New Aims in Life
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
"But there is within the human mind an active and powerful principle, which awakens the dormant faculties, lights up the brain, and launches forth to gather up from the wide realm of nature, the very essence of what every human bosom pines for, when it aspires to a higher state of existence, and feels the insufficiency of this world." Mrs. Ellis.
"Louisa, are you almost ready?" asked a young lady, raising her eyes from the book she was reading, and glancing at her friend, who stood before the mirror of her dressing-room, preparing to go out.
"I shall not be long, Catharine," was the reply, made in a sweet voice. "I'm afraid that book doesn't interest you much, for you look at me, yawn, then read a few moments, in regular rotation."
"Do I? Well, I don't know what I do, and what is worse, I can't find out what I want to do. I believe I have got that fashionable illness, boredom; so I have called this afternoon to take you out walking in Broadway with me. That is the proper and fashionable remedy, is it not?"
"I believe it is in vogue; as for its propriety I leave that to your own judgment."
"O, I don't care for punctilious proprieties! if I can be amused by watching a thousand different countenances, and thus killing time, it is all I ask."
"It may be all you ask, but is it all you ought to ask?"
"No moralizing, if you please; I came that you might impart to me a little of your gaiety. So don't be serious, and make me feel more doleful than I do at present."
"Have you any real cause for unhappiness, Kate?" Louisa inquired, turning round and scanning closely the countenance of her friend.
"No cause, except what everyone has, or might have. Everybody thinks I am very happy; I have kind parents, wealth, and liberty to spend my time as I may choose. I have you, dear Louisa! yet my soul asks for something more. Will its cravings ever be satisfied?
Louisa did not answer, but an expression of sadness went over her countenance. It was the first time Catharine Bloomer had ever, in the slightest degree, given vent to her real feelings. The friends had generally been mirthful and cheerful in each other's society. Now the face of Catharine was touched with melancholy; her fine, proud features, were softened and subdued. She was silent for a while, then arousing herself, she rose and approached her friend, saying, in her usual careless tone, "Louisa, I really believe you are a little vain; I wonder how long you have stood before that glass, pulling your bonnet this way and that, to make it set straight and look pretty."
"A singular kind of vanity," Louisa retorted, with a smile, "for I was scarcely conscious of what I was doing."
"You want me to believe that speech, do you, you vain little gipsy?" said Catherine, touching her chin, with an air of playful fondness.
"Yes, I want you to believe it, and I further desire you to retract your words, or we will surely have a duel."
"Suppose we have a duel, then, by way of variety. Here is my challenge;" and, stooping down, Catharine picked up a tiny satin slipper that was peeping from beneath the bureau.
"I accept your pledge, most noble knight," replied Louisa, seizing her slipper. After flinging it in a corner, she threw her arm around her companion's waist, and said, as she led her from the room, "Now I am ready to go out in Broadway, and fight as befits a valiant lady chevalier. But, Catharine, to be serious do you think I am vain?" For a moment the young girl addressed was silent, her lips closed firmly in thought. Presently she answered, with a frank decision,
"Yes, I think you are." After a moment's pause, she added, "You know we entered into a compact to tell each other our faults, when we noticed them."
"Yes," was the brief and somewhat cold reply. They gained the street, and walked about half a block without speaking. Louisa was slightly hurt, and the deep glow of mortification was upon her cheek. But she was an affectionate girl, and loved her friend too well to feel more than a momentary coldness towards her. She broke their unusual silence by pressing Catharine's hand, and saying, "Thank you! you are a true friend. Whenever you think I betray any vanity please tell me of it. I am sure I desire to get rid of all my faults."
"I know it. I would be a different person, perhaps, if my desires were as active as yours always are. I see my own faults and the faults of my neighbors. But, in regard to myself, I am indolent careless. Just give me enjoyment, and I suppose I am too indifferent whether my faults or virtues are called into action. You never tell me of my faults, Louisa, except the single one of sarcasm; I am sure I have a thousand more than you."
"Well, I think it is very hard to listen with patience and right feeling, to one who is pointing out our faults. Do you know, Kate, I was almost indignant, when I found you were in earnest about my vanity. It is so very agreeable to have your friends think you are just perfect."
"Do you think so?" laughed her friend, shaking her head a little.
"Don't you? Is praise and admiration disagreeable to you? I thought you were proud of your gifts. I have seen your eye flash with pleasure, when your mental superiority was felt and acknowledged."
Catharine answered by an impatient "pshaw!" and thus the subject was dismissed. By this time they had reached the house of an acquaintance. Louisa paused, and, laying her hand upon Catharine's arm, said, "Suppose we give Mrs. Belcher a call? she would not like it, if she knew we passed her house without stopping in."
"Just as you please," returned Catharine; "I am perfectly indifferent."
"You are in a strange mood just now," Louisa replied, as they ascended the steps; "not very complimentary to Mrs. Belcher, I must say."
"I tell the truth even if I am not very complimentary. The society of Mrs. Belcher never adds one whit to my enjoyment; why should I be otherwise than indifferent? I wish society was so organized that we would never be obliged to say all sorts of pretty things about the weather, fashions, etc., to people for whom we don't care a fig. It almost makes me sick to rattle on an hour or two, about things in which I have no interest whatever. I would rather be alone, fifty times, than with such people. I wish there was a little more independence in the world."
"Quiet, my dear!" said Louisa, touching the shoulder of her friend, on hearing a hand on the knob of the door. They were speedily ushered into the elegantly furnished parlors of Mrs. Belcher, where they were left alone for a time.
"I feel very fluent this morning," playfully remarked Catharine, throwing herself on the sofa; "I presume you have observed it, friend Louisa. I could mount this sofa, at the shortest notice, and deliver an extempore lecture on the evils of visiting uncongenial acquaintances."
"Kate, you are too bad!" returned Louisa, trying to suppress a smile. "I have a good long lecture to give you, and you shall have it, depend upon it. Now promise me you will be a good girl during this call, and not act as if you were perfectly unconscious of all that is said. Be a good listener. I don't ask you to talk much. You appear like a different person when you care to please, and when you do not."
"I promise anything to please you. But, then, afterwards I shall argue with you, until you come over to my side of the question, and "
"How?" interrupted Louisa.
"Why, this is my doctrine. I don't approve of spending hours in visiting and receiving people who are the very opposites of ourselves, in tastes, dispositions, and everything else which makes social fellowship delightful. Why can't we cut short such acquaintance, and mingle only with those more congenial? It would be better for us. I hate this vapid, fashionable society."
"You know we should not regard our own happiness entirely, in the company we go in."
"Yes, yes, I know that. But we confer very little happiness where we are not happy ourselves."
"It is selfishness which prevents us from being glad that we can give pleasure to anyone. You know, if you should exert yourself, you could impart a great deal of pleasure even to the class of people you speak of. Don't yield to what you consider silly in them, only so far as you may, by this means, turn them your own way, to more sensible things."
"I can't take the trouble, Louise; it is out of the question. I can't stem the torrent, when it is so little worth stemming. So I fall in with it or pass by."
The conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Belcher. "Ah! ladies, good morning! how are you?" she exclaimed, tripping lightly into the room. "Very happy to see you. Charming day, is it not? I intend to go out shopping before this fine weather is over. Can't you take off your hats, young ladies, and stay to dinner?"
The visitors politely excused themselves. "O, Stewart has got some of the sweetest muslins!" the lady went on to say. "They are splendid for dresses. Have you seen them?"
"No, we have not," answered both the girls.
"Well, I can't find out whether straw hats or silk are going to be worn most. Do you know, Miss Bloomer?"
"I really do not," the young lady replied, looking intently in Mrs. Belcher's face, and speaking in a slow, puzzled tone, as if her ignorance was cause for serious and thoughtful anxiety. Louisa bit her lip, to keep from smiling. Mrs. Belcher then turned to Miss Hollman, and said, "My milliner says straw will be worn most, but I don't like to run the risk of making a purchase on her assurance alone. What do you think?"
"I can't tell, I am sure. I have not thought much about it." There was a short pause, which Catharine broke by saying, "Shall you leave the city early this summer, Mrs. Belcher?"
"I shall leave in July for the Springs. I would surely die if I were not there. I wonder who will lead the fashions this year? I would like to know."
"Perhaps you will, Mrs. Belcher," suggested Catharine, gravely.
"O, no!" replied the lady, with a pleased smile. "I suppose I must be satisfied with having been the belle before I was married."
"Ah! were you ever the belle?" questioned Catharine in real astonishment, for she had not imagined the uninteresting face of the lady before her had ever belonged to a bright particular star.
"When such things are past, young ladies, we feel free to talk about them. Yes, I was the belle at Saratoga for several summers." No reply was made to this. Each of the visitors had intuitively decided in her own mind that Mrs. Belcher had only been the belle in her own dreams. After a little more conversation, the young ladies arose to go. "Well," said Mrs. Belcher, as they stood in the hall, "don't you incline to think that straw hats will be worn most?"
"It is highly probable they may," returned Louisa.
"Wouldn't you think they would, Miss Bloomer?"
"I think they will be worn a great deal."
"Then you would advise me to get straw, instead of silk?"
"That is my advice," was the reply of Catharine, who thus hoped to bring the tantalizing discussion to an end.
"And what do you say?" the fashionable lady then appealed to Louisa.
"I say, be guided entirely by your own taste, Mrs. Belcher. I would rather not advise, in such matters."
"O, I never blame anybody that advises me, let the consequences be what they may! So tell me your candid opinion."
"I must be excused. You will excuse me, won't you? We must go now; good-day!"
The damsels hurried off, as if they expected every moment to be called back, in order to sit in judgment upon new bonnets.
"I'm positively nervous!" said Catharine, hurrying along the street with quick, impatient steps. "Do tell me, Louisa, what earthly good that call has done? I am sure you must agree with me now, that there is no use in visiting such harassing people. I feel really fidgety after it. This is the last time I go there."
"I don't think Mrs. Belcher would benefit anyone very much, I must confess," replied Louisa. "And I will further say, I don't think you would either, just now."
"Indeed, Miss Hollman! I'm very grateful."
"But Mrs. Belcher is an exception to the generality of people," Louisa said, after a brief smile at her friend's remark. "She rattles on at such a desperate rate, you can't say much; and whatever subject you may introduce, she dismisses it with the utmost nonchalance, if it does not suit her taste, and spins her own top again. She seems to possess a mind in which nothing will sink; you can only strike the surface, which sends everything back with a rebound. Yet we know there are germs of goodness in her, as well as in other people."
"Of course, I suppose so," was Catharine's half-indifferent reply.
"Still," pursued Louisa, "it must be our duty to keep within the sphere of the best people, unless we are sure we may not be influenced by others more than we can influence. I am perfectly willing, and even desirous, to lessen an intimacy with Mrs. Belcher, as far as we may without exciting unpleasant feelings in her."
"Nonsense!" returned Catharine; "if won't hurt her, if her indignation is a little roused. Her sphere, as you call it, and mine don't agree, I can assure you. There are some people I always leave in a somewhat fretted state of mind, even if nothing has occurred but what appeared perfectly pleasant. The desires of my heart don't harmonize with every one. I have often only had one good look at a person, and my feelings have gone forth in glad friendship, which has grown a thousand times warmer on acquaintance. Again, I have met a person daily for months, and have felt little more interest than if an article of furniture had fallen in my way. I act upon such impulses."
"That is not to say you act rightly. But wait until we get home, free from the noise of these rattling carriages; then we will have a talk!" They quickened their pace.
"Catharine," said Louisa, seriously, when they were again seated in her dressing-room, "you told me of a fault this morning; now let me tell you of one; and listen to me without any bursts of impatience. You are very gifted, and you know it. You are brilliant; you joyfully pour out the riches of your mind, where you know you will be appreciated and admired. But those who cannot sympathize with you mentally, you treat with an indifference which, in my opinion, springs from selfishness."
Catharine's proud lip curved at this charge. The impetuous blood rushed over her face, and retreated again, before she made her calm reply: "Why do you think it springs from selfishness?"
"Because you only try to please where you will win admiration from a superior mind. You never try to make a feeble heart lighter and stronger by your gifts."
"It is only a noble intellect that can arouse my slumbering powers a weak one cannot bid its treasures flow forth. Perhaps you are right; perhaps I am selfish. I know I am. I am a strange being, I suppose;" and Catharine's voice grew sad. "I sometimes feel as if my powers are bound in as if I am nothing. It is only when I touch a chord in some gifted heart which vibrates with a strangely-joyful thrill and tells me what I am full of stifled, unsatisfied aspirations of glorious thoughts, which seldom, too seldom, meet an echo then I learn what I might have been if placed in a congenial atmosphere, if allowed to commune with kindred and higher spirits. The society I go in chokes up both heart and mind; what wonder is it that I am as I am? Day after day this ceaseless monotony; when I taste the cup of mental joy, it is only to regret afterwards that it was dashed away. My God! must it always be thus?"
The young enthusiast paused; the glow of her cheek had deepened, and, as she raised her eyes upward filled with the light of strong feeling, a hot tear fell. Both were silent for a time, with upspringing thoughts busy at their hearts.
Catharine went on more calmly: "I have sometimes wished that I was a gentle being, formed to soften and bless, to be beloved by everyone. I yearn for sympathy to be appreciated I ask for one deep draught of the joy of Heaven. And then again a flood of bitterness, such passionate bitterness, falls upon my soul. Intellect and feeling! Yes, they are called gifts, blessed gifts what have they made life to me? What is life but a web of pain and care and crushed feelings a bright spot so rarely seen? Am I as happy "
The young girl stopped without finishing the sentence, and, leaning forward, burst into a flood of passionate tears. The deep flush that had crossed her listener's cheek while she was speaking, the tears that sprung to her eye, and the quiver of the lip she tried to render firm, showed that the words of Catharine had stirred up in her bosom feelings which once might have responded more quickly. Seating herself on a low stool at her friend's feet, she buried her face in her hands a moment; then raising it, she pleaded in her low, earnest voice:
"Catharine, O, Catharine, for your own sake, don't feel so. You do not look upon life as you should. You see all through your own perverted vision; you are morbid in your feeling. You garner up a world of intense bitterness and spend it upon your own aching heart. I have felt so, and sometimes, even now, that some fountain of bitter waters is unsealed, and I see only darkness around me, mirrored from the darkness within. But we must let our sympathies go out to others, and for others; we must not bring all to ourselves. We must look upward for the light upward forever; and the radiance of Heaven will not fail to be poured upon our spirits. With hearts made strong by pure thoughts and sweet affections we will go forward cheerfully and steadfastly. We must not ask, how much of joy will be poured into my bosom? But rather, how much of God's love may my heart shed abroad among my fellow-creatures? Whose sorrows may I soothe whose joys may I increase? We should bless God for his gifts, and use them not selfishly, but gratefully for all."
When Louisa ceased speaking, Catharine clasped her hand tightly in her own, and kissing her cheek, said, in a choked voice, "Bless you, my friend! I will try to look upward."
How sweetly those words fell upon the ear of Louisa! with what a thrill of mingled joy and sadness she heard Catharine's softened sobs, and felt the frequent pressure of her hand in token of gratitude for her gentle consolation! A vein of holier thought and feeling was touched in Catharine's heart; her bitter emotions she wept away; and from the altar of her inmost soul there went up a prayer that she might no longer waste and turn into a curse, what the Father of Light had given her so bountifully in his infinite love.
"What have I ever done to make one human being better or happier?" she asked sadly.
"You have made me happier, dearest," replied her companion, a tear trembling in her eye and a smile breaking gently over her features. "Your better nature is active now. You will yet be all you are capable of being; your influence will be exerted in the best and noblest of all charities the awakening of pure thoughts in slumbering hearts the strengthening of faint resolves."
"Ah! Louisa," said Catharine; and her subdued face suddenly lit up with an expression of flashing hope and joy. A smile, with a volume of bright, unspoken meaning in it, parted her lips. "If I could but stir up in other hearts the feelings you have stirred in mine if in other hearts I could but aid to stop the current of ungrateful bitterness, and wake the sweet emotions that flow from higher and purer fountains if the influence of my soul could go forth as yours does, only to strengthen the tie that may bind us to Heaven! But I am too hopeful my own heart is yet an untamed wilderness. O! will it ever be otherwise? I tremble for my weakness."
"God is our refuge and strength," replied the gentle Louisa.
By this time, the shadows of twilight had fallen, a haziness had breathed over the few golden clouds which lingered in the west, and the blue sky had taken a more dreamy tint. The young girls parted affectionately, with an assurance of soon meeting again.
"Ah! my dearest, how do you do?" cried Miss Hollman, flinging open the door of her friend's room, and giving her a hearty greeting, a few weeks after the foregoing conversation. "Well, it looks oddly enough to see you busy over anything but a book or something of the kind. What little girl is this?" she lowered her voice, and looked at a pretty child who was deeply engaged in sewing on a dress for her own little person.
"My protιgι," replied Catharine, smiling; "she is the daughter of our washerwoman, and I am sewing for her. Look at my forefinger! The way it is scratched pronounces me a creditable seamstress, I'm sure."
"Very!" said Louisa, laughing; "but tell me of this sudden strange activity. You used to say you never would trouble yourself with sewing, unless you were obliged to do it."
"I know it," returned the new seamstress, shaking her head. "But I have made better resolves, and I intend to follow them out. I shall conquer my indolent habits. You set me to thinking the other day, Louisa, and I have made up my mind to live a life of usefulness. I may not pass out of the world without having performed my part. By employing my hands, and calling into exercise my best feelings I hope to grow better and happier. You know, with me a thing is no sooner decided upon, than it is done, if possible. What do you think I am going to do now?"
"Educate that child?"
"Yes, don't you approve the plan? She is a bright, affectionate little thing, and her mother is poor, to destitution."
Louisa threw her arm around Catharine's neck, and gave her a heart-warm kiss. "Don't give up, my dear girl!" she said earnestly.
"O, no! I am happier now than I have been in a long time. Everything is sunny to me now. Rainbow tints touch all. A thousand blessings are showered upon me; how could I speak so bitterly, when I have kind, affectionate friends? How much more I shall try to do for their happiness than I have done! If we would only do all the good which Providence throws in our way, how many beautiful spots we could look back to in after years!
"But I am an enthusiast, Louisa; all comes to me so glowingly. My aims in life are fixed now, I hope. I have triumphed, but I have had many prayers and tears and struggles since I last saw you. It has been a hard thing for me to resolve to yield up my daydreams, my idle feelings, my talents, my all to better purposes than my own amusement. But now now it seems a sweeter thing to pour out my sympathies, to make others joyful; it is a blessed power. We do not realize what we are, the pure happiness we are capable of, until we feel thus. It seems so delightful to me to be full of plans, eager and interested, like other people. I am as full of romance as ever, but I shall look on life, and weave around real incidents the charmed spell. I shall no longer fly from the common-place, but I will breathe over it the poetry of kindly affections. I shall not selfishly avoid the society of all but a chosen few. I shall observe and study; I shall do anything everything to wake up my mind from its lethargic dreams. I will keep a journal to watch over my wayward heart, and note down my resolutions and short-comings. It shall benefit me by being my confessional, and it shall uplift me with its own unequaled pure romance. Now haven't I as great a tact for creating sources of happiness as I had, a few weeks ago the talent for discovering miseries! I shall yet be a happy creature, and a useful one, too, I hope."
Louisa listened to this gush of happy feeling, with a smile beaming from her blue eyes, and softening every feature. Never had the dear voice of Catharine sounded so sweetly musical. Her own experience, though brief, told her that clouds followed the joyful sunshine; but it also told her that those clouds would break again, and from the bosom of the heavens, a flood of yet purer light would descend; she sought not to dampen the ardor of her friend by reminding her of the changeful states of mind to which we are subject, the hours of stern conflict with feelings and motives which we thought we had abandoned entirely. She had seldom seen Catharine's strength of character thoroughly roused, but it had sometimes flashed forth with a light that assured her it could burn brightly and steadily, if principle, undying principle, were but there to feed the flame.
Casting aside these reflections for the present, she yielded with her friend to that delicious freshness and childhood of the heart which all must have felt for a time at least. She rummaged among the books on education lying on Catharine's table, sometimes laughing and jesting about her new dignities, and again entering into a serious discussion. At last, to little Susy's great delight, she took her dress from her, and, occupying her vacated seat, began to sew with a charming energy. When the protιgι had Catharine's permission to disappear, Louisa said, gayly, "Why, Kate, we are as happy as queens here, in our capacity of seamstresses. So you are really going to give that little bright-eyed damsel a first-rate education; going to take the whole charge of her! Is she very smart?"
"Yes, and generous and sweet-tempered. I shall not waste any accomplishments on her; but I shall cultivate and strengthen her mind, and see that the best affections of her nature are called forth, as a matter of the first importance."
"O! you will make a charming teacher; you talk like a book. Who would have thought a wild, careless girl like you, could speak so judiciously on such a subject?"
"Ah! indeed," said Catharine, with her hearty, mischievous laugh, "these wild girls don't get the credit of even being in their sober senses. I suppose my acquaintances will think I am loony, as the Scotch say. Well, be it so! I can be laughed at but I can't be moved."
"We would be in a pretty bad plight, if we depended on the opinions of our friends entirely, instead of our own convictions of duty," remarked Louisa.
As weeks rolled on, Catharine was fretted, worried, and tormented with little Susy. Hasty words sometimes sprang to her lip, but the strong, upright will came off conqueror in the end. She went into society with a different spirit.
"Such a delightful time we will have tonight!" were the eager words that escaped her lips, as she and Louisa were tripping along Broadway one afternoon; "we must not stay long at Mrs. Belcher's; I hope she is not very sick."
"O! I hope not," answered Louisa; then taking up the subject that most occupied her thoughts, she exclaimed, in a lively tone, "I shall have just the kind of company you like, the talent and genius, and you shall be the star. I won't have to coax you to be bright tonight, will I?"
"Oh, be quiet" said Catharine, with a laugh and a blush; "I don't like flattery. But here we are; now we must not stay long."
"No, indeed! a quarter of an hour, at most. I have lots of business at home; but, as Mrs. Belcher expressed a wish that we should call on her, I think we ought."
"Certainly, I think so too." In a few moments, the young girls stood by the sick-bed of the fashionable lady. Her face was pale and thin, and wore the sad, thoughtful look sickness and sorrow can give to the merriest or most inexpressive countenance.
"Ah! I am glad you have come," she said, extending her little white hands to the girls as they approached her; she smiled kindly as each, in turn, bent over her and kissed her. "Bring your chairs here close by me. I am so lonely. All my friends just send to the door to inquire after me. I knew you would not be careful to avoid a sick-bed, so I sent for you. The greater part of the time I only see my nurse."
"We had not heard of your sickness before," said Louisa.
"I thought not."
"Is your husband out of the city?" Catharine inquired thoughtlessly; she had heard some vague rumors about Mr. Belcher, but had forgotten them.
"No, O, no!" was the brief reply; but in that tone, and in the expression that crossed Mrs. Belcher's face, the young girls read volumes. Her husband was a gambler, and his wife had learned it but three weeks before, when he started suddenly for the South. Her kindhearted visitors stayed longer than they had intended; they felt that they had lightened the tedious hours of the invalid.
"We will come and see you often," said Catharine, tenderly.
"As often as you want us," Louisa added, with a sweet, sad smile.
"I can't bear to have you leave me, dear girls," Mrs. Belcher said, in a half-pleading voice. "I don't expect to sleep all this weary night. If one of you could only stay with me? But I would not ask it."
"I wish we could," answered Louisa. Catharine was silent; her heart throbbed with sudden disappointment. She thought of the pleasure she had been anticipating. It came before her with glowing vividness, arrayed in the sunny warmth with which imagination prepares us for expected enjoyment. And then she thought of the kindness by which she might soothe the neglected wife. There was a powerful struggle in her bosom the good triumphed. Speaking to Mrs. Belcher in rather a low tone, she said, "Louisa expects a number of friends at her house tonight. She of course cannot be excused, but I will stay with you, and read to you, or amuse you the best I can."
"Thank you!" exclaimed Mrs. Belcher, gratefully; "but perhaps you intended to spend the evening at Louisa's?"
"I am going to spend it here now, at all events," Catharine replied, with her own peculiarly decided willful smile.
"I wish it was convenient for me to stay, too," said Louisa, as she pressed Mrs. Belcher's hand at parting. Then turning to her friend, who had approached the window, she said, in an undertone, "Ah! Catharine, my pleasure is gone, too. I shall think of you all the time; so lonely, and I will be where all is gaiety." The pitying drops actually started in Louisa's eyes.
"March home as fast as you can go," said Catharine, in the same low voice, leading her companion to the door, and dashing away a tear that came in spite of a smile.
"You unman me, you charming little baby. Just look here!" and she pointed to a crystal drop that was rolling with "solemn gait and slow" down her cheek. Louisa disappeared, with a mischievous light chasing away her pathetic tears. Catharine moved around the invalid's bed; and deep, gentle affections came clustering about her heart. She felt happy in the consciousness of having done right; her half-pensive smile, and tender voice, was a balm to the wounded spirit of the sufferer. She led the conversation along gently to subjects most adapted to give consolation to the sick and sorrowful.
Gradually and slowly, she opened in Mrs. Belcher's heart the good and tender feelings, so long hidden under the smile of prosperity, on the callousness of worldly cares and pleasures. With the coloring of her own sun-bright imagination, she spoke of life and its true aims. She cheered her desolate bosom with uplifting hopes and thoughts. And the weary sick one listened earnestly, as Catharine touched a chord in her bosom no kind being had ever sought to touch before; she felt that she had friends here, and a friend in our Father in Heaven. As more hallowed sympathies were gently offered a more soothing sadness breathed over her spirit. Tears coursed slowly and silently down her pale face. With a gush of feeling, Catharine leaned forward, and folded her arms around her slender form, as if that might protect her from sorrow. She pressed her lips upon her forehead, and her own warm, kind tears fell, and mingled with those of the invalid.
The hope she had expressed to Louisa, had come to pass. In that lonely bosom, she had awakened to a sad yet sweet music the string that could vibrate to hopes higher than those of earth. When morning bathed all in its welcome light, did that young girl regret her act of self-denial? Let those who have had a similar experience answer. To change the whole current of our thoughts and feelings is not the work of a moment, yet there must be a time when that work must commence. With Mrs. Belcher it had just begun; and through the influence of Catharine and Louisa, she became, in time, not brilliant nor gifted, but what all may become gentle, upright, and useful.