University of Virginia Library


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“Some die of weariness,
Some of disease, and some insanity,
And some of withered or of broken hearts;
For this last is a malady which slays
More than are numbered in the lists of fate,
Taking all shapes, and bearing many names.”


Bessie Lee's sylvan lodge harmonized so well
with her wild fancies, that when she awoke it
seemed no more strange to her than her accustomed
sleeping-place. Whatever she might be destined
afterward to suffer from this exposure on the
damp earth through a cold autumnal night, she was
as unconscious of the ills that flesh is heir to as
if she were a disimbodied spirit. “Sluggard that
I am!” she exclaimed, starting up and shaking off
the heavy dew-drops, “the spirits of morning are
at worship, and I sleeping! the birds are singing
their hymns, and I, that have been watched and
guarded, am silent.” She leaned her cheek on the
mossy stem of a tree, and began to repeat the
Lord's prayer: “ `Our father'—ay, nature worships
with me—beautiful waterfall, majestic trees,
glad light, is he not our father?—`hallowed be his
name,'—ye hallow his name, for ye are the manifestations
of his wisdom, the ministers of his love,


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the shadows of celestial beauty!—`thy kingdom
come'—it is come here—obedience, peace, serenity,
are his kingdom—war is not—care is not—love is
not—love to fallible mortals, for there no peace is
—so I will on my pilgrimage, and break the last
link in the chain—then will I return here, finish my
prayer, and lay me down and rest again.”

Thus mingling with her celestial meditations
one earthly purpose, she retraced her way to the
road, and looked about in vain for her horse, who,
having obeyed his rational impulses, was now far
on his way homeward. “It was not kind of you,
Steady,” she said, as she came to the conclusion
he had abandoned her; but without one thought of
relinquishing her purpose, or one doubt of her
ability to effect it. She walked on for about half a
mile, and probably began to have some obscure
sense of tremulousness and weakness, for, seeing a
horse equipped with saddle and bridle hitched to
the fence, and a basket standing by him containing
biscuits and apples, she laughed aloud, exclaiming,
“Who would have thought it!” and then checking
herself, raised her eyes devoutly and added, “yet,
I might have known they would be provided
by the wayside, just when I wanted them. I
wonder there is not a woman's saddle, but I can
manage;” and taking the basket in one hand, she
mounted, and rode briskly on. She proceeded
without any hinderance or molestation whatever,
now and then, probably, from an insupportable feeling


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of weariness, dismounting and lying for a moment
under the shadow of a tree. It was about
the middle of the afternoon, when she was entering
the street of a little village, that she heard behind
her the trampling of horses on the full gallop,
and outcries of “Stop thief!” Her horse, incited
more by the uproar at his heels than by any impulse
she was able to give him, sprang forward. The
people rushed from their houses—their screams
bewildered her. She gazed fearfully around her;
her wearied horse soon slackened his speed, and one
of her pursuers reached her just at the moment that,
having dropped the bridle from her powerless hand,
she was falling from her saddle. “Time you was
spent, young madam,” cried her rough assistant, as,
supporting half her weight, he prevented her sinking
to the ground.

The people of the village, chiefly women and
children, gathered around, all gazing on Bessie
with scrutinizing glances. Her wandering eye and
blanched cheek must have half told her story, for
not one of them spoke till she, drawing up from the
arm that supported her, asked, with an air of offended
dignity, “Why are ye so unmannerly to me?”

“Ha, ha—not quite so topping, miss—serve
your writ, Mr. Sheriff,” replied one of her pursuers.
“Pretty high, to talk about manners, when
you've been riding fifty miles on a stolen horse.”

“Stolen!” echoed Bessie, “indeed, I did not
steal him.”


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“How upon 'arth did you get him then? answer

“I took him—” the standers-by interrupted her
with a coarse laugh; but Bessie, without heeding
them, proceeded: “I took him, where he stood
awaiting me.”

“Now, if that is not a high joke! Just hear
me, good people—the sheriff can swear to all
I say. This is Squire Saunders's horse—you
have all heard of the squire?” They had all
heard of Squire Saunders, whose fame rayed
through a large circle. “Well, the squire rode up
to his wood-lot this morning, to see about a trespass
that's committing there—you know, sheriff; and
the squire just hitched his horse to the fence, and
went up into the woods, and got out of his reckoning;
and two hours after, when he came upon the

“Take care of that poor young woman,” cried a
benevolent looking man who was passing in an oxcart,
“don't you see she can't stand?”

“I am tired,” said Bessie, sinking to the ground,
and putting her hand to her head; “this noise tires

The spectators exchanged glances of inquiry
and pity; the sheriff looked compassionate; his
companion sturdy, and resolved not to be taken in.
The man of the ox-cart stopped his vehicle, and
joined the group: “Are ye all blind and deaf,” he


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added, “that ye do not see the poor girl's mind is

“Oh no, friend,” said Bessie, shaking her head,
and looking up with a faint smile, “you are very
much mistaken—my mind is not the least unsettled
—indeed, it every day becomes stronger and more
capable than it was.”

Her champion looked to the standers-by for their
assent to this confirmation of his opinion, and then
turning to the sheriff, said, “You will not, I am
sure, trouble her farther?”

“No, I'll be hanged if I do!”

“Nor you?” appealing to the sheriff's attendant.

“I don't know—if I were sure—I don't like to
be outwitted—remember, sheriff, it was for horse
and thief the squire offered the reward.”

“The devil take the reward, Dan!”

“You may say so—for you that's got an office
can afford it, but I'm a volunteer. But since you
all take on so about it, if you're a mind to contribute
and pay something towards my expenses and
trouble and so on, I'll trust to the squire for the

“I have not one copper to pay,” said Bessie's

“Pay! is that all he wants?” asked Bessie,
thrusting her hand into her pocket, and giving into
his greedy grasp her few coins; “perhaps it was
meant,” she added, in a confidential tone to her
champion, “that I should pay for the use of the


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horse, but I know he was provided for me. Are
you satisfied?” she asked, in a tone to pierce the
heart; “indeed, I have given you all.”

“He shall be satisfied—he must be satisfied!”
cried every voice at once; and the man, perceiving
the general sentiment was against him, was glad to
mount his horse and follow the sheriff, who was already
leading away Squire Saunders's recovered
property. It was evident the sheriff's organ of benevolence
had resisted the influence of his station.

“And now what is to be done with this poor
helpless thing?” asked Barlow, the kind-hearted
man who had so far befriended Bessie. At this
question, two or three of the spectators slunk
away; the rest exchanged fearful and uncertain
glances; one or two murmured that they “did not
love to have crazy folks in their houses;” and it
was obvious that the benevolence of all was restrained
by that irrational fear which so much increases
the sufferings of those who are mentally
diseased. No one offering an asylum for the poor
wanderer, Barlow turned to her and asked, “What
will you do now, my poor child?”

“Oh, go on.”

“Go on! where, in the name of wonder?”

“To New-York.”

“Impossible! how are you to go?”

“I must go—more than life depends on it—now,
I cannot tell exactly. I do not think I could walk
very far,” she vainly attempted to rise; “but do


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not be concerned about me, for certainly He who
hath helped me so far will not now desert me.”

The gentle girl's unconsciousness of her wants
was more touching than the most passionate appeal.

“Will you go home with me?” asked Barlow,
after wiping his eyes, and clearing his voice.

“Oh, no, I thank you; I cannot lose any time.”

“Poor child! but,” he added, “I live six miles
nearer to New-York than this, and I can take you
so far on your way.”

“Then indeed I will go. Did I not tell you,
O ye of little faith, that the way would be provided?”
Again, and again without success, she
attempted to rise.

“Lend a hand, neighbours,” said Barlow; “the
straw on my cart is clean, and we will lay her on
it.” Bessie was placed in the cart, and driven to
Barlow's humble habitation, a dwelling-house adjoining
a blacksmith's shop, within a few miles of
Hartford, in Connecticut.

Barlow would have been justifiable, if ever man
was, in going on “the other side,” and leaving Bessie
Lee to the chance mercies of others. But Barlow's
heart bore a faint resemblance to his own anvil;
the stroke of his fellow-creature's necessities always
brought forth sparks of kindness.

“Dear me!” exclaimed his wife, when he entered
their little dwelling, supporting Bessie with one
arm; “who have you got here?”

“Open the door into the bedroom, Martha, and


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I'll tell you afterward.” The door was promptly
opened, the bedspread turned down, and Bessie
laid upon the clean inviting bed.

“Oh, thank you, thank you!” she said; “I shall
tell mother and Eliot how very kind you are to me.”

“Dear me!” said pitiful Mrs. Barlow.

“Oh, ma'am, I am very well,” said Bessie, replying
to her compassionate look; “only a little tired
—do not let me oversleep to-morrow morning.”

“Give her some warm milk, Martha; and let
her sleep, if she can—it's her only chance.”

The hospitality was done, and Bessie left to the
ministry of nature, while Barlow related to his marvelling
wife all he knew of her. “Well,” said she,
as he concluded, “I do feel for her folks; and yet
she don't look as if she belonged to this world. I
have dreamed of seeing angels, and she looks like
them; but like nothing made out of clay. I'm
glad you brought her home, Barlow; it's a great
easement to the heart to do a kindness, though we
are in a poor case to entertain strangers, even if
they be angels.”

“We be in a poor situation; but it would have
been awful to have left such a young, delicate, innocent,
beautiful fellow-creature to perish by the

“Dear me! yes, indeed.”

“Or to have left her to people that were so slack
about helping her.”

“It would.”


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“And so, knowing your feelings, Martha, I've
done what I have done.”

“You've done right, Barlow.”

“I don't know, you are so poorly, and the boys
sick. Have they missed their chill to-day?”

“No, neither they nor I.”

Barlow rose, looked at the pale faces of his little
boys, who were lying in a truckle-bed, then at his
sickly wife, and shook his head.

“Martha, I am afraid I have been presumptuous.”

“Dear me, husband! don't worry about that;
what would be the use of sickness if it did not give
us feelings for others?”

“True, Martha; and somehow I could not help
it; and now I can't but think Providence will help
us through with what his finger pointed out. I
have repented of a great many things in my day;
but I never saw reason to repent of a good deed—
look in the bedroom, Martha, and see if she is

“Dear me, no! but there's a quiet smile on her
lips, and her beautiful eyes are raised; and she
seems just like a lamb looking at the shepherd.”

“If she's still she may fall asleep; so let us ask
a blessing on her and the rest of us, and then we'll
to bed ourselves.”

What grace and dignity do the devotion and
compassion of such pure hearts impart to the dwelling
of the poor man! Oh ye, who fare sumptuously
every day, imitate him in his only luxury—the
luxury of deeds never to be repented of!