Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851
There was something wrong about the affairs of old Mr. Bacon. His farm, once the best tilled and most productive in the neighborhood, began to show evidences of neglect and unfruitfulness. That he was going behindhand in the world, was too apparent in the fact, that, within two years he had sold twenty acres of good meadow, and, moreover, was under the necessity of borrowing three hundred dollars on a mortgage of his property. And yet, Mr. Bacon had not laid aside his habits of industry. He was up, as of old, with the dawn, and turned not his feet homeward from the field until the sun had taken his parting glance from the distant hill-tops.
A kind-hearted, cheerful-minded man was old Mr. Bacon, well liked by all his neighbors, and loved by his own household. His two oldest children died before reaching the age of manhood; three remained. Mary Bacon, the eldest of those who survived, now in her nineteenth year, had been her father's favorite from earliest childhood; and, as she advanced towards womanhood, she had grown more and more into his heart. In his eyes she was very beautiful; and his eyes, though partial, did not deceive him very greatly, for Mary's face was lovely to look upon.
We have said that Mr. Bacon was a kind-hearted cheerful-minded man. And so he was; kind-hearted and cheerful, even though clouds were beginning to darken above him, and a sigh from the coming tempest was in the air. Yet not so uniformly cheerful as of old, though never moody nor perverse in his tempers. Of the change that was in progress, the change from prosperity to adversity, he did not seem to be painfully conscious.
Yes, there was something wrong about the affairs of old Mr. Bacon. A habit indulged through many years, had acquired a dangerous influence over him, and was gradually destroying his rational ability to act well in the ordinary concerns of life. As a young man, Mr. Bacon drank "temperately," and he drank "temperately" in the prime of life; and now, at sixty, he continued to drink "temperately," that is, in his own estimation. There were many, however, who had reason to think differently. But Mr. Bacon was no bar-room lounger; in fact, he rarely, if ever, went to a tavern; it was in his own home and among his household treasures, that he placed the cup of confusion to his lips.
The various temperance reforms had all found warm advocates among his friends and neighbors; but Mr. Bacon stood aloof. He would have nothing to do in these matters.
"Let them join temperance societies, who feel themselves in danger," was his good natured answer to all argument or persuasion addressed to him on the subject.
He did not oppose nor ridicule the movement. He thought it a good thing; only, he had in it no personal interest.
And so Mr. Bacon went on drinking "temperately" until habit, from claiming a moderate indulgence, began to make rather unreasonable demands — so it seemed to his friends. Besides this habit of drinking, Mr. Bacon had another habit, that of industry; and, what was unusual, the former did not abate the latter, though it must be owned that it sadly interfered with its efficiency. He was up, as we have said, with the dawn, and all the day he was busy at work; but, somehow or other, his land did not produce as liberally as in former times, and there was slowly creeping over everything around him, an aspect of decay.
Moreover, he did not manage, as well as formerly, the selling part of his business. In fact, his shrewdness of mind was gone. Alcohol had confused his brain. Gradually he was declining; and, while more than half conscious of the ruin which was in advance of him — he was not fully enough awake to feel seriously alarmed, nor to begin anxiously to seek for the cause of impending evil.
And so it went on until Mr. Bacon, suddenly found himself in the midst of real trouble. The value of his farm, which, after parting with the twenty acres of meadow land, contained but twenty-five acres, had been yearly diminishing in consequence of bad culture, and defective management of his stock had reduced that, until it was of little consequence.
The holder of the mortgage was a man named Dyer, who kept a tavern in the village which lay a mile distant from the little white farmhouse of Mr. Bacon. When Dyer commenced his liquor-selling trade, for that was his principal business, he had only a few hundred dollars; now he was worth thousands, and was about the only man in the neighborhood who had money to lend. His loans were always made on bond and mortgage; and, it was a little remarkable, that he was never known to let a sober, industrious farmer or store-keeper have a single dollar. But, a drinking man, who was gradually wasting his substance, rarely applied to him in vain; for he was the cunning spider watching for the silly fly. More than one worn-out and run-down farm had already come into his hands, through the foreclosure of mortgages, at a time of business depression, when his helpless victims could find no sympathizing friends able to save them from ruin.
One day, in mid-winter, as Mr. Bacon was cutting wood at his rather poorly furnished wood pile, the tavern-keeper rode up. There was something in his countenance which sent a creeping sense of fear to the heart of the farmer.
"Good morning, Mr. Dyer," said he.
"Good morning," returned the tavern-keeper, formally. His usual smile was absent from his face.
"Sharp day, this."
"Yes, rather keen."
"Won't you walk in and take something?"
"No, thank you. H-h-e-em!"
There was a pause.
The farmer's eye sank beneath the cold steady look of Dyer.
"Mr. Bacon, I guess I shall have to call on you for those three hundred dollars," said the tavern-keeper, in a firm voice.
"Can't pay that mortgage now, Mr. Dyer," returned Bacon, with a troubled expression; "no use to think of it."
"Rather a cool way to treat a man after borrowing his money. I told you when I lent it that I might want it at almost any time."
"Oh! no, Mr. Dyer. It was understood, distinctly, that from four to six months' notice would be given," replied Mr. Bacon, positively.
"Preposterous!" ejaculated the tavern-keeper. "I never thought of such a thing. Six months notice, indeed!"
"That was the agreement," said Mr. Bacon, firmly.
"Is it in the bond?"
"No, it was verbal, between us."
Dyer shook his head, as he answered —
"No, sir. I never make agreements of that kind; the money was to be paid on demand, and I have ridden over this morning to make the demand."
"It is midwinter, Mr. Dyer," was replied in a husky voice.
"You know that a small farmer, like me, cannot be in possession, at this season, of the large sum you demand."
"That is your problem, Mr. Bacon. I want my money now, and must have it!"
There was a tone of threat in the way this was said, which Mr. Bacon fully understood.
"I haven't thirty dollars, much less three hundred, in my possession!" said he.
"Borrow it, then."
"Impossible! money has not been so scarce for years. Everyone is complaining."
"You'd better make the effort, Mr. Bacon, I shall be sorry to put you to any trouble, but my money will have to be forthcoming."
"You will not enter up the mortgage?" said the farmer.
"It will certainly come to that, unless you can pay it!"
"That is what I call oppression!" returned Mr. Bacon, in momentary indignation, for the utterance of which he was as quickly repentant.
"Good day!" said Dyer, suddenly turning his horse's head, and riding off at a brisk trot.
For nearly five minutes, old Mr. Bacon stood with his axe resting on the ground, lost in painful thought. Then he went slowly into the house, and sitting down before the fire, let his head sink upon his bosom, and there mused on the trouble which was closing around him. But no ray of light came, piercing the thick darkness which had fallen so suddenly.
Nothing was then said to his family on the subject, but it was apparent to all that something was wrong, for the lips which gave utterance to so many pleasant words, and parted so often in cheerful smiles, were still silent."
"Are you not well, today?" asked Mrs. Bacon, as the family gathered around the dinner-table, and she marked her husband's unusually sober face.
"Not very well," he replied.
"What ails you, father?" said Mary, with tender concern in her voice, and her eyes were turned upon him with affectionate earnestness.
"Nothing of much consequence, child," was answered evasively. "I shall be better after dinner."
And as Mr. Bacon spoke, he poured out a larger glass of brandy than usual — he always had brandy on the table at dinner time — and drank it off. This soon took away the keen edge of suffering from his feelings, and he was able to affect a measure of cheerfulness. But he did not deceive the eyes of Mrs. Bacon and Mary.
"I wonder what ails father!" said Mary, as soon as she was alone with her mother.
"I don't know," answered Mrs. Bacon, thoughtfully, "he seems troubled about something."
"I saw that Mr. Dyer, who keeps tavern over in Brookville, talking with father at the wood-pile this morning."
"You did!" Mrs. Bacon spoke with a new manifestation of interest.
"Yes; and I thought, as I looked at him out of the window, that he appeared to be angry about something."
Mrs. Bacon did not reply to this remark. Soon after, on meeting her husband, she said to him,
"What did Mr. Dyer want this morning?"
"Something that he will not get," replied Mr. Bacon.
"The money he loaned you?"
"It's impossible to pay it back now, in the dead of winter," said
Mrs. Bacon, in a troubled tone of voice, "he ought to know that."
"And he does know it."
"What did you tell him?"
"That to lift the mortgage now, was out of the question."
"Won't he be troublesome? You remember how he acted towards poor old Mr. Peabody."
"I know he's a hard-hearted, selfish man. I don't believe that there is a spark of humanity in him. But he'll scarcely go to extremities with me. I don't fear that."
"Did he threaten?"
"Yes. But I hardly think that he was in earnest."
How far this last remark of old Mr. Bacon was correct, the following brief conversation will show. It took place between Dyer and a miserable pettyfogging lawyer, in Brookville, named Grant.
"I've got a mortgage on old Bacon's farm that I wish entered up," said the tavern-keeper, on calling at the lawyer's office.
"Can't he pay it off?" inquired Grant.
"Of course not. He's being running down for the last six or seven years, and is now on his last legs."
"And so you mean to trip him up, before he falls of himself." The lawyer spoke in an unfeeling tone and with a sinister smile.
"If you please to say so," returned Dyer. "I've wanted that farm of his for some time past. When I took the mortgage on it, my object was not a simple investment at legal interest; you know that I can do better with money than six percent a year."
"I should think you could," responded the lawyer, with a chuckle.
"When I loaned Bacon three hundred dollars, of course I never expected to get the sum back again. I understood, perfectly well, that sooner or later the mortgage would have to be entered up."
"And the farm becomes yours for half its real value."
"Are you not striking to soon?" suggested the lawyer.
"Some friend may loan him the amount."
Dyer shook his head.
"It's a tight time in Brookville."
"And still better for my purpose," said Dyer, in a low, meaning, voice; "drunkards have few friends; none, in fact, willing to risk their money on them. Put the screws to Bacon, and his farm will drop into my hands like a ripe cherry."
"You can hardly call Bacon a drunkard. You never see him staggering about, nor lounging in bar-rooms."
"Do you remember his farm seven years ago?"
"Look at it now."
"There's a great difference, certainly."
"Isn't there! What's the reason of this?"
"Intemperance, I suppose."
"Drunkenness!" said the tavern-keeper. "That is the right word. He doesn't spend much in bar-rooms, but look over his store bill and you'll find rum a large item."
"Poor Bacon! He's a good sort of a man," remarked the lawyer. "I can't help feeling sorry for him. He's his own worst enemy."
"I want you to push this matter through in the quickest possible time," said Dyer, in a sharp, firm voice.
"Very well. It shall be done. I know my business."
"And I know mine," returned the tavern-keeper.
On the next day, Mr. Bacon was formally notified that proceedings had been instituted for the satisfaction of the mortgage. This was bringing the threatened evil before his eyes in the most direct aspect. In considerable alarm and perturbation, he called over to see Dyer.
"You cannot mean to press this matter on to the utmost extremity," said he, on meeting the tavern-keeper, the hard aspect of whose features gave him little room for hope.
"I certainly mean to get my three hundred dollars!" was replied.
"Can you not wait until after next harvest?"
"I have already told you that I want my money now," said Dyer, with affected anger. "If you can pay me, well; if not, I will get my own by aid of the Sheriff!"
"That is a hard saying, Mr. Dyer," returned the farmer, in a subdued voice.
"Nevertheless, it is a true one, friend Bacon, as true as gospel."
"I haven't the money, nor can I borrow it, Mr. Dyer."
"Your problem, not mine. Though I must say, it is a little strange."
"What is strange?"
"That a man who has lived in this community as long as you have, can't find a friend willing to loan him three hundred dollars to save his farm from the Sheriff. There's something wrong."
Yes, there was something wrong, and poor old Mr. Bacon felt it now more deeply than ever. Another feeble effort at remonstrance was made, when Mr. Dyer coldly referred him to Grant the lawyer, who had now entire control of the business. But he did not go to him. He felt that to do so would be utterly useless.
Regular proceedings were entered upon for the settlement of the mortgage, and hurried to an outcome as speedily as possible. It was all in vain that Mr. Bacon sought to borrow three hundred dollars, or to find some person willing to take the mortgage on his farm, and let him continue to pay the interest. It was a season when few had money to spare, and those who could have advanced the sum required, hesitated about investing it where there was little hope of getting the amount back again except by execution and sale. For Mr. Bacon, in consequence of his intemperance, was steadily running behindhand; and all his neighbors knew it.
The effect of this trouble on the mind of Mr. Bacon was to cause him to drink harder than before. His cheerful temper gave place to a silent moodiness, when in partial states of sobriety, which where now of rare occurrence, and he lost all interest in things around him. A greater part of his time was spent in wandering restlessly about his house or farm, but he put his hand to scarcely any work.
Deeply distressed were Mrs. Bacon and Mary. Each of them had called, at different times on Mr. Dyer, in the hope of moving him by persuasion to turn from his purpose.
But, only in one way would he agree to an amicable settlement, and that was, by taking the farm for the mortgage and three hundred dollars cash; by which means he would come into possession of property worth from twelve to fifteen hundred dollars. This offer he repeated to Mary, who was the last to call upon him in the hope of turning him from his purpose.
"No! Mr. Dyer," said the young girl firmly, even while tears were in her eyes. "My father will not let the place go at a third of its real value!"
"He over-estimates its worth," replied Dyer, with some impatience, "and he'll find this out when it comes under the hammer."
"You will not, I am sure you will not, sacrifice my father's little place — the home of his children," said Mary, in an appealing voice.
"I shall certainly let things take their course," replied the tavern-keeper. "Tell your father, from me, that he has nothing to hope for from any change in my purpose, and that he need make no more efforts to influence me. I will buy the place, as I said, for six hundred dollars, its full value — or I will sell it for my claim."
And saying this, the man left, abruptly, the room in which his interview with Mary was held, and she, hopeless of making any impression on his feelings, arose and retired from the house, taking her way homeward with a sad heart. Never before had Mary, a gentle-hearted, quiet, retiring girl, been forced into such rough contact with the world at any point. Of this act of intercession for her father, Mr. Bacon knew nothing. Had she dropped a word of her purpose in his hearing, he would have uttered a positive prohibition. He loved Mary as the apple of his eye, and she loved him with a tender, self-devoted affection. To him, she was a choice and beautiful flower, and even though his mind had become, in a certain degree, degraded and debased by intemperance, there was in it a quick instinct of protection when anything approached his child.
Slowly and thoughtfully, with her eyes bent upon the ground, did Mary Bacon pursue her way homeward; and she was not aware of the approach of footsteps behind her, until a man stood by her side and pronounced her name.
"Mr. Green!" said she, in momentary surprise, pausing as she looked up.
Mr. Green was a farmer in easy circumstances, whose elegant and highly cultivated place was only a short distance from her father's residence. He was, probably, the richest man in the neighborhood of Brookville; though, exceedingly stingy in all money matters. Mr. Bacon would have called upon him for aid in his extremity, but for two reasons. One was, Mr. Green's known indisposition to lend money, and the other was the fact that he had several times talked to him about his bad drinking habits; at which liberty he had taken offence, and retorted rather sharply for one of his mild temper.
The color mounted quickly to Mary's face, as she paused and lifted her eyes to the countenance of Mr. Green. The fact was, she had been thinking about him, and, just at the moment he came to her side, she had fully made up her mind to call upon him before going home.
"Well Mary," said he, kindly, and he took her hand.
Mary's lips quivered, but she could not utter a word.
Mr. Green moved on, still holding her hand, and she moved by his side.
"I'm sorry to hear," said Mr. Green, "that your father is in trouble. I learned it only an hour ago."
"That is just what I was coming to see you about," replied Mary, with a boldness of speech that surprised even herself.
"Indeed! Then you were coming to see me," said Mr. Green, in a voice that was rather encouraging than otherwise.
"Yes, sir. But father knows nothing of my purpose."
"Oh! Well, Mary, what is it you wish to say to me?"
The young girl's bosom was heaving violently. Some moments passed before she felt calm enough to proceed. Then she said —
"Mr. Dyer has a mortgage on father's place for three hundred dollars, and is going to sell it."
"Mr. Dyer is a hard man, and your father should not have placed himself in his power," remarked Mr. Green.
"Unhappily, he is in his power."
"So it seems. Well, what do you wish me to do in the case?"
"To lend me three hundred dollars," said Mary, promptly. Thus encouraged to speak, she did not hesitate a moment.
"Lend you three hundred dollars! returned Mr. Green, rather surprised at the directness of her request. "For what use?"
"To pay off this mortgage, of course," replied Mary.
"But, who will pay me back my money?" inquired Mr. Green.
"I will," said Mary, confidently. "You! Where do you expect to get so much money from?"
"I expect to earn it," was firmly answered.
Mr. Green paused, and turning towards Mary, looked earnestly into her young face that was lit up with a beautiful enthusiasm.
"Earn it, did you say?"
"Yes, sir, I will earn and pay it back to you, if it takes a lifetime to do it in."
"How will you earn it, Mary?"
Mary let her eyes fall to the ground, and stood for a moment or two. Then looking up, she said —
"I will go to Lowell."
"And work in a factory?"
Mr. Green moved on again, but in silence, and Mary walked with an anxious heart by his side. For the distance of several hundred yards they passed along and not a word was spoken.
"To Lowell?" at length dropped from the lips of Mr. Green, in a tone half interrogative, half in surprise. Mary did not respond, and the silence continued until they came to a point in the road where their two ways diverged.
"Have you thought well of this, Mary?" said Mr. Green, as he paused here, and laid his hand upon a gate which opened into a part of his farm.
"Why should I think about it, Mr. Green?" replied Mary. "It is no time to think, but to act. Hundreds of girls go into factories, and it will be to me no hardship, but a pleasure, if thereby I can help my father in this great extremity."
"Is he aware of your purpose?"
"Oh, no sir! no!"
"He would never listen to such a thing."
"Not for a moment."
"Then will you be right in doing what he must disapprove?"
"It is done for his sake. Love for him is my prompter, and that will bear me up even against his displeasure."
"But he may prevent your going, Mary."
"Not if you will do as I wish."
"Lend me three hundred dollars on my promise to you that I will immediately go to Lowell, Massachusetts enter a factory, and remain at work until the whole sum is paid back again from my earnings."
"I will then take the money and pay off the mortgage. This will release father from his debt to Mr. Dyer, and bring me in debt to you."
"Father is an honest and an honorable man."
"He is, Mary," said Mr. Green. His voice slightly trembled, for he was touched by the words of the gentle girl.
"He will not be able to pay you the debt in my stead."
"And, therefore, deeply reluctant as he may be to let me go, he cannot say no."
"Walk along with me to my house," said Mr. Green, as he pushed open the gate at which he stood, "I must think about this a little more."
The result was according to Mary's wishes. Mr. Green was a true friend of Mr. Bacon's, and he saw, or believed that he saw, in his daughter's proposition, the means of his reformation. He, therefore, returned into the village, and going to the office of Grant, satisfied the mortgage on Mr. Bacon's property, and brought all the papers relating thereto away and placed them in Mary's hands.
"Now," said he, on doing this, "I want your written promise to pay me the three hundred dollars in the way proposed. I will draw up the paper, and you must sign it."
The paper was accordingly drawn up and signed. It stipulated that Mary was to start for Lowell within three weeks, and that she was to have two years for the full payment of the debt.
"My brave girl!" said Mr. Green, as he parted with Mary. "No one will be prouder of you than I, if you accomplish the work to which you are about devoting yourself. Happy would I be, had I a daughter with your true heart and noble courage."
Mary's heart was too full to thank him. But her sweet young face was beaming with gratitude, as she turned away and hurried homeward.
Mr. Bacon was walking uneasily, backwards and forwards in the old porch, when Mary entered the little garden gate. She advanced towards him with a bright face, holding out as she did so, a small package of papers.
"Good news, father!" she exclaimed. "Good news!"
"What, child?" eagerly asked the old man, his mind becoming suddenly bewildered.
"The mortgage is paid, and here is the release!" said Mary, still holding out the package of papers.
"Paid! Paid, Mary! Who paid it?" returned Mr. Bacon, with the air of a man awaking from a dream.
"I have paid it, father dear!" answered Mary, in a trembling voice; and she kissed the old man's cheek, and then laid her face down upon his bosom.
"You, Mary? Where did you get money?"
"I borrowed it," murmured the happy girl.
"Mary! Mary! what does this mean?" said the old man, pushing back her face and gazing into it earnestly. "Borrowed the money! Why, who would lend you three hundred dollars? Say, child!"
"I borrowed it of Mr. Green," replied Mary, and as she said this, she glided past her father and entering into the house, hurried away to her mother. But before she had time to inform her of what she had done, the father joined them, eager for some further explanations. When, at last, he comprehended the whole matter, he was, for a time like a man stricken down by a heavy blow.
"Never," said he, in the most solemn manner, "will I consent to this. Mr. Green must take back his money. Let the farm go! It shall not be saved at this price."
But he soon comprehended that it was too late to recall the act of his daughter. The money had already passed into the hands of Dyer, and the mortgage been cancelled. Still, he was fixed in his purpose that Mary should not leave home to spend two long years of incessant toil in a factory, and immediately called on Mr. Green in order to make with him some different arrangement for the payment of the loan. But, to his surprise and grief, he found that Mr. Green was unyielding in his determination to keep Mary to her contract.
"Surely! surely! Mr. Green," urged the distressed father, "you will not hold my dear child to this pledge, made under circumstances of so trying a nature? You will not punish — I say punish — a gentle girl like her, for loving her father too well."
"If there is any hardship in the case," replied Mr. Green, calmly, "you are at fault, and not me, Mr. Bacon."
"Why do you say that?" inquired the old man.
"For the necessity which drove your child to this act of self-sacrifice — you are responsible."
"Oh sir! is this a time to wound me with words like these? Why do you turn a seeming act of kindness into the sharpest cruelty?"
"I speak to you but the words of truth and soberness, Mr. Bacon. These, no man should shrink from hearing. Seven years ago, your farm was the most productive in the neighborhood, and you in easy circumstances. What has produced the sad change now visible to all eyes? What has taken from you the ability to manage your affairs as prosperously as before? What has made it necessary for your child to leave her father's sheltering roof and bury herself for two long years in a factory, in order to save you from total ruin? Go home, Mr. Bacon, and answer these questions to your own heart, and may the pain you now suffer, lead you to act more wisely in the future."
"My daughter shall not go!" exclaimed the old man, passionately.
"I hold her written pledge to go to Lowell at the expiration of three weeks, and to repay the loan I made her in two years. Will you compel her to violate her contract?"
"I will execute another mortgage on my farm and pay you back the loan."
"Act like a wise man," said Mr. Green. "Let your daughter carry out her noble purpose, and thus relieve you from embarrassment."
"No, no, Mr. Green! I cannot think of this. Oh, sir! pity me! Do not force my child away! Do not lay so heavy a burden on one so young. Think of her as your own daughter, and do to me as you would yourself wish to be done by."
But Mr. Green was deaf to all these appeals. He was a man of great firmness of purpose, and not easily turned to the right nor to the left.
During the next three weeks, Mr. Bacon tried every expedient in his power, short of a total sacrifice of his little property, to raise the money, but in vain. Except for a circumstance new in his life, he would, in his desperation, have accepted Dyer's offer of six hundred dollars for his farm, and thus prevented Mary's departure for Lowell — that circumstance was his perfect sobriety. Not since the day when Mr. Green charged upon him the responsibility of his child's banishment from her father's house, had he tasted a drop of strong drink. His mind was therefore clear, and he was restrained by reason from acts of rashness, by which his condition would be rendered far worse than it was already.
Bitter indeed were the sufferings of Mr. Bacon, during the quick passage of the three weeks — at the expiration of which time Mary was to leave home, in compliance with her contract — and the more bitter, because his mind was unobscured by drink. At last, the moment of separation came. It was a clear cold morning towards the latter end of March, when Mary left, for the last time, her little chamber, and came down stairs dressed for her journey. Ever, in the presence of her father and mother, during the brief season of preparation, had she maintained a cheerful and confident exterior; but, in her heart, there was a painful shrinking back from the trial upon which she was about entering. On going by the door of Mary's chamber, a few minutes before she came down, Mrs. Bacon saw her daughter kneeling at her bedside, with her face deeply buried among the clothes. Not till that moment, did she fully comprehend the trial through which her child was passing.
The coach was at the door, and Mary's trunk strapped in before she came down. In the porch stood her father and mother, and her younger brother and sister, waiting her appearance.
"Good bye, father," said the excellent girl, in a cheerful voice, as she reached out her hand.
Mr. Bacon caught it eagerly, and essayed to speak some tender and encouraging words. But though his lips moved, there was no sound upon the air.
"God bless you!" was at length uttered in a sobbing voice. A fervent kiss was then pressed upon her lips, and the old man turned away and staggered rather than walked back into the house.
More calmly the mother parted with her child. It was a great trial for Mrs. Bacon, but she now fully comprehended the great use to flow from Mary's self-devotion, and, therefore, with her last kiss, breathed a word of encouragement.
"It is for your father. Let that sustain you to the end." A few moments more, and the coach rolled away, bearing with it the very sunlight from the dwelling of Mr. Bacon. Poor old man! Restlessly did he wander about for days after Mary's departure, unable to apply himself, except for a little while at a time, to any work; but his inquietude did not drive him back to the cup he had abandoned. No, he saw in it too clearly, the cause of his present deep distress, to look upon and feel its allurement. What had banished from her pleasant home that beloved child, and sent her forth among strangers to toil from early morning until the going down of the sun? Could he love the cause of this great evil? No! There was yet enough virtue in his heart to save him. Love for his child, was stronger than his depraved love of strong drink. A few more ineffectual efforts were made to turn Mr. Green from his resolution to hold Mary to her contract, and then the humbled father resigned himself to the necessity he could not overcome, and with a clearer mind and a newly awakened purpose, applied himself to the culture of his farm, which, in a few months, had a more thrifty appearance than it had presented for years.
In the mean time, Mary had entered one of the mills at Lowell, and was doing her work there with a brave and cheerful spirit. Some painful trials, to one like her, attended her arrival in the city and entrance upon the duties assumed. But daily the trials grew less, and she toiled on in the fulfillment of her contract with Mr. Green, happy under the ever present consciousness that she had saved her father's property, and kept their homestead as the gathering place of the family. At the end of three months, she came back and spent a week. How her young heart bounded with joy at the great change apparent in everything about the house and farm, but, most of all, at the change in her father. He was not so light of word and smilingly cheerful as in former times, but he was sober, perfectly sober; and she felt that the kiss with which he welcomed her brief return, was purer than it had ever been.
On the very day Mary came back, she called over to see Mr. Green, and paid him thirty-seven dollars on account of the loan, for which he gave her a receipt. Then he had many questions to ask about her situation at Lowell, and how she bore her separation from home, to all of which she gave cheerful answers, and, in the end, repeated her thanks for the opportunity he had given her to be of such great service to her father.
Mr. Green had a son who, during his term at college, exhibited talents of so decided a character that his father, after some deliberation, concluded to place him under the care of an eminent lawyer in Boston. In this position he had now been for two years, and was about applying for admission to the bar. As children, Henry Green and Mary Bacon had been to the same school together, and, as children, they were much attached to each other. Their fellowship, as each grew older, was suspended by the absence of Henry at college, and by other circumstances that removed the two families from intimate contact, and they had ceased to think of each other except when some remembrance of the past brought up their images.
After paying Mr. Green the amount of money which she had saved from her earnings during the first three months of her factory life, Mary left his house, and was walking along the carriage way leading to the public road, when she saw a young man enter the gate and approach her.
Although it was three years since she had met Henry Green, she knew him at a glance, but he did not recognize her, although struck with something familiar in her face as he bowed to her in passing.
"Who can that be?" said he to himself, as he walked thoughtfully along. "I have seen her before. Can that be Mary Bacon? If so, how much she has improved!"
On meeting his father, the young man asked if he was right in his conjecture about the young person he had just passed, and was answered in the affirmative.
"She was only a slender girl when I saw her last. Now, she is a lovely young woman," said Henry.
"Yes, Mary has grown up rapidly," replied Mr. Green, evincing no particular interest in the subject of his remark.
"How is her father doing now?" asked Henry.
"Better than he did a short time ago," was replied
"I'm glad to hear that. Does he drink as much as ever?"
"No. He has given up that wicked habit."
"Indeed! Then he must be doing better."
"He ran himself down very low," said Mr. Green, "and was about losing everything, when Mary, like a brave, right-minded girl, stepped forward and saved him."
"Mary! How did she do that, father?"
"Dyer had a mortgage of three hundred dollars on his farm, and was going to sell him out in mid-winter, when nobody who cared to befriend him, had money to spare. On the very day I heard about his trouble, Mary called on me and asked the loan of a sum sufficient to lift the mortgage.
"But how could she pay you back that sum?" asked the young man in surprise.
"I loaned her the amount she asked," replied Mr. Green, "and she has just paid me the first promised instalment of thirty-seven dollars."
"How did she get the money?"
"She earned it with her own hands."
"You surprise me," said Henry. "And so, to save her father from ruin, she has devoted her young life to toil in a factory?"
"Yes; and the effect of this self-devotion has been all that I hoped it would be. It has reformed her father. It has saved him in a double sense."
"Noble girl!" exclaimed the young man, with enthusiasm.
"Yes, you may well say that, Henry," replied Mr. Green. "In the heart of that humble factory girl is a truly noble and womanly principle, which elevates her, in my estimation, far above anything that rank, wealth, or social position alone can possibly give."
"But father," said Henry, "is it right to subject her to so severe a trial? It will take a long, long time, for her to earn three hundred dollars. Does not virtue like hers — "
"I know what you would say," interrupted Mr. Green. "True I could cancel the obligation and derive great pleasure from doing so, but it is the conclusion of my better judgment, all things considered, that she be permitted to fill up the entire measure of her contract. The trial will fully prove her, and bring to view the genuine gold of her character. Moreover, it is best for her father that she should seem to be a sufferer through his intemperance. I say seem, for, really, Mary experiences more pleasure than pain from what she is doing. The trial is not so great as it appears. Her reward is with her daily, and it is a rich reward."
Henry asked no further questions, but he felt more than a passing interest in what he had heard. In the course of a week, Mary returned to Lowell and he went back to Boston.
Three months afterwards, Mary again came home to visit her parents, and again called upon Mr. Green to pay over to him what she had been able to save from her earnings. It so happened that Henry Green was on a visit from Boston, and that he met her, as before, as she was retiring from the house of his father. This time he spoke to her and renewed their old acquaintance, even going so far as to walk a portion of the way home with her. At the end of another three months, they met again. Brief though this meeting was, it left upon the mind of each, the other's image more strongly impressed than it had ever been. In the circle where Henry Green moved in Boston, he met many educated, refined, and elegant young women, some of whom had attracted him strongly; but, in the humble Mary Bacon, whose station in life was that of a toiling factory girl, he saw a moral beauty whose light threw all the allurements presented by these completely into shadow.
Six months went by. Henry Green had been admitted to the bar, and was now a practicing attorney in Boston. It was in the pleasant month of June and he had come home to spend a few weeks with his family. One morning, a day or two after his return, as he sat conversing with his father, the form of someone darkened the door.
"Ah Mary!" said the elder Mr. Green rising and taking the hand of Mary Bacon, which he shook warmly. "My son, Henry," he added, presenting the blushing girl to his son, who, in turn, took her hand and expressed the pleasure he felt at meeting her. Knowing the business upon which Mary had called, Henry, not wishing to be present at its transaction, soon retired. As he did so, Mary drew out her purse and took therefrom a small roll of bank bills, saying, as she handed it to Mr. Green,
"I have come to make you another payment."
With a grave, business-like air, Mr. Green took the money and, after counting it over, went to his desk and wrote out a receipt.
"Let me see," said he, thoughtfully, as he came back with the receipt in his hand. "How much does this make? One, two, three, four, five quarterly payments. One hundred and eighty-seven dollars and a half. You'll soon be through, Mary. There is nothing like patience, perseverance, and industry. How is your father this morning?"
"Very well, sir."
"I think his health has improved of late."
"And so has everything around him. I was looking at his farm a few days ago, and never saw crops in a finer condition. And how is your health, Mary."
"Pretty good," was replied, though not with much heartiness of manner.
Mr. Green now observed her more closely, and saw that her cheeks were thinner and paler than at her last visit. He did not remark on it, however, and, after a few words more of conversation, Mary arose and withdrew.
It was, perhaps, an hour afterwards, that Henry said to his father,
"Mary Bacon doesn't look as well as when I last saw her."
"So it struck me," returned Mr. Green.
"I'm afraid she has taken upon her more than she has the strength to accomplish. She is certainly paler and thinner than she was, and is far from looking as cheerful and happy as when I saw her six months ago."
Mr. Green did not reply to this, but his countenance assumed a thoughtful expression.
"Mary is a good daughter," he at length said, as if speaking to himself.
"There is not one in a thousand like her," replied Henry, with a warmth of manner that caused Mr. Green to lift his eyes to his son's face.
"I fully agree with you in that," he answered.
"Then, father," said Henry, "why hold her any longer to her contract, thus far so honorably fulfilled. The trial has proved her. You see the pure gold of her character."
"I have long seen it," returned Mr. Green.
"Her father is thoroughly reformed."
"So I have reason to believe."'
"Then act from your own heart's generous impulses, father, and forgive the balance of the debt."
"Are you certain that she will accept what you ask me to give? Will her own sense of justice permit her to stop until the whole claim is satisfied?" asked Mr. Green.
"I cannot answer for that father," returned Henry. "But, let me beg of you to at least make the generous offer of a release."
Mr. Green went to his desk, and, taking a small piece of paper from a drawer, held it up, and said —
"This, Henry, is her acknowledgment of the debt to me. If I write upon it 'satisfied,' will you take it to her and say, that I hold the obligation no farther."
"Gladly!" was the instant reply of Henry. "You could not ask me to do a thing from which I would derive greater pleasure."
Mr. Green took up his pen and wrote across the face of the paper, in large letters, "satisfied," and then, handing it to his son, said —
"Take it to her, Henry, and say to her, that if I had given way to my feelings, I would have done this a year ago. And now, let me speak a word for your ear. Never again, in this life, may a young woman cross your path, whose character is so deeply grounded in virtue, who is so pure, so unselfish, so devoted in her love, so strong in her good purposes. Her position is humble, but, in a life-companion, we want personal excellencies — not external social airs. You have my full consent to win, if you can, this sweet flower, blooming by the way-side. A proud day will it be for me, when I can call her my daughter. I have long loved her as such."
More welcome words than these, Mr. Green could not have spoken to his son. They were like a response to his own feelings. He did not, however, make any answer, but took the contract in silence and quickly left the room.
The reader can easily anticipate what followed. Mary did not go back to Lowell. A year afterwards she was introduced to a select circle of friends in Boston as the wife of Henry Green, and she is now the warmly esteemed friend and companion of some of the most intelligent, refined, right-thinking, and right-feeling people in that city. Her husband has seen no reason to repent of his choice.
As for old Mr. Bacon, his farm has continued to improve in appearance and value ever since his daughter paid off the mortgage; and as he, once for all, banished liquor from his house, he is in no danger of having his little property burdened with a new encumbrance. His cheerfulness has returned, and he bears as of old, the reputation of being the best tempered, best hearted man in the neighborhood!