threw her in a great flutter and she smiled, I suspect for the first time in a year; for the neighbours say, and they had it from the servants, that both the old man and the young one have been almost cruel to her, because she would not consent to the marriage. Well, I left her happy enough I dare say, and now what is best to be done; for old Mr. Bewcastle will be on the look-out now, and who knows what he may do next?"
I was not slow in deciding on what was best to be done; it was now three o'clock, and I despatched Mr. Porter to a clergyman living about six miles from us, requesting his attendance the next morning at eleven o'clock. Martha went to a jeweller's in the village, and brought home several gold rings, going with them to my dear angel, and carrying also a letter, wherein I detailed all our plans. All that a tender love, all that a devoted, honest heart could dictate, was strongly urged, to reconcile her to this precipitous step, and I had the happiness to learn that she gave herself up wholly to my wishes. I arranged every thing as well as the short time would allow, and aunt Martha was not idle; she spent the evening with the dear young lady, packing up and preparing for her departure, observing the utmost caution lest they might be suspected. I knew that her uncle had no right to detain her, for she was of age, and of course her own mistress; but we both thought it better to prevent disagreeable scenes—scenes which might delay our marriage, perhaps prevent it altogether.
The good clergyman came at the appointed time, and I went, as was previously arranged, in a carriage to meet my beloved at the head of the lane leading to the garden. She saw the carriage at a distance from her window, and by the time it stopped she was at the gate. The steps were down; I hastened to the dear creature, who trembled so much that I was compelled to lift her in the carriage; the door closed, and I pressed her to my heart—that heart which was filled with the purest esteem and affection, an affection which was to endure for ever.
I entreated her to be composed, assuring her that there was nothing to fear, that in a few moments it would be out of the power of any one to separate us. I thanked her over and over again for thus making me the happiest of men, pouring out my whole soul in words of love and truth.
In a few moments we stood before the clergyman; our vows were pronounced, which with our prayers, I trust, were registered in heaven.
Behold me now, my friends; look at the proud and happy being; see the swelling of his grateful heart. Was this the poor, despised, forsaken orphan, toiling through a thankless servitude, without a kind look or a cheering word; without pity, without a single comfort of any kind—suffering through twelve long years, and with a heart formed to love and be loved in return—could one short year have produced this blessed change?
My bride!—oh, what a tender name! how sweetly it falls on the ear of the man of tender sensibility. It is a word in common use; it is heard daily; thousands and tens of thousands repeat it; in itself it is nothing; but to the young husband, when it comes to be his bride, then does the magic of the name cast its glorious spell over him—it is then that he feels all its beauty and its loveliness.
"My bride! thou art wholly mine, beloved one," said I; "no evil that I can avert shall ever come near thee. How is it that the few words which we have just uttered have given thee so wholly to my protection? but thou hast trusted to my strong arm and to my still stronger principles and feelings, and may I perish if I ever deceive thee."
We spent three weeks in a retired spot among the Highlands, each day restoring tranquillity to my dear wife, and showing how infinitely happier I was than my ardent fancy had ever contemplated. We talked over our future prospects, and she drew a scheme and decked it out in such beautiful colours—all, too, within the compass of my abilities—that I no longer feared she would repine at the contrast of the humble home I could offer, and that to which she had been accustomed. We had a letter from our good friend, Martha, giving us an account of the consternation they were in at Mr. Bewcastle's when they read the letter which I sent to them on the day of our marriage. They sent for her brother and questioned him angrily, threatening to prosecute him for allowing the ceremony to take place in his house; but he was not to be intimidated, as he told Mr. Bewcastle, for he knew that the young lady was of age. Martha proceeded to say, that as it was now exceedingly unpleasant for them to remain in their neighbourhood, they had determined to sell their little effects and go to the west. Her brother was to set out as soon as this was settled, and she was to remain at lodgings until he had selected a suitable place, his object being to purchase a small farm.
Nothing could have happened to suit our views better, for in all my dear wife's little plans there would arise a little distrust of herself when it came to the marketing for our little household, and now, at the very moment, came dear aunt Martha to our aid. We wrote immediately, begging her to remain with us as a friend as long as it suited her convenience—nay, to live with us always, if her good brother could do without her. I told her to join us in New York as soon as their effects were sold, and my dear wife added a postscript longer than my whole letter, telling her of our happiness, and of the little plans of our future establishment. She told her to reserve such articles as might be useful to us, such as a bed and bedding, all of which we would pay for as soon as she came to us.
It was on a beautiful September morning that we arrived in New York. As I had written to the good lady with whom I lodged, she was prepared to receive us, and I had the pleasure of finding that my beloved was satisfied with her apartments. But the moment came when I was to leave her for several hours—it would not do to linger in her dear presence any longer, and she was the first to hint that my duties must be resumed. To a solitary creature, whose existence was wrapped up in this one being, this separation, short as it might be, was most painful; I bade her farewell over and over again without moving, having a most horrible fear that something or some one would spirit her away during my absence. I was compelled at length to leave her, and I had the folly to beg her to lock herself in the chamber until my return. I smile now while I think of it, but O what tenderness steals over me when I look back to that dear one, and recollect how sweetly she soothed my apprehensions, and how careful she was not to ridicule my weakness.
I reported myself to Mr. Blagge, who expressed great pleasure at my return, complimenting me on my improved looks. "I told you," said he, "that you wanted a little country air; where have you been?"
"I have been amongst the Highlands," said I, "and I have brought back health, happiness, and a wife."
"Ah! that was the trouble, was it?" said he; "I feared it was a love affair, but you are such a shy fellow that one cannot come at what is passing in your mind."
"Well, my dear sir, you will not find that the case any longer," said I, "I shall now carry my heart in my hand."
"That is," said Mr. Blagge, "you think you will; but excepting that your face will be beaming with pleasure as it does now, no one will be the better of what is going on within; I know you very well now; you will be more reserved than ever."
I laughed at this, for I was in fact at that very moment grudging the time I spent in this little friendly talk, for I wanted to be thinking of my wife.
"Oh, by the way," said Mr. Blagge, "there is a letter for you from your old master, Mr. Bartlett; it came enclosed to me, and he requested that it might be given to you immediately. Now as you did not let me know where you were going, I could not send it to you. I suspect the good gentleman wants your services: but you must not leave me now, Mr. Parr, for I am almost beside myself with business."
I assured him that I would not; and as to Mr. Bartlett, much as I now desired an increase of income I would not live under his chilling influence, different as I was now in circumstances, for half his wealth. I actually shuddered at the thoughts of taking my wife to the scenes of my melancholy servitude.
It was curious, but the letter could not be found; high and low, in every corner, on every shelf, did we look, but in vain; so we were compelled to give up the search. I did not regret it in the least, for I had learned from one of the young men belonging to Mr. Bartlett's office that he intended to make me an offer. Mr. Blagge had answered his letter, stating why I did not write myself, and as this thing did not concern me any further I dismissed the subject from my mind, not even thinking it worth mentioning when I returned to my wife.
Every evening, the moment the sun went down, I returned to that dear, solitary one, and then after taking our supper we would wander about from place to place, caring very little in what direction we strayed. We lived for ourselves, and most deeply and gratefully did we enjoy the felicity of being together unnoticed and unknown. We frequently passed a small, one-storied brick building; it was untenanted, and had been shut up for two years, not happening to suit any one. My wife thought, if it were repaired a little, it might answer for a dwelling house, for that a stack of chimneys could soon be run up. On inquiry I found that it had been built for lawyers' offices during the last yellow fever that had appeared in the city, and that it had since that been only used occasionally for a school-house.
There were four very small rooms, only ten feet square, with a narrow hall in the centre, and neither cellar nor garret; but the house stood among trees and back from the street, so that this was a charm to counterbalance many inconveniences. I saw the owner of it, and he agreed to put it in repair provided I took it on a lease for four years; this I gladly did; the rent was to be eighty dollars a year, and cheap enough we thought it, as there was a good well of water directly in front of the house. Aunt Martha came in the precise moment that she was wanted, and now whilst the house was being repaired there came the pleasant task of going from shop to shop to purchase the tiny furniture that was to suit these tiny rooms. The front one of the left hand rooms was to be used as a bed room for aunt Martha, and the one behind it as a kitchen; of the other two the front was to be the parlour, and the back one our bed room. No one can tell the pleasure I had in hearing and seeing all that was going on—I had read of going to coronations and to brilliant spectacles, but I hastened home every evening with a far more exquisite pleasure to hold one end of a breadth of carpeting whilst my dear wife cut it off, or listen to her little rambles with aunt Martha, or looked at the neat candlesticks and the little set of china, all so cheap and yet so very simple and pretty.
By the first of October the house was finished and the smell of the new paint entirely gone; every thing, therefore, was ready, and I had begged a holiday that I might assist in the grand move. The sun set gloriously as I walked out of the office, and it seemed to my joyous spirit that it smiled graciously as I poured forth my grateful feelings in song. Only think of the poor, broken down, neglected apprentice, caroling along the street "home, sweet home," and having a sweet home to go to in the bargain. Fast as I walked and quickly as I reached our lodgings, I did not come too soon for my dear wife, for she was expecting me at the door with hat and shawl, all equipped for a walk.
"What!" said I, "dearest, a walk before tea? or is it to be a little shopping expedition? here is my arm; and which way now, my life? not far, for I think you look fatigued."
"Why, to tell the truth, Patrick, dear, I am a little tired, for I have worked hard to-day that I may enjoy your holiday to-morrow. I am only going to the house; aunt Martha is there waiting for us. And you can be at home to-morrow, can you? oh, what a day of pleasure it will be! such a day as to-morrow comes but once in a married life, dear husband."
To me every day was one of happiness, and with her near me, even the bustle of moving was a pleasant thing to anticipate; but in the abstract, apart from the thought of my wife, nothing could be more irksome than the hurry of change. It was not far to our new habitation, and in looking up there stood dear aunt Martha at the door, bending forward to look for us.
"Walk in, walk in," said she; "walk in your own house, good folks; come and see if every thing is to your liking, Mr. Parr," and open went all the doors of the four tiny rooms.
It was, indeed, as my darling said, a sight and a feeling that came but once in the married life—the first moment that the young husband and his bride put their feet on the threshold of their own house. I have changed that humble dwelling for the princely one that I now inhabit, but that same gentle touch came no more. My wife had an instinctive feeling that I should be annoyed by the moving and lifting and hurry of the scene, and she and Martha agreed to spare me; so there I stood, and it appeared to me that some good fairy had been at work, so neatly and beautifully every thing was arranged. In the middle of the little parlour stood the tea table, and after I had gone through the rooms and praised every thing over and over again, we sat down with grateful hearts to our own frugal meal.
Every day my spirit rose higher; and my thoughts grew loftier; I did not envy the greatest man in existence, so many and so varied were my blessings. Mr. Blagge placed the most unlimited confidence in me; and, as his profits increased through my exertions, he generously allowed me to close my labours an hour earlier every day. This was a great favour; and as the winter set in he moved the printing-office a great deal higher up, so that I had the additional comfort of dining at home. Our kind friend, aunt Martha, would not allow us to hire a servant, and my wife took a share in the household duties, working for me, keeping my drawers in order, and arranging every thing in the way she knew I liked. I could not but indulge her in it, seeing that it gave her such pleasure.
We made no acquaintances; we wanted none; there seemed scarcely time enough for ourselves; and why should we be troubled with strangers? Martha, seeing the innocent life we led, became sincerely attached to us; promising never to leave us; and thus passed the first winter of my married life. We were all happy. My dear wife was as cheerful as a bird; and, at times, when I was particularly weary—too weary to read, or even to listen to her reading—she would put away her little work-basket, set the candle in the farthest corner, and draw her chair close to mine, charming away my fatigue with her clear soft voice and gentle endearments. She had bright visions of the future; and they always ended as she knew I wished, in our purchasing the little estate on which I was born. How delightful it is to listen to the little nothings of a sensible woman; one that loves us too.
This was the way that heaven rewarded me for all that I had endured; and the reward came to me in such a shape too—a wife! I spoke of the rapturous feelings of a young husband, at the mention of his bride, but they are nothing in comparison to those he has when she is called his wife—when the quiet evenings of winter bring him for ever near her; when he listens to her innocent conversation, full of love, and care, and thoughtfulness—all for him. I often wondered whether all men loved their wives as I loved mine. There was no way in which I could judge, for I had never been even in the same room with a husband and wife; but I had read of disagreements, and hatreds, and separations. It had given me great uneasiness before my marriage; but I always took the side of the wife, wondering why the man wanted to have his own way, in the merest trifles too. As to me, every thing my wife or Martha did, seemed the very best thing to be done; I was sure that their taste and judgment were more to be depended upon than mine; particularly as it related to household economy.
And then, was I not to be envied when, with the dear creature's arm linked in mine, we walked out either for exercise or business? A man never feels his power and responsibility so strongly as when a lovely woman leans on him for support, and relies on his courage and his ability to protect her. What a delightful sensation comes over a man when he knows that there is one being in the world who trusts to him entirely, and looks up to him as the first and the best—none but a husband can have this feeling—he enjoys it as long as life continues; it is a pleasure of which he never wearies.
May came, with all its pleasantness and its flowers, and our love for one another made every thing appear in the gayest and brightest colours. Nothing could be more inconvenient than our house; nothing could be more irksome than my occupation—the dullest of all dull employment, correcting proofs—yet it was for me that my wife overlooked the privations and difficulties she had to encounter from a limited income and a house of such diminutive size—and it was for her that I continued to drudge on, monotonously, without a thought of change. My wife was far more prudent and economical than I was; that is, in every thing that related to herself. I could not resist the pleasure of buying her all the delicate fruits and early vegetables of the season; and I had great pleasure in taking all sorts of little pretty table ornaments and delicate perfumes, and prints, and books; in short, I scarcely went home without something in my hand.
"My dear husband," said she one evening, when I came home with a present as usual, "have you found Aladdin's lamp, that you are so lavish of your money? You will have to put a rein on your generous nature, for instead of laying up two hundred dollars this year, as we intended, there will be nothing left. Come, dearest, and look over this little statement with me, and then say whether we should not retrench? The worst of it, to me, dearest, is the knowledge that the two hundred dollars have been expended for my gratification: you have hardly allowed yourself any thing; I must put a stop to your dear generous spirit; aunt Martha and I have talked quite seriously about it."
I promised to be more prudent for the future; and if there ever was any thing trying to my temper it was the inability to purchase such little articles of luxury as I thought my wife ought to have. Mr. Blagge, however, true to his promise, raised my salary to a thousand dollars; and with this welcome news I could not refrain from buying a pretty little set of chess men; for my wife had a great desire to teach me to play the game; and so, after telling her of the addition to our income, I gave her the chess men and board. I thought to make it the more welcome by hinting to her that it was for myself. The dear creature smiled and shook her head. "Ah, my husband," said she, "you think you have found out a new way of indulging me; but I am not to be taken in. Do you think I don't know that you have no particular fancy for games of any sort; and that the chess men are to give me pleasure? But I shall punish you by sitting down to the game this evening in good earnest; you will soon tire of it, however."
In this way our evenings passed; part of them in playing at chess, in which I soon became interested, as I had such a pleasant teacher; and in part, in studying the German language. We had a German in the office, who taught me the pronunciation, and what he taught me in the morning I transferred to my wife in the evening; and it was really wonderful to find how quickly she conquered all the difficulties. But if it was wonderful that she acquired this language in so short a time, I could not but feel surprised that nothing was neglected; there seemed to be time for every thing; and she was always ready for a walk; always in time, and always neatly dressed. What a happy fellow I was, to have no care of my wardrobe; I, that never knew what it was to have a button to my collar or wristbands.
I thought that no event could make her dearer to me than she now was; but there did come the time when I found that, ardently as I loved her, my tenderness and my cares were still more strongly excited; but they came coupled with such apprehensions that I watched over her with mingled emotions of joy and fear. It was now that I saw the necessity of prudence and economy; and I could not but hope that some means might be found by which my salary would be increased; for I desired, of all things, to place my dear wife in a more comfortable house. Mr. Blagge had, I knew, done his very best in allowing me two hundred dollars a year more, so I could not expect any thing from him; but I thought there might be ways to make money independently of the office. Perhaps I might write for the magazines; or who knows whether I might not write a saleable book. It was in vain that my wife discouraged me. It was in vain that she assured me the want of a cellar was nothing, as the grocer, at the corner, supplied her with every thing from day to day; and that the little cabin rooms were quite large enough; and that larger ones would but increase her labours.
I mentioned that Mr. Bartlett had written to me under cover to Mr. Blagge, but as the letter had been mislaid, I knew nothing of the contents. It struck me that he had made me an offer of partnership; and what I then shuddered at, seemed not so very bad a thing now that I had such an endearing prospect before me. I mentioned it to my wife, and she was surprised that I had not written to Mr. Bartlett; but I told her, that as Mr. Blagge had said to him, that he would give me the letter as soon as I returned from the country, I thought there was no use in saying any thing further, for I did not intend to avail myself of any offer he might make.
"O, but, Patrick, my love," said she, "the letter might relate to your friends in Scotland; nay, I dare to say it did, for Mr. Bartlett, cold and heartless as he is, has some sense of honour and honesty. He never would have made you an offer, however advantageous, whilst you were employed by Mr. Blagge; all that you tell me of him proves this. Do you not think, dearest, that you had better write to him?"
This shows how much more acute a woman's intellect is than ours; I never so much as dreamed of my old uncle Parr in Scotland; and now it almost amounted to conviction, that the letter related to him. I questioned Mr. Blagge respecting the letter, and he said, that as far as his recollection served, it appeared to be a double one, and he was quite surprised to find that I had not written. There was no doubt on his mind that the letter was still amongst the papers, and he proposed another search, particularly as there were two or three boxes that had not been opened since the office was removed, and he advised me to look there. We opened the boxes and assorted the papers; they were principally old manuscripts and the correspondence relating to them; but my letter did not appear. Just as we had gone through the last box, one of the clerks lifted up an old black morocco portfolio, which lay at the bottom, and as he slapped off the dust a letter flew out and fell near Mr. Blagge. The moment he saw the letter the whole thing flashed across his mind. That one reminded him of mine, and he now recollected that he had put it along with several others in this very letter book. Sure enough, there it was, unsealed, just as it came from the postman; but as it was quite dark, I hurried home, lest my wife should feel uneasy at my protracted stay: in truth, I met her at the door with her hat on, intending to walk down to the office, with Martha, to see what had detained me.
Martha brought the candle, and then a little doubt arose as to who should read the letter first; but Martha decided in my wife's favour. "She can bear good or bad news better than you, Mr. Parr," said the good woman, "and if the news is good, why, she will break it to you by degrees, and you will not be set all on a tremble; and if it is bad news, such as the loss of your money in the Savings Bank, or the mortgage"—Heavens, I had never thought of this—"why she will teach you to bear it." My darling, therefore, opened the now dreaded letter; but you may judge of her astonishment when she read as follows—
"Sir—Yesterday I received by the packet ship Monongahela, the following letter, enclosed in one directed to me; mine, I presume, was a copy of yours; by it you perceive that your uncle is dead, and that you are the sole heir to his estate, provided you go to Glasgow and identify yourself before the month of October—next October year. I had intended to write to you on my own account, offering you a third partnership in our concern, but I presume this piece of good fortune will make it unnecessary for you to toil at your profession."
I sat watching my wife's countenance, as did our good Martha likewise, and we saw her change colour, first pale and then red; but she did not speak until the letter was folded and in her bosom. "Patrick, love," said she, "what month is this?" I told her it was July—the first of July. "Oh my," said she, "then we have no time—it will all be lost—July, August, September; only three months—but come, here is the tea; let us drink it first, otherwise some people may forget to eat—aunt Martha, I know you will not get a wink of sleep to-night; I shall sleep as sound as a top, as I always do—and you, dearest, you will have golden dreams; oh, what a fine house you will build at Camperdown; and how snugly uncle Porter will be ensconced in the little, neat, comfortable stone house; and dear aunt Martha, what a glorious south room you are to have on the first floor, along with us; and oh, what planning and what perplexities we shall be in for the next two years. Why, Mr. Bartlett has made a most princely offer."
And thus the dear creature went on, leading me to believe that the good news related to him; but aunt Martha knew better. So, when tea was over, and she was seated on my knee, I heard the whole truth. I pressed her to my bosom in an ecstasy, at the thought of placing her in affluence; but too soon came the reflection, that the ocean must be crossed before this desirable event could take place. Sleep, dream, did she say? not I; no sleep nor dreams for me; but she, the dear creature, with a mind so justly balanced, and thinking nothing an evil that was to save me from anxiety; she slept like a top, as she said she would. It was aunt Martha that had the dreams all to herself.
Mr. Blagge expressed both joy and sorrow; joy at my good fortune, and sorrow at parting with me. He, too, he said, intended to offer me better terms the next year; perhaps an equal partnership; so that if the event did not equal our expectations I had two means of advancement, and I need not say that my choice would have fallen upon Mr. Blagge. He never, for a moment, thought there could be a doubt on my mind as to the propriety of going to Scotland; and I absolutely hated him for the ease with which he discussed the subject; just as if there were to be no fears, no struggles. When I went home, there was my dear wife, looking calm, and receiving me cheerfully, but with an inquiring eye; and there sat aunt Martha, ready for a thousand questions, and with a thousand observations.
Long and painfully did the subject occupy me; I said nothing, but my dear wife left off her interesting needlework and employed herself in preparing for the voyage. As I had not made up my mind whether I would go at all, the point of her going with me had not been discussed, and I sat with a stupid wonder looking at certain dresses which she and Martha were making, and at certain convenient caps that were to suit both the cabin and deck. They talked and they chatted on, and congratulated themselves that the smallness of the ship's cabin would not be an inconvenience, seeing that they had been so long accustomed to our small rooms.
I still went daily to the office as if nothing had occurred, but my mind was in a terrible state. To go, and leave my wife to the mercy of strangers, and at such an interesting time too, was very painful; to take her with me was to expose her to certain danger, for if there were no storms, no shipwrecks, yet sea-sickness might prove fatal. When I made up my mind to take her I reproached myself as being the most selfish of mortals, and when I finally concluded to leave her behind, her death knell rung in my ears. Most sincerely did I wish that the hated letter had never been found. It became at length the subject of discussion, that is, with me. My opinion was asked on several points, and answers were wrung from me; but there seemed one thing certain in my wife's mind, that although I might not decide on her going with me, yet I could not but choose to go. She never questioned it.
I fell to reading the biography of voyagers to see how the females of their party bore the perils of the sea, and then I made many inquiries as to their perils on shore, even with the tenderness of a husband to sustain them. Recollect, my friends, that this beloved being was my only tie on earth, and that without her, existence would be a burden. I was not going rashly to decide on her fate and mine; it was therefore but consistent with the love I bore her to weigh well the difficulties on either side. She, too, had thought of every thing, and her mind was made up at once—and that was to go with me. "I have but this to say, dearest husband," said she at the beginning, and her mind underwent no change, "if we are permitted to go safely, we shall be a comfort to one another throughout the voyage and on shore; but if otherwise—if the sea is to be our grave, then we shall perish together; I could not survive your loss, and you, dearest"—
I never could let her proceed further; as to live without her seemed a thing impossible. At such times I seemed to yield assent, and began to make preparations; but having read an account of the illness and death of a lady on her passage across the Atlantic, I determined at once, if the going was insisted upon, that I would let her remain behind. Then again, if I saw in the papers the death of a young mother, I repented of my former decision; and in this miserable state of mind I was during the whole month of July. August still found me irresolute; but I had only two weeks left to waver, for there would then be but little time left to come within the limits of the bequest. There were but six weeks from that time to the first of October; it therefore became necessary to bring my mind to the painful decision of leaving my wife behind. I wrote to Mr. Porter, entreating him to come immediately, and remain in the house during my absence. I saw an eminent physician, and interested him in such a way that I was sure he would never let a day pass without paying her a visit, whether she were indisposed or not; and I took every precaution, in short, that love and prudence could dictate to make her comfortable and happy.
How she bore with all this nervous, morbid irritability, I cannot tell; but never by word or look did she betray any impatience; her sole object was to sooth me and make light of her own sufferings. She promised to take great care of her health, and Martha exhausted words in her desire to set my mind at rest. Mr. Porter declared she should never be out of his thoughts, and Mr. Blagge promised to take his wife and daughter to her the day after I should sail. But all this was nothing, absolutely nothing, in my estimation, when I considered how much more than all this I could do for her were I near her myself.
The time came at last; Mr. Blagge had taken my passage, and my trunk had gone to the ship. I had been to get some necessary papers of the British consul, and was hastening home—that home where I had enjoyed such exquisite happiness—like a fool I was leaving it—for what?—for an uncertain good—and when I returned, if Providence permitted me to return, might I not find that dear and cherished spot desolate! Whilst I was thus tormenting myself with these fearful fancies, the funeral of a lady passed me; she had been married at the same time with us, and she had died of inflammation of the lungs. I inquired of a person who was acquainted with her, and I found that she had taken cold from sitting in the draft of two doors, and, he added, the room was very small, so that there was no avoiding the exposure—the very situation in which I had left my dear wife only an hour before!
Of course I hastened home with greater speed and opened the door of the little parlour with the dismal feelings that I came too late. But she had removed to the window, and the sash was down. Oh, how I blessed her for this act of prudence. She saw my nervous apprehension and asked what had thus disturbed me, and finding my fears groundless I was ashamed to tell her the cause. She looked earnestly at me and said, "My dear husband, you are wearing yourself out with fears and anxieties; I am well, and with the blessing of Providence I hope so to remain; nay, I am strong enough to encounter the voyage, much more able to bear it than you are with your excited feelings. There are our trunks, Martha's and mine, ready packed, and we are only hoping and waiting for your assent to go with you; so, dearest, knowing how unhappy you will be to leave me behind, even let me go. I shall not urge you any further, my love, but think of it this evening, and we shall have time in the morning to get ready what little remains to be done. Now throw all care from your mind and let us sit down cheerfully to our supper; depend upon it we shall be sitting here together this day four months laughing and talking over our present anxieties."
Laugh, indeed, thought I; there never can come a time when I shall laugh at what I am now feeling so keenly. But I cast all selfishness aside, and determined to go alone as the lesser evil of the two, going over and over again the whole argument, and more fully convinced that although it was most painful to leave her, yet it would be cruel and presumptuous to make her encounter the risks of a sea voyage. I had but little sleep this last night; but my dear wife, after vainly endeavouring to prevail on me to court repose, fell asleep like an infant and slept soundly till morning. She suffered as acutely as I did, but her nervous temperament was of a less irritable cast; her sensibilities were more equally balanced. A knowledge of this always gave me comfort.
The dreaded morning came; all was hurry and bustle, and of course but little time for conversation. The trunks still stood in the room; mine had gone the day before, and I cast a look at them, and then on my wife, who, pale as death, was looking at the carriage that was to convey me to the boat. She saw my look and said, "I may go then, dear husband, you consent then that we shall go?" But I shut my eyes, as if to shut out the temptation, and shook my head. "Put the trunks out of the room, Mr. Porter," said I, "for I shall be tormented with the desire to take her with me, and that I ought not to do; I must not waver any more, or I shall be unable to go at all." The trunks were removed, and my dear wife seated herself and sighed. "But why do not you and Martha accompany me to the wharf?" said I—"perhaps we shall feel the parting less. There will be no time for any thing there but getting on board. Do you think, Martha, that she can bear it?"
"Oh yes, I dare say she can," said Martha, "and I am sure it will do her good, and we can keep the carriage for an hour or so and take a little ride, for she has sat too much at her needle lately. Brother, do you get another carriage for us, and let them go together; Mr. Parr will feel the better for having her all to himself. We can return with her, you know."
I was thankful for being a few minutes longer with my beloved, and I hoped that we might remain at the wharf an hour at least, as it was now only nine o'clock. We thought it best to go, however, as the wind was fair, and the captain might be anxious to sail; so we entered the carriage, leaving Martha to come with her brother. We drove slowly to the wharf, and there the first person we saw was Mr. Blagge, who had kindly come to see me off. My dear wife drew back in the carriage and begged that he might not see her, so I went to him and thanked him for this proof of his friendship, and again entreated him to remember how essential it was to my peace of mind that he should do all in his power to lessen my wife's anxieties—if I could not ask a favour for myself, I would for this dear one.
Mr. Porter came to us and said that they had better return, as the horses were restless and Mrs. Parr might get frightened. Mr. Blagge thought so too, and blamed me for bringing her down to a scene of so much confusion; so I hastily snatched one kiss, pressed her dear hand as she held it out to me after the door was closed, and she and Martha disappeared from my sight.
What Mr. Blagge said to me I don't know, but I now and then heard the sounds of new publications, and letters, and manuscripts, but I could only dwell on the grief that my poor wife was now in; it was too much to expect I could listen to him on such uninteresting subjects; why did he not talk of what he knew was the only feeling of my mind?—and to hold me by the arm too, lest I should get away. The steamboat, however, called all hands aboard, and passengers with all their friends jumped on board to go to the ship, which lay in the stream. I made a move to go also, but the captain, coming up at the instant, told me he would give me ten minutes longer, as he had to see a man on business, and that I could go with him in the ship's boat which lay there ready for him. The steamboat left the wharf, and Mr. Blagge talked on; I never knew him so loquacious before, and he kept jerking me around as if the nervousness under which I was labouring had imparted itself to his arm.
At length the captain returned, and Mr. Blagge, shaking hands with me, promised to look most carefully—and, he added with strong emphasis—most affectionately, after all the concerns I left behind. The oars cut the water, and as soon as we were on board the captain gave orders for sailing. The steamboat was just departing, and on turning my eye towards it I saw poor Mr. Porter. I called out to him that I was safely on board, most thankful that he had seen me, for what would have been the agony of my dear wife if he had returned and reported that the vessel had sailed without me. He entered the boat, thought I, with the intention of seeing me safely to the ship; his consternation must have been great when I was not to be found amongst the passengers. He waved his hat, however, on seeing me as I bent over the side of the vessel, and pressing his hand to his heart he pointed towards the shore—it told me that he intended to fulfil his promise of guarding well the sacred trust I had confided to him.
Through the narrows and out in the broad ocean we soon were; but I stood immovable with my eyes turned to that dear shore where all my hopes were centred. I could not realize it—what! voluntarily to leave the only creature on earth to whom I was attached?—she, too, who had chosen me when poor and unknown. Could I not be content with the independence that my own honest labour procured, but must I show how much more I valued money than the pains to us both of such a bitter separation—a separation that might be for ever! Before the pilot left us I had serious thoughts of returning with him; but the captain was at my elbow, and assuming a kind of authority; I was forced to see him depart without me. The wind blew fresh, and before night there was a heavy gale; yet I cared not, my feelings were too strong even for that to subdue. I could not go down to dinner, nor was I disposed to sit with strangers at the supper table; but the captain showed so much good natured solicitude that I yielded and took my seat beside him.
I do not recollect now how many of the passengers were at supper, but they were not all there, for some were already seasick and in their berths. I only remember that opposite to me sat a young lady who looked at me very frequently, and who could scarcely keep from laughing, although the gentleman next her reprimanded her once or twice for her ill breeding. I could not imagine what had caused her mirth, unless it were the melancholy expression of my countenance. There was not much time, however, to speculate on any thing, for the gale increased and every body on board became anxious and watchful. The captain advised me to go to bed, but I chose rather to remain on deck, hoping that if there were any danger I might be of some use. Just as I was leaving the cabin I heard the laughing lady say to her companion, "I am glad he is going on deck, for I can hardly stand it."
I had been so unaccustomed to the society of women, and my dear wife and the gentle Martha, in all my various moods of gaiety and melancholy, had always shown so much tenderness and sympathy for me, that the mirth of this young lady excited something like uneasiness in my mind, and I could not help referring to it in the midst of the storm that was raging. Perhaps it was of service to me; but I could not help thinking how indignant my wife would be had she been witness to it; for, as she respected me herself, she could not but suppose that I would be entitled to the same respect from others.
Having never been on the ocean before, the violence of the gale was truly appalling, though the captain assured me there was no danger; it continued unabated for two days and nights, and at every meal, there set the laughing lady. I asked who the young lady was, that seemed so amused when I went to the table. The captain laughed heartily and then begged my pardon. "Indeed, Mr. Parr," said he, "you must cheer up; why man, we want mirth and not melancholy on shipboard. I cannot find out why you look so very unhappy, for Mr. Blagge tells me that you have a lovely wife, and are in expectation of getting a large fortune. Why you did not bring your lady along with you is more than I can tell; this gale is nothing, the ship is a fast sailer and the voyage will be a short and a pleasant one, no doubt, so you might have enjoyed her society in comfort, if it is the leaving her behind that makes you look so miserable. I am sure I do not wonder that the young lady is amused; why I could hardly keep my own countenance at the breakfast table this morning, you looked so disturbed, and cast such suspicious glances at the harmless young thing who was looking at you."
But this did not mend the matter, for I was not to become gay merely because others were amused by the expression of sadness in my countenance. That I had willingly parted from my wife was a reality that could not be forgotten, and I told the captain that to avoid giving the tittering lady any further food for her mirth, I should take my seat on the same side of the table with her. He consented that I should, and the dinner passed off very well, for my opposite neighbour was a decrepit old woman whose head was bent low, and who seemed to suffer too much from sickness to care who looked sad or merry.
The gale abated, and by sundown it had died away to a pleasant breeze; the full moon rose beautifully out of the ocean, and my whole soul was filled with wonder and admiration. If my wife had been at my side, what a happiness to enjoy it with her; I sighed heavily, and the good natured captain broke in upon my meditations. "I am more and more sorry Mr. Parr," said he, "that you did not bring your wife with you; if I had only known how hard you were going to take it, I should have brought her along by main force. You will destroy yourself if you continue thus to grieve, and yet I cannot blame you much neither, for I had pretty nearly the same kind of feelings when I left my wife for the first time. It was different with me, however, I was only mate then, and had not the power to bring her with me, but I warrant you I did so as soon as I became captain."
"Why, is your wife on board now," said I, frightened out of my senses lest the laughing lady might be her. "I have not seen her, have I."
"No, she is quite indisposed," said he; "in fact she goes this voyage to see whether it may not cure her eyes; she has to wear goggles all the time as the light is so painful; if it were not for that she would be a very pretty woman; one of these evenings I will get her to take them off, and you must come down and see her. Do you play at chess? You do hey; well, I am glad of it, for she plays a good game, and it will keep you both to while away the time, particularly since my wife's eyes won't allow her to sew. She has beautiful hair, too, though I say it," continued the warm-hearted captain, and I liked him all the better for talking so tenderly of his wife. "That old lady that sits opposite to you now, almost bent double, as you see, is a friend of my wife's, and we are taking her on a visit. Poor old thing she is so near-sighted, that every thing must go close to her eyes, or her eyes be sent close to the object, otherwise she could not see to cut her food even. Excuse me, Mr. Parr, is your wife handsome?"
"I think she is," said I, "to me she appears beautiful, and I wish she was here to enjoy this delicious evening with me."
"Why yes, as I said, it would be better to have her here. My wife has a few freckles on her face—is your wife freckled?"
"Freckled!" said I indignantly, "no, why do you ask that question; she has a remarkably clear skin."
"Oh, I meant no offence; what colour are her eyes? my wife has blue eyes; people say they are handsome, and I think so too."
Would any one believe me when I say, that to this moment, I could not tell the colour of her eyes. To me they always beamed with intelligence and love; and as to whether they were blue or grey, I never thought. But the persevering captain thinking that it gave me great pleasure in talking of her, went on in this way to question me about her dear face until I got as miserable as possible. "Well, well," said he, moving off, "you can't bear more to-night, so I'll go below and talk to the ladies a little, and tell my wife the good news that you can play chess."
Good news, indeed, to sit opposite to his goggle-eyed wife, and play at chess, when she that taught me was sitting solitary at home. I thought I should go mad, if I did not try and invent some excuse; for the idea was intolerable, and yet I pitied the poor woman too.
The next morning the captain's wife was at table; she had taken her seat before I went down, so that I could not see her distinctly, although she was on the opposite side. She wore green spectacles and plenty of curls, which were certainly of a beautiful colour; but the cap she wore hid the back hair entirely; so I thought, after all, it was only a little brag of the captain, for these curls might be artificial. As to the freckles, there they were, sure enough; ugly little yellow things. She did well, I thought, to let the curls cover her face as much as possible, for these freckles were well worth hiding. And then, such great clumsy hands too; and to make them look still larger by wearing gloves. I was at last quite ashamed of myself, for I really felt spiteful towards this poor lady; more particularly as the tittering one opposite to her was now fairly laughing out; and all the rest, but the captain's wife and the poor old lady opposite to me, laughed along with her. I looked at the captain, and he sat with his handkerchief to his face.
I made a short meal of it; and I determined if this foolery was continued at dinner, that I would eat in the steerage, any where, rather than encounter such incivilities; for I, somehow or other, associated it all with myself; but to my great relief, neither the captain's wife nor the young lady were at table, so that I ate my dinner without annoyance. But there was no getting rid of the captain's desire to amuse his poor wife with a game of chess. He set aside every excuse; and at length, fairly told me that he saw through my artifice; but that he knew better than I did, how to make the voyage endurable; and that the sooner I broke through my reserve and shyness the better able I should be to bear up against the separation with my wife.
There were but three gentlemen passengers, so that, in all, there were, besides myself and the captain's wife, only the laughing lady and the one who sat opposite to me. There were, to be sure, a number in the steerage; but I had not taken any notice of them, nor, in fact, had I exchanged a word with the gentlemen in the cabin. I was, therefore, very much surprised when they all three left the table and went with me on deck, talking with me as familiarly as if I had been the most communicative person in the world. They were in high glee, and said a number of pleasant things, all of which I might have enjoyed at any other moment; but the chess and the captain's wife crowded out all social feelings; and when the captain came for me, and said the chess board was arranged, and his wife waiting, I went down provoked enough.—Only to think of being placed in such a dilemma—to sit with the captain's wife, dawdling over the chess men, with a mind so far away. My only hope was, that she would beat me so easily that she would not ask me to play with her again.
When I got in the cabin, the first person I saw was the old lady, who was pulling and jerking at her black hood, and laughing heartily. Surely, thought I, that laugh is familiar to me; but she could not untie the string of her hood, so I offered to help her. Thereat she laughed louder and pushed me away. I then turned to the captain's wife, and she seemed beside herself too. I never heard of such a cracked set of people in my life; they all seemed bursting with fun. She threw, first one, and then the other, ugly glove, across the floor; and then away went the spectacles, away went the cap, and away went the curls, and I stood amazed and wondering what was coming next, when a voice that sprung fresh and warm to my heart, said, "Patrick, my dear Patrick, do you know me now?" I had no words; not a syllable could my overjoyed heart allow me to utter, as my dear wife lay in my fond arms.
And there she was, and Martha too. The captain and his wife, who was the laughing lady, all were in the plot; and I was for a long time in such agitated bliss that I did not want to hear how it had all happened; but it was a surprise—a most joyful surprise.
"And so, Patrick, dearest," said she, "you never knew I had freckles, just look at them." "No, no," said I, kissing the dear cheek that she held towards me, "nor do I see them now; nor could I tell the colour of these eyes; all I was ever sensible to is their tender expression. And here is dear Martha too; how completely were you both disguised. By and by you must tell me all about it; but now I only want to feel the bliss of being near to you, and to know that this is all reality."
In half an hour some one tapped at the door, and in came my late tormentor, and in came the captain; and now they laughed heartily; and I smiled in return, for my heart was too full to break out in loud mirth. It seems it was as much as they could all do to restrain the lively lady, fearing that the plot would be discovered before the time. My wife intended to show herself as soon as the pilot left us; but she was so very seasick that she thought I could better bear the pain of thinking her away from me than witness suffering which I could not relieve. The gale came on, and her sickness continued, and she thought it most prudent to wait till it was over. Her plan was to write me a note, and prepare me for it, but the captain and his wife, as well as the gentlemen, begged her to allow of this little artifice, which, as they had taken such an interest in her affairs, she thought it right to indulge them in. Finding me so averse to her going, and knowing that I should so bitterly regret it, she and Martha went in a carriage, one day, and interested Mr. Blagge in her scheme. The captain and his wife were delighted; and whilst he detained me by a sham business, on shore, Mr. Porter saw her and Martha safely on board. She had left the trunks till the last, hoping that I might relent, and thus prevent any necessity of a plot; but as I would not consent, Mr. Porter, who had another carriage in waiting, took them down to the wharf.
What more is to be said? Our voyage was delightful. I had no difficulty, whatever, in identifying myself; and I returned in possession of a large estate, which I trust I shall spend with grateful feelings. Dr. Bently and his amiable niece, Miss Sidney, now Mrs. North, were our fellow-passengers on returning. They little knew what an interest I had in the village of Camperdown, when they so earnestly pressed me to settle in their neighbourhood. My beloved wife was not at all the worse for the three months' excursion; and two months after our return, we were made still happier, if possible, by the birth of a son. My wife, always mindful of my feelings, has called him Cyrus, after my poor father; and we are, I trust, bringing him up in the love of his Maker, and in the fear of breaking his commandments. Aunt Martha, as you know, lives with us, and Mr. Porter resides altogether in the stone house, where I was born; we could not do without him. Now that you all know my dear wife, you can easily imagine that my love for her can never diminish; and that, to be separated from her, would be the greatest of evils.
You have asked me to write a memoir of my life; but, after all, what is it? It is only a description of my heart and its feelings; of my early sorrows, and of my deep, deep love for one, whom I still continue to think is far too good—too far above me. Of her unworthy uncle I will not speak; she was his sister's only child, and he could neither appreciate nor love her. All my felicity has arisen from his blindness, and I therefore forgive him. But if there has been nothing remarkable in this memoir, if the events are such as we meet with frequently, surely there is some novelty in the Surprise.