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GRAHAM'S MAGAZINE, AUGUST 1849 ***




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GRAHAM’S MAGAZINE.
VOL. XXXV. AUGUST, 1849. No. 2.


Table of Contents

Fiction, Literature and Articles

The Curtain Lifted
Indian Legend of the Star and Lily
Jasper St. Aubyn
Sketches of Life in Our Village
Mary Wilson
Olden Times
Two Hours of Doom
The Captive of York
A Memory
Wild-Birds of America
Editor’s Table
Review of New Books

Poetry, Music, and Fashion

Watouska: A Legend of the Oneidas
The Improvisatrice
The Eighteenth Sonnet of Petrarca
Elim
Faith’s Warning
Lament of the Gold-Digger
To Mary
Little Willie
Words of Waywardness
Translation of a Recently Discovered Fragment of a
Poem by Sappho
Ermengarde’s Awakening
Kubleh
This World of Ours
My Spirit
Le Follet
Yes, Let Me Like a Soldier Fall

Transcriber’s Notes can be found at the end of this eBook.

* * * * *

[Illustration: LA SIESTA.]

* * * * *

GRAHAM’S MAGAZINE.

VOL. XXXV. PHILADELPHIA, AUGUST, 1849. NO. 2.

* * * * *




THE CURTAIN LIFTED.


OR PROFESSIONS—PRACTICAL AND THEORETICAL.


BY MRS. CAROLINE H. BUTLER.


CHAPTER I.

_The Deacon._

Everybody called Mr. Humphreys a good man. To have found any fault with
the deacon would have been to impugn the church itself, whose most firm
pillar he stood. No one stopped to analyze his goodness—it was enough
that in all outward semblance, in the whole putting together of the
outward man, there was a conformity of sanctity; that is, he read his
Bible—held family prayers night and morning—preached long homilies to
the young—gave in the cause of the heathen—and was, moreover, of a
grave and solemn aspect, seldom given to the folly of laughter.

All this, and more did good Deacon Humphreys; and yet one thing he
lacked, viz., the sweet spirit of charity.

I mean not that he oppressed the widow, or robbed the orphan of bread;
no, not this, it was the cold unforgiving spirit with which he looked
upon the errors of his fellow man—the iron hand with which he thrust
far from him the offender, which betrayed the want of that charity
“_which rejoiceth not in iniquity, suffereth long, and is kind_.”

He was also pertinaciously sectarian. No other path than the one in
which he walked could lead to eternal life. No matter the sect, so that
they differed from him, it was enough—they were outlawed from the gates
of Heaven. Ah! had the deacon shared more the spirit of our blessed
Saviour, in whose name he offered up his prayers, then, indeed, might he
have been entitled to the Christian character he professed.

Mrs. Humphreys partook largely of her husband’s views. She, too, was
irreproachable in her daily walks, and her household presented a rare
combination of order and neatness. The six days work was done, and done
faithfully, and the seventh cared for, ere the going down of the
Saturday’s sun, which always left her house in order—her rooms newly
swept and garnished—the stockings mended—the clean clothes laid out
for the Sabbath wear—while in the kitchen pantry, a joint of cold meat,
or a relay of pies, was provided, that no hand might labor for the
creature comforts on the morrow. As the last rays of the sun disappeared
from hill and valley, the doors of the house were closed—the blinds
pulled down—the well-polished mahogany stand drawn from its upright
position in the corner of the sitting-room, which it occupied from
Monday morning until the coming of the Saturday night—the great family
Bible placed thereon, while with countenances of corresponding gravity,
and well-balanced spectacles, the deacon and his wife read from its holy
pages.

Thus in all those outward observances of piety, whereon the great eyes
of the great world are staring, I have shown that the deacon and his
good wife might challenge the closest scrutiny. Nor would I be
understood to detract aught from these observances, or throw down one
stone from the altars of our Puritan fathers. We need all the legacy
they left their children. The force of good example is as boundless as
the tares of sin—let us relax nothing which may tend to check the evil
growth—and who shall say that the upright walk of Deacon Humphreys was
without a salutary influence.

But it is with the _inner_ man we have to do. The fairest apples are
sometimes defective at the core.


CHAPTER II.

_Grassmere and its Inhabitants._

Grassmere was a quiet out-of-the-way village, hugged in close by grand
mountains, and watered by sparkling rivulets and cascades, which came
leaping down the hillsides like frolicksome Naiads, and then with a
murmur as sweet as the songs of childhood, ran off to play bo-peep with
the blue heavens amid the deep clover-fields, or through banks sprinkled
with nodding wild-flowers.

A tempting retreat was Grassmere to the weary man of business, whose
days had been passed within the brick and mortar walks of life, and whom
the fresh air, and the green grass, and the waving woods, were but as a
page of delicious poetry snatched at idle hours. Free from the turmoil
and vexations of the city, how pleasant to tread the down-hill of life,
surrounded by such peaceful influences as smiled upon the inhabitants of
Grassmere, and several beautiful cottages nestling in the valley, or
dotting the hill-side, attested that some fortunate man of wealth had
here cast loose the burthen of the day, to repose in the quiet of
nature.

Although our story bears but slightly save upon three or four of the
three thousand inhabitants of Grassmere, I will state that a variety of
religious opinions had for several years been gradually creeping into
this primitive town, and that where once a single church received the
inhabitants within one faith, there were now four houses of worship, all
embracing different tenets. But the deacon walked heavenward his own
path, shaking his skirts free from all contamination with other sects,
whom, indeed, he looked upon as little better than heathen.

The pastor of the church claiming so zealous a member, was a man eminent
for his Christian benevolence. His was not the piety which exhausted
itself in words—heart and soul did he labor to do his Master’s will,
and far from embracing the rigid views of the worthy Deacon Humphreys,
he wore the garb of charity for all, and in his great, good heart loved
all.

He had one son, who, at the period from which my story dates, was
pursuing his collegiate course at one of our most popular institutions,
and in his own mind the deacon had determined that Hubert Fairlie should
become the husband of his only daughter, Naomi. In another month Hubert
was to return to pass his vacation at Grassmere, and Naomi looked
forward to the meeting with unaffected pleasure. They had been playmates
in childhood, companions in riper years; but love had nothing to do with
their regard for each other, yet the deacon could not conceive how
friendship alone should thus unite them. At any rate Naomi must be the
wife of Hubert—that was as set as his Sunday face.

The deacon was a man well off in worldly matters. He owned the large,
highly cultivated farm on which he lived, as also several snug houses
within the village, which rented at good rates.

But the little cottage at Silver-Fall was untenanted. Through the
inability of its former occupant to pay the rent, it had returned upon
the hands of the deacon, and although one of the most delightful
residences for miles around, had now been for several months without a
tenant.

A charming spot was Silver-Fall, with its little dwelling half hidden by
climbing roses and shadowy maples. Smooth as velvet was the lawn, with
here and there a cluster of blue violets clinging timidly together, and
hemmed by a silvery thread of bright laughing water, which, within a few
rods of the cottage-door, suddenly leaped over a bed of rocks some
twenty feet high, into the valley below. This gave it the name of
Silver-Fall Cottage—all too enticing a spot it would seem to remain
long unoccupied. Yet the snows of winter yielded to the gentle breath of
spring, and the bright fruits of summer already decked the hedge-rows
and the thicket, ere a tenant could be found, and then there came a
letter to Mr. Humphreys from a widow lady living in a distant city,
requiring the terms on which he would lease his pretty cottage.

They were favorable, it would seem, to her views, and in due time Mrs.
Norton, her daughter Grace, and two female domestics, arrived at
Silver-Fall.


CHAPTER III.

_One Fold of the Curtain drawn back._

A new comer in a country village is always sure to elicit more or less
curiosity, and Mrs. Norton did not escape without her due share from the
inhabitants of Grassmere. With telegraph speed it was found out that she
was a lady between thirty and forty years of age, dressed in bombazine,
and wore close mourning caps. Miss Norton was talked of as a slender,
fair girl, with blue eyes, and long, flowing curls, and might be
seventeen, perhaps twenty—of course, they could not be strictly
accurate in this matter.

Bales of India matting were unrolled in the door-yard—crates of
beautiful china unpacked in the piazza—sofas and chairs crept out from
their rough traveling cases, displaying all the beauty of rosewood and
damask, until finally by aid of all these means and appliances to boot,
Mrs. Norton and her daughter were pronounced very _genteel_—but—

“But, I wonder what they are!” said Mrs. Humphreys to the deacon, as
talking over these secular matters she handed him his second cup of
coffee.

Not that the good lady had any doubt of their being _bona fide_ flesh
and blood; neither did she believe they were witches or fairies who had
taken up their abode at Silver-Fall. “_I wonder what they are!_” must
therefore be interpreted as “_I wonder what church they attend_,” or
“_what creed they profess_.”

The deacon shook his head and looked solemn.

“It is to be hoped,” continued Mrs. Humphreys, complacently stirring the
coffee, “that at her period of life Mrs. Norton may be a professor of
some kind.”

The deacon dropped his knife and fork—he was shocked—astounded.

“I am surprised to hear you speak thus lightly, Mrs. Humphreys—_a
professor of some kind_! Is it not better that she should yet rest in
her sins, than to be walking in the footsteps of error—a _professor of
some kind_! Wife—wife—you forget yourself!” exclaimed the deacon.

“I spoke thoughtlessly, I acknowledge,” answered Mrs. Humphreys, much
confused by the stern rebuke of her husband. “I meant to say, I hoped
she had found a pardon for her sins.”

“Have you forgotten that you are a parent?” continued the deacon,
solemnly. “Can you suffer the ears of your daughter to drink in such
poison! _A professor of some kind!_ Naomi, my child,” placing his hand
on the sunny head before him, “beware how you listen to such doctrine;
there is but one true faith—there is but one way by which you can be
saved. Go to your chamber, and pray you may not be led into error
through your mother’s words of folly!”

But there were others at Grassmere most anxiously wondering, like good
Mrs. Humphreys, “_what they were_,” ere they so far committed themselves
as to call upon the strangers. Sunday, however, was close at hand; Mrs.
Norton’s choice of a church was to determine them the choice of her
acquaintance.

Does the reader think the inhabitants of Grassmere peculiar? I think
not. There are very many just such people not a hundred rods from our
own doors.

Unfortunately, on Sunday the rain poured down in torrents. Nothing less
impervious than strong cowhide boots—India-rubber overcoats, and thick
cotton umbrellas, could go to meeting, consequently, Mrs. Norton staid
at home, and on Monday afternoon, after the washing was done, and the
deacon had turned his well saturated hay, Mrs. Humphreys put on her best
black silk gown and mantilla, her plain straw bonnet, with white
trimmings, and walked over with her husband to Silver-Fall cottage. As
the widow rented her house of them, they could not in decency, they
reasoned, longer defer calling upon her.

A glance within the cottage would convince any one that Mrs. Norton and
Grace were at least persons of refinement—for there is as much
character displayed in the arrangement of a room as in the choice of a
book.

Cream colored mattings, and window-curtains of transparent lace,
relieved by hangings of pale sea-green silk, imparted a look of
delicious coolness to the apartments. There was no display of gaudy
furniture, as if a cabinet warehouse had been taken on speculation—yet
there was enough for comfort and even elegance; nor was there an over
exhibition of paintings—one of Cole’s beautiful landscapes, and a few
other gems of native talent were all; nor were the tables freighted as
the counter of a toy-shop; the only ornament of each was a beautiful
vase of Bohemian glass, filled with fresh garden flowers, whose tasteful
arrangement even fairy hands could not have rivaled.

The few moments they were awaiting the entrance of Mrs. Norton were
employed by Mrs. Humphreys in taking a rapid survey of all these
surroundings, the result of which was to impress her with a sort of awe
for the mistress of this little realm.

“My stars!” said she, casting her eyes to the right and left, half
rising from the luxurious couch to peep into one corner, and almost
breaking her neck to dive into another, “my stars, deacon, if this don’t
beat all I ever did see!”

But the deacon, with an air worthy of a funeral, shook his head, closed
his eyes, and muttered,

“Vanity—vanity!”

The door opened, and Grace gliding in, sweetly apologized for her
mother, whom a violent headache detained in her apartment.

“Well, I do wish I knew what they were!” again exclaimed Mrs. Humphreys,
as she took the deacon’s arm and plodded thoughtfully homeward.

Then going to a dark cupboard under the stairs, she rummaged for some
time among the jars and gallipots, and finally producing one marked
“Raspberry Jam,” she told Naomi to put on her Sunday bonnet, and carry
it to the cottage, and—

“Naomi, you may just as well ask Grace Norton what meeting she goes to.”

Delighted to make the acquaintance of Grace, Naomi threw on her bonnet
and tripped lightly to the cottage, thinking little, we fear, of her
mother’s last charge. At any rate it was omitted, and so the night-cap
of Mrs. Humphreys again threw its broad frilling over an unsatisfied
brow.

In the morning the deacon received a very neat note from Mrs. Norton,
requesting to see him up on business.

“And now, my dear sir,” said she, after the common courtesies of the day
were passed, “I have taken the liberty to send for you to transact a
little business for me. If not too great a tax upon your time, will you
purchase a pew for me?”

The deacon grimly smiled, and rubbing his knee, replied,

“Why, yes, Mrs. Norton, I shall be glad to attend to the matter. True,
it is a busy season with us farmers, but the Lord forbid I should
therefore neglect _his_ business.”

“Do you think you can procure me one?” asked Mrs. Norton.

“O, I reckon so, for I am certain there are several pews now to be let
or sold either.”

“And what price, Mr. Humphreys?”

“Well, I guess about sixty dollars; and now I recollect, Squire Bryce
wants to sell his—it is right alongside of mine, and I reckon my pew is
as good for hearing the word as any in the meeting-house. I am glad,
really I do rejoice to find you a true believer.”

“You mistake my church, I see,” said Mrs. Norton, smiling, “I belong to
a different denomination from the one of which as I am aware you are a
professor.”

“Then,” cried the deacon, rising hastily and making for the door,
“excuse me—I—I know nothing of any other church or its pews. I cannot
be the instrument of seating you where false doctrines are preached!
I—good morning, ma’am.”

The widow sighed as the gate slammed after her visiter, but Grace burst
into a merry fit of laughter.

“How ridiculous!” she exclaimed; “was there ever such absurdity!”

“Hush, hush my dear child,” said Mrs. Norton, “Mr. Humphreys is without
doubt perfectly conscientious in this matter—we may pity, but not
condemn such zeal in the cause of religion.”

“Do you call bigotry religion, mamma?” asked Grace.

“A person may be a very good Christian, Grace, and yet be very much of a
bigot,” answered her mother. “That such a spirit as Mr. Humphreys has
just now shown may often be productive of more evil than good, I allow.
His aim is to do good, but he adopts the wrong measures.”

“Why, mamma, one would have judged from his manner that we were
infidels!” said Grace.

“O no, my child, he did not really think that,” replied Mrs. Norton,
smiling at her earnestness. “He only felt shocked at what he deems our
error—for he sacredly believes there can be no safety in any other
creed than his own. Without the charity therefore to think there may be
good in all sects, and lacking the desire to study the subject, or
rather so much wedded to his belief that he would deem it almost a sin
to do so, like an unjust judge, he condemns without a hearing. There are
too many such mistaken zealots in every creed of worship. O, my dear
child,” continued Mrs. Norton, her fine eyes bathed in tears, “would
that members of every sect might unite in love and charity to one
another! They are all aiming alike to love and serve Christ, and yet
take no heed to his commandment, ‘_Love ye one another!_’”

“Well, mamma, for the sake of his sweet daughter, Naomi, I can forgive
the good deacon. I have never seen a more interesting face than hers,
and her manners are as graceful and lady-like as if she had never seen
the country,” said Grace.

“And most probably a great deal more so, my love,” replied Mrs. Norton,
“for nature can add a grace which courts cannot give. But I agree with
you in thinking Miss Humphreys interesting; she is, indeed, so, and if
her countenance prove an index of her mind, I think you may promise
yourself a pleasing companion.”

But the deacon, it seems, was of a different way of thinking, and no
sooner did he enter under his own roof, place his oak stick in the
corner, and hang up his hat on the peg behind the door, than going into
the kitchen where the good wife was busily employed preparing the
noonday meal, assisted by Naomi, he made known with serious countenance,
that he had discovered _what they were_ at Silver-Fall cottage!

Of course, Miss Norton was not such a companion as they would choose for
Naomi. True, she was a pretty girl, and Mrs. Norton a lady of faultless
manners; but then so much the more danger, and therefore Naomi, though
not forbidden, was admonished to beware of their new acquaintances.


CHAPTER IV.

_Love Passages._

The summer passed, and in the bright month of September, came Hubert
Fairlie, to pass a few weeks beneath the glad roof of his parents, whose
only and beloved child he was.

Their warm welcome given, the first visit of Hubert was to Naomi. They
met as such young and ardent friends meet after an absence of months,
and Naomi soon confided to him her regret that her parents would not
allow her to cultivate the friendship of Grace Norton, whom she extolled
in such warm and earnest language, that Hubert found his curiosity
greatly excited to behold one calling forth such high eulogium from the
gentle Naomi.

An evening walk was accordingly planned which would lead them near the
cottage, hoping by that means to obtain a glimpse of its fair inmate.
Fortune favored them. As they came within view of the cottage, a sweet
voice was heard chanting the Evening Hymn to the Virgin, and Hubert and
Naomi paused to listen to as heavenly sounds as ever floated on the calm
twilight air. Then as the song concluded, Grace herself still sweeping
her fairy fingers over the strings to a lively waltz, sprang out from
the little arbor, and with her hair floating around her like stray
sunbeams, her beautiful blue eyes lifted upward, her white arms
embracing the guitar, and her graceful figure swaying to the gay measure
like a bird upon the tree-top, tripped over the greensward.

Among other amusements which the deacon held in great abhorrence was
dancing, and Naomi had been taught to look upon all such exhibitions as
vain and sinful. Yet never, I may venture to say, did any pair of little
feet so long to be set at liberty as did Naomi’s—_pat—pat—pat-ing_
the gravel-walk where they stood, urging their young mistress to bound
through the gate and trip it with those other little feet twinkling so
fleetly to the merry music.

The cheeks of Grace rivaled the hue of June roses, as she suddenly
encountered the gaze of a stranger; but seeing Naomi, she hastened to
greet her, and thereby hide her embarrassment. Naomi introduced her
companion, and then Grace invited them to walk in the garden, and look
at her fine show of autumn flowers. Minutes flew imperceptibly, and ere
they were aware, Hubert and Naomi found themselves seated in the
tasteful parlor of the cottage listening to another sweet song from the
lips of Grace.

As this is not precisely a love tale, I may as well admit at once, that
Hubert became deeply enamored of the bewitching Grace, and from that
evening was a frequent and not unwelcome visiter—a fact which was soon
discovered by the deacon, for noting that Hubert came not so often as
was his wont to the farm, he set about to find out what could have so
suddenly turned the footsteps of the young man from his door.

Alas, for his hopes of a son-in-law in Hubert! He found those footsteps
very closely on the track of as dainty a pair of slippers as ever graced
the foot of a Cinderella.

Nothing could exceed his disappointment, save the pity he felt for his
minister, whose son he considered rushing blindly into the snares of the
Evil One. Nay, so far did he carry his pity as to warn Mr. Fairlie of
the dereliction of Hubert. But when that worthy man reproved his
uncharitableness, and acknowledged that he could hope for no greater
earthly happiness for his son, than to see him the husband of so
charming and amiable a girl as Grace Norton, the deacon was perfectly
thunderstruck! It was dreadful—what would the world come to! In short
almost believing in the apostacy of the minister himself, the deacon
went home groaning in spirit, as much perhaps for the frustration of his
own schemes, as for the “falling off,” as he termed it of the reverend
clergyman!

The swift term of vacation expired, and Hubert returned to college. His
collegiate course would end with the next term, and then it was his wish
to commence the study of the law. Mr. Fairlie was, perhaps, somewhat
disappointed that his son did not adopt his own sacred profession; but
he was a man of too much sense to force the decision of Hubert or thwart
his wishes. He hoped to see him a good man whatever might be his
calling; and if ever youth gave promise to make glad the heart of a
parent, that youth was Hubert Fairlie.

The intercourse between Grace and Naomi from this time almost wholly
ceased, much to the regret of both. Yet such were the orders of Deacon
Humphreys, whose good-will toward the widow and her daughter was by no
means strengthened by the events of the last four weeks.


CHAPTER V.



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Online LibraryVariousGraham's Magazine, Vol. XXXV, No. 2, August 1849 → online text (page 1 of 15)