Timothy Shay Arthur, 1859
I have no experiences of my own to relate on this subject. But I could fill a book with the experiences of my friends. How many poor widows, in the hope of sustaining their families and educating their children, have tried the illusive, and, at best, doubtful experiment of taking boarders, to find themselves in a year or two, or three, hopelessly involved in debt, which a life time of labor would fail to cancel. Many, from pride, resort to this means of getting a living, because--why I never could comprehend--taking boarders is thought to be more genteel than needlework or keeping a small store for the sale of articles.
The experience of one of my friends, a Mrs. Turner, who, in the earlier days of her sad widowhood, found it needful to make personal effort for the sustenance of her family, I will here relate. Many who find themselves in trying positions like hers, may, in reviewing her mistakes, be saved from similar ones themselves.
"I don't know what we shall do!" exclaimed Mrs. Turner, about six months after the death of her husband, while pondering sadly over the prospect before her. She had one daughter about twenty, and two sons who were both under ten years of age. Up to this time she had never known the dread of poverty. Her husband had been able to provide well for his family; and they moved in a very respectable, and somewhat showy circle. But on his death, his affairs were found to be much involved, and when settled, there was left for the widow and children only about the sum of four thousand dollars, besides the household furniture, which was very handsome. This sad falling off in her prospects, had been communicated to Mrs. Turner a short time before, by the administrator on the estate; and its effect was to alarm and sadden her extremely.
She knew nothing of business, and yet, was painfully conscious, that four thousand dollars would be but a trifle to what she would need for her family, and that effort in some direction was now absolutely necessary. But, besides her ignorance of any calling by which money could be made, she had a superabundance of false pride, and shrunk from what she was pleased to consider the odium attached to a woman who had to engage in business. Under these circumstances, she had a poor enough prospect before her. The exclamation as above recorded, was made in the presence of Mary Turner, her daughter, a well educated girl, who had less of that false pride which obscured her mother's perceptions of right. After a few moments' silence the latter said--
"And yet we must do something, mother."
"I know that, Mary, too well. But I know of nothing that we can do."
"Suppose we open a little dry goods' store?" suggested Mary. "Others seem to do well at it, and we might. You know we have a great many friends."
"Don't think of it, Mary! We could not expose ourselves in that way."
"I know that it would not be pleasant, mother; but, then, we must do something."
"It must be something besides that, Mary. I can't listen to it. It's only a vulgar class of women who keep stores."
"I am willing to take in sewing, mother; but, then, all I could earn would go but a little way towards keeping the family. I don't suppose I could even pay the rent, and that you know, is four hundred dollars."
"Too true," Mrs. Turner said, despondingly.
"Suppose I open a school?" suggested Mary.
"O no! no! My head would never stand the noise and confusion. And, any way, I never did like a school."
"Then I don't know what we shall do, unless we take some boarders."
"A little more genteel. But even that is low enough."
"Then, suppose, mother we look for a lower rent, and try to live more economically. I will take in sewing, and we can try for awhile, and see how we get along."
"O no, indeed, child. That would never do. We must keep up appearances, or we shall lose our place in society. You know that it is absolutely necessary for you and your brothers, that we should maintain our position."
"As for me, mother," said Mary, in a serious tone, "I would not have you to take a thought in that direction. And it seems to me that our true position is the one where we can live most comfortably according to our means."
"You don't know anything about it, child," Mrs. Turner replied, in a positive tone.
Mary was silenced for the time. But a banishment of the subject did not, in any way, lesson the difficulties. Thoughts of these soon again became apparent in words; and the most natural form of these was the sentence--
"I don't know what we shall do!" uttered by the mother in a tone of deep despondency.
"Suppose we take a few boarders?" Mary urged, about three weeks after the conversation just alluded to.
"No, Mary; we would be too much exposed: and then it would come very hard on you, for you know that I cannot stand much fatigue," Mrs. Turner replied, slowly and sadly.
"O, as to that," said Mary, with animation: "I'll take all the burden off of you."
"Indeed, child, I cannot think of it," Mrs. Turner replied, positively; and again the subject was dismissed.
But it was soon again recurred to, and after the suggestion and disapproval of many plans, Mary again said--
"Indeed, mother, I don't see what we will do, unless we take a few boarders."
"It's the only thing at all respectable, that I can think of," Mrs. Turner said despondingly; "and I'm afraid it's the best we can do."
"I think we had better try it, mother, don't you?"
"Well, perhaps we had, Mary. There are four rooms that we can spare; and these ought to bring us in something handsome."
"What ought we to charge?"
"About three dollars and a half for young men, and ten dollars for a man and his wife."
"If we could get four married couples for the four rooms, that would be forty dollars a week, which would be pretty good," said Mary, warming at the thought.
"Yes, if we could, Mary, we might manage pretty well. But most married people have children, and they are such an annoyance that I wouldn't have them in the house. We will have to depend mainly on the young men."
It was, probably, three weeks after this, that an advertisement, running thus, appeared in one of the newspapers:
"BOARDING--Five or six genteel young men, or a few gentlemen and their wives, can be accommodated with boarding at 50 Cedar Street. Terms moderate."
In the course of the following day, a man called and asked the terms for himself and wife.
"Ten dollars," said Mrs. Turner.
"That's too high--is it not?" remarked the man.
"We cannot take you for less."
"Have you a pleasant room vacant?"
"You can have your choice of the finest in the house?"
"Can I look at them, madam?"
"Certainly, sir." And the stranger was taken through Mrs. Turner's beautifully furnished chambers.
"Well, this is certainly a temptation," said the man, pausing and looking around the front chamber on the second floor. "And you have named your lowest terms?"
"Yes, sir; the lowest."
"Well, it's higher than I've been paying, but this looks too comfortable. I suppose we will have to strike a bargain."
"I shall be pleased to accommodate you, sir."
"We will come, then, tomorrow morning."
"Very well, sir." And the stranger departed.
"So much for a beginning," said Mrs. Turner, evidently gratified. "He seems to be much of a gentleman. If his wife is like him, they will make things very agreeable I am sure."
"I hope she is," said Mary.
On the next morning, the new boarders made their appearance, and the lady proved as affable and as interesting as the husband.
"I always pay quarterly. This is the custom in all the boarding houses I have been in. But if your rules are otherwise, why just say so. It makes no difference to me," remarked the new boarder, in the kindest manner imaginable.
"Just suit yourself about that, Mr. Cameron. It is altogether immaterial," Mrs. Turner replied, smiling. "I am in no particular need of money."
Mr. Cameron bowed lower, and smiled more blandly, if possible, than before.
"You have just opened a boarding house, I suppose, madam?" he said.
"Yes sir, I am a new beginner at the business."
"Ah--well, I must try and make you known all I can. You will find Mrs. Cameron, here, a sociable kind of a woman. And if I can serve you at any time, be sure to ask me."
"You are too kind!" Mrs. Turner responded, much pleased to have found, in her first boarders, such excellent, good-hearted people.
In a few days, a couple of young men made application, and were received, and now commenced the serious duties of the new undertaking. Mary had to assume the whole care of the house. She had to attend the markets, and oversee the kitchen, and also to make all the pastry with her own hands. Still, she had a willing heart, and this lightened much of the heavy burden now imposed upon her.
"How do you like your new boarding house?" asked a friend of one of the young men who had applied, and been received. This was about two weeks after his entrance into Mrs. Turner's house.
"Elegant," responded the young man, giving his countenance a peculiar and knowing expression.
"Indeed? But are you in earnest?"
"I am that. Why, we live on the very fat of the land."
"Pshaw! you must be joking. Whoever heard of the fat of the land being found in a boarding house. They can't afford it."
"I don't care, myself, whether they can afford it or not. But we do live elegantly. I wouldn't ask to sit down to a better table."
"What kind of a room have you? and what kind of a bed?"
"Good enough for a lord."
"No, but I am in earnest, as I will prove to you. I sleep on as fine a bed as ever I saw, laid on a richly carved mahogany bedstead, with beautiful curtains. The floor is covered with a Brussels carpet, nearly new and of a rich pattern. There is in the room a mahogany wardrobe, an elegant piece of furniture--a marble top dressing bureau, and a mahogany wash-stand with a marble slab. Now if you don't call that a touch above a common boarding house, you've been more fortunate than I have been until lately."
"Are there any vacancies there, Tom?"
"There is another bed in my room."
"Well, just tell them, tonight, that I'll be there tomorrow morning."
"And I know of a couple more that'll add, if there is room."
"It's a large house, and I believe they have room yet to spare."
A week more passed away, and the house had its complement, six young men, and the polite gentleman and his wife. This promised an income of thirty-one dollars per week.
As an off-set to this, a careful examination into the weekly expenditure would have shown a statement something like the following: Marketing $12; groceries, flour, &c., $10; rent, $8; servants' hire-cook, chambermaid, and black boy, $4; fuel, and incidental expenses, $6--in all, $40 per week. Besides this, their own clothes, and the schooling of the two boys did not cost less than at the rate of $300 per annum. But neither Mrs. Turner nor Mary ever thought that any such calculation was necessary. They charged what other boarding house keepers charged, and thought, of course, that they must make a good living. But in no boarding house, even where much higher prices were obtained, was so much piled upon the table.
Everything, in its season, was to be found there, without regard to prices. Of course, the boarders were delighted, and complimented Mrs. Turner upon the excellent fare which they received.
Mr. and Mrs. Cameron continued as affable and interesting as when they first came into the house. But the first quarter passed away, and nothing was said about their bill, and Mrs. Turner never thought of giving them a polite hint. Two of her young men were also remiss in this respect, but they were such gentlemanly, polite, attentive individuals--that, of course, nothing could be said.
"I believe I've never had your bill, Mrs. Turner, have I?" Mr. Cameron said to her one evening, when about six months had passed.
"No; I have never thought of giving it to you. But it's no difference, I'm not in need of money."
"Yes, but it ought to be paid. I'll bring you up a check from the counting-room in a few days."
"Suit your own convenience, Mr. Cameron," answered Mrs. Turner, in an indifferent tone.
"O, it's perfectly convenient at all times. But knowing that you were not in need of it, has made me negligent."
This was all that was said on the subject for another quarter, during which time the two young men alluded to as being in arrears, went off, cheating the widow out of fifty dollars each!
But nothing was said about it to the other boarders, and none of them knew of the wrong that had been sustained. Their places did not fill up, and the promised weekly income was reduced to twenty-four dollars.
At the end of the third quarter, Mr. Cameron again recollected that he had neglected to bring up a check from the counting-room, and blamed himself for his thoughtlessness.
"I am so full of business," said he, "that I sometimes neglect these little things."
"But it's a downright shame, Mr. Cameron, when it's so easy for you to draw off a check and put it into your pocket," remarked his wife.
"O, it's not a particle of difference," Mrs. Turner volunteered to say, smiling--though, to tell the truth, she would much rather have had the money.
"Well, I'll try and bear it in mind this very night," and Mr. Cameron hurried away, as business pressed.
The morning after Mr. Cameron's fourth quarter expired, he walked out, as usual, with his wife before breakfast. But when all assembled at the table, they had not (something very uncommon for them) returned.
"I wonder what keeps Mr. and Mrs. Cameron?" remarked Mrs. Turner.
"Why, I saw them leave in the steamboat for the South, this morning," said one of the boarders.
"You must be mistaken," Mrs. Turner replied.
"O no, ma'am, not at all. I saw them, and conversed with them before the boat started. They told me that they were going on as far as Washington."
"Very strange!" ejaculated Mrs. Turner. "They said nothing to me about it."
"I hope they don't owe you anything," remarked one of the boarders.
"Indeed, they do."
"Not much, ma'am; I hope."
"Over five hundred dollars!"
"O, that is too bad! How could you trust a man like Mr. Cameron to such an amount?"
"Why, surely," said Mrs. Turner, "he is a respectable and a responsible merchant; and I was in no need of the money."
"Indeed, Mrs. Turner, he is no such thing."
"Then what is he?"
"He is one of your gentlemen about town, and lives by gambling. At least such is the reputation he bears. I thought you perfectly understood this."
"How cruelly I have been deceived!" said Mrs. Turner, unable to command her feelings; and rising, she left the table in charge of Mary.
On examining Mr. and Mrs. Cameron's room, their trunk was found, but it was empty. The owners of it, of course, came not back to claim their property.
The result of this year's experience in keeping boarders, was an income of just $886 in money, and a loss of $600, set off against an expense of $2380. Thus was Mrs. Turner worse off by $1494 at the end of the year, than she was when she commenced keeping boarders. But she made no calculations, and had not the most remote idea of how the matter stood. Whenever she wanted money, she drew upon the amount placed to her credit in bank by the administrator on her husband's estate, vainly imagining that it would all come back through the boarders. All that she supposed to be lost of the first year's business were the $600, out of which she had been cheated. Resolving to be more circumspect in future, another year was entered upon. But she could not help seeing that Mary was suffering from hard labor and close confinement, and it pained her exceedingly. One day she said to her, a few weeks after they had entered upon the second year--
"I am afraid, Mary, this is too hard for you. You begin to look pale and thin. You must spare yourself more."
"I believe I do need a little rest, mother," said Mary; "but if I don't look after things, nobody will, and then we should soon have our boarders dissatisfied."
"That is too true, Mary."
"But I wouldn't mind it so much, mother, if I thought we were getting ahead. But I am afraid we are not."
"What makes you think so, child?"
"You know we have lost six hundred dollars already, and that is a great deal of money."
"True, Mary; but we must be more careful in future. We will soon make that up, I am sure."
"I hope so," Mary responded, with a sigh. She did not herself feel so optimistic of making it up. Still, she had not entered into any calculation of income and expense, leaving that to her mother, and supposing that all was right as a matter of course.
As they continued to set an excellent table, they kept up pretty regularly their complement of boarders. The end of the second year would have shown this result, if a calculation had been made: cash income, $1306--loss by boarders, $150--whole expenses, $2000. Consequently, they were worse off at the end of the year by $694; or in the two years, $2188, by keeping boarders!
And now poor Mrs. Turner was startled on receiving her bank book from the bank, settled up, to find that her four thousand dollars had dwindled down to $1812. She could not at first believe her senses. But there were all her checks regularly entered; and, to dash even the hope that there was a mistake, there were the cancelled checks, also, bearing her own signature.
"Mary, what shall we do?" was her despairing question, as the full truth became distinct to her mind.
"You say we have sunk more than two thousand dollars in two years?"
"Yes, my child."
"And have had all our hard labor for nothing?" Mary continued, and her voice trembled as she thought of how much she had gone through in that time.
"Something must be wrong, mother. Let us do what we should have done at first, make a careful calculation of our expenses."
"It costs us just ten dollars each week for marketing--and I know that our groceries are at least that, including flour; that you see makes twenty dollars, and we only get twenty-eight dollars for our eight boarders. Our rent will bring our expenses up to that. And then there are servants' wages, fuel, our own clothes, and the boys' schooling, besides what we lose every year, and the hundred little expenses which cannot be enumerated."
"Mary! No wonder we have gone behindhand."
"Yes, we have; but we must do so no longer. Let us give up our boarders, and move into a smaller house."
"But what shall we do Mary? Our money will soon dwindle away."
"We must do something for a living, mother, that is true. But if we cannot now see what we shall do, that is no reason why we should go on as we are. Our rent, you know, takes away from us eight dollars a week. We can get a house large enough for our own purposes at three dollars a week, or one hundred and fifty dollars a year, I am sure, thus saving five dollars a week there, and that money would buy all the plain food our whole family would eat."
"But it will never do, Mary, for us to go to moving into a little bit of a pigeon-box of a house."
"Mother, if we don't get into a cheaper house and economise our resources, we shall soon have no house to live in!" said Mary, with particular energy.
"Well, child, perhaps you are right; but I can't bear the thought of it," Mrs. Turner replied. "And any how, I can't see what we are going to do then."
"We ought to do what we see to be right, mother, had we not?" Mary asked, looking affectionately into her mother's face.
"I suppose so, Mary."
"Won't it be right for us to reduce our expenses, and make the most of what we have left?"
"It certainly will, Mary."
"Then let us do what seems to be right, and we shall see further, I am sure, as soon as we have acted."
Thus urged, Mrs. Turner consented to relinquish her boarders, and to move into a small house, at a rent very considerably reduced.
Many articles of furniture they were obliged to dispose of, and this added to their little fund some five hundred dollars. About two months after they were fairly settled, Mary said to her mother--
"I've been thinking a good deal lately, mother, about getting into some work that would bring us in a living."
"Well, child, what conclusion have you come to?"
"You don't like the idea of setting up a little store?"
"No, Mary, it is too exposing."
"Nor of keeping a school?"
"Well, what do you think of my learning the dress-making business?"
"But, mother, I could learn in six months, and then we could set up the business, and I am sure we could do well. Almost every one who sets up dress-making, gets along."
"There was always something base to me in the idea of a milliner or mantua maker, and I cannot bear the thought of your being one!" Mrs. Turner replied, in a decided tone.
"You know what the poem says, mother--
'Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part, there all the honor lies.'"
"Yes, but that is poetry, child."
"And song is but the eloquence of truth, someone has beautifully said," responded Mary, smiling.
The mother was silent, and Mary, whose mind had never imbibed, fully, her mother's false notions, continued--
"I am sure there can be no wrong in my making dresses. Someone must make them, and it is the end we have in view, it seems to me, that determines the character of an action. If I, for the sake of procuring an honest living for my mother, my little brothers, and myself, am willing to devote my time to dress-making, instead of sitting in idleness, and allowing James and Willie to be hired out among strangers, then the calling is to me honorable. My aim is honorable, and the means are honest. Is it not so, mother?"
"Yes, I suppose it is so. But then there was always something so degrading to me in the idea of being nothing but a dress-maker!"
Just at that moment a young man, named Martin, who had lived with them during the last year of their experiment in keeping boarders, called in to see them. He kept a store in the city, and was reputed to be well off. He had uniformly manifested an interest in Mrs. Turner and her family, and was much liked by them. After he was seated. Mrs. Turner said to him--
"I am trying, Mr. Martin, to beat a strange notion out of Mary's head. She has been endeavoring to persuade me to let her learn the dress-making business."
The young man seemed a little surprised at this communication, and Mary evinced a momentary confusion when it was made. He said, however, very promptly and pleasantly, turning to Mary--
"I suppose you have a good reason for it, Miss Mary."
"I think I have, Mr. Martin," she replied, smiling. "We cannot live, and educate James and William, unless we have a regular income; and I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that what we have cannot last long--nor to another, that I am the only one in the family from whom any regular income can be expected."
"And you are willing to devote yourself to incessant toil, night and day, for this purpose?"
"Certainly I am," Mary replied, with a quiet, cheerful smile.
"But it never will do, Mr. Martin, will it?" Mrs. Turner remarked.
"Why not, Mrs. Turner?"
"Because, it is not altogether respectable."
"I do not see anything disrespectable in the business; but, with Mary's motive for entering into it, something highly respectable and honorable," Mr. Martin replied, with unusual earnestness.
Mrs. Turner was silenced.
"And you really think of learning the business, and then setting it up?" said Mr. Martin, turning to Mary, with a manifest interest, which she felt, rather than perceived.
"Certainly I do, if mother does not positively object."
"Then I wish you all success in your praiseworthy undertaking. And may the end you have in view support you amid the wearisome toil."
There was a peculiar feeling in Mr. Martin's tone that touched the heart of Mary, she knew not why. But certain it was, that she felt doubly nerved for the task she had proposed to herself.
As Mr. Martin wended his way homeward that evening, he thought of Mary Turner with an interest new to him. He had never been a great deal in her company while he boarded with her mother, because Mary was always too busy about household affairs, to be much in the parlor. But what little he had seen of her, made him like her as a friend. He also liked Mrs. Turner, and had from these reasons, frequently called in to see them since their removal. After going into his room, on his return home that evening, he sat down and remained for some time in a musing attitude. At length he got up, and took a few turns across the floor, and again seated himself, saying as he did so--
"If that's the stuff she's made of--she's worth looking after."
From this period, Mr. Martin called to see Mrs. Turner more frequently, and as Mary, who had promptly entered upon the duties of a dress-maker's apprentice, came home every evening, he had as many opportunities of being with her and conversing with her as he desired. Amiable accomplished, and intelligent, she failed not to make, unconsciously to herself, a decided impression upon the young man's heart. Nor could she conceal from herself that she was happier in his company, than she was at any other time.
Week after week, and month after month, passed quickly away, and Mary was rapidly acquiring a skill in the art she was learning, rarely obtained by any. After the end of four months, she could make a dress equal to anyone in the work-room. But this constant application was making sad inroads upon her health. For two years she had been engaged in active and laborious duties, even beyond her strength. The change from this condition to the perfectly sedentary, was more than her constitution could bear up under, especially as she was compelled to bend over her needle regularly, from ten to twelve hours each day. As the time for the expiration of her term of service approached, she felt her strength to be fast failing her. Her cheek had become paler and thinner, her step more languid, and her appetite was almost entirely gone.
These indications of failing health were not unobserved by Mr. Martin. But, not having made up his mind, definitely, that she was precisely the woman he wanted for a wife, he could not interfere to prevent her continuance at the business which was too evidently destroying her health. But every time he saw her, his interest in her became tenderer. "If no one steps forward and saves her," he would sometimes say to himself, as he gazed with saddened feelings upon her colorless cheek, "she will fall a victim in the very bloom of womanhood!"
And Mary herself saw the sad prospect before her. She told no one of the pain in her side, nor of the sickening sensation of weakness and weariness which daily oppressed her. But she toiled on and on, hoping to feel better soon. At last her probation ended. But the determined and ambitious spirit that had kept her up, now gave way.
Martin knew the day when her apprenticeship expired, and without asking why, followed the impulse that prompted him, and called upon her in the evening.
"Is anything the matter, Mrs. Turner?" he asked, with a feeling of alarm, on entering the house and catching a glance at the expression of that lady's countenance.
"Oh, yes, Mr. Martin, Mary is extremely ill," she replied, in evident painful anxiety.
"What ails her?" he asked, showing equal concern.
"I do not know, Mr. Martin. She came home this evening, and as soon as she reached her chamber, fainted away. I sent for the doctor immediately, and he says that she must be kept very quiet, and that he will be here very early in the morning again. I am afraid she has overworked herself. Indeed, I am sure she has. For many weeks back, I have noticed her altered appearance and loss of appetite. It was in vain that I urged her to spare herself for a few weeks, and make up the time afterwards. She steadily urged the necessity of getting into business as soon as possible, and would not give up. She has sacrificed herself, Mr. Martin, I very much fear, to her devotion to the family!" And Mrs. Turner burst into tears.
We need not say how sad and depressed Martin was, on turning away from the house, without the chance of seeing Mary, under the idea, too, of her dangerous illness. He called about ten o'clock the next morning, and learned that she was no better; that the doctor had been there, and pronounced her in a low nervous fever. Strict injunctions had been left that no one should be admitted to her room but the necessary attendants.
Regularly every morning and evening, Martin called to ask after Mary, for the space of fifteen days, and always received the sad information that she was no better. His feelings had now become intensely excited. He blamed himself for having favored the idea of Mary's going to learn a trade.
"How easily I might have prevented it!" he said to himself. "How blind I was to her true worth! How much suffering and toil I might have saved her!"
On the evening of the sixteenth day, he received the glad intelligence that Mary was somewhat better. That although greatly emaciated, and as feeble as an infant, a decidedly healthy action had taken place, and the doctor expressed confident hopes of her recovery.
"May I not see her, Mrs. Turner?" he asked, earnestly.
"Not yet, Mr. Martin, The doctor is positive in his directions to have her kept perfectly quiet."
Martin had, of course, to acquiesce, but with great reluctance. For five days more he continued to call in twice every day, and each time found her slightly improved.
"May I not see her now?" he again asked, at the end of these additional days of anxious self-denial.
"If you will not talk to her," said Mrs. Turner.
Martin promised, and was shown up to her chamber. His heart sickened as he approached the bed-side, and looked upon the thin, white, almost expressionless face, and sunken eye, of her who was now the ruler of his affections. He took her hand, which returned a feeble, almost imperceptible pressure, but did not trust himself to utter her name. She hardly seemed conscious of his presence, and he soon turned away, sad, very sad, yet full of hope for her recovery.
The healthy action continued, and in a week Mary could bear conversation. As soon as she could begin to sit up, Martin passed every evening with her, and seeing, as he now did, with different eyes, he perceived in her a hundred things to admire that had before escaped his notice. Recovering rapidly, in a month she was fully restored to health, and looked better than she had for years.
Just about this time, as Martin was making up his mind to declare himself her lover, he was surprised, on entering their parlor one evening, to find on the table a large brass door-plate, with the words, "Mary Turner, Dress Maker" engraved upon it.
"Why, what are you going to do with this Mary?" he asked, forgetting that she did not know his peculiar thoughts about her.
"I am going to commence my business," she replied in a quiet tone. "I have learned a trade, and now I must turn it, if possible, to some good account."
"But your health won't bear it, Mary," he urged. "Don't you know that you made yourself sick by your close application in learning your trade?"
"I do, Mr. Martin; but still, you know why I learned my trade."
Mr. Martin paused for a few moments, and then looking into her face, said--
"Yes, I know the reason, Mary, and I always admired your noble independence in acting as you did--nay," and he took her hand, "If you will permit me to say so, have loved you ever since I had a true appreciation of your character. May I hope for a return of kindred feelings?"
Mary Turner's face became instantly crimsoned with burning blushes, but she did not withdraw her hand. A brief silence ensued, during which the only sounds audible to the ears of each, was the beating of their own hearts. Martin at length said--
"Have I anything to hope, Mary?"
"You know, Mr. Martin," she replied, in a voice that slightly trembled, "that I have duties to perform beyond myself. However much my feelings may be interested, these cannot be set aside. Under present circumstances, my hand is not my own to give."
"But, your duties will become mine, Mary; and most gladly will I assume them. Only give me your hand, and in return I will give you a home for all whom you love, and you can do for them just as your heart desires. Will you now be mine?"
"If my mother objects not," she said, bursting into tears.
Of course, the mother had no objection to urge, and in a few weeks they were married. It was, perhaps, three months after this event, that the now happy family were seated in a beautifully furnished parlor, large enough to suit even Mrs. Turner's ideas. Something had turned their thoughts on the past, and Mary alluded to their sad experience in keeping boarders.
"You did not lose much, did you?" asked her husband.
"We sank over two thousand dollars," Mary replied.
"Is it possible! You paid rather dear, then, for your experience in keeping a boarding house."
"So I then thought," Mary answered, looking into his face with a smile, "But I believe it was money well laid out. What you call a good investment."
Mary stooped down to the ear of her husband, who sat a little behind her mother, and whispered,
"You are dull, dear--I got you by it, didn't I?"
His young wife's cheek was very convenient, and his lips touched it almost involuntarily.
"What is that, Mary?" asked her mother, turning towards them, for she had heard her remark, and was waiting for the explanation.
"Oh, nothing, mother, it was only some of my fun."
"You seem quite full of fun, lately," said Mrs. Turner, with a quiet smile of satisfaction, and again bent her eyes upon the book she was reading.