Part 1 out of 8
Charles Aldarondo, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading
The Blind Heart.
A Domestic Story.
By W. Gilmore Simms,
Wagner. But of the world-the heart, the mind of man,
How happy could we know!
Faust. What can we know?
Who dares bestow the infant his true name?
The few who felt and knew, but blindly gave
Their knowledge to the multitude--they fell!
Incapable to keep their full hearts in,
They, from the first of immemorial time,
Were crucified or burnt.
Goethe's Faust, MS. Version.
Confession, or The Blind Heart.
"Who dares bestow the infant his true name?
The few who felt and knew, but blindly gave
Their knowledge to the multitude--they fell
Incapable to keep their full hearts in,
They, from the first of immemorial time,
Were crucified or burnt."--Goethe's "Faust."
The pains and penalties of folly are not necessarily death. They
were in old times, perhaps, according to the text, and he who kept
not to himself the secrets of his silly heart was surely crucified
or burnt. Though lacking in penalties extreme like these, the present
is not without its own. All times, indeed, have their penalties for
folly, much more certainly than for crime; and this fact furnishes
one of the most human arguments in favor of the doctrine of rewards
and punishments in the future state. But these penalties are not
always mortifications and trials of the flesh. There are punishments
of the soul; the spirit; the sensibilities; the intellect--which
are most usually the consequences of one's own folly. There is a
perversity of mood which is the worst of all such penalties. There
are tortures which the foolish heart equally inflicts and endures.
The passions riot on their own nature; and, feeding as they do
upon that bosom from which they spring, and in which they flourish,
may, not inaptly, be likened to that unnatural brood which gnaws
into the heart of the mother-bird, and sustains its existence at
the expense of hers. Meetly governed from the beginning, they are
dutiful agents that bless themselves in their own obedience; but,
pampered to excess, they are tyrants that never do justice, until
at last, when they fitly conclude the work of destruction by their
The narrative which follows is intended to illustrate these opinions.
It is the story of a blind heart--nay, of blind hearts--blind
through their own perversity--blind to their own interests--their
own joys, hopes, and proper sources of delight. In narrating my
own fortunes, I depict theirs; and the old leaven of wilfulness,
which belongs to our nature, has, in greater or less degree, a
place in every human bosom.
I was the only one surviving of several sons. My parents died while
I was yet an infant. I never knew them. I was left to the doubtful
charge of relatives, who might as well have been strangers; and,
from their treatment, I learned to doubt and to distrust among the
first fatal lessons of my youth. I felt myself unloved--nay, as I
fancied, disliked and despised. I was not merely an orphan. I was
poor, and was felt as burdensome by those connections whom a dread
of public opinion, rather than a sense of duty and affection,
persuaded to take me to their homes. Here, then, when little more
than three years old, I found myself--a lonely brat, whom servants
might flout at pleasure, and whom superiors only regarded with a
frown. I was just old enough to remember that I had once experienced
very different treatment. I had felt the caresses of a fond mother--I
had heard the cheering accents of a generous and a gentle father.
The one had soothed my griefs and encouraged my hopes--the other
had stimulated my energies and prompted my desires. Let no one
fancy that, because I was a child, these lessons were premature.
All education, to be valuable, must begin with the child's first
efforts at discrimination. Suddenly, both of these fond parents
disappeared, and I was just young enough to wonder why.
The change in my fortunes first touched my sensibilities, which
it finally excited until they became diseased. Neglected if not
scorned, I habitually looked to encounter nothing but neglect or
scorn. The sure result of this condition of mind was a look and
feeling, on my part, of habitual defiance. I grew up with the mood
of one who goes forth with a moral certainty that he must meet and
provide against an enemy. But I am now premature.
The uncle and aunt with whom I found shelter were what is called
in ordinary parlance, very good people. They attended the most
popular church with most popular punctuality. They prayed with
unction--subscribed to all the charities which had publicity and
a fashionable list to recommend them--helped to send missionaries
to Calcutta, Bombay, Owyhee, and other outlandish regions--paid
their debts when they became due with commendable readiness--and
were, in all out-of-door respects, the very sort of people who
might congratulate themselves, and thank God that they were very
far superior to their neighbors. My uncle had morning prayers at
home, and my aunt thumbed Hannah More in the evening; though it
must be admitted that the former could not always forbear, coming
from church on the sabbath, to inquire into the last news of the
Liverpool cotton market, and my aunt never failed, when they reached
home, on the same blessed day, to make the house ring with another
sort of eloquence than that to which she had listened with such
sanctimonious devotion from the lips of the preacher. There were
some other little offsets against the perfectly evangelical character
of their religion. One of these--the first that attracted my infant
consideration--was naturally one which more directly concerned
myself. I soon discovered that, while I was sent to an ordinary
charity school of the country, in threadbare breeches, made of the
meanest material--their own son--a gentle and good, but puny boy,
whom their indulgence injured, and, perhaps, finally destroyed--was
despatched to a fashionable institution which taught all sorts of
ologies--dressed in such choice broadcloth and costly habiliments,
as to make him an object of envy and even odium among all his less
Poor little Edgar! His own good heart and correct natural understanding
showed him the equal folly of that treatment to which he was
subjected, and the injustice and unkindness which distinguished
mine. He strove to make amends, so far as I was concerned, for the
error of his parents. He was my playmate whenever he was permitted,
but even this permission was qualified by some remark, some direction
or counsel, from one or other of his parents, which was intended
to let him know, and make me feel, that there was a monstrous
difference between us.
The servants discovered this difference as quickly as did the
objects of it; and though we were precisely of one age, and I was
rather the largest of the two, yet, in addressing us, they paid
him the deference which should only be shown to superior age, and
treated me with the contumely only due to inferior merit. It was
"Master Edgar," when he was spoken to--and "you," when I was the
object of attention.
I do not speak of these things as of substantial evils affecting
my condition. Perhaps, in one or more respects, they were benefits.
They taught me humility in the first place, and made that humility
independence, by showing me that the lesson was bestowed in wantonness,
and not with the purpose of improvement. And, in proportion as
my physical nature suffered their neglect, it acquired strength
by the very roughening to which that neglect exposed it. In this
I possessed a vast advantage over my little companion. His frame,
naturally feeble, sunk under the oppressive tenderness to which the
constant care of a vain father, a doting mother, and sycophantic
friends and servants, subjected it. The attrition of boy with boy,
in the half-manly sports of schoolboy life--its very strifes and
scuffles--would have brought his blood into adequate circulation,
and hardened his bones, and given elasticity to his sinews. But
from all these influences, he was carefully preserved and protected.
He was not allowed to run, for fear of being too much heated. He
could not jump, lest he might break a blood-vessel. In the ball
play he might get an eye knocked out; and even tops and marbles
were forbidden, lest he should soil his hands and wear out the knees
of his green breeches. If he indulged in these sports it was only
by stealth, and at the fearful cost of a falsehood on every such
occasion. When will parents learn that entirely to crush and keep
down the proper nature of the young, is to produce inevitable
perversity, and stimulate the boyish ingenuity to crime?
With me the case was very different. If cuffing and kicking could
have killed, I should have died many sudden and severe deaths in
the rough school to which I was sent. If eyes were likely to be lost
in the campus, corded balls of India-rubber, or still harder ones
of wood, impelled by shinny (goff) sticks, would have obliterated
all of mine though they had been numerous as those of Argus. My
limbs and eyes escaped all injury; my frame grew tall and vigorous
in consequence of neglect, even as the forest-tree, left to the
conflict of all the winds of heaven; while my poor little friend,
Edgar, grew daily more and more diminutive, just as some plant,
which nursing and tendance within doors deprive of the wholesome
sunshine and generous breezes of the sky. The paleness of his cheek
increased, the languor of his frame, the meagerness of his form,
the inability of his nature! He was pining rapidly away, in spite
of that excessive care, which, perhaps, had been in the first
instance, the unhappy source of all his feebleness.
He died--and I became an object of greater dislike than ever
to his parents. They could not but contrast my strength, with his
feebleness--my improvement with his decline--and when they remembered
how little had been their regard for me and how much for him--without
ascribing the difference of result to the true cause--they repined
at the ways of Providence, and threw upon me the reproach of it.
They gave me less heed and fewer smiles than ever. If I improved
at school, it was well, perhaps; but they never inquired, and I
could not help fancying that it was with a positive expression of
vexation, that my aunt heard, on one occasion, from my teacher, in
the presence of some guests, that I was likely to be an honor to
"An honor to the family, indeed!" This was the clear expression in
that Christian lady's eyes, as I saw them sink immediately after
in a scornful examination of my rugged frame and coarse garments.
The family had its own sources of honor, was the calm opinion of
both my patrons, as they turned their eyes upon their only remaining
child--a little girl about five years old, who was playing around
them on the carpet. This opinion was also mine, even then: and my
eyes followed theirs in the same direction. Julia Clifford was one
of the sweetest little fairies in the world. Tender-hearted, and
just, and generous, like the dear little brother, whom she had
only known to lose, she was yet as playful as a kitten. I was twice
her age--just ten--at this period; and a sort of instinct led me to
adopt the little creature, in place of poor Edgar, in the friendship
of my boyish heart. I drew her in her little wagon--carried her over
the brooklet--constructed her tiny playthings--and in consideration
of my usefulness, in most generally keeping her in the best of
humors, her mother was not unwilling that I should be her frequent
playmate. Nay, at such times she could spare a gentle word even
to me, as one throws a bone to the dog, who has jumped a pole, or
plunged into the water, or worried some other dog, for his amusement.
At no other period did my worthy aunt vouchsafe me such unlooked-for
But Julia Clifford was not my only friend. I had made another
shortly before the death of Edgar; though, passingly it may be said,
friendship-making was no easy business with a nature such as mine
had now become. The inevitable result of such treatment as that
to which my early years had been subjected, was fully realized. I
was suspicious to the last degree of all new faces--jealous of the
regards of the old; devoting myself where my affections were set
and requiring devotion--rigid, exclusive devotion--from their object
in return. There was a terrible earnestness in all my moods which
made my very love a thing to be feared. I was no trifler--I could
not suffer to be trifled with--and the ordinary friendships of man
or boy can not long endure the exactions of such a disposition.
The penalties are usually thought to be--and are--infinitely beyond
the rewards and benefits.
My intimacies with William Edgerton were first formed under
circumstances which, of all others, are most likely to establish
them on a firm basis in our days of boyhood. He came to my rescue
one evening, when, returning from school, I was beset by three
other boys, who had resolved on drubbing me. My haughty deportment
had vexed their self-esteem, and, as the same cause had left me
with few sympathies, it was taken for granted that the unfairness
of their assault would provoke no censure. They were mistaken. In
the moment of my greatest difficulty, William Edgerton dashed in
among them. My exigency rendered his assistance a very singular
benefit. My nose was already broken--one of my eyes sealed up for
a week's holyday; and I was suffering from small annoyances, of hip,
heart, leg, and thigh, occasioned by the repeated cuffs, and the
reckless kicks, which I was momently receiving from three points
of the compass. It is true that my enemies had their hurts to
complain of also; but the odds were too greatly against me for any
conduct or strength of mine to neutralize or overcome; and it was
only by Edgerton's interposition that I was saved from utter defeat
and much worse usage. The beating I had already suffered. I was
sore from head to foot for a week after; and my only consolation
was that my enemies left the ground in a condition, if anything,
something worse than my own.
But I had gained a friend, and that was a sweet recompense, sweeter
to me, by far, than it is found or felt by schoolboys usually. None
could know or comprehend the force of my attachment--my dependence
upon the attachment of which I felt assured!--none but those who,
with an earnest, impetuous nature like my own--doomed to denial
from the first, and treated with injustice and unkindness--has felt
the pang of a worse privation from the beginning;--the privation
of that sustenance, which is the "very be all and end all" of its
desire and its life--and the denial of which chills and repels its
fervor--throws it back in despondency upon itself--fills it with
suspicion, and racks it with a never-ceasing conflict between its
apprehension and its hopes.
Edgerton supplied a vacuum which my bosom had long felt. He was,
however, very unlike, in most respects, to myself. He was rather
phlegmatic than ardent--slow in his fancies, and shy in his
associations from very fastidiousness. He was too much governed
by nice tastes, to be an active or performing youth; and too much
restrained by them also, to be a popular one. This, perhaps, was
the secret influence which brought us together. A mutual sense
of isolation--no matter from what cause--awakened the sympathies
between us. Our ties were formed, on my part, simply because I was
assured that I should have no rival; and on his, possibly, because
he perceived in my haughty reserve of character, a sufficient
security that his fastidious sensibilities would not be likely to
suffer outrage at my hands. In every other respect our moods and
tempers were utterly unlike. I thought him dull, very frequently,
when he was only balancing between jealous and sensitive tastes;--and
ignorant of the actual, when, in fact, his ignorance simply arose
from the decided preference which he gave to the foreign and
abstract. He was contemplative--an idealist; I was impetuous and
devoted to the real and living world around me, in which I was
disposed to mingle with an eagerness which might have been fatal;
but for that restraint to which my own distrust of all things and
persons habitually subjected me.
BOY PASSIONS--A PROFESSION CHOSEN.
Between William Edgerton and Julia Clifford my young life and best
affections were divided, entirely, if not equally. I lived for no
other--I cared to seek, to know, no other--and yet I often shrunk
from both. Even at that boyish period, while the heavier cares and
the more painful vexations of life were wanting to our annoyance,
I had those of that gnawing nature which seemed to be born of the
tree whose evil growth "brought death into the world and all our
wo." The pang of a nameless jealousy--a sleepless distrust--rose
unbidden to my heart at seasons, when, in truth, there was no
obvious cause. When Julia was most gentle--when William was most
generous--even then, I had learned to repulse them with an indifference
which I did not feel--a rudeness which brought to my heart a pain
even greater than that which my wantonness inflicted upon theirs.
I knew, even then, that I was perverse, unjust; and that there was
a littleness in the vexatious mood in which I indulged, that was
unjust to my own feelings, and unbecoming in a manly nature. But
even though I felt all this, as thoroughly as I could ever feel it
under any situation, I still could not succeed in overcoming tha'
insane will which drove me to its indulgence.
Vainly have I striven to account for the blindness of heart--for
such it is, in all such cases--which possessed me. Was there
anything in my secret nature, born at my birth and growing with
my growth--which impelled me to this willfulness. I can scarcely
believe so; but, after serious reflection, am compelled to think
that it was the strict result of moods growing out of the particular
treatment to which I had been subjected. It does not seem unnatural
that an ardent temper of mind, willing to confide, looking to
love and affection for the only aliment which it most and chiefly
desires, and repelled in this search, frowned on by its superiors
as if it were something base, will, in time, grow to be habitually
wilful, even as the treatment which has schooled it. Had I been
governed and guided by justice, I am sure that I should never have
My waywardness in childhood did not often amount to rudeness, and
never, I may safely say, where Julia was concerned. In her case,
it was simply the exercise of a sullenness that repelled her
approaches, even as its own approaches had been repelled by others.
At such periods I went apart, communing, sternly with myself,
refusing the sympathy that I most yearned after, and resolving not
to be comforted. Let me do the dear child the justice to say that
the only effect which this conduct had upon her, was to increase
her anxieties to soothe the repulsive spirit which should have
offended her. Perhaps, to provoke this anxiety in one it loves, is
the chief desire of such a spirit. It loves to behold the persevering
devotion, which it yet perversely toils to discourage. It smiles
within, with a bitter triumph, as it contemplates its own power,
to impart the same sorrow which a similar perversity has already
made it feel.
But, without seeking further to analyze and account for such
a spirit, it is quite sufficient if I have described it. Perhaps,
there are other hearts equally froward and wayward with my own. I
know not if my story will amend--perhaps it may not even instruct
or inform them--I feel that no story, however truthful, could have
disarmed the humor of that particular mood of mind which shows
itself in the blindness of the heart under which it was my lot to
labor. I did not want knowledge of my own perversity. I knew--I
felt it--as clearly as if I had seen it written in characters of
light, on the walls of my chamber. But, until it had exhausted
itself and passed away by its own processes, no effort of mine could
have overcome or banished it. I stalked apart, under its influence,
a gloomy savage--scornful and sad--stern, yet suffering--denying
myself equally, in the perverse and wanton denial to which I
condemned all others.
Perhaps something of this temper is derived from the yearnings of
the mental nature. It may belong somewhat to the natural direction
of a mind having a decided tendency to imaginative pursuits. There
is a dim, vague, indefinite struggle, for ever going on in the nature
of such a person, after an existence and relations very foreign to
the world in which it lives; and equally far from, and hostile to
that condition in which it thrives. The vague discontent of such
a mind is one of the causes of its activity; and how far it may be
stimulated into diseased intensity by injudicious treatment, is a
question of large importance for the consideration of philosophers.
The imaginative nature is one singularly sensitive in its conditions;
quick, jealous, watchful, earnest, stirring, and perpetually
breaking down the ordinary barriers of the actual, in its struggles
to ascertain the extent of the possible. The tyranny which drives
it from the ordinary resources and enjoyments of the young,
by throwing it more completely on its own, impels into desperate
activity that daring of the imaginative mood, which, at no time,
is wanting in courage and audacity. My mind was one singularly
imaginative in its structure; and my ardent temperament contributed
largely to its activity. Solitude, into which I was forced by the
repulsive and unkind treatment of my relatives, was also favorable
to the exercise of this influence; and my heart may be said to have
taken, in turn, every color and aspect which informed my eyes. It
was a blind heart for this very reason, in respect to all those
things for which it should have had a color of its own. Books and
the woods--the voice of waters and of song--the dim mysteries of
poetry, and the whispers of lonely forest-walks, which beguiled me
into myself, and more remotely from my fellows, were all, so far
as my social relations were concerned, evil influences! Influences
which were only in part overcome by the communion of such gentle
beings as William Edgerton and Julia Clifford.
With these friends, and these only, I grew up. As my years advanced,
my intimacy with the former increased, and with the latter diminished.
But this diminution of intimacy did not lessen the kindness of her
feelings, or the ordinary devotedness of mine. She was still--when
the perversity of heart made me not blind--the sweet creature to
whom the task of ministering was a pleasure infinitely beyond any
other which I knew. But, as she grew up to girlhood, other prospects
opened upon her eyes, and other purposes upon those of her parents.
At twelve she was carried by maternal vanity into company--sent to
the dancing school--provided with teachers in music and painting,
and made to understand--so far as the actions, looks, and words of
all around could teach--that she was the cynosure of all eyes, to
whom the whole world was bound in deference.
Fortunately, in the case of Julia, the usual effects of maternal
folly and indiscretion did not ensue. Nature interposed to protect
her, and saved her in spite of them all. She was still the meek, modest
child, solicitous of the happiness of all around her--unobtrusive,
unassuming--kind to her inferiors, respectful to superiors, and
courteous to, and considerate of all other persons. Her advancing
years, which rendered these new acquisitions and accomplishments
desirable, if not necessary, at the same time prompted her foolish
mother to another step which betrayed the humiliating regard which
she entertained for me. When I was seventeen, Julia was twelve,
and when neither she nor myself had a solitary thought of love,
the over considerate mother began to think, on this subject, for
us both. The result of her cogitations determined her that it was
no longer fitting that Julia should be my companion. Our rambles in
the woods together were forbidden; and Julia was gravely informed
that I was a poor youth, though her cousin--an orphan whom her
father's charity supported, and whom the public charity schooled.
The poor child artlessly told me all this, in a vain effort to
procure from me an explanation of the mystery (which her mother had
either failed or neglected to explain) by which such circumstances
were made to account for the new commands which had been given her.
Well might she, in her simplicity of heart, wonder why it was, that
because I was poor, she should be familiar with me no longer.
The circumstance opened my eyes to the fact that Julia was a tall
girl, growing fast, already in her teens, and likely, under the
rapidly-maturing influence of our summer sun, to be soon a woman.
But just then--just when she first tasked me to solve the mystery
of her mother's strange requisitions, I did not think of this.
I was too much filled with indignation--the mortified self-esteem
was too actively working in my bosom to suffer me to think of anything
but the indignity with which I was treated. A brief portion of the
dialogue between the child and my self, will give some glimpses of
the blind heart by which I was afflicted.
"Oh, you do not understand it, Julia. You do not know, then, that
you are the daughter of a rich merchant--the only daughter--that
you have servants to wait on you, and a carriage at command--that
you can wear fine silks, and have all things that money can buy,
and a rich man's daughter desire. You don't know these things,
"Yes, Edward, I hear you say so now, and I hear mamma often say
the same things; but still I don't see--"
"You don't see why that should make a difference between yourself
and your poor cousin, eh? Well, but it does; and though you don't
see it now, yet it will not be very long before you will see, and
understand it, and act upon it, too, as promptly as the wisest
among them. Don't you know that I am the object of your father's
charity--that his bounty feeds me--and that it would not be seemly
that the world should behold me on a familiar footing of equality
or intimacy with the daughter of my benefactor--my patron--without
whom I should probably starve, or be a common beggar upon the
"But father would not suffer that, Edward."
"Oh, no! no!--he would not suffer it, Julia, simply because his own
pride and name would feel the shame and disgrace of such a thing.
But though he would keep me from beggary and the highway, Julia,
neither he nor your mother would spend a sixpence or make an effort
to save my feelings from pain and misery. They protect me from the
scorn of others, but they use me for their own."
The girl hung her head in silence.
"And you, too," I added--"the time will come when you. too, Julia,
will shrink as promptly as themselves from being seen with your
poor relation. You--"
"No! no! Edward--how can you think of such a thing?" she replied
with girlish chiding.
"Think it!--I know it! The time will soon be here. But--obey your
mother, Julia. Go! leave me now. Begin, once the lesson which,
before many days, you will find it very easy to learn."
This was all very manly, so I fancied at the time; and then
blind with the perverse heart which boiled within me, I felt not
the wantonness of my mood, and heeded not the bitter pain which I
occasioned to her gentle bosom. Her little hand grasped mine, her
warm tears fell upon it; but I flung away from her grasp, and left
her to those childish meditations which I had made sufficiently
Subsequent reflection, while it showed me the brutality of my
conduct to Julia, opened my eyes to the true meaning of her mother's
interdiction; and increased the pang of those bitter feelings,
which my conscious dependence had awakened in my breast, it was
necessary that this dependence should be lessened; that, as I was
now approaching manhood, I should cast about for the future, and
adopt wisely and at once the means of my support hereafter. It was
necessary that I should begin the business of life. On this head
I had already reflected somewhat, and my thoughts had taken their
direction from more than one conference which I had had with William
Edgerton. His father was an eminent lawyer, and the law had been
adopted for his profession also. I determined to make it mine;
and to speak on this subject to my uncle. This I did. I chose an
afternoon, the very week in which my conversation had taken place
with Julia, and, while the dinner things were undergoing removal,
with some formality requested a private interview with him. He looked
round at me with a raised brow of inquiry--nodded his head--and
shortly after rose from the table. My aunt stared with an air of
supercilious wonder; while poor Julia, timid and trembling, barely
ventured to give me a single look, which said--and that was enough
for me--"I wish I dared say more."
My conference with my uncle was not of long duration. I told
him it was my purpose--my desire--to begin as soon as possible to
do something for myself. His answer signified that such was his
opinion also. So far we were agreed; but when I told him that it
was my wish to study the law, he answered with sufficient, and as
I thought, scornful abruptness:--
"The law, indeed! What puts the law into your head? What preparations
have you made to study the law? You know nothing of languages which
every lawyer should know--Latin--"
I interrupted him to say that I had some slight knowledge of
Latin--sufficient, I fancied, for all legal purposes.
"Ah! indeed! where did you get it?"
"A friend lent me a grammar and dictionary, and I studied myself."
"Oh, you are ambitious; but you deceive yourself. You were never
made for a lawyer. Besides, how are you to live while prosecuting
your studies? No, no! I have been thinking of something for you,
Edward--and, just now, it happens fortunately that old Squire
Farmer, the bricklayer, wants some apprentices--"
I could scarcely listen thus far.
"I thank you, sir, but I have no disposition to be a bricklayer."
"You must do something for yourself. You can not expect to eat
the bread of idleness. I have done, and will do for you what I
can--whatever is necessary;--but I have my own family to provide
for. I can not rob my own child---"
"Nor do I expect it, Mr. Clifford," I replied hastily, and with some
indignation. "It is my wish, sir, to draw as little as possible
from your income and resources. I would not rob Julia Clifford of
a single dollar. Nay, sir, I trust before many years to be able
to refund you every copper which has been spent upon me from the
moment I entered your household."
He said hastily:--
"I wish nothing of that, Edward;--but the law is a study of years,
and is expensive and unpromising in every respect. Your clothes
already call for a considerable sum, and such a profession requires,
more than almost any other, that a student should be well dressed."
"I promise you, sir, that my dress shall be such as shall not
trespass upon your income. I shall be governed by as much economy--"
He interrupted me to say, that
"His duty required that his brother's son should be dressed as well
as his associates."
I replied, with tolerable composure:--
"I do not think, sir, that bricklaying will admit of very genteel
clothing, nor do I think that the vocation will suit me. I have
flattered myself, sir, that my talents--"
"Oh, you have talents, then, have you? Well, it is fortunate that
the discovery has been made in season."
I bore with this, though my cheek was burning, and said--with
an effort to preserve my voice and temper, in which, though the
difficulty was great, I was tolerably successful--
"You have misunderstood me in some things, Mr. Clifford; and I will
try now to explain myself clearly in others. Having resolved, sir,
that the law shall be my profession---"
"Ha! resolved, say you?"
"Well, go on--go on!"
"Having resolved to pursue the study of law, and seeing that I am
burdensome and expensive to you--believing, too, that I can relieve
you of the burden--I have simply requested permission of you to
make the attempt."
"Why, how do you propose to do so?--how can you support yourself--that
is relieve me of the burden of your expenses--and study the law at
the same time?"
"Such things have been done, sir; and can be done again. I flatter
myself I can do it. Industry will enable me to do so. I propose to
apply for a clerkship in a mercantile establishment which I know
stands in need of assistance, and while there will pursue my studies
in such intervals of leisure as the business will afford me."
"You seem to have the matter ready cut and dry. Why do you come to
me, then? Remember, I can make no advances."
"I need none, sir. My simple object with you, sir, was to declare
my intention, and to request that I may be permitted to refer to
you the merchants to whom I mean to apply, for a knowledge of my
character and attainments."
"Oh, certainly, you may--for the character;--but as to the
attainments"--with a sneering smile--"of them I can say nothing,
and, perhaps, the less said the better. I've no doubt you'll do
well enough with the merchants. It does not need much genius or
attainment for such situations. But, if you'll take my counsel,
you'll go to the bricklayer. We want bricklayers sadly. To be a
tolerable lawyer, parts are necessary; and God knows the country
is over-stocked with hosts of lawyers already, whose only parts lie
in their impudence. Better think a little while longer. Speak to
old Farmer yourself."
I smiled bitterly--thanked him for his counsel, which was only a
studied form of insult, and turned away from him without further
speech, and with a proud swelling of indignation at my heart. Thus
our conference ended. A week after, I was ensconced behind the
counter of a wholesale dealer, and my hands at night were already
busy in turning over the heavy folios of Chitty and Blackstone.
ADMITTED AMONG THE LAWYERS
Behold me, then, merchandising by day, and conning by night
the intricate mysteries of law. Books for the latter purpose were
furnished by my old friend, William Edgerton, from his father's
library. He himself was a student, beginning about the same time
with myself; though with the superior privilege of devoting himself
exclusively to this study. But if he had more time, I was more
indefatigable. My pride was roused, and emulation soon enabled me
to supply the want of leisure. My nights were surrendered, almost
wholly, to my new pursuit. I toiled with all the earnestness which
distinguished my temperament, stimulated to a yet higher degree by
those feelings of pride and pique, which were resolved to convince
my skeptical uncle that I was not entirely without those talents, the
assertion of which had so promptly provoked his sneer. Besides, I
had already learned that no such scheme as mine could be successfully
prosecuted, unless by a stern resolution; and this implied the
constant presence of a close, undeviating method in my studies. I
tasked myself accordingly to read--understandingly, if possible--so
many pages every night, making my notes, queries, doubts, &c., EN
PASSANT. In order to do this, I prescribed to myself a rule, to
pass directly from the toils of the day and the store to my chamber,
suffering no stoppage by the way, and studiously denying myself
the dangerous fascinations of that society which was everywhere at
command, in the persons of young men about my own age and condition.
The intensity of my character, and the suspiciousness which it
induced, helped me in this determination. Perhaps, there is no
greater danger to a young man's habits of study and business, than
a chat at the street corner, with a merry and thoughtless group.
A single half hour consumed in this manner, is almost always fatal
to the remaining hours of the day. It breaks into the circle, and
impairs the method without which the passage of the sun becomes
a very weary and always an unprofitable progress. If you would
be a student or anything, you must plunge headlong into it at the
beginning--bury yourself in your business, and work your way out
of your toils, by sheer, dogged industry.
My labors were so far successful that I could prosecute my studies
with independence. I had left the dwelling of my uncle the moment
I took employment in the mercantile house. My salary, though small,
was ample; with my habits, it was particularly so. I had few of
those vices in which young men are apt to indulge, and which, when
they become habits, cease unhappily to be regarded as vices. I used
tobacco in no shape, and no ardent spirits. I needed no stimulants,
and, by the way, true industry never does. It is only indolence that
needs drink; and indolence does need it; and the sooner drunkenness
kills indolence by the use of drink, the better for society. The
only objection to liquors as an agent for ridding the community of
a nuisance, is, that it is rather too slow, and too offensive in
its detailed operations; arsenic would be far less offensive, more
summary, and is far more certain. You would seek vainly to cure
drunkenness, unless you first cure the idleness which is its root
and strength, and, while they last, its permanent support. But my
object is not homily.
If I was free from vices such as these, however, I had vices of my
own, which were only less odious as they were less obvious. That
vexing, self-tormenting spirit of which I have spoken as the evil
genius that dogged my footsteps--that moral perverseness which
I have described as the "blind heart"--still afflicted me, though
in a far less degree now than when I was the inmate of my uncle's
dwelling, and exposed to all the caprices of himself, his wife
and servants. I kept on good terms with my employers, for the very
natural reason that they saw me attend to my business and theirs,
with a hearty cheerfulness that went to work promptly in whatever
was to be done, and executed its tasks with steady fortitude,
neatness, and rapidity. But, even with them, I had my sulks--my
humors--my stubborn fits of sullenness, that seemed anxious to provoke
opposition, and awaken wrath. These, however, they considerately
forgave in consideration of my real usefulness: and as they perceived
that whatever might have been the unpleasantness occasioned by
these specimens of spleen, they were never suffered to interfere
with or retard the operations of business. "It's an ugly way he's
got," was, probably, the utmost extent of what either of the partners
said, and of what is commonly said on such occasions by most persons,
who do not care to trouble themselves with a too close inquiry.
Well, at twenty-one, William Edgerton and myself were admitted
to the practice of the law, and that too with considerable credit
to ourselves. I had long since been carried by my friend into his
family circle; and Mr. Edgerton, his father, had been pleased to
distinguish me with sundry attentions, which were only grateful to
me in consequence of the unusual deference with which his manner
evinced his regard. His gentle inquiries and persuasive suggestions
beguiled me into more freedom of speech than I had ever before been
accustomed to; and his judicious management of my troubled spirit,
for a time, stifled its contradictions, and suppressed its habitual
tendencies. But it was with some jealousy, and an erectness of manner
which was surely ungracious, though, perhaps, not offensive, that
I endured and replied to his inquiries into my personal condition,
my resources, and the nature of that dependence which I bore to the
family of my uncle. When he learned--which he did not from me--in
what manner I had pursued my studies--after what toils of the day,
and at what late hours of the night--when he found from a close
private examination, which he had given me, before my admission,
that my knowledge of the law was quite as good as the greater
number of those who apply for admission--he was pleased to express
his astonishment at my perseverance, and delight at my success.
When, too, in addition to this, he discovered, upon a minute inquiry
from my employers and others, that I was abstemious, and indulged
in no excesses of any kind, his interest in me increased, as
I thought, who had been accustomed to nothing of the sort, beyond
all reasonable measure-and I soon had occasion to perceive that it
was no idle curiosity that prompted his consideration and inquiry.
Without my knowledge, he paid a visit to my uncle. This gentleman,
I may be permitted here to say, had been quite as much surprised as
anybody else, at my determined prosecution of my studies in spite
of the difficulties by which I was surrounded. That I was pursuing
them, while in the mercantile establishment to which I had gone, he
did not believe; and very frequently when I was at his house--for
I visited the family, and sometimes, though unfrequently, dined
with them on a sabbath--he jeered me on my progress--the "wonderful
progress," as he was pleased to term it--which he felt sure I was
making with my Coke and Blackstone, while baling blankets, or
bundling up plains and kerseys. This I bore patiently, sustained
as I was by the proud, indomitable spirit within me, which assured
me of the ultimate triumph which I felt positive would ensue.
I enjoyed his surprise--a surprise that looked something like
consternation--when the very day of my admission to the bar, and
after that event, I encountered him in the street, and in answer
to his usual sarcastic inquiry:--
"Well, Edward, how does the law come on? How is Sir William
Blackstone, Sir Edward Coke, and the rest of the white heads?"
I simply put the parchment into his hands which declared my formal
introduction to those venerable gentry.
"Why, you don't mean? Is it possible? So you really are admitted--a
"You see, sir--and that, too, without any Greek."
"Well, and what good is it to do you? To have a profession, Edward,
is one thing; to get business, another!"
"Yes, sir--but I take it, the profession must be had first. One
step is gained. That much is sure. The other, I trust, will follow
in due season."
"True, but I still think that the bricklayer would make the more
"Were money-making, sir, the only object of life, perhaps, then,
that would be the most desirable business; but--"
"Oh, I forgot--the talents, the talents are to be considered."
And after the utterance of this sneer, our dialogue as may be
supposed, did not much longer continue.
I did not know of the contemplated visit of Mr. Edgerton to my
worthy uncle, nor of its purpose, or I should, most assuredly, have
put my veto upon the measure with all the tenacity of a resentful
spirit; but this gentleman, who was a man of nice sensibility as
well as strong good sense, readily comprehended a portion of my
secret history from what was known to him. He easily conceived
that my uncle was somewhat of a niggard from the manner in which I
had employed myself during my preparation for the bar. He thought,
however, that my uncle, though unwilling to expend money in the
prosecution of a scheme which he did not approve--now that the scheme
was so far successful as to afford every promise of a reasonable
harvest, could not do less than come forward to the assistance of
one who had shown such a determined disposition to assist himself.
He was mistaken. He little knew the man. His interview with my
uncle was a short one. The parties were already acquainted, though
not intimately. They knew each other as persons of standing in the
same community, and this made the opening of Mr. Edgerton's business
easy. I state the tenor of the interview as it came to my knowledge
"Mr. Clifford," he said, "you have a nephew--a young gentleman,
who has been recently admitted to the bar--Mr. Edward Clifford."
The reply, with a look of wonder was necessarily affirmative.
"I have had much pleasure," continued the other, "in knowing him
for some time. He is an intimate of my eldest son, and from what
has met my eyes, sir, I should say, you are fortunate in having a
nephew of so much promise."
"Why, yes, sir, I believe he is a clever youth enough," was the
"He is more than that, sir. I regard him, indeed, as a most
astonishing young man. The very manner in which he has pursued his
studies while engaged in the harassing labors of a large wholesale
business house of this city--alone establishes this fact."
The cheeks of my uncle reddened. The last sentence of Mr. Edgerton
was unfortunate for his object. It conveyed a tacit reproof, which
the niggardly conscience of Mr. Clifford readily appropriated and,
perhaps, anticipated. He dreaded lest Mr. Edgerton knew all.
"You are probably aware, Mr. Edgcrton," he replied with equal
hesitancy and haste--"you have heard that Edward Clifford is an
orphan--that he has nothing, and it was therefore necessary that
he should learn to employ himself; though it was against my wish,
sir, that he went into a mercantile house."
There was something suppressed in this--a mean evasion--for he could
not easily have told Mr. Edgcrton, without a blush, that, instead
of the mercantile establishment, he would have made me a bricklayer's
hodman. But this, it seems, Edgerton had found out for himself. His
reply, however, was calculated to soothe the jealous apprehensions
of Mr. Clifford. He had an object in view, which he thought too
important to risk for the small pleasure of a passing sarcasm.
"Perhaps, it has happened for the best, Mr. Clifford. You were
right in requiring the young man to do for himself. Were I worth
millions, sir, I should still prefer that my son should learn that
lesson--that he should work out his own deliverance with the sweat
of his own brow."
"I agree with you, sir, perfectly," replied the other, with increased
complacency. "A boy learns to value his money as he should, only
when he has earned it for himself."
"Ah! it is not for this object simply," replied Mr. Edgerton,
"that I would have him acquire habits of industry; it is for the
moral results which such habits produce--the firmness, character,
consistency--the strength and independence--temperance, justice--all
of which arise, and almost only, from obedience to this law. But
it is clear that one can not do everything by himself, and this
young man, though he has gone on in a manner that might shame the
best of us, is still not so thoroughly independent as he fancies
himself. It will be some time before he will be able to realize
anything from his profession, and he will need some small assistance
in the meantime."
"I can not help him," exclaimed Mr. Clifford, abruptly--"I have
not the means to spare. My own family need everything that I can
give. He has himself only to blame. He chose his profession for
himself. I warned him against it. He needn't send to me."
"Do not mistake me, Mr. Clifford," said Mr. Edgerton, calmly.
"Your nephew knows nothing of my present visit. I would be loath
that he should know. It was the singular independence of his mind
that led me to the conviction, that he would sooner die than ask
assistance from anybody, that persuaded me to suggest to you in
what manner you might afford him an almost necessary help, without
offending his sensibility."
"Humph!" exclaimed the other, while a sneer mantled upon his lips.
"You are very considerate, Mr. Edgerton; but the same sensibilities
might prompt him to reject the assistance when tendered."
"No, sir," replied Edgerton, mildly--"I think I could manage that."
"I am sorry, sir, that I can not second your wishes in any material
respect," was the answer of my uncle;--"but I will see Edward, and
let him know that my house is open to him as it was from, the time
he was four years old; and he shall have a seat at my table until
he can establish himself more to his satisfaction; but money, sir,
in truth, I have not a cent to spare. My own necessities--"
"Enough, sir," said Mr. Edgerton, mildly; "I take it for granted,
Mr. Clifford, that if you could contribute to the success of your
brother's son, you certainly would neither refuse nor refrain to
"Oh, surely--certainly not," replied the other, hastily. "Anything
that I could do--anything in reason, sir, I should be very happy
to do, but--"
And then followed the usual rigmarole about "his own family," and
"hard times," and "diminished resources," and all those stereotype
commonplaces which are for ever on the lips of stereotype insincere
people. Mr. Clifford did not perceive the dry and somewhat scornful
inuendo, which lay at the bottom of Mr. Edgerton's seemingly innocent
assumption; and the latter took his leave, vexed with himself at
having made the unsuccessful application--but still more angry with
the meanness of character which he had encountered in my uncle.
"She still soothed The mock of others."
It is not improbable that, after a few hours given to calm reflection,
my uncle perceived how obnoxious he might be made to public censure
for his narrow treatment of my claims; and the next day he sent for
me in order to tender me the freedom of his house--a tender which
he had made the day before to Mr. Edgerton in my behalf. But his
offer had been already anticipated by that excellent friend that
very day. Coming warm and fresh from his interview with my uncle,
he called upon me, and in a very plain, direct, business-like, but
yet kind and considerate manner, informed me that he stood very
much in need of an assistant who would prepare his papers--did me
the honor to say that he fancied I would suit him better than anybody
else he knew, and offered me six hundred dollars for my labors in
that capacity for the first year of my service. My engagement to
him, he said at the same time, did not imply such entire employment
as would incapacitate me for the execution of any business which
might be intrusted to my hands individually. I was permitted the
use of a desk in his office, and was also permitted to hang out my
own banner from his window I readily persuaded myself that I could
be of service to Mr. Edgerton--such service as would, perhaps,
leave my obligation a light one--and promptly acceded to his offer.
He had scarcely departed when a servant brought a note from Mr.
Clifford. Even while meditating what he fancied was a favor, he
could not forbear the usual sneer. The following was his communication:
"DEAR EDWARD: If you can spare a moment from your numerous clients,
and are not in a great hurry to make your deposites, you will
suffer me to see you at the office before two o'clock. Yours
affectionately, J. B. CLIFFORD."
"Very affectionately!"! exclaimed. It might be nothing more than
a pleasantry which he intended by the offensive passages in his
note; but the whole tenor of his character and conduct forbade this
"No! no!" I muttered to myself, as the doubt suggested itself to
my mind; "no! no! it is the old insolence--the insolence of pride,
of conscious wealth--of power, as he thinks, to crush! But he is
mistaken. He shall find defiance. Let him but repeat those sarcasms
and that sneer which are but too frequent on his lips when he speaks
to me, and I will answer him, for the first time, by a narration
which shall sting him to the very soul, if he has one!"
This resolution was scarcely made when the image of Julia Clifford--the
sweet child--a child now no longer-the sweet woman--interposed,
and my temper was subdued of its resolve, though its bitterness
And what of Julia Clifford? I have said but little of her for some
time past, but she has not been forgotten. Far from it. She was
still sufficiently the attraction that drew me to the dwelling of
my selfish uncle. In the three years that I had been at the mercantile
establishment, her progress, in mind and person, had been equally
ravishing and rapid. She was no more the child, but the blooming
girl--the delicate blossom swelling to the bud--the bud bursting into
the flower--but the bloom, and the beauty, and the innocence--the
rich tenderness, and the dewy sweet, still remained the same through
all the stages of her progress from the infant to the woman. Wealth,
and the arrogant example of those about her, had failed to change
the naturally true and pure simplicity of her character. She was
not to be beguiled by the one, nor misguided by the other, from the
exquisite heart which was still worthy of Eden. When I was admitted
to the bar at twenty-one, she was sixteen--the age in our southern
country when a maiden looks her loveliest. But I had scarcely felt
the changes in the last three years which had been going on in
her. I beheld beauties added to beauties, charms to charms; and she
seemed every day to be the possessor of fresh graces newly dropped
from heaven; but there was no change. Increased perfection does
not imply change, nor does it suffer it.
It was my custom, as the condescending wish of my uncle expressed,
that I should take my Sunday dinner with his family. I complied
with this request, and it was no hard matter to do so. But it was
a sense of delight, not of duty, that made me comply; and, but
for Julia, I feel certain that I should never have darkened the
doors, which opened to admit me only through a sense of duty. But
the attraction--scarcely known to myself--drew me with singular
punctuality; and I associated the privilege which had been accorded
me with another. I escorted the ladies to church; sometimes, too,
when the business of my employers permitted, I spent an evening
during the week with the family; and beholding Julia I was not
over-anxious to perceive the indifference with which I was treated
by all others.
But let me retrace my steps. I subdued my choler so far as to go,
with a tolerable appearance of calmness if not humility, to the
interview which my uncle had been pleased to solicit. I need not
repeat in detail what passed between us. It amounted simply to
a supercilious offer, on his part, of lodging and board, until I
should be sufficiently independent to open the oyster for myself.
I thanked him with respect and civility, but, to his surprise,
declined to accept his offer.
"Why, what do you propose to do ?" he demanded.
"Do what I have been doing for the three past years; work for
myself, and pay my board from the proceeds of my own labor."
"What, you go back to the merchants, do you? You are wiser than
I thought. The law would not give you your bread here for twenty
years in this city."
"You are mistaken, uncle," I said, good humoredly--"it is from the
law that I propose to get my bread."
"Indeed!--You are even more sanguine than I thought you. But, pray,
upon what do you base your expectations?--the talents, I suppose."
I felt the rankling of this well-known and offensive sneer, but
replied simply to the point:--
"No, sir, upon assurances which you will probably think far more
worthy of respect. I have already been employed by Mr. Edgerton
as an attorney, at a salary of six hundred dollars."
"Ah, indeed! Well, you are a fortunate fellow, I must say, to get
such a helping hand at the outset. But you may want some small
amount to begin with--you can not draw upon Mr. Edgerton before
services are rendered, and if fifty or a hundred dollars, Edward--"
"I thank you, sir;--so far from wanting money, I should be almost
able to lend some. I have saved some two hundred from my mercantile
I enjoyed the ghastly grin which rose to his features. It was
evident that he was not pleased that I should be independent. He
had set out with the conviction, when my father died, that my
support and education would devolve upon him, and though they did
not, yet it was plain enough to me that he was not unwilling that
such should be the impression of the community. I had disarmed
him entirely by the simplest process, and, mortified at being
disappointed, he was disposed to hate the youth who had baffled
him. It was the strangest thing in the world that such should be
the feeling of any man, and that, too, in reference to so near a
relation; but the case is nevertheless true. I saw it in his looks
that moment--I felt it in his accents. I KNEW that such was the real
feeling in his soul. There are motives which grow from vanities,
piques, rivalries, arid the miserable ostentations of a small spirit,
which act more terribly upon the passions of man, than even the
desire of gain or the love of woman. The heart of Mr. Clifford,
was, after its particular fashion, a blind heart, like my own.
"Well, I am glad you are so well off. You will dine with us on
Sunday, I suppose?"
My affirmative was a matter of course; and, on Sunday, the evident
gratification of Julia when she saw me, amply atoned for all her
father's asperities and injustice. She had heard of my success--and
though in a sneer from the lips of her father it was not the
less productive of an evident delight to her. She met me with the
expression of this delight upon all her features.
"I am so glad, so very glad, and so surprised, too, Cousin Edward,
at your success. And yet you kept it all to yourself. You might
have told ME, at least, that you were studying law. Why was it
that I was never allowed to know of your intention?"
"Your father knew it, Julia."
"Yes, so he says now. He says you told him something about it when
you first went into a store; but he did not think you in earnest."
"Not in earnest! He little knew me, Julia."
"But your telling him, Edward, was not telling me. Why did you not
"You might not have kept my secret, Julia. You know what naughty
things are said of your sex, touching your inability to keep a
"Naughty things, indeed--naughty and untrue! I'm sure, I should
have kept your secret, if you desired it. But why should it be a
"Why, indeed!" I muttered, as the shadow of my perverseness passed
deeply over my heart. "Why, unless to protect myself from the sneers
which would stifle my ambition, and the sarcasm which would have
stung my heart,"
"But you have no fear of these from me, Cousin Edward," she said
gently, and with dewy eyes, while her fingers slightly pressed upon
"I know not that, Cousin Julia, I somehow suspect everything and
everybody now. I feel very lonely in the world--as if there was a
destiny at work to make my whole life one long conflict, which I
must carry on without sympathy or succor."
"Oh, these are only notions, Edward."
"Notions!" I exclaimed, giving her a bitter smile as I spoke, while
my thoughts reverted to the three years of unremitting and almost
uncheered labor through which I had passed.
"Yes, notions only, Cousin Edward. You are full of such notions.
You every now and then start up with a new one; and it makes you
gloomy and discontented--"
"I make no complaints, Julia."
"No, that is the worst of it. You make no complaints, I think,
because you do not wish to be cured of them. You prefer nursing
your supposed cause of grief, with a sort of solitary pleasure--the
gratification of a haughty spirit, that is too proud to seek for
solace, and to find it."
Julia had in truth touched upon the true nature of my misanthropy
--of that self vexing and self-torturing spirit which too effectually
blinds the heart.
"But could I find it, Julia?" I asked, looking into her eyes with
an expression which I began to feel was something very new to mine.
"Perhaps--I think--you could," was the half-tremulous answer, as
she beheld the peculiar expression of my glance. The entrance of
Mrs. Clifford, was, perhaps, for the first time, rather a relief
to us both.
"And so you are a lawyer, Edward? Well, who would have thought of
it? It must be a very easy thing to be made a lawyer."
Julia looked at me with eyes that reddened with vexation. I felt
my gorge rising; but when I reflected upon the ignorance, and
the unworthy nature of the speaker, I overcame the disposition to
retort, and smilingly replied:--
"It's not such hard work as bricklaying, certainly."
"Ah," she answered, "if it were only half so profitable. But Mr.
Clifford says that a lawyer now is only another name for a beggar--a
sort of genteel beggar. The town's overrun with them--half of them
live upon their friends."
"I trust I shall not add to the number of this class, Mrs. Clifford."
"Oh, no! I know YOU never will, Cousin Edward," exclaimed Julia,
with a flush upon her cheeks at her own temerity.
"Really, Julia," said her mother, "you are very confident. How do
you know anything about it?"
The sharp glances of rebuke which accompanied this speech daunted
the damsel for a moment, and her eyes were suddenly cast in confusion
upon the ground; but she raised them with boldness a moment after,
as she replied:--
"We have every assurance, mother, for what I say, in the fact that
Cousin Edward has been supporting himself at another business, while
actually pursuing the study of law for these three years; and that
very pride about which father spoke today, is another assurance--"
"Bless my stars, child, you have grown very pert on a sudden, to
talk about guaranties and assurances, just as if you was a lawyer
yourself. The next thing we hear, I suppose, will be that instead
of being busy over the 'Seven Champions' and the last fashions,
you, too, will he turning over the leaves of big law-books, and
carrying on such studies in secret to surprise a body, as if there
was any merit or good in doing such things secretly."
Julia felt that she had only made bad worse, and she hung her head
in silence. For my part, though I suppressed my choler, the pang was
only the more keenly felt for the effort to hide it. In my secret
soul, I asked, "Will the day never come when I, too, will be able
to strike and sting?" I blushed an instant after, at the small and
mean appetite for revenge that such an inquiry implied. But I came
to the support of Julia.
"Let me say, Mrs. Clifford, that I think--nay, I know--that Julia
is right in her conjecture. The guaranty which I have given to my
friends, by the pride and industry which I have shown, should be
sufficient to convince them what my conduct shall be hereafter.
I know that I shall never trespass upon their feelings or their
pockets. They shall neither blush for nor lose by their relationship
with Edward Clifford."
"Well said! well spoken! with good emphasis and proper action.
Forrest himself could scarce have done it better!"
Such was the exclamation of Mr. Clifford, who entered the room
at this moment. His mock applause was accompanied by a clamorous
clapping of his hands. I felt my cheeks burn, and my blood boil.
The truth is, I was not free from the consciousness that I had
suffered some of the grandiloquent to appear in my manner while
speaking the sentence which had provoked the ridicule of my uncle.
The sarcasm acquired increase of sting in consequence of its being
partially well-merited. I replied with some little show of temper,
which the imploring glances of Julia did not altogether persuade
me to suppress. The "blind heart" was growing stronger within
me, from the increasing conviction of my own independence. In this
sort of mimic warfare the day passed off as usual. I attended the
family to church in the afternoon, took tea, and spent the evening
with them--content to suffer the "stings and arrows"--however
outrageous, of my exemplary and Christian aunt and uncle, if permitted
to enjoy the presence and occasional smiles of the true angel,
whose influence could still temper my feelings into a humane and
patient toleration of influences which they yet burned to trample
A brief interval now passed over, after my connection begun with
Mr. Edgerton, in which time the world went on with me more smoothly,
perhaps, than ever. My patron--for so this gentleman deserves
to be called--was as indulgent as I could wish. He soon discerned
the weaknesses in my character, and with the judgment of an old
practitioner, he knew how to subdue and soften, without seeming to
perceive them. I need not say that I was as diligent and industrious,
and not less studious, while in his employ, than I had been in that
of my mercantile acquaintance. The entire toils of the desk soon
fell upon my shoulders, and I acquired the reputation among my
small circle of acquaintance, of being a very good attorney for a
young beginner. It is true, I was greatly helped by the continued
perusal of an admirable collection of old precedents, which a long
period of extensive practice had accumulated in the collection of
my friend. But to be an attorney, simply, was not the bound of my
ambition. I fancied that the forum was, before all others, my true
field of exertion. The ardency of my temper, the fluency of my speech,
the promptness of my thought, and the warmth of my imagination, all
conspired in impressing on me the belief that I was particularly
fitted for the arena of public disputation. This, I may add, was
the opinion of Mr. Edgerton also; and I soon sought an occasion
for the display of my powers.
It was the custom at our bar--and a custom full of danger--for
young beginners to take their cases from the criminal docket.
Their "'prentice han'," was usually exercised on some wretch from
the stews, just as the young surgeon is permitted to hack the
carcass of a tenant of the "Paupers' Field," the better to prepare
him for practice on living and more worthy victims. Was there a
rascal so notoriously given over to the gallows that no hope could
possibly be entertained of his extrication from the toils of the
evidence, and the deliberations of a jury, he was considered fair
game for the young lawyers, who, on such cases, gathered about him
with all the ghostly and keen propensities of vultures about the
body of the horse cast out upon the commons.
The custom was evil, and is now, I believe, abandoned. It led to
much irreverence among thoughtless young men--to an equal disregard
of that solemnity which should naturally attach to the court
of justice, and to the life of the prisoner arraigned before it.
A thoughtless levity too frequently filled the mind of the young
lawyer and his hearers, when it was known that the poor wretch
on trial was simply regarded as an agent, through whose miserable
necessity, the beginner was to try his strength and show his skill
in the art of speech-making. It was my fortune, acting rather in
compliance with the custom than my own preference, to select one
of these victims and occasions for my debut. I could have done
otherwise. Mr. Edgerton freely tendered to me any one of several
cases of his own, on the civil docket, in which to make my appearance;
but I was unwilling to try my hand upon a case in which the penalty
of ill success might be a serious loss to my friend's client, and
might operate to the injury of his business; and, another reason
for my preference was to be found--though not expressed by me--in
the secret belief which I entertained that I was peculiarly gifted
with the art of appealing to the passions, and the sensibilities
of my audience.
Having made my determination, I proceeded to prepare myself by a due
consideration of the case at large; the history of the transaction,
which involved the life of my client--(the allegation was for
murder)--and of the testimony of the witnesses so far as it had
been suggested in the EXPARTE examination before the grand jury.
I reviewed the several leading principles on the subject of the
crime; its character, the sort of evidence essential to conviction,
and certainly, to do myself all justice, as effectually prepared
myself for the duties of the trial as probably any young man of
the time and community was likely to have done. The case, I need
not add, was hopelessly against me; the testimony conclusive; and
I had nothing to do but to weigh its character with keen examination,
pick out and expose its defects and inconsistencies, and suggest
as plausible a presumption in favor of the accused, as could be
reasonably made out from the possibilities and doubts by which all
human occurrences are necessarily attended. Something, too, might
be done by judicious appeals to the principle of mercy, assuming
for the jury a discretion on this subject which, by the way, they
have no right to exercise.
I was joined in the case by my friend, young Edgerton. So far our
boyish fortunes had run together, and he was not unwilling, though
against his father's counsel, to take the same occasion with me for
entering the world in company. The term began; the case was one of
the last on the criminal docket, and the five days which preceded
that assigned for the trial, were days, I am constrained to confess,
of a thrilling and terrible agitation to my mind. I can scarcely
now recall the feelings of that week without undergoing a partial
return of the same painful sensations. My soul was striving as
with itself, and seeking an outlet for escape. I panted, as if for
breath--my tongue was parched--my lips clammy--my voice, in the
language of the poet, clove to the roof of my throat. Altogether,
I have never felt such emotions either before or since.
I will not undertake to analyze them, or account for those conflicting
sensations which make us shrink, with something like terror, from
the very object which we desire. At length the day came, and the
man; attended by his father, William Edgerton, and myself, took our
places, and stood prepared for the issue. I looked round me with a
dizzy feeling of uncertainty. Objects appeared to swim and tremble
before my sight. My eyes were of as little service to me then as
if they had been gazing to blindness upon the sun. Everything was
confused and imperfect. I could see that the courthouse was filled
to overflowing, and this increased my feebleness. The case was one
that had occasioned considerable excitement in the community, It
was one of no ordinary atrocity. This was a sufficient reason why
the audience should be large. There was yet another. There were
two new debutants. In a community where popular eloquence is, of
all others, perhaps the most desirable talent, this circumstance
was well calculated to bring many listeners. Besides, something
was expected from both Edgerton and myself. We had not reached our
present position without making for ourselves a little circle, in
which we had friends to approve and exult, and enemies to depreciate,
The proceedings were at length opened by the attorney-general, the
witnesses examined, and turned over to us for cross-examination.
This part of the duty was performed by my associate. The business
fairly begun, my distraction was lessened. My mind, driven to a
point, made a decisive stand; and the sound of Edgerton's voice,
as he proposed his questions, served still more to dissipate my
confusion. I furnished him with sundry questions, and our examination
was admitted to be quite searching and acute. My friend went through
his part of the labor with singular coolness. He was in little or
no respect excited. He, perhaps, was deficient in enthusiasm. If
there was no faltering in what he said, there was no fine phrensy.
His remarks and utterance were subdued to the plainest demands
of the subject. They were shrewd and sensible, not particularly
ingenious, nor yet deficient in the proper analysis of the evidence.
He acquitted himself creditably.
It was my part to reply to the prosecuting attorney; but when I
rose, I was completely confounded. Never shall I forget the pang of
that impotence which seemed to overspread my frame, and to paralyze
every faculty of thought and speech. I was the victim to my
own ardor. A terrible reaction of mind had taken place, and I was
prostrated. The desire to achieve greatness--the belief that it
was expected from me--the consciousness that hundreds of eyes were
then looking into mine with hungering expectation, overwhelmed me!
I felt that I could freely have yielded myself for burial beneath
the floor on which I stood. My cheeks were burning, yet my hands
were cold as ice, and my knees tottered as with an ague. I strove
to speak, however; the eyes of the judge met mine, and they looked
the language of encouragement--of pity. But this expression only
increased my confusion. I stammered out nothing but broken syllables
and incoherent sentences. What I was saying, I know not--how long
I presented this melancholy spectacle of imbecility to the eyes of
my audience, I know not. It may have been a few minutes only. To
me it seemed an age; and I was just endued with a sufficient power
of reflection to ask myself whether I had not better sit down at
once in irreversible despair, when my wandering and hitherto vacant
eyes caught a glance-a single glance--of a face opposite.
It was that of my uncle! He was perched on one of the loftiest
benches, conspicuous among the crowd--his eyes keenly fixed upon
mine, and his features actually brightened by a smile of triumphant
malice and exultation.
That glance restored me. That single smile brought me strength. I
was timid, and weak, and impotent no longer. Under the presence
of habitual scorn, my habitual pride and independence returned to
me. The tremors left my limbs. The clammy huskiness which had loaded
my tongue, and made it cleave to the roof of my mouth, instantly
departed; and my whole mind returned to my control as if beneath the
command of some almighty voice. I now saw the judge distinctly--I
could see the distinct features of every juryman; and with the pride
of my restored consciousness, I retorted the smile upon my uncle's
face with one of contempt, which was not without its bitterness.
Then I spoke, and spoke with an intenseness, a directness of purpose
and aim--a stern deliberateness--a fire and a feeling--which
certainly electrified my hearers with surprise, if with no more
elevated emotions. That one look of hostility had done more for
my mind than could have been effected in my behalf by all the kind
looks and encouraging voices of all the friends in creation.
After a brief exordium, containing some general proposition on the
subject of human testimony, which meant no more than to suggest
the propriety of giving to the prisoner the benefit of what was
doubtful and obscure in the testimony which had been taken against
him--I proceeded to compare and contrast its several parts. There
were some inconsistencies in the evidence which enable me to make
something of a case. The character of the witnesses was something
more than doubtful and that, too, helped, in a slight degree,
my argument. This was rapid, direct, closely wound together,
and proved--such was the opinion freely expressed by others,
afterward--that I had the capacity for consecutive arrangement of
facts and inferences in a very remarkable degree. I closed with
an appeal in favor of that erring nature, which, even in our own
cases, led us hourly to the commission of sins and errors; and
which, where the individual was poor, wretched, and a stranger,
under the evil influences of destitution, vicious associations, and
a lot in life, which, of necessity, must be low, might well persuade
us to look with an eye of qualified rebuke upon his offences.
This was, of course, no argument, and was only to be considered
the natural close of my labors. Before I was half through I saw
my uncle rise from his seat, and hastily leave the court-room; and
then I knew that I was successful--that I had triumphed, through
that stimulating influence of his hate, over my own fears and
feebleness. I felt sure that the speech must be grateful to the
rest of my hearers, which HE could not stay to hear; and in this
conviction, the tone of my spirits became elevated--the thoughts
gushed from me like rain, in a natural and unrestrainable torrent
of language--my voice was clear and full, far more so than I had
ever thought it could be made--and my action far more animated,
perhaps, than either good taste or the occasion justified. The
criminal was not acquitted; but both William Edgerton and myself
were judged to have been eminently successful.
The result of my debut, in other respects, was flattering far beyond
my expectations. Business poured in upon me. My old employers,
the merchants, were particularly encouraging and friendly. They
congratulated me warmly on my success, assured me that they had
always thought I was better calculated for the law than trade;
and ended by putting into my hands all their accounts that needed
a legal agency for collection. Mr. Edgerton was loud in his
approbation, and that very week saw his son and myself united in
co-partnership, with the prospect of an early withdrawal of the
father from business in my favor. Indeed, the latter gave us to
understand that his only purpose now was to see us fairly under
way, with a sufficient knowledge of the practice, and assured of
the confident of his own friends, in order to give his years and
enfeebled health a respite from the toils of the profession.
My worthy uncle, true to himself, played a very different part from
these gentlemen. He hung back, forbore all words on the subject of
my debut, and of the promising auspices under which my career was
begun, and actually placed certain matters of legal business into
the hands of another lawyer. Of this, he himself gave me the first
information in very nearly this language:--
"I have just had to sue Yardle & Fellows, and a few others, Edward,
and I thought of employing you, but you are young, and there may
be some legal difficulties in the way:--but when you get older, and
arrive at some experience, we will see what can be done for you."
"You are perfectly right, sir," was my only answer, but the smile
upon my lips said everything. I saw, then, that HE COULD NOT
SMILE. He was now exchanging the feeling of scorn which he formerly
entertained for one of a darker quality. Hate was the necessary
feeling which followed the conviction of his having done me wilful
injustice--not to speak of the duties left undone, which were
equally his shame.
There were several things to mortify him in my progress. His sagacity
as a man of the world stood rebuked--his conduct as a gentleman--his
blood as a relation, who had not striven for the welfare and good
report of his kin, and who had suffered unworthy prejudices, the
result of equal avarice and arrogance, to operate against him.
There is nothing which a base spirit remembers with so much malignant
tenacity as your success in his despite. Even in the small matter
just referred to, the appropriation of his law business, the
observant fates gave me my revenge. By a singular coincidence of
events, the very firm against which he had brought action the day
before were clients of Mr. Edgerton. That gentleman was taken
with a serious illness at the approach of the next court, and the
business of their defence devolved upon his son and myself; and
finally, when it was disposed of, which did not happen till near
the close of that year, it so happened that I argued the case; and
Mr Clifford was baffled, and you may judge the feeling with which
he now regarded me. He had long since ceased to jest with me and
at my expense. He was now very respectful, and I could see that
his dislike grew daily in strict degree with his deference. But the
deportment of Mr. Clifford--springing as it did from that devil,
which each man is supposed to carry at times in his bosom, and of
whose presence in mine at seasons I was far from unaware--gave me
less annoyance than that of another of his household. Julia, too,
had put on an aspect which, if not that of coldness, was at least,
that of a very marked reserve. I ascribed this to the influence of
her parents--perhaps, to her own sense of what was due to their
obvious desires--to her own feeling of indifference--to any and
every cause but the right one.
There were other circumstances to alarm me, in connection with this
maiden. She was, as I have said, singularly beautiful; and, as I
thought, until now, singularly meek and considerate. Her charms,
about which there could bo no two opinions, readily secured her
numerous admirers, and when these were strengthened by the supposed
fortune of which she was to be the heiress, the suitors were, some
of them, almost as pressing, after the fashion of the world in
which we lived, as those of Penelope. I now no longer secured her
exclusive regard at the evening fireside or in our way to church.
There were gallants on either hand--gay, dashing lads, with
big whiskers, long locks, and smart ratans, upon whom madame, our
lady-mother, looked with far more complacency than upon me. The
course of Julia, herself, was, however, unexceptionable. She was
singularly cautious in her deportment, and, if reserved to me.
the most jealous scrutiny--after due reflection--never enabled me
to discover that she was more lavish of her regards to any other.
But the discovery of her position led me to another discovery which
the reader will wonder, as I did myself, that I had not made before.
This was the momentous discovery that my heart was irretrievably
lost to her--that I loved her with all the intensity of a first
passion, which, like every other passion in my heart, was absorbing
during its prevalence. I could name my feelings to myself only when
I perceived that such feelings were entertained by others;--only
when I found that the prize, which I desired beyond all others,
was likely to be borne away by strangers, did I know how much it
was desirable to myself.
The discovery of this affection instantly produced its natural
effects as well upon my deportment as upon my feelings; and that
sleepless spirit of suspicion and doubt--that true creature and
consequence of the habitual distrust which my treatment from boyhood
had instilled into my mind--at once rose to strength and authority
within me, and swayed me even as the blasts of November sway the
bald tops of the slender trees which the gusts have already denuded
of all foliage. The change in Julia's deportment, of which I have
already spoken, increased the febrile fears and suspicions which
filled my soul and overcame my judgment. She too--so I fancied--had
learned to despise and dislike me, under the goading influences of
her father's malice and her mother's silly prejudices. I jumped to
the conclusion instantly, that I was bound to my self to assert my
superiority, my pride and independence, in such a manner, as most
effectually to satisfy all parties that their hate or love was
equally a matter of indifference.
You may judge what my behavior was after this. For a time, at least,
it was sufficiently unbecoming. The deportment of Julia grew more
reserved than ever, and her looks more grave. There was a sadness
evidently mingled with this gravity which, amid all the blindness
of my heart, I could not help but see. She became sadder and
thinner every day; and there was a wo-begone listlessness about her
looks and movements which began to give me pain and apprehension.
I discovered, too after a while, that some apprehensions had also
crept into the minds of her parents in respect to her health. Their
looks were frequently addressed to her in evident anxiety. They
restrained her exercises, watched the weather when she proposed
to go abroad, strode in every way to keep her from fatigue and
exposure; and, altogether, exhibited a degree of solicitude which
at length had the effect of arousing mine.
Involuntarily, I approached her with more tenderness than my vexing
spirit had recently permitted me to show; but I recoiled from
the effects of my own attentions. I was vexed to perceive that my
approaches occasioned a start, a flutter--a shrinking inward--as
if my advance had been obtrusive, and my attempts at familiarity
I was then little schooled in the intricacies of the female heart.
I little conjectured the origin of that seemingly paradoxical
movement of the mind, which, in the case of one, sensitive and
exquisitely delicate, prompts to flight from the very pursuit which
it would yet invite; which dreads to be suspected of the secret
which it yet most loves to cherish, and seeks to protect, by
concealment, the feelings which it may not defend; even as the bird
hides the little fledglings of its care from the hunter, whom it
dare not attack.
Stupid, and worse than stupid, my blind heart saw nothing of
this, and perverted what it saw. I construed the conduct of Julia
into matter of offence, to be taken in high dudgeon and resolutely
resented; and I drew myself up stiffly when she appeared, and
by excess of ceremonious politeness only, avoided the reproach of
brutality. Yet, even at such moments, I could see that there was
a dewy reproach in her eyes, which should have humbled me, and
made me penitent. But the effects of fifteen years of injudicious
management were not to be dissipated in a few days even by the
Ithuriel spells of love. My sense of independence and self-resource
had been stimulated to a diseased excess, until, constantly on the
QUI VIVE, it became dogged and inflexible. It was a work of time
to soften me and make me relent; and the labor then was one of my
own secret thoughts, and unbiased private decision. The attempt to
persuade or reason me into a conviction was sure to be a failure.
Months passed in this manner without effecting any serious change
in Julia, or in bringing us a step nearer to one another. Meanwhile,
the sphere of my observation and importance increased, as the
circle of my acquaintance became extended. I was regarded as a
rising young man, and one likely to be successful ultimately in
my profession. The social privileges of my friends, the Edgertons,
necessarily became mine; and it soon occurred that I encountered my
uncle and his family in circles in which it was somewhat a matter
of pride with him to be permitted to move. This, as it increased my
importance in his sight, did not diminish his pains. But he treated
me now with constant deference, though with the same unvarying
coldness. When in the presence of others, he warmed a little. I
was then "his nephew;" and he would affect to speak with great
familiarity on the subject of my business, my interests, the last
case in which I was engaged, and so forth--the object of which was
to persuade third persons that our relations were precisely as they
should be, and as people would naturally suppose them.
At all these places and periods, when it was my lot to meet
with Julia, she was most usually the belle of the night. A dozen
attendants followed in her train, solicitous of all her smiles, and
only studious how to afford her pleasure. I, only, stood aloof--I,
who loved her with a more intense fervor than all, simply because
I had none, or few besides to love. The heart which has been evermore
denied, will always burn with this intensity. Its passion, once
enkindled, will be the all-absorbing flame. Devoted itself, it
exacts the most religious devotion; and, unless it receives it,
recoils upon its own resources, and shrouds itself in gloom, simply
to hide its sufferings from detection.
I affected that indifference to the charms of this maiden, which
no one of human sensibilities could have felt. Opinions might have
differed in respect to her beauty; but there could be none on
the score of her virtues and her amiability, and almost as few
on the possessions of her mind. Julia Clifford, though singularly
unobtrusive in society, very soon convinced all around her that
she had an excellent understanding, which study had improved, and
grace had adorned by all the most appropriate modes of cultivation.
Her steps were always followed by a crowd--her seat invariably
encircled by a group to itself. I looked on at a distance, wrapped up
in the impenetrable folds of a pride, whose sleeves were momently
plucked, as I watched, by the nervous fingers of jealousy and
suspicion. Sometimes I caught a timid glance of her eye, addressed
to the spot where I stood, full of inquiry, and, as I could not
but believe, of apprehension;--and yet, at such mcments; I turned
perversely from the spot, nor suffered myself to steal another look
at one, all of whose triumphs seemed made at my expense.
On one of these occasions we met--our eyes and hands, accidentally;
and, though I, myself, could not help starting back with a cold
chill at my heart, I yet fancied there was something monstrous
insulting in the evident recoil of her person from the contact with
mine, at the same moment. I was about to turn hurriedly away with
a slight bow of acknowledgment, when the touching tenderness of
her glance, so full of sweetness and sadness, made me shrink with
shame from such a rudeness. Besides, she was so pale, so thin,
and really looked so unwell, that my conscience, in spite of that
blind heart whose perversity would still have kept me to my first
intention, rebuked me, and drove me to my duty. I approached--I
spoke to her--and my words, though few, under the better impulses
of the moment, were gentle and solicitous, as they should have been.
My tones, too, were softened:--wilfully as I still felt, I could
not forbear the exercise of that better ministry of the affections
which was disposed to make amends for previous misconduct. I do not
know exactly what I said--I probably did nothing more than utter
the ordinary phrases of social compliment;--but everything was
obliterated from my mind in an instant, by the startling directness
of what was said by her. Looking at me with a degree of intentness
by which, alone, she was, perhaps, able to preserve her seeming
calmness, she replied by an inquiry as remote from what my observation
called for as possible, yet how applicable to me and my conduct!
"Why do you treat me thus, Edward? Why do you neglect me as you
do--as if I were a stranger, or, at least, not a friend? What have
I done to merit this usage from one who---"
She did not finish the sentence, but her reproachful eyes, full
of a dewy suffusion that seemed very much like tears, appeared to
conclude it thus--
"One who--used to love me!"
So different was this speech from any that I looked for--so different
from what the usage of our conventional world would have seemed
to justify--so strange for one so timid, so silent usually on the
subject of her own griefs, as Julia Clifford--that I was absolutely
confounded. Where had she got this courage? By what strong feeling
had it been stimulated? Had I been at that time as well acquainted
with the sex as I have grown since, I must have seen that nothing
but a deep interest in my conduct and regard, could possibly have
prompted the spirit of one so gentle and shrinking, to the utterance
of so searching an appeal. And in what way could I answer it?
How could I excuse myself? What say, to justify that cold, rude
indifference to a relative, and one who had ever been gentle and
kind and true to me. I had really nothing to complain of. The vexing
jealousies of my own suspicious heart had alone informed it to its
perversion; and there I stood--dumb, confused, stupid-speaking,
when I did speak, some incoherent, meaningless sentences, which
could no more have been understood by her than they can now be
remembered by me. I recovered myself, however, sufficiently soon
to say, before we were separated by the movements of the crowd:-
"I will come to you to-morrow, Julia. Will you suffer me to see
you in the morning, say at twelve?"
"Yes, come!" was all her answer; and the next moment the harsh
accents of her ever-watchful mother warned us to risk no more.
DENIAL AND DEFEAT.
My sleep that night was anything but satisfactory. I had feverish
dreams, unquiet slumbers, and woke at morning with an excruciating
headache. I was in no mood for an explanation such as my promise
necessarily implied, but I prepared my toilet with particular
care--spent two hours at my office in a vain endeavor to divert
myself, by a resort to business, from the conflicting and annoying
sensations which afflicted me, and then proceeded to the dwelling
of my uncle.
I was fortunate in seeing Julia without the presence of her mother.
That good lady had become too fashionable to suffer herself to
be seen at so early an hour. Her vanity, in this respect, baffled
her vigilance, for she had her own apprehensions on the score of
my influence upon her daughter. Julia was scarcely so composed in
the morning as she had appeared on the preceding night. I was now
fully conscious of a flutter in her manner, a flush upon her face,
an ill-suppressed apprehension in her eyes, which betokened strong
emotions actively at work. But my own agitation did not suffer
me to know the full extent of hers. For the first time, on her
appearance, did I ask myself the question--"For what did I seek
this interview?" What had I to say--what near? How explain my
conduct--my coldness? On what imaginary and unsubstantial premises
base the neglect in my deportment, amounting to rudeness, of which
she had sufficient reason and a just right to complain? When I
came to review my causes of vexation, how trivial did they seem. The
reserve which had irritated me, on her part, now that I analyzed its
sources, seemed a very natural reserve, such as was only maidenly
and becoming. I now recollected that she was no longer a child--no
longer the lively little fairy whom I could dandle on my knee and
fling upon my shoulder, without a scruple or complaint. I stood like
a trembling culprit in her presence. I was eloquent only through
the force of a stricken conscience.
"Julia!" I exclaimed when we met, "I have come to make atonement.
I feel how rude I have been, but that was only because I was very
"Wretched, Edward!" she exclaimed with some surprise. "What should
make you wretched?"
"You--you have made me wretched."
"Me!" Her surprise naturally increased
"Yes, you, dear Julia, and you only."
I took her hand in mine. Mine was burning--hers was colder than the
icicles. Need I say more to those who comprehend the mysteries of
the youthful heart. Need I say that the tongue once loosed, and
the declaration of the soul must follow in a rush from the lips.
I told her how much I loved her;--how unhappy it made me to think
that others might bear away the prize; that, in this way, my rudeness
arose from my wretchedness, and my wretchedness only from my love.
I did not speak in vain. She confessed an equal feeling, and we
were suffered a brief hour of unmitigated happiness together.
Surely there is no joy like that which the heart feels in the first
moment when it gives utterance to its own, and hears the avowed
passion of the desired object:--a pure flame, the child of sentiment,
just blushing with the hues of passion, just budding with the
breath and bloom of life. No sin has touched the sentiment;--no
gross smokes have risen to involve and obscure the flame; the altar
is tended by pure hands; white spirits; and there is no reptile
beneath the fresh blossoming flowers which are laid thereon. The
grosser passions sleep, like the fumes at the shrine of Apollo,
beneath the spell of that master passion in whose presence they
can only maintain a subordinate existence. I loved; I had told
my love;--and I was loved in return. I trembled with the deep
intoxication of that bewildering moment; and how I found my way
back to my office--whom I saw on the way, or to whom I spoke, I know
not. I loved;--I was beloved. He only can conceive the delirium of
this sweet knowledge who has passed a life like mine--who has felt
the frowns and the scorn, and the contempt of those who should
have nurtured him with smiles--whose soul, ardent and sensitive,
has been made to recoil cheerlessly back on itself--denied the
sunshine of the affections, and almost forbade to hope. Suddenly,
when I believed myself most destitute, I had awakened to fortune--to
the realization of desires which were beyond my fondest dreams. I,
whom no affection hitherto had blessed, had, in a moment, acquired
that which seemed to me to comprise all others, and for which all
others might have been profitably thrown away.
I fancied now that henceforth my sky was to be without a cloud. I
did not--nor did Julia imagine for a moment that any opposition to
our love could arise from her parents. What reason now could they
have to oppose it? There was no inequality in our social positions.
My blood had taken its rise from the same fountains with her own.
In the world's estimation my rank was quite as respectable as that
of any in my uncle's circle, and, for my condition, my resources,
though small, were improving daily, and I had already attained
such a place among my professional brethren, as to leave it no
longer doubtful that it must continue to improve. My income, with
economy--such economy as two simple, single-minded creatures, like
Julia and myself, were willing to employ--would already yield us
a decent support. In short, the idea of my uncle's opposition to
the match never once entered my head. Yet he did oppose it. I was
confounded with his blunt, and almost rugged refusal.
"Why, sir, what are your objections?"
He answered with sufficient coolness.
"I am sorry to refuse you, Edward, but I have already formed other
arrangements for my daughter. I have designed her for another."
"Indeed, sir--may I ask with whom?"
"Young Roberts--his father and myself have had the matter for some
time in deliberation. But do not speak of it, Edward--my confidence
in you, alone, induces me to state this fact."
"I am very much obliged to you, sir;--but you do not surely mean
to force young Roberts upon Julia, if she is unwilling?"
"Ah, she will not be unwilling. She's a dutiful child, who will
readily recognise the desires of her parents as the truest wisdom."
"But, Mr. Clifford--you forget that Julia has already admitted to
me a preference--"
"So you tell me, Edward, and it is with regret that I feel myself
compelled to say that I wholly disapprove of your seeking my
daughter's consent, before you first thought proper to obtain mine.
This seems to me very muck like an abuse of confidence."
"Really, sir, you surprise me more than ever. Now that you force
me to speak, let me say that, regarding myself as of blood scarcely
inferior to that of my cousin, I can not see how the privilege of
which I availed myself in proposing for her hand, can be construed
into a breach of confidence. I trust, sir, that you have not
contemplated your brother's son in any degrading or unbecoming
"No, no, surely not, Edward; but mere equality of birth does not
constitute a just claim, by itself, to the affections of a lady."
"I trust the equality of birth, sir, is not impaired on my part
by misconduct--by a want of industry, capacity--by inequalities in
He finished the sentence with the ancient sneer. But I was now a
man--a strong one, and, at this moment particularly a stern one.
"Stop, sir," I retorted; "there must be an end to this. Whether you
accede to my application or not, sir, there is nothing to justify
you in an attempt to goad and mortify my feelings. I have proffered
to you a respectful application for the hand of of your daughter,
and though I were poorer, and humbler, and less worthy in all respects
than I am, I should still be entitled to respectful treatment. At
another time, with my sensibilities less deeply interested than
they are, I should probably submit, as I have already frequently
submitted, to the unkind and ungenerous sarcasms in which you have
permitted yourself to indulge at my expense. But my regard for
your daughter alone would prompt me to resent and repel them now.
The object of my interview with you is quite too sacred--too solemnly
invested--to suffer me to stand silently under the scornful usage
even of her father."
All this may have been deserved by Mr. Clifford, but it was scarcely
discreet in me. It gave him the opportunity which, I do not doubt,
he desired--the occasion which he had in view. It afforded him
an excuse for anger, for a regular outbreak between us, which, in
some sort, yielded him that justification for his refusal, without
which he would have found it a very difficult matter to account
for or excuse. We parted in mutual anger, the effect of which was
to close his doors against me, and exclude me from all opportunities
of interview with Julia, unless by stealth. Even then, these
opportunities were secured by my artifice, without her privity. As
dutiful as fond, she urged me against them; and, resolute to "honor
her father and mother" in obedience to those holy laws without a
compliance with which there is little hope and no happiness, she
informed me with many tears that she was now forbidden to see me,
and would therefore avoid every premeditated arrangement for our
meeting. I did not do justice to her character, but reproached her
with coldness--with a want of affection, sensibility, and feeling.
"Do not say so, Edward--do not--do not! I cold--I insensible--I
wanting in affection for you! How, how can you think so?" And she
threw herself on my bosom and sobbed until I began to fancy that
convulsions would follow.
We separated, finally, with assurances of mutual fidelity--assurances
which, I knew, from the exclusiveness of all my feelings, my
concentrative singleness of character, and entire dependence upon
the beloved object of those affections which were now the sole solace
of my heart, would not be difficult for me to keep. But I doubted
HER strength--HER resolution--against the pressing solicitations
of parents whom she had never been accustomed to withstand. But
she quieted me with that singular earnestness of look and manner
which had once before impressed me previous to our mutual explanation.
Like vulgar thinkers generally, I was apt to confound weakness of
frame and delicacy of organization with a want of courage and moral
resources of strength and consolation.
"Fear nothing for my truth, Edward. Though, in obedience to
my parents, I shall not marry against their will, be sure I shall
never marry against my own."
"Ah, Julia, you think so, but--"
"I know so, Edward. Believe nothing that you hear against me or of
me, which is unfavorable to my fidelity, until you hear it from my
"But you will meet me again--soon?"
"No, no, do not ask it, Edward. We must not meet in this manner.
It is not right. It is criminal."
I had soon another proof of the decisive manner in which my uncle
seemed disposed to carry on the war between us. Erring, like
the greater number of our young men, in their ambitious desire to
enter public life prematurely, I was easily persuaded to become a
candidate for the general assembly. I was now just twenty-five--at
a time when young men are not yet released from the bias of early
associations, and the unavoidable influence of guides, who are
generally blind guides. Until thirty, there are few men who think
independently; and, until this habit is acquired--which, in too
many cases, never is acquired--the individual is sadly out of place
in the halls of legislation. It is this premature disposition to
enter into public life, which is the sole origin of the numberless
mistakes and miserable inconsistencies into which our statesmen
fall; which cling to their progress for ever after, preventing
their performances, and baffling them in all their hopes to secure
the confidence of the people. They are broken-down political hacks
in the prime of life, and just at the time when they should be
first entering upon the duties of the public man. Seduced, like
the rest, as well by my own vanity as the suggestions of favoring
friends, I permitted my name to be announced, and engaged actively
in the canvass. Perhaps the feverish state of my mind, in consequence
of my relations with Julia Clifford and her parents, made me more
willing to adopt a measure, about which, at any other time, I