University of Virginia Library




“Ye ken when folks are paired, Birdie!
Ye ken when folks are paired;
Life 's fair an foul and freakish weather,
An light an lumbering loads thegither,
Maun a' be shared.”

The Esterlys, returned to their home, are at breakfast in
the sunny room where all the home-breakfasts of their married
life had been eaten. The beginning of each day has a
flavor of youth. Each morning, as in Paradise, “heaven
wakes with all his eyes;” and what happier scene do they
fall upon than a family assembling in love, grateful for possible
perils escaped, and speaking the “good-morning” in
tones of affection, hope, and courage? Of all the family
rites, the breakfast is the cheerfulest to the sound in body
and mind—to the unsound, its sweet uses are turned to

Eleanor, owing to the pressure of family work, had tied
the baby in a high chair at the table, and she, excited by the
unwonted indulgence, was rattling tea-spoons and napkin-rings,
and babbling her glee in a baby-patois, only intelligible
to baby-lovers.

“Why, I declare, what a pretty noise she makes, the
darling!” said Cousin Effie; “she's telling a story, is n't she,
all about the napkin-rings coming to see the tea-spoons? but
Bob sings the loudest, don't he, baby?” Bob was the canary,
whose cage was hung by the window, drawn down to


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admit the soft April air, and who, as is the nature of that
genus, was excited by the social clatter to do his utmost at
his noisy music.

“Eleanor,” said her husband, in a querulous tone, “I trust
you will find some place to stow away that bird out of hearing,
when we get to Harlem.”

“Why, papa!” exclaimed May, “Erby's bird!”

The table was hushed, till good Cousin Effie said, in a
healing voice, “Father forgot Erby.”

“Did you forget Erby?” whispered May, as if her father
should vindicate himself from ever forgetting the missing

But Esterly made no reply, unless the sudden direction
of his moistened eye toward the canary might be one. In
another moment the wretched bodily sensations triumphed,
as they will in their hour of mastery, over affection, sentiment,
every thing that belongs to the spiritual nature.
“What is this villainous taste in this bread, Eleanor? You
really should attend to my bread,” he said.

“I am sorry you do not relish it, Frank,” replied his wife.

“Relish it! Why it's a compound of acid and bitter.
You that can eat Di's buckwheats, may talk about relishing!
What are you laughing at, May?”

“Why, papa, that's the very same loaf you said was so
good last evening, at tea.”

“No, May; that was Cristy's bread.”

“No, papa; you are mistaken. Mamma came all the way
back from Broadway, when she was going to Aunt Grace's,
to tell Di' to put it aside for you.”

“That may be; but it's not the same.”

“I think it is, sir; mamma marked it with a cross.” May
turned over the loaf, and, pointing to the cross, looked up
to her father with a smile that would have driven out a
legion of devils, having any other name than dyspepsia.


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Esterly made no answer, but putting aside his untasted
tea, went off to his study.

“Poor Frank! he always was so from a child,” said Cousin
Effie; “he is always out of sorts when he is not well. Dear,”
to Eleanor, “don't you think a little milk porridge, with
just the least dash of lime-water, would help his stomach?”

“No, thank you, Cousin Effie, he does not like messes.”

“Oh he hates them, Cousin Effie,” said May.

“Does he, dear? Men a'most always do—they are peculiar
to nurse. But, may be he'll take a glass of cammomile
with soda. I have given it to him many a time when he was
of May's age.”

`That possibly is partly the reason,' thought Eleanor,
“why his bread tastes bitter now;” but, thanking Cousin
Effie, she declined the prescription, saying she feared Frank's
malady was now beyond a cammomile cure. The door-bell
rang. “Go, my little waiter, and open the door,” said
Eleanor to May; “Bridget is busy, and we must save old
Di' all the steps we can.” Eleanor, on reducing her expenditures,
had dismissed her man-servant.

“You save every body but yourself, dear,” said Cousin
Effie who, though accounted all through life “a dull little
body,” had an instinct to perceive and feel a demonstration
of humanity.

May, charmed with her new office, came bouncing in with
a note. It was from Mrs. Selby, the lady who had rented
Eleanor's house and furniture. She was to take possession
on Friday. It was now Wednesday morning. The note
ran thus:

My Dear Mrs. Esterly:

“I came to town last evening, to be ready to take possession
on Friday. I find it very uncomfortable at the Astor
House with my children. If you can give me possession tomorrow,


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you will very much oblige me. As it is but one
day in anticipation, and you move so little furniture, I
imagine it can not much inconvenience you. Please return
by bearer a favorable answer.

“Yours with respect,
S. S.
“P.S. Mr. Selby and I are going to the opera to-morrow
evening, and being a mother, you will feel how much more
I shall enjoy myself if I leave my children in my own house
instead of in a hotel.”

Eleanor smiled at a selfishness so common in a world
where one's own convenience is lead in one scale, and one's
neighbor's a feather in the other.

“What are you smiling at, dear?” asked Cousin Effie;
“something pleasant in your note?”

Eleanor told its purport—Cousin Effie caught but one
idea from it “It would be awful,” she said, “if any thing
should happen to those dear little children—hotels are so apt
to catch fire!”

Eleanor did not permit her amiability to degenerate into
weakness, and she had taken her pen to write a laconic
refusal, but at the suggestion of soft-hearted cousin Effie,
she considered how she could put two days' work into one,
and while she hesitated, her husband opened the door and
said, “Eleanor, can you possibly copy that article for me?”

“Oh yes, Frank; you know I asked you to let me do it.”
The fate of Mrs. Selby's request was decided. Eleanor
wrote a refusal, qualifying it with the offer of her spare
room for the nurse and children.

“Now I should never have thought of that!” exclaimed
Cousin Effie; “'tis a great help to have a superior mind.”

“A far greater to have a superior heart, Cousin Effie.”

Eleanor's sweet look at Cousin Effie, as she said this, made


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it inevitable for the honest little woman to take the remark
home, and she said with a blushing deprecation, “Well, I
can feel, but I never know how to say or do any thing.”

“Dear Cousin Effie, do you call it doing nothing to take
my big baby off my hands till 12 o'clock?”

“Oh, that's only what I love to do.”

“And can do so well, Cousin Effie, that we shall never
again know how to live without you.”

“The dear little creater!” exclaimed Effie, as Eleanor
went off to her task with alacrity, “who but she would
ever think such a poor old body as I any thing but a burden?
What a wife for poor Frank! She takes all the stumbling-stones
and bramble-bushes out of every body's path!”

“My mother?” asked May. While Cousin Effie was thinking
how she should literalize her figurative language for
May's comprehension—not seeing how very short the
descent was from her own level to the child's—the door
was opened, and Mr. Walter Herbert appeared. May leaped
into his arms, and Cousin Effie, begging to be excused, withdrew.

“Where is your mother, May?” asked Mr. Herbert.

“Writing for my father, and she said she must not be
called for any body—but you are some body, Uncle Walter,
and I may call her for you.”

“No, no, May—I am no body—and no one cares for

“Uncle Walter, I am sure I do, and my Aunt Grace

“Your Aunt Grace has other fish to fry.”

“Aunt Grace fry fish! How funny you are, Uncle

Uncle Walter did not look “funny,” but pensive and
abstracted. He was recoiling from dangers that now
seemed to him close at hand. He had asked Grace to come


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to her sister's with him. She declined, pleading an engagement.
During his solitary walk he had met her with Copley.
May, with the instinct of a loving child, felt, without
knowing wherefore, that he needed to be comforted. She
put up her bright lips and kissed him, caressed his cheek,
and said, “Ah, now, Uncle Walter, come and live with us
in our nice little house at Harlem; if you and Aunt Grace
come it will be jolly! Oh, it's such a pretty little house;
not ugly old brick like this, but wood painted white; and
not such big rooms as these, but the cunningest little rooms,
just a little bigger than mamma's dressing-room. It's so
much pleasanter, Cousin Effie says, not to have rooms cluttered
up with furniture and things that we children must
not touch—only a few things that we must have, you know,
Uncle Walter.”

“But my darling, people differ as to what they must

“Let them; you and I know, Uncle Walter, and mamma
has all those things—a sofa for you to take a nap on
when you are tired, and chairs, and a little table to sew by,
and a big table to eat on. And we shall have one room
entirely empty, where you, and I, and Grace can play blindfold,
and not hurt ourselves, and break things. And there's
a closet big enough for my baby-house, and a nice sunny
kitchen, where poor old Di' won't get her rheumatisms,
mamma says; and oh, best of all! there's a pear-tree in our
yard where we can hang up Bob's cage; and ever—ever so
much blue sky over us! Will you come with us, Uncle

The child's estimates of the necessaries of life were certainly
very different from those of the world's in general—
but, except ye become as one of these, ye can not enter into
that kingdom of heaven which is in a heart of love and


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Uncle Walter was responsive—May cheated him of his
moodiness—and half an hour afterward Mrs. Herbert and
Miss Carlton found him on the floor building castles with
the child, with her blocks, and laughing with her over their

“Good-morning, May,” said Mrs. Herbert.

“Good-morning, ma'am—keep a building, Uncle Walter
—mamma is very much engaged, ma'am, and so are Uncle
Walter and I.”

“Hoity toity miss!” said Anne Carlton, “where did you
learn your manners?”

“Pshaw, Anne!” said Mrs. Herbert, “children must be
children. I heard at the door, my dear, that your mamma
was engaged, but we came in to see the baby, and to take
you home to pass the day.”

“Is Aunt Grace at home?”


“Then I'll stay here, if you please, ma'am, and I'll go and
ask Cousin Effie to bring down baby.”

“Oh, Mr. Herbert!” said Anne Carlton, as May ran off to
the nursery, “how can you help spoil that child? She is the
rudest little thing I ever saw.”

“Not rude, Miss Anne; you know the old adage—`children
and fools will speak the truth.'”

“I know they will if they are not taught better,” said
Miss Anne.

Uncle Walter whistled. Now that whistle of Walter
Herbert's was a commentary Mrs. Herbert never could bear
in silence. “You don't understand Anne, brother,” she
said; “she—” and she was going on to paraphrase all the
truth out of Anne's remark, when, to Mr. Herbert's great
relief, she was interrupted by the entrance of Cousin Effie
and the baby.

Cousin Effie, after making her rustic salutation to the


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ladies, was lost in the delight of showing off the baby in all
the beauty and pride of babyhood as she was. She did not
even see the splendid Brussels lace on Mrs. Herbert's new
mantilla, nor if she had, would she have known it from the
vulgarest net. She did not notice Miss Anne's beautiful
French millinery. Effie was absorbed in displaying baby's
sweet dimples, her curls, her mottled arms, her plump
little hands, and her dear rosy neck; the baby jingled
her coral bells, and crowed in response to Effie's crooning
and May's screams of delight at her showing-off. Suddenly,
by one of those impulses incident to babies, she dropped her
coral bells, made a spring at Miss Anne, and clutched the
roses in her bonnet. Anne shrieked, the baby screamed,
and Effie, murmuring, “Dear little innocent creater!” and
pressing her to her bosom, made her escape from the turmoil
to the nursery.

“Are they ruined, mamma?” asked Anne with a tragic

“Done for, Miss Anne,” interposed Walter Herbert,
while the mother was mentally elaborating a paraphrase of
the same fact. “An irreparable calamity, is it not?”

“Yes, it is, Mr. Herbert, though I suppose you are laughing
in your sleeve when you say so. I don't know what
babies are born for.”

“I sometimes wonder too, Miss Anne, when I see to what
women they grow up.”

“Come, come, dear Anne,” said her mother, “we are
wasting time—(what else do the Anne Carltons ever do with
time?)—brother, we are going round to see Horace Copley's
house. Bandeli is doing the frescoes. The salon-à-manger is
to be decorated after one in a celebrated villa on Como.
You will like to see a place where you have a prospect of
enjoying many a good dinner—do come, brother.”

There was malice in the twinkle of Mrs. Herbert's eye


Page 45
as she said this. Uncle Walter replied gruffly, “Thank

“Oh, I am sure it will please you; the house is palatial;
splendid drawing-rooms, a suite of private apartments for
the master, another for the mistress—we'll suppose Grace,
for so the world does say, now—a magnificent library, a billiard-room,
a callisthenic apartment—in short, every thing
that heart of man or woman can desire.”

During this harangue Miss Carlton stood tapping the
floor impatiently with her pretty French boot, and fidgeting
with her faultless Paris gloves. “I have been twice over
the house,” continued the incessant woman; “it's nearly
perfect; but I could make one or two suggestions to the
fortunate intended, Grace,” she concluded, casting a side-glance,
half impertinent and half silly, at Mr. Herbert.

“Don't make them, madam—don't speak to Grace—don't
speak to me of that house, or any thing relating to it.”
Uncle Walter's brow had been gathering the clouds that
now burst. He could not help it.

Mrs. Herbert retreated, and as the street door closed
upon them, she said with a gasp, as if a bucket of water
had been thrown in her face, “Brother Walter is dreadful

“Did you ever see such affectation?” exclaimed Anne;
“as if he would not give his right hand to see Grace mistress
of that house!”

And Walter Herbert, left free to express what he felt,
caught May in his arms, “You are right, my darling, you
are right,” he said, “would we were all in that little white
wooden house in Harlem!”

May said nothing, but she understood Walter Herbert far
better than those “world's women” did. She took out her
little handkerchief and wiped the tears from his cheek,


Page 46
kissed him, and whispered, “I hate to see you cry, Uncle
Walter; people that's old should not cry—don't.”

“I won't, May, my little comforter, I won't.” He set
the child down and went his way.

It was near 12 o'clock when Esterly returned from a gallop
to Harlem, whither Eleanor had sent him on some
errands, as she said, to the new place, but mainly in the
secret hope of refreshing her husband with a ride. How
sweet and sure are nature's restoring agencies. He came in
with a light quick step, heightened color, and brightened
eye. “Eleanor!” he exclaimed in a voice cheerful and
tender, “still slaving for me?”

“Oh, no, Frank!” she said, holding up the manuscript,
“I have just done my work: see if I have done it well.”

He turned the leaves—“Perfectly; your hand-writing,
Eleanor, is as clear as your head.” He fell on his knees, put
his arm around her, and laid his head on his wife's bosom—
“Eleanor, I was a brute this morning; no—not I, but my
brutish nature mastered me, and it does so often, and I am
then so querulous, cross, unreasonable, unchristian, even
your sweet patience irritates me, my children's voices are
discords, the world is one huge incubus oppressing me; then
comes penitence bitter, but wholesome—and then, dear
Nel, the flood-tide of love, sweeping out of my life every
thing harsh and hurtful. Tell me, how is it, dear child, that
you never get out of patience with me, never flout me,
never, by any chance, speak a cross word to me.”

“Perhaps you would not be flattered, Frank, if I told
you the simple truth,” replied Eleanor, turning his waving
locks from off his white temples, and smiling sweetly, as she
looked in his face, beaming with tenderness.

“The simple truth, my child? You can't speak any thing


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“Well then, Frank, when you are out of humor, I feel
just as I do when baby is cross with teething. It is her
inevitable misery and my business to help her, to divert and
soothe her as well as I can.”

“That is not flattering to my manhood, Nelly,” said Esterly
with a very dim smile.

“The bargain was `simple truth,' not flattery, Frank, and
it is as simple truth when I tell you that these little trials are
mere exhalations from the ground, that melt away in the
dear sunshine of our love; that you are my teacher, my
master, my daily bread.”

“Ma'am!” called out Bridget, hastily knocking at the
door, and half opening it, “the carman is waiting.”

The husband and wife started to their feet like lovers surprised
at a tête-à-tête, and like lovers, as they were, they
kissed and parted, each going with a lightened heart to the
burdens of the day.

With more of such Christian unions as that of the Esterlys,
there would be fewer divorces for “incompatibility,” and a
long lull to the stormy question of “women's rights.”