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

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ally on my father, to know why he had deserted her. She attached


no blame latterly to any one, only called day and night upon him,
Oh ! it was hard to bear it was very hard to bear!'

' I will send a proper person in the morning, to arrange that she
may be placed with my brother,' said Charles.

Mary shrieked almost with the wildness of a maniac. ' No, no ;
as far from him as possible ! Oh ! not with him ! She was to blame
in our days of splendour as much as he was ; but she could not see
it; and I durst not reason with her. Not with him! She would
disturb him in his grave !'

Her uncle shuddered, while the young girl sobbed in the bitter
wailing tone their landlady complained of.

'No,' resumed Mary; 'let the parish bury her; even its officers
were kind; and if you bury her, or they, it is still a pauper's funeral.
I see all these things clearly now. Death, while it closes the eyes
of some, opens the eyes of others ; it has opened mine.'

But why should I prolong this sad story. It is not the tale of one,
but of many. There are dozens, scores, hundreds of instances of
the same kind, arising from the same cause, in our broad islands.
In the lunatic asylum where that poor girl, even Mary Adams, has
found refuge during the past two years, there are many cases of
insanity arising from change of circumstances, where a fifty pounds'
insurance would have set such maddening distress at defiance. 1
know that her brother died in the hospital within a few days ; and
the pale, sunken-eyed girl, whose damp yellow hair and thin white
hand are so eagerly kissed by the gentle maniac when she visits
her, month by month, is the youngest, and, I believe, the last of her
family at least the last in England. Oh that those who foolishly
boast that their actions only affect themselves, would look carefully
abroad, and, if they doubt what I have faithfully told, examine into
the causes which crowd the world with cases even worse than I have
here recorded !

NOTE. The evil consequences of a neglect or postponement of life
assurance, such as are portrayed in the foregoing tale, are very far from
being of uncommon occurrence ; and as much may arise from ignorance,
we have, in another tract, presented every requisite information on the
subject. ED.





' MR ATKINS, I say! Husband, why can't you speak? Do you
hear what Abby says ?'

'Anything worth hearing?' was the responsive question of Mr
Atkins ; and he laid down the New Hampshire Patriot, and peered
over his spectacles with a look which seemed to say, that an event
so uncommon deserved particular attention.

' Why, she says that she means to go to Lowell, and work in the

' Well, wife, let her go ;' and Mr Atkins took up the Patriot

' But I do not see how I can spare her ; the spring cleaning is
not done, nor the soap made, nor the boys' summer clothes ; and
you say that you intend to board your own ' men-folks/ and keep
two more cows than you did last year ; and Charley can scarcely go
alone. I do not see how I can get along without her.'

' But you say she does not assist you any about the house.'

' Well, husband, she might!

1 Yes, she might do a great many things which she does not think
of doing ; and as I do not see that she means to be useful here, we
will let her go to the factory.'

' Father ! are you in earnest ? May I go to Lowell ?' said Abby ;
and she raised her bright black eyes to her father's with a look of
exquisite delight.

' Yes, Abby, if you will promise me one thing ; and that is, that
you will stay a whole year without visiting us, excepting in case
of sickness, and that you will stay but one year.'

' I will promise anything, father, if you will only let me go ; for
I thought you would say that I had better stay at home and pick

* Lowell is a manufacturing town in Massachusetts, to which young women, the
daughters of fanners and others, resort for employment in the factories. The generally
excellent conduct of these ' factory girls," also their taste and literary abilities, are spoken of
by travellers from England as a kind of wonder. Amongst them are contributed a series of
papers in prose and verse, which form an annual, entitled the Lowell Offering ; and it is
from one of these interesting publications that the present story, which appears under the
signature of ' Lucinda,' is extracted. ED.


rocks, and weed the garden, and drop corn, and rake hay ; and I
do not want to do such work any longer. May I go with the
Slater girls next Tuesday, for that is the day they have set for their
return ?'

' Yes, Abby, if you will remember that you are to stay a year, and
only one year.'

Abby retired to rest that night with a heart fluttering with pleasure ;
for ever since the visit of the Slater girls with new silk dresses, and
Navarino bonnets trimmed with flowers, and lace veils and gauze hand-
kerchiefs, her head had been filled with visions of fine clothes ; and she
thought if she could only go where she could dress like them, she
should be completely happy. She was naturally very fond of dress,
and often, while a little girl, had she sat on the grass bank by the
roadside watching the stage which went daily by her father's retired
dwelling ; and when she saw the gay ribbons and smart shawls,
which passed like a bright phantom before her wondering eyes, she
had thought that, when older, she too would have such things ; and
she looked forward to womanhood as to a state in which the chief
pleasure must consist in wearing fine clothes. But as years passed
over her, she became aware that this was a source from which she
could never derive any enjoyment whilst she remained at home ; for
her father was neither able nor willing to gratify her in this respect,
and she had begun to fear that she must always wear the same
brown cambric bonnet, and that the same calico gown would always
be her ' go-to-meeting dress.' And now what a bright picture had
been formed by her ardent and uncultivated imagination ! Yes, she
would go to Lowell, and earn all that she possibly could, and spend
those earnings in beautiful attire ; she would have silk dresses one
of grass green, and another of cherry-red, and another upon the
colour of which she would decide when she purchased it ; and she
would have a new Navarino bonnet, far more beautiful than Judith
Slater's ; and when at last she fell asleep, it was to dream of satin
and lace, and her glowing fancy revelled all night in a vast and
beautiful collection of milliners' finery.

But very different were the dreams of Abby's mother ; and when
she awoke the next morning, her first words to her husband were :
' Mr Atkins, were you serious last night when you told Abby that
she might go to Lowell? I thought at first that you were vexed
because I interrupted you, and said it to stop the conversation.'

' Yes, wife, I was serious, and you did not interrupt me, for I had
been listening to all that you and Abby were saying. She is a wild,
thoughtless girl, and I hardly know what it is best to do with her ;
but perhaps it will be as well to try an experiment, and let her think
and act a little while for herself. I expect that she will spend all her
earnings in fine clothes ; but after she has done so, she may see the
folly of it : at all events, she will be rather more likely to understand
the value of money when she has been obliged to work for it. After


she has had her own way for one year, she may possibly be willing
to return home and become a little more steady, and be willing to
devote her active energies (for she is a very capable girl) to household
duties, for hitherto her services have been principally out of doors,
where she is now too old to work. I am also willing that she should
see a little of the world, and what is going on in it ; and I hope that,
if she receives no benefit, she will at least return to us uninjured.'

' Oh, husband, I have many fears for her,' was the reply of Mrs
Atkins, ' she is so very giddy and thoughtless ; and the Slater girls
are as harebrained as herself, and will lead her on in all sorts of folly.
I wish you would tell her that she must stay at home.'

' I have made a promise,' said Mr Atkins, ' and I will keep it ; and
Abby, I trust, will keep hers.'

Abby flew round in high spirits to make the necessary prepara-
tions for her departure, and her mother assisted her with a heavy


The evening before she left home, her father called her to him,
and fixing upon her a calm, earnest, and almost mournful look, he
said : ' Abby, do you ever think ? ' Abby was subdued and almost
awed by her father's look and manner. There was something unusual
in it something in his expression which was unexpected in him,
but which reminded her of her teacher's look at the Sabbath School,
when he was endeavouring to impress upon her mind some serious

' Yes, father,' she at length replied, ' I have thought a great deal
lately about going to Lowell.'

' But I do not believe, my child, that you have had one serious
reflection upon the subject, and I fear that I have done wrong in
consenting to let you go from home. If I were too poor to maintain
you here, and had no employment about which you could make
yourself useful, I should feel no self-reproach, and would let you go,
trusting that all might yet be well ; but now I have done what I
may at some future time severely repent of ; and, Abby, if you do
not wish to make me wretched, you will return to us a better, milder,
and more thoughtful girl.'

That night Abby reflected more seriously than she had ever done
in her life before. Her father's words, rendered more impressive by
the look and tone with which they were delivered, had sunk into
her heart as words of his had never done before. She had been
surprised at his ready acquiescence in her wishes, but it had
now a new meaning. She felt that she was about to be abandoned
to herself, because her parents despaired of being able to do anything
for her ; they thought her too wild, reckless, and untamable to be
softened by aught but the stern lessons of experience. I will surprise


them, said she to herself ; I will shew them that I have some reflec-
tion ; and after I come home, my father shall never ask me if I
think. Yes, I know what their fears are, and I will let them see
that I can take care of myself, and as good care as they have ever
taken of me. I know that I have not done as well as I might
have done ; but I will begin now, and when I return, they shall see
that I am a better, milder, and more thoughtful girl. And the money
which I intended to spend in fine dress shall be put into the bank ;
I will save it all, and my father shall see that I can earn money, and
take care of it too. Oh how different I will be from what they think
I am ; and how very glad it will make my father and mother to see
that I am not so very bad after all !

New feelings and new ideas had begotten new resolutions, and
Abby's dreams that night were of smiles from her mother, and words
from her father, such as she had never received nor deserved.

When she bade them farewell the next morning, she said nothing
of the change which had taken place in her views and feelings,
for she felt a slight degree of self-distrust in her own firmness of

Abby's self-distrust was commendable and auspicious ; but she
had a very prominent development in that part of the head where
phrenologists locate the organ of firmness ; and when she had once
determined upon a thing, she usually went through with it. She
had now resolved to pursue a course entirely different from that
which was expected of her, and as different from the one she had
first marked out for herself. This was more difficult, on account of
her strong propensity for dress, a love of which was freely gratified
by her companions. But when Judith Slater pressed her to purchase
this beautiful piece of silk, or that splendid piece of muslin, her
constant reply was, 'No, I have determined not to buy any such
things, and I will keep my resolution.'

Before she came to Lowell, she wondered, in her simplicity, how
people could live where there were so many stores, and not spend all
their money ; and it now required all her firmness to resist being
overcome by the tempting display of beauties which met her eyes
whenever she promenaded the illuminated streets. It was hard to
walk by the milliners' shops with an unwavering step ; and when she
came to the confectionaries, she could not help stopping. But she
did not yield to the temptation ; she did not spend her money in
them. When she saw fine strawberries, she said to herself, ' I can
gather them in our own pasture next year ;' when she looked upon
the nice peaches, cherries, and plums which stood in tempting array
behind their crystal barriers, she said again, ' I will do without them
this summer ; ' and when apples, pears, and nuts were offered to her
for sale, she thought that she would eat none of them till she went
home. But she felt that the only safe place for her earnings was the
savings -bank, and there they were regularly deposited, that it might


be out of her power to indulge in momentary whims. She gratified
no feeling but a newly-awakened desire for mental improvement, and
spent her leisure hours in reading useful books.

Abbys year was one of perpetual self-contest and self-denial ; but
it was by no means one of unmitigated misery. The ruling desire
of years was not to be conquered by the resolution of a moment ;
but when the contest was over, there was for her the triumph of
victory. If the battle was sometimes desperate, there was so much
more merit in being conqueror. One sabbath was spent in tears,
because Judith Slater did not wish her to attend their meeting with
such a dowdy bonnet ; and another fellow-boarder thought her gown
must have been made in 'the year one.' The colour mounted to her
cheeks, and the lightning flashed from her eyes, when asked if she
had l just come down/ and she felt as though she should be glad
to be away from them all, when she heard their sly innuendoes
about 'bush-whackers.' Still she remained unshaken. It is but
for a year, said she to herself, and the time and money that my
father thought I should spend in folly shall be devoted to a better


At the close of a pleasant April day, Mr Atkins sat at his kitchen
fireside, with Charley upon his knee. 'Wife,' said he to Mrs Atkins,
who was busily preparing the evening meal, ' is it not a year since
Abby left home ?'

' Why, husband, let me think : I always clean up the house
thoroughly just before fast-day, and I had not done it when Abby
went away. I remember speaking to 'her about it, and telling her
that it was wrong to leave me at such a busy time ; and she said,
" Mother, I will be at home to do it all next year." Yes, it is a year,
and I should not be surprised if she should come this week.'

' Perhaps she will not come at all,' said Mr Atkins with a gloomy
look ; ' she has written us but few letters, and they have been very
short and unsatisfactory. I suppose she has sense enough to know
that no news is better than bad news ; and having nothing pleasant
to tell about herself, she thinks she will tell us nothing at all. But
if I ever get her home again, I will keep her here. I assure you her
first year in Lowell shall also be her last.'

' Husband, I told you my fears, and if you had set up your
authority, Abby would have been obliged to stay at home ; but
perhaps she is doing pretty welL You know she is not accustomed
to writing, and that may account for the few and short letters we
have received ; but they have all, even the shortest, contained the
assurance that she would be at home at the close of the year.'

' Pa, the stage has stopped here,' said little Charley, and he


bounded from his father's knee. The next moment the room rang
with the shout of 'Abby has come! Abby has come!' In a few
moments more she was in the midst of the joyful throng. Her
father pressed her hand in silence, and tears gushed from her
mother's eyes. Her brothers and sisters were clamorous with
delight, all but little Charley, to whom Abby was a stranger, and
who repelled with terror all her overtures for a better acquaintance.
Her parents gazed upon her with speechless pleasure, for they felt
that a change for the better had taken place in their once wayward
girl. Yes, there she stood before them, a little taller and a little
thinner, and, when the flush of emotion had faded away, perhaps a
little paler ; but the eyes were bright in their joyous radiance, and
the smile of health and innocence was playing around the rosy lips.
She carefully laid aside her new straw-bonnet, with its plain trim-
ming of light-blue ribbon, and her dark merino dress shewed to the
best advantage her neat symmetrical form. There was more
delicacy of personal appearance than when she left them, and also
more softness of manner ; for constant collision with so many young
females had worn off the little asperities which had marked her
conduct while at home.

' Well, Abby, how many silk gowns have you got ?' said her father
as she opened a large new trunk.

' Not one, father,' said she, and she fixed her dark eyes upon
him with an expression which told all. ' But here are some little
books for the children, and a new calico dress for mother ; and
here is a nice black silk handkerchief for you to wear around your
neck on Sundays. Accept it, dear father, for it is your daughter's
first gift.'

' You had better have bought me a pair of spectacles, for I am sure
I cannot see anything.' There were tears in the rough farmer's eyes,
but he tried to laugh and joke, that they might not be perceived.
' But what did you do with all your money ?'

' I thought I had better leave it there,' said Abby, and she placed
her bank-book in her father's hand. Mr Atkins looked a moment,
and the forced smile faded away. The surprise had been too great,
and tears fell thick and fast from the father's eyes.

' It is but a little,' said Abby.

' But it was all you could save,' replied her father, ' and I am
proud of you, Abby ; yes, proud that I am the father of such a girl.
It is not this paltry sum which pleases me so much, but the prudence,
self-command, and real affection for us which you have displayed.
But was it not sometimes hard to resist temptation ?'

' Yes, father, you can never know how hard ; but it was the
thought of this night which sustained me through it all. I knew
how you would smile, and what my mother would say and feel ; and
though there have been moments, yes, hours, that have seen me
wretched enough, yet this one evening will repay for all. There is


but one thing now to mar my happiness, and that is the thought that
this little fellow has quite forgotten me,' and she drew Charley to her
side. But the new picture-book had already effected wonders, and
in a few moments he was in her lap, with his arms around her neck,
and his mother could not persuade him to retire that night until he
had given ' Sister Abby ' a hundred kisses.

' Father,' said Abby as she arose to retire when the tall clock
struck eleven, ' may I not some time go back to Lowell ? I should
like to add a little to the sum in the bank, and I should be glad of
ane silk gown.'

' Yes, Abby, you may do anything you wish. I shall never again
be afraid to let you spend a year in Lowell. You have shewn your-
self to be possessed of a virtue, without which no one can expect to
gain either respect or confidence SELF-DENIAL.'


HE elephant is the largest and most powerful of all
living quadrupeds, and may be regarded as a remnant
of those gigantic races which were common at an earlier
period of the earth's history. Specimens have been
found upwards of twelve feet high from the sole of the
foot to the ridge of the shoulder, above five tons in weight, and
capable of carrying enormous burdens. In general figure, the
animal seems clumsy and awkward, but this is fully compensated by
the litheness and agility of his trunk. His legs are necessarily massive,
for the support of such a huge body ; but though apparently stiff,
they are by no means the unwieldy members which many suppose.
He can kneel and rise with facility ; can use the fore-feet by way of
hand in holding down branches while he strips off the foliage with
his trunk ; employ his feet in stamping his enemies to death ; and
has been known to travel even with a heavy load from fifty to
seventy miles in twenty-four hours. His feet, which are internally
divided into toes, are externally gathered into a round cushioned
mass, protected by flattish nails, and are therefore unfitted for
walking on roads or rocky ground. Less bulky in the hinder
quarters, his strength accumulates in his chest and neck, the latter
of which is short and well adapted for the support of the head and
trunk, which are his principal organs of action and defence.

Compared with the bulk of his body, the head appears small ; but
not so when we take into account the weight and size of its append-
ages. These are pendulous ears, a couple of gigantic tusks in the
54 *


male, and the proboscis or trunk, which in large specimens is capable
of reaching to a distance of seven or eight feet. In the Indian
species* the ears are rather small, but in the African they are so
large, that the Boers and Hottentots make use of them as trucks
when dried. The tusks, which correspond to the canine teeth of
other quadrupeds, appear only in the upper jaw, fully developed in
the male, and only partially so in the female. These he employs as
his main weapons of defence, as well as in clearing away obstruc-
tions from his path, and in grubbing up succulent roots, of which he
is particularly fond. The largest pair in the Paris Museum of
Natural History is seven feet in length, and about half a foot in
diameter at the base ; but specimens of much larger dimensions are
mentioned by early authors, whose accounts, however, have the
disadvantage of being regarded as somewhat apocryphal. The eye
of the elephant is small, but brilliant ; and though, from the position
in the head, it is incapable of backward and upward vision, yet this
defect is remedied in a great degree by the acuteness of his hearing.
Indeed all his senses are peculiarly keen, and concentrated, as it
were, around the proboscis, for the purpose of directing more imme-
diately the motions of that indispensable mechanism.

The trunk is of a tapering form, and composed of several thou-
sand minute muscles, which cross and interlace each other, so as to
give it the power of stretching and contracting, of turning itself in
every direction, and of feeling and grasping with a delicacy and
strength which is altogether astonishing. It encloses the nostrils,
and has the power of inflating itself, of drawing in water, or of
ejecting it with violence ; it also terminates on the upper side in a
sort of fleshy finger, and below in a similar protuberance, which
answers to the opposing power of the thumb, and thus it can lift the
minutest object. 'Endowed,' says an eloquent writer, 'with exquisite
sensibility, nearly eight feet in length, and stout in proportion to the
massive size of the whole animal, this organ, at the volition of the
elephant, will uproot trees or gather grass, raise a piece of artillery
or pick up a comfit, kill a man or brush off a fly. It conveys the
food to the mouth, and pumps up the enormous draughts of water
which, by its recurvature, are turned into and driven down the
capacious throat, or showered over the body. Its length supplies
the place of a long neck, which would have been incompatible with
the support of the large head and weighty tusks of the animaL'

The skin of the elephant, like that of the horse, is extremely

* In systems of natural history, the elephant ranks with the Pachyderms, or thick-
skinned class of animals, and forms the type of the Proboscidean order ; that is, those
which are furnished with a proboscis or prehensile trunk. There are only two species of
the genus EUpkas namely, the Asiatic and the African ; the latter being distinguished
from the former by its large pendulous ears, less elevated head, and some minor peculiarities
interesting only to professed naturalists. The Mammoth, whose remains are found so

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 19 of 58)