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Much as he was annoyed at the idea, his attention was involuntarily captivated by the proceedings of the fair artiste, for there is a peculiar fascination for the eyes of some men in feminine handicrafts, and the employments of Phillis Waters were so various and so amusing, that having nothing else to do Barak Johnson, though he anathematized the tawdry materials and extravagant shapes of every fresh turban, toque, or bonnet she commenced, could not refrain from watching the progress of each, as it passed through her hands, with an indefinable feeling of interest, which at last was mingled with a desire of seeing on herself the effect of the article when finished. Next he began to wonder how it was possible that such monstrous fabrics of gauze, ribbon, and flowers, could appear so much the reverse of frightful when Phillis tried them on.
Barak Johnson now began to spend more time in looking out of the window, and less in his theological studies ; but he was not yet aware of his peril, and he would have repelled the charge with scorn, if any one had told him that he could be capable of the absurdity of falling in love with such a vain and worldly-minded girl as Phillis Waters.
Alas, poor man, he was not aware that he was possessed of no less vanity than the young beauty whose frivolity and self-conceit he condemned. It was, in fact, through that weak point that he became vulnerable to her attacks, and was at length guilty of the folly of fancying that Phillis Waters was in love with him. The idea was the more agreeable to his self-esteem, inasmuch as he had arrived at that period of life, at which men begin to entertain the mortifying suspicion that the season is fast drawing to a close in which they may hope to appear amiable in the eyes of the young and lovely.
Sometimes he made an effort to escape from the immediate spell of her fascinations by taking long and solitary rambles from home; but it was of no avail ; he encountered her in his lonely walks, he met her in the streets of Woodfield, and he even saw her at chapel, the last place in the world he had expected her to enter. Yet there she was every Sunday, looking lovelier than ever, and directing her fatal glances to wards him during the sermon, and mingling her sweet voice in the choral hymn to win his ear.
What could Barak Johnson do? His best, his only security, would have been, to withdraw himself wholly and entirely from the dangerous proximity of his fair neighbour, but this would now have cost too painful a sacrifice.
Barak Johnson next grew jealous of the young beauty, and was miserable if he saw her speak to a younger man than himself; and finally be resolved to make acquaintance with her. This he did by offering her the protection of his arm and the shelter of his umbrella, one dark, rainy night, on their return from chapel. Phillis received these civilities very graciously, behaved demurely, listened with a show of attention to his observations on the sermon, and accepted his invitation to take tea and attend a prayer-meeting at his house on the following evening.
It was to no purpose that Sarah Waters represented to the systematic coquette the impropriety and deceitfulness of her conduct. Phillis considered the impression which she had succeeded in making on the heart of her gloomy neighbour as a flattering proof of the power of her charms, and she was determined on trying how far she could pursue her triumph. She even gave him hopes that she would become his wife, provided he would relax in some degree from the strictness of his practice in a few of the non-essential points, as she called them; and so great was the influence which she had acquired over his mind, that with the view of rendering himself more acceptable to the youthful beauty, the stern sectarian first took one retrograde step and then another from the heavenward bourne, till he found himself fast sinking into the vortex of those worldly follies and vanities which he believed he had renounced for ever.
On those evenings, before so strictly devoted to prayer-meetings, Phillis would beguile him into taking long lonely walks with her, or accompanying her upon some excursion to a neighbouring town to carry home work, which could not possibly be delayed, or to match some trimming or ribbon, which must be procured immediately; and Barak Johnson, though his conscience reproved him for his backslidings from the holy warfare he had commenced, could not deny himself the pleasure of her company, or suffer her to go unprotected on an evening expedition ; far less could he brook the alternative with which Phillis once threatened him, of permitting another to supply his place.
At length not even his sabbaths were held sacred, if Phillis proposed making that holy day “her only day of rest and relaxation," she said, a day of pleasure.
Sarah Waters, who had vainly endeavoured to deter her sister from the cruel game she was pursuing with the same wanton zest with which a cat amuses herself in sporting with the captive mouse, who feels his peril, but cannot escape from her fatal circle, one day asked her " if it were her serious intention to become the wife of Barak Johnson ?"
“ His wife, indeed!" echoed the young beauty, contemptuously; “wed me to a skull and cross-bones, rather! I think I hear myself vowing to love and cherish that old monkish methodist, with his eternal texts, and prayer-meetings, and expoundings, which are enough to make any one melancholy mad."
“ But,” said Sarah, “ you have induced him to withdraw himself from almost all his prayer-meetings, and even on Sundays to absent himself from his chapel very frequently."
“ So much the better for him," said Phillis, laughing. spends his sabbath now less like a Jew, and more like a Christian."
“Ah, Phillis, Phillis, it is a dangerous as well as barbarous game you are playing; and what have been your motives for sedulously obtruding yourself on the attention of a man whose habits and manners are so uncongenial to your own, and whom, you must be aware, would never have bestowed a thought on you you not thrown yourself perpetually in his way, I am at a loss to imagine.”
“Well then," returned Phillis, “ if you must know, he provoked me in the first instance, by his contemptuous looks and manners, and I resolved to punish him for his airs, and I hope to make him very miserable before I have done with him."
She obtained her wish only too fully, and not only did she succeed in rendering the proud and hitherto inaccessible heart of the stern fanatic the seat of anguish and disquiet, but in so doing she roused the tempestuous passions of his natural character, which had been for a
time calmed and hushed to repose by the powerful influence of religion, and now, like awakened giants, were in arms, and spreading desolation over his path.
Hitherto he had been like a strong man armed, but he had relied too much on his own security, and a stronger than he had entered and overcome him and taken away his armour wherein he trusted.
He became too soon aware that he had surrendered his happiness into the keeping of a capricious tyrant, whose regard for him was of a very doubtful nature. He strove io shake off her trammels, but in vain; the infatuation was too powerful. His peace on earth was gone, and the thoughts of heaven had ceased to be inviting; and now jealousy, bitter as death, was added to the tortures of uncertainty, and the pangs of self-upbraidings.
A young watchmaker, named William Parry, came with his widowed mother to reside in the village, where he opened a small shop and commenced business. As he was a young, handsome, and agreeable man, all the girls in Woodfield concluded he must be greatly in need of a wife, and began to lay siege to his heart by purchasing thimbles earrings, and other female toys at his shop. Phillis, though possessed of a pair of long gold pendants, that were the envy of all her compeers, found out that they were ugly and old fashioned, and lost no time in exchanging thein for a newer and handsomer pair from the assortment of jewellery in William Parry's glass-case. She was very difficult in her choice, and required the young tradesman to put them in her pretty ears with his own hands. She would have been a customer to him for other things, but having expended all her savings, she was fain to break her father's watch-glass to procure another excuse for paying him a visit, and finally hampered the works of the clock, to make a job that would bring him to the house, at which he soon after became a constant visiter.
William Parry was a remarkably moral, well-disposed young man, possessed of more sense and refinement than was common in his station of life, and he was, in the first instance, 'more inclined to attach himself to Sarah than to Phillis Waters, whose levity, and thirst for universal admiration he greatly disapproved ; but then Sarah was five years older than himself, a disparity which Phillis magnified into double the number, and finally by a series of wiles and witcheries in which she was only too well versed, succeeded in inducing him to trauster his regards to herself.
No sooner was she secure of her conquest than she altered her manner io Barak Johnson, whose attentions were now not only displeasing but very inconvenient, as William Parry had expressed his disapprobation of coquetry in a very unequivocal manner.
The constant visits of William Parry at his neighbour's house, enabled Barak Johnson to account only too well for the change in the unstable being on whom he had anchored his affections, and he became the most wretched of men.
He opened his neglected bible, in quest of that peace, which he was wont to find in its sacred pages; but it was now to him as a sealed book, for a veil was upon his heart
, and it breathed neither hope nor comfort to his benighted spirit. He sought the religious assemblies of his former friends, but they looked strangely upon him; he perceived that he was regarded as an apostate and left them in anger.
He entered his accustomed placeof worship, but it was rather to preserve appearances with that world, whose approbation had always been dearer to him than he was aware, than from any proper motive; for his thoughts were wandering, and his heart linked to an earthly idol.
He knelt down to pray in the solitude of his own chamber, but his lips uttered cold, mechanical petitions in which his spirit bore no part. He sought Phillis Waters, but he found her engaged with his rival, and she had neither eyes nor ears for any one beside. He sat with compressed lips and á lowering brow, sullenly watching her till he could bear it no longer, but rushed into his own house, to give vent to the paroxysms of rage and jealousy that shook his frame with stormy fury.
He was like a man seeking rest and finding none; and he had at length recourse to the fatal expedient of swallowing spirits as an anodyne to the inward agonies that consumed him-an anodyne to which, alas ! too many under similar circumstances have applied, to escape from thought, but which if it did afford the desired relief of oblivion of the sorrow that worketh death, it was only a temporary alleviation dearly purchased by the increase of morbid irritability, which its after effects produced ; and in the case of Barak Johnson, the practice of dram-drinking was like pouring molten lead upon a recent wound, or introducing fire into his veins.
This practice of his was unknown to the world, unsuspected by his friends, for it was pursued in the loneliness of his chamber, and in the secrecy of his restless nights, as a means of procuring that sleep which had fled from his unquiet pillow; and while all wondered at the now uncontrollable violence of his temper, fierce explosions of passion, or long and sullen fits of gloomy despondency, no one dreamed of attributing it to the true cause—so generally were his scrupulous habits of abstemiousness known, and his character for temperance established.
“ Barak Johnson," said the minister of a religious society of which he was a member, as they were returning from chapel together one Sunday afternoon," Barak Johnson, you have been an altered man for the last twelve months, and thine idol, Barak Johnson, is about to be taken from thee."
Johnson endeavoured to dissemble the agitation and alarm which these words created, but though he kept silence, the natural language of his eyes asked the question from which his lips refrained.
“ The bans of matrimony between William Parry and Phillis Waters were, I understand, published this morning," said the minister, significantly.
Fire flashed from the eyes of Johnson at this intelligence, and without uttering a single word in reply, he broke fiercely from his companion, rushed into his own house, near which this communication had been made, shut the door with violence, and locked it.
When the wildness of his first paroxysm of rage and grief had been vented, a long fit of deliberation followed, and after pacing the narrow limits of his little parlour for nearly an hour, a deceitful ray of hope broke through the darkness of his despair. He seized a pen, and wrote an impassioned note to Phillis, imploring her to see him once more. This note he sealed with a trembling hand, and despatched by his housekeeper.
After the delay of a few minutes she returned with an answer. Barak Johnson snatched it eagerly from her. It was his own note, on the back of which Phillis had written the following words with a pencil :
“ As I shall in a few days become the wife of William Parry, I beg that you will consider our acquaintance at an end, and remain with best wishes for your happiness,
6. Your humble servant,
• PHILLIS WATERS.”
Johnson crushed the paper in a transport of indignation, and casting it upon the ground, trampled it under his feet, with an execra. tion that perfectly electrified his housekeeper, who had never heard such an expression from his lips before.
She was preparing to address him either in the language of condolence or reproof, but he motioned her to begone with a gesture and look that terrified her into obedience, then bowing his face knees, he remained for hours in a stupor of despair.
From this gloomy pause of agony he was roused by hearing the voices of Phillis and her affianced bridegroom engaged in angry altercation.
They were in the garden, and Johnson presently discovered that the cause of the dispute originated in Phillis's wish to go to Scrapeton fair on the following day, which was disapproved by William Parry who positively refused to accompany her, alleging in excuse" that his aunt was at the point of death, and he neither could nor would leave her.”
Phillis angrily replied, “ If you prefer your aunt's company to mine, you may please yourself, but I mean to go to the fair, whether you attend me or not.
A gleam of sullen satisfaction at the vexation of his favoured rival mingled itself with the fierce anger of Barak Johnson, as after several sharp rejoinders Phillis and William parted for the night in mutual displeasure.
The following afternoon he saw Phillis issue from the house in her holiday attire, looking so lovely, that in spite of anger and wronged affection, Barak Johnson could not refrain from gazing passionately upon her, as she paused at the wicket-gate to speak to her sister, who had followed her thither, and laying her hand anxiously on the arm of the wayward beauty, exclaimed,
" Phillis ! dear Phillis! do not go to the fair to-day. I have a strong forboding that some evil will befall you if you do.”
“ Nonsense,” replied Phillis, shaking back the clustering ringlets from her fair face, “I mean to go, I assure you. Cousin Sophy Cooper has invited me to a dance at her house, and there will be so many smart young men."
“What can that matter to you when you are about to become the wife of one whom, if you do not love, you ought to love, for he is fond enough of you ?" said Sarah, in rather a tremulous voice.