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Chambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) online

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you, I would break my heart at once, and my family of course would
provide for the children. I could not bear the idea of reaping any
advantage by your death ; and really the jobs are so very inferior to
what they used to be and Dr Leeswor, next door but one, has
purchased such a handsome chariot you have at least twice his

practice; and Why, dear John, you never were in such health;

there will be no necessity for this painful insurance. And after you
have set up your own carriage, you can begin and lay by, and in a
few years there will be plenty for the children ; and I shall not have
the galling feeling that any living thing would profit by your death.
Dear John, pray do not think of this painful insurance ; it may do
very well for a man like your brother a man without refinement ;
but just fancy the mental torture of such a provision ! '

Much more Mrs Adams talked ; and the doctor, who loved
display, and had no desire to see Dr Leeswor, his particular rival, or


even Dr Fitzlane, better appointed than himself, felt strongly inclined
towards the new carriage, and thought it would certainly be
pleasanter to save than to insure, and resolved to begin immediately
after the purchase of his new equipage.

When persons are very prosperous, a few ten or twenty pounds do
not much signify, but the principle of careless expenditure is hard to

Various things occurred to put off the doctor's plan of laying by.
Mrs Adams had an illness that rendered a residence abroad neces-
sary for a winter or two. The eldest boy must go to Eton. As
their mamma was not at home, the little girls were sent to school.
Bad as Mrs Adams's management was, it was better than no man-
agement at all. If the doctor had given up his entertainments, his
' friends ' would have said he was going down in the world, and his
patients would have imagined him less skilful ; besides, notwith-
standing his increased expenditure, he found he had ample means,
not to lay by, but to spend on without debt or difficulty. Some-
times his promise to his brother would cross his mind, but it was
soon dispelled by what he had led himself to believe was the impos-
sibility of attending to it then. When Mrs Adams returned, she com-
plained that the children were too much for her nerves and strength,
and her husband's tenderness induced him to yield his favourite plan
of bringing up his girls under his own roof. In process of time two
little ones were added to the four, and still his means kept pace with
his expenses ; in short, for ten years he was a favourite with the
class of persons who render favouritism fortune. It is impossible,
within the compass of a tale, to trace the minutiae of the brothers'
history : the children of both were handsome, intelligent, and, in the
world's opinion, well educated. John's eldest daughter was one
amongst a thousand for beauty of mind and person ; hers was no
glaring display of figure or information. She was gentle, tender,
and affectionate ; of a disposition sensitive, and attuned to all those
rare virtues in her sphere which form at once the treasures of dom-
estic life and the ornaments of society. She it was who soothed the
nervous irritability of her mother's sick chamber and perpetual
peevishness, and graced her father's drawing-room by a presence
that was attractive to both old and young, from its sweetness and
unpretending modesty ; her two younger sisters called forth all her
tenderness, from the extreme delicacy of their health ; but her
brothers were even greater objects of solicitude handsome, spirited
lads the eldest waiting for a situation, promised, but not given ;
the second also waiting for a cadetship ; while the youngest was still
at Eton. These three young men thought it incumbent on them to
evince their belief in their father's prosperity by their expenditure,
and accordingly they spent much more than the sons of a profes-
sional man ought to spend under any circumstances. Of all wait-
ings, the waiting upon patronage is the most tedious and the most
53 9


enervating to the waiter. Dr Adams felt it in all its bitterness when
his sons' bills came to be paid ; but he consoled himself, also, for his
dilatoriness with regard to a provision for his daughters it was
impossible to lay by while his children were being educated ;
but the moment his eldest sons got the appointments they were
promised, he would certainly save, or insure, or do something.

People who only talk about doing something, generally end by
doing nothing. Another year passed : Mrs Adams was still an
invalid ; the younger girls more delicate than ever ; the boys waiting,
as before, their promised appointments, and more extravagant than
ever ; and Miss Adams had made a conquest which even her father
thought worthy of her.

The gentleman who had become really attached to this beautiful
girl was of a high family, who were sufficiently charmed with the
object of his affections to give their full sanction, as far as person
and position were concerned ; but the prudent father of the would-
be bridegroom thought it right to take an early opportunity of wait-
ing upon the doctor, stating his son's prospects, and frankly asking
what sum Dr Adams proposed settling on his daughter. Great,
indeed, was his astonishment at the reply ' He should not be able
to give his daughter anything immediately, but at his death.' The
doctor, for the first time for many years, felt the bitterness of his
false position. He hesitated, degraded by the knowledge that he
must sink in the opinion of the man of the world by whom he was
addressed ; he was irritated at his want of available funds being
known ; and though well aware that the affections of his darling
child were bound up in the son of the very gentlemanly, but most
prudent person who sat before him, he was so high and so irritable
in his bearing, that the fathers parted, not in anger, but in anything
but good feeling.

Sir Augustus Barry was not slow to set before his son the dis-
advantages of a union where the extravagant habits of Miss Adams
had no more stable support than her father's life. He argued that a
want of forethought in the parents would be likely to produce a want
of forethought in the children ; and knowing well what could be
done with such means as Dr Adams had had at his command for
years, he was not inclined to put a kind construction upon so total
a want of the very quality which he considered the best a man could
possess ; so, after some delay, and much consideration of the matter,
he told his son that he really could not consent to his marriage with
a penniless bride. And Dr Adams, finding that the old gentleman,
with a total want of that delicacy which monied men do not frequently
possess, had spoken of what he termed too truly and too strongly
his heartless want of forethought, and characterised as a selfishness
the indulgence of a love for display and extravagance, when children
were to be placed in the world and portioned insulted the son for
the fault of the father, and forbade his daughter to receive him.


Mary Adams endeavoured to bear this as meekly as she had
borne the flattery and tenderness which had been lavished on
her since her birth. The bitter, bitter knowledge that she was
considered by her lover's family as a girl who, with the chance
of being penniless, lived like a princess, was inconceivably galling ;
and though she had dismissed her lover, and knew that her
father had insulted him, still she wondered how he could so soon
forget her, and never write even a line of farewell. From her
mother she did not expect sympathy ; she was too tender and
too proud to seek it ; and her father, more occupied than ever,
was seldom in his own house. Her uncle, who had not been in
town for some years, at last arrived, and was not less struck by the
extreme grace and beauty of his niece, than by the deep melancholy
which saddened her voice and weighed down her spirits. He
was evidently anxious to mention something which made him
joyous and happy ; and when the doctor entered the library with
him, he said : ' And may not Mary come in also ?' Mary did come
in ; and her gentle presence subdued her uncle's spirits. ' I had
meant to tell the intended change in my family only to you, brother
John ; but it has occurred to me we were all wrong about my niece.
They said at home : " Do not invite my cousin ; she is too fine, too
gay to come to a country wedding ; she would not like it :" but I
think, surrounded as she is by luxuries, that the fresh air of Repton,
the fresh flowers, fresh fields, and fresh smiles of her cousins, would
do my niece good, great good ; and we shall be quite gay in our own
homely way the gaiety that upsprings from hearts grateful to
the Almighty for his goodness. The fact is, that in about three
weeks my Mary is to be married to our rector's eldest son. In three
weeks. As he is only his father's curate, they could not have
afforded to marry for five or six years, if I had not been able to
tell down a handsome sum for Mary's fortune. It was a proud
thing to be able to make a good child happy by care in time. " Care
in time" that's my stronghold ! How glad we were to look back,
and think that, while we educated them properly, we denied our-
selves to perform our duty to the children God had given to our
care ! We have not been as gay as our neighbours, whose means
were less than ours ; we could not be so, seeing we had to provide
for five children ; but our pleasure has been to elevate and render
those children happy and prosperous. Mary will be so happy, dear
child so happy ! Only think, John, she will be six years the
sooner happy from our care in time !' This was more than his niece
could bear. The good father was so full of his daughter's happiness,
and the doctor so overwhelmed with self-reproach never felt so
bitterly as at that moment-^-that neither perceived the deathlike
paleness that overspread the less fortunate Mary's face. She got up
to leave the room, staggered, and fell at her father's feet.

' We have murdered her between us,' muttered Dr Adams, while



he raised her up ; ' murdered her ; but I struck the first blow ! God
forgive me ! God forgive me ! '

That night the brothers spent in deep and earnest converse.
The certainty of his own prosperity, the self-gratulation that follows
a just and careful discharge of duties imposed alike by reason and
religion, had not raised Charles above his brother in his own
esteem. Pained beyond description at the suffering he had so
unconsciously inflicted on his niece horror-struck at the fact that
thousands upon thousands had been lavished, yet nothing done
for hereafter, the hereafter that must come he urged upon John the
danger of delay, the uncertainty of life. Circumstances increased
his influence. Dr Adams had been made painfully aware that
gilding was not gold. The beauty, position, and talents of his
beloved child, although fully acknowledged, had failed to establish
her in life. ' Look, Charles,' he said, after imparting all to his
brother, absolutely weeping over the state of uncomplaining but
deep sorrow to which his child was reduced ' if I could command
the necessary funds, I would to-morrow insure my life for a sum
that would place them beyond the possible reach of necessity of any

' Do not wait for that,' was the generous reply of Charles Adams ;
' I have some unemployed hundreds at this moment. Come with
me to-morrow ; do not delay a day, no, nor an hour ; and take
my word for it, you will have reason to bless your resolve. Only
imagine what would be the case if God called you to give an account
of your stewardship !' But he checked himself; he saw that more
was not necessary ; and the brothers separated for a few hours,
both anxious for the morning. It was impossible to say which of
the two hurried over breakfast with the greatest rapidity. The
carriage was at the door ; and Dr Adams left word with his butler
that he was gone into the city on urgent business, and would be
back in two hours.

' I don't think,' exclaimed Charles, rubbing his hands gleefully
' I don't think that, if my dear niece were happy, 1 should ever have
been so happy in all my life as I am at this moment.'

' I feel already,' replied John, 'as if a great weight were removed
from my heart ; and were it not for the debt which I have contracted

to you Ah, Charles, I little dreamt, when I looked down from

the hill over Repton, and thought my store inexhaustible, that
I should be obliged to you thus late in life. And yet I protest
I hardly know where I could have drawn in ; one expense grows so
out of another. These boys have been so very extravagant ; but I
shall soon have the two eldest off; they cannot keep them much
longer waiting.'

' Work is better than waiting ; but let the lads fight their way ;
they have had, I suppose, a good education ; they ought to have
had professions. There is something to me awfully lazy in your


" appointments :" a young man of spirit will appoint himself ; but
it is the females of a family, brought up as yours have been, who
are to be considered. Women's position in society is changed from
what it was some years ago : it was expected that they must marry ;
and so they were left, before their marriage, dependent upon fathers
and brothers, as creatures that could do nothing for themselves.
Now, poor things, I really don't know why, but girls do not marry
off as they used. They become old, and frequently owing to the
expectation of their settling without the provision necessary for a
comfortable old age. This is the parent of those despicable tricks
and arts which women resort to to get married, as they have no
acknowledged position independent of matrimony. Something ought
to be done to prevent this. And when the country steadies a little
from the great revolution of past years, I suppose something may be
thought of by improved teaching and systems to enable women to
assist themselves, and be recompensed for the assistance they yield
others. Now, imagine your dear girls, those younger ones particu-
larly, deprived of you '

' Here is the patient upon whom I must call en route] interrupted
the doctor.

The carriage drew up.

' I wish,' said Charles, ' you had called here on your return. I
wanted the insurance to have been your first business to-day.'

' I shall not be five minutes,' was the reply. The servant let
down the step, and the doctor bounded up towards the open door.
In his progress he trode upon a bit, a mere shred, of orange-peel; it
was the mischief of a moment ; he slipped, and his temple struck
against the sharp column of an iron scraper. Within one hour
Dr John Adams had ceased to exist.

What the mental and bodily agony of that one hour was, you
can better understand than I can describe. He was fully con-
scious that he was dying, and he knew all the misery that was to

' Mary my dear niece,' said Charles Adams as he seated himself
by her side ; ' my dear, dear niece, can you fix your thoughts, and
give me your attention for half an hour, now that all is over, and
that the demands of the world press upon us. I want to speak
about the future. Your mother bursts into such fits of despair
that I can do nothing with her; and your brother is so ungovernable
talks as if he could command the Bank of England and is so
full of his mother's connections and their influence, that I have left
him to himself. Can you, my dear Mary, restrain your feelings, and
give me your attention ?'

Mary Adams looked firmly in her uncle's face, and said : ' I will
try. I have been thinking and planning all the morning, but I do
not know how to begin being useful. If I once began, I could go


on. The sooner we are out of this huge expensive house the better ;
if I could get my mother to go with the little girls to the sea-side.
Take her away altogether from this home take her '

' Where ?' inquired Mr Adams. ' She will not accept shelter in
my house.'

' I do not know/ answered his niece, relapsing into all the help-
lessness of first grief ; ' indeed I do not know. Her brother-in-law,
Sir James Ashbrooke, invited her to the Pleasaunce ; but my
brother objects to her going there, his uncle has behaved so neglect-
fully about his appointment.'

' Foolish boy ! ' muttered Charles ; ' this is no time to quarrel
about trifles. The fact is, Mary, that the sooner you are all out
of this house the better : there are one or two creditors, not for large
sums certainly, but still men who will have their money ; and if we
do not quietly sell off, they -will force us. The house might have
been disposed of last week by private contract, but your mother
would not hear of it, because the person who offered was a medical
rival of my poor brother.'

Mary did not hear the concluding observation ; her eyes wandered
from object to object in the room the harp the various things
known from childhood. ' Anything you and your mother wish, my
dear niece,' said her kind uncle, ' shall be preserved : the family
pictures your harp, your piano they are all hallowed memorials,
and shall be kept sacred.'

Mary burst into tears. ' I do not,' she said ' shrink from con-
sidering those instruments the means of my support ; but although
I know the necessity for so considering, I feel I cannot tell what at
quitting the home of my childhood. People are all kind ; you, my
dear uncle, from whom we expected so little, the kindest of all ; but
I see, even in these early days of a first sorrow, indications of falling
off. My aunt's husband has really behaved very badly about the
appointment of my eldest brother ; and as to the cadetship for the
second we had such a brief, dry letter from our Indian friends so
many first on the list, and the necessity for waiting, that I do not
know how it will end.'

' I wish, my dear, you could prevail on your mother, and sister,
and all, to come to Repton,' said Mr Adams. ' If your mother
dislikes being in my house, I would find her a cottage near us ; I
will do all I can. My wife joins me in the determination to think
that we have six additional children to look to. We differ from you
in our habits, but our hearts and affections are no less true to you all.
My Mary and you will be as sisters.'

His niece could bear no more kindness. She had been far more
bitterly disappointed than she had confessed even to her uncle ; and
yet the very bitterness of the disappointment had been the first thing
that had driven her father's dying wail from her ears that cry
repeated so often, and so bitterly, in the brief moments left after his


accident ' My children ! My children ! ' He had not sufficient
faith to commit them to God's mercy. He knew he had not been a
faithful steward ; and he could not bring himself, from the depths
of his spiritual blindness, to call upon the Fountain that is never
dried up to those who would humbly and earnestly partake of its
living waters.

It was all a scene as of another world to the young, beautiful,
petted, and feted girl ; it had made her forget the disappointment
of her love, at least for a time. While her brothers dared the
thunder-cloud that burst above their heads, her mother and sisters
wept beneath its influence. Mary had looked forth, and, if she did
not hope, she thought, and tried to pray. Now, she fell weeping upon
her uncle's shoulder : when she could speak, she said : ' Forgive me ;
in a little time I shall be able to conquer this ; at present, I am over-
whelmed. I feel as if knowledge and sorrow came together : I seem
to have read more of human nature within the last three days than
in all my past life.'

' It all depends, Mary, upon the person you meet,' said Mr Adams,
; as upon the book you read. If you choose a foolish book or a bad
book, you can expect nothing but vice or foolishness ; if you choose
a foolish companion, surely you cannot expect kindness or strength.'
The kind-hearted man repeated to her all he had before said.
' I cannot,' he added, ' be guilty of injustice to my children ; but
I can merge all my own luxuries into the one of being a father to
the fatherless.'

But to all the plans of Charles Adams objections were raised by
his eldest nephew and his mother : the youth could not brook the
control of a simple straight-minded country man, whose only claim
to be considered a gentleman, in his opinion, arose from his
connection with 'his family.' He was also indignant with his
maternal uncle for his broken promise, and these feelings were
strengthened by his mother's folly. Two opportunities for disposing
of the house and its magnificent furniture were missed ; and when
Mrs Adams complained to her nearest and most influential con-
nections that her brother-in-law refused to make her any allowance
unless she consented to live at Repton expecting that they would
be loud in their indignation at his hardness they advised her by
all means to do what he wished, as he was really the only person
she had to depend upon. Some were lavish of their sympathy, but
sympathy wears out quickly ; others invited her to spend a month
with them at their country-seat, for change of air ; and one hinted
how valuable Miss Adams's exquisite musical talent would be now.
Mary coloured, and said ' Yes,' with the dignity of proper feeling.
But her mother asked the lady what she meant, and a little scene
followed, which caused the lady to visit all the families in town of her
acquaintance, for the purpose of expressing her sympathy with
'those poor dear Adamses, who were so proud, poor things, that


really there was nothing but starvation and the workhouse before
them ! ' Another of those well-meaning persons strong-minded and
kind-hearted, but without a particle of delicacy came to poor Mary
with all the. prestige of conferring a favour.

' My dear young lady, it is the commonest thing in the world
very painful, but very common : the families of professional men are
frequently left without provision. Such a pity ! because, if they
cannot save, they can insure. We all can do that, but they do not
do it, and consequently everywhere the families of professional men
are found in distress. So, as I said, it is common ; and I wanted
you to suggest to your mother that, if she would not feel hurt at it,
the thing being so common dear Dr Adams having been so
popular, so very popular that, while every one is talking about him
and you all, a very handsome subscription could be got up. I would
begin it with a sum large enough to invite still larger. I had a great
regard for him I had indeed.'

Mary felt her heart sink and rise, and her throat swell, so that she
could not speak. She had brought herself to the determination of
employing her talents for her own support, -but she was not prepared
to come with her family before the world as paupers. ' We have no
claim upon the public,' she said at last. ' I am sure you mean us
kindly, but we have no claim. My dear father forwarded no public
work no public object ; he gave his advice, and received his pay-
ment. If we are not provided for, it is no public fault. Besides, my
father's children are able and willing to support themselves. I am
sure you mean us kindly, but we have no claim upon public sym-
pathy, and an appeal to it would crush us to the earth. I am very
glad you did not speak first to my mother. My uncle Charles would
not suffer it, even suppose she wished it.'

This friend also departed to excite new speculations as to the
pride and poverty of ' poor dear Dr Adams's family.' In the world,
however the busy, busy London world it is idle to expect anything
to create even a nine days' wonder. When the house and furniture
were at last offered for sale, the feeling was. somewhat revived ; and
Mary, whose beauty, exquisite as it was, had so unobtrusive a
character as never to have created a foe, was remembered with tears
by many. Even the father of her old lover, when he was congratu-
lated by one more worldly-minded than himself on the escape of his
son in not marrying a portionless girl, reproved the unfeeling speaker
with a wish that he only hoped his son might have as good a wife as
Mary Adams would have been.

The bills were taken down, the house purified from the auction-
mob everything changed ; a new name occupied the doctor's place
in the Court Guide; and in three months the family seemed as
completely forgotten amongst those of whom they once formed a

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 17 of 58)