« AnteriorContinuar »
“ But is it not better for a man, as well as more agreeable, to receive justice than charity, father? We consider this simple justice.”
“ All these notions," said Mr. Weston, “come of the romantic ideas of perfectibility, which you so early acquired, Amy, and which have at last been our ruin ; for among other innovations of modern times, women govern their husbands instead of submitting to them according to the directions of St. Paul; and I believe that this is your notion, and your doings. A man would have had more common sense.
Amy denied this charge, and told her father the truth, that it was Edward's own proposal.
“ Then, Amy, it was your duty as a wife to have urged your husband to abide by the opinion of the world."
Amy forbore to remind her father of the objections he had just made to women influencing their husbands; but simply remarked that she had always thought that no law and no opinion could absolve a man to his own conscience from paying a just debt, if he had the means; and that, though this was her husband's own proposition altogether, yet she had said every thing to encourage him in it; he had actually commenced making a restitution to his creditors; and that she agreed with him, that this was a sacred obligation of duty.
“And I consider it,” said Mr. Weston, "romantic nonsense absurd sentimentality. But my opinion, my wishes, my rights, my feelings, are set aside, as well as those of all the rest of the world. Mr. Selmar had no right to sacrifice my comfort, and that of his wife and child, perhaps even to starve them, to gratify his Quixotic notions of duty. It is a pity he ever undertook to be a merchant. He is only fit to sit by some muddy stream in the country, and make verses to the moon.
Such men should never marry. I am sick at my soul of such childish stuff!”
Amy had never seen her father more vexed more inaccessible to reason. She said all she could to comfort him; but her words were like water spilled on the ground. He concluded the conversation by saying, “I don't wish to hear another word upon the subject. I consider this act as silly as it is atrocious. But my opinion, and the opinion of every body of common sense, is of no avail. I suppose we are behind the age. That's the cant expression, I believe. The wise and the experienced people of the world must sit still and listen, while boys teach them morals, and women instruct them in political economny. Children, now-a-days, teach their parents, and
tum their grandfathers out of doors. Every man over sixty must wish himself in his quiet grave, unless he turns fool with the rest of the world.”
Mr. Weston drew his chair towards the fire, put up his feet on the fender, adjusted his spectacles, and took up his book; and Amy was obliged, with a heavy heart, to leave him with the flush of anger still glowing on his hollow cheek.
Edward and Amy bent their whole attention to the performance of the duties which their determination imposed upon them. Cheerfully and promptly they made arrangements for the change in their style of living, which their lessened income would render necessary.
“I have paid the last farthing, principal and interest !” exclaimed Edward, as he returned one evening from his counting-room, his face glowing with delight. “I stand now free of all bonds, like a man escaped from slavery — disenthralled – truly free, with a joyful sense of power, such as I never before experienced. O, I did not think that money, simply, too, the restitution of money that was not my own, could have given me such delight. One pleasure I enjoyed quite accidentally. The father of the boy that wished so much to go to college, asked me to call and see his wife, with whom I was formerly acquainted. I called at his house as I was returning home this evening. I had been there only a few minutes, when a beautiful, noble-looking boy burst into the room, and ran up to his mother, and, putting his arms around her neck, whispered, loud enough for all in the room to hear, Mother, father has just told me that I can go to college, and I shall not have to part with my books, and I shall not have to make bargains, and be a merchant. Good Mr. Selmar has paid father some money.' As soon as his mother could make him listen, she mentioned my name to him. His face was all radiant with bashful surprise and pleasure. He came up to me, and gave me both his hands, and looked up at me as if I had bestowed a great gift upon him, instead of merely paying a just debt.”
“I have heard of another case, dear Edward. You know Sophia Reed; her parents had just consented to her going to Georgia as a governess, because they could not afford to support all their children at home. Ruth (whose sister lives there) has been giving me an account of the joy of the family, since you paid what you owed them. She says
it was as if she had been dead, and had been brought to life again."
The charms of generosity, the attractive loveliness of compassion, the healing and quickening influences of charity, have often and justly been set forth. They have been recommended by all the graces and winning arts of human eloquence. But, should simple and even-handed justice but govern our land for one day, not bestowing aught as a favor, but restoring to each human being that which is rightfully and truly his own, what pen could record all the touching tales of relief from misery — what ear, but that of the all-merciful God, could bear the full swell of blissful gratitude, which would rise from the millions of human hearts, suffering and dying from defrauded rights, and reckless, ruthless injustice ? So thought Edward and Amy; and never had they enjoyed so pure a pleasure from the possession of money, as the performance of this simple, equitable act had given them. There were many who laughed at them; others who blamed them; others who pitied them; and others, again, who highly praised them. Mrs. Lovell, who never failed to visit her acquaintances upon great occasions, called, soon after, to condole or congratulate them, as she found most appropriate.