Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

since my mother left her hed; and my youngest sister, bending; beneath increased delicacy of health, is her only attendant. I know her mind to he so tortured, and her body so convulsed by pain, that I have prayed to God to render her fit for Heaven, and take her from her sufferings. Imagine the weight of sorrow that crushed me to my knees with such a petition as that! I know all you have done, and yet I ask you now, in remembrance of the boyish love that bound you and my father together, to lessen her bodily anguish by the sacrifice of a little more; that she, nursed in the lap of luxury, may not pass from life with starvation as her companion. My brother's gift is expended; and during the last three weeks I have earned but twelve shillings; my pupils are out of town. Do, for a moment, remember what I was, and think how humbled I must be to frame this supplication; but it is a child that petitions for a parent, and I know I have never forfeited your esteem. In a few weeks, perhaps in a few days, my brother and my mother will meet my poor father face to face. Oh that I could be assured that reproach and bitterness for the past do not pass the portals of the grave! Forgive me this, as you have already forgiven me much. Alas! I know too well that our misfortunes drew misfortunes upon others. I was the unhappy but innocent cause of much sorrow at the Grange; but oh! do not refuse the last request that I will ever make!" The letter was blotted by tears.

Charles Adams was from home when it arrived, and his wife, knowing the handwriting, and having made a resolution never to open a letter " from that branch of the family," did not send it after her husband, " lest it mig-ht tease him." Ten days elapsed before he received it; and when he did, he could not be content with writing, but lost not a moment in hastening to the address. Irritated and disappointed that what he really had done should have been so little appreciated, when every hour of his life he was smarting in one way or other from his exertions—brokenhearted at his daughter's blighted health and happiness—angered by the reckless wildness of one nephew, and what he believed was the idleness of another—and convinced that Rosa's fearful step was owing to the pampering and mismanagement of her foolish mother—Charles Adams satisfied himself that, as he did not hear to the contrary from Mary, all things were going on well, or at least not ill. He thought as little about them as he possibly could, no people in the world being so conveniently forgotten (when they are not importunate) as poor relations; but the letter of his favourite niece spoke strongly to his heart, and in two hours after his return home, he set forth for the London suburb from whence the letter was dated. It so chanced that, to get to that particular end of the town, he was obliged to pass the house his brother had occupied so splendidly for a number of years; the servants had lit the lamps, and were drawing the curtains of the noble dining-room; and a party of ladies were descending from a carriage, which prevented two others from setting down. It looked like old times. "Some one else," thought Charles Adams, "running the same career of wealth and extravagance. God grant it may not lead to the same results!" He paused, and looked up the front of the noble mansion; the drawing-room windows were open, and two beautiful children were standing on an ottoman placed between the windows, probably to keep them apart. He thought of Mary's childhood, and how she was occupied at that moment, and hastened onward. There are times when life seems one mingled .dream, and it is not easy to become dispossessed of the idea when some of its frightful changes are brought almost together under our view.

"Is Miss Adams at home?" inquired her uncle of a woman leaning against the door of a miserable house.

"I don't know; she went to the hospital this morning; but I'm not sure she's in. It's the second pair back; it's easy known, for the sob has not ceased in that room these two nights; some people do take on so"

Charles Adams did not hear the concluding sentence, but sought the room: the door would not close, and he heard a low sobbing sound from within. He paused; but his step had aroused the mourner. "Come in, Mary—come in. I know how it is," said a young voice; "he is dead. One grave for mother and son—one grave for mother and son! I see your shadow, dark as it is. Have you brought a candle? It is very fearful to be alone with the dead—even one's own mother—in the dark."

Charles Adams entered the room; but his sudden appearance in the twilight, and evidently not knowing him, overcame the girl, his youngest niece, so much, that she screamed, and fell on her knees by her mother's corpse. He called for lights, and was speedily obeyed, for he put a piece of gold in the woman's hand: she turned it over, and as she hastened from the room, muttered, "If this had come sooner, she'd not have died of starvation, or burdened the parish for a shroud: it's hard the rich can't look to their own."

When Mary returned, she was fearfully calm. "No; her brother was not dead," she said. "The young were longer dyins: than those whom the world had worn out; the young knew so little of the world, they thought it hard to leave it;" and she took off her bonnet, and sat down; and while her uncle explained why he had not written, she looked at him with eyes so fixed and cold, that he paused, hoping she would speak, so painful was their stony expression. But she let him go on, without offering one word of assurance of any kind feeling or remembrance; and when she stooped to adjust a portion of the coarse plaiting- of the shroud—that mockery of "the purple and fine linen of living days"—her uncle saw that her hair, her luxuriant hair, was 6triped with white.

"There is no need for words now," she said at last; "no need. I thought you would have sent; she required but little—but very little; the dust rubbed from the gold she once had would have been riches. But the little she did require she had not, and so she died. But what weighs heaviest upon my mind was her calling so continually on my father, to know why he had deserted her. She attached no blame latterly to any one, only called day and night upon him. Oh! it was hard to bear—it was very hard to bear!"

"I will send a proper person in the morning, to arrange that she may be placed with my brother," said Charles.

Mary shrieked almost with the wildness of a maniac. "No, no; as far from him as possible! Oh! not with him! She was to blame in our days of splendour as much as he was; but she could not see it; and I durst not reason with her. Not with him! She would disturb him in his grave!"

Her uncle shuddered, while the young girl sobbed in the bitter wailing tone their landlady complained of.

"No," resumed Mary; "let the parish bury her; even its officers were kind; and if you bury her, or they, it is still a pauper's funeral. I see all these things clearly now. Death, while it closes the eyes of some, opens the eyes of others; it has opened mine."

But why should I prolong this sad story. It is not the tale of one, but of many. There are dozens, scores, hundreds of instances of the same kind, arising from the same cause, in our broad islands. In the lunatic asylum where that poor girl, even Mary Adams, has found refuge during the past two years, there are many cases of insanity arising from change of circumstances^ where a fifty pounds' insurance would have set such maddening distress at defiance. I know that her brother died in the hospital within a few days; and the pale, sunken-eyed girl, whose damp yellow hair and thin white hand are so eagerly kissed by the gentle maniac when she visits her, month by month, is the youngest, and, I believe, the last of her family—at least the last in England. Oh that those who foolishly boast that their actions only affect themselves, would look carefully abroad, and, if they doubt what I have faithfully told, examine into the causes which crowd the world with cases even worse than I have here recorded!

Note.—The evil consequences of a neglect or postponement of lifeassurance, such as are portrayed in the foregoing tale, are very far from being of uncommon occurrence; and as much may arise from ignorance, we have, in a preceding tract (No. 44), presented every requisite information on the subject.—Ed.

Is

ABBY'S YEAR IN LOWELL*

A TALE OF SELF-DENIAL.

"Mr Atkins, I say! Husband, why can't you speak? Do you hear what Abby says 1"

"Anything-worth hearing?" was the responsive question of Mr Atkins; and he laid down the New Hampshire Patriot, and peered over his spectacles with a look which seemed to say, that an event so uncommon deserved particular attention.

"Why, she says that she means to go to Lowell, and work in the factory."

"Well, wife, let her go;" and Mr Atkins took up the Patriot again.

"But I do not see how I can spare her; the spring cleaning is not done, nor the soap made, nor the boys' summer clothes; and you say that you intend to board your own 'men-folks,' and keep two more cows than you did last year; and Charley can scarcely go alone. I do not see how I can get along without her."

"But you say she does not assist you any about the house."

"Well, husband, she might."

"Yes, she might do a great many things which she does not think of doing; and as I do not see that she means to be useful here, we will let her go to the factory."

"Father! are you in earnest? May I go to Lowell?" said Abby; and she raised her bright black eyes to her father's with a look of exquisite delight.

"Yes, Abby, if you will promise me one thing; and that is, that you will stay a whole year without visiting us, excepting in case of sickness, and that you will stay but one year."

"I will promise anything, father, if you will only let me go; for I thought you would say that I had better stay at home and pick rocks, and weed the garden, and drop corn, and rake hay; and I do not want to do such work any longer. May I go with the Slater girls next Tuesday, for that is the day they have set for their return?"

* Lowell is a manufacturing town in Massachusets, to which young women, the daughters of farmers and others, resort for employment in the factories. The generally excellent conduct of these "factory girls," also their taste and literary abilities, are spoken of by travellers from England as a kind of wonder. Amongst them are contributed a series of papers in prose and verse, which form an annual, entitled the Lowell Offering; and it is from one of these interesting publications that the present story, which appears under the signature of Luanda, is extracted.—Ed.

"Yes, Abby, if you will remember that you are to stay a year, and only one year."

Abby retired to rest that night with a heart fluttering with pleasure; for ever since the visit of the Slater girls with new silk dresses, and Navarino bonnets trimmed with flowers, and lace veils, and gauze handkerchiefs, her head had been tilled with visions of fine clothes; and she thought if she could only go where she could dress like them, she should be completely happy. She was naturally very fond of dress, and often, while a little girl, had she sat on the grass bank by the roadside watching the stage which went daily by her father's retired dwelling} and when she saw the gay ribbons and smart shawls, which passed like a bright phantom before her wondering eyes, she had thought that, when older, she too would have such things; and she looked forward to womanhood as to a state in which the chief pleasure must consist in wearing fine clothes. But as years passed over her, she became aware that this was a source from which she could never derive any enjoyment whilst she remained at home; for her father was neither able nor willing to gratify her in this respect, and she had begun to fear that she must always wear the same brown cambric bonnet, and that the same calico gown would always be her " go-to-meeting dress." And now what a bright picture had been formed by her ardent and uncultivated imagination! Yes, she would go to Lowell, and earn all that she possibly could, and spend those earnings in beautiful attire; she would have silk dresses—one of grass green, and another of cherry red, and another upon the colour of which she would decide when she purchased it; and she would have a new Navarino bonnet, far more beautiful than Judith Slater's; and when at last she fell asleep, it was to dream of satin and lace, and her glowing fancy revelled all night in a vast and beautiful collection of milliners' finery.

But very different were the dreams of Abby's mother; and when she awoke the next morning, her first words to her husband were, " Mr Atkins, were you serious last night when you told Abby that she might go to Lowell? I thought at first that you were vexed because I interrupted you, and said it to stop the conversation."

"Yes, wife, I was serious, and you did not interrupt me, for I had been listening to all that you and Abby were saying. She is a wild, thoughtless girl, and I hardly know what it is best to do with her; but perhaps it will be as well to try an experiment, and let her think and act a little while for herself. I expect that she will spend all her earnings in fine clothes; but after she has done so, she may see the folly of it; at all events, she will be rather more likely to understand the value of money when she has been obliged to work for it. After she has had her own way for one year, she may possibly be willing to return home and become a little more steady, and be willing to devote her active

« ForrigeFortsæt »