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had lived in affluence. But reverses came to them as to thousands of others, happily not always with suoh disastrous effects; for the sndden loss of his fortune so completely mastered the energies of Mr. Chilson, as brought him in the course of a few months to his present deplorable state—helpless—hopeless—a burthen to himself and family; but far were they from owning the burthen. It was a lovely sight, the devotion of mother and children to that poor, helpless, old man.
Cpon Amy the hopes of this little family were placed. She was their support and comfort. Although, as I have said, born in affluence, Amy Chilson now followed the humble occupation of a seamstress. She considered herself fortunate to have obtained the patronage of three ladies of fashion, by whom she was kept constantly employed, and there is no need of saying that, on her part, Amy was faithful and unwearied in her efforts to please. Day after day, beneath the rays of a scorching sun or through drenching rains, did the young girl hie cheerfully to her toil— subjected through the day perhaps to supercilious looks, the sneer, the cutting reproach, the whims and caprices of her lady patronesses. But it was to earn bread for the loved ones at home, and so poor Amy submitted to all with a cheerful, happy spirit, reaping the harvest of contentment even for her own lowly lot, when placed in comparison with the hollow, frivolous scenes to which she was a daily witness. Mrs. Chilson folded books for the honest bookbinder occupying the lower story. It was but little she could earn, it is true, but every little is much to the poor. Caroline embroidered in worsteds, knit comforters, mittens, and children's jackets, while it was little Nina's province to help all, to amuse father, tidy up the room for mother, and assort the gay worsteds for her sister. Busy as a bee then was Nina from morning till night, and her voice, like the song of a young bird, brought gladness to the dwelling.
It was late in the afternoon of a cold, boisterous day in midwinter, one of those days when one appreciates a rest within doors, and a nook in the "ingle side." A cheerful fire was blazing from the grate, while drawn up closely in one corner of the fireplace, a large, old, easy chair supported the helpless frame of Mr. Chilson. At his feet sat little Nina assorting her crewels, and spreading them as she did so over the knees of the old man, who, pleased as an infant at their rainbow shades, toyed and laughed as she playfully waved each skein before his eyes, ere placing it with the others. Seated near the only window in the room, that not a ray of precious daylight might be lost, sat Mrs. Chilson and Caroline, each busily
engaged with their work. No carpet covered the floor—but it was admirably clean, and every little article of furniture—the few chairs, the table, the little bookshelf—were as neat as they could be. In one corner of the room a coarse muslin curtain concealed the bedstead, which turned up to the wall, after a fashion now superseded by the more graceful sofa-bed and other ingenious devices
"Poor Amy will have a cold walk this bitter evening," said Mrs. Chilson, looking forth as she spoke upon the dreary scene. "See, Caroline, how every one hurries along, as if eager to reach their fireside;—God help those who have none to go to!" And with pious gratitude Mrs. Chilson mentally thanked her Maker for the comforts yet left them.
"I hope I shall soon be able to take Amy's place, mother," said Caroline; "it is hard she should always be the one to encounter such dreadful weather; next year, don't you think next year, mother, I can work for Mrs. Harris as well as Amy?"
"You are a good child!" said Mrs. Chilson, putting back the long golden ringlets, and kissing the fair young brow before her.
"Hark, how the wind blows!" exclaimed little Nina, listening to the gust which now swept around the dwelling. "How I wish we lived in Arch Street now; then dear sister could stay at home. Ah, I can just remember, mother, how, whenever it stormed, you always sent the carriage to bring Amy and Caroline from school."
"Car-riage," mumbled tho poor invalid; "car-riage—oh yes, order the car-riage, and tell John to drive care-fully—care-fully—it is warm—very warm for the poor horses."
"Poor dear father!" sighed Caroline, "he little knows how hard his darling Amy toils for us; ah, she is coming,—yes, there she is just turning the corner: why how slow she walks!"
"The wind is very strong, and directly in her face, poor girl !" said Mrs. Chilson.
Nina in the meanwhile sprang from her seat, and ran fleetly down the stairs, to open the hall door for her sister.
Slowly, slowly Amy toiled up the narrow staircase, for grief made her footsteps heavy, and with a pale, sad countenance she entered the little chamber.
"Now God help us, dear mother!" she cried, falling on her mother's neck, and bursting into tears.
"Amy, my child, my darling, what is the matter?" exclaimed Mrs. Chilson.
"Sweet sister, dear Amy, what is it,—what has happened?" cried Caroline, hanging fondly over her, while little Nina, falling on her knees, threw her arms around both mother and sister, sobbing as if her dear little heart would | break.
"Amy, tell me, I beseech you, what it is distresses you; has anyone dared to insult my poor child?" cried Mrs. Chilson.
"Oh no, thank God not that, dear mother!" answered Amy, unloosing her arms from her mother's neck, and looking sadly in her face; "but I know not what is to become of us, nor where I shall find work for to-morrow, for, alas, dear mother, Mrs. Harris has told me I need not come to her again."
"It is so, mother; and on calling at Mrs. Frisbie's and Mrs. Dunn's, I find through Mrs. Harris's recommendation they also have engaged another person to work for them."
"My poor children," said Mrs. Chilson, regarding the weeping group; "and what reason have they for dismissing you, Amy?"
"They give none, and I know of none, unless they may have found some one whom they can employ cheaper; but I should not mind it so much if I knew of any other situation where I might at once obtain employment, for I fear, dear mother, ere I am able to secure another situation, you will suffer for my little earnings."
"' God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,' my love," answered Mrs. Chilson, kissing her. "Let us not forget that others must live as well as ourselves, and perhaps some one even more needy has obtained Mrs. Harris's patronage; let this thought reconcile us to a misfortune so unlooked for; we will place our trust in God, and look forward with hope to the future."
"Dear mother, you are always so cheerful and so resigned," said Amy, "that it is a reproach for your children to give way one moment to despondency in your presence. Come, dear Caroline, dry your eyes, and you too, darling Nina, let us follow our mother's noble example,—yes, we will look to the future with hope. And now, girls, let us get the supper ready, and then we will calmly consider what is best to be done in this emergency."
"Yes, sup-per, have sup-per," slowly articulated the old man; "we'll have oys-ters, Mrs. Chilson, and cham-pagne: John, bring in glass-es, wee'l l have a glo-ri-ous supper!"
Amy bent over her poor old father, and kissed his cheek, tenderly smoothing his long silver hair.
"Thank God!" she whispered to Caroline, "our poor dear father does not realize our troubles."
When their frugal meal was prepared, Amy, kneeling on a low footstool by the side of her decrepit parent, fed him as tenderly as she would have done a babe, and then in a low, sweet voice sang a pleasing lullaby, which soon closed the eyes of the weary old man in sleep.
The evening was passed in forming hopes and plans for the future, which the morning was doomed to dissipate.
For weeks poor Amy vainly sought employment,—occasionally' the sympathizing neighbours favoured her with some trifling work, but this was at best precarious. Mrs. Chilson, too, became suddenly ill—the father was daily growing more querulous and exacting—their little money was gone—and with rigid economy their small stock of fuel and groceries was rapidly diminishing. What wonder that poor Amy almost despaired—for she saw only poverty and wretchedness impending over those she loved.
Such was one result of Mrs. Harris's policy.
After an absence of six years, Leonard Darlington returned from India. During this long separation from country and friends, he had accumulated a handsome fortune, and had now come home, as he expressly deolared, to look out for a wife, and settle down into the sober state of matrimony.
He was not yet six-and-twenty, fine-looking, graceful in his manners, and agreeable in conversation. But what was far better, he added to these outward gifts a noble, generous heart, and fine talents, highly improved by education and travel.
The morning after his return, Leonard strolled into his sister's apartment, and throw
ing himself carelessly upon the lounge, proceeded to make inquiries about those of their friends with whom he was most intimate ere he went abroad.
"The Nixons, Ida, what has become of them?"
"Oh, they are immensely rich, and are living in splendid style. Cornelia—you remember Cornelia?—she is a sweet girl, I assure you, and quite a belle."
"Time does work wonders then !" answered her brother, laughing, "for I only recollect her as a little, freckled, awkward school-girl, with great gray eyes. Well, the Cassidys and the Dcrwents?"
"Very dashing, fashionable people, I assure you, Leonard," replied Ida. "To be sure, Mr. Cassidy failed a year or two since, and everybody thought they would go down, but it made no difference at all in their style;—they did, I believe, give up their carriage for a month or two, but they now sport one of the most elegant equipages in Chestnut Street."
"The Chilsons, Ida,—are they still living in Arch Street?" inquired Leonard.
"Oh no; their glory has departed, Leonard; indeed I know nothing about them. Mr. Chilson failed ever so many years ago,—just after you went away, I believe,—and they lived so shabbily, that of course ma could not think of visiting; afterwards I heard Mr. Chilson had a fit or something of the kind, and then they moved off I don't know where."
"You surprise me," said her brother, "when you and Amy were such intimate friends— surely the loss of property could not have affected your friendship!"
"Why you know, Leonard, people of our style cannot visit everybody ;—Amy was a dear girl, and I am sure I almost cried my eyes out at first, because mamma would not let me visit her any longer; but I suppose it is all right; we must do as the rest of the world do."
"No, it is not right, Ida," answered her brother; "and who or what constitutes the world you speak of? A few people who live in fine houses, and ride in fine coaches! Fie, Ida; if upon such you pin your faith, if of such is your world, then break from its trammels at once and for ever, dear sister; such servility is unworthy of you."
"Nonsense; how you talk, Leonard!" exclaimed Ida. "What queer notions you have picked up—as odd as the people you have been among. Recollect, Mr. Leonard Darlington, we are ranked among the flite of the city, and to extend our acquaintance to bankrupts and beggars, would be folly."
"Ida, my dear sister, if you are, as you say, among the (lile, which, I suppose, means the most fashionable, then set a noble example, and welcome the good and virtuous to your circle alike, whether they come in ermined robe, or in the homely guise of poverty."
"Ridiculous, Leonard!" said Ida, turning pettishly away from him.
"And listen, Ida," continued her brother; "suppose you in turn should become poor, do you think your world would longer recognise
Ida Darlington, the belle of W Square?
No, Ida, you would be forgotten in a week, and your dearest friends would pass you unrecognised, or with a condescending bow, more cutting than their neglect !*
"You talk so strangely," answered Ida; "as if we could ever become poor! and if we did, I am sure the loss of wealth could never alter our position in society!"
Leonard smiled: "Well, dear sister, I trust you may never be made to acknowledge the fallacy of your present belief! Poor Amy Chilson! Then you can tell me nothing of her?"
"Nothing, Leonard; why you look as forlorn as Don Quixote. Ah, I had forgotten your boyish penchant; now I remember, you used to call her your little wife. And so six years of absence has not obliterated the impression the soft blue eyes of Amy made upon your heart! Helgho, poor Leonard! But come with me, I will introduce you to CornMia Nixon; in her brilliant smiles you will soon forget your old flame; come, Leonard."
"Ida, I will not rest until I find out what has become of Amy Chilson," replied her brother; "and if I find her all I expect, and her heart free, it will go hard but my youthful dream shall be realized. However, I have no objections to renewing my acquaintance with Miss Nixon. Ah, sister," he continued, kissing Ida's rosy cheek, "the world has almost spoiled you; this little heart must beat more healthfully ere we part again."
The reader will recollect Mrs. Mayhew, and the interest she expressed for Miss Chilson. She had been in the habit of seeing her occasionally at Mrs. Harris's, when invited by that lady to the nursery, either to pass maternal criticism upon the swollen gums of "baby," or to examine the "love of a silk or cashmere," just sent home from Levy's. At these times she had been much struck by the modest and ladylike deportment of the young seamstress, and, upon learning her sudden dismissal from Mrs. Harris's, felt deeply interested for her. She resolved to find her, that if, as she feared, the selfishness of Mrs. Harris had been a cause of misfortune to the young girl, she might herself repair the evil.
Upon calling at Mrs. Frisbie's and Dunn's
to ascertain the address of Amy, they professed the same ignorance as Mrs. Harris. So long as the needle plied faithfully, what interest had they in the machine by which it was wielded! Mrs. Mayhew, however, continued every possible measure she could devise to discover Amy's abode, but her efforts proved vain; when it happened one morning that her youngest child was seized with a sudden illness, which in a few moments brought the family physician to the bedside.
After administering proper remedies to the child, the Doctor sat down, and, turning to Mrs. Mayhew, said:
"I have met with a very singular adventure, and found an old friend under the most painful circumstances. Last evening I was called in great haste to attend a person whom the messenger reported to be, as he feared, in the agonies of death. I lost no time; my gig was fortunately at the door, and, bidding the man get in with me, I drove as fast as possible to the house of the sick person, and hastened up the gloomy stairway, and into the room my conductor pointed out. Upon a low bed lay a woman, apparently nearly exhausted by a violent hemorrhage of the lungs. The blood was still oozing from her mouth and nostrils, and a cold, clammy sweat already bedewed her deathpale countenance. At the head of the bed sat a beautiful little girl, propping the pillow which supported her mother; while, kneeling on the floor, a young girl, with a face almost as deathly as the one over which she was bending, gently wiped the blood as it gushed forth, and tenderly chafed the brow and temples of the suffering woman. Never shall I forget her look of agony as she read the doubt which sat upon my countenance. I bade her take courage, that I yet hoped to save her mother. I soon stopped the bleeding, and applied proper restoratives to the almost inanimate form. Her pulse gradually strengthened, her breathing became more regular, and in a short time I had the satisfaction of seeing her open her eyes. There was something in her countenance which struck me from the first as being familiar. I could not help thinking I had seen it before; but when or where I could not remember. It appeared to me, also, that as the poor sick lady languidly opened her eyes, there was a ray of recognition as they met mine. The young girl beckoned me into an adjoining room, where another harrowing sight awaited me. An old man lay stretched upon the bed. as cold and senseless as the clods which must soon cover him. His eyes were open, but the film of death already hid the world from their sight. Painful was the heavy, laboured breathing which alone told he yet lived. Another fair girl, whom I had not seen before, sat by the bedside, and held one hand of the dying man clasped in hers.
"'Tell me, tell me, Doctor, will she live— will our dear mother lire?' whispered the lovely girl whom I had first seen, catching my arm, and looking up, breathlessly, into my face.
"' I cannot answer for the event, my dear young lady,' I replied; 'yet, I assure you, from her present symptoms, I think I may safely bid you hope.'
"' Thank God !' exclaimed both sisters.
"I then inquired how long their mother had been ill.
"' For many weeks,' answered the elder; 'she has not been confined all the time to her bed, but has suffered greatly from debility and a heavy cough. We are too poor, as you see,' she added, glancing around the scantily furnished apartment, while a slight colour mantled her pale face, 'to call in medical aid, when it is possible to dispense with it, and, therefore, our dear mother has been gradually getting weaker and weaker!' A tear rolled down her cheek as she drew me to the bedside of the old man. 'Look; our poor father has been for years but little better than you now see him— scarcely conscious of existence. About two hours since, I was preparing to go out for a few moments; my father was sitting, as usual, in his chair, and my dear mother had just thrown herself on the bed. I think my poor father must have had another fit, for he suddenly became convulsed, and fell forward upon the floor. My mother screamed, and sprang from the bed; but, alas, ruptured a bloodvessel in the attempt The fright and exertion was too much for her, and she sank into the dying state in which you found her.'
"The poor girl could no longer suppress her tears, and, for a few moments, wept unrestrainedly. I told the unhappy young girls that their father would not, probably, survive until morning; and, recommending such measures as I deemed judicious, returned into the other room. As I approached the bedside of my patient, she opened her eyes, and made an effort to speak. Placing my finger on my lips, 1 entreated her not to make the exertion. She then smiled faintly, and extended her hand. Now the truth suddenly flashed upon me:
"' You are Mrs. Chilson!' I exclaimed, clasping her feeble hand in mine."
"Chilson—did you say Chilson?" eagerly demanded Mrs. Mayhew, for the first time interrupting the narrative.
"Yes, my dear Mrs. Mayhew. It is indeed too true; in that suffering family I recognised that of the once wealthy Richard Chilson."
The Doctor paused a moment to subdue his emotion, and then continued.
"In their days of prosperity I was their friend and physician, and now found myself again singularly brought to the bedside of the once beautiful Mrs. Chilson. But how great the contrast! When last I stood by her sick couch every luxury and comfort surrounded her, all the delicacies which wealth could furnish to tempt the appetite, the soothing kindness of friends, the most experienced and careful nurses—and now— But I cannot go on; you should witness their present misery to feel the force of what I would say! But to return. After a while, finding I had known them in their prosperous days, the young girls freely related their sad history. It seems the chief support of the family was dependent upon the eldest daughter—a beautiful, charming girl, Mrs. Mayhew—who for some time has followed the profession of a seamstress. A month or two since she was suddenly thrown out of work, and"—
"O, I know all the rest!" cried Mrs. Mayhew, bursting into tears. "Poor, poor girl! thank God, I have at last found her!"
She then related to the sympathizing Doctor those events with which the reader is already acquainted. "And now, dear Doctor," she continued, "take me there at once—let us not lose a moment in going to the relief of this unhappy family!^
"God bless you, my dear woman!" exclaimed the Doctor, his honest countenanco glowing with pleasure; "God bless you !—you will cheat me of my prerogative of doing good if I don't take care !'*
Let us now give a brief space to Mrs. Harris.
On the same evening when poor Amy Chilson was bending almost heart-broken over her suffering parent, she was dressing to attend a brilliant party given by the fashionable Mrs.
. For more than a week the successor of
Amy had been unremittingly tasked, in preparing the elegant costume in which Mrs. Harris chose to shine for that night, "and that night only." Another ehtf-d'ceuvre of this politic lady, was to put into the hands of her hired seamstress all the fine and difficult work, the embroidery, flouncing, and furbelowing, and the endless trimmings usually left to the expert dress-maker or milliner. But such a course saved her many a dollar, which she felt free, therefore, to expend upon some new and costly article of dress, in turn to be made up in the same cheap manner.
Patient and uncomplaining poor Lydia Gales sat at her task, but the fingers of the needleslave moved slowly, for her strength was nearly exhausted, and a headache, as merciless as her employer tormented her. Now and then