By Timothy Shay Arthur
"I shall love your mother very much, Charles — but do you think she will love me?" said a graceful young creature, leaning with an air of tender confidence upon the arm of her companion, and looking earnestly in his face. She was a little above the ordinary stature, with a form so delicate as to appear almost fragile, a pure semi-transparent skin, and a cheek —
"Like the apple-tree blossom,
By the dew-fountain fed,
Was the bloom of her cheek,
With its white and its red."
Eyes of heaven's own blue beamed with love and delight, as they wandered over the frank, honest face of the young man, who stood looking down into them, as they reflected back his own image. He could not love himself without harm to himself, but he could gaze on, and love to gaze forever upon the image of himself pictured in those dear eyes, and yet be innocent.
"Love you, Ellen? How can she help loving you?"
"I do not know why anyone should love me," was the artless reply.
"I do not know how anyone can help loving you."
"Ah, you may think so, but everyone does not see with your eyes; and maybe you are only blinded. I am not perfect, Charles; don't forget that."
"You are perfect to me, and that is all I ask. But say, Ellen, dear, shall not we be married in a month?"
"I am so young, Charles; and then I ought to be certain that your mother is willing. Does she know all about it? You have written to her, have you not?"
The young man did not reply for some moments. Then he said, "Never fear, Ellen; my mother will love you as her own child, when she sees and knows you. I have not written about you to her, because, as I must tell you, my mother, though one of the best of women, is a little proud of her standing in society. The moment I write to her on the subject, she will have a dozen grave questions to ask about your family, and whether they are connected with this great personage or that — questions that I despair of answering, in a letter, to her satisfaction. But your dear face will explain all, and stop all inquiries, when I present you to her as my wife."
"Don't be so certain of that, Charles. If your mother is proud of her family, she will be mortified and displeased if her son would marry an unknown girl."
"The proudest mother on earth would receive you into her bosom, and call you daughter, without an emotion of wounded pride," was the lover's confident reply. "I know it. I know my mother too well, not to be confident on this subject."
"You ought to know, Charles; but I would much rather be certain. I love you better than my life; but if I thought that your marrying me would separate you from your mother's love — I would never consent to a union. Ah, there can be no love so pure, so deep, so unselfish as a mother's love. A mother! Oh, how sweet the name! how holy the office! I can remember, though but faintly, my own mother. I was but a little girl when I lost her, but I still see her face as it often bent over me while I lay in my bed, and still, at times, can hear her voice. Oh, what would I not have given had she lived! Ah, Charles, be sure that in no act of your life you wrong your mother, or give her pain."
Charles Linden belonged to a family that claimed descent from some distinguished ancestor on the mother's side — someone who had come from England a long time ago, and who, when there, was ranked one of noble blood. Of the worth of his principles, little was known. He may have been a high-minded and honorable man, or he may have possessed qualities worthy of the detestation of all. Be that as it may, Mrs. Linden valued herself highly on having come down in a right line, through three generations, from this distinguished individual; and there were plenty to estimate her by her own standard. As a woman, taking her for what she was worth, she would have done very well, and received from all sensible people due consideration; but her true character as a woman was glossed over, and somewhat defaced by her pride. She did not regard her own qualities of mind as anything — her standing as one of the true aristocrats of society was everything.
As for her husband, little was ever said about his ancestors; he had no scruples, while living, of an investigation, for he feared none. His father was a wealthy merchant, and his grandfather an honest farmer, who fought for his country during the whole revolutionary campaign. The old soldier left to his son — the inheritance of sound moral principles, a good education, and an enthusiastic love of his country. With these as his only patrimony, he started in the world. At the age of fifty, he died, leaving to his children an untarnished name and forty thousand dollars a piece.
The father of Charles Linden had been in business several years when this event took place, and had already acquired by his own exertions, as well as by marriage, a handsome property. He died when Charles, his eldest son, was but sixteen, leaving three children, two sons and one daughter; and a widow estimated to be worth a hundred thousand dollars. To each of the children, he left fifty thousand dollars. This did not please the aristocratic notions of the mother. It would have been more in consonance with her views, if but one-third of the whole property had been left to her, and the balance to their eldest son, with the reservation of small annuities for the other children. In her own mind, she determined to will all she had to Charles, with the distinct proviso that he took possession of it only on the condition of dropping his father's name, and assuming that of her family, which was Beauchamp.
Long before he was twenty-one years of age, she commenced her insidious attacks upon his native manliness of character, which showed itself in a disposition to value everything with which he came in contact, according to intrinsic worth. He never thought of the family of anyone with whom he was thrown into association, but of qualities of mind and heart. At school he had learned how to estimate individual worth; books, truly American books, conceived by American minds, strengthened the right impression so made. When, therefore, Mrs. Linden attempted to show him that family was the primary thing to be considered in his associations with people, her efforts were altogether fruitless.
All people of Mrs. Linden's way of thinking, make it a point to take the marriage of their children pretty much into their own hands, believing that their external views on the subject are far better than the internal attraction toward an object that can be truly loved, which their children imagine they feel — or, as they say, "imagine." The mother of Charles understood well her duty in this matter. Long before her son had passed his fourteenth year, she had made a selection for him in a little Miss, younger than he was by two years, named Antoinette Billings. Antoinette's mother was a woman after Mrs. Linden's own heart. She understood the first distant hint made on the subject, and readily came to a fair and open understanding with Mrs. Linden. Then it was managed so, that the children were much together, and they were taught to look upon each other as engaged for marriage at some future day.
Charles was a fine, noble-hearted boy; but Antoinette was a spoiled, pert, selfish creature, and had but little control over her tempers, which were by no means amiable. It was not long before the future husband, so called, wisely determined that Miss Antoinette would never be his wife, and he told his mother so in very plain language. Mrs. Linden tried every art in her power to influence Charles, but it was no use. He inherited too much truly noble blood, from his independent, right-thinking father.
At the age of twenty-one, he left his native place and entered into business in a neighboring city. His mother parted with him reluctantly; but there were strong reasons why he should go, and she did not feel that it would be right to oppose him.
About a year after his removal from Putnam to his new place of residence, Charles Linden met Ellen Fleetwood. She had come recently from one of the Eastern States, and resided in the family of a distant relative. His first impressions were favorable — each subsequent meeting confirmed them — and, at length, he found himself really attached to her. So little of his mother's peculiar spirit had he imbibed, that it did not once occur to him to ask about her family, until he had made up his mind to offer himself in marriage.
Inquiry on this subject resulted in the discovery that Ellen's parents were distinguished from the mass in no particular way. They had married early, and her mother died early. Her father, whose very existence seemed to have been wrapped up in that of his wife, went away soon after her death, and never returned. It was believed by his friends, that he did not survive her long. Ellen was then five years old. An aunt adopted her and raised her as her own child. A year before Linden met her, this aunt had died, leaving her a small income. She removed shortly after this event, at the request of a relative — the only surviving one, as far as she knew — and now lived with her. Of the precise character of the father and mother, he could learn nothing. Ellen, therefore, neither lost nor gained anything in his eyes, by her birth. For what she was to him, and for that alone, he loved her — and loved purely and tenderly.
An engagement took place in a few months after their acquaintance commenced. It was shortly afterwards, that the conversation detailed in the opening of our story commenced, from which it will appear that Charles had not yet ventured to inform his mother of the choice he had made. Knowing, the strength of her peculiar prejudices, he had everything to fear, as far as opposition was concerned. The fact that Ellen appeared so anxious to obtain her favor, made him less willing to risk the consequences of informing his mother that he had made his choice of a wife. He knew she would oppose the marriage most strenuously. What the effect of such opposition upon Ellen would be, it would be impossible to tell — it might, he feared, lead her to decline his offer. For this reason, he urged an immediate union; and wished it to take place without his mother's knowledge. Ellen opposed this earnestly, but was finally induced to yield. They were married, and started the next morning to visit Mrs. Linden. Two days before, Charles had written to inform his mother of what had taken place, and of his intended return home, on a short visit, with his bride.
"My dear mother," a portion of his letter read, "I know you will be grieved, and, I fear, offended at what I have done; but wait only for a day or two, until you see my Ellen — your Ellen, let me say — and you will be grieved and angry no longer. She will love you as only an unselfish child can love a mother; and you will love her the moment you see her. I have talked to her from the first about you, and she has already so pure an affection for you, that she is longing to see you and throw herself upon your bosom. Oh! let me beg of you to receive her in the spirit with which she is coming to you. Be to her a mother, as she wishes to be to you a child."
It was not without many misgivings at heart, that Charles Linden set out to visit his mother. These could not be felt without their effects being perceived by Ellen, who was tremblingly anxious about her reception. Her spirits became in consequence depressed, and more than once, Charles found tears stealing from beneath her half-closed eyelids. He understood well the cause, and strove, but vainly, to assure her that all would be as her heart could wish.
It was nearly nightfall when the carriage which conveyed them from the steamboat landing, drew up before the elegant residence of Mrs. Linden. Charles hurried in with his bride in a tumult of anxiety. A servant was sent up to announce his arrival. Five minutes passed, and they still sat alone in the parlor — Charles deeply agitated, and Ellen looking pale and frightened.
"What can keep her so long?" the young man had just said, in a husky whisper, when the door opened and his mother entered with a slow, dignified step, her face calm, but severe, and her tall person drawn up to its full height. Charles started forward, but the instantly raised hand and forbidding aspect of his mother restrained him.
"Don't come near me!" said she, coldly, "you have done that for which I shall never forgive you. Go at once from my presence, with the base-spirited creature who has dared to suppose that I would acknowledge as my daughter, one who has corrupted and robbed me of my son. Go! We are mother and son no longer. I dissolve the tie. Go!"
And the mother, whose assumed calmness had given way to a highly excited manner, waved her hand imperatively towards the door.
Ellen, who had started up at the moment Mrs. Linden appeared, now came forward, and, throwing herself at her feet, clasped her hands together, and lifted her sweet pale face and tearful eyes. For an instant, the mother's face grew dark with passion, then she made a movement as if she were about to spurn the supplicant indignantly, when Charles sprang before her, and lifting Ellen in his arms, bore her from the house, and placed her half fainting in the carriage which still stood at the door. A hurried direction was given to the driver, who mounted his box and drove off to a hotel, where they passed the night, and, on the next morning, returned home to the city they had left on the previous day.
It was long before a smile lighted the countenance of the young bride. In silence, she upbraided herself for having been the cause of estranging from each other mother and son.
"It was wrong," she said, in a sad tone, when, after the passage of a month, the subject was conversed about between them with more than usual calmness. "You should, first of all, have written to your mother, and asked her consent."
"But I knew she would not give it. I knew her peculiar prejudices too well. My only hope was the impression your dear face would make upon her. I was sure that for her to see you, would be to love you. But I was mistaken."
"Alas! too sadly mistaken. We have made her unhappy through life. Oh! how that thought distresses me."
"She deserves all the unhappiness she may feel. For me, I do not pity her." Charles Linden said this with a good deal of bitterness.
"Oh! Charles — do not speak so — do not feel so. She is your mother, and you acted against what you knew to be one of her strongest prejudices!" Ellen said earnestly. "I do not feel angry with her. When I think of her, it is with grief, that she is unhappy. The time may yet come — pray Heaven it comes quickly! — when she will feel differently toward one whose heart she does not know — when she will love me as a mother."
"She does not deserve the love of one like you," was the bitterly spoken reply.
"Ah, Charles! why will you speak so? It is not right."
"I can no more help it, than I can help feeling and thinking, Ellen. I am indignant, and I must express my feelings. What a poor substitute is birth, or family connection, or standing in society for a mother to offer to her son — in the place of a pure heart that can love fervently. If I had yielded to her dictation on this subject, I would long ago have been the unhappy husband of a vain, selfish, proud creature, whom I never could have loved. No — no — Ellen. I cannot help being angry, if I may so speak, at the thought of such unjust, such unwise assumption of the prerogative in a parent. It is God who joins together in orderly marriage — not man; and when man attempts to assume the place of God in this matter, his work is evil. I would give my child, were I a parent, all the light, all the intelligence in my power to give him, and then let him choose for himself. To do more, would be, in my opinion, a sin against God, and, as such, I would shun it with horror."
In time, the deep affliction of mind which Ellen had experienced subsided. She felt the injustice of Mrs. Linden's conduct, and, though she had no indignant nor unkind feeling toward her, she thought of her without an emotion of filial regard. Year after year went by, and, as no notice whatever was taken of Charles and his wife by Mrs. Linden — they did not again venture near her, nor take any pains to conciliate her favor. Her treatment of Ellen had so outraged her son, that he tried to forget that he had a mother; for he could not think of her without a bitterness which he did not wish to feel.
The only means of knowing what took place at home was through his sister, between whom and himself had always existed a warm affection. She wrote to him frequently — and he as well as his wife wrote to her often. Their letters to her were, at her request, sent under cover to a friend, to prevent the unpleasant consequences that would ensue, should the proud, overbearing mother become aware of the correspondence.
From his sister, who had something of his own independence of feeling, Charles learned that his brother William, at his mother's instance, was about to marry Antoinette Billings. And, also, that an application had been made to the legislature to have his name changed to Beauchamp, his mother's family name. As an inducement for him to gratify her pride in this thing, Mrs. Linden had promised William, that, on the very day that the legislature granted the petition, she would transfer to him the whole amount of her property, with the exception of about twenty thousand dollars. Subsequently, Charles learned that the name of his brother had been changed; that the marriage had taken place; and that his mother had relinquished all her property, with a small reservation, into the hands of her son. All this took place within three years after his marriage.
The next news was of an attempt being made to force Florence, his sister, into a marriage most repugnant to her feelings. This aroused his indignation afresh. He wrote to her strongly, and implored her by every high and holy consideration, not to permit the sacrifice to take place. Florence possessed too much of the same spirit that he did, to yield tamely in a matter like this. His frequent letters strengthened her to resist all the attempts of her mother and brother to induce her to yield to their mercenary wishes.
Finding that she was firm, a system of persecution, in the hope of forcing her to an assent, was commenced against her. As soon as Charles learned this, he went immediately to Putnam, and saw Florence at the home of a mutual friend. He had little difficulty in persuading her to return home with him. Neither her mother nor William showed her any real affection, and they were both plotting against her happiness for life. On the other hand, there had always been between her and Charles, a deep attachment. She not only loved him, but confided in him. She had never seen his wife; but Charles had written so much about her, and Ellen's letters had pictured a mind so gentle, so good — that Florence loved her only less than she loved her brother. And there was another there to love, of whom she had heard much — a fair-haired child named Florence. Is it a subject of wonder that she fled from her mother, to find a paradise in comparison to what she had left, in the home of Charles and his pure-hearted companion? We think not.
The meeting between her and Ellen was one in which both their hearts overflowed — in which affections mingled — in which two loving spirits became united in bonds that nothing could break.
We turn, now, to the disappointed Mrs. Linden. Knowing that to inform her mother of the step she had resolved to take would do no good, but only cause her to endure a storm of passion, Florence left home without the slightest intimation of her purpose.
Mrs. Linden, in settling upon her son William her whole estate, with the small reservation before mentioned, gave up to him the splendid mansion in which she lived, with its costly furniture — and the entire control of it, as a matter that followed of course, to his young wife. Many months had not passed, before doubts of the propriety of what she had done began to creep into the mind of Mrs. Linden. Her pride of family had been gratified — but already had her pride of independence been assailed. It was plain that she was not now of as much importance in the eyes of her son as before. As to Antoinette, the more she came intimately in contact with her — the less she liked her. She found little in her that she could love.
The scheme of marrying Florence to a young man of "one of the first families" (the only recommendation he had) was heartily entered into by this worthy trio, and while there was a prospect of its accomplishment, they drew together with much appearance of harmony. The end united them. But after Florence had broken away from the toils they had been throwing around her, and they became satisfied from the strong independent letters which she sent home, that all hope of bending her to their wishes was at an end — the true character of each began to show itself more fully.
Mrs. Linden had an imperious will. She had always exercised a rigid control over her children — at the same time that in their earlier years she had won their affections. The freedom of mature years, and the sense of individual responsibility which it brings, caused all of them to rebel against the continued exercise of parental domination. In the case of Charles and Florence — the effect was a broad separation.
But William had sinister ends to gain in yielding a passive obedience to his mother's will. When the bulk of her property was transferred to him, those ends were gained, and he felt no longer disposed to allow any encroachment upon his freedom. In one act of obedience he had fulfilled all obligations of filial duty, and was not disposed to trouble himself further. He had consented to give up his father's name, and to marry a woman for whom he had no affection — to please his mother and get her estate. The estate set off against these, balanced the account; and now, there being nothing more to gain, he had nothing more to yield.
When, therefore, after the design of marrying Florence to a man of "good family" had failed, the first effort on the part of his mother to exercise control over him, was met in a very decided way. His wife, likewise, showed a disposition to make her keep in her own place. Antoinette was mistress in the house now, and she let it be clearly seen!
It was not long before the mother's eyes were fully open to the folly she had committed. But true sight had come too late. Reflection on the ungratefulness of her children aroused her indignation, instead of subduing her feelings. An open rupture ensued, and then came a separation. Mrs. Linden left the house of her son — and a short time before, it was her own house — and took lodgings in the family of an old friend, with a heart full of bitterness toward her children. In Antoinette she had been miserably disappointed. A weak, vain, passionate, selfish creature — she had shown not the slightest regard for Mrs. Linden, but had exhibited toward her a most unamiable temper.
When it was communicated to Antoinette by her husband that his mother had left them, she tossed her head and said, "I'm glad to hear it!"
"No, you must not say that," was William's reply, with an effort to look serious and offended.
"And why not? It's the truth! She has made herself as disagreeable as she could, ever since we were married, and I would be a hypocrite to say that I was not glad to be rid of her!"
"She is my mother, and you must not speak so about her," returned William, now feeling really offended.
"How will you help it, sir?" was the stinging reply. And the ill-tempered creature looked at her husband with a curl of the lip.
Muttering a curse, he turned from her and left the house. The rage of a husband who is only restrained by the fear of disgrace from striking his wife, is impotent. His only resource is to flee from the object of indignation. So felt and acted William Beauchamp. A mere wordy contention with his wife, experience had already proved to him, would be an inglorious one.
Fearing, from his knowledge of his brother's character and disposition, a result, sooner or later, like that which had taken place — Charles Linden, although he had no correspondence with any of his family, had the most accurate information from a friend of all that transpired at Putnam.
One evening, on coming home from business and joining his wife and sister, between whom love had grown into a strong uniting bond, he said, "I have rather painful news from Putnam."
"What is it?" was asked by both Ellen and Florence, with anxious concern on both their faces.
"Mother has separated herself from William and his wife!"
"What I have been expecting to hear almost every day," Florence replied. "Antoinette has never treated mother as if she had the slightest regard for her. As to love, she has but one object upon which to lavish it — that is herself. She cares no more for William than she does for mother, and is only bound to him by external consideration. But where has mother gone?"
"To the house of Mrs. Raleigh."
"An old friend?"
"Yes. But she must be very unhappy."
"Miserable." And tears came to the eyes of Ellen.
"In the end, it will no doubt be best for her, Florence," said the brother. "She will suffer acutely, but her false views of life, let us hope, will be corrected, and then we shall have it in our power to make her last days, the best and happiest of her life."
"Oh, how gladly will I join in that work!" Ellen said, with a glow of pure enthusiasm on her face. "Write to her, dear husband, at once, and tell her that our home shall be her home, and that we will love her with an unwavering love."
"Not yet, dear," returned Charles, in a voice scarcely audible from emotion, turning to Ellen and regarding her a moment with a look of loving approval. "Not yet; the time for that will come, but it is not now. My mother's heart is full of haughty pride, and she would spurn, indignantly, any overtures which we might make."
Much conversation passed as to what would be their future conduct in regard to the mother. Ellen was anxious to make advances at once, but the husband and his sister, who knew Mrs. Linden much better than she did, objected.
"Time will indicate what is right for us to do," her husband said. "Let us keep our hearts willing, and we shall have the opportunity to act before many years pass by."
"Years?" said Ellen, in an earnest, doubting voice.
"It may be only months, dear — and yet it may be years. It takes time to break a haughty will, to humble a proud heart; but you shall yet see the day when my mother will love you for yourself alone."
"Heaven grant that it may come soon!" was the fervent response.
Many months passed away, and yet the mother and son remained as before — unreconciled. He had kept himself accurately informed in regard to her — that is, as accurately informed as it was possible for him to be. During that time, she had never been seen abroad. Those who had met her, represented her as being greatly changed; all the softness of character that had been assumed in her fellowship with the world had been laid aside; she was silent, cold, and stern to all who met her.
Deeply did this news afflict Charles, and he yearned to draw near to his mother; but he feared to do so, lest, in her haughty pride, she should throw him off again, and thus render a reconciliation still more difficult, if not impossible.
While in this state of doubt, affairs assumed a new feature. Charles received a letter from a friend, stating that the banking institution, in the stocks of which his mother's entire property was invested, had failed — and that she was penniless!
"O Charles, go to her at once!" was the exclamation of Ellen, the moment her husband read to her the news. "It is time now; all else has failed her."
"I do not know," he said, doubtingly. "This circumstance will make William sensible of his duty; he will, no doubt, restore her a part of the property received from her hands. This is the least he can do."
Florence differed with her brother. She did not believe that either William or his wife would regard their mother in any way; both were too selfish and too unforgiving. Much was said all around, but no clear course of action was perceived.
"I'll tell you what you can do," spoke up Ellen, her eyes sparkling. A thought had flashed over her mind.
"What is it, Ellen?" asked her husband.
"You can send her, under a blank envelope, a thousand dollars or more, and thus keep her above the bitter feeling of dependence. More can be sent when more is required."
"True! true!" was the husband's quick reply. "And I will do it."
When the news of the failure of the bank in which the little remnant of her property was contained reached the ears of Mrs. Linden, her spirits sank. Pride had kept her up before; but now her haughty self-dependence, her indignation, her bitterness of feeling toward her children, gave way, and, in conscious weakness, she bowed her head and prayed for oblivion. She felt deserted by all; but indignation at this desertion was not the feeling that ruled in her heart; she felt weak, lonely, and powerless. From a high position, which she had held with imperious pride — she had fallen almost suddenly into obscurity, desertion, and dependence.
A week passed, and she began to think of her children; none of them had yet come near her, or inquired for her. The thoughts of William and his heartless wife — caused old feelings of indignation to awaken and burn; but when the image of Charles and Florence came up before her mind — her eyes were ready to overflow. It was now that she remembered, with changed emotions, the cruel manner in which she had spurned Charles and the wife of his bosom. A sigh struggled up from her heart, and she leaned down her face upon the table before which she was sitting. Just at this time, a small sealed package was handed to her. She broke it open carelessly; but its contents made her heart bound, coming as they did just at that crisis. Under cover was a bank-bill amounting to one thousand dollars, and this memorandum, "It is yours."
Quickly turning to the direction, she read it over two or three times before satisfying herself that there was no mistake. Then she examined the writing within and without closely, in order to ascertain, if possible, from whom the timely aid had come, but without arriving at any certain conclusion.
This incident caused a new train of thoughts to pass through the mind of Mrs. Linden. It brought before her, she could not tell why, the image of her son Charles with greater distinctness than ever; and with that, came thoughts of his wife, and regret that she had thrown her off with such cruel anger. Acute pain of mind followed this. She saw more clearly her own position in that act, and felt deeply the wrong she had committed.
"I will write to my son at once and ask his forgiveness, and that of his wife, whom I have wronged," she said, with a suddenly formed resolution. But pride rushed up instantly.
"No, no," it objected; "not now. You should have done this before — it is too late; they will not believe you are sincere."
A painful conflict ensued, which continued with increasing violence until, in consequence of prolonged mental excitement, a slow nervous fever took hold of Mrs. Linden's physical system, and in a short time reduced her to a very critical state. Intelligence of this was conveyed to her son William, but, for some cause or other, neither himself nor wife visited her. At the end of a week, she was so low as to be considered in great danger; she no longer recognized the person of her attendant, or appeared to be conscious of what was passing around her.
A letter from a friend, through whom he was kept informed of all that occurred to her, apprized Charles of his mother's critical situation.
"Florence," said he to his sister, in reading the letter to her and his wife, "I think you and I should go to Putnam immediately. You can be mother's nurse until she recovers, and then it may not be hard to reconcile all that is past."
Ellen looked earnestly in the face of her husband, something was on her tongue, but she appeared to hesitate about giving it utterance.
"Does not that meet your approval?" asked Charles.
"Why may not I be the nurse?" was asked in hesitating tones.
"You!" said Charles, in a voice of surprise. "That should be the duty of Florence."
"And my privilege," returned Ellen, speaking more firmly.
"What good would be the result?"
"Great good, I trust. Let me go and be the angel to her sick-chamber. She is too ill to notice anyone; she will not, therefore, perceive that a stranger is ministering to her. As she begins to recover, I will bestow upon her the most assiduous attentions. I will inspire her heart with grateful affection for one whom she knows not; and when she asks for my name, I will conceal it until the right moment, and then throw myself at her feet and call her mother. Oh! let it be my task to watch in her sick-chamber."
Neither Charles nor his sister said one word in opposition. On the next day, they all started for Putnam. Charles went with his excellent wife to the house where his mother was residing with an old friend, and opened their wishes to this friend. She readily entered into their plans, and Ellen was at once constituted nurse.
For the first two days, there were but few encouraging symptoms. Mrs. Linden was in a very critical situation. At the end of a week, the fever abated, leaving the patient as helpless as an infant, and with scarcely more consciousness of external things. During this time, Ellen attended her with some of the tenderness with which a mother watches over her babe. Gradually the life-current in the veins of the sick woman became fuller and stronger. Gradually her mind acquired the power of acting through the external senses. Ellen perceived this. Now had come the ardently hoped-for time. With a noiseless step, with a voice low and tender, with hands that did their office almost caressingly, she anticipated and met every need of the invalid.
As light began again to dawn upon the mind of Mrs. Linden, she could not but notice the sweet-faced, gentle, assiduous stranger who had become her nurse. Her first feeling was one of gratitude, blended with affection. Never before had anyone been so devoted to her; never before had any one appeared to regard her with such a real wish to do her good.
"What is your name, my dear?" she asked one day, in a feeble voice, looking up into her face.
A warm flush came over the cheeks of Ellen; her eyes dropped to the floor. She hesitated for several moments; then she replied in a low voice, "Ellen."
Mrs. Linden looked at her earnestly, but said nothing in reply.
"Who is this nurse you have been so kind to procure for me?" Mrs. Linden said to her friend, a few days following.
"She is a stranger to me. I never saw her before she came and said that she had heard that there was a sick lady here who wished a nurse."
"She must be an angel in disguise, then."
"So I would think," returned her friend. "I have never met a lovelier person. Her face is sweetness itself; her manners are full of ease and grace, and her heart seems a deep well of love to all."
"Who can she be? Where did she come from? I feel toward her as if she were my own child."
"But she is only a nurse," said her friend. "Do not forget that, nor your station in society."
Mrs. Linden shook her head and murmured, "I have never found one like her in the highest places; no, not even in my own children. Station in society! Ah! my friend, that delusion has passed!"
As Mrs. Linden recovered more and more, Ellen remained with her, waiting only for a good opportunity to make herself known. She did not wish to do this, until she was sure that she had awakened a feeling of affection in Mrs. Linden's bosom.
Mrs. Linden had been sitting up for two or three days, so far had she recovered, and yet Ellen did not feel that it was safe to venture a full declaration of the truth.
Up to this time, neither William nor his wife had visited her, nor sent to inquire about her. This fact Mrs. Linden knew, for she had asked about it particularly. The name of Charles was never mentioned.
In order to try its effect, Ellen said to her, "You are better now, Mrs. Linden, and will be well in a little while. You do not need me any longer. I will leave you tomorrow."
"Leave me!" ejaculated Mrs. Linden. "Oh, no, Ellen, you must not leave me; I cannot do without you. You must stay with me always."
"You would soon tire of such a one as I am."
"Never, my good girl, never! You shall always remain with me. You shall be — not my nurse, but my child!"
Mrs. Linden's voice trembled.
Ellen could hardly help throwing herself at her feet, and declaring that she was really her daughter-in-law; but she controlled herself, and replied, "That cannot be, madam; I have other duties to perform."
"You have? What? To whom?"
"To my husband and children."
"Gracious Heaven! what do you mean? Who are you?"
"One who loved you, before she ever saw you. One who loves you now."
"Speak, child! oh, speak" exclaimed Mrs. Linden, turning suddenly pale, and grasping hold of Ellen with both her hands. "Who are you? What interest have you in me? Speak!"
"Do you love me?" asked Ellen, in a husky whisper.
"Love you! You have forced me to love you; but speak out. Who are you?"
"Your daughter-in-law," was faintly replied.
"The wife of one who has never ceased to love you — the wife of Charles Linden."
Mrs. Linden seemed paralyzed for some moments at this declaration. Her face became pale — her eye fell to the floor — she sat like one in a dream.
"Dear mother!" plead the anxious wife, sinking on her knees, "will you not forgive your son? Will you not forgive me that I loved him so well? If you knew how much we love you — how anxious we are to make you happy, you would instantly relent."
"Ellen! Oh, can it be true?" This was said in a choking voice by Mrs. Linden, as she threw her arms around Ellen and held her to her bosom. In a few moments she withdrew herself, and fixed her eyes long and earnestly upon Ellen's face.
"Ah! what a loving heart have I wronged!" she murmured, putting her hand upon the brow of her new-found child, tenderly. Then she drew her again almost convulsively to her bosom.
All that was passing within, was heard without, for Charles and his sister were at the door: they entered at this moment.
"My mother!" exclaimed Charles, springing towards her.
"My son — my dear son! God bless you, and this dear child, who has watched for days and nights like an angel about my pillow."
The mother and son were in each other's arms in a moment. All was forgiven.
From that hour, the proud woman of the world saw with a purified vision. From that hour, she knew the worth of a pure heart.