The Baldwin Li biar
WHAT SHALL I BE?
HAT SHALL I BE
l .- T
WHAT SHALL I BE?
A BOY'S AIM IN LIFE.
" So employ the talents committed to your care, that when the account is required,
you may hope to have your stewardship approved."-SOUTHEY.
T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW;
EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.
I. Introductory, ... ... ... ... ... 9
II. Childhood, .. ... ... .. ... 11
III. Home Influences, .. ... ... ... ... 18
IV. The Church and School, ... ... ... ... 35
V. Plans, ... ... ... ... ... ... 39
VI Discontent, ... ... ... ... ... 56
VII. A Visitor, ... ... ... ... 62
VIII. Opposition, ... ... ... ... 75
IX. Leaving Home, ... ... ... ... ... 85
X. City Life, ... .. ..... ... 98
XI. Review of the Past, ... ... ... ... 112
XII. A New Decision, ... .. ... ... ... 123
XIII. The Old Home and the New, ... ... ... ... 140
XIV. My Journal, ... ... ... ... ... 153
XV. Going Home, ... ... ... ... 166
XVI. My Twentieth Year, ... ... .. .. 17
WHAT SHALL I BE?
IT is my birthday,-my fiftieth birthday All around
me breathes the soft summer air. White clouds float
dreamily over the blue sky, and the hills lie clothed in
the sweet verdure which June only sheds over the earth.
Yes, I was born in June, the loveliest of all the summer
months. In just such a day as this, perhaps,-so
bright, so full of all glad influences,-I drew my first
I have been told I was a feeble infant, giving at first
so few signs of life that it was doubted if I should sur-
vive the day. If I had not, if that feeble spark of
being had flickered and gone out, where and what
would it have been nowl How different from this
soul, that beats in an earthly body, filled with hopes
and fears and flooding memories of all the sad and
sweet experiences of an earthly life! Was it well that
that frail breath grew stronger and the pulsations of
that little heart more firm and equal ? Was it well
that that germ of spiritual life unfolded into the pas-
sions, the aspirations, the knowledge of good and evil,
of the full-grown man 7 It was well. "Even so,
Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
My life has been a quiet one, marked by few start-
ling incidents; yet, on reviewing it, I have thought it
would be pleasant, and perhaps profitable, to write
down some of its more prominent events. It may be
that some young man beginning life may be warned by
my mistakes or encouraged by my successes. I would
gladly impart to others the lessons I have bought by
hard experience, that they may not pay for them in the
same costly currency. Few, I know, give heed to
those who have preceded them, or will be taught save
by personal trial; but I will write, praying that some
one at least may read and be the better for it.
My heart warms towards the young when I see them
starting joyfully forth on the journey of life; for, in
the words of a quaint Scotch writer, It is a troublous
water, the water of life ; and it has often given me a
sore heart to see the young things launched upon it
like bairns' boats, sailing hither and thither in an un-
purpose-like manner, having no thought of who it is
that sends both the soft wind and the storm; and, if
they have need of various instruments and a right pilot-
man who guide ships over that constant uncertainty,
the sea, I think not but there is far greater need of all
manner of helps to pass safely through that greater un-
I WAS born in a quiet little town, which I shall call
Hillbury. It lies in the western part of New England,
near one of the summits of the Green Mountain range.
It is inhabited mostly by small farmers, who live by
keeping dairies and raising stock. They are scattered
about among the hills, their houses being often perched
on some breezy knoll, where all the winds of heaven
congregate in winter, and a pure, delicious air fans
them through the summer. Pure air, pure water, wild
and picturesque scenery, are the birthright of these
dwellers on the hills; and it is an inheritance by no
means to be despised.
My first recollections are of sitting on a flat rock in
our back-yard and looking out on the dense forest of
pines and hemlocks which covered the steep hill opposite.
This rock was shaded by a spreading oak-tree, and in
this shade was built our play-house,"-the joint pro-
perty of my younger sister and myself. How well I
remember this play-house, the depository of all our
choicest treasures It was made of shingles laid on
broken bricks, and had six shelves in it; and very
capacious and splendid we thought it was. These
shelves were adorned with broken bits of crockery,
turkeys' feathers, egg-shells painted with indigo and
celandine, and with acorns, of all sizes, transformed
into cups and saucers, plates and platters, and any other
articles of table furniture we chanced to need. In
front of the top shelf hung a festoon of shells made of
pretty blue robins' eggs, which had been perforated at
each end and the contents blown out. Who had been
cruel enough to steal them from the nest I know not;
but we prized them highly. Another cherished trea-
sure was an arm-chair made of corn-stalks by an in-
genious cousin of ours, which certainly was a little un-
steady in its habits, and never used, even to hold
Susan's dollie, but none the less admired for that. But
the crowning glory of all was a small cup of china,-
real china,-which had a handle and held water. To
be sure, it had a little piece broken from it; but, judi-
ciously arranged, this did not show, and it was con-
sidered as good as new. I can remember now the tiny
wreath of leaves and roses which ran round the top :
how pretty they were to our childish eyes, and how
real and pure was our enjoyment of it I do not think
the most expensive toys of modern times give more
pleasure to their possessors than our simple play-house
gave us. We used to adorn it with clover-blossoms
and buttercups in summer, and with bright-coloured
leaves in autumn, and give tea-parties to imaginary
friends, who feasted on imaginary dainties.
I like to linger over this childish memory. There is
something in it very sweet to me ; for with it are
linked the whispering of the winds through the large
oak-tree, the shadows that came and went on those
grand old woods, the murmur of insects, the gushing
song of birds, and, sweeter than all, the sound of my
mother's voice as she sang at her work. How they all
come to me now, as I sit by the window and write !
It is associated also with the pretty childish face
and tones of my sister Susan,-a blue-eyed, "toddlin'
wee thing," four years younger than myself. I loved
this little sister dearly, though I often tyrannized over
her, as older brothers are apt to do; and the first
punishment I can remember receiving was from my
mother for being unkind to her. I had pushed her down
the back-door steps and left her screaming with fright
and pain. I walked away, choosing to think she was
not hurt,-only "making believe." I can remember
thinking it was manly not to pay any heed to her,-to
put my hands in my pocket and begin to whistle. I
had not gone far before I heard my mother's voice,
calling "Allen Allen !" in its severest tone. I never
thought of disregarding that; for I had received the
old-fashioned training which, if it taught little else,
thoroughly instilled that most valuable lesson,-
I went back, trembling with a consciousness of guilt.
Susan had ceased crying, and looked pitifully at me
with her sweet blue eyes, on whose lashes the tears
were glistening. My mother held me at arm's length
and gazed fixedly at me. There was something in her
eye when she was displeased that always made me
quail,-a clear light, a fixed determination, which left
no hope of escape.
"Cowardly, cruel boy!" she said; "you may be
thankful you did not kill your sister." And she led
me unresistingly to the door of an empty room which
had been used as a store-closet, and turned the key
I was awed, but not subdued. I sat down on the
floor, swelling with indignation, and determined not to
make any submission, let what would come. I remem-
ber the thoughts which came to me as I sat there. I
had heard my father read the story of Hannibal,-how
he swore eternal hatred to the Romans when he was
nine years old ; how he became a great warrior, and
crossed the Alps and gained glorious victories,-and,
curiously enough, I identified myself with him. I too
would be a hero, a great man; would fight, and con-
quer, and die. What I should fight was by no means
clear to me. I don't think it was exactly my mother
or little sister, but an impalpable something which pre-
vented me from doing as I wished. I speak of this
feeling more minutely because it was one which after-
wards filled a large space in my mental life,-the desire
to be a great man and to accomplish something won-
My heroic vein did not, however last long. Before
noon I felt very hungry; and hunger is not conducive
to heroism as a general thing,-certainly not in boys of
seven years old. I cried aloud. I grew more angry,
and pounded on the door in my rage. Then I heard
my mother's light step, and her calm voice-oh, how
calm and stern it was !-saying,-
Allen, don't let me hear any more noise."
There was a kind of magical spell in that tone of
hers. I cannot well account for its peculiar influence,
but I never could resist its power. It was probably
owing in a great measure to her inflexible self-control
and to the force of habit. I had never been allowed
to contradict her, but from my infancy had submitted--
had been made to do so-in the veriest trifle, till the
idea of opposition was wholly foreign to my nature,-
one which never occurred to me when she spoke in that
decided tone. This consciousness of being in the hands
of a superior being (for such she was to me) quieted
me. I do not think it exactly subdued me, or that if
she had required it I would then have made any con-
cession; but I ceased to struggle. I sat down by the
window and gazed listlessly on the prospect. The sky
was very bright and very blue, with not a single cloud.
The hills were beautiful in their stillness as they rested
against it, with the trees all motionless in the soft sun-
light. The pastures on the hill-side were green and
sunny, with here and there groups of cows, some feed-
ing quietly and some chewing the cud under the silent
trees. No sound was heard but the tinkling of the
water-drops as they fell into the trough. All was so
still, so almost solemn, in that noonday radiance, that
my rebellious soul was hushed. I wished I was good;
but I was not, and I felt a kind of sullen certainty I
never should be.
At last I fell asleep. When I awoke, long shadows
lay across the hills, the cows were coming downwards
to the bars, and a fresh breeze, laden with sweet forest
odours, was fanning my feverish cheeks. My angry
feelings had all gone, and I felt kindly to every one.
I heard tiny feet pattering on the kitchen floor, and
longed to put my arms round my darling little Susan,
to go out with her to the play-house and drink tea from
our acorn cups. How sorry I was I had ever been un-
kind to her I thought, What if I had killed her 1
What if her head had struck on the stone at the bottom
of the steps and she had never breathed again ? I saw
her, in imagination, in a little coffin such as Willie
Reed was put in, went to her funeral, and saw her laid
in the ground. It was a terrible fancy, and I wept
aloud. I think I loved my little sister better than most
brothers do, she was so gentle and so good; and when
I thought of her dying my heart was broken. Just at
this moment my mother came in. It was an auspi-
cious moment, and she doubtless saw I was no longer
obstinate, for she looked sadly, but kindly, at me.
Will you promise," she said, mildly, to be kind
to your little sister "
Oh, yes. I will! I will be good to her!" I ex-
claimed, a torrent of tears falling from my eyes. I
don't want Susie to die and be buried in the ground!
I will be good to her."
My mother was a woman of few words, but I saw
a tear standing in her eye; and she stooped and kissed
me (a rare thing for her) as she said,-
"You have been very wicked, Allen; but I will pray
for you, and I hope God will forgive you."
I don't know how it is with other children, but to
me there was always something very solemn in the
thought of my mother praying for me. When she
went into her bed-room and locked the door, we knew
she was at prayer, and the thought of it never failed to
impress me with a kind of awe.
My mother's training gave us a reverence for holy
things; and reverence is a trait so indispensable to all
true excellence that I sometimes think its value can
scarcely be over-estimated.
How sweet and beautiful to me were the quiet home
pleasures that night !-the sitting down at the door
with our basins of bread and milk, while the kitty came
to watch us and eat the piece of bread we now and then
threw down for her; the standing by the table to eat our
gingerbread; the coming home of the cows, driven by
my father when he returned from work; the milking
them on the green before the door; the straining of the
brimming pails into the cheese-tubs, and the pouring
the froth into kitty's dish, while Susan and I were
allowed to dip our bright little tin cups carefully into
the tub and quaff a draught sweeter and richer than any
My heart was at peace, and hence everything around
me was beautiful. Little Susan seemed dearer to me
than ever; and when I had said my prayers and lay
down that night, my heart was full of gratitude. There
was something of penitence, too, for having injured her,
my own darling little sister; and I resolved I would be
kind and gentle to her always-always.
FOR the first ten years of my life I was a delicate child,
accustomed to quiet sports, such as girls usually like, as
my fondness for the play-house shows; but at that age
I became stout and healthy, and ever after possessed an
uncommon degree of physical vigour. With strength
of body came greater activity of mind and heart, and
the development of both the good and evil in my nature
went on rapidly. The influences under which this de-
velopment took place deserve to be noticed; for under
a different training I should have doubtless been a very
different being both in youth and manhood.
My parents were poor; that is, they were obliged to
labour for their daily bread and had few possessions;
yet there was in our home none of the degradation and
want which extreme poverty brings. If we had few of
the comforts and none of the elegancies of life, our
necessities were always supplied; and as few of our
neighbours were better off, there were no invidious
comparisons made. Few children were ever happier
in a father's house, I think, than Susan and myself;
and few can look back to the old home with a more
grateful, affectionate regard than fills our hearts now
that the shadows of age are beginning to fall across our
The old home! Oh, how pleasantly it rises before me
in its sweet greenness and tranquillity, with murmuring
mountain brook; its encircled hills crowned with dark,
rich forests, and the broad blue sky stretched over all,
wider and deeper tinted and more serene than any
other sky can ever be !
The house was a small brown cottage, nestled quietly
among the green trees around it, so as scarcely to
attract the notice of the passer-by. It was by no
means one of those fanciful modern houses, with pointed
roofs and Venetian blinds, which are now-a-days called
cottages, but a long, low building, with a sloping, mossy
roof projecting over its front, forming a rude veranda,
in which we used to sit when the day's labours were
ended and watch the shadows gather on the pine woods
The cottage was of that genuine tint of brown artists
love so well; but no artist's hands could have given
those old boards their colouring. The soft breath of
20 HOME INFLUENCES.
spring, the fiery suns of summer, the cold winds of
autumn, and the fierce snows and tempests of winter
had all been painting them for more than half a cen-
tury; and soft and pleasant to the eye were the hues
they had imparted,-more picturesque and charming
than anything Art produces in her most successful
It was a home-like place, with the great oak-tree
overshadowing it, the green yard sloping away in front,
and the high hills rising behind it; while at the south
there was a grand view over a wide tract of hills and
valleys. These in some places were rugged and bare,
with monstrous rocks lying like huge sleeping giants
crouched upon the grass, in others smiling with the
loveliest verdure; while here and there, all over the
hills and valleys, were scattered clusters of trees,
grouped as gracefully as if designed expressly to gratify
the eye of taste; and who, indeed, shall say they were
not ? I felt then, and feel still, that no landscape could
be more beautiful than this,-especially at midsummer,
when the sunlight rested softly upon it and the fleecy
clouds floated over, chequering it with light, passing
shadows, as lovely as they were fleeting. And then,
too, in autumn, how gorgeous were those wooded hills
in their coat of many colours !" Can those who are
born amid the brick walls of a city, and whose childish
years are spent away from all the sweet influences of
nature, love their early home as we did I Can they
turn back to it with hearts as grateful, as full of ten-
HOME INFLUENCES. 21
derness and soul-felt joy, as are filling ours ? I sup-
pose they do; for, after all, it is the presence of love
which most sanctifies a home. Yet to have one's birth.
place amid such wild and picturesque scenery as sur-
rounded mine is certainly a cause for gratitude.
As I have said, my mother was a person of few
words, possessing a determined spirit, which kept my
own in check. She was of a calm and sedate tempera-
ment, seldom manifesting violent emotion of any kind,
-not, I think, so much from the absence of acute
sensibilities and deep feelings as from a habitual self-
control. This last, and a beautiful consistency between
her words and acts, were very striking traits in her
character. She was exceedingly watchful of us chil-
dren; but her care never degenerated into that fretful
anxiety mothers so often manifest. Her face, as I re-
member it, was a grave one, with strong deep lines
upon it. I do not think she could ever have been
handsome; but her smile was the most beautiful I ever
saw on a human face. It was like the fall of sun-light
on a shady spot, transfusing and transforming what it
touched. Her voice was one of rare sweetness-clear
and low-toned; and I cannot recollect her ever speaking
on a high, angry key. She seldom laughed, and never
loudly; but that beautiful smile would irradiate her
face whenever we gathered about her knee at twilight,
or had earned her approbation by doing right. She
reverenced right-duty; and we knew it, not so much
because she talked about it as that it shone out through
22 HOME INFLUENCES.
every action of her life, the moving, guiding principle,
She never lavished caresses upon us; but a simple
word or look of tenderness from her was worth more
than the most profuse expressions from a more demon-
strative nature would have been.
I have heard (but not till her spirit had gone to its
rest) that she belonged to a proud family and had been
delicately nurtured; that her marriage to my father was
considered by her friends as quite beneath her; and that
by it she became almost separated from them. I know
that there was never any exchange of visits, or of little
tokens of kindness, between us and relatives on my
mother's side, while uncles, aunts, and cousins of my
father's abounded. However, we never heard of any grand
relations, but were always taught to be contented with our
humble lot and not to look for great things in the world.
My father was very unlike my mother; and I speak
of him last, partly because a child's thoughts more
naturally revert at once to his mother, but also because
my mother was really the ruling spirit of our house-
hold. My father was of an amiable, easy disposition,
contented to live on from day to day without thinking
much of futurity, or, if he did think, never seeing a
shadow on the prospect. He had less solidity of mind,
I believe, but more literary taste, than my mother, and
spent his leisure hours (of which, I fancy, he contrived
to have many more than he ought) in reading of a
most miscellaneous character. He was warm-hearted
and affectionate, extravagantly fond of his children,
HOME INFLUENCES. 23
especially of Susan, who was his pet and darling; never
reproving us, but turning us over to our mother when
any discipline was needed. Hie must have been a very
handsome man in his younger days; for his well-formed
features, his large dark eyes and his noble forehead
made him a very fine-looking man in middle life. His
figure, too, was good, his manners easy and winning,
and his whole character of just the kind to inspire
affection rather than command reverence. And very
dearly did we love him, though, strange to say, I
think we loved our mother better, and yet we feared
her more. We bounded out joyfully to meet our
father whenever he came home, overwhelmed him with
caresses, laughed and frolicked with him; but in our
graver moods we sought our mother and listened to
her low, sweet voice with great delight, whether she
told us stories of good children or led our childish
thoughts upward to our great Father and our heavenly
home. My dear, sweet mother! It seems but a little
time since we stood beside her and watched the gather-
ing darkness stealing over the hills and counted eagerly
the bright, shining stars
As they came twinkling one by one
Upon the shady sky."
What a great mystery to our childish minds was
that shady sky," bending over all things so silently,
so solemnly 1 And those stars, winking and twinkling
so brightly all night long I used to gaze at them, as
24 HOME INFLUENCES.
I lay in bed, through the white, looped-up window-
curtain, wondering why they were looking at me so
and never stopped twinkling for a single minute.
There was a strange charm to me also in the murmur-
ing music of a little winding stream, whose voice I
never heard in the daytime, but which was always
audible as I lay in bed at night. Its melody thrilled
my heart with a strange, sweet sadness; and it often
comes to me now in the silent night-watches, stirring
my soul to tears with its soft, liquid tone. So power-
ful and lasting are the little things which lie about us
in our infancy!"
I have wandered from what I was about to say of
my mother's influence over us; but I am sure it was
deeper and far more perceptible in moulding my
character than my father's. In person I was said to
be like my father, (I may say it without vanity, for
surely this body, on which the storms of fifty winters
have beaten, has little enough to boast of now); but I
think my mind was like my mother's, while Susan was
a blending of the two. She had my mother's blue
eyes, with my father's changing play of face; my
mother's slight figure, with my father's ease of manner;
my mother's quiet devotion to duty, with my father's
enthusiastic love of what was beautiful. Such, at
least, she became in after years,-my father's pride, my
mother's stay. In our childhood I only knew she was
the sweetest, dearest sister that a boy ever had.
Our home training in one respect was quite a contrast
HOME INFLUENCES. 25
to that of most of our neighbours, and, I think, to that
of most country farm-houses. Owing to her having
been bred in a more refined atmosphere, or perhaps
merely actuated by her own good sense, my mother
laid great stress -on manners, and exacted from us as
rigid an observance of all the little proprieties of life
as if we had been the children of the most wealthy
There are some things poor people like us cannot
get," she used to say; but good manners cost nothing.
We can certainly have these."
She never allowed us to come to the table till our
hair, teeth, and nails were in perfect order. "Your
hands may become black and rough," she would tell
us. "by hard labour; but they never need be dirty
when your work is done." So thoroughly did this
attention to personal cleanliness become a habit with
me, that through life I have never been able to sit down
without attending to these things; and, though I have
always been a working man, I have never found the
place where five minutes of time could not be taken
for it. "Cold water, combs and brushes," she would
say, "cost very little; and, if they did not, I would
save the expense from other things rather than do with-
When at the table, we were required to sit and to
cut our food and hold our knife and fork in the proper
way. We were never allowed to speak in a rude,
coarse voice, to cry out, "Wha-at 1" as I have heard
is ^ .
26 HOME INFLUENCES.
some children do, instead of Sir I" or Ma'am 1" or
to say, Give me this," Give me that," but always,
" Thank you for this," or, Give me that, if you please,
sir." If we ever asked for anything impatiently, my
mother's reproving eye was on us, and we instantly
changed our form of expression. This civility of tone
and manner, as my mother said, costs nothing; but it
made our home a much pleasanter and happier one,
and its influence was felt through life.
Tidiness was another virtue rigidly enforced. Every
book, paper, plaything and article of dress was laid in
its place. And it is singular how easily children fall
into orderly habits when it is the custom of the house.
I don't think my mother scolded us; but we knew it
was expected we should put everything away,-and we
did, even if it was not always exactly pleasant or
agreeable at the time. No shoes run down at heel or
with strings draggling in the mud, no tattered aprons,
no unbuttoned collars nor ragged elbows, were ever
seen about us; so that, though our garments were
always of the coarsest kind, and sometimes of necessity
soiled, we could never be called untidy.
Our good Hillbury neighbours were somewhat scan-
dalized at this particularity in little things. It was
regarded by them as extreme folly; and of course Susan
and I were often laughed at for being so "stuck-up"
and "particular." When we carried our complaints to
our mother, she comforted us by saying, "If you feel
and speak kindly to every one, they will soon cease to
HOME INFLUENCES. 27
laugh." And so it was. I had faults enough of other
kinds to alienate my school-fellows; but Susan, refined
and gentle as she was, was always a favourite, even
with the roughest boy in school.
One day I had gone in to see Tom Reed,-a rough,
good-natured boy, who was quite a crony of mine; and,
while waiting for him to go somewhere with me, I over-
heard a conversation between his grandmother (who
was an excellent old lady in her way), and a neighbour
of hers,-a very coarse, rough woman. I remember it
as well as if I had heard it yesterday :-
Did you ever see anything like the way Mrs. Rich-
mond is bringing up her children ? They'll be spoilt
as sure as can be. Just think of making such a fuss
over their finger-nails every day of their lives And I
don't see, for my part, that they look any better than
other folk's children, after all. There's Allen Richmond,
tied to his mother's apron-string, drawlin' out his fine
words : it's enough to make a body sick to hear 'em.
But he han't got a coat to his back but what's been
patched, with all his airs."
I am sure they're pretty hard pushed sometimes;
but Mrs. Richmond does all she can," was Grandmother
Reed's reply. I am afraid myself the children won't
have much spirit. I don't caie about making' boys too
fine and nice. It don't help to earn a livin'."
"No, indeed !/ I should like to see our John sayin'
'Thanky ma'am' every breath he draws. John'll be
good for something. He's got real grit, and will make
28 HOME INFLUENCES.
his way in the world, I can tell you, better than such
milk-and-water chaps as Allen. Why, there's our
Nancy; I sent her to a boardin'-school three months,
and she came home dreadful finical. But I took down
her sails pretty quick, I tell you. I warn't a-goin' to
have her mincin' her words round my house. Nancy,'
says I, 'if a kittle biles, it biles, and I won't have any-
body talking about boil where I am.' Nancy's made
a pretty likely girl, after all. But there's Jane Hamil-
ton was just spile't with her boardin'-school airs and
graces. She couldn't wash dishes, nor do nothing' else,
for fear she should black her fingers. And see what
she is now,-a poor, shiftless critter as ever lived."
Absurd as this talk was, I was extremely mortified
by it at the time; for to be a laughing-stock is of all
things most terrible to a boy of twelve. When Tom
and I started off together, I tried to talk as loudly and
vulgarly as he did, and carried my zeal for imitation so
far as to say "I swow !" when I got home. I was in
the wood-shed, and the door was open into the kitchen
where my mother sat. When I went in she asked,
looking at me steadily,-
"Allen, what did I hear you say ?"
"Not much of anything," I replied, hanging my
No equivocating, child. Tell me at once what you
I repeated the words in a very faint tone, and my
face felt very hot.
HOME INFLUENCES. 29
"I am surprised to hear you use such a coarse, low
word. Never let me hear it again. It is a vulgar
expression which has no meaning in it."
"But, mother," I said,-for the mortification I had
suffered was still rankling within,-" mother, everybody
is laughing at me and calling me names. I feel
ashamed to be different from other boys." And I told
her the conversation I had heard. A quiet smile passed
over my mother's face.
"I am sorry you should have overheard this, Allen,"
she said; but you are very foolish to be troubled by
it. I am sure you must be weak if you can't bear
being laughed at without getting angry. You will
always find those who will differ from you and me on
many points; but if we are in the right it will be very
silly to join with them from fear of a little ridicule.
The first step towards manliness is to abide quietly by
your own convictions."
But I believe I am getting spoiled like Jane
Hamilton," I said, in a dolorous tone; "everybody
Half a dozen of your school-fellows and their
mothers and grandmothers don't make everybody," she
answered pleasantly; "and I think no more than that
laugh at or pity you. As for Jane Hamilton, her story
is a very sad one. Her parents made a great sacrifice
to send her to a boarding-school for a year, where,
instead of becoming thoroughly acquainted with any
one branch of knowledge, she got a smattering of
30 HOME INFLUENCES.
several. Her manners were as vulgar as ever, though
in a different way. She made great pretensions to being
a lady, considered work disgraceful, and left her mother
to toil for her while she lounged about in idleness,
wearing a great deal of finery; and at last she married
a showy spendthrift, very much like herself. As Mrs.
Jones says, she is a poor, miserable creature. God
forbid a child of mine should ever resemble her in
manners or character!
I want you, Allen," she said, after a little pause,
"to be prepared to fill your own place in life respect-
ably and usefully. I should be very sorry to see you
attaching an undue importance to dress or manners.
Nothing is more contemptible than a fop ; but habits
of personal neatness and correct conversation are very
different from foppishness, and are one element of a
manly self-respect. I hope you will always discrimi-
nate between true refinement and that shallow, dis-
gusting imitation of it which is always despicable.
Your tastes are all simple, and I hope always will be,
let your future condition be what it may. You will
have to earn your bread by hard labour ; but," she
said, in a tone of great tenderness, as she stroked the
curls back from my flushed forehead, "I do want you
to be always a gentleman, Allen, in the highest sense
of the word; gentle to all,-never coarse or vulgar in
act, or speech, or thought; and always manly,-too
manly to stoop to deceit of any kind, or to lose a
proper self-respect. Many are outwardly refined who
ROME INFLUENCES. 31
are inwardly impure and vulgar, and many mistake
pretension for gentlemanlike manners; but the true
gentleman is always modest and unobtrusive; and such
I wish you to be. Above all things, I would have you
superior to that weakness which regards labour as con-
temptible; and I am sure nothing in your training has
tended to give you such an impression. My example,"
she added, smiling, "as far as it goes, has certainly
been in favour of industry, though your poor mother
should not praise herself. But the refinement of
manner Mrs. Reed's neighbour objects to has never
prevented me from being useful, I hope."
Ah, how well we knew that for, children as we
were, we saw that the great burden of maintaining the
family rested on my mother; and as I stood by her
side that night, I felt that this dear mother was worthy
of my truest love and gratitude. In after years I was
especially grateful for this attention to our manners;
and to it I attribute in a great measure whatever of
worldly success I may have had. This careful home
training gave me self-respect when I was brought into
contact with the world, and preserved me from any
taste for low and vicious society or indulgences. Poor
we always might be, but, with such habits of propriety
instilled into us, never low and vulgar in the true mean-
ing of the words.
I should omit one important feature of our home
influences if I did not speak of my father's habit of
reading aloud. Always when the weather permitted
32 HOME INFLUENCES.
us to have a light, he drew up after tea to our little
table, opened his book or paper, and perfect silence
was enjoined upon us while he read. Newspapers
were comparatively few in those days, and we only
saw a Boston weekly and the county paper, which was
a small sheet printed in miserable type. Books were
not common, either; but my father always managed to
procure them from some source. The minister's library
was open to him, and history, biography, and books of
travel all passed through his hands.
This forced listening soon became a rich treat to us,
and in this way we acquired a taste for reading; for
my father skilfully managed to make remarks which
interested us and gave us a desire for further informa-
tion. My own passion for reading became in time
almost insatiable. There was little of juvenile litera-
ture in those days. Indeed, "The Shepherd of Salis-
bury Plain," Jane Taylor's Hymns for Infant Minds,"
and Janeway's Token for Children," were the only
children's books that came in my way. The youthful
reader was forced to read books designed for mature
minds; and I devoured Rollin's ten volumes of Ancient
History, Goldsmith's England and Rome, and even the
voluminous Church Histories of Mosheim and Milner.
I did not fully understand them; but on looking back
I see that a pretty good knowledge of history, which
has been most valuable to me through my whole life,
was acquired before I was fourteen years old,-acquired
in those long, quiet evenings, by the light of one dim
HOME INFLUENCES. 33
tallow candle and the flickering blaze of a wood fire on
the hearth. How pleasant they are to look back upon,
those evening hours, when I made acquaintance with
Leonidas and Aristides, Cyrus and Xerxes, Alexander
and Hannibal, Scipio and Cato, and a host of other
ancient worthies, who stood before me living, breathing
men, whom I loved or hated, whose conquests or de-
feats made my heart glow with delight or burn with
Like all boys, I was dazzled by military glory,
though a purer admiration for patriots and martyrs
was also kindled in my breast. Another class of books
had a charm for me, as for all young minds: I mean
books of travel. With what absorbing interest I read
the narratives of Captain Riley and Robbins, and
dreamed of sandy deserts, and cruel Arabs, and camels,
and caravans, by night Susan enjoyed these too;
and many an imaginary expedition she and I accom-
plished on a high-peaked saddle, perched on a camel's
back, suffering cruelties and hardships in comparison
with which those of our book-heroes were tame and
From my father's reading them with entertaining
and instructive comments, we learned, too, to enjoy the
genius of Shakspeare, the poetry of Milton, the wit of
the Spectator, and the beauties of others of the best
English authors. When I remember these boyish
acquisitions, I am astonished to see how much
can be accomplished in the humblest farmer's home,
34 HOME INFLUENCES.
where a taste for reading is early formed. I doubt if
any condition of life is more favourable to the growth
of a healthful love of books ; for the farmer's evenings
are his own and less broken in upon than those of any
When I recall the relish with which I opened a
book of history or a new volume of biography, I cannot
but ask myself whether the wide-spread diffusion of
literature especially designed for the young, and diluted
to meet their supposed mental weakness, is really the
blessing we are accustomed to consider it. That it has
its advantages cannot be denied. But has it not some
evils,-not unavoidable, perhaps, but still very com-
mon ? There are more readers at the present day;
but I must believe that those who did read formerly
became vigorous from the solid nature of their mental
food, and that many of our books for the young are
altogether too childish to benefit the reader.*
The multiplication of children's books is no greater, comparatively,
"than that of books for older readers. The country is full of books and
magazines and papers, and they are very cheap and very accessible. With-
out great discrimination, and watchfulness, and decision on the part of
parents and teachers, children will have and read what will do them no
good, and much that will do them positive harm. The press is quite as
serviceable to the followers of Belial as to the friends and disciples of Christ.
THE CHURCH AND SCHOOL S5
THE CHURCH AND SCHOOL.
IN New England the church and school were always
prominent institutions. Our village church, or meet-
ing-house, as it was called, was one of the old style
common fifty years ago. It stood on the very highest
point of land in Hillbury, its tall spire piercing the
clouds, and its double row of windows gleaming brightly
in the rays of the setting sun. A walk of half a mile
brought us to it; and we were never absent "in
summer's heat or winter's cold." It had large square
pews, enclosed by a high railing, and a very high
pulpit, with an immense sounding-board suspended
over it. How this sounding-board could remain there
without any visible support was always a great mystery
to me and I cherished a secret fear that it would
some day come down and crush the minister. There
were no stoves, and of course the church was very cold
in winter. We wore heavy garments and carried foot-
stoves; but, in spite of them, our fingers and toes ached
Our minister was an aged man, tall, with a stately
person and serious face. At long intervals he called
at our house, when he always patted me kindly on the
head, asked me, "Who was the first man i" "Who
was the first woman and What is the chief end
36 THE CHURCH AND SCHOOL.
of man I looked upon him as a being of a superior
order, and felt too much restraint to enjoy his presence.
But my mother valued his visits beyond price. They
always talked long and seriously together; and before
leaving he prayed with us, the family all standing
When I was eight years old, a colleague was settled
-a very elegant-looking man we thought him-from
the city. How kindly he spoke to all the children
when he visited the school or met us in the street,
when the boys always took off their hats and bowed,
and the girls dropped bashful little courtesies What a
sweet young wife he brought among us a few months
after, whose delicate features and graceful manners
made Susan and me think she was like the beautiful
ladies of olden time, whom our father read about in
books The sermons of the young minister began to
fix my attention; for he sometimes drew vivid pictures
from the life of Jesus, and spoke so tenderly of his
great love for us, that I often determined I would
some time be his true disciple. Susan and I used to
talk about these sermons and serious things as we sat
at twilight on the rock beneath the old oak-tree (our
play-house had gone; we had outgrown that now).
We talked of dying, and wished we might go and live
in one of the beautiful stars above us; for we meant
to become good before we died. There was no religious
feeling in my heart, only a dreamy longing for some-
thing bright and beautiful; but I think Susan was
THE CHURCH AND SCHOOL. 37
more religiously inclined than I. Our aged pastor
died; and, as from month to month the young servant
of Christ told us of the Saviour's love, and besought us
to give our hearts to him, I often wept; but it was a
passing emotion. Susan wept; but she prayed also,
-which I never did, unless an occasional formal re-
petition of the Lord's Prayer to quiet my conscience
could be called praying; but even then I knew that
was no true prayer in God's sight.
We received less direct religious instruction at home
than some children. There were no Sunday schools;
and when we had recited the catechism our Sunday's
task was over. But in time we began to commit hymns
and passages of Scripture to memory, and repeat them
sometimes to my father, but oftener to my mother.
These, not being exactly required of us, but always
gaining an approving word or smile from our parents:
became a favourite employment; and the beautiful
hymns and psalms then committed abide with me yet,
and have been a solace in many a weary hour when the
cares of life were pressing heavily upon me.
Our school experience was similar to that of most others
of that day. I was fond of study, but very fond of play,
too, and quite as proud of my proficiency in wrestling,
climbing, and skating as in the studies within doors.
We were carried through the usual routine of studies,
-first, Webster's Spelling-Book, then Murray's Gram-
mar and Cumming's Geography, (in which the United
States were bounded on the west by the Mississippi
38 THE CHURCH AND SCHOOL
River, and all beyond was designated as "unexplored
regions,") then Pike's Arithmetic, and afterwards Da-
boll's. These I made myself fully master of; at least,
I could repeat every word verbatim. I could also
declaim in a powerful manner, from Scott's Lessons,
" My voice is still for war," and
"My name is Norval;
On the Grampian hills my father feeds his flock,"
as well as the long speech of Cicero before the Roman
Senate against Caius Verres.
These, I think, were all my school accomplishments
except writing, which was taught in the winter evenings.
History, natural philosophy and chemistry were un-
known then in common schools; and I often heard my
mother regret her inability to send me for a term or two
to an academy in a flourishing town near us $here they
were taught. But we only just contrived to live; and
such an unnecessary expense was not to be thought of.
My father had but little energy, and, being somewhat of
an invalid, was unable to do more than cut the hay on
his little farm and cultivate a small patch of corn and
another of potatoes.
The chief reliance of the family for maintenance was
on the dairy. We kept six cows; and the labour of
this-except driving the cows to and from pasture and
milking them, which fell to my share-devolved upon
my mother, assisted by Susan when she was old enough
to help. There was an old debt due upon the farm;
and, energetic and economical as my mother was, we
could never quite discharge it. Her utmost efforts only
paid the interest and a small portion of the principal
each year. By the time I was ten years old, being a
well-grown lad, I was occasionally hired out to do little
jobs to a farmer in the neighbourhood; and the little
gained in that way was scrupulously saved to buy me
a new cap, or a pair of shoes, or warm waistcoat. I
never considered this a hardship, but felt a glow of
pride as I carried my hard-earned wages to my mother,
and saw her approving smile, and heard her say, You
are getting to be a great comfort to us, Allen."
It was an honest pride growing out of a conscious-
ness of ability to do something for myself, and a feeling
which the indolent children of wealth might well covet,
for it is a luxury known only to the labouring poor.
THE years passed by, and I had grown up into a tall,
vigorous lad of sixteen, full of animal spirits, and full,
too, of the restlessness of a boy's nature. The indivi-
dual character (the me, as the transcendentalists would
say) had been developing amid these influences, gra-
dually and silently.
I was far less happy now than when I was a child;
for though I was still most devotedly attached to my
mother and little sister (as I still called Susan), a feel-
ing of discontent was growing up within me. I began
to look with contempt on the brown cottage and the
little farm. The old childish wish to become a great
man, whose exploits should be heralded abroad, had not
died out, but had gained strength till it pervaded my
whole soul, colouring every plan and hope. When I
read of mighty warriors, I longed to fight, to become
world-renowned as they were, to have my name go
down to all future generations; and-foolish boy that
I was-I fancied I felt within me the strength of pur-
pose and energy of soul requisite to such a career.
When I read of self-denying men who had given every
thing that was dear to them on earth, and even life
itself, for their country and religion, my heart glowed
with a desire to be a patriot and a martyr,-to suffer
and die for my principles; and I fancied I could do it
heroically, if only the occasion offered.
Poor, ignorant, self-conceited boy! It is amusing
now, and yet sad enough, to recall those fancies and
contrast them with what has actually been done "on
the world's great field of battle." Yet such desires
were not all folly. They were aspirations-lind and
absurd enough, to be sure, but still aspirations-for
something better than a mere animal existence. I con-
fided some of the most modest of my wishes to my
mother; and, instead of checking the current entirely,
she wisely sought to divert it into other channels
Longfellow's Psalm of Life had not then been writ-
ten; but something akin to its spirit imbued my
mother's counsels. She used to speak to me of life as a
field of labour and of conflict, in which I was to work
and war under the eye of God, and to tell me that the
great victory to be won was over my own evil propen-
sities and over sin and misery in every form and place.
To do the work of life well," she would say, "is not to
acquire riches or fame, but just to do what God requires
of you in the circumstances in which he has seen fit to
Such calm and quiet views of life were not at all
agreeable to me,-not at all in accordance with the
fiery fervour of my desires, which were burning to over-
leap all barriers to earthly distinction and fretting at
every obstacle which lay in my path. I longed to be
something in the world,-to stand out prominently
before my fellows and to be acknowledged as their
superior. And "in the heat of youthful blood" I cared
little for the peace and joy which come from God
I found fault with my obscure birth, my poverty, my
want of opportunities for self-improvement. I saw sons
of rich men fitting for college, whose minds, according
to my modest estimate, were not half so capable as
mine of improving these advantages; and I considered
it unjust. I murmured against God and the allotment
of his providence, which chained me down to a life of
toil. I seldom ventured to utter these complaints in my
mother's presence ; but I almost frightened poor little
Susan by the vehemence with which I poured such
feelings into her ear.
Nothing could be more absurd than the visionary
schemes I carried about in my heated brain ; and no
boy who had lived a more secluded life could have been
so ignorant and foolish. Susan, with her loving heart,
would try to comfort though she could not understand
Are we not happy, Allen she would say, fixing
her tearful eyes affectionately on my face. "Has not
God been very good to us I What a dear home we
have, and such a kind father and mother, who are will-
ing to do anything for us !" But her gentle words
were like rose-leaves thrown on the foaming stream,
which whirled them heedlessly along.
Happy do you call it being happy to drudge on
herwfor ever, in this mean, miserable way,-buried alive
among these old black hills and working like a slave-
for what ? Just to get bread to eat !I didn't mean to
do it. I mean to go out into the world and make
something of myself. It is well enough for girls to
stay here, who can do house-work and sew and knit,
and who haven't spirit enough to wish for anything
better : but I sha'n't do it."
I was the same cruel brother who pushed his little
sister off the steps, though the pain I caused her now
was doubtless more acute. That gentle sister, refined
and delicate in person and in all her tastes, who worked
on from day to day almost beyond her strength in the
performance of the homeliest household tasks, never
complaining, but always looking bright and speaking
cheerily-how superior she was to me, disdaining in my
selfishness to do the work God had given me, and thus
adding to the burdens of others And yet I looked
down upon her,-the pure-minded, warm-hearted
Susan had at this time received into her soul a new
principle,-the love of God, and the desire to do his
will; and it gave her a sweet peace, to which mine was
an utter stranger. She had spoken to me of the blessed
Friend who had forgiven her sins and taught her to
draw near to him in faith and love, and had sought to
make me a partaker in her new joys; but I would not
listen. I felt almost angry with her for having feelings
into which I could not enter. A barrier seemed to
have risen up between us, separating her soul from my
impatient, selfish, guilty one; and, though in my inmost
heart I knew she was right and I wrong, I chose to
treat her as an inferior, incapable of understanding my
loftier aspirations. She was scarcely more than a child;
but her heart had been enlarged by the indwelling of
the Holy Spirit into a nobleness and expansion which
mine was too mean and low in its desires to compre-
hend. Yet I had manliness enough to feel grieved
when I saw her weeping at my injustice; and I put my
arms caressingly around her.
I did not mean to grieve you," I said. I am
very wicked, I believe; but then, Susan, I am so un-
happy I cannot help it."
I was foolish to cry," she said, with a bright smile;
"but I do not like to hear you talk so. 0 Allen, how
I wish I could do something to make you happy! I
wish you could go away from home, though it would
be sad enough living here without you; but I know
you are different from other boys, and would make
something if you could only have the opportunity. I
wish I were an elder sister and could earn money to
educate you, as some sisters have done."
"I wish another war would come," I said. "I
would enlist to-morrow. I would kill the British,-
hundreds of them,-and get to be a general,-a great,
glorious g neral like Washington or Jackson." (For
the exploits of the latter were then so recent as to
make him the object of fireside and newspaper eulogy.)
Oh I wouldn't like you to kill people, Allen. I
don't think it can be right. Only think of shooting a
man like yourself and seeing him fall down at your
feet all bloody and cold and dead "
But then in war it's so different. It's right to kill
men then, hundreds and thousands of them,-it's
glorious,-it's a victory! and everybody admires and
praises it, and they sing songs and have celebrations.
Oh, I should like to be a soldier! I would certainly
go and fight if there were a war."
But I do not believe father and mother would ap-
prove of it."
I would go if they didn't. I would run away in
the night and show that I had some spirit. Every man
who becomes distinguished has spirit enough to act for
himself; and I mean to be brave and not fear any-
It seems to me as if few boys at sixteen could have
such absurd notions of courage and heroism as these;
but perhaps some have, and, like me, fancy that to re-
sist the rightful authority of parents and guardians is
showing a brave and manly spirit. Susan-inferior
in years, and, as I then chose to think, in know-
ledge,-had much more correct ideas of right and
But, oh, you would not do that, Allen," she said;
"it would be wicked to run away from home. And
what if you should, and then get killed ?" And the
child's tender heart overflowed at her eyes.
"Oh I shouldn't get killed. Great warriors never
do. They rush right into the very thickest of the battle,
and always come off victorious. Sometimes their horses
are shot under them; but they mount and rush for-
ward again. They are never killed, or scarcely ever;
and, if they are, it is such a glorious death! Don't
you remember how Wolfe was killed on the plains of
Abraham ? Oh, who would not die a death like that i"
"" So my boy would be a soldier and die a glorious
death?" said my mother, who had entered the room
unperceived and now stood beside me.
I blushed; for somehow my heroic visions always
grew less brilliant in the clear atmosphere which sur-
rounded her. But does he see no heroism in overcom-
ing his own wild and wicked passions, no greatness in
sacrificing his own inclinations to obey his parents ?
I wish you may be a soldier," she said, laying her hand
tenderly on my head,-" a soldier and a hero, and win
the most glorious of victories." She was silent; but,
as her hand rested there, I knew a prayer was in her
heart for me.
I am sorry to hear you talk so foolishly," she
added, after a pause. "You are old enough to distin-
guish real from false courage, and to know that no man
ever became heroic ti he could control himself,-a
lesson you have yet to learn, I fear. The sooner you
take this first step towards becoming independent and
courageous the better."
But, mother," I said, "you cannot understand me.
I am not a woman, but a man; and I cannot be con-
tented to settle down here and live a stupid, humdrum
life year after year. I could not do it; it would kill
me!" I said vehemently.
I know you have a restless temperament, and have
long foreseen that the time would come when you would
long to leave the quiet nest which has sheltered you
and the hearts which have loved you so well. But I
had hoped you would be willing to stay with us a little
longer. The years have passed so swiftly I cannot feel
that you are really grown up to a man's stature. To me
you still seem my little playful boy, my laughing Allen,
who loved to stand by me and hear stories before he
went to bed.
But I hope I am not selfish. I wish to have that
done which is best for you, if we can ascertain what it
is. But you must do nothing rashly, my son. It is
no trifling matter to decide upon an employment for
life. I believe there is a work for every human being
to do in this world,-a special work designed for him,
which no one else can do so well as he."
But how can one know what his work is I said.
"I'm sure it can't always be easy to tell."
It can be ascertained partly by the circumstances
in which God has placed us, and partly by the capacities
he has given us. There is sometimes so strong a bias
towards a particular pursuit as to point that out quite
clearly as the one to be selected ; but it is not always
the case. There is always, however, one mode of know-
ing what it is intended we shall do : the soul that asks
light and guidance from on high is sure to receive it.
0 Allen!" she said, with an emotion I had never seen
her manifest before, if I could only see you forming
your plans in reference to God's will and not to your
own selfish enjoyment, I should not feel a single
anxiety about you. If he were your guide, I would
let you go forth from me and the restraints of your
quiet home into the world cheerfully; but with your
impetuous passions, all unrestrained by religious prin-
ciple, I do fear for you! How can I let you go from
me," she said, with another clasp, as if she would bind
me to her very heart, until you are united to a better
Friend and Guide --you, my first-born, my only son,
my precious, precious child!"
I could not speak. Did my mother love me so,-
my quiet, gentle, self-possessed mother, who I had
sometimes fancied was rather cold and stern I
"We will think upon this and talk it over again,"
she said. "It is autumn now, and by spring you will
have fixed upon some plan; and when the birds and
flowers come we will let you fly forth from your cage."
She meant to speak cheerily; but there was an under-
tone of sadness in her voice which touched my heart.
Dear mother," I said, clinging to her side as I used
to do when a child, "I feel as if it would be hard to
leave the dear old home, after all. I will not go. I will
stay here and take care of you and father when you
get old. I will not be so selfish as to think only of my
I want you to be unselfish," she said, with one of
her bright smiles; but it does not follow you should
always stay here. I do not think you would find scope
for your energies on this small farm. I wish that you
should have the faculties God has given you thoroughly
developed, and that you should make the most you can
of yourself. Have you ever thought, Alien, what you
would like best to do,-to what business you were best
How her calm, sensible words put to flight a host of
my boyish fancies I was almost afraid to tell her
what had been the cherished dream of my boyhood;
but I found courage at last to say, "I have always
longed to be a soldier, and nothing else."
"I think this is because you have formed an entirely
wrong idea of what a soldier's life is. You have looked
only on the bright and alluring side; and there is a
most repulsive and terrible one. I do not believe you
would like to spend your whole life in killing people,
even if you could,-in making widows and orphans."
But war brings blessings. The great general who
achieves a victory frees his country from oppression
and gives it liberty as well as glory," I said enthusiasm.
"He sometimes does, and sometimes accomplishes
just the reverse."
But I would fight only for freedom and in a just
cause," I said.
"Fortunately, our country is in possession of her
freedom already; and every good citizen who quietly
lives an honest, industrious, and godly life does more for
the glory of his country than a soldier."
But, if a war should come, ought we not all to fight?
Would you not let me go then "
"If such a terrible calamity as a war should ever
befall our country, it will then be time enough to decide
what your duty is. Enough have always been found
to rally to her standard in the hour of need. I would
have you a true patriot, Allen,-an ardent lover of your
country; and then you will be always willing to do
what is for her best good in all emergencies. But for
you to be a soldier is impossible. We keep no stand-
ing army in time of peace, and only a small number
are allowed to enter our military academies and receive
the thorough training required to make a good officer;
and you, who have no influential friends, cannot hope
to be one of those few. I fancy your impatient spirit
would hardly brook the severe restraints of a military
school, even if you could obtain a place in one ; but as
I have said, it is simply impossible. So that bright
dream must be given up, my son. You must replace
it by something more real."
I sighed, for it had been a bright dream; and though
I could never have expected it would be actually ful-
filled, I had allowed myself to live an ideal life; and
when my hands had been busy with the hoe or rake,
my imagination had taken me into camps and battle-
fields, where I had seen waving banners, glistening
epaulettes and nodding plumes, and heard the music of
drums and bugles, the roaring of cannon, and the shouts
of victory. Like him of whom the poet afterwards
"In dreams, through camp and court I bore
The trophies of a conqueror,
In dreams, the song of triumph heard;"
and so fascinating had these dreams been, that the
awakening to the realities of life which lay around me
was far from pleasant.
To the question which still returned, What occupa-
tion in life should I choose ? I ventured to make
"I think I should like to go to college, if I could,
and get an education."
"If your means were sufficient," replied my mother,
"perhaps I should like that, though I am far from
feeling that a professional man is of necessity the most
useful and happy; but I do not think your bent is so
strong in that direction as to point it out for you when
such obstacles lie in the way."
"But many a poor boy has struggled through an
education without help; and I have heard it said that
such make the finest men."
Yes, that is true; but it is those who have an in-
tense thirst for study, as well as great perseverance and
energy. Such, Nature singles out for students by the
gifts she has bestowed; and of such we feel almost
certain that they will succeed. If I thought you were
one of these, I might advise you to hazard everything
in the pursuit of learning; but I do not think you are.
You are only a medium scholar, Allen,-nothing re-
But I am fond of books. Few, I think, are more
Yes; but it is of books which give you amusement.
You have a vivid imagination, which delights in strange
scenes and stirring incidents ; but you have no fondness
for close, protracted study, very little taste for mathe-
matics or works on science,-for anything, in fact, which
taxes your mind very severely. I have watched the
unfolding of your mental powers closely, and I think I
am right in the conclusion that you would make only a
second or third rate scholar,-one of those of whom we
say, He would have made an excellent business-man,
but he is an inferior minister or lawyer. What a pity
he mistook his calling !' Yes, I think you are essen-
tially active in your temperament, not studious. Am I
not right 1"
How I winced under these remarks! How morti-
fying to my pride to be so quietly set down among
ordinary minds! And, to make it doubly galling, I
felt in my inmost soul that this valuation of my powers
was substantially correct. I was too much pained to
answer at once, and my mother continued :-
But, even if it were otherwise,-if I thought yours
was one of the few minds that make their mark on the
world,-I should hesitate in advising you to attempt a
collegiate course. It is a weary struggle for one to
enter upon without friends or resources; and it too
often happens that by the time a poor student is able
to commence his professional career, he is broken down
in health and burdened with debt, so that his future
life is obliged to be a sad struggle to rise above the dif-
ficulties which beset him. I know there are brilliant
exceptions to this; but of how many is it true Do
you feel disappointed, my child ? Do you feel as if
your mother judged you unfairly,-undervalued your
"I don't know," I said, sorrowfully ; "perhaps you
are right. And yet, mother, I do feel a desire to be
something in the world, and it does seem to me as if I
had ability of some kind. I don't believe I was made
to drudge all my life just to get my daily bread."
I could scarcely keep back the bitter tears which
welled up in my heart.
"No, my dear child, you certainly were not. You
were made to be useful and happy in God's world; and
you will be, if it is not your own fault. You have been
richly gifted in some respects,-unless," she added with
a smile, I have been blinded by a mother's partiality.
Examine your own capacities and character for your-
self. Ascertain what faculties you possess, and what is
the best use you can make of them. Look at the sub-
ject soberly. Hitherto you have been dreaming of
impossibilities, like a child. Now rouse yourself to the
higher work of determining what you can do, what you
ought to do and to be, and, like a man, meet whatever
difficulties lie in your way. The actual duties of life
are worthy of all the enthusiasm you have been expend-
ing on imaginary ones. I hope to see you a man your
mother can honestly be proud of; but you must not
fall into the mistake of supposing your respectability
or happiness depends upon any particular employment
or position in society. It is you who must make the
place, not the place you.
"But it is late, my son, and your mother has preached
a long sermon for her. Think upon these things quietly
and prayerfully-yes, prayerfully, Allen. You need
God's guidance. He offers it. Do not reject it. Do
not go forth to the work of life without taking his
blessing with you, my child,-my beloved child !"
There was a tear in her eye as she said, Good night;"
and my mother did not often weep.
When I went to my room that night my heart was
full of conflicting emotions. I was a passionate, rest-
less boy, seeing things only dimly, and yet with some
faint glimmerings of light breaking in. Wounded
vanity, a desire to prove myself superior to what I was
considered to be, struggled with a tender regard for my
mother, and with a consciousness that I was really
weak and ignorant, without any guiding purpose or
proper motive. I saw that I had floated along thus
far on the current of life without thinking of the port
to which I was bound. I will rouse myself," I said.
" I will prepare for the duties and struggles of life, and
meet them like a man." I think I prayed with more
sincerity and earnestness for God's blessing that night
than I had done for years; and my last thought was,
" I will not disappoint my mother's hopes. I will be-
come truly good." Alas for the resolutions that are
based on an occasional prayer or the shifting sands of
human strength Little knew I of the depths of my
own heart, or how thoroughly it needed renovation !
From that time I continued more thoughtful, enter-
ing, indeed, upon all the rustic sports of our village with
the keenest relish, as before, but nourishing within
me, at the same time, better desires and more manly
I wished for another conversation with my mother;
but no opportunity for it offered. Indeed, I rather
think she shunned it purposely, wishing to throw me on
myself, that my mind might act more independently.
When I talked to my father of my plans, he con-
tented himself with saying, "Well, I hope you will
make something of yourself, Allen. I used to hope I
should but somehow life has slipped away, and I'm
pretty much what I was when I was a boy. My fine
plans never were carried out. But perhaps it's just as
well. I've had a pretty comfortable life of it, on the
There was a sadness in his voice which seemed at
variance with his closing words. My dear, kind father!
Years have passed away since I looked upon his placid
features, and very sweet and precious are the memories
of his kindness and affection; but when I recall his
life, and remember what he was, I cannot but feel that
his talents were never fully improved. There was a
want of perseverance, an indisposition to effort, about
him, which prevented him from becoming anything
more than the fond father, and easy, accommodating
neighbour. Yet he had fine perceptions of what was
noblest and best, and, I doubt not, in earlier life,
cherished aspirations which were never carried into
deeds. But peace to his memory! The green sod
which covers him has been watered by many honest
and affectionate tears; for all who knew him loved him
while living and mourned him when dead.
You must earn your own living, my boy," he added.
" I wish I had more to give you; but it has always
been a hard struggle to live, and you will have to take
care of yourself in some way.
"I'm not sorry for that, father," I said. "I am
strong and healthy, and I would not like to lie down
idly upon other people. These hands" (swinging them
above my head) "are stout ones, and they shall work
out a fortune for me some day. I am glad I have got
to make my own way in the world. I can-I will-
make a man you will not be ashamed of,-you, nor my
That's right, Allen; that's your mother's spirit.
She was always braver than I. Be careful to follow
her advice. Few sons have such a mother as yours;
she's one among a thousand; and her counsels will be
your safest guide."
THE more carefully I examined myself the more sure I
felt that something was radically wrong. I was selfish
in all my plans; and I knew I ought to live for the
good of others. I knew God had created me, had
given me every faculty I possessed, and that he rightly
claimed from me love and obedience to his commands,
I knew that his requirements were all right and just;
nay, more, I believed that loving and serving him was
the only road to true happiness; and yet I was conscious
of an unwillingness to love and serve him. This strange
contradiction between reason and inclination sometimes
distressed me, but oftener I lost sight of it; and though
it lay like a dull, heavy weight upon my soul, crushing
out of it all true life and joy, I talked and laughed and
thought of other things, and considered myself happy.
Yet at the bottom of this superficial enjoyment I was
really miserable, or I should have been, had I dared
to look myself and my condition fully in the face.
There was a restless craving for something beyond my
reach-for some unattainable good which would satisfy
my longings and give me peace. I had no distinct
idea what it was I needed. Sometimes I thought if
my lot in life were different I should be happy; and
then the old discontent and fretfulness came back, and
I was cross and irritable to all around me, blaming
them for the misery which my own selfish heart
One Sunday, about this time, I heard a sermon from
the venerable Dr. C. which impressed me greatly. He
often preached in our church, as his wife was a native
of our little village; but though I had always admired
his eloquence, I had never felt the power of truth as I
did that day. The influences of the Divine Spirit
must have accompanied the word preached and made
The sermon was from the words, "Thou shalt love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy
soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength;"
and it set forth forcibly the duty of consecrating our-.
selves wholly and for ever to God. The reasonableness
and beauty of the requirement were fully shown, as
well as its adaptedness to elevate the human soul to its
highest capacity for wisdom, purity, and bliss; and also
the sinfulness of those who refused thus to devote
themselves to God's service. I had never before seen
so clearly the nature of God's requirements. I saw
that he asked of me nothing but to love him who was
infinitely lovely-him, who is the source of all good-
ness and blessedness. It was no arbitrary law, but one
proceeding from love; and obedience to it would make
me, even me, like the angels above-loving and lovely,
holy and blessed. But seeing this, did my heart joy-
fully devote itself to him ? Knowing that his service
would be one of infinite blessedness, did my soul with
all its powers leap quickly forth in glad obedience 1
It has been said that motives placed before a human
soul must compel it to act in accordance with them.
I know nothing of metaphysics. I only know that my
soul could stand in the full blaze of motives powerful
as God's love and my own eternal well-being and not
yield to them. Whatever other human souls may be,
mine was thus unreasonable and guilty; and from my
own bitter experience is drawn my full conviction of
the want of holiness in the heart of man. God's word
asserts it; and I feel it to be true when I look at my
I shut myself up in my room that afternoon when I
came home from church, not choosing to converse with
any one. After an early tea, I wandered forth into
the woods behind our house. It was an October
evening. The leaves were falling quietly, one by one,
at my feet. They had lived their life. Their work
was done, and now they were passing away peacefully
to moulder upon the earth. By-and-by I too should
pass away. My work would be done, and I should lie
down and moulder into dust. But not as the leaf
passed should I go away. I had a soul that would
live for ever, and I was accountable for the right use of
all the faculties God had given me. This seemed a
terrible truth to me. To be obliged to live for ever;
to bear about with me the burden of responsibility;
never to be able to shake it off-never, in this life nor
in the next-never, through all the ceaseless ages of
eternity! How I wished I had been made a flower, a
ieaf, without any accountability !
The faint note of a quail was heard in the distant
woods. It had lingered behind its fellows, and there
was a quivering in its note-a tremulous, long-drawn
thrill-which is only heard late in autumn from some
lone lingerer in the forest. To me it sounded like a
wail. Was that poor bird sad and weary too 1 Yet
he had no soul. I wished I were in his place; then
I could live out my appointed time and return to
nothingness; but now I could never do that-never I
So intense was the pain caused by this conviction that
I groaned aloud. I accused God of being unjust in
having made me thus. Why had he imposed upon me
a life I never asked for, a life I could never be rid of,
but must drag on through this terrible FOR EVER ? A
soft voice whispered, "It need not be a terrible for
ever to any. To some it will be a joyful one. Why
not to you But I felt that it would not. I knew
my soul was not in harmony with the glorious Maker
of the universe, and that therefore I must be miserable.
I knew he would keep me within his power. I longed
to be free from it, and could not. How could I be
otherwise than wretched ?
How dreary everything looked to me The brown
stalks which had once been bright with leaves and
flowers crackled beneath my feet. The dismal winds
moaned through the pines, telling of coming storms
and desolatibns. The black clouds moved in frowning
masses over the grey sky. All was gloomy. Nowhere
in the world without, nor in my own soul, could I
behold a ray of light. I had been told a thousand
times of the way of salvation. I knew perfectly well
that sinners could be saved if they forsook their sins
and went to Jesus and asked forgiveness; but there
was no satisfaction to me in the thought. I was a
sinner. I knew that; yet I did not feel sorrow for my
sins. It seemed to me I could not repent, that I
should always be a sinner. How could I be anything
else ? In my misery I again impiously turned to God
and accused him of injustice. Why had he not made
me so that I could not sin-so that I must love him
In the indulgence of such miserable thoughts I wan-
dered on till dark, and then turned homewards. Not
feeling inclined to see any one, I complained of being
tired, and went immediately to my own room-the
pleasant little room where I had lain in childhood and
had often looked through the looped-up curtain at the
smiling stars. Now there were few stars. I sat by
the window for hours, letting my thoughts drift wildly,
for my soul was a perfect chaos of conflicting elements
-a chaos over which no spirit of light and love
At length I closed the window, and, wearied with the
violence of my emotions, fell asleep. And the next
morning ? Why, the next morning, strange as it may
seem, these feelings had all passed away. It had
rained during the night. The clear blue sky shone
brightly overhead; all nature was gay in her autumnal
robes of gold and crimson, and my heart beat in unison
with the bright scene.
What had become of the misery of the previous
night ? I knew not, nor cared to ask. I remembered
it as an oppressive dream I was glad to have shaken
off, and went down stairs whistling a merry time.
62 A VISITOR.
WHEN I entered the breakfast-room-which was also
our kitchen, sitting-room, and dining-room-I found
the family discussing an expected arrival. "Cousin
John" was coming; and though we had plenty of
cousins who came to see us, a visit from Cousin John
was an event of no common interest. He had never
been in Hillbury, but we had heard much about him,
-more, however, from our neighbours than from our
parents; and they had always represented him as a
most remarkable man, who had been wonderfully suc-
cessful in all his plans, and was now a very wealthy
merchant. He was my father's cousin, and had left
his home in the country in early life, and by some
means (I never heard exactly how) had become very
rich, and was now living in the city of New York in
great splendour, as some of our neighbours said who
had seen him.
Susan and I had often made him the topic of private
conversation; and, putting together the little items
which had reached us, our vivid imaginations colouring
them all, we had elevated Cousin John, our rich New
York relative (our only one, indeed, who was not
positively poor), into a paragon of splendour and ele-
gance. I had sometimes fancied my mother unusually
A VISITOR. 63
silent when his name was introduced; but it might be
only a fancy. At any rate, as he was coming to
Hillbury on business, my father had asked him to
stay with us, and he was to be with us that after-
I am so glad Cousin John is coming to-day," ex-
claimed Susan at the breakfast-table. I have always
wanted to see him more than any one else."
But suppose you should not like him suggested
Oh, I almost know I shall! Martha Jones has
seen him; and she says he is a very fine gentleman,
who dresses beautifully, and is very superior. You
know he is from the city, mother. And don't you
think I shall like a gentleman who comes all the way
from the great city of New York ? "
My mother smiled, and said she was sure there were
some in the city of New York who would not be at all
agreeable to her.
"But I think he will be," said Susan. "At any
rate, I am very curious to see what a city gentleman is
like. I have never seen one yet; and now that one is
coming under our very roof I think it is highly proper
to feel a good deal excited about it."
I am afraid he will think this is a very poor place,"
I said,-" his own home is such a splendid one."
Oh, I hope not," said Susan. I shall sweep the
front room till there isn't one speck of dust left in it,
and rub the chairs and tables till they shine; and I am
64 A VISITOR.
going to fill the large china jar with laurel and the
pretty maple-leaves, which are as bright as flowers.
After dinner I shall dress myself in my new plaid frock,
and mother will put on her best cap ; sha'n't you,
mother 1 And I think we shall look very nice, Alien,
for all you shake your head so doubtfully."
"But he has such splendid furniture at home.
Martha Jones said she felt almost afraid to step on the
carpet when she called there, the flowers on it looked
so bright and so like real roses."
Well," said Susan, with a little sigh, we can't
do anything more than our best for him; and if he
isn't contented I shall be sorry. I hope he won't give
himself airs and look down on everything he sees."
He certainly will not, if he is a gentleman," said my
We separated, each going to his daily task, and each,
I suppose, thinking a good deal about Cousin John;
at least I did. I felt very anxious, and yet half afraid,
to see him; for, having never been much from home, I
attached an undue importance to everything that came
from abroad. I was very sensitive about the impres-
sion I should make on this remarkable stranger, and
very much afraid I should commit some blunder and
be looked upon as a green, awkward country boy.
Susan appeared at the front door that afternoon by
two o'clock, attired in her new dress, whose soft colours
of blue and brown set off her fair complexion to advan-
tage. She was looking down the street, though the
A VISITOR. 65
stage could not be seen coming round the corner before
five o'clock at the soonest. I was in the garden, digging
potatoes in my linsey-woolsey frock, and was by no
means so well prepared as she for company; and when
she called to me to know how soon I thought he would
be coming, I answered, rather shortly,-
"Not these three hours yet, I hope."
What must we call him, Allen, when we speak to
him Must we say 'Cousin John'?" she inquired,
coming to the garden fence.
I'm sure I don't know. All I care for is to get off
this old frock before he comes. I am sure he wouldn't
like to have me cousining him, such a figure as I am
But he will have to see you in this dress to-morrow,
if he doesn't to-day: so what's the difference 1 said
Susan, laughing merrily.
Oh, first impressions are everything,' Aunt Sally
I laughed too; but I felt inwardly annoyed. It was
true I should have to dig potatoes to-morrow and wear
my old clothes; and, no doubt, Cousin John would look
down upon and despise me. Why was I obliged to
work so hard, while he could wear broadcloth every
day, and live like a gentleman, without ever soiling his
hands ? The old pride and bitterness began to rise.
I knew mother would say, If he were a true gentle-
man he would think none the less of me for working
and dressing according to my work;" but I knew
66 A VISITOR.
better. Did not even the shopmen in our village shops
feel themselves above me, just because they were not
obliged to soil their clothes by working 1 How much
more a city merchant, then I It did not occur to me
to ask if the shopkeepers were gentlemen, and their
valuation of things and persons necessarily correct. I
only felt, as I went on digging, that I was an ill-used
member of the human family; and I was very miser-
able because very discontented with myself and my
About five o'clock I heard the distant rumbling of
the stage-coach, and immediately rushed out of the
garden and hid myself in the barn till the dreaded
visitor should have gone in. It must be remembered
that I was only in my seventeenth year, and had not
mingled with the world enough to know that in order
to be respected one must respect himself. I peeped
out from behind the door (manly boy that I was !) to
get a glimpse of this formidable cousin. I saw my
father standing at the gate in his shirt-sleeves and straw
hat, as calm as if he had been in his Sunday coat, and
wondered he could be so self-possessed. It was but a
single look that I caught of Cousin John; but that
convinced me he was even more showy and city-like in
his appearance than I had expected. He had a pom-
pous, bustling manner of getting down from the stage
which I considered very elegant and imposing; for
then to me "all was gold that glittered."
I hurried to finish my day's work, carefully keeping
A VISITOR. 67
out of sight of the parlour windows, and then hastened
into the kitchen, stepping softly lest I should be dis-
covered. I heard a loud voice talking with my father
in the parlour, while my mother and Susan were in the
kitchen busy about the tea.
"Tell me, Susan, how do you like him ?" I said,
drawing her out into the wood-shed and speaking in a
Oh, I don't know. He isn't at all like what I ex-
pected, or like any one we know. But one thing I
must tell you, Allen; we are not to call him Cousin
John.' Mother says he is so much older than we are
it is more proper to say, 'Mr. Mather.' But you and I
sha'n't have to say much to him. He only talks to
"Hasn't he said anything to you "
"Only when he first came in: then he said, So this
is your little daughter ? Nice girl !'-as if I were about
four years old."
Who would have thought of your being so proud,
Susie I It's all because you have got on a new dress!"
And I laughed heartily.
"Hush, children!" said my mother. I want
Susan to set the table; and you will have no more
time, Allen, than you will need to change your
I took special pains to brush my hair off my fore-
head in a striking manner, and to tie my cravat and
turn over my collar properly; but, after all, when I was
68 A VISITOR.
obliged to enter the room I felt as coarse, and clumsy,
and awkward, as possible.
This is my son Allen, Mr. Mather," said my father.
"lAh, indeed! How do you do Why I had no
idea you had such a tall son as this." And he shook
my hand heartily, and then continued his conversation
with my father, speaking, as he had done to me, in a
very loud tone, as if we were all a little deaf.
Colouring up to the roots of my hair, I awkwardly
sought a seat, and, after having run against the table,
settled down behind the door,-from which retreat,
after I had recovered my self-composure, I examined
Cousin John. He was a large, portly man of about
forty, with a very full face and florid complexion. He
was showily dressed, displaying a vast amount of shirt-
bosom and yellow vest, across which an immensely
heavy watch-chain was suspended, so as to show to the
best advantage. He gave one the idea of occupying a
great deal of space. Our little room (which I had never
thought small before) seemed to have shrunk into half
its usual size now he was in it; and he looked crowded,
though seated in our largest arm-chair. He spoke in a
sharp, ringing tone, very loud and very dictatorially, as
if there were no appeal from his decisions. As I heard
him enlarging upon Wall Street and brokers and
stocks, and other business matters of which I had
never heard before, I felt as if he were the wisest of
men, and as if all common knowledge, such as mine,
were of no kind of value. That he had little reve.
A VISITOR. 69
rence for book-knowledge was evident from the con-
temptuous glance he cast on our book-shelf as he passed
out to tea. This little collection had always been the
pride of our hearts, and few had passed it without praise.
"Books are well enough, I suppose, in a country
place like this," he said, in a tone which implied that
they were quite beneath his notice; "but men-men
are what we ought to study. Till a person knows some-
thing of men,-life, business life,-he can't be really
said to know anything at all."
How diminutive our little table looked as he drew
himself up to it! I think Susan felt as I did,-that
"our best" (for we had our finest home-spun damask
and our nicest cups and saucers on it), was some-
thing very despicable in his eyes, elegant as we had
thought them till now. I felt intensely mortified at
our poverty, which seemed so much greater than it had
ever seemed before, and kept silently contrasting our little
kitchen with his magnificent parlour, where the carpet
looked too good to step upon! He had a condescending
way of praising our country fare; and his Ah, very
nice! very nice!" evidently implied, "Very nice for you
here in the country, but nothing to what I am accus-
I wondered how my mother could preserve her usual
quiet manner. It seems strange to me now that I could
not see how infinitely superior was her repose and gentle
dignity to his pompous parade of manner,-how much
more truly refined and elegant it was. Refinement,-
70 A VISITOR.
elegance: how sadly are these words misunderstood and
misapplied I blush now to think of my folly; but
then it all appeared so differently. Even the yellow vest
and the paraded watch-chain I considered marks of a
gentleman; and I gazed at them with envious admir-
ation,-so foolish was I and ignorant of what is really
gentlemanly. All the apology I can make for this
blindness is, that I had never been from home, and had
had no opportunity of learning that vulgarity and pre-
tension are usually found together.
That evening as we sat in the parlour, I was an eager
listener to all Cousin John's narratives of city adven-
tures and city follies. They were all exciting,-de-
lightful to me, and I wondered how Susan could look
wearied as she bent over her knitting-work. This kind
of narrative appealed to the restless element in my
nature, and quickened it into new activity. I could not
sleep that night for thinking of the charms of a city
life, where all was bustle and excitement, and of the
wretchedness of dragging out a stupid dead-and-alive
existence in the country.
What had become of my serious convictions that
God's law was good and had a rightful authority over
my heart and life ? Were they all forgotten ? No, not
entirely; for, amid all the brilliant visions which flitted
before my eyes that night, the thought of God's require-
ments came with a stinging force which made me thrust
them back again. I chose to consign them to darkness
and oblivion ; for they were black shadows, disfiguring
A VISITOR. 71
all the hopes I indulged of a happy future. Neither
would I listen to the gentle voice which sought entrance
to my soul,-a voice that assured me I should be un-
happy if all the treasures of the world were mine, be-
cause I was made for something better,-a voice which
told of higher joys than those I was coveting so eagerly.
Sweet breathing of the Spirit upon the night and chaos
of my soul! why were they not listened to ? Why did
I not admit the glorious light of heaven to irradiate
my miserable darkness 3
I had blamed the great Author of my being for not
having created me incapable of sinning; yet I was re-
jecting every attempt he made to win me back to purity
and blessedness, and clinging to the very sinfulness and
misery I profesed to desire to be freed from so earnestly!
He would have loosed the chains that bound me, but I
hugged them closer round my soul. He would have
filled my soul with peace and joy such as the world
could never give, but I turned from them to the beg-
garly elements, the vile husks, of earthly pleasure. I
silenced the heavenly voices, and fell asleep to live over
again in my dreams the alluring scenes which had been
presented to my view.
The next day Cousin John was absent till late in the
afternoon, attending to the business which had brought him
to Hillbury. So I wore my old frock and dug potatoes
without being seen by his contemptuous eyes. But
for all that, I was not happy. I was in an excited state
of mind; and over and over again during the day
72 A VISITOR.
I said to myself, "I will leave this old farm, tm
mean, miserable place. I will never slave here another
year, hoeing and digging in the dirt. I will see if I
can't be somebody in the world." The way to my
doing this now seemed clear to me. I would go to
New York. There was where Cousin John had made
himself a rich and happy man. I would rise there as
well as he,-perhaps become at his age what he was
now. I would find courage to ask him what I could
do there. Perhaps he would assist me; and, possibly,
he might take me into his employment. How delight-
ful that would be !
I again arrayed myself in my best suit, and went in
to hear more of his inspiring conversation. Soon after
tea, he turned to me abruptly and said,-
Allen,-that's your name, I think,-what are you
going to do with yourself I You seem too likely a chap
to stay on the old place always."
Blushing with pleasure even at this coarse compli-
ment, I said,-
I do not know, sir. I mean to leave Hillbury, but
have not decided where I shall go."
How would you like to go the city, boy 1 That's
the place to make something of yourself. Plenty to do
there of all kinds of work. What can you do ? Write
a good hand "
"Tolerably fair, sir," I said. The truthwas I prided
myself'on writing well.
Good in figures "
A VISITOR. 73
"I have been through the arithmetic three times;
and the last time I did every sum in it." And I
coloured at thus praising myself.
"Well, well, you seem a pretty forward, active sort
of a lad. Sometimes boys from the country get rubbed
down and make the smartest kind of business men. I
came from the country myself. I reckon you could
find something to do. I don't know but we might find
employment for such a slip of a boy in our office.
Plenty of work there of one kind and another."
I cannot describe the emotions that these few words
excited. I fairly trembled with delight; but, making
an effort to be calm, I inquired,-
"What would you wish me to do, sir ?"
"Oh, I shouldn't want you to be too scrupulous
about your work. I should expect you to do just what
we wanted. Sometimes running about the city, some-
times making out bills, sometimes one thing and some-
How magnificent it sounded in my ears To think
of being a clerk to the firm of Ostrander, Mather & Co.,
156 -- Street, New York! It made the blood fairly
race through my veins. My father had said nothing
during this conversation, and just then my mother en-
tered, and, taking her sewing, sat down by the little table.
I have been speaking to your son about going to
New York to live. That's the place to make a man of
him. You shouldn't keep him buried in the country,
-such a smart, active lad as he seems to be."
74 A VISITOR.
"We should not like to trust him quite so far from
us," said my mother, without raising her eyes. "He
is our only son, you know."
"Oh, I daresay; mothers always feel such things a
little at first. But you would soon get used to having
him away; and when he came back, a well-to-do city
gentleman, making a dash about Hillbury, you'd feel
very proud of him, Mrs. Richmond,-very proud, and
very glad you didn't keep him tied to your apron-string."
"We shall be in no haste to decide about his future
occupation," replied my mother. He will certainly
remain at home till spring."
Why, I didn't know but we would take him into
our concern," said Cousin John, as if, of course, that
would be irresistible; "not that he would be of much
use to us yet a while, but for relation's sake, you know,
and in time he might get taught and be worth some-
thing. Always plenty to do in such a great concern;
occupy half a dozen green hands well enough one way
Too well I knew by my mother's face that she would
oppose my going; and, God forgive me for it! but there
rose up in my heart at the moment something akin to
hatred towards her,-towards her, my gentle, patient
"We will think about it, Cousin John," said my
father, pleasantly. "We are much obliged to you for
your kind offer; but an only son, you know, can't be
disposed of suddenly."
Little more was said upon the subject, and the next
morning Cousin John left us. His last words to me
were, "Good-bye, my boy. You had better make up
your mind to come to New York by-and-by. We'll
be sure to give you a place and a welcome at any time."
What bewildering visions of life in a city-that
great unknown land of promise-passed before my
vision after he had gone! Life among all that was
showy and attractive; life where there would be no
more drudgery to do, no more digging potatoes or
wearing linsey-woolsey frocks; life as a spruce, well-
dressed clerk, an object of envy and admiration to all
the boys in Hillbury! Ah, what delicious pictures of
such a life floated through my imagination, throwing
me into a kind of delirious trance, from which I almost
feared to be awakened! And yet it was not all ima-
gination; there was a solid reality now for my dreams
to rest upon,-dreams as fair and beautiful as I had
heretofore indulged in without a hope of their becom-
THAT evening I had a long conversation with my
mother concerning m7new plans. As I had foreseen,
she objected to my going. A large city, she said, was
a dangerous place for an inexperienced, sanguine youth,
full of temptations such as I had never dreamed of,-a
place where some rose to prosperity and eminence, but
where many went down to poverty, vice, and ruin.
She could not consent to my running such a hazard
under no protection but Cousin John's, who was not
in all respects such a guide as she could wish. She
must, she said, do all in her power to surround me with
good influences, and leave the result to a higher power;
but she should not feel that she had done right if she
did not oppose a plan which seemed to her so full of
danger-so liable to injure if not ruin me-as this did.
But Cousin John," I said, "was not ruined. He
had been successful; and why might I not do as well
as he 1"
"And would you be satisfied to be just what Cousin
John is? she asked, looking into my eyes with her
I was astonished at the question. "Why, mother,
he is so wealthy, and lives in such a splendid house,
and has such an extensive business. Besides, he knows
so much, and is such a gentleman. Perhaps I cannot
ever expect to be all he is; but I might make a good
business man after I was 'all made over,' as he
I hope, Allen, you will never be made over' in his
meaning of the words," said my mother, sadly. He
is an intensely worldly man, and to the acquisition of
wealth and a certain standing in society he has sacrificed
everything. Being 'made over' with him means giv-
ing up every noble aspiration, every home attachment
and all the sweet simplicity of your youthful nature,
and becoming a shrewd, unfeeling man, willing to take
every advantage of those you deal with, and letting
nothing-no affection or principle-come between you
and a good bargain. This is the life he has led; and
it is the last one I should choose for you. I do hope
something better for you, my son," she added, in a tine
of heartfelt tenderness.
But her earnest words did not affect my heart.
Uncle John's visit seemed to have called out all that
was evil in my nature, and the better part of it was
lying in subjection. I said I was sure she was unjust
to Cousin John, and added bitterly,-
"You are never willing that I should do as I want
to do. You always oppose me."
I had never spoken to my mother in that tone be-
fore. She looked astonished-grieved. She did not
speak at once, but at length said quietly,-
Why do I oppose you, Allen? What do you sup-
pose are my motives for differing from you as I do 1"
I did not answer; and she said, It always gives me
pain to be compelled to do it; but, because it pains me
and pains you, I must not weakly neglect to do my
duty. If I saw you going blindfold towards a preci-
pice, I should pull you back, if it did hurt you, and
though you were ever so anxious to go on, and sure
you were walking in a safe and pleasant path. How
much more now, when I fear you are rushing blindly
into the greatest danger !"
If anything could have softened me, it would have
been the perfect sweetness of my mother's manner.
But an evil spirit had entered into me, and nothing
soothed-everything irritated me.
You know little about the world," I said. Women
never do. I am not a boy now, but a man; and I
can't be kept in leading-strings. I know that men go
into the city and become wealthy and distinguished;
and why may not I I know I could make some-
thing of myself if everybody didn't do all they could
to hold me back and pin me down at home. But I
am determined I will go, at all events. Here is a good
offer; and I won't lose the only chance I may ever have
of becoming something decent, just because other people
have so many whims."
Oh, the intense selfishness, the injustice and cruelty
of this speech! I knew it was brutal; but I would
not heed the voice of conscience, which loudly remon-
strated. My pride was in the ascendant, and I would
not yield a hair's-breadth to the better emotion which
struggled to gain a power within me.
"We had better not talk of this any more to-night,"
my mother said, and left the room. I shall never for-
get her look as she rose to go, were I to live a hundred
years. It was a look so full of pain, yet so free from
anger; such a look as the seraph Raphael might have
turned on Eve when she plucked the forbidden fruit
But my wilful heart would not heed it,-would heed
nothing but its own impetuous passions. Over and
over again I said to myself, "I must stand up for my
rights. It is proper I should. Everybody who has
become distinguished has had to fight with opposition
at the outset. If I submit now I shall always have to
submit. When my mother finds I am firm she will
yield; and years hence, when I have succeeded,-
which I shall, and without becoming hardened either,
-she will be glad I did not listen to her; she
will rejoice in my perseverance and be proud of me."
And the pleasant conviction that I was playing a heroic
and manly part sustained me. In vain did the sweet
voices from a better world seek to gain entrance to my
soul that night. From the faintest tone of self-
reproach or penitence, from every pleading of love or
sorrow, I turned away almost fiercely. "I was not a
baby," I said to myself. "I was a man, and would
show myself one by carrying my point beyond all oppo-
sition." And I dwelt again, enchanted, upon the
pleasures of the life before me. It would give scope
for all my energies. I was active rather than studious
in my habits, and I should be sure to succeed; and my
last waking thoughts were of myself returning to my
native village some five years hence with such a vest
and watch-chain, and lordly mien as Cousin John's, and
creating a great sensation by walking through the streets.
The next day, as I was at work with my father, I
sounded him with regard to the plan, and found he
was not so entirely opposed to it as my mother. It
seemed to him a pretty good opening for a young man.
To be sure, Cousin John was not so particular about
some things; but he was a good man of business, and
was now well settled. New York was a wicked place;
but he hoped I had been so trained that I should not
be led away by its temptations. He advised me to be
in no hurry about deciding, and by no means to act in
opposition to my mother's wishes.
That evening I had another conversation with my
mother. I could not bring myself exactly to apologise
for my undutiful manner the evening before; but I said
that I was sorry to give her pain, and that I was sure
she meant all she said for my good, (the self-conceited
coxcomb that I was!) but that the more I reflected
upon it the more I felt certain I had better go to New
York in the spring. I told her my father, I was sure,
if left to form his own views, would give his consent;
and therefore it would be right in me to go.
My mother was grave, but, as usual, very calm. I
again remarked that I thought she was prejudiced
against Cousin John,-as if I could judge character
better than she!
"I must tell you more of Cousin John's history
than I intended to do," she replied, "for I hoped your
wish to go to him would have passed away. But, as
your feeling seems such an earnest one, I must do my
best to enlighten you with regard to him.
He began his career at sixteen, as a pedlar, with
two tin boxes slung over his back, leaving a widowed
mother at home and three younger sisters. He was
then an active, self-willed boy, discontented with home,
and anxious to free himself from its restraints. He
was determined to become rich, and sacrificed every-
thing to that passion. He must have had a natural
talent for money-making; for all his speculations-of
which he entered into many-proved successful, and
in ten years he had greatly enlarged his operations.
About that time he drew a prize in a lottery, which he
invested in a small grocer's shop in New York. From
that he went on from step to step till he became a
merchant on an extensive scale, entering into a partner-
ship with one or two others, and beginning to live
very expensively and showily, having married a lady
from the city. In the meantime, his mother and
sisters remained as poor as ever,-not literally suffering
from want, but labouring hard and practising the most
rigid economy. After a time, the dashing firm to which
he belonged failed, owing very heavy debts to numerous
creditors, who could find very little property to satisfy
their claims. A settlement was effected in a few
months, by which the firm obtained a discharge by
paying a composition. Within a year from that time,
Cousin John turned up in Baltimore, once more a
merchant, on a larger scale than ever. He came to
make his country friends a visit, parading his fine
broadcloth and gold watch-chains much after his pre-
sent fashion, and driving about the country with his
wife and children in a fine carriage with a pair of
horses, creating quite a sensation. It is but justice to
him to say that at that time he made some provision
for his mother,-by no means a liberal one, but which
secured her from want during the remainder of her
"What had become of the younger sisters? I
"The oldest had married a respectable farmer in the
neighbourhood; the second, who had supported her-
self by going to service, had died; and the youngest
of them remained with her mother, and took in
sewing. This was about ten years ago. Since then
I have heard very little about him. I know that he
failed again in Baltimore, getting a discharge from his
creditors by paying a small proportion of his debts,
and that he afterwards began business as a commission
merchant in New York, living very extravagantly, and
having the appearance of great wealth."
"And is he not wealthy ?" I asked.
"I do not know. If he has property in his pos-
session, it rightfully belongs to his creditors, though
they cannot legally claim it. He has no right to be
a wealthy man.
"You will now understand, Allen, why I am un-
willing you should be in any way associated with him
or become what he is. I do not consider him an
honest man, or in any sense of the word a gentleman.
He makes great pretensions, which may impose upon
some ignorant minds; but a true gentleman is always
modest and unassuming. Why, Allen, I would rather
see you the poorest man in Hillbury, earning your
bread by the most menial toil, provided you were
honest, than such a man as Cousin John is, living in
splendour. If poor and honest, I could still be proud
of you; but it would break my heart if you should
lose your integrity, even if you were ever so prosperous.
No right-minded person can feel any respect for a man
who defrauds his creditors and himself revels in costly
"Do you think I would become dishonest if I were
in his employment No, indeed! I would not do a
mean, dishonourable thing for any man, be he whom
he might." And I drew myself up with the pride of
a boy who is always certain he shall come out of the
fiery furnace of temptation unscathed and triumphant,
little knowing that, unless One in the likeness of the
Son of God walk beside him there, he will inevitably
perish in the flames.
You little know yourself, my child, or the dis-
guises in which vice masks herself. I know every-
thing dishonest is abhorrent to you now; but you are
no better than many others who have fallen a prey to
evil practices who once felt as sure of their integrity
as you do now. You have never been tried; you have
been shielded from evil, and surrounded by good influ-
ences from your cradle; yet you would now cast these
restraints all aside and plunge into the wildest whirl-
pool of temptation, totally ignorant of your danger and
of your weakness.
"Yes, I would 1" I said, impetuously. "I would
try my strength and find out if I have any character or
not. What shall I ever be good for till I have battled
with temptation ? Nothing but a poor, weak simpleton!
But mothers," I added, always feel so. If they had
the direction, no son would ever make anything of him-
self. Women are always timid."
And you are brave and wise enough to see that
your mother is a poor, weak, despicable creature, whose
opinions are of little value !" There was an expression
of anguish on my mother's face; but it soon passed
away, and she said, quietly,
"I must make allowances for boyish impetuosity.
You do not mean all you say, Allen; and the time will
come when you will know a mother's love and counsels
are worth something in a world like this."
Ah, yes, dear, sainted mother! I have learned to
feel it. Oh, how deeply, how sorrowfully Ah, why
do sorrow and penitence so often come too late 1
A FEW weeks passed away,-a few miserable weeks, in
which a bitter struggle between good and evil was
LEAVING HOME. 8l
going on within me. There are many kinds of sorrow
in this life, many heart-crushing trials; but among
them all I do not believe there is one so bitter, so
wretched, as that produced by the conflict between one's
own convictions of duty and an unwillingness to per-
form it. Hide it as we may from all human eyes,
overlay it with light jests or business cares as we will,
till we lose all distinct consciousness of it ourselves,
still the misery is there, like a worm gnawing silently
and steadily at the root of all our peace. How many
bear this heavy burden through a weary lifetime!
How many must bear it more wearily still through
the unending future!
Susan had left home directly after Cousin John's de-
parture, to spend the winter with an aunt who needed
her assistance, and I missed her bright face and the
bird-like music of her voice, which used to have power
at times to charm away the evil spirit from my breast.
My mother seldom sung now; her step was slower
about the house and less firm; and a careful observer
might have seen that her health was gradually giving
way. But she was always cheerful and thoughtful of
others, and my selfish heart dreamt of no coming
About New Year's day, a letter arrived from Cousin
John, making a direct proposal for me to come to him
immediately, as one of his young men had gone. He
would give me employment, board me in his own family,
and pay me ten pounds the first year. Now the ques-
86 LEAVING HOME
tion must be decided at once. My mother looked very
grave, and repeated to my father and to me her objec-
tions,-serious enough, one would have thought, to
have influenced us both; but it was evident my father
rather favoured the idea, and I was eager and deter-
mined to go at all hazards. I was so infatuated that if
the consent of my parents had been withheld I cer-
tainly should have run away. Seeing the state of my
mind, my mother yielded. If I went, I should take with
me a mother's blessing. Yet in my heart I knew I was
giving her extreme pain, and that I was really a dis-
obedient child; but the excitement of preparing for my
departure crowded such thoughts out of my mind.
Our neighbour, Mr. Reed, was going to New York in
two weeks; and it was decided I should go with him.
I blush now to think of the sacrifices which were made
by those loving parents to add to my little outfit,
-sacrifices made cheerfully, and received by me
as a matter of course, so thoroughly selfish had I
But when the hour came for parting, when Susan,
who had come home to say good-bye, clung sobbing to
my neck, when my father uttered his fervent God
bless you, my boy!" and my mother folded me to her
heart with a passionate grief too deep for words or
tears, my pride gave way. I was the Allen of
former days, the loving, trusting boy. I really
wished at that moment that I had never decided to
leave them. I promised over and over, amidst fast-
LEAVING HOME. 87
falling tears, to write very often, to tell them every-
thing, to remember all their counsels, to be all they
The stage came, and I was gone Gone from the
quiet old homestead; gone from the hearts that loved
me as no other hearts could; gone, leaving the peaceful
past all behind me, to launch out anew on the great
sea of life!
The exhilaration produced by driving in the frosty
air revived my spirits, and I again looked eagerly into
the future. I felt that I was beginning life anew;
and, in the fervour of my boyish heart, I determined it
should be an upright, noble life, such as my parents
would never blush to look upon. I would become worthy
of them,-their pride and joy. I felt sorrow at having
grieved my mother, and would tell her so when I
wrote; but I said, The future shall richly atone for
the past. She shall not only forgive, but rejoice in,
It is with peculiar emotion I look back upon this
point in my history. When I see that boy of seven-
teen going forth alone into the world, so sanguine of
success, and yet so reckless and so ignorant of all he
needed to know, I can but wonder that he was saved
from utter ruin. It was only because an unseen
Presence went forth with him to guard and protect him
that he did not plunge into follies from which he could
never have extricated himself. Yet the reckless, self-
relying boy asked and wished for no such guidance.
88 LEAVING HOME.
God be praised that a mother's prayers in his behalf
were heard and answered !
In due time we reached New York; and for the first
time I was in a city, amid its bewildering brilliancy,
its hurrying masses of human beings, its Babel-like and
ceaseless roar, which to me, who knew not a single soul
among that busy throng, was more solemn and lonely
than even the roar of the great ocean. I shall never
forget the feeling of isolation-of being swallowed up
and lost in that vast, all-devouring whole-which came
over me as I walked up Broadway for the first time.
At a hotel where Mr Reed stopped, I left my little
wooden trunk, and received such directions as enabled
me to find Mr. Mather's residence.
It was late in the evening when I stood on the steps
of my cousin's dwelling,-a large house, with a fine
stone front, in a fashionable street. How insignificant
I felt amid those piles of brick and mortar towering so
high above me My courage had gone, and I trembled
like a criminal as I stood there under the light of the
street-lamps trying to gather resolution to ring the
door-bell. At last I gave the large knob a pull. I
had never rung a bell before, and had no idea how the
feat was to be accomplished ; but my effort brought a
well-dressed man to the door, to whom I said, How
do you do, sir in the most respectful manner.
He smiled, and when I inquired for Mr. Mather
told me he was not at home, and then looked as
if he expected me to go away. What should I
LEAVING HOME. 89
do? I ventured to inquire for Mrs. Mather,
telling him, in a confidential manner, that I was
their cousin from Hillbury, and had come to stay
with them. With another smile he ushered me into
the parlour,-a room far more magnificent than I had
ever dreamed of. As he turned on the gas it flashed
up into a radiance like that of some fairy-palace, quite
dazzling my inexperienced eyes. Sure enough, the
carpet did look too good to step on and the chairs and
sofas too elegant to sit upon. After some hesitation, I
settled myself on a low stool covered with beautiful
needlework, and carefully surveyed the room. Then,
not feeling quite sure it was designed for a seat, I re-
moved myself to a chair, which, though so elegantly
covered, I was certain must be made to sit on, and
with a palpitating heart awaited Mrs. Mather's entrance.
Opposite me was a very large splendid mirror, in which
I could see myself from head to foot; and oh, what a
sorry figure I cut there in my home-made garments,
which in Hillbury I thought so very nice !
I was filled with mortification, and could have fairly
cried, such an intense longing that moment came over
me to be at home in the good old-fashioned kitchen
where I was known and loved, and where I was sure
my mother and Susan were then quietly sitting, perhaps
talking of me affectionately.
The entrance of Mrs. Mather recalled me to the pre-
sent. She was a delicate, quiet-looking person, whose
pleasant voice reminded me of my mother's. She
90 LEAVING HOME.
spoke very kindly, said Mr. Mather expected me, and
inquired about my journey and my home. In half an
hour her husband came in. As he said, How d'ye
do I" in his usual boisterous manner, he gave a sharp
glance over my person, which made me feel still more
ashamed of myself.
"Glad you've come, my boy. We must get you
fixed up a little, and make a spruce New Yorker of you
one of these days. Good stout Yankee lad,-eh, wife "
Mrs. Mather smiled, and asked how old I was. Then
they entered into conversation, in which I took no part,
till Mrs. Mather said she was sure I must be tired and
would like to go to bed. She placed her hand on a
beautiful crimson tassel on the wall, and in a moment
the same man I had seen at the door entered.
"John, show Mr. Allen to his room,-the one over
After saying good-night and leaving the room awk-
wardly, I followed John up a long, steep flight of' stairs
richly carpeted, then through a hall, where he lighted a
small lamp, then down some steps into a smaller hall,
where, opening a door and saying, This is your room,"
he left me. Everything looked very elegant to my country
eyes; but when I had shut the door and was fairly
alone I felt dreary and home-sick enough. It seemed
an age since yesterday morning, when I stood at the
door of the dear old cottage. How far, far away every
familiar object was! Even the omission of family
prayers gave me an added feeling of bereavement. I
LEAVING HOME. 91
had never before gone to bed without them ; and, little
as I had valued them at the time, I now felt as if I
had not only got beyond the reach of all earthly friends,
but even, as it were, of God himself; and, strangely
enough, this thought saddened me inexpressibly.
The next morning the clock of a church near struck
seven as I awoke. My first thought was that it thun-
dered ; but, on recovering my senses a little, I remem-
bered where I was, and knew that strange, unearthly
sound was but the roar of that great sea of human life
which was now surging around me. All was dark;
and when I raised the window and threw back the
shutter I could see nothing but a dense fog, through
which loomed up a blank brick wall. Again I thought
of home with a longing heart; but I had slept off my
fatigue, and my spirits rose as I remembered what lay
before me. Even if life in New York did not look so
charming as it had done in the distance, I would try
it, and would carry into it a stout, brave heart, meet-
ing trials, if they came, as a man should meet them.
My mother's lessons were not quite lost upon me,
though I had been so recreant of late.
A first day in New York must, of course, be a won-
derful one to a country lad. I went directly after
breakfast with Mr. Mather (I no longer thought of him
as Cousin John) to his place of business,-the veritable
156 Street. It was a chilly day, very dark, and
slightly raining. The warehouse was dim and dingy
in every part, and the little back-room where I was
92 LEAVING HOME.
taken as my place of work required to be lighted be-
fore we could see to do anything. The light only
served to disclose its dreary aspect. There was a vile
odour of coal-gas and smoke and city filth generally,
which was most offensive to my senses, accustomed to
the purity of country air. I confessed to myself this
was different from what I had pictured New York life;
,ut I had not been trained to be fastidious, and I re-
solved little things should not annoy me.
Mr. Mather had told me as we came down that the
firm dealt in manufactured cotton of various kinds.
They received immense quantities from manufacturers
in New England,-principally from Rhode Island,-
and sold them wholesale, receiving a certain percentage
on the sales as their commission. Several individuals
were in the different rooms, all exceedingly busy-too
busy to notice me-and all apparently perfectly ac-
quainted with their business. I only was ignorant;
and I felt myself a stupid dunce. As Mr. Mather had
said, book-knowledge was of no use here. I knew the
names and meaning of nothing around me; and this gave
me a mortifying sense of degradation. If New York
does little else for a country lad puffed up with a sense
of his importance, it does take the conceit out of him.
Mr. Mather was kind enough, but he had little time
to waste on me. Consigning me to a thin, sallow-
visaged man whom he called Page, he left me saying,-
Do as you're told, and bother nobody by asking
LEAVING HOME. 93
"Page"-a middle-aged man (the head book-keeper
as I afterwards ascertained)-moved to give me a place
beside him at a long desk where he was standing, and,
putting a pen in my hand, asked for a specimen of my
handwriting. With a trembling hand, I wrote Allen
Richmond, Hillbury, as nicely as I could.
"Pretty fair," said Mr. Page, looking at it very care-
fully. "You may copy these papers," taking down a
huge folio from a shelf above him and laying it before
me, and also a large bundle of papers numbered A, B,
C, &c. We want duplicates of these. Begin with
A, and copy into the book with perfect accuracy. If
you make the slightest mistake, even of a letter, tell
me; don't slip it by thinking it's of no consequence."
Mr. Page had a wiry, ill-natured voice; but I deter-
mined to do my best to please him. I began to copy
the papers,-clumsily enough, I daresay, but energeti-
cally and carefully. If I made a mistake I immediately
informed Mr. Page of it, in a low but distinct voice,
and he showed me how to remedy it. If it was a
serious error, the leaf was cut out and I began at the
top of another page. Hour after hour I stood at that
desk, scarcely lifting my eyes, till my head grew dizzy.
The outside roar, the unusual confinement and the
stifled atmosphere, all conspired to give me a torturing
headache and wretched nausea. At last, to my great
joy, Mr. Mather came.
"How does my green hand get on, Page ?"
Much like all new beginners," he grumbled;
94 LEAVING HOME.
adding, in a lower tone, "Plagues of my life, all of
Let me see your hand, boy." (How I wished Mr.
Mather would not always call me "boy," or "green
hand," or some such demeaning appellation!) He
glanced over the book. "Rather uneven lines, to be
sure; but you'll learn, you'll learn : nothing like trying."
So no word of commendation reached my longing ear
as a reward for the six hours of faithful, wearying
labouring. A clock struck two as we passed into the
street. What a pleasant change it was into the open
air,-even the air of a narrow New York street in a
rainy day! Yet what scenes of indescribable filth and
misery met my eye as we passed silently on, turning
corner after corner! My heart ached for others as
well as for myself; for at that moment New York
seemed to me like one great charnel-house, where all
light and beauty, hope and joy, lay buried a thousand
We sat down to dinner; but I could not eat. Mrs.
Mather noticed it, and said something in a kind,
motherly voice, which went to my heart.
Pooh! don't make a baby of him, Jane. If you
are weak yourself, you needn't spoil other folks."
These words were uttered in the most contemptuous,
disagreeable tone imaginable. Poor and rude as my
country home had been, I had never heard in it any-
thing so ungentlemanly as that speech and tone.
The meal was an uncomfortable one to me, though
LEAVING HOME. 95
served up very handsomely, with a man-servant in
attendance. How gladly would I have exchanged the
servants, silver plate, cut glass and costly dishes, for a
dinner of herbs and love therewith!
Soon after three we returned to the warehouse, and
I wrote again till six, when, being told I might do
what I pleased till seven, the tea hour, I went into the
street. While a little doubtful in what direction to
turn my steps, a young man, about my own age, whom
I had seen in the warehouse during the day, joined me.
"You'll get lost," he said, in a supercilious, dis-
agreeable tone, "if you run about the city alone, Mr.
Country-boy; so you must take me for your company."
I choose to go alone," I said, drawing myself up
indignantly. "If you are going this way, I will turn
and go the other."
"Not so fast, Mr. Spitfire; you needn't steam up so
fast. I'm as good company as you'll find here. I'm
going into Broadway; and you'll like to see the sights
there, I know. Come along, and I'll tell you all about
As his tone had changed into one of familiar cor-
diality, and as I really did want to see Broadway, I kept
on, though not much fancying my companion.
What a new world of light and splendour burst upon
my eyes as we turned into Broadway lighted up by
gas! At first my senses were so completely bewildered,
so wrapped in enchantment, I could perceive nothing
clearly; but by degrees I began to see, and, but for the
96 LEAVING HOME.
fear of Harry Dawson's ridicule, I believe I should
have burst out into audible exclamations of delight.
Such splendid jewellery, such glittering silver plate,
such magnificent silks, such lovely pictures, such piles
of confectionary, such worlds of everything new and
dazzling,-oh, it was all like having fairy tales come
true! What would I not have given to have had
Susan with me to see everything that was strange and
pretty! On and on we went, discovering something
still more wonderful, till the clock of one of the great
stone churches tolled out seven, and reminded me I
ought to be at home. But I spent a glorious hour,
such as can come but once in a lifetime. Scenes more
wonderful may greet the eye in after years; but they
will not awaken the vivid delight, the fresh, virgin
rapture, which thrilled the bosom of the boy. New
York was all I had expected,-nay, vastly more en-
chanting and splendid than my brightest dream had
pictured it. My spirit was stirred by all the brilliancy
and activity around me as by a strain of martial music;
and I looked with a more ineffable contempt than ever
upon the dulness of the country, and rejoiced at the
prospect before me.
Harry Dawson was himself a curiosity to me, he was
so wholly unlike any young man I had ever seen.
I was half irritated by his reckless, impertinent way of
talking; but his intimate acquaintance with the city,
and the easy familiarity with which he spoke of things
which filled me with astonishment, gave him a certain
LEAVING HOME. 97
superiority in my eyes, while the light-hearted, comical
way in which he enlightened while he laughed at my
ignorance amused me.
I found he was the only young person beside myself
inthe employment of our firm," and that, like me, he
sometimes wrote at the desk and sometimes went about
the city on errands. As we went homewards I ven-
tured to ask a good many questions I had not dared to
put to Mr. Mather. With a shrewd insight into cha-
racter and a volubility of tongue which none but a
city boy ever possesses, he sketched for me the dif-
ferent members of the establishment, giving such
absurd pictures of them all, from Mr. Ostrander, the
senior, to Tim M'Carthy, the porter, that, though they
were evidently caricatures, I laughed heartily,-even
at my own portrait, which he certainly made ludicrous
Why, Richmond, you are a better fellow than I
took you for. When you got into such a huff at first,
I thought you were mighty countrified and thin-
skinned." So saying, he turned into the street where he
lodged, and I pursued my way alone to Mr. Mather's
98 CITY LIFE.
THIS first day was a pretty fair sample of my life in
New York for the next three months. The waking up
to the dreary look-out on the blank brick wall; the
breakfast, at which Mrs. Mather was usually pale and
silent, and her husband engrossed by his newspaper; the
hurried walk to Street, sometimes through mud and
slush and drizzling sleet, sometimes under a bright sky
and with an exhilarating breeze from the salt water
new-stringing every nerve; the five or six hours' weary
confinement at the desk ; the dinner, always luxurious,
and yet somehow lacking the full relish of the humble
meal at home; the walk back; the three hours' longer
writing; and then the ramble round the city till tea-
time,-after which came writing letters home, or read-
ing, or, much oftener, a stroll into some hitherto un-
explored quarter with Harry Dawson and some of his
companions as my guides.
Of the business affairs of the firm, or the manner in
which they were conducted, I knew very little. Mr.
Ostrander, the senior partner, had gone to the South to
negotiate for the sale of goods there, and in his absence
Mr. Mather was at the head of affairs. I sometimes
heard him engaged in the next room in an angry
altercation with Mr. Ostrander the younger,-a brother