University of Virginia Library




“There are two republics: a great one, which is human nature; and a
less, which is the place where we were born.”

When the breakfast-bell rang the next morning, and while
the family were assembling, Alice brought in her arms into
the breakfast-room a pale, sickly child, and seated her between
her mother and herself. The little girl had rather a
pleasing face, but spiritless, except for her large dark eyes
of singular intelligence. She was four years old, or thereabouts,
and from her helplessness (her lower limbs were
paralyzed), or from some unknown cause, she seemed to be
an object of special interest. Mrs. Clifford, as she took her
seat at the head of the table, said, cheerily, “Ah, Daisy, is
the world right-side up this morning?” and Alice's eye
moistened, as the little girl stretched her arms to her and
said, “Give me one kiss for breakfast, my owny, dony

“Why, who is this?” asked Archibald of Max.

“You must not ask me,” replied Max, in a low tone;
“that's a secret that mother and Alice have not trusted me

Lisle's question was heard, and Max's answer guessed, but
neither were noticed, and Lisle, taking the seat allotted to
him, next the child, instinctively put his hand on one of her
long tresses that, as she shook her head, fell over his sleeve,
“Take care!” she said, “don't tumble my curls; my Alice
made them so smooth round her finger.”


Page 183

“But why do you shake your head, and toss your curls
round at such a rate, Daisy?” asked Max.

“I shake it at Amy, 'cause she has put no saucers on the
table for the raspberries.”

“Shake away, little goddess, you are quite right. I really
wish, mother, you would speak to your ne plus-ultra, Amy,
about her short-comings.”

“Speak to your sister if you please, my son, she set the
table this morning; but make no remarks before Amy,” continued
Mrs. Clifford, lowering her voice, and glancing at a
“parlor-girl” who entered in answer to Max's hasty ring;
“and I wish, my son, you would not ring the bell in that

Max laughed, as he said aside to Archibald, “My mother
always rings the bell as if she were afraid the servants' feeling
would be hurt if they heard it.”

“Don't you remember Amy?” asked Alice, as the girl
disappeared in the pantry to repair her young mistresses'

“Amy! Is she the little girl whom your mother brought
home with a batch of children, while she watched over their
mother, ill with a typhus fever? How could I recognize
that little buxom child in this tall, solemn young woman—
June in November?” He rose, as the girl returned to the
table, and giving her his hand, “Don't you remember me,
Amy?” he said. “I hope it is not the custom at Mapleton
to forget old friends?”

“No, sir,” replied Amy, coldly; “I guess it is not much
so.” Amy's spirit was right, but she had the discourteous
manner that pervades New England, we are sorry to say,
from highest to lowest, and appears in most repulsive ungraciousness
in the medium class that, cherishing the right
to social equality, is jealous of manifesting any deference
that may possibly be interpreted into a confession of inferiority


Page 184
of rank. Amy held, in Mrs. Clifford's family, that
anomalous position, defined by the general term, “help.”
The relation is scarcely known beyond the rural districts of
New England; and now that the Celts monopolize domestic
service, and the term “servant” is used, without fear or reproach,
it will soon become traditional. It is in such relations
as that of Mrs. Clifford to Amy, and to her other
humble friends in her rural district, that the most perfect
working of our republican institutions is to be seen; and
rarely is it to be seen out of New England.

But it is hard for young people to divest themselves of a
certain respect for what they consider the marks of “genteel
life.” “Alice,” said Max, “you are spoiling Amy; why, in
the world, should you set the table for her?”

“I could hardly do less, Max, when mother went out in
the dew, in her stead, and picked those raspberries that you
seem to be so mightily enjoying.”

“Oh, that's mother's way, to spoil all her servants. Can
you imagine such an absurdity, Miss Herbert, as letting a
servant sleep, and getting up and doing her work?”

“Yes, I have seen like anomalies in my sister Eleanor's
ménage; but, Max, I must confess to knowing ladies who
would as soon think of building a nest for a bird, as of doing
the kind turn Alice has done this morning for Amy.”

“And would probably be quite as capable of the one
service as the other,” said Mrs. Clifford, looking approvingly,
and with surprise at Grace, of whom, as a New York bred
lady, she was still distrustful. “Is it true, Miss Herbert,”
she added, “as I often hear alleged, that women in our
towns live in hotels, to escape the trouble of training and
governing domestics?”

“I hear so,” said Grace, shrugging her shoulders; “but
really I know little of that genus.”

“The more gracious your estate, Miss Herbert,” said


Page 185
Lisle. “I have known something of the way of life of such
residents in our hotels. I have had two slander suits arising
out of it; and nothing can be more inane, gossiping, and
deteriorating than it is; `altogether inconvenient,' as Parson
Leland said of the infernal regions.”

“Capital!” exclaimed Max; “I know all about it. I
spent one week, just for the fun of it, with that rascal Gilmore
at the—what do you call it? the crack hotel in New
York; and the ladies would come to breakfast in their—
what do you call them, Alice? Oh, peignoirs; and their
skirts flounced and embroidered up to their waists; and they
wore diamond ear-rings, and sparkling bracelets, and embroidered
pocket-handkerchiefs, and all sorts of folderols, in
the morning. Don't you call that vulgar, mother?”

“Yes, Max; and perhaps even you think it more vulgar
than setting the table for Amy?”

“Yes indeed, mother. I had rather Alice would wash,
scrub, and bake—do any thing at home, all her life, than live
as these superfluous women do. Some of them, I guess,
began life with washing and scrubbing.”

“Nothing is more probable,” said Grace. “It is the sudden
fortunes that come upon people unprepared for them,
by education or association, that vulgarize our society.”

“And yet,” said Mrs. Clifford, “there are those who become
suddenly rich who are gentlemen and ladies by inspiration
or instinct.”

“Yes,” said Archibald, “and I have known some who
remain poor, and still are gentlemen by virtue of a refined
nature. My father was so in the highest sense of that term,
and in every exigency, though he continued to the end of
his life to work with carpenter's tools.”

“Your father a carpenter, Archy!” exclaimed Max.

A smile went round the table at Max's amazement at finding
the friend born of “low degree” whom he looked up to


Page 186
as gentle by birth as well as by all manly gifts and accomplishments.
His mother was annoyed, and not a little mortified
at her son's false notions; but wisely reflecting that
observation and experience are better teachers than admonition,
she reverted to the subject under discussion.
“Nothing strikes me more,” she said, “than our childish
impatience with the tasks Providence assigns us. These,
willing, strong, warm-hearted Irish, adult children, are sent
to our hearth-stones to be taught. We, those of us I mean
in medium condition, are qualified teachers. We understand
the economies and morals of domestic life, and, with the
zeal of missionaries, and at the cost of but a tithe of their
labors and sacrifices, we may raise these semi-barbarians to
the level of our civilization.”

Mrs. Clifford seems not to have been enlightened by the
oracle of a late acute English traveler in the United States,
who opines that our ladies will be driven into Mormonism
by the perplexities of domestic service!

Our friend Max belonged to a family where a gentleman
was made in the old slow fashion, by at least three generations,
and he was in the presence of one of the few representatives
of that “ancient and honorable,” and almost
forgotten race, an “old family;” and therefore we forgive
him the dullness of not seeing the absurdity of attaching importance
to hereditary gentility in a country where the
“lucifer-match” maker, or the medicinal panacea patentee
of this year, may be of the millionaire aristocracy of the
next; and where the son of the humblest mechanic, or even
of the day-laborer, starts with advantage from a “free
academy” in the race for the highest goals in the country.

But as we should agree with our young friend that there
was too much of indulgence in a household where the maid
was permitted to sleep while the mistress did her work—a
prodigious exception to all known usages—we must communicate


Page 187
in brief, what Mrs. Clifford imparted in detail to
her guests at the first opportunity.

The saw-mill which Lisle, at a slight glance from the bay-window,
had mistaken for a church, belonged to one Martin
Seymour, a thrifty young man in Mapleton, who, in despite
of suggestive red hair, and a kindling expression, possessed
a kindly, quiet temper. He was Amy's cousin on the
maternal side, and in rustic phrase, he was, from childhood,
“attached to Amy.” Amy requited his affection, kind for
kind, but the course of their true love was roughened by her
father, who had accumulated grudges against the Seymours.
He and Martin's father married twin sisters, who, it was
supposed, would divide equally the heirship of their father's
farm; a fair rural property. But the parent's will gave five-sevenths
to Seymour's wife, alleging that her husband was
“slack,” whereas Goddard was “forehanded.” Goddard
looked upon this as a mere pretext of partiality, naturally
maintaining that the very fact of his having become “forehanded”
qualified him to best husband his father-in-law's

We must confess, in dear New England, to an excess of
that quality which expands in noble minds to bold speculation
and generous enterprise, but is in our rustic population
a hateful greed of gain; it is the blot on our escutcheon, the
moth and rust that eat into our pure gold. It is this that
plucks away the smile from labor, furrows the brow with
care, and overshadows all the cheerful charities of life. But
grasping as we are, we have few hoarders or spendthrifts;
and it must be said in extenuation of this most repulsive
characteristic, that the money gained by ceaseless toil and
care is transmuted into education, invested in some improvement
in husbandry, or bestowed on—or more often bequeathed
to—a favorite charity.

Goddard's was an exceptional case; he loved money for


Page 188
money's sake; to him it was the motive and the recompense.
He had long had his eye upon the mill-site, and had carefully
accumulated and set apart dollar by dollar for its purchase;
his “castle in the air” was the mill to be erected there, and
its productive results were daily calculated. Avarice is a
most unsocial passion, and Goddard, like most avaricious
men, was cautious and secretive, and did not disclose, till
Seymour bought the mill-site, his long-cherished purpose of
possessing it. “But providence,” he said, “was set against
him. Seymour's boy had overreached him; and,” he added,
and Goddard spoke no idle words, “he should live to repent
it.” Poor Martin, who had innocently provoked this ire,
“not surmising,” as he said, “how Uncle Nat felt about
the mill-site till after all the street knew it,” experienced its
most cruel consequence in a mandate issued to Amy, forbidding
any further “keeping company” with her lover. Amy
obeyed to the letter.

Early in the morning, before Lisle's arrival in Mapleton,
Seymour, on going into his mill, discovered an obstruction in
the works, so placed, that, as he said, “if he had not seen
it before setting the mill a going, he should have been
plunged into eternity, without a minute's warning.” A
plunge, even so sudden, would hardly have found Seymour's
soul “unanointed.” Without reflection upon causes and
agencies, he rushed forth and imparted to his workmen the
peril he had escaped.

“It's Goddard's work!” one exclaimed.

“It can be no body but Goddard,” they all responded.
And in spite of Martin's earnest injunction, rumor, that
oldest of telegraphs, had carried the news through the village
before noon; and before evening, a complaint was entered
against Nathaniel Goddard, and he was brought before a
magistrate. At this stage of proceedings, Seymour appeared
at Mrs. Clifford's, and instead of stealing along the path to


Page 189
the back-door—his usual approach—he boldly entered at the
front portal, and heated and flurried, begged to speak in
private with Mrs. Clifford. After telling the story of the
morning to her,

“Every thing is going against Uncle Nat,” he said; “he
was seen about the premises last night, and there is more
than one witness to testify to his threats against me—poor
man! The only chance for us is to get a surety for his
future good behavior. Now, Mrs. Clifford, if you will offer
that, I don't care what they ask, up to any thing I own or
can earn, I will secure you.”

“But, Martin, my friend, if you will be so noble to your
uncle, why not offer the security in your own name?”

“Oh, ma'am, you don't begin to know Uncle Nat; he
hates me more than he loves money. Why he'd rather die
in State's-prison—and it's a State's-prison offence—than be
helped by me. Here is my bond to you, ma'am; Lawyer
Flint has written it, and I have signed it.”

“But it will seem very odd, Martin, that I should assume
such a risk.”

“Excuse me, ma'am. The street never thinks any kind
deed of Mrs. Clifford's, odd, be it ever so great, or ever so
small, a shower or a sprinkle.”

“Thank you, Martin; but really I don't fancy making
myself a fine bird with your fine feathers.”

“Most people,” said Seymour, “are dreadful afraid of
seeming worse than they are; I never saw one but you,
ma'am, that shyed seeming better. Don't scruple; think of
poor Uncle Nat's folks, think of—Amy.”

“Ah,” thought Mrs. Clifford, “sits the wind in that
quarter?” And smiling, and glancing significantly at Seymour,
she hesitated no longer, and while he went another
way, she went to the magistrate's office, and when Lisle
arrived, she was transacting the business that enabled


Page 190
Goddard to return to his own house, that evening, at

Amy was apprised of the proceedings at the village court,
and on the same evening she went to her father's house to
ascertain the condition of affairs there. She found her
mother in great distress, moaning over her little boy, her
“youngest,” who seemed in extremity from an attack of

“Oh, I don't mind this,” she said, as Amy took the boy
from her arms; “he'll die, of course, Benny will, but that
seems nothing; he'd better die, we'd better all die, than live
to the disgrace that's coming on us.”

“Mother!” cried Amy, “don't talk so; it's all fixed;
father is out of trouble.”

“Yes, out to-day, Amy; but he'll be in to-morrow.”

“My father!” said the little fellow, struggling hard to
speak, and looking up fondly at the mention of his name.

“Poor little man! how he loves father; where is he,
mother?” In her fright about the child, she had not before
missed her father.

“Gone,” replied the mother, “gone to the mill, I know,
for he had his set look on, and I could no more stop him
than I could stop the mill-race.”

“And did he go, mother, when Benny was breathing so?”

“No; that might have stopped him. He was out of call
when Benny waked choking.”

In a breath Amy had caught up her shawl and rushed out
into the night. She went, by a cross-cut, through a dark
and tangled wood, to the mill. The moon had not risen;
the stars gave a faint light as Amy, emerging from behind the
interlacing branches of the trees, described a man just entering
the mill. She sprang forward, grasped his arms with
both her hands, and cried, “Father! what is father here


Page 191

He shook her off, and said, fiercely, “What are you dogging
me here for?”

“I am not dogging you, sir,” she answered, with habitual
respect; “mother thought you might be here.”

“D—n her! what business had she to think about it?”

“Don't, please, to speak so, father; mother is in trouble:
Benny has got one of his croups.”


“Yes, sir; and it seems as if he would die. I never saw
him choke so; he tried to speak, and all I could make out
was `Father! father!' Oh, do go to him, sir, and I'll go
for the doctor.”

Amy well knew the motive she urged—Goddard's love
for his “youngest” was the one star shining through a pestilent
congregation of vapors. The poor man said not
another word, but turned from the mill, and rushed through
the wood. This time love was stronger than hate.

Amy did as she said. She went for the doctor; and it
was not till after she had again been at home, and seen the
child relieved, and sleeping in his father's arms, that Lisle
had overheard her giving vent to her full heart by sobs and
tears in her own room. She was quieted by the ascendancy
of her beloved mistress over her; but she was not reassured.
She knew the hopeless determination of her father's temper,
and believed that the evil day, however deferred, must come.
The antagonisms of love and hate, generosity and covetousness,
enact their tragedies even in humble rural life.