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Graham's Magazine, Vol. XXXVII, No. 3, September 1850 online

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There are to teach us that we often _do_
But “let our young affections run to waste
And water but the desert”—that we make
An idol to ourselves—we bow before
Its worshiped altar-stone, and even while
Our incense-wreaths of adoration rise
It crumbles down before that breath, a mass
Of shining dust; we garner in our hearts
A stream of love undying, but to pour
Its freshness out at last upon a shrine
Of gilded clay!
Our barque floats proudly on—
The waves of Time may bear us calmly o’er
This life’s deep under-current—but the tones
Of love that woke the echoes of the Past
Are stilled, or only murmur mournfully,
“_No more—oh! never more!_”
And other hearts who bow before the shrine
Of young though shadowed beauty—can they know
What is the idol that they seek to win?
A _mind the monument_—a _form_ the _grave_—
Where sleep the ashes of a “_wasted heart_!”

* * * * *




A HEALTH TO MY BROTHER.


BY R. PENN SMITH.


Fill the bowl to the brim, there’s no use in complaining;
We’ll drown the dark dream, while a care is remaining;
And though the sad tear may embitter the wine,
Drink half, never fear, the remainder is mine.

True, others may drink in the lightness of soul,
But the pleasure I think is the tear in the bowl;
Then fill up the bowl with the roseate wine,
And the tears of my soul shall there mingle with thine.

And that being done, we will quaff it, my brother;
Who drinks of the one should partake of the other.
Thy head is now gray, and I follow with pain.—
Pshaw! think of our day, and we’re children again.

’Tis folly to grieve that our life’s early vision
Shone but to deceive, and then flit in derision.
A fairy-like show, far too fragile to last;
As bright as the rain-bow, and fading as fast.

’Tis folly to mourn that our hearts’ foolish kindness
Received in return but deceit for their blindness;
And vain to regret that false friends have all flown;
Since fortune hath set, we can buffet alone.

Then fill up the glass, there’s no use in repining
That friends quickly leave us, when fortune’s declining—
Let each drop a tear in the roseate bowl;
A tear that’s sincere, and then pledge to the soul.

* * * * *




“WHAT CAN WOMAN DO?”


OR THE INFLUENCE OF AN EXAMPLE.


BY ALICE B. NEAL.


Good, therefore, is the counsel of the Son of Sirach. “Show not
thy valiantness in wine; for wine hath destroyed many.”
Jeremy Taylor.

“I am glad you admire my pretty cousin,” said Isabel Gray to a gentleman
seated near her. “She deserves all her good fortune, which is the
highest possible compliment when you see how devoted her husband is and
what a palace-like home he has given her.”

“It does, indeed, seem the very abode of taste and elegance,” and the
speaker looked around the luxurious apartment with undisguised
admiration.

The room, with its occupants, seemed, in the mellow light which came
from lotus shaped vases, like a fine old picture set in a gorgeous
frame. The curtains, falling in fluted folds, shut out the dreariness of
a chill November night—a glowing carpet, on whose velvet surface seemed
thrown the richest flowers and the most luscious fruits, in wild but
graceful confusion, muffled the tread of the well-trained servants. A
few rare pictures hung upon the walls, and a group of beautiful women
were conspicuous among the guests who this evening shared the
hospitality of the master of the mansion. The dessert had just been
placed upon the table—rare fruits were heaped in baskets of delicate
_Sèvres_, that looked _woven_ rather than moulded into their graceful
shapes; cones and pyramids of delicately tinted ices, and sparkling
bon-bons—in fine, all that could tempt the most fastidious appetite,
had been gathered together for this bridal feast.

Very happy was William Rushton that night, and how fondly he glanced, in
the pauses of conversation, toward his lovely wife, who, for the first
time, had assumed her place as mistress of all this elegance. But hers
was a subdued and quiet loveliness,

“Not radiant to a _stranger’s_ eye,”

and many wondered that his choice should have fallen upon her, when
Isabel Gray seemed so much better suited to his well known
fastidiousness. Isabel had passed the season of early girlhood, yet her
clear brow was as smooth, and her complexion as glowing, as when she had
first entered society the belle of the season. Four winters had passed,
and, to the astonishment of many an acquaintance, she was still
unmarried; and now, as the bridemaid of the wealthy Mrs. Rushton, she
was once more the centre of fashion—the observed of all.

Glittering glasses, of fanciful shape and transparent as if they had
been the crystal goblets of Shiraz, were sparkling among the fruits and
flowers. Already they were foaming to the brim with wines, that might
have warmed the heart of the convivial Clarence himself, whose age was
the topic of discourse among the gentlemen and of comment to their
pretty listeners, who were well aware that added years would be no great
advantage to _them_ in the eyes of these boasting connoisseurs.

“No one can refuse that,” came to the ears of Isabel Gray, in the midst
of an animated conversation.

“The health of our fair hostess,” said her companion, by way of
explanation. “We are all friends, you know. Your glass, Miss Gray,” and
he motioned the attendant to fill it.

“Excuse me,” said she, in a quick, earnest voice, which drew the
attention of all. “I will drink to Lucy with all my heart, but in water,
if you please,” and she playfully filled the tall glass from a water
goblet near her.

“May I be permitted to follow Miss Gray’s example? She must not claim
all the honor of this new fashion,” and the speaker, a young man with a
fine though somewhat sad face, suited the action to the word.

Courtesy subdued the astonishment and remonstrances of the host and his
fashionable friends, and this strange freak of Miss Gray’s formed the
topic of conversation after the ladies withdrew.

“I do not think it a fancy—Isabel Gray always acts from principle,”
said one of the party, with whom she had been conversing; and Robert
Lewis, for so they called her supporter in this unparalleled refusal,
gayly declared himself bound, for that night at least, to drink nothing
but water, for her sake.

“Oh, Isabel, how could you do so?” said her cousin, as they re-entered
the drawingroom, and the ladies had dispersed in various groups to
examine and admire its decorations.

“Do what, dear Lucy?”

“Why, act in such a strange way. I never knew you to refuse wine before.
You might, at least, have touched the glass to your lips, as you always
have done. Mr. Rushton was too polite to remonstrate, but I saw he
looked terribly annoyed. He is so proud of his wines, too, and I wanted
him to like you so much. I would not have had it happen—oh, for any
thing,” and the little lady clasped her hands with a most tragical look
of distress.

“How very terrible! Is it such a mighty offense? But, seriously, it was
not a freak. I shall never take wine again.”

“And all my parties to attend? You will be talked about all winter. Why,
nothing is expected of a lady now-a-days but to sip the least possible
quantity; and, besides, champagne, you know, Isabel—champagne never
hurt any one.”

“I have seen too much of its ill effects to agree with you there, Lucy.
It has led to intemperance again and again. My heart has long condemned
the practice of convivial drinking, and I cannot countenance it even by
_seeming_ to join. Think of poor Talfourd—what made him a beggar and a
maniac! He was your husband’s college friend.”

“Oh, that is but one in a thousand; and, besides, what influence can you
possibly have. Who, think you, will be the better man for seeing you so
rude—I must say it—as to refuse to take wine with him?

“We none of us know the influence we exert—perhaps never will know it
in this world. But, still, the principle remains the same. To-night,
however, I had a definite object in my pointed refusal. Young Lewis has
recently made a resolution to avoid every thing that can lead him into
his one fault. Noble, generous to “the half of his kingdom”—highly
cultivated, and wealthy, he nearly shipwrecked his fortune when abroad,
brother tells me, by dissipation—the effect of this same warm-hearted,
generous nature. It is but very lately that he has seen what a moral and
mental ruin threatened him, and has resolved to gain a mastery over the
temptation. I knew of it by accident, and I should not tell it, even to
you, only that it may prevent his being rallied by Mr. Rushton or
yourself. To-night was his first trial. I saw the struggle between
custom, pride, and good resolutions. If he had yielded then, he would
have become disheartened on reflection, and, perhaps, abandoned his new
life altogether. I cannot tell—our fate in this world is decided by
such trivial events. At any rate, I have spared him one stroke—he will
be stronger next time to refuse for himself.”

“I should not have dreamed of all this! Why I thought it was only his
Parisian gallantry that made him join with you; but, then, if he has
once been dissipated, the case is hopeless.”

“Oh, no Lucy, not hopeless; when a strong judgment is once convinced, it
is the absence of reflection, or a little moral courage, at first, that
ruins so many.”

“Excellent, excellent,” cried the lively Mrs. Moore, who came up just in
time to hear Isabel’s closing sentence—“If Miss Gray is not turned
temperance lecturer! Come, ladies, let her have a numerous audience
while she is about it. Ah, I know you think to get into Father Mathew’s
good graces. Shall you call upon him when he arrives, and offer your
services as assistant?”

“We were discussing the possibility of entire reformation,” said Isabel,
calmly, quite unmoved by Mrs. Moore’s covert sarcasms, to the ladies who
now gathered round the lounge on which she sat. “The reformation of a
man who has been once intemperate, I mean.”

“Oh, intemperance is so shockingly vulgar, my dear,” quavered forth Mrs.
Bradford, the stately aunt of the hostess. “How can you talk about such
things. No, to be sure, when a man is once dissipated, you might as well
give him up. He’s lost to society, _that’s certain_; besides, we women
have nothing to do with it.”

“I beg your pardon, my dear madam, but I think we have a great deal to
do, though not in the way of assisting Father Matthew to address
Temperance Conventions, as Mrs. Moore kindly suggests. Moreover, I have
known a confirmed inebriate, so supposed, to give up all his old
associations, and become a useful and honorable member of society.”

“Tell us about it, please, Miss Gray,” urged Emily Bradford, deeply
interested. “There will be plenty of time before the gentlemen come in.”

And as the request was seconded by many voices, Isabel told her simple
tale.

[1]“There is no romance about it, Miss Emily; but you remember those
pretty habit shirts you admired so much last fall—and _you_ have seen
me wear them, Mrs. Moore. They were made by a woman—a _lady_ whom I
first saw years ago, when I passed my vacations at Milton, a little town
not far from Harrisburg. My Aunt Gray was very domestic, and thought it
no disgrace to the wife of a judge, and one of the most prominent men in
the state, to see after her own household.

“There was a piece of linen to be made up one vacation; and I remember
going into my aunt’s room and finding her surrounded by ‘sleeves and
gussets and bands’—cutting out and arranging them with the most
exemplary patience. ‘Pray, aunt, why do you bother yourself with such
things,’ I said, for I was full of boarding-school notions on the
dignity of _idleness_. ‘Why don’t you leave it for a seamstress.’

“‘If you will go with me this afternoon to see my seamstress, you will
find out. I should like you to see her.’ And that afternoon our walk
ended at a plain brown frame house, with nothing to relieve its
unsightliness but a luxuriant morning-glory vine, which covered one of
the lower windows.

“‘How is Mrs. Hall to-day?’ aunt said to a dirty little fellow who was
making sand pies on the front step.

“‘She’s in there,’ was all the answer we received, as he pointed toward
a door on the right of the little hall.

“‘Come in,’ said a faint and very gentle voice; and, at first, I could
hardly see who had spoken, the room was so shaded by the leafy curtain
which had interlaced its fragile stems over the front window. There was
a neat rag carpet on the floor; a few plain chairs, a table, and a
bureau, ranged round the room; but drawn near the window, so that the
light fell directly upon it, was a bed, covered by a well-worn
counterpane, though, like everything else, it was very neat and
clean—and here, supported in a sitting posture by pillows, was my
aunt’s seamstress. I do not think she had been naturally beautiful—but
her features, wasted by long illness, were very delicate, and her eyes
were large, and with the brilliancy you sometimes see in consumptives,
yet a look of inexpressible sadness. She was very pale in that soft
emerald light made by the foliage, and this was relieved by a faint
hectic that, if possible, increased the pallor. She smiled as she saw my
aunt, and welcomed us both very gratefully. As she held out her long
thin hand, you could see every blue vein distinctly. I noticed that she
wore a thimble, and around her, on the bed, were scattered bits of linen
and sewing implements. You cannot tell how strange it seemed to see her
take up a wristband and bend over it, setting stitch after stitch with
the regularity of an automaton, while she talked with us. She seemed
already dying, and this industry was almost painful to witness.

“I gathered from her conversation with my aunt,—while I looked on and
wondered,—that Mrs. Hall had long been a confirmed invalid. They even
spoke of a ruptured blood-vessel, from the effects of which she was now
suffering. She did not complain—there was not a single murmur at her
illness, or the hard fate that compelled her to work for her daily
bread. I never saw such perfect cheerfulness, and yet I knew, from the
contracted features and teasing cough, that she was suffering intensely.
The little savage we had seen on our arrival, proved to be the son of
her landlady, who was also her nurse and waiting-maid.

“I was very much interested, and, by the time we bade her good-bye, I
had sketched out quite a romance, in which I was sure she had been the
principal actor.

“‘Poor lady,’ said I, the instant we were out of the gate. ‘Why do you
let her work, aunt? Why don’t you take her home, you have so many vacant
rooms—or, at least, I should think, there were rich people enough in
Milton to support her entirely. She does not look fit to hold a needle.
Has she no children? and when did her husband die?—was she very
wealthy?’

“I poured out my questions so fast that aunt had no time to answer any
one of them, and I had been so much engaged, that I had not noticed a
man reeling along the side-walk toward us, until just in time to escape
the rude contact of his touch, from which I shrunk, almost shrieking.

“‘Who told you that Mrs. Hall was a widow, Isabel?’ said aunt, to divert
me from my mishap.

“‘Nobody; but I knew it at once, as soon as I looked at her; how lonely
she must be—and how terrible to see one’s best friend die, and know you
cannot call them back again.’

“‘Not half so dreadful, dear,’ answered she, very seriously, ‘as to live
on from day to day and see the gradual death of the soul, while the body
is unwasted. It would be a happy day for Mrs. Hall that made her a
widow, though she, poor thing, might not think so. That wretched
inebriate’—and she pointed to the man we had just met—‘is her husband;
and this is why she plies her needle when we would willingly save her
from all labor. She cannot bear that _he_ should be indebted to the
charity of strangers.’

“It was even so, for the poor fellow had reached the garden-gate, and
was staggering in.

“‘So he goes home to her day after day,’ continued aunt; ‘and so it has
been since a few years after their marriage. When I first came here, he
had a neat shop in the village, and was considered one of the most
promising young men in the neighborhood. Such an excellent workman—such
a clever fellow—so fond and proud of his wife; and everybody said that
Charlotte Adams had married ‘out of all trouble,’ in the country phrase.
Poor girl! she had only entered a sea of misfortunes—for, from the
death of her only child, a fine little fellow, they have been going
down. It is a common story. First, the shop was given up, and he worked
by the day; not long after, they moved to a smaller house, and sold most
of their furniture. It was then she first commenced sewing, and, with
all her industry she could scarcely get along. She could never deny him
money when she had it—and this, with his own earnings, were spent at
the tavern. She remonstrated in vain. He would promise to do better—in
his sober moments he was all contrition, and called himself a wretch to
grieve such a good wife. I do not believe she has ever reproached him,
save by a glance of sorrowful entreaty, such as I have often seen her
give when he entered as now he is going to her.

“‘She was never very well, and under repeated trials, and sorrow and
mortification, her health gave way. Many a time have I parted with her,
never expecting to see her alive again; but there is some concealed
principle of vitality which supports her. Perhaps it is the hope that
she will yet see her husband what he has been. I fear she hopes in vain,
for if there was ever a man given over to the demon of intemperance it
is James Hall. But it is for this reason that she refuses the assistance
of her acquaintances, and works on from day to day, sometimes as now
unable to leave her bed. Of course she is well paid, and has plenty of
work, for everybody pities her, and all admire the wonderful patience,
cheerfulness and industry which she exhibits. She never speaks to any
one, even to me, of her husband’s faults. If she ever mentions him it is
to say, ‘James has been such a good nurse this week—he has the kindest
heart in the world.’ ‘She is a heroine,’ exclaimed my aunt warmly. ‘The
best wife I ever knew—and if there is mercy in heaven, she will be
repaid for all she has suffered in this world.’

“‘Poor lady,’ I thought and said a hundred times that week. I suppose I
must have tired everybody with talking about Mrs. Hall.”

“And did you ever see her again—_did_ she die, Miss Gray?” asked Emily
Bradford, as Isabel paused in her narration.

“I told you she made those pretty habit shirts for me. They were not in
fashion in those days if you will recollect. The first summer after my
debut in society I passed at Milton. I never shall forget the second
evening of my visit. If you recollect, there was a great temperance
movement through all our towns and villages just about that time.
Reformed inebriates had become the apostles of temperance, and went from
village to village, rousing the inhabitants by their unlearned but
wonderful eloquence. Mass meetings were held in the town-ball at Milton
nightly, and by uncle’s invitation, for he went heart and hand with the
newly awakened spirit of reform, aunt and myself accompanied him to one
of these strange gatherings. It was with the greatest difficulty we
could get a seat. Rough laborers, with their wives and children, crowded
side by side with the _élite_ of the little place; boys of every age and
size filled up the interstices, with a strange variety of faces and
expressions. The speaker of the evening was introduced just as we
entered. He was tall, with a wan, haggard-looking face, and the most
brilliant, flashing eyes I ever saw. A few months ago he had been on
outcast from society, and now, with a frame weakened by past excesses,
but with a spirit as strong as that which animated the old reformers, he
stood forth, going as it were ‘from house to house, saying peace be unto
you.’ Peace which had fled from his own hearth when he gave way to
temptation, but which now returning urged him to bear glad tidings to
other homes.

“I never listened to such strange and thrilling eloquence. I have seen
Fanny Kemble as Portia plead with Shylock with all the energy of
justice, and the force of her passionate nature, but though that was
beyond my powers of conception, I was not moved as now. With what
touching pathos he recounted the sorrows, the wasting, mournful want
endured by the drunkard’s wife! The sickness of hope deferred and
crushed—the destruction of all happiness here, or hope of it hereafter!
It was what his own eyes had seen, his own acts had caused—and it was
the eloquence of simple truth. More than one thought of poor Mrs. Hall,
I am sure. As for myself, I know not when I have been so excited, and
after the exhausted speaker had concluded his thrilling appeal, and the
whole rude assembly joined in a song arranged to the plaintive air of
Auld Lang Syne—more like a triumphal chant it seemed, as it surged
through the room—I forgot all rules of form, and though I had sung
nothing but tame Italian _cavatinas_ for years, my voice rose with the
rest, forgetful of all but the scene around me.

“Scarce had the last strains died away, when through the crowded aisles,
passing the very seat we occupied, some one pressed forward with
trembling eagerness. At first I did not recognize him—but uncle started
and made way for him to the table in front of the speaker’s seat. A
confused murmur of voices ran through the room, as one and another saw
him grasp the printed pledge which was lying there, with the eagerness
of a dying man. The first name subscribed to the solemn promise of total
abstinence that night was James Hall. When it was announced by my uncle
himself, whose voice was fairly tremulous with pleasure, the effect was
electrical. The whole assembly rose, and the room rang with three cheers
from stentorian voices. All order was at an end. Men of all classes and
conditions pressed forward to take him by the hand, and more names were
affixed to the pledge that night than any one could have counted on.

“It was a proud tribute paid to woman’s influence, when James Hall
grasping the hand of the speaker ejaculated—‘Oh! it was the picture you
drew of what my poor wife has suffered. Heaven bless her! she has been
an angel to me—poor wretch that I am.’

“My aunt’s first impulse was to fly to Mrs. Hall with the good news, but
‘let him be the bearer of the glad tidings himself,’ she said afterward.
‘We will offer our congratulations to-morrow.’ And never were
congratulations more sincerely received than by that pale invalid,
trembling even yet with the fear that her great happiness was not real.”

“Oh! very well,” broke in Mrs. Bradford. “Quite a scene, my dear; you
should have been a novelist. But did he keep it?—_that’s_ the thing.”

“You would not ask, my dear madam,” answered Isabel, “if you could have
witnessed another ‘scene,’ as you term it, in which Mrs. Hall was an
actor.

“There is a pretty little cottage standing at the very foot of the lane
which leads to my uncle’s house. This has been built since that
memorable evening by Mr. Hall, now considered the best workman, and one
of the most respected men in Milton; and it was furnished by his wife’s
industry. Her health was restored as if by a miracle; it was indeed
such, but wrought by the returned industry, self-respect, and devotion


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Online LibraryVariousGraham's Magazine, Vol. XXXVII, No. 3, September 1850 → online text (page 6 of 16)