T.S. Arthur – The Two Husbands
“Jane, how can you tolerate that dull, spiritless creature? I never sat by his side for five minutes, without getting sleepy.”
“He does not seem so very dull to me, Cara,” replied her companion.
“It is a true saying, that there never was a Jack without a Jill; but I could not have believed that my friend Jane Emory would have been willing to be the Jill to such a Jack.”
A slight change was perceptible in the countenance of Jane Emory, and for a moment the color deepened on her cheek. But when she spoke in reply to her friend’s remark, no indication that she felt its cutting import, was perceptible.
“I am convinced, from close observation of Walter Gray,” said Jane, “that he has in his character that which should ever protect him from jest or ridicule.”
“And what is that, my lady Jane?”
“Right thoughts and sound principles.”
These should not only be respected, but honored wherever found,” said Jane, gravely.
“In a bear or a boor!” Cara responded, in a tone of irony.
“My friend Cara is ungenerous in her allusions. Surely, she will not assert that Walter Gray is a bear or a boor?”
“He is boorish enough, at any rate.”
“There I differ with you, Cara. His manner is not so showy, nor his attentions to the many little forms and observances of social life, so prompt as to please the fastidious in these matters. These defects, however, are not defects of character, but of education. He has not mingled enough in society to give him confidence.”
“They are defects, and are serious enough to make him quite offensive to me. Last evening, at Mrs. Clinton’s party, I sat beside him for half an hour, and was really disgusted with his marked disregard of the little courtesies of social life.”
“Indeed!” replied Jane, her manner becoming more serious, “and in what did these omissions consist?”
“Why, in the first place, while we were conversing,—-“
“He could converse, then?” said Jane, interrupting her friend.
“O, no, I beg pardon! While we were trying to converse–for among his other defects is an inability to talk to a lady on any subject of interest–I dropped my handkerchief, on purpose, of course, but he never offered to lift it for me; indeed, I doubt whether he saw it at all.”
“Then, Cara, how could you expect him to pick it up for you, if he did not see it?”
“But he ought to have seen it. He should have had his eyes about him; and so should every gentleman who sits by or is near a lady. I know one that never fails.”
“And pray, who is the perfect gentleman?” asked Jane smiling. “Is he one of my acquaintances?”
“Certainly he is. I mean Charles Wilton.”
“He is, I must confess, different from Walter Gray,” Jane remarked, drily.
“I hope he is!” said Cara, tossing her head, for she felt that something by no means complimentary was implied in the equivocal remark of her friend.
“But, seriously, Cara, I must, in turn, express regret that you allow yourself to feel interested in one like Charles Wilton. Trust me, my friend, he is unworthy of your regard.”
“And pray, Miss,” said Cara, warming suddenly, “what do you know of Charles Wilton, that will warrant your throwing out such insinuations against him?”
“Little beyond what I have learned by my own observation.”
“And what has that taught you? I should like very much to know.”
“It has taught me, Cara,” replied Jane, seriously, “to estimate him very lightly indeed. From what I have seen, I am convinced that he possesses neither fixed principles nor any decision of character. In the world, without these a man is like a ship upon the ocean, having neither helm nor compass.”
“You make broad and bold charges, Jane. But I am sure you are mistaken.”
“I may be. But so certain am I that I am right, that I would rather die this hour than be compelled to link my lot in life with his. Certain I am that I should make shipwreck of hope and affection.”
“You deal in riddles, Jane. Speak out more plainly.”
“Surely, Cara, long before this you have or ought to have discovered, that Charles Wilton exhibits far too much love of appearance for a sensible man. He dresses in the very best style and may be able to afford it; but that is not all;–he evidently esteems these external embellishments of superior importance to mental or moral endowments. He rarely fails to remark upon men not so well dressed as himself, and to refer to the defect as one sufficient to make the individual contemptible, no matter what may be the circumstances or merit of the person referred to. I have more than once noticed that Charles Wilton passes over every thing in his disgust for defect in dress.”
“I do not see a matter of serious importance in that,” said Cara. “His love of dress is a mere foible, that may be excused. It certainly has nothing to do with his real character.”
“It is an indication of the man’s true character,” her friend replied. “I am sure that I want no plainer exhibition. If he was simply fond of dress, and indulged in that fondness even to the extent he now does it might indicate a mere weakness of character, in the form of an undue love of admiration. But when, to this, we see a disposition to value others, and to judge of them by their garments, then we may be sure that there is a serious defect of character. The man, Cara, believe me, who has no higher standard of estimation for other men, than the form, manner, and texture of their garments, has not the capacity rightly to value a woman or to know wherein her true merit lies. This is one of the reasons why I said that I would rather die than link my lot in life with that young man.”
“Well, as for me, Jane, I am sure that I would rather have a man with some spirit in him, than to be tied to such a drone as Walter Gray. Why, I should die in a week. I can’t for my life, see how you can enjoy his society for a moment!”
“I should think any woman ought to be able to enjoy the company of a man of sense,” Jane remarked, quietly.
“Surely, Jane, you don’t pretend by that to set up Walter Gray as the superior of Charles Wilton in regard to intelligence?”
“Certainly I do, Cara.”
“Why, Jane! There is no comparison, in this respect, between them. Every one knows that while Walter is dull, even to stupidity, Charles has a brilliant, well-informed mind. It is only necessary to hear each converse for an hour, to decide upon their respective merits.”
“In that last sentence you have uttered the truth, Cara, but the result would depend much upon the character of the listeners. For a time, no doubt, if Charles made an effort to show off, he would eclipse the less brilliant and unobtrusive Walter. But a close and discriminating observer would soon learn to judge between sound and sense, between borrowed thoughts and truthful sentiments originating in a philosophical and ever active mind. The shallow stream runs sparkling and flashing in the sunlight, while the deeper waters lie dark and unattractive.”
Cara shook her head as her friend ceased speaking, and replied, laughingly–
“You can beat me at talking, Jane–but all your philosophy and poetry can’t make me think Charles Wilton less brilliant and sensible, or Walter Gray less dull and spiritless.”
The two young men whose merits Jane Emory and Cara Linton had thus been discussing, had been law students for some years in the same office, and were now just admitted to practice at the bar in one of our Atlantic cities. They were friends, though altogether unlike each other. Walter Gray was modest and retiring, while Charles Wilton was a dashing, off-hand kind of a fellow, with more pretensions than merit. The mind of Walter was rather sluggish, while that of his friend was quick, and what some were disposed to esteem brilliant. The one was fond of dress and show, and effect; while the other paid less regard to these things than was really necessary to make him, with many, an agreeable companion. But the quick perceptions of the one were not equal to the patient, untiring application of the other. When admitted to practice, Wilton could make an effective, brilliant speech, and in ordinary cases, where an appeal to the feelings could influence a jury, was uniformly successful. But, where profound investigation, concise reasoning, and a laborious array of authorities were requisite, he was no competitor for his friend Gray. He was vain of his personal appearance, as has before been indicated, and was also fond of pleasure and company. In short, he was one of those dashing young men to be met with in all professions, who look upon business as an necessary evil, to be escaped whenever a opportunity offers–whose expectations of future prosperity are always large, and who look for success, not in the roads of patient, laborious application, but by a quicker and more brilliant way. They hope to produce a sensation by their tact or talents, and thus take fortune by storm. Few, indeed we might say none, of this class succeed. Those who startle a community by rapid advances, are, in all cases, such as have, to quick perceptions and brilliant powers, added much labor. Talent is nothing without prolonged and patient application; and they who suppose the road to success lies in any other way, may discover their error too late.
The estimation in which the characters of these two young men was held, at least by two individuals, the preceding conversation has apprised the reader. Each made his impression upon a certain order of mind, and each was regarded, or lightly esteemed accordingly. Although in talents and in a right estimation of life and its true ends, the two young men were altogether dissimilar; yet were they friends, and in many respects intimate. Why they were so, we shall not stop to enquire, but proceed to introduce them more particularly to the reader.
“I suppose you are going to Mrs. Melton’s this evening?” said Wilton to his friend, a few weeks after the period indicated in the opening of this story.
“I feel as if I would like to go. A social evening, now and then, I find pleasant, and I have no doubt it is useful to me.”
“That is right, Walter. I am glad to see you coming out of your recluse habits. You want the polish and ease that social life will give you.”
“I feel that, Wilton. But I fear I am too old now to have all the rough corners knocked off, and worn smooth.”
“O, don’t despair. You’ll make a ladies’ man after awhile, if you persevere, and become more particular in your dress. But, to change the subject, a little, tell me what you think of Cara Linton? Her father is worth a plum, and she is just the showy, brilliant woman, of which a man like me ought to be proud of.”
“As you ask me, Charles, I must reply candidly. I would think her a dear bargain with all her father’s money thrown in with her; and as to your other reasons for thinking of her as a wife, I consider them, to speak plainly, as I always do to you, despicable!”
“And why so, Mr. Philosopher?”
“A wife should be chosen from much higher considerations than these. What do you want with a brilliant, showy wife? You marry, or ought to marry, a companion for yourself–not a woman for the world to admire.”
“You are too matter-of-fact, by half, Walter. Your common sense ideas, as you call them, will keep you grubbing in a mole hill all your life.
“I should like to see the woman you would choose for a wife!”
“I wish you had a few of these common sense ideas you despise so much. I am afraid, Charles, that the time is not very distant when you will stand sadly in need of them.”
“Don’t trouble yourself, Walter. I’ll take care of number one. Let me alone for that. But, I should like to know your serious objections to Cara? You sweep her aside with one wave of your hand, as if she were too insignificant to be thought of for a moment.”
“I said that I should consider her a dear bargain, and so I would–for she would not suit me at all.”
“Ah, there I believe you. But come, let me hear why she would not suit you.”
“Because she has no correct and common sense estimation of life and its relations. She is full of poetry and romance, and fashion, and show, and ‘all that kind of thing;’ none of which, without a great deal of the salt of common sense, would suit me.”
“Common sense! Common sense! Common sense! That is your hobby. Verily, Walter, you are a monomaniac on the subject of common sense; but, as for me, I will leave common sense to common people. I go in for uncommon sense.”
“The poorest and most unprofitable sense of all, let me tell you. And one of these days you will discover it to be so.”
“It is no use for us to compare our philosophical notes, I see plainly enough,” Wilton responded. “We shall never view things in the same light. You are not the man of the world you should be, Walter. Men of half your merit will eclipse you, winning opulence and distinction–while you, with your common sense notions, will be plodding on at a snail’s pace. You are behind the age, and a stranger to its powerful, onward impulses.”
“And ever do I desire to remain behind the age, Wilton, if mere pretension and show be its ruling and impulsive spirit.”
“The old fashioned way of attaining eminence,” Charles Wilton replied, assuming an attitude and speaking out truly the thoughts that were in his mind; “by plodding on with the emmet’s patience, and storing up knowledge, grain by grain, brings not the hoped for reward, now. You must startle and surprise. The brilliant meteor attracts a thousand times more attention, than the brightest star that shines in the firmament.”
“You are trifling, Charles.”
“Never was more in earnest in my life. I have made up my mind to succeed; to be known and envied. And to gain the position of eminence I desire, I mean to take the surest way. The world will be deceived, and, therefore, they who would succeed must throw dust in people’s eyes.”
“Or, in other words, deceive them by pretension. Charles, let me warn you against any such unmanly, and, I must say, dishonest course. Be true to yourself and true to principle.”
“I shall certainly be true to myself, Walter. For what pray do we toil over dry and musty law books in a confined office, months and years, if not to gain the power of rising in the world? I have served my dreary apprenticeship–I have learnt the art and mystery, and now for the best and most certain mode of applying it.”
“But, remember your responsibility to society. Your—-“
Nonsense! What do I, or what does any one else care about society? My motto is, Every one for himself, and the deuce take the hindmost. And that’s the motto of the whole world.”
“Not of the whole world, Charles.”
“Yes, of the whole world, with, perhaps, the single, strange exception of Walter Gray. And he will be flung to the wall, and soon forgotten, I fear.”
“You jest on a serious subject, Charles.”
“I tell you, Walter, I am in earnest,” Wilton replied with emphasis. “He that would be ahead, must get ahead in the best way possible. But I cannot linger here. It is now nearly night; and it will take me full two hours to prepare myself to meet Miss Cara Linton. I must make a captive of the dashing maiden this very evening.” And so saying, he turned, and left the office.
That evening, amid a gay and fashionable assemblage at Mrs. Merton’s, was to be seen the showy Charles Wilton, with his easy, and even elegant manners, attracting almost as much attention as his vain heart could desire. And the quiet, sensible Walter Gray was there also, looking upon all things with a calm, philosophic mein.
“Your friend Mr. Wilton is quite the centre of attraction for the young ladies, this evening,” remarked Jane Emory, who was leaning upon the arm of Walter Gray, and listening with an interest she scarcely dared confess to herself, to his occasional remarks, that indicated a mind active with true and healthful thought.
“And he seems to enjoy it,” replied Walter, with a pleasant tone and smile.
“Almost too much so, it seems to me, for a man,” his companion said, though with nothing censorious in her manner. She merely expressed a sentiment without showing that it excited unkind feelings.
“Or for a woman, either,” was the quick response.
“True. But if pleased with attentions, and even admiration may we not be excused?”
“O, certainly. We may all be excused for our weaknesses; still they are weaknesses, after all.”
“And therefore should not be encouraged.”
“Certainly not. We should be governed by some higher end than the mere love of admiration–even admiration for good qualities.”
“I admit the truth of what you say, and yet, the state is one to which I have not yet attained.”
Walter Gray turned a look full of tender interest upon the maiden by his side, as she ceased speaking, and said in a tone that had in it much of tenderness,
“You express, Miss Emory, but the feeling which every one has who truly desires the attainment of true excellence of character. We have not this excellence, naturally, but it is within the compass of effort. Like you, I have had to regret the weaknesses and deficiencies of my own character. But, in self-government, as in everything else, my motto is, Persevere to the end. The same motto, or the same rule of action, clothed in other words, perhaps, I trust–nay, I am sure, rules in your mind.”
For a few moments Jane did not reply. She feared to utter any form of words that would mislead. At length she said, modestly,
“I try to subdue in me what is evil, or that which seems to me to act in opposition to good principles.”
Before Walter Gray, pleased with the answer, could frame in his mind a fitting reply, Charles Wilton, with Cara Linton on his arm, was thrown in front of them.
“Has Walter been edifying you with one of the Psalms of David, Miss Emory?” said Wilton, gaily. “One would think so from his solemn face, and the demure, thoughtful expression of yours.”
Neither Walter nor his fair companion were what is called quick-witted; and both were so checked in their thoughts and feelings that neither could, on the moment, fitly reply.
“O, I see how it is,” the gay young man continued. “He has been reading you some of his moral homilies, and you are tired to death. Well, you must bear with him, Miss Emory, he will learn better after awhile.” And the young man and his thoughtless companion turned laughing away.
For a few moments the disturbed thoughts of Walter and his fair friend, trembled upon the surface of their feelings, and then all was again as tranquil as the bosom of a quiet lake.
Enough has now been said, to give a fair idea of the ends which the two young men, we have introduced, set before them upon entering life. Let us now proceed to trace the effects of these ends; effects, which, as a necessary consequence, involved others as much as themselves.
“Well, Gray, the business is all settled,” said Wilton, one day, coming into the office of the individual he addressed so familiarly.
“What business, Charles?”
“Why, I’ve won the rich and beautiful Miss Linton. Last night I told my story, and was referred to the old man, of course. I have just seen him, and he says I am welcome to the hand of his daughter. Now, is not that a long stride up the ladder! The most beautiful and attractive woman in the city for a wife, and an old daddy in law as rich as Croesus!”
“You are what some would call a lucky dog,” said Wilton, with a smile.
“And yet there is no luck in it. ‘Faint heart, they say, ‘never won fair lady.’ I knew half-a-dozen clever fellows who were looking to Miss Linton’s hand; but while they hesitated, I stepped boldly up and carried off the prize. Let me alone, Walter. I’ll work my way through the world.”
“And I, too, have been doing something in that line.”
“You? Why, Walter, you confound me! I never dreamed that you would have the courage to make love to a woman.”
“Wiser ones than you are mistaken, sometimes.”
“No doubt of it. But who is the fair lady?”
“Can you not guess?”
“Of course. She is the most sensible women it has yet been my fortune to meet.”
“Has the best common sense, I suppose?”
“You are a genius, Walter. When you die, I expect you will leave a clause in your will, to the effect that the undertaker shall be a man of good, plain, common sense. O dear! What a dull life you will lead! Darby and Joan!”
“You are still a trifler with serious matters, Charles. But time will sober you, I trust, and do it before such a change will come too late.”
“How much is old Emory worth, Walter?” Wilton asked, without regarding the last remark of his friend.
“I am sure I do not know. Not a great deal, I suppose.”
“You don’t know?”
“No; how should I?”
“Well, you are a queer one! It is time that you did then, let me tell you.”
“In the name of sense, Walter, what are you going to marry his daughter for.”
“Because I love her.”
“Pah! I know how much of that sort of thing appertains to the business.”
“Don’t look so utterly dumfounded, friend Walter.”
“I am surprised, and I must say pained, to hear you speak thus. Surely you love the young lady you propose to marry?”
“Of course. But then I have a decent regard for her old father’s wealth; and I am by no means insensible to her personal attractions. I group all that is desirable into one grand consideration–beauty, wealth, standing, mental endowments, etc.,–and take her for the whole. But for love–a mere impulse that will die of itself, if left alone,–to marry a young lady! O no,–I am not the simpleton for that!”
Walter Gray looked his friend in the face for a moment or two, but did not reply. He was pained, even shocked at his levity.
“You seem really to doubt my being in earnest?” said Wilton, after a pause.
“I would doubt, if I could, Charles. But I fear you are speaking out too truly, sentiments that I could not have believed you capable of entertaining.”
“You are too simple and unsophisticated to live in this world, my old friend Walter Gray.”
“And long may I remain so,” was the calm response, “if to be honest and sincere is to be simple and unsophisticated.”
“Well, good morning to you, and success to your love marriage.”
And so saying, Charles Wilton left the office of his friend.
A few weeks more passed away, and the two young men had, in the meantime, consummated their matrimonial engagements. The wedding of Charles Wilton and Cara Linton was a splendid affair, succeeded by parties and entertainments for five or six weeks. That of Walter Gray and Jane Emory passed off more quietly and rationally.
Three months after their wedding-day, let us look in upon the two friends and their fair partners; and first, upon Charles Wilton and his bride. The time is evening, and they are sitting alone in one of their richly furnished parlors.
“O dear!” yawned out Wilton, rising and walking backwards and forwards, “this is dull work. Is there no place where we can go and spend a pleasant evening?”
“I don’t know, dear. Suppose we step over and see Pa?”
“O no. We were there two or three evenings ago. And, any how, I am in no humor for playing at draughts.”
“Well, I should like to go there this evening. I want to see Ma about something.”
“You can easily go to-morrow, Cara, and stay as long as you choose.”
“But I should like to go to night, dear.”
“Don’t think of it, Cara.”
“Then suppose we call in and sit an hour with the Melton’s?”
“Not to-night, Cara. The old man is deaf, and talks you out of all patience about sugars and teas cotton and tobacco.”
“But the girls are lively and entertaining.”
“Not for me, Cara. Think again.”
“Why not stay at home?”
“And pray what shall we do here?”
“I’ll sing and play for you.”
“I am in no humor for music to-night.”
His young wife sighed, but Wilton did not notice it.
“Come, let us go over to the Grogans?” he at length said.
“I can’t say that I care much about going there,” his wife replied.
“Of course not. You never seem to care much about going where I wish to,” said Wilton, pettishly.
His wife burst into tears, and sat sobbing for some minutes, during which time Wilton paced the room backwards and forwards, in moody silence. After a while his wife rose up and stole quietly from the room, and in a few minutes returned, dressed, to go out.
“I am ready,” she said.
“Ready to go where?”
“To Mr. Grogan’s, of course. You wish to go.”
“I don’t care about going now, as long as you are unwilling.”
“Yes, but I am willing, Charles, if the visit will be pleasant to you.”
“O, as to that, I don’t wish to compel you to go anywhere.”
“Indeed, Charles, I am willing to go,” said his wife, while her voice trembled and sounded harshly. “Come, now that I am ready. I wish to go.”
For a moment longer Wilton hesitated, and then took up his hat and went with her. Few were the words that passed between them as they walked along the street. Arrived at their friend’s house they both suddenly changed, and were as gay, and seemed as happy, as the gayest and the happiest.
“Shall we call in upon some pleasant friends to-night or spend our evening alone?” asked Walter Gray, taking a seat upon the sofa beside his happy wife, on the same evening that the foregoing conversation and incidents occurred.
“Let it be as you wish, Walter,” was the affectionate, truthful reply.
“As for me, Jane, I am always happy at home–too happy, I sometimes think.”
“How, too happy?”
“Too happy to think of others, Jane. We must be careful not to become isolated and selfish in our pleasures. Our social character must not be sacrificed. If it is in our power to add to the happiness of others, it is right that we should mingle in the social circle.”
“I feel the truth of what you say, Walter, and yet I find it hard to be thus unselfish. I am sure that I would a thousand times rather remain at home and read with you a pleasant book, or sing and play for you, than to spend an evening away from our pleasant home.”
“I feel the same inclinations. But I am unwilling to encourage them. And yet, I am not an advocate for continual visitings. The delights of our own sweet fireside, small though the circle be, I would enjoy often. But these pleasures will be increased tenfold by our willingness to let others share them, and, also, by our joining in their home–delights and social recreations.”
A pause of a few moments ensued, when Mrs. Gray said,
“Suppose, then, Walter, we call over and see how they are getting on at ‘home?’ Pa and Ma are lonesome, now that I am away.”
“Just what I was thinking of, Jane. So get on your things, and we will join them and spend a pleasant evening.”
These brief conversations will indicate to the reader how each of the young men and their wives were thus early beginning to reap the fruits of true and false principles of action. We cannot trace each on his career, step by step, during the passage of many years, though much that would interest and instruct could be gathered from their histories. The limits of a brief story like this will not permit us thus to linger. On, then, to the grand result of their lives we must pass. Let us look at the summing up of the whole matter, and see which of the young men started with the true secret of success in the world, and which of the young ladies evinced most wisdom in her choice of a husband.
“Poor Mrs. Wilton!” remarked Mrs. Gray, now a cheerful, intelligent woman of forty, with half-a-dozen grown and half-grown up daughters, “it makes me sad whenever I see her, or think of her.”
“Her husband was not kind to her, I believe, while she lived with him,” said Mrs. Gray’s visitor, whom she had addressed.
“It is said so. But I am sure I do not know. I never liked him, nor thought him a man of principle. I said as much as I thought prudent to discourage her from receiving his attentions. But she was a gay girl herself, and was attracted by dashing pretension, rather than by unobtrusive merit.”
“It was thought at one time that Mr. Wilton would lead in the profession here. I remember when his name used frequently to get into the newspapers, coupled with high compliments on his brilliant talents.”
“Yes. He flashed before the eyes of the crowd for awhile, but it was soon discovered that he had more brilliancy than substance. The loss of two or three important cases, that required solid argument and a well-digested array of facts and authorities, instead of flights of fancy and appeals to the feelings, ruined his standing at the bar. The death of his father-in-law, with an insolvent estate, immediately after, took wonderfully from the estimation in which he was held. Thrown, thus, suddenly back, and upon his own resources, he sunk at once from the point of observation, and lingered around the court-house, picking up petty cases, as a matter of necessity. Long before this, I had noticed that Mrs. Wilton had greatly changed. But now a sadder change took place–a separation from her husband. The cause of this separation I know not. I never asked her, nor to me has she ever alluded to it. But it is said that his manner towards her became insufferable, and that she sought protection and an asylum among her friends. Be the cause what it may, it is enough to make her a poor, heart-stricken creature.”
“How well I remember, when their parties were the most splendid and best attended of the season.”
“Yes, I well remember it too. Still, even then, gay and brilliant as Mrs. Wilton was, I never thought her happy. Indeed, seeing her often alone as I did, I could not but mark the painful contrast in her spirits. At home, when not entertaining company, she was listless or unhappy. How often have I come in upon her, and noticed her moistened eyes.”
“Ah me! it must be a wrong beginning that makes so sad an ending.”
The truth of the remark, as applicable in this case, struck Mrs. Gray forcibly, and she mused in thoughtful silence for a few moments.
“Have you heard the news, Judge Gray?” said a lawyer, addressing the individual he had named, about the same hour that the conversation, just noted, occurred.
“No. What is it?”
“Why, Wilton has committed a forgery.”
“O no, it cannot be!” said the Judge, in tones of painful surprise.
“It is too true, I fear, Judge.”
“Is the amount considerable?”
“Ten thousand dollars is the sum mentioned.”
“Has he been arrested?”
“No. But the officers are hard after him. The newspapers will announce the fact to-morrow morning.”
Judge Gray leaned his head upon his hand, and, with his eyes cast upon the floor, sat for some moments in painful thought.
“Poor man!” he at length said, looking up. “The end has come at last. I have long feared for him. He started wrong in the beginning.”
“I hope they will catch him,” remarked the individual he was addressing.
Judge Gray did not reply, but cast his eyes again upon the floor.
“He has lived by gambling these six years,” continued the lawyer, “and I suppose he has committed this forgery to pay some ‘debt of honor.’ Well, I can’t say that I am sorry to be rid of him from this bar, for he was not a pleasant man to be forced into contact with.”
“And yet he was a man of some talents,” remarked the Judge, musingly.
“And when that is said all is said. Without industry, legal knowledge, or sound principles of action, what was he good for? He would do for a political stump declaimer–but, as a lawyer, in any case of moment, he was not worth a copper.”
And thus saying, the lawyer turned away, and left Judge Gray to his own thoughts.
“I have unpleasant news to tell you, Jane,” said Judge Gray, coming into the room where sat his wife, an hour afterwards.
“What is that, husband?” asked Mrs. Gray, looking up with a concerned countenance.
“Why, our old friend Charles Wilton has committed a forgery!”
“Poor Cara! It will break her heart,” Mrs. Gray said in a sad tone.
“I do not suppose she has much affection for him, Jane.”
“No, but she has a good deal of pride left–all, in fact, that sustains her. This last blow, I fear, will be too much for one who has no true strength of character.”
“Would it not be well for you to call in and see her to-morrow? The papers will all announce the fact in the morning, and she may need the consolation which a true friend might be able to afford her.”
“I will go, most certainly, much as my natural feelings shrink from the task. Where she is, I am sure she has no one to lean upon: for there is not one of her so-called friends, upon whom she feels herself a burden, that can or will sympathize with her truly.”
“Go, then. And may mercy’s errand find mercy’s reward.”
On the next morning all the city papers teemed with accounts of the late forgery, and blazoned Charles Wilton’s name, with many opprobrious epithets before the public. Some went even so far as to allude to his wife, whom they said he had forsaken years before, and who was now, it was alleged, living in poverty, and, some hinted in disgrace and infamy.
Early in the day, Mrs. Gray repaired to the cheerless home of her early friend. She was shown to her chamber, where she found her lying insensible on the bed, with one of the newspapers in her hand, that alluded to herself in disgraceful terms.
Long and patient efforts to restore her, at length produced the desired result. But it was many days before she seemed distinctly conscious of what was passing or would converse with any degree of coherency.
“Come and spend a few weeks with me, Cara.”
Mrs. Gray said to her, one day, on calling in to see her; “I am sure it will do you good.”
There was a sad, but grateful expression in the pale face of Mrs. Wilton, as she looked into the eye of her old friend, but ventured no reply.
“You will come, will you not, Cara?” urged Mrs. Gray.
“My presence in your happy family would be like the shadow of an evil wing,” said she bitterly.
“Our happy family, say-rather, would chase away the gloomy shadows that darken your heart. Come then, and we will give you a cheerful welcome.”
“I feel much inclined, and yet I hesitate, for I ought not to throw a gloom over your household,” and the tears filled her eyes, and glistened through the lids which were closed suddenly over them.
“Come, and welcome!” Mrs. Gray urged, taking her hand and gently pressing it.
That evening Mrs. Wilton spent in the pleasant family of her old friend.
Three weeks afterwards, Mrs. Gray asked of her husband, if anything had been heard of Mr. Wilton.
“Nothing,” he replied. “He has escaped all pursuit thus far, and the officers, completely at fault, have returned.”
“I cannot say that I am sorry, at least for the sake of his wife. She seems more cheerful since she came here. I feel sometimes as if I should like to offer her a home, for she has none, that might truly be so called.”
“Act up to your kind desire, Jane, if you think it right to do so,” said her husband. “Perhaps in no other home open to her could so much be done for her comfort.”
The home was accordingly offered, and tearfully accepted.
“Jane,” said the sad hearted woman, “I cannot tell you how much I have suffered in the last twenty years. How much from heart-sickening disappointments, and lacerated affections. High hopes and brilliant expectations that made my weak brain giddy to think of, have all ended thus. How weak and foolish–how mad we were! But my husband was not all to blame. I was as insane in my views of life as he. We lived only for ourselves–thought and cared only for ourselves–and here is the result. How wisely and well did you choose, Jane. Where my eye saw nothing to admire, yours more skilled, perceived the virgin ore of truth. I was dazzled by show, while you looked below the surface, and saw true character, and its effect in action. How signally has each of us been rewarded!” and the heart-stricken creature bowed her head and wept.
And now, kind reader, if there be one who has followed us thus far, are you disappointed in not meeting some startling denoument, or some effective point in this narrative. I hope not. Natural results have followed, in just order, the adoption of true and false principles of action–and thus will they ever follow. Learn, then, a lesson from the history of the two young men and the maidens of their choice. Let every young man remember, that all permanent success in life depends upon the adoption of such principles of action as are founded in honesty and truth; and let every young woman take it to heart, that all her married life will be affected by the principles which her husband sets down as rules of action. Let her give no consideration to his brilliant prospect, or his brilliant mind, if sound moral principles do not govern him.
“But what became of Charles Wilton and his wife?” I hear a bright-eyed maiden asking, as she turns half impatient from my homily.
Wilton has escaped justice thus far, and his wife, growing more and more cheerful every day, is still the inmate of Judge Gray’s family, and I trust will remain so until the end of her journeying here. And what is more, she is learning the secret, that there is more happiness in caring for others, than in being all absorbed in selfish consideration. Still, she is a sad wreck upon the stream of life–a warning beacon for your eyes, young lady.