Abbildungen der Seite

new-year, all who could, joined in jollity. It was then, as now, the universal holiday, the day for making visits and presents. “ Santiclaus” bestowed his favours on good children, and ladies their smiles on favoured admirers. The new-year's cookey, and the cherry-brandy, (especially the latter,) were more in demand than now. It was the time for visiting, shaking hands, renewing old acquaintances, strengthening friendships, and, in many instances, it was the day of cordial forgiveness, for real or supposed slights and injuries. This was, indeed, making it a holiday. Public functionaries and clergymen, then, as now, were the only males who remained at home: all the rest, old and young, hurried from house to house, to pay their respects to the females of every family, connected by ties of any kind, and to such office-holders, civil and ecclesiastical, as political or religious opinion united with them. The whole population appeared to be in their gala suits, and every face dressed in smiles. Every matron was prepared to sit from twelve to three o'clock, surrounded by her daughters, to receive and return joyous greetings. The genial warmth produced by exercise—by pleasure received from the succession of happy domestic circles visited—by alternate exposure to the cold without, and the blazing, or furnace-like fires within-by the wines, cordials, and whiskey-punch, although only touched to the lips at each visit_not to mention the influence of sunny smiles and sparkling eyes—all these combined, produced an effect on this day, which makes it to many—to very many--the happiest day of the year.

But all this hilarity is only known to those who are prosperous : to the rich—or at least to the holders of property who are rich in anticipation.

There are many, however, even although in comfortable circumstances, who appear to be excluded from participation in this yearly joyous carnival. No visiters crossed the threshold of Mrs. Épsom. Spiffard felt little disposed to visit those from whose society_his wife appeared shut out by an impassable bar. Emma Portland went to church, and returned happy to her household employments, anticipating a visit to the sick or the

poor, who looked as anxiously for her arrival, as any of those we have described, for the appearance of relative or admirer. The other ladies of the family were engaged in the usual occupations of the theatre ; for the first of January is a day of harvest to managers, and of labour to actors.

The crowded streets, the hospitable hearths, the smoking boards, the joyous gratulations, the overflowing theatres, the

shouts of applause at the holiday play and pantomime, are all apparent on the first of January. They are the outward and visible signs of a great, populous, and prosperous city ; but who can tell the wretchedness that dwells within ? even in the mansions of the rich, who can tell ? But in the abodes of poverty, at this season of chill and freezing, who can tell ? When the ice and snow cuts off the improvident labourer's resources, and he flies to intemperance, as a refuge from cold. When the inmates of crowded garrets and cellers, unfurnished, filthy, comfortless, hear the senseless laugh of intoxication, echoed by the groans of suffering sickness. In those abodes where the noise of strise and blasphemy is contrasted with the silence of despair; where those distinctions which exist in the light of the sun, and under the influence of society, are lost, and the black thief is one with the white prostitute ; where

but enough! enough! All this exists at one and the same time—and all belongs to the first of January.

But let us look on scenes, if not of happiness, at least not presenting the dark shades of unmingled wretchedness. Let us pray that the poor may be taught, that, if temperate and provident, they cannot remain poor in America.

We will turn our attention to those connected with our story, who, though not all basking in the sun-shine which gilds a happy-new-year, were not yet plunged in hopeless darkness

; and first to the domestic affairs of General Williams.

This man of courtesy, though all smiles when addressing his faulty and unfortunate wife before company, was, in private, very generally as morose as the intelligent reader may suppose ; and only controlled by the fear of provoking an exposition which occasionally appeared inevitable, as on the occurrence of the display at Doctor Cadwallader's. There were few smiles in the private recesses of the general's establishment. The home—the domestic fire-side-there, where the good are most happy, there dwelled discontent, regret, and fear of exposure. “Poor and content is rich ;" but sordid riches, though they give power, cannot purchase content.

6. There is more gold for


damn others, and let this damn you,” says the misanthrope ; but it is only power misused that brings condemnation. The gold Williams had purchased by an act of duplicity and meanness, could not even buy the respect of the world, though backed by ostentatious display, and never-tiring obsequiousness. There are a skin and surface which belong to moral as well as physical health, that cannot be counter feited.

you; do


The poor,

The unhappy Mrs. Williams, on the partial recovery of reahad a confused recollection of the occurrences of the

preceding evening. The images of her father, mother, and sisters, were ever present to her imagination. She thought she had seen Spiffard, the husband of her sister. She questioned her husband wildly. He evaded and denied the knowledge he had obtained. What is called a brain fever, seized on the conscience-struck victim of seduction and duplicity. In her ravings, she called upon her parents for forgiveness ; the name of Spiffard was uttered, and touching appeals were made to her sister, conjuring her, by former love, to come to her! to save her!

Doctor Cadwallader obeyed the call for his professional attendance, and his skill produced a temporary suspension of the disease, accompanied by extreme exhaustion. In a lucid interval, she questioned him respecting the vision, for such it seemed to her, in which she had seen Spiffard. The doctor told her the truth, and Williams was obliged to confess that he had seen, and been repulsed, by the son of her sister ; that he had subsequently heard of her death, and that of the elder Spiffard ; but tenderness to her had caused his concealment of these circumstances.


woman, felt herself an outcast. She sunk into a state of hopelessness, and the general was informed by the physician, that, in a few weeks, perhaps days, her miseries would cease in death, unless some change took place, of which he saw no prospect.

It was not long before certain occurrences, nearly affecting the unhappy lady, and very unexpected, alleviated her sufferings, and suspended her dissolution, although the excitement they produced, seemed to threaten its acceleration.

Spiffard received a letter from Eliza Atherton, the youngest sister of his unfortunate mother. It bad the evil-foreboding black seal, and announced the death of his grandfather. The amiable and high-minded writer, communicated this intelligence with that dignified simplicity which accompanied all her words and actions, and then proceeded to inform her nephew that owing to her father's retired and economical mode of living, a large portion of the annuity which her generous young relative had bestowed upon them, had been saved, and constantly accumulating. That the annuity itself, now that she was alone, would much more than supply her wants. That she had seen his name, as an actor, in those newspapers from America, which, from many circumstances, were so interesting to her : and that she could not but feel that she might be en joying superfluous luxuries from his bounty, while he, perhaps,

was labouring from necessity, in a vocation, unsuited, or disagreeable to him; perhaps bearing up against a torrent of misfortunes ; perhaps suffering from privations that would be prevented by the possession of a part of that abundance, as it now proved, which he had lavished on her.' That she had formed the resolution to visit America, for two reasons. One was the determination to restore to him such part of his gift as justice required, and she could prevail upon him to accept. That she would not make this offer by letter, fearing that delicacy, (perhaps false delicacy,) might cause a refusal. That her second motive for crossing the sea, was to be near her sister, now, her only sister. She knew her sister Sophia to be in New-York, and had reason to believe that her husband was not a fit guardian for one who had been so unfortunate in her first entering upon the stage of life ; and, now that she was her own mistress, and without near relations in England, she thought it her duty to seek the sufferer, for such she believed her to be (once the dear companion of childhood)--and by every means in her power, guard her from the dangers which beset the disappointed and unhappy. With these views, she had converted all the property left at her disposal, into money, and should embark in the Sally, Captain Appleton, hoping to reach New-York nearly as soon as her letter, which was dated from Liverpool.

This hope was fully realized. A very few days after the arrival of this precursor, our hero received a note, (brought from the outer harbour by the pilot who had boarded the good ship Sally,) and written by his aunt. The necessary arrangements were made for accommodating the stranger in the family of which Spiffard was the head, although Mrs. Epsom still called the house hers. He did not choose that Miss Atherton should go immediately to Williams's. This done, he hastened to the bay, and embarked in one of the many boats of all descriptions, that eliven the beautiful harbour of New-York, and was soon standing on the deck of the ship.

As Eliza Atherton is to appear on the stage where all the persons of our drama are moving, we think that our readers should have a more distinct idea of her person, than may have been conveyed by the preceding pages. Her character, (the form and features of her mind,) has been made apparent already. The three daughters of Mr. Atherton, Louisa, the mother of Zebediah Spiffard; Sophia, the victim of aristocratic seduction ; and Eliza, the pure, pious, undeviating supporter of her parents in every trial to the hour of death, were all, from the hand of

[ocr errors]


nature, models of beauty. Fortunately for Eliza, at the period of her infancy, the progress of improvement had not driven afar that scourge of the human race, which, for centuries, swept thousands to the grave, and ploughed the faces who escaped, with furrows that obliterated the tint, and almost the form bestowed at their birth. The two elder sisters passed through the disease unscathed; but the younger underwent all its virulence.

When health was restored, that beauty which gave to her countenance a seraphic character, was gone. The discoloration, by degrees, vanished, but the scars and seams remained indelible. The same flowing silken tresses which adorned the brilliant beauty of her sisters, remained to remind her friends of the charms which were forever departed; and the same perfection of form was hers: but the face was disfigured-robbed of the beauty bestowed by nature-left destitute of charms-until years developed character; and beauty, unassailable by disease, replaced the fleeting attractions of surface.

The preference her sisters demanded, and obtained in early life, from all persons; the neglect and slight Eliza endured from her parents as well as strangers, gave a direction to her mind which strengthened her intellect; and instead of souring her temper, as might happen with the weak, placed her above the desire of admiration ; which, as she did not consider her due, she was pleased to see bestowed upon her sisters. Her thoughts were occupied by the acquisition of knowledge. She sought, by every means that accorded with her devotion to her relatives, for every intellectual improvement; and as her thoughts were turned from vanity, they were fixed on duty and love to her earthly and heavenly parents.

Still, at the time of her arrival in America for the second time, the countenance of Eliza Atherton, at the first view, had nothing attractive--nay, was almost repulsive. But when the varied expression of her mild blue eyes were recognised, and the frank smile of benevolence which played about her pale lips, had found its way to the understanding or the heart of the spectator-when the unaffected dignity of her lady-like manners and person, made itself known and felt--when the graces of her conversation, (rich in all the lore which may best become a female,) were heard by one who could appreciate them, Eliza Atherton might be called a charming, although not a beautiful woman; and her charms were enduring as life.

Spiffard remained with his interesting aunt until she was safely and commodiously established at the City Hotel, with such part of her travelling equipage as could be immediately

« ZurückWeiter »