Page images
PDF
EPUB

titude to fill out all the details. He left that for me to do, if I chose. I have always regretted that he did not tell the whole story in his own chaste diction; but, as he did not, I will try to tell it as nearly in his own words as I

can:

with just enough sadness clinging to her weeds, and enough womanly tact to sink the levity of the belle without taking on the primness of the spinster, has striven in very desperation to bring about the desired offer of marriage. Many of these were most undoubted prizes in the matrimonial lottery possessing wit, wealth and beauty who sincerely loved him, and exerted their utmost powers of fascination, only to lose their time, and, I shrewdly sugpect, his good opinion with it. By no artifice could he be lured, and none of them ever got a word from him on the subject. He would even leave the room if gossip about the courtings and love-makings in the neighborhood hap. pened to come up for discussion. In deed, such topics came to be forbidden in his presence. Although he was a most courteous gentleman of the old school, and gallant in every other respect, he never was seen or known to take a young lady's hand, unless, indeed, she was nearly related to him by blood. As I said before, very few ever knew the reason for his strange conduct.

One calm and lovely Sabbath evening in May, some twenty years ago, this good old man was quietly taken on high to the bride for whose sake he had toiled and waited so patiently for more than fifty years. A fit of apoplexy snapped the thread of life, and he sank into his wakeless slumber as a child falls asleep on a mother's bosom. He had but just closed the family evening prayers when he was summoned into the presence of that Maker he had served so well, and whom he had but that moment glorified in an eloquent invocation. My father was his executor, and with his papers he found a mano uscript addressed to myself, instructing me to do with it as I saw fit. It was but a meagre memorandum of the incidents I am about to give. He explained to me in a note that he had not the for.

“In the latter days of an unusually warm and sunny May, in the year 178–, my senior year was drawing to a close in a New England college. I was to graduate the following August, when I should be a few days more than twentyone years of age, and was then to be married to a beautiful girl, at the house of whose parents I had been residing. An intimacy had sprung up between us which soon became a holy attachment-a deep, abiding affection, ending in a solemn betrothal.

“The many delicious hours of our courtship, the exchange of affection's dearest vows, lie entreasured in my bosom as matters too sacred, too pure, too much like glimpses of higher and holier realms, to allow of any revelation or comment. I pass them over, merely remarking that their memory is so deeply graven on the tablets of my heart, that I could not erase them, even were I disposed so to desecrate all that is best in my nature. On this account, the idea of mar. riage with any other person has always been repulsive to me - has always seemed as misplaced and revolting as festivities in a house of mourning; and I have ever turned the thought out of my mind in abhorrence as a treason against that pure spirit who from on high has ruled my earthly destiny, and, I hope, fitted me for better things. God's will be done; but may the hour delay not which will join me to my dear one, by bonds which shall never again. be broken, in that blissful life beyond, whose glory is Love!

“I was engaged to marry Anna Arlington on the twelfth day of Au

gust, 178–, it being the evening of * Commencement Day. At the time my story opens, she was at a popular and excellent boarding-school in Connecticut, completing her studies, pre. paratory to entering upon the grave duties of a wife, according to the accepted routine of those days. I will not attempt to describe her qualities, for I know the value which the world places upon the panegyrics of lovers. To me she was perfection. She was but little more than two years my junior. As her parents and my own were wealthy, and disposed to be generous in providing for us, it was thought best that we should marry as soon as consistent that is, as soon as I was graduated ; and to this sensible view we gave a hearty and a grateful assent. Every thing seemed to conspire to render our start in the new relationship propitious, and even brilliant. With what happy impatience we looked forward to that day which was to give us to each other! It fills my heart with conflicting emotions, as I recount again and again the smiting disappointment which crushed the love-light out of my soul, and well-nigh shattered my reason!

“Anna was the belle of a large community; and as she added wealth of beauty to her wealth of purse, and I was her choice out of many suitors (one of whom, poor fellow, took his life in a frenzy of grief), and the more espe. cially as the match gratified the old people, we were naturally the envy of many less favored lovers, whose course of true love was tortuous and rough—a perfect whirlpool of vexation and disappointment when com pared with ours. Ah! how short sighted is man! Alas! the veil that is over our vision !

“My father was a patron of letters, and cherished an ambition that his only son should pass a life in study and literary culture. But "Man proposes, God disposes,' and poor father's in

dulgent ambition was never to be real. ized, although I do not believe he ever blamed me for it. One bright Thursday afternoon about five o'clock—to go back again to the beginning—I went to my chamber, after a fatiguing day in the examination room. The ordeal of college examinations was much more rigid and critical in those days than at present. For many years little indulgences, one after another, have added cushions to the vehicles of the college curriculum, so that the brains of pupils take fewer jolts and a much easier ride over the toilsome and rough roads of learning, and the fatigues are less. At any rate, so it strikes my mind as I compare my journey with what seems to me to be a mere pleasure excursion through the academic groves, embellished with the taste of our more modern scholars, till it has become, as it were, a landscape garden. In those days, the examination would occupy from five to six weeks of continuous work, for about ten hours daily. The Senior class passed this ordeal in May, to give a better chance to prépare for Commencement, which closes the college year. The mind during that period was kept at the greatest pitch of tension and attention, and we became very much exhausted ere the close of the last week. Thoroughly fatigued in mind and body at the time I have spoken of, I went to my chamber to make ready for the tea-table by a thorough washing, cleansing my hands of chalk and black-wash, and ridding my brain as much as I could of conic sections and the calculus.

“I am thus particular in detail, because it has occurred to me that perhaps this strain of the mental functions may have had something to do with the phenomena I am about to recount, and which I have hundreds of times, without success, endeavored to explain or account for to myself on natural or philosophic principles. The

human mind, in its various modes spoke of herself as perfectly well, and and conditions, perfect in one sense, wrote in her own sprightly style; she and imperfect in another, many times alluded to her return about the eleventh diseased in health and healthy in dis- of July to prepare for our wedding and ease - to use a seeming paradox tour in Europe. For this reason, per. is a mysterious agency, operating ac haps, she was not prominent in my dark cording to laws which rank among the picture of approaching evil. greatest mysteries of our being. It may “Well, as I have said, on this Thursbe, that somewhat in analogy to the day evening I went to my chamber to functions of the body, which are won- wash my hands and arrange the various derfully developed by a course of phys- matters that go to make up a young ical training, the faculties of the mind gentleman's toilet. My chamber was a may be trained and developed in any large airy one in an old-fashioned farm given direction until they exhibit start- house, chosen by me in preference to ling results and this, too, in the direc- the more finished upper parlors, betion of what is sometimes called 'clair- cause of the fine view it afforded. voyance. Be this as it may, and The entrance door was directly oppoavoiding a psychological debate, I will site a door opening upon a flight of resume my narration.

stairs leading to the garret, as we call "In order to put the reader in pos- the attic, in which the family stored session of all the facts relating to what the various indispensables to the genI have never doubted was a super- uine New England symposium. At natural occurrence, lying, at all events, the right hand side of the entrance beyond the precincts of philosophic door was a large fire-place, common in exposition, it may be remarked that those wood-abounding days—and oppoat the time I speak of I had been site the fire-place hung my lookingfor two or three days oppressed in glass. The weather being warm the mind by an abiding melancholy such fire-place had been cleared and cleaned as I had never felt before, and never out, and was garnished on either side have suffered since. I carried about with a small evergreen tree, and at one in my mind constantly what per. side stood my large study chair. I had haps every person may have felt at washed, and was making ready to times — à wearying presentiment that shave, when, standing up before the something dreadful, some crushing, glass, I all at once became conscious of blighting blow was impending over a dim, shadowy reflection in it of someme, and that I was soon to be thing behind me in my arm-chair. I enshrouded by the dark mantle of turned about, and there, sitting in this affliction. What was to befall me chair I have described, was an outline, I could not imagine ; but, do what I indistinct at first-a kind of visible might, I could not rid myself of the unseen. I regarded it for a moment persistent conviction. My melancholy intently, when the apparition took the took no definite form, and the premoni- clear, distinct form of my beloved tion pointed in no particular direction, Anna! She sat there, regarding me I only remember that it did not embrace with such a look of anguish, of despair. any anxiety on account of my darling ing entreaty, as is indelible in my mem. Anna, my bride elect. This might ory, though long years have passed have been owing to the fact that on the away! Her face was very pale; her previous Saturday I had received a left hand was clasped about her throat, cheerful and affectionate letter from her, and I could even discern my engagethe usual weekly communication. She ment ring on her finger, while her right hand was extended toward me. I saw sitting in my study chair near the fireher as distinctly as I ever did. How place, in exactly the posture I have delong I remained silent and stationary I scribed, and that she stood watching can not say, but it could not have ex. her for many moments before she found ceeded a few seconds, though it seemed strength to scream, and then fainted. as many hours. I was so awe-struck The doctor, who was an infidel and & that I could not move or speak at first; thorough skeptic, sneered at this .nobut gradually regaining my self-posses- tion of a silly girl,' and ridiculed what sion, I advanced toward her to speak, he deemed and pronounced to be the thinking that perhaps, after all, it might hysterics of a nervous female, scared be some sort of trick or scare. I at her own shadow. I now thought it had not crossed the room, however, be time to tell what I had seen. This fore she vanished, and I saw her no revelation staggered the worthy man a more! I knew then that she was dead; good deal, and he finally fell in with my I could at once interpret the occasion interpretation of the matter; for ex. and meaning of my dark forebodings. plain it away, or account for it, we could Oh! the agony of that moment, from not. which dates the loss of all my earthly “What was to be done was a queshappiness! Almost paralyzed by what tion of grave debate among us. I was I had seen, I went down to the sitting for starting off at once to learn the truth room, not knowing what to say or as to the fate of my poor girl. The do; but I acted wisely, it turned old people, although they opposed my out, by saying not a word of the oc- project with puritanic hostility to any currence. I must have betrayed my thing which looked like yielding to condition of mind, because comments superstition, or even unexplained haste, were freely made by the family on my still, I believe, secretly favored the wild, baggard appearance, which was proposition, and in a half hour more I attributed to a severe day's work. I was well mounted and on my sorrowful remember, however, that I noted the errand. The journey usually occupied time of day by the clock, as I had no from five to six days in those times ; doubt that it was a fatal hour for my but by spending money freely for fresh earthly hopes.

horses, and by hard riding, I reached “At this juncture of affairs the ser. the school where Anna resided, on the vant girl went up to the attic to obtain next Sabbath afternoon. I found my the necessaries for supper. She had worst fears more than realized. All that been gone but a little while when we was left to me of my darling was her heard a terrific shriek and a heavy fall. white and beautiful form, enshrouded We rushed up stairs and found her for that mysterious bridal where majestic prostrate on the floor in a fainting fit, Death officiates, and whose bonds are with the dishes she had carried strewed never broken! She had died on Thursabout the floor. I suspected the cause, day afternoon, at precisely the hour-as and glanced at the fire-place, but saw nearly as I could compute the timenothing; nor did any one else remark when I had first seen her apparition in any thing unusual. It took a long my chamber many a mile away. As time, with the aid of the old family soon as I was sufficiently master of doctor, to restore consciousness to the myself in the stupefaction of fresh affrighted girl. When she had suffi grief, to comprebend fully what was ciently recovered, she protested in the said to me, I learned that she had been most solemn manner, amid shrieks and troubled with an influenza - not suphysterics, that she saw 'Miss Anna' posed to be of a serious character

me make my case their own; and in proportion as their hearts find sympathy for me in this blight upon my earthly existence, will they bear with my shortcomings and forgive my errors !".

for three days; just about the length of time that I had suffered with gloomy forebodings! On Thursday, at about noon, shę was taken suddenly worse; her throat began to swell, and she was in great pain. At last she felt herself to be dying, and secured a promise from those around her not to suffer her to be buried till I should arrive. “For,' said she, “I shall warn Rodney, poor boy, of my death! She had no more than spoken the words, with great difficulty, when her throat filled; and in spite of all that could be done in a few moments she suffocated. The physicians announced, as the result of a post mortem examination, that if they had known the precise nature of the disease, they believed they might have saved her life by a simple surgical operation, and me from a living burial through years of lonely woe!

“My best affections have lain in the tomb where I laid my choicest treasure in that gloomy May. And if I have been at all unmindful of the claims of social life, let them who would blame

My little story is told. I have only to add that a careful examination of papers startled me not a little, when I ascertained that Judge M. died on the anniversary of the death of the charming lady he was to have married. Her miniature, which I found in a little cabinet bequeathed by him to me, hangs in my library; and I will add that such a radiant beauty well justifies the constancy of the passion she inspired. The ring which sealed the engagement spoken of sparkles on the hand of my good wife, a fitting emblem of the lustrous virtues which it symbolizes; and now, as she leans over me while I pen these concluding lines, she drops a woman's tear to the cherished memory of dear "Uncle Rodney."

RETAIL TRADE AS A MEDIUM OF DISTRIBUTION.

BY FREDERICK LOCKLEY.

No man can look abroad upon so N ciety and not be painfully impressed with the chaos that meets his view; undue accumulations of wealth in the hands of a few, while the many thousands are destitute of the bare decencies of life; strikes for shorter hours of labor, while fully one-sixth of our entire working population are at this moment without employment; the min. eral and agricultural resources of the country in no way adequately developed, and our population suffering privations from their inability to provide for their

domestic wants. This state of things asks for a little sober thought. Did the Divine Maker scatter his gifts thus profusedly around, and then interpose some barrier to prevent his creatures from enjoying his bounty? Did he en. dow man with his delicate perceptions, his thirst for inquiry, and his keen sense of enjoyment, and then condemn him to a life of monotonous toil? Are his creations more extended than his beneficence, and is the Almighty favor confined to a small proportion of the human race?

« PreviousContinue »