The writings of Miss Mcintosh, so deservedly extolled for their purity and tenderness of feeling, their excellent moral, simply and unrestramedly developed, that we have much satisfaction iu welcoming the " Christmas Guest;" and we feel convinced that few will arise from tbe perusal of this little book, full of incident, adventure, and character, without being wiser, happier, and better.
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The Christmas Guest
Or, Evenings At Donaldson Manor
Maria J. Mcintosh.
The Christmas Guest
Preface To The English Edition.
Cover Design: @mei - Fotolia.com
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
In Miss McIntosh we fondly and proudly greet a transatlantic sister, and as delightedly introduce her, a "Christmas Guest," to our own home circle. She is worthy of all honor and affection.
Miss McIntosh's writings are eminently pure in feeling—tender, graceful, and elegant in manner. Their moral, simply and unstrainedly developed, is invariably excellent—generously exciting, stimulating, encouraging all the noblest energies of our nature. To use her own words, addressed to her friends in America, and with equal propriety may they be accepted by the rising generation, and by every grade of society, at every period of life, in her unforgotten fatherland—"From the examples she will present to them, they may learn that to the brave and true and faithful heart, 'all things are possible'—that he who clings to the good and the holy amidst temptation and trial, will find peace and light within him, though all without be storm and darkness; and that in a right understanding and unfaltering performance of duty—not in the pomps and pleasures of a self-indulgent life, lie our true glory and happiness."
Not a tale, not a sketch, not an appeal to the heart or to the mind in any form, does our fair sister commit to paper, that is not pervaded, though unobtrusively, by a strain of the sweetest, gentlest, most cheerful and soul-elevating piety; it is hers at once to soothe, to charm, and to exhilarate.
Our "Christmas Guest" well knows how to furnish forth a feast of infinite variety. Few, if any, will arise from a perusal of her delightful "word-painting" of life, incident, adventure, and character, without being wiser, better, happier; without enjoying a more entire confidingness in Heaven—in Him, that God of love and goodness, whom Christians unite to worship.
London, December 4, 1850.
The largest and the most picturesque country-house of all I know in America, is the mansion house of my friends, the Donaldsons. I would gladly inform the reader of its locality, but this Colonel Donaldson has positively prohibited, for a reason too flattering to my self-love to be resisted.
"You know, my dear Madam,"—I give his own words, by which I hope the courteous reader will understand that I am really too modest even to seem to adopt the flattering sentiment they convey—"You know, my dear madam, that your description will be read by every body who is any body, and that through it my simple home will become classic ground. If I permit you to direct the tourist tribe to it, I shall be pestered out of my life when summer comes, by travelling artists, would-be poets, and romantic young ladies."
I may not therefore, dear reader, tell you whether this pleasant abode be washed by the waves of the Atlantic or by the turbid current of the Mississippi; whether it be fanned by the flower-laden zephyrs of the South, or by the health-inspiring breezes of the North. The exterior must indeed have been left wholly to your imagination, had I not fortunately obtained a sketch from a young friend, an amateur artist, of whom I shall have more to say presently. As I could not in honor present you with even this poor substitute, as I trust you will consider it, for my word-painting, without Colonel Donaldson's consent, I have been compelled, in deference to his wish, to divest the picture of every thing that would mark the geographical position of the place represented. The shape of its noble old trees we have been permitted to retain; but their foliage we have been obliged to render so indistinctly, that even Linnæus himself would find it impossible to decide whether it belonged to the elm of the North when clothed in all its summer luxuriance, or to the gigantic live-oak of the South. Even of the house itself we have been permitted to give but a rear view, lest the more marked features of the landscape in front should hint of its whereabouts. As to the figures which appear in the foreground of the picture, they are but figments of my young artist friend's imagination. One of them you may observe carries under the arm a sheaf of wheat, not a stalk of which I assure you ever grew on the Donaldson lands.
Even from this imperfect picture of the exterior, you will perceive that the house is, as I have said, both large and picturesque. Within, the rooms go rambling about in such a strange fashion, that an unaccustomed guest attempting to make his way without a guide to the chambre de nuit in which he had slept only the night before, would be very apt to find himself in the condition of a certain bird celebrated in nursery rhymes as wandering,
Up stairs and down stairs And in the ladies' chambers.
In this house have the Donaldsons lived and died for nearly two hundred years, and during all that time they have never failed to observe the Christmas with right genuine, old English hospitality. Then, their sons and their daughters, their men-servants and their maid-servants, and the stranger within their gates, felt the genial influence of their gratitude to Him who added year after year almost unbroken temporal prosperity to the priceless gift commemorated by that festival. At many of these rëunions it has been my good fortune to be present. Indeed, though only "Aunt Nancy," by that courtesy which so often accords to the single sisterhood some endearing title, as a consolation, I presume, for the more honorable one of Mrs. which their good or evil fortune has denied them, I have been ever received at Donaldson Manor as at my own familiar home; nor was it matter of surprise to myself or to our mutual friends, when the Col. and Mrs. Donaldson named their fourth daughter after me, modifying the old-fashioned Nancy, however, into its more agreeable synonyme of Annie.
This daughter has been, of course, my peculiar pet. In truth, however, she has been scarcely less the peculiar pet of father and mother, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors—sweet Annie Donaldson, as all unite in calling her, and certainly a sweeter, fresher bud of beauty never opened to the light than my name-child. And yet, reader, it may be that could I faithfully stamp her portrait on my page, you would exclaim at my taste, and declare there was no beauty in it. I will even acknowledge that you may be right, and that there is nothing artistically beautiful in the dark-gray eyes, the clear and healthy yet not dazzlingly fair complexion, the straight though glossy dark-brown hair, and the form, rounded and buoyant, but neither tall enough to be dignified nor petite enough to be fairy-like. But sure I am that you could not know the spirit, gentle and playful yet lofty and earnest, which looks out from her eyes and speaks in her clear, silvery tones and graceful gestures, without feeling that Annie Donaldson is beautiful. Nor am I alone in this opinion. My friend Mr. Arlington fully agrees with me, as you would be convinced if you could see the admiring expression with which he gazes on her. As this gentleman cannot plead the Colonel's reason for any reserve respecting his place of residence, I shall not hesitate to inform the reader that he is a young lawyer of New-York, who has preserved, amidst much study and some business, the natural taste necessary to the enjoyment of country scenes and country sports. During those weeks of summer when New-York is deserted, alike by the wearied man of business and the ennuyé idler, Mr. Arlington, instead of rushing with the latter to the overcrowded hotels of Saratoga and Newport, takes his gun and dog, his pencil and sketch-book, and with an agreeable companion, or, if this may not be, some choice books, as a resource against a rainy day, he goes to some wild spot—the wilder the better—where he roves at will from point to point of interest and beauty, and spends his time in reading, sketching, and—alas, for human imperfection!—shooting. These vagrant habits first brought him into the neighborhood of Donaldson Manor, and he had for two successive summers hunted with the Colonel and sketched with the young ladies, when he was invited to join their Christmas party in 18—. Here I was introduced to him, and in a few days we were the best friends in the world.
Mr. Arlington's sketch-book, of which I have already spoken, served to elicit one of our points of sympathy. Bound down by the iron chain of necessity to that point of space occupied by my own land, and that point of time filled by my own life, yet with a heart longing for acquaintance with the beautiful distant and the noble past, I have ever loved the creations of that art which furnished food to these longings; and as my fortune has denied me the possession of fine paintings, I have become somewhat noted in my own little circle for my collection of fine engravings. Many of these have peculiar charms for me, from their association, fancied or real, with some place or person that does interest or has interested me. In the leisure of a solitary life, it has amused me to append to these engravings a description of the scenes or a narrative of the incidents which they suggested to my mind, and for their association with which I particularly valued them. Annie was well aware of the existence of these descriptions and narratives, and, with a pretty despotism which she often exercises over those she loves, she insisted that I should surrender them to her for the gratification of the assembled party. One condition only was I permitted to make in this surrender, and this was, that Mr. Arlington should also bring forth his portfolio for inspection, and should describe the locale of the scene sketched, or relate the circumstances under which the sketches were made. A pretty ruse this, my gentle Annie, by which you furnished the artist with an opportunity to display to others the talents which had charmed yourself. In accordance with this compact, the drawings, with their accompanying narratives, were produced, and received with such approbation, that by the same sweet tyranny which drew them from their hiding-places, we have been ordered to send this Christmas Guest to bear the simple stories to other houses, with the hope that they may give equal pleasure to their inmates.
Merrily blazed the wood fire in the huge old chimney of the large parlor in which we were accustomed to assemble in the evening, at Donaldson Manor, and its light was thrown upon faces bright with good-humored merriment, yet not without some touch of deeper and more earnest feeling. That party would of itself have made an interesting picture. There was Col. Donaldson, tall, gaunt, his figure slightly bent, yet evincing no feebleness, his curling snow-white locks, his broad bold forehead, and shaggy brows overhanging eyes beaming with kindness. Beside him sat Mrs. Donaldson, still beautiful in her green old age. Her face was usually pale, yet her clear complexion, and the bright eyes that looked out from beneath the rich Valenciennes border of her cap, redeemed it from the appearance of ill health. Her form, stately yet inclining to embonpoint, was shown to advantage by the soft folds of the rich and glossy satin dress which ordinarily, at mid-day, took the place in summer of her cambric morning-dress, and in winter of her cashmere robe de chambre. Mrs. Donaldson has a piece of fancy netting which she reserves for her evening work, because, she says, it does not make much demand upon her eyes. This the mischievous and privileged Annie calls "Penelope's Web," declaring, that whatever is done on it in the evening is undone the next morning. Around the table, on which the brightest lights were placed for the convenience of those who would read or sew, clustered the two married daughters of the house—who always return to their "home," as they still continue to call Donaldson Manor, for the Christmas holidays—Annie, Mr. Arlington, and myself. Miss Donaldson, the eldest daughter of my worthy friends, is the housekeeper of the family, and usually sits quietly beside her mother, somewhat fatigued probably by the active employments of her day. The two sons of Col. Donaldson, the elder of whom is only twenty-three, his sons-in-law, and his grandson, Robert Dudley, a fine lad of twelve, give animation to the scene by moving hither and thither, now joining our group at the table, now discussing in a corner the amusements of to-morrow, and now entertaining us with a graphic account of to-day's adventures, of the sleighs upset, or the skating-matches won.
Such was the party assembled little more than a week before Christmas the last year, when Annie called upon Mr. Arlington and myself to redeem the pledges we had given, and surrender our portfolios to her. Some slight contention arose between us on the question who should first contribute to the entertainment of the company; Mr. Arlington exclaiming "Place aux Dames," and I contending that there was great want of chivalry in thus putting a woman into the front of the battle. This little dispute was terminated by the proposal that Annie having been blindfolded to secure impartial justice, the two portfolios should be placed on the table, and she should choose, not only from which of them our entertainment should be drawn, but the very subject that should furnish it. Mr. Arlington vehemently applauded this proposal, and then urged that he must himself tie the handkerchief, as no one else, he feared, would make it an effectual blind. Annie submitted to his demand, though she professed to feel great indignation at his implied doubt of her honesty. No one else, we believe, would have taken so much time for the disposal of this screen, or been so careful in the arrangement of the bands of hair over which, or through which, the handkerchief was passed; and the touch of no other hand, perhaps, would have called up so bright a color to the cheeks, and even to the brow, of our sweet Annie. When permitted to exercise her office, Annie, to my great pleasure, without an instant's hesitation, while a mischievous little smile played at the corners of her mouth, placed her hand on Mr. Arlington's portfolio, and drew from it a paper, which, on being exhibited, was found to contain the pencilled outline of many heads grouped together in various positions, some being apparently elevated considerably above the others.
"Ah, Miss Annie!" exclaimed Mr. Arlington, with considerable satisfaction apparent in his voice and manner, "you must try again, and I think I must trouble you, ladies, for another handkerchief. This seems to me to have been scarcely thick enough."
"I appeal to the company," cried Annie, "whether this is in accordance with Mr. Arlington's engagement. Was he not to accept any thing I should draw from his portfolio as the foundation of his sketch?"
"Ay, ay," was responded from every part of the room.
"But pray, my good friends," persisted Mr. Arlington, "observe the impossibility of compliance with your demand. How can I possibly hope to entertain you by any thing based upon that memento of an idle hour in court, which I should long ago have destroyed, had I not fancied that I could detect in those sketchy outlines—those mere profiles—very accurate likenesses of the heads for which they were taken?"
"Those heads look as though they might have histories attached to them," said Annie, as she bent to examine them more narrowly.
"Histories indeed they have," said Mr. Arlington.
"Give them to us," suggested Col. Donaldson.
"You have them already. These are all men whose histories are as well known to the public as to their own families. There is the elder K——, at once so simple in heart and so acute in mind. Cannot you read both in his face? There is his son; and there is D. B. O——, and O. H——, and G——, and J——. What can I tell you of any of them that you do not know already?"
"Who are these?" asked Annie, pointing to two heads, placed somewhat aloof from the rest, and near each other. "That older face is so benevolent in its expression, and the younger has so noble a physiognomy, and looks with such reverence on his companion, that I am persuaded they have a history beyond that which belongs to the world. Is it not so?"
"It is. Those are Mr. Cavendish and Herbert Latimer. They have a history, and I will give it you if you desire it, though, thus impromptu, I must do it very imperfectly I fear."
"No apologies," said Col. Donaldson. "Begin, and do your best; no one can do more."
"Than my best," said Mr. Arlington, with a smile, "thank you. My narrative will have at least one recommendation—truth—as I have received its incidents from Latimer himself."
Without further preliminary, Mr. Arlington commenced the relation of the following circumstances, which he has since written out, by Annie's request, at somewhat greater length for insertion here, giving it the title of
THE MAIN CHANCE.
Herbert Latimer was only twenty when, having passed the usual examination, he was admitted, by a special act of the legislative assembly of his native State, to practise at the bar. Young as he was, he had already experienced some of the severest vicissitudes of life. His father had been a bold, and for many years a successful merchant, and the young Herbert, his only child, had been born and nurtured in the lap of wealth and luxury. He was only sixteen—a boy—but a boy full of the noble aspirations and lofty hopes that make manhood honorable, when his father died. Mr. Latimer's last illness had been probably rendered fatal by the intense anxiety of mind he endured while awaiting intelligence of the result of a mercantile operation, on which, contrary to the cautious habits of his earlier years, he had risked well nigh all he possessed. He did not live to learn that it had completely failed, and that his wife and child were left with what would have seemed to him the merest pittance for their support.
The character and talents of young Latimer were well known to his father's friends, and more than one among them offered him a clerkship on what could not but be considered as very advantageous terms. To these offers Herbert listened with painful indecision. For himself, he would have suffered cheerfully any privation, rather than relinquish the career which his inclinations had prompted, and with which were connected all his glowing visions of the future—but his mother—had he a right to refuse what would enable her to preserve all her accustomed elegances and indulgences?
"You must be aware, Master Latimer," said he who had made him the most liberal offers, and who saw him hesitating on their acceptance, "you must be aware that only my friendship for your father could induce me to offer such terms to so young a man, howsoever capable. Three hundred dollars this year, five hundred the next, if you give satisfaction in the performance of your duties, a thousand dollars after that till you are of age, and then a share in the business equal to one-fourth of its profits—these are terms, sir, which I would offer to no one else. Your father was a friend to me, sir, and I would be a friend to his son."
"I feel your kindness and liberality, sir."
"And yet you hesitate?"
"Will you permit me, sir, to ask till to-morrow for consideration? I must consult my mother."
"That is right, young man; that is right. She knows something of life, and will, I doubt not, advise you to close with so unexceptionable an offer."
"Whatever she may advise, sir, be assured I will do."
"I have no doubt then, sir, that I shall see you to-morrow prepared to take your place in my store. Good morning."
Assuming as cheerful an air as he could, Herbert went from this interview to his mother's sitting room. Mrs. Latimer raised her eyes to his as he entered, and reading with a mother's quick perception the disturbance of his mind, she asked him in a tone of alarm, "What is the matter, Herbert?"
"Only a very pleasant matter, mother," said Herbert, with forced cheerfulness, which he endeavored to preserve while relating the offer just received.
"And would you relinquish the study of the law, Herbert?" inquired Mrs. Latimer.
"Not if I could help it, mother; but you know Mr. Woodleigh told you that five hundred dollars a year was the utmost that he could hope to save for you. If I study law, it must be several years before I can add any thing to this sum—I may even be compelled——" The features of Herbert worked, tears rushed to his eyes, and he turned away, unable to speak the thought that distressed him.
"You speak of what can be saved for me, Herbert—of what you may be compelled to do. Do you suppose that we can have separate interests in this question?—are not your hopes my hopes—will not your success, your triumph, be mine too? The only consideration for us, it seems to me, is whether the profession you have chosen and the prospects open to you in it, are worth some present sacrifice."
"They are worth every sacrifice on my part—but you, mother——"
"Have no separate interest from my child—I have shared all your hopes, all your aspirations, Herbert, and it would cost me less to live on bread and water, to dress coarsely, and lodge hardly for the next five years, than to yield my anticipations of your future success."
Others had felt for Herbert, and had offered to aid him, and he had turned from them with a deeper sense of his need and diminished confidence in his own powers—his mother felt with him, and he was cheered and strengthened. The offers of the friendly merchant were gratefully declined. By the sale of her jewels, Mrs. Latimer obtained the sum necessary to meet the expenses incident to her son's first entrance on his professional studies. She then appropriated three hundred dollars of their little income to his support in the city, and withdrew herself to the country, where, she said, the remaining two hundred would supply all her wants. When Herbert would have remonstrated against these arrangements, she reminded him that they were intended to accomplish her own wishes no less than his. He ceased to remonstrate, but he did what was better—he acted—and the very first year, by self-denying economy and industry, he was enabled to return to her fifty dollars of the amount she had allotted to him. The second year he did better, and the third year Mrs. Latimer was able to return to the city and board at the same house with her son. It was only by the joy she expressed at their re-union that Herbert learned how painful the separation had been to her. She would not waste his strength and her own in vain lamentation over a necessary evil. Four years sufficed to prepare Herbert Latimer for his profession, and through the influence of some of his mother's early friends, exerted at her earnest request, the legislative act which permitted his entrance on its duties, was passed. The knowledge of his circumstances had excited a warm interest for him in many minds, and they who heard his name for the first time, when he stood before them for examination, could not but feel prepossessed in favor of the youth, on whose bold brow deep and lofty thoughts had left their impress, and in whose grave, earnest eyes the spirit seer might have read the history of a life of endurance and silent struggle. All were interested in him—all evinced that interest by gentle courtesy of manner—and almost all seemed desirous to make his examination as light as possible—all save one—one usually as remarkable for his indulgence to young aspirants, as for the legal acumen and extensive knowledge, which had won for him a large share of the profits and honors of his profession. His associates now wondered to find him so rigidly exact in his trial of young Latimer's acquirements.
"You were very severe on our young tyro to-day," said a brother lawyer, and one on whom early associations and similarity of pursuits, rather than of tastes, had conferred the privileges of a friend on Mr. Cavendish, as they walked together from the court-house.
"I saw that he did not need indulgence, and I gave him an opportunity of proving to others that he did not—but I had another and more selfish reason for my rigid test of his powers."
Mr. Cavendish spoke smilingly, and his friend was emboldened to ask—"And pray what selfish motive could you have for it!"
"I wished to see whether he would suit me as a partner."
"Yes—when a man has lived for half a century, he begins to think that he may possibly grow old some day, and I would provide myself with a young partner, who may take the laboring oar in my business when age compels me to lay it aside."
"All that may do very well—I have some thought of doing the same myself; but I shall look out for a young man who is well connected. Connections do a great deal for us, you know, and we must always have an eye to the main chance."
"I agree with you, but we should probably differ about what constitutes the main chance."
"There surely can be no difference about that; it means with every one the one thing needful."
"And what is, in your opinion, the one thing needful?"
"Why this, to be sure," and Mr. Duffield drew his purse from his pocket, and shook it playfully.
"A somewhat different use of the term from that which the Bible makes," said Mr. Cavendish.
"Oh! let the Bible alone, and let me hear what you think of it."
"Pardon me, I cannot let the Bible alone if I tell you my own opinions, for from the Bible I learned them."
"It seems a strange book, I must say, to consult for a law of partnerships."
"Had you a better acquaintance with it, Duffield, you would learn that its principles apply to all the relations of life. The difference between us is, that when you estimate man's chief object, or as you call it, his 'main chance,' you take only the present into view, you leave out of sight altogether the interminable future, with its higher hopes and deeper interests, and relations of immeasurably greater importance."
"I find it enough for one poor brain to calculate for the present."
"A great deal too much you will find it, if you leave out of your sum so important an item as the relations of that present to the future. Depend on it, Duffield, that he makes the most for this life, as well as for the next, of his time, his talents, and his wealth, who uses them as God's steward, for the happiness of his fellow-creatures, as well as for his own."
"And so, for the happiness of your fellow-creatures, you are going to give away half of the best practice in the State?"
"I am going to do no such thing. In the first place, I did not tell you that I was going to offer young Latimer an equal division of the profits of my practice; and for what I may offer him I have already taken care to ascertain that he can return a full equivalent. His talents need only a vantage-ground on which to act, and I rejoice to be able to give him that which my own early experience taught me to value."
"Well—we shall see ten years hence how your rule and mine work. I think I shall offer a partnership to young Conway—he is already rising in his profession, and is connected with some of our wealthiest families."
"Very well—we shall see."
Herbert Latimer had nerved himself to endure five, or it might be ten more years of profitless toil, ere he should gain a position which would make his talents available for more than the mere essentials of existence. Let those who have looked on so dreary a prospect—who have buckled on their armor for such a combat—judge of the grateful emotion with which he received the generous proposal of Mr. Cavendish. This proposal, while it gave him at once an opportunity for the exercise of his powers, secured to him for the first year one-fifth, for the two following years one-fourth, and after that, if neither partner chose to withdraw from the connection, one-half of the profits of a business, the receipts of which had for several years averaged over ten thousand dollars. Mr. Cavendish soon found that he had done well to trust to the gratitude of his young partner for inducing the most active exercise of his powers. Stimulated by the desire to prove himself not unworthy of such kindness, and to secure his generous friend from any loss, Herbert never overlooked aught that could advance the interests, nor grew weary of any task that could lighten the toil of Mr. Cavendish.
"Herbert, you really make me ashamed of myself, you are so constantly busy that I seem idle in comparison," said Mr. Cavendish, as he prepared one day to lay by his papers and leave the office at three o'clock. "Pray put away those musty books, and bring Mrs. Latimer to dine with us—this is a fête day with us. My daughter, who has been for two months with her uncle and aunt in Washington, has returned, and I want to introduce her to Mrs. Latimer."
"My mother will come to you with pleasure, I am sure."
"Will come too, if I possibly can. You dine at five?"
"Yes—and remember punctuality is the soul of dinner as well as of business. So do not let the charms of Coke upon Lyttleton make you forget that fair ladies and hungry gentlemen are expecting you." Mr. Cavendish closed the door with a smiling face, and Herbert Latimer turned for another hour to his books and papers. At a quarter before five he stood with his mother in the drawing-room of Mr. Cavendish, and received his first introduction to one who soon became the star of his life.
Mary Cavendish was not beautiful—far less could the word pretty have been applied to her—but she was lovely. All that we most love in woman, all pure and peaceful thoughts, all sweet and gentle affections, seemed to beam from her eyes, or to sit throned upon her fair and open brow. She had enjoyed all the advantages, as it is termed, of a fashionable education, but the influences of her home had been more powerful than those of her school, and she remained what nature had made her—a warm-hearted, truthful, generous, and gentle girl—too ingenuous for the pretty affectations, too generous for the heartless coquetries which too often teach us that the accomplished young lady has sacrificed, for her external refinement, qualities of a nobler stamp and more delicate beauty. The only daughter among several children, she was an idol in her home, and every movement of her life seemed impelled by the desire to repay the wealth of affection that was lavished upon her. It was impossible to see such a being daily in the intimacy of her home associations—the sphere in which her gentle spirit shone most brightly—without loving her; and Herbert soon felt that he loved her, yet he added in his thoughts "in all honor," and to him it would have seemed little honorable to attempt to win this priceless treasure from him to whose generosity he had owed his place in her circle. Mrs. Latimer, though she did not fear for her son's honor, trembled for his future peace as she marked the sadness which often stole over him, after spending an hour in the society of this lovely girl; but Mrs. Latimer was a wise woman—she knew that speech is to such emotions often as the lighted match to a magazine, and she kept silence.
For almost a year after his introduction, Herbert continued in daily intercourse with Mary Cavendish to drink fresh draughts of love, yet so carefully did he guard his manner, that no suspicion of his warmer emotions threw a shadow over her friendship, or checked the frankness with which she unveiled to him the rich treasures of her mind and heart. It was in the autumn succeeding their first acquaintance that Mr. and Mrs. Cavendish issued cards for a large party at their house. It would be too gay a scene for the quiet taste of Mrs. Latimer, but Herbert would be there, and at the request of Mrs. Cavendish he promised to come early. The promise was kept. He arrived half an hour at least before any other guest, bringing with him a bouquet of rare and beautiful flowers for Mary. As he entered the hall he heard a slight scream from the parlor beside whose open door he stood. The scream was in a voice to whose lightest tone his heart responded, and in an instant, he was beside Mary Cavendish, had clasped her in his arms, and pressing her closely to his person, was endeavoring to extinguish with his hands the flames that enveloped her. The evening was cold: there was a fire in the stove, before which Mary stood arranging some flowers on the mantel-piece, when the door was opened for him. The sudden rush of air had wafted her light, floating drapery of gauze and lace into the fire, and in a moment all was in a blaze. Fortunate was it for her, that under this light, flimsy drapery, was worn a dress of stouter texture and less combustible material—a rich satin. After the slight scream which had brought him to her side, Mary uttered no sound, and with his whole soul concentrated on action, he had been equally silent till the last spark was smothered. Then gazing wildly in her pallid face he exclaimed, "In mercy speak to me! Did I come too late? Are you burned?"
"I scarcely know—I think not," she faltered out. Then, as she made an effort to withdraw from his arms, added quickly—"no—not at all."
Completely overpowered by the revulsion of feeling which those words occasioned, Herbert clasped her again in his arms, and fervently ejaculating, "Thank God!" pressed his lips to her cheek. At that moment, the voice of Mr. Cavendish was heard in the next room, and breaking from him, Mary rushed to her astonished father, and burying her face in his bosom, burst into tears. Aroused to full consciousness by the presence of another, Herbert stood trembling and dismayed at the remembrance of his own rashness. Agitated as she was, Mary was compelled to answer her father's questions, for he seemed wholly unable to speak.
"Latimer, I owe my child's life probably to you. How shall I repay the debt?" cried Mr. Cavendish, attempting, as he spoke, to clasp Herbert's hand. He winced at the touch, and a sudden contraction passed over his face.
"You are burned," said Mr. Cavendish, and would have examined his hand, but throwing his handkerchief over it, Herbert declared it was not worth mentioning, though at the same time he confessed that the pain was sufficient to make him desirous to return home, and have some soothing application made to it. Mr. Cavendish parted from him with regret, with earnest charges that he should take care of himself, and equally earnest hopes that he might be sufficiently relieved to return to them before the evening was passed; but Mary still lay in her father's arms, with her face hidden, and noticed Herbert's departure neither by word nor look.
"I have outraged her delicacy, and she cannot bear even to see me," he said to himself.
In passing out he accidentally trod on the flowers which he had selected with such care—"Crushed like my own heart!" he ejaculated mentally.
A fortnight passed before Herbert Latimer could take his accustomed place in the office of Mr. Cavendish. His hand had been deeply burned—so deeply that the pain had produced fever. During this period of suffering, Mr. Cavendish had often visited him, and Mrs. Cavendish had more than once taken his mother's place at his bedside; but Herbert found little pleasure in their attentions, for he said to himself, "If they knew all my presumption, they would be less kind."
His illness passed away, his hand healed, and he resumed his accustomed avocations; but no invitation, however urgent, could win him again to the house of Mr. Cavendish. "I have proved my own weakness—I will not place myself again in the way of temptation," was the language of his heart. Apologies became awkward. He felt that he must seem to his friend ungracious if not ungrateful; and one day observing unusual seriousness in the countenance of Mr. Cavendish on his declining an invitation to dine with him, he exclaimed, "You look displeased, and I can hardly wonder at it; but could you know my reason for denying myself the pleasure of visiting you, I am sure you would think me right."
"Perhaps so; but as I do not know it, you cannot be surprised that your determined withdrawal from our circle should wound both my feelings and those of my family."
Herbert covered his eyes with his hand for a moment, and then turning them with a grave and even sad expression on Mr. Cavendish, said, "I have declined your invitations only because I could not accept them with honor: I love your daughter—I have loved her almost from the first hour of my acquaintance with her."
"And why have you not told me so before, Herbert?" asked Mr. Cavendish, with no anger in his tones.
"Because I believed myself capable of loving in silence, and while I wronged no one, I was willing to indulge in the sweet poison of her society; but a moment of danger to her destroyed my self-control. What has been may be again—I have learned to distrust myself—I cannot tamper with temptation, lest I should one day use the position in which you have placed me, and the advantages which you have bestowed on me, in endeavoring to win from you a treasure which you may well be reluctant to yield to me."
"Herbert, I only blame you for not having spoken to me sooner of this."
"I feel now that I should have done so—it was a want of self-knowledge, the rash confidence of one untried which kept me silent."
"No, Herbert—it was a want of knowledge of me—of confidence in my justice—I will not say my kindness. What higher views do you suppose I can entertain for my daughter, than to make her the wife of one who has a prospect of obtaining the most distinguished eminence in my own profession."
"If that prospect be mine, to you I owe it—could I make it a plea for asking more?"
"You owe what I did for you to the interest and esteem excited by your own qualities, and all I did has only given you a place for the exercise of those qualities—I do not know how you will win Mary's forgiveness for refraining from her society on such slight grounds."
"Dare I hope for your permission to seek that forgiveness?"
"Dare I hope for your company to dinner to-day?"
"Now that you know all, nothing could give so much pleasure—though I fear——"
"What, fearing again!"
"I fear that Miss Cavendish is very much displeased with me."
"For saving her life?"
"No—not exactly that."
Herbert Latimer did not confide the cause of his fear to Mr. Cavendish, neither did he suffer it to interfere with his visit on that day. He went to dinner, but stayed to tea, and long after, and as Mary was his companion for much, if not all of this time, we presume that her displeasure could not have been manifested in any very serious manner.
It was about six weeks after this renewal of his visits that Mr. Duffield meeting his friend Mr. Cavendish one morning, accosted him with, "I hear that your daughter is going to be married to young Latimer—is it true?"
"Yes, and I heartily wish the affair were over, for I hope Herbert will recover his senses when he is actually married, as now I am obliged to attend to his business and my own too."
"Not much profit in that, I should think—I manage somewhat differently."
"Did you not tell me that you intended forming a partnership with young Conway?"
"Yes—but before I had done so, I heard that Sprague, who is as well connected as Conway, and a great deal more industrious, would go into business with me on less exacting terms. He has been associated with me for some time. He does all the drudgery of the business, and is content with one-eighth of the profits for five years."
"Those are low terms—with talent and connection too, I should think he could have done better."
"Why, you see his connections were of little use to him while he was alone, for he was so desperately poor that they did not like to acknowledge him, but I knew as soon as he began to rise they would all notice him, and so it has proved. I have no doubt I shall gain through them more than the thousand dollars a-year which Sprague will draw, while I shall be saved every thing that is really disagreeable or laborious in my practice; and you give two thousand dollars a-year, and are to have your daughter married to a gentleman who leaves all the business on your hands—which of us, do you think, has attended most successfully to the main chance?"
"According to my views of the main chance, it is not to be determined by such data—but even in your own view we may have a very different account to render nine years hence?"
"Ah, well! Ten years from the day that Latimer passed we will compare notes."
Ten years are long in prospective, but it seemed to both parties only a short time when the appointed anniversary came. On that day Mr. Cavendish invited several of his brother lawyers, and amongst them Mr. Duffield, to dinner. Herbert Latimer, his wife and mother, his two noble boys, and though last, not least in importance, if in size, his little girl, her grandfather's especial pet, were of the party. It was a well assorted party. The guests found good cheer and social converse—the cherished friends of the house, food for deeper and higher enjoyment When the ladies had withdrawn, calling Herbert Latimer to the head of the table, Mr. Cavendish seated himself beside Mr. Duffield.
"Well, Duffield!" he exclaimed, "do you know that it is ten years to-day since Herbert Latimer stood before us for examination?"
"Ah!" ejaculated Mr. Duffield, in the tone of one who did not care to pursue the subject further.
"You remember our agreement—are you still willing to make our success in that time a test of the truth of our respective principles?"
"It may afford a more conclusive proof of your better judgment in the selection of an associate."
"Sprague stands very high in his profession."
"Yes—I knew he would, for he has talent and connection—therefore I chose him; but he left me just at the time these were beginning to be available, as soon as the five years for which our agreement was made, had expired."
"What occasioned his leaving you?"
"Why, Duval offered him better terms than I had done—I should not have cared so much for his going, but he carried off many of my clients, with whom he had ingratiated himself during his connection with me. My practice has scarcely recovered yet from the injury which he did it."
"He seems to have acted on your own principle, and to have considered the main chance to mean the most money."
"And do you suppose Latimer would have remained with you if he could have made better terms for himself?"
"I know that during my long illness he was offered double what he was receiving, or could then hope ever to receive from my practice, and his reply to the offer was that the bonds forged by gratitude and affection, no interest could break. He has now built up the business again to far more than it was when he joined me—I know that I owe most of it to him, yet he will not listen to any advice to dissolve our partnership. Gentlemen," he said, "I have a sentiment to propose to you, which you may drink in wine or water as you like best. 'The Main Chance—always best secured by obedience to the golden rule—as ye would that others should do unto you, do ye even so to them.'"
The morning after Mr. Arlington had commenced our Christmas entertainments with the sketch of his friend Herbert Latimer's life, was dark and gloomy. At least, such was its aspect abroad, where leaden clouds covered the sky, and a cold, sleety rain fell fast; but within, all was bright, and warm, and cheerful. Immediately after breakfast we separated, each in search of amusement suited to his or her own tastes: some to the music room, some to the library, and Robert Dudley and Annie Donaldson to a game of battledore and shuttlecock in the wide hall, with Mr. Arlington for a spectator. As the storm increased, however, all seemed to feel the want of companionship, and without any preconcerted plan, we found ourselves, about two hours after breakfast, again assembled in the room in which quiet, patient Mrs. Donaldson sat, ravelling the netting of the last evening.
"Now for Aunt Nancy's portfolio," cried Annie, as soon as conversation began to flag.
The proposal was seconded so warmly that, as I could urge nothing against it, the portfolio was immediately produced, and Annie, taking possession of it, commissioned Robert Dudley to draw forth an engraving:—"Scene, a chamber by night, a sleeping baby and a sleepy mother, a basket of needle-work—I am sure it is needle-work—on the floor, and a cross suspended from the wall," said Annie, describing the engraving which she had taken from Robert.
"That cross looks promising," said Colonel Donaldson, who likes a little romance as well as any of his daughters. "Let us have the fair lady's history, Aunt Nancy."
"I know nothing about her," said I, with a smile at his eagerness.
"Then why, dear Aunt Nancy, did you keep the engraving?" asked Annie.
"I might answer, because of my interest in the scene it depicts—a scene in which religion seems to shed its sanctifying influence over the tenderest affection and the homeliest duties of our common life; but I had another reason."
"Ah! I knew it," exclaimed Annie.
"I first saw this print in company with a very cultivated and interesting German lady, to whose memory the sleeping baby recalled a cradle song written by her countryman, the brave Körner. She sang it for me, and as the German is, I am grieved to say, a sealed book to me, she gave me a literal translation of the words, which—"
"Which you have put into English verse, and written here at the back of the engraving in the finest of all fine writing, and which papa will put on his spectacles and read for us."
"No; I commission Mr. Arlington to do that," said the Colonel, "without his spectacles."
"First," said I, "let me assure you that the original is full of a simple, natural tenderness, which I fear, in the double process of translating and versifying, has entirely escaped."
Mr. Arlington, taking the paper from Annie, now read,—
THE CRADLE SONG;
A FREE TRANSLATION FROM KÖRNER.
Slumberer! to thy mother's breast So fondly folded, sweetly rest! Within that fair and quiet world, With downy pinions scarce unfurl'd, Life gently passes, nor doth bring One dream of sorrow on its wing.
Pleasant our dreams in early hours, When Mother-love our life embowers;— Ah! Mother-love! thy tender light Hath vanished from my sky of night, Scarce leaving there one fading ray To thrill me with, remember'd day.
Thrice, by the smiles of fav'ring Heaven, To man this holiest joy is given; Thrice, circled by the arms of love, With glowing spirit he may prove The highest rapture heart can feel,
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