"You are a sly girl, Mary."
"Not by general reputation, I believe, Mrs. Martindale."
"Oh no. Every one thinks you a little paragon of propriety. But I can see as deep as most people."
"You might as well talk in High Dutch to me, Mrs. Martindale. You would be equally intelligible."
"You are a very innocent girl, Mary."
"I hope I am. Certainly I am not conscious of wishing harm to any one. But pray, Mrs. Martindale, oblige me by coming a little nearer to the point."
"You don't remember any thing about Mrs. Allenson's party--of course?"
"It would be strange if I did not."
"Oh yes. Now you begin to comprehend a little."
"Do speak out plainly, Mrs. Martindale!"
"So innocent! Ah me, Mary! you are a sly girl. You didn't see any thing of a young man there with dark eyes and hair, and a beautiful white, high forehead?"
"If there was an individual there, answering to your description, it is highly probable that I did see him. But what then?"
"Oh, nothing, of course!"
"You are trifling with me, Mrs. Martindale."
"Seriously, then, Mary, I was very much pleased to notice the attentions shown you by Mr. Fenwick, and more pleased at seeing how much those attentions appeared to gratify you. He is a young man in a thousand."
"I am sure I saw nothing very particular in his attentions to me; and I am very certain that I was also more gratified at the attentions shown by him, than I was by those of other young men present."
"Of course not."
"You seem to doubt my word?"
"Oh no--I don't doubt your word. But on these subjects young ladies feel themselves privileged to--to"----
"To what, Mrs. Martindale?"
"Nothing--only. But don't you think Mr. Fenwick a charming young man?"
"I didn't perceive any thing very remarkable about him."
"He did about you. I saw that, clearly."
"How can you talk so to me, Mrs. Martindale?"
"Oh la! Do hear the girl! Did you never have a beau, Mary?"
"Yes, many a one. What of it?"
"And a lover too?"
"I know nothing about lovers."
As Mary Lester said this, her heart made a fluttering bound, and an emotion, new and strange, but sweet, swelled and trembled in her bosom.
"But you soon will, Mary, or I'm mistaken."
Mrs. Martindale saw the cheek of the fair girl kindle, and her eye brighten, and she said to herself, with an inward smile of satisfaction--
"I'll make a match of it yet--see if I don't! What a beautiful couple they will be!"
Mrs. Martindale was one of that singular class of elderly ladies whose chief delight consists in match-making. Many and many a couple had she brought together in her time, and she lived in the pleasing hope of seeing many more united. It was a remarkable fact, however, that in nearly every instance where her kind offices had been interposed, the result had not been the very happiest in the world. This fact, however, never seemed to strike her. The one great end of her life was to get people together--to pair them off. Whether they jogged on harmoniously together, or pulled separate ways, was no concern of hers. Her business was to make the matches. As to living in harmony, or the opposite, that concerned the couples themselves, and to that they must look themselves. It was enough for her to make the matches, without being obliged to accord the dispositions.
As in every thing else, practice makes perfect, so in this occupation, practice gave to Mrs. Martindale great skill in discerning character--at least, of such character as she could operate on. And she could, moreover, tell the progressive states of mind of those upon whom she exercised her kind offices, almost as truly as if she heard them expressed in words. It was, therefore, clear to her, after her first essay, that Mary Lester's affections might very easily be brought out and made to linger about the young man whom she had, in her wisdom, chosen as her husband. As Mary was a very sweet girl, and, moreover, had a father well to do in the world, she had no fears about interesting Mr. Fenwick in her favour.
Only a few days passed before Mrs. Martindale managed to throw herself into the company of the young man.
"How were you pleased with the party, Mr. Fenwick?" she began.
"At Mrs. Allenson's?"
"So I thought."
"Did I seem, then, particularly pleased?"
"I thought so."
"Indeed! Well, I can't say that I was interested a great deal more than I usually am on such occasions."
"Not a great deal more?"
"No, I certainly was not."
"But a little more?"
"Perhaps I was; but I cannot be positive."
"Oh yes. I know it. And I'm of the opinion that you were not the only person there who was interested a little more than usual."
"Ah, indeed! And who was the other, pray?"
"A dear little girl, whom I could mention."
"Who was she?"
"The sweetest young lady in the room."
"Well, what was her name?"
"Can't you guess?"
"I am not good at guessing."
"Of course! Ha! ha! ha! I knew it."
"Oh yes, Mr. Innocence! Knew what!"
"You are disposed to be quite merry, Mrs. Martindale."
"I always feel merry when I see a young couple like you and Mary Lester mutually pleased with each other."
"Of course, mutually pleased."
"How do you know that, Mrs. Martindale?"
"Haven't I got a good pair of eyes in my head?"
"Very good, I should certainly think, to make such a wonderful discovery."
"Seriously, though, Mr. Fenwick, do you not think Mary Lester a very sweet girl?"
"Certainly I do."
"And just such a one as you could love?"
"Any one, it seems to me, might love Mary Lester; but then, it is just as apparent that she could not love any one who might chance to offer."
"Of course not. And I should be very sorry to think that she could. But of one thing I am certain, she cannot look upon you with unfavourable eyes."
"I am in earnest, Mr. Fenwick."
"What reason have you for thinking so?"
"Very good reason. I had my eyes on you both at Mrs. Allenson's party, and I saw as plain as could be that Mary was deeply interested. Since then, I have met her, and observed her eye brighten and her cheek kindle at the mention of your name. Mr. Fenwick, she is a prize well worth winning, and may be yours."
"Are you, then, really serious?" the young man now said, his tone and manner changing.
"Assuredly I am, Mr. Fenwick."
"Mary Lester, you know, moves in a circle above my own; that is, her father is accounted rich, and I am known to have nothing but my own energies to depend upon."
"All that is nothing. Win her affections, and she must be yours."
"But I am not so certain that I can do that."
"Nonsense! It is half done already."
"You seem very positive about the matter."
"Because I am never mistaken on these subjects. I can tell, the moment I see a young couple together, whether they will suit each other or not."
"And you think, then, that we will just suit?"
"Certainly I do."
"I only wish that I could think so."
"Do you, indeed? I am glad to hear you say that. I thought you could not be insensible to the charms of so sweet a girl."
"Do you, then, really believe that if I offered myself to Mary Lester, she would accept me?"
"If you went the right way about it, I am sure she would."
"What do you mean by the right way?"
"The right way for you, of course, is to endeavour to win her affections. She is already, I can see, strongly prepossessed in your favour, but is not herself aware to what extent her feelings are interested. Throw yourself into her company as much as you can, and when in her company pay her the kindest attentions. But do not visit her at her own house at present, or her father may crush the whole affair. When I see her again, I will drop a word in your favour."
"I am certainly very much indebted to you, Mrs. Martindale, for your kind hints and promised interference. I have often felt drawn toward Mary, but always checked the feeling, because I had no idea that I, could make an impression on her mind."
"Faint heart never won fair lady," was Mrs. Martindale's encouraging response.
"Well, Mary," said the lady to Miss Lester, a few days afterward, "have you seen Mr. Fenwick since?"
"Mr. Fenwick!" said she, in tones of affected surprise.
"Yes, Mr. Fenwick."
"No--of course not. Why do you ask so strange a question? He does not visit me."
"Don't he? Well, I have seen him."
"Have you? Then I hope you were very much delighted with his company, for he seems to be a favourite of yours."
"He certainly is a favourite of mine, Mary. I have known him for a good many years, and have always esteemed him highly. There are few young men who can claim to be his equal."
"I doubt not but there are hundreds to be met with every day as good as he."
"Perhaps so, Mary. I have not, however, been so fortunate as to come across them."
"No doubt he is a paragon!"
"Whether he be one or not, he at least thinks there is no one like you."
"Like me!" ejaculated Mary, taken thus suddenly by surprise, while the colour mounted to her face, and deepened about her eyes and forehead.
"Yes, like you. The fact is, Mary, he thinks and speaks of you in the kindest terms. You have evidently interested him very much."
"I certainly never intended to do so, Mrs. Martindale."
"Of course not, Mary. I never supposed for a moment that you had. Still he is interested, and deeply so."
Having ventured thus far, Mrs. Martindale deemed it prudent to say no more for the present, but to leave her insinuations to work upon Mary's heart what they were designed to effect. She was satisfied that all was as she could wish--that both Fenwick and Mary were interested in each other; and she knew enough of the human heart, and of her own power over it, when exercised in a certain way, to know that it would not be long before they were much more deeply interested.
Like all the rest of Mrs. Martindale's selections of parties for matrimony, the present was a very injudicious one. Mary was only seventeen--too young, by three or four years, to be able properly to judge of character; and Fenwick was by no means a suitable man for her husband. He was himself only about twenty-one, with a character not yet fully decided, though the different constituents of his mind were just ready to take their various positions, and fixed and distinctive forms. Unfortunately, these mental and moral relations were not truly balanced; there was an evident bias of selfishness and evil over generous and true principles. As Mrs. Martindale was no profound judge of character, she could not, of course, make a true discrimination of Fenwick's moral fitness for the husband of Mary Lester. Indeed, she never attempted to analyze character, nor had she an idea of any thing beneath the surface. Personal appearance, an affable exterior, and a little flattery of herself, were the three things which, in her estimation, went to make up a perfect character--were enough to constitute the beau ideal of a husband for any one.
Mary's father was a merchant of considerable wealth and standing in society, and possessing high-toned feelings and principles. Mary was his oldest child. He loved her tenderly, and, moreover, felt all a parent's pride in one so young, so lovely, and so innocent.
Fenwick had, until within a few months, been a clerk in a retail dry-goods store, at a very small salary. A calculating, but not too honest a wholesale dealer in the same line, desirous of getting rid of a large stock of unsaleable goods, proposed to the young man to set him up in business--a proposition which was instantly accepted. The credit thus furnished to Fenwick was an inducement for others to sell to him; and so, without a single dollar of capital, he obtained a store full of goods. The scheme of the individual who had thus induced him to venture upon a troubled and uncertain sea, was to get paid fair prices for his own depreciated goods out of Fenwick's first sales, and then gradually to withdraw his support, compelling him to buy of other jobbing houses, until his indebtedness to him would be but nominal. He was very well assured that the young merchant could not stand it over a year or two, and for that length of time only by a system of borrowing and accommodations; but as to the result he cared nothing, so that he effected a good sale of a bad stock.
Notwithstanding such an unpromising condition of his affairs, even if fully known to Mr. Lester, that gentleman would not have strongly opposed a union of his daughter with Mr. Fenwick, had he been a man of strong mind, intelligence, energy, and high-toned principles--for he was philosopher enough to know that these will elevate a man under any circumstances. But Fenwick had no decided points in his character. He had limited intelligence, and no energy arising from clear perceptions and strong resolutions. He was a man fit to captivate a young and innocent girl, but not to hold the affection of a generous-minded woman.
In the natural order of events, such a circumstance as a marriage union between the daughter of Mr. Lester, and an individual like Fenwick, was not at all likely to occur. But a meddlesome woman, who, by the accident of circumstances, had found free access to the family of Mr. Lester, set herself seriously at work to interfere with the orderly course of things, and effect a conjunction between two in no way fitted for each other, either in external circumstances or similarity of character. But let us trace the progress of this artificial passion, fanned into a blaze by the officious Mrs. Martindale. After having agitated the heart of Mary with the idea of being beloved, while she coolly calculated its effects upon her, the match-monger sought an early opportunity for another interview with Fenwick.
"I have seen Mary since we last met," she said.
"Well, do you think I have any thing to hope?"
"Certainly I do. I mentioned your name to her on purpose, and I could see that the heart of the dear little thing began to flutter at the very sound; and when I bantered her, she blushed, and was all confusion."
"When shall I be able to meet her again?"
"Next week, I think. There is to be a party at Mrs. Cameron's and as I am a particular friend of the family, I will endeavour to get you an invitation."
"Mary is to be there, of course?"
"Are you sure that you can get me invited?"
"Yes, I think so. Mrs. Cameron, it is true, has some exclusive notions of her own; but I have no doubt of being able to remove them."
"Try, by all means."
"You may depend on me for that," was Mrs. Martindale's encouraging reply.
The evening of Mrs. Cameron's party soon came around. Mrs. Martindale had been as good as her word, and managed to get Fenwick invited, although he had never in his life met either Mr. or Mrs. Cameron. But he had no delicate and manly scruples on the subject. All he desired was to get invited; the way in which it was done was of no consequence to him.
Mary Lester was seated by the side of her interested friend when the young man entered. Her heart gave a quick bound as she saw him come in, while a pleasant thrill pervaded her bosom. He at once advanced toward them, while Mrs. Martindale rose, and after receiving him with her blandest manner, presented him to Mary, so as to give him an opportunity for being in her society at once. Both were, as might very naturally be supposed, a good deal embarrassed, for each was conscious that now a new relation existed between them. This their very kind friend observed, and with much tact introduced subjects of conversation, until she had paved the way, for a freer intercourse, and then she left them alone for a brief period, not, however, without carefully observing them, to see how they "got along together," as she mentally expressed it.
She had little cause for further concern on this account, for Fenwick had a smooth and ready tongue in his head, and five years behind the counter of a retail dealer had taught him how to use it. Instead of finding it necessary to prompt them, the wily Mrs. Martindale soon discovered that her kind offices were needed to restrain them a little, lest the evidence of their being too well pleased with each other should be discovered by the company.
Two or three interviews more were all that were needed to bring about a declaration from the young man. Previous to his taking this step, however, Mrs. Martindale had fully prepared Mary's mind for it.
"You own to me, Mary," said she, during one of the many conversations now held with her on the subject of Fenwick's attentions, "that you love him?"
"I do, Mrs. Martindale," the young lady replied, in a tone half sad, leaning at the same time upon the shoulder of her friend. "But I am conscious that I have been wrong in permitting my affections to become so much interested without having consulted my mother."
"It will never do for you to consult her now, Mary, for she does not know Mr. Fenwick as you and I know him. She will judge of him, as will your father, from appearances, and forbid you to keep his company."
"I am sure that such will be the case, and you cannot tell how it troubles me. From childhood up I have been taught to confide in them, and, except in this thing, have never once deceived them. The idea of doing so now, is one that gives me constant pain. I feel that I have not acted wisely in this matter."
"Nonsense, Mary! Parents never think with their children in these matters. It would make no odds whom you happened to love, they would most certainly oppose you. I never yet knew a young lady whose parents fully approved her choice of a husband."
"I feel very certain that mine will not approve my choice; and I cannot bear the idea of their displeasure. Sometimes I feel half determined to tell them all, let the consequences be what they may."
"Oh no, no, Mary! not for the world. They would no doubt take steps to prevent your again meeting each other."
"What, then, shall I do, Mrs. Martindale?"
"See Mr. Fenwick whenever an opportunity offers, and leave the rest to me. I will advise you when and how to act."
The almost involuntary admissions made by Mary in this conversation, were at once conveyed to the ears of Fenwick, who soon sought an opportunity openly to declare his love. Of course, his suit was not rejected. Thus, under the advice and direction of a most injudicious woman, who had betrayed the confidence placed in her, was a young girl, unacquainted with life, innocent and unsuspicious, wooed and won, and her parents wholly ignorant of the circumstance.
Thoughts of marriage follow quickly a declaration of love. Once with the prize in view, Fenwick was eager to have it wholly in his possession. Mrs. Martindale was, of course, the mutual friend and adviser, and she urged an immediate clandestine marriage. For many weeks Mary resisted the persuasions of both. Fenwick and Mrs. Martindale; but at last, in a state of half distraction of mind, she consented to secretly leave her father's house, and throw herself upon the protection of one she had not known for six months, and of whose true character she had no certain knowledge.
"Mary is out a great deal of late, it seems to me," Mr. Lester remarked, as he sat alone with his wife one evening about ten o'clock.
"So I was just thinking. There is, scarcely an evening now in the week that she has not an engagement somewhere."
"I cannot say that I much approve of such a course myself. There is always danger of a girl, just at Mary's age, forming injudicious preferences for young men, if she be thrown much into their company, unattended by a proper adviser."
"Mrs. Martindale is very fond of Mary, and I believe is with her a good deal."
"Mrs. Martindale? Humph! Do you know that I have no great confidence in that woman?"
"Have you forgotten the hand she had in bringing about that most unfortunate marriage of Caroline Howell?"
"I had almost forgotten it. Or, rather, I never paid much attention to the rumour in regard to her interference in the matter; because, you know, people will talk."
"And to some purpose, often; at least, I am persuaded that there is truth in all that is alleged in this instance. And now that my thoughts begin to run in this way, I do really feel concerned lest the reason of Mary's frequent absence of late, in company with Mrs. Martindale, has some reference to a matter of this kind. Have you not observed some change in her of late?"
"She has not been very cheerful for the last two or three months."
"So I have once or twice thought, but supposed it was only my imagination. If this, then, be true, it is our duty to be on our guard--to watch over Mary with a careful eye, and to know particularly into what company she goes."
"I certainly agree with you that we ought to do so. Heaven grant that our watchfulness do not come too late!" Mrs. Lester said, a sudden feeling of alarm springing up in her bosom.
"It is a late hour for her to be from home, and we not apprized of where she is," the father remarked anxiously.
"It is, indeed. She has rarely stayed out later than nine o'clock."
"Who has been in the habit of coming home with her?"
"Usually Mrs. Martindale has accompanied her home, and this fact has thrown me off my guard."
"It should have put you on your guard; for a woman like Mrs. Martindale, gossiping about as she does, night after night, with young folks, cannot, it seems to me, have the best ends in view."
"She seems to be a very well-disposed woman."
"That is true. And yet I have been several times persuaded that she was one of the detestable tribe of match-makers"
"I am afraid that it is too true. And if it be so, Mary is in dangerous company."
"Indeed she is. From this time forth we must guard her more carefully. Of all things in the world, I dread an improper marriage for Mary. If she should throw away her affections upon an unworthy object, how sad would be her condition! Her gentle spirit, wounded in the tenderest part, would fail, and droop, and pine away in hopeless sorrow. Some women have a strength of character that enables them to rise superior, in a degree, to even such an affliction; but Mary could not bear it."
"I feel deeply the truth of what you say," replied Mr. Lester. "Her affections are ardent, and easily called out. We have been to blame in not thinking more seriously of this matter before."
"I wish she would come home! It is growing far too late for her to be absent," the mother said, in a voice of anxious concern.
Then succeeded a long and troubled silence, which continued until the clock struck eleven.
"Bless me! where can she be?" ejaculated Mr. Lester, rising and beginning to pace the floor with hurried steps.
This he continued to do for nearly a quarter of an hour, when he paused, and said--
"Do you know where Mrs. Martindale lives?"
"At No.--Pearl street."
"No doubt she can tell where Mary is."
"I think it more than probable."
"Then I will see her at once."
"Had you not better wait a little longer? I should be sorry to attract attention, or cause remark about the matter, which would be the result, if it got out that you went in search of her after eleven o'clock at night."
This had the effect to cause Mr. Lester to wait little longer. But when the clock struck twelve, he could restrain himself no further. Taking up his hat, he hurried off in the direction of Mrs. Martindale's.
"Is Mrs. Martindale at home?" he asked of the servant, who, after he had rung three or four times, found her way to the door.
"No, sir," was the reply.
"Where is she?"
"I do not know, sir."
"Will she be here to-night?"
"Is she in the habit of staying away at night?"
"Where did she go early in the evening?"
"I do not know, sir."
Disappointed, and doubly alarmed, Mr. Lester turned away, and retraced his steps homeward.
"Did you see her?" eagerly inquired his wife, as he entered.
"She is not at home."
"Where is she?"
"The stupid servant could not or would not tell."
"Indeed, indeed, I do not like the appearance of all this," said Mrs. Lester, with a troubled countenance.
"Nor do I. I am sadly afraid all is not right in regard to Mary."
"But she certainly could not be induced to go away with any one--in a word, to marry clandestinely."
"I should hope not. But one so innocent and unsuspecting as Mary--one with so much natural goodness of character--is most easily led away by the specious and designing, who can easily obscure their minds, and take from them their own freedom of action. For this reason, we should have guarded her much more carefully than we have done."
For two hours longer did the anxious parents wait and watch for Mary's return, but in vain. They then retired to take a brief but troubled repose.
Early on the next morning, in going into Mary's room, her mother found a letter for her, partly concealed among the leaves of a favourite volume that lay upon her table. It contained the information that she was about to marry Mr. Fenwick, and gave Mrs. Martindale as authority for the excellence of his character: The letter was written on the previous day, and the marriage was to take place that night.
With a stifled cry of anguish, Mrs. Lester sprang down the stairs, on comprehending the tenor of the letter, and, placing it in the hands of her husband, burst into tears. He read it through without visible emotion; but the intelligence fell like a dead, oppressive weight upon his heart--almost checking respiration. Slowly he seated himself upon a chair, while his head sank upon his bosom, and thus he remained almost motionless for nearly half an hour, while his wife wept and sobbed by his side.
"Mary," he at last said, in a mournful tone--"she is our child yet."
"Wretched--wretched girl!" responded Mrs. Lester; "how could she so fatally deceive herself and us?"
"Fatally, indeed, has she done so! But upon her own head will the deepest sorrow rest. I only wish that we were altogether guiltless of this sacrifice."
"But may it not turn out that this Mr. Fenwick will not prove so unworthy of her as we fear?--that he will do all in his power to make her happy?"
"Altogether a vain hope, Mary. He is evidently not a man of principle, for no man of principle would have thus clandestinely stolen away our child--which he could only have done by first perverting or blinding her natural perceptions of right. Can such an one make any pure-minded, unselfish woman happy? No!--the hope is altogether vain. He must have been conscious of his unworthiness, or he would have come forward like a man and asked for her."
Mr. and Mrs. Lester loved their daughter too well to cast her off. They at once brought her, with her husband, back to her home again, and endeavoured to make that home as pleasant to her as ever. But, alas! few months had passed away, before the scales fell from her eyes--before she perceived that the man upon whom she had lavished the wealth of her young heart's affections, could not make her happy. A weak and vain young man, Fenwick could not stand the honour of being Mr. Lester's son-in-law, without having his brain turned. He became at once an individual of great consequence--assumed airs, and played the fool so thoroughly, as not only to disgust her friends and family, but even Mary herself. His business was far too limited for a man of his importance. He desired to relinquish the retail line, and get into the jobbing trade. He stated his plans to Mr. Lester, and boldly asked for a capital of twenty thousand dollars to begin with. This was of course refused. That gentleman thought it wisdom to support him in idleness, if it came to that, rather than risk the loss of a single dollar in a business in which there was a moral certainty of failure.
Disgusted with his father-in-law's narrow-mindedness, as he called it, Fenwick attempted to make the desired change on the strength of his own credit. This scheme likewise proved a failure. And that was not all, as in the course of a twelve-month his creditors wound him up, and he came out a bankrupt.
Mr. Lester then offered him a situation as clerk in his own store; but Fenwick was a young man of too much consequence to be clerk to any man. If he could not be in business himself, he, would do no business at all, he said. That he was determined on. He could do business as well as any one, and had as much right to be in business as any one.
The consequence was, that idle habits took him into idle company, and idle company led him on to dissipation. Three years after his marriage with Mary Lester, he was a drunkard and a gambler, and she a drooping, almost heart-broken young wife and mother.
One night, nearly four years from the date of her unhappy marriage, Mary sat alone in her chamber, by the side of the bed upon which slept sweetly and peacefully a little girl nearly three years of age, the miniature image of herself. Her face was very thin and pale, and there was a wildness in her restless eyes, that betokened a troubled spirit. The time had worn on until nearly one o'clock, and still she made no movement to retire; but seemed waiting for some one, and yet not in anxious expectation. At last the door below was opened, and footsteps came shuffling along the hall, and noisily up the stairs. In a moment or two, her room-door was swung widely open, and her husband staggered in, so drunk that he could scarcely keep his feet.
"And pray what are you doing up at this time of night, ha?" said he, in drunken anger.
"You did not like it, you know, because I was in bed last night, and so I have sat up for you this time," his wife replied, soothingly.
"Well, you've no business to be up this late, let me tell you, madam. And I'm not agoing to have it. So bundle off to bed with you, in less than no time!"
"O Henry! how can you talk so to me?" poor Mary said, bursting into tears.
"You needn't go to blubbering in that way, I can tell you, madam; so just shut up! I won't have it! And see here: I must have three hundred dollars out of that stingy old father of yours to-morrow, and you must get it for me. If you don't, why, just look out for squalls."
As he said this, he threw himself heavily upon the bed, and came with his whole weight upon the body of his child. Mrs. Fenwick screamed out, sprang to the bedside, and endeavoured to drag him off the little girl. Not understanding what she meant, he rose up quickly, and threw her from him with such force, as to dash her against the wall opposite, when she fell senseless upon the floor. Just at this moment, her father, who had overheard his first angry words, burst into the room, and with the energy of suddenly aroused indignation, seized Fenwick by the collar, dragged him down-stairs, and thence threw him into the street from his hall-door, which he closed and locked after him--vowing, as he did so, that the wretch should never again cross his threshold.
All night long did poor Mrs. Fenwick lie, her senses locked in insensibility; and all through the next day she remained in the same state, in spite of every effort to restore her. Her husband several times attempted to gain admittance, but was resolutely refused.
"He never crosses my door-stone again!" the old man said; and to that resolution he determined to adhere.
Another night and another day passed, and still another night, and yet the heart-stricken young wife showed no signs of returning consciousness. It was toward evening on the fourth day, that the family, with Mrs. Martindale, who had called in, were gathered round her bed, in a state of painful and gloomy anxiety, waiting for, yet almost despairing again to see her restored to consciousness. All at once she opened her eyes, and looked up calmly into the faces of those who surrounded her bed.
"Where is little Mary?" she at length asked.
The child was instantly brought to her.
"Does Mary love mother?" she asked of the child, in a tone of peculiar tenderness.
The child drew its little arms about her neck, and kissed her pale lips and cheeks fondly.
"Yes, Mary loves mother. But mother is going away to leave Mary. Will she be a good girl?"
The little thing murmured assent, as it clung closer to its mother's bosom.
Mrs. Fenwick then looked up into the faces of her father and mother with a sad but tender smile, and said--
"You will be good to little Mary when I am gone?
"Don't talk so, Mary!--don't, my child! You are not going to leave us," her mother sobbed, while the tears fell from her eyes like rain.
"Oh no, dear! you will not leave us," said her father, in a trembling voice.
"Yes, dear mother! dear father! I must go. But you will not let any one take little Mary from you?"
"Oh no--ever! She is ours, and no one shall ever take her away."
Mrs. Fenwick then closed her eyes, while a placid expression settled upon her sweet but careworn face. Again she looked up, but with a more serious countenance. As she did so, her eyes rested upon Mrs. Martindale.
"I am about to die, Mrs. Martindale," she said, hit a calm but feeble voice--"and with my dying breath I charge upon you the ruin of my hopes and happiness. If my little girl should live to woman's estate," she added, turning to her parents, "guard her from the influence of this woman, as you would from the fangs of a serpent."
Then closing her eyes again, she sank away into a sleep that proved the sleep of death. Alas! how many like her have gone down to an early grave, or still pine on in hopeless sorrow, the victims of that miserable interference in society, which is constantly bringing young people together, and endeavouring to induce them to love and marry each other, without there being between them any true congeniality or fitness for such a relation! Of all assumed social offices, that of the match-maker is one of the most pernicious, and her character one of the most detestable. She should be shunned with the same shrinking aversion with which we shun a serpent which crosses our path.