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themselves by the labor of their hands, and the produce of a small piece of ground, which bordered the possessions of a wealthy citizen. Some days since, after a long illness, her husband had been taken from her by death, and her rich neighbor had seized upon the little field to add to his own possessions. She called upon God and the fathers of the city for protection against this crying injustice; but, alas ! the robber sat in the midst of their honorable circle. He was the dreaded senator.
Consternation soon became general, and the most opposite resolutions alternately agitated the assembly. The accused alone retained his usual immobility. His voice, his countenance, his manner altered not. Without looking up, he drew a roll of parchment from his bosom, which testified, that many years before this piece of ground had been lawfully acquired by him, but that for some service rendered him by the deceased, it had been made over to him during his life, and now that the man was dead, he had, according to a custom and right, which no one could prevent or object to, taken back his property again. “Impossible, inconceivable " exclaimed the complainant. She asserted that it was known to the whole city that this piece of ground had not only belonged to her husband from his youth, but had also belonged to his father and grandfather, and if the document asserted otherwise, it was a base forgery. Contrary to custom, a difference of opinion divided the assembly, and doubts arose upon the authenticity of the deed; but, at length, the greater number took part with the oppressor. Then the poor woman, wringing her hands, insisted upon his making good his claim by oath; and, were he able, with an undisturbed conscience, to assert his right in the face of heaven, then the field might remain with him, and with her only the mercy of God. Slowly, but determinedly, the enigmatical being arose, and walked with a firm step to the end of a table, and stood with downcast eyes before a crucifix—opened the book of the law, and read, with his sepulchral voice, the fearful words of the oath; he ended, and raised his right-hand to swear. Then there burst a clap of thunder which shook the very earth. The tower seemed to bend, and all present grew stiff and cold, as bodies risen from the grave. The tempest rushed howling through the crevices, and tore and rent the windows; and fearful screams appeared to issue from the thick walls. When recollection was restored to the assembly, the senator had vanished. A large opening in a side window marked the place where the deceiver had carried away the criminal to everlasting perdition; and, as a warning to perjurers, his image, which makes one shudder to look at it, was left
O you see that well dressed gentleman crossing the street yonder Well, we have a short story to relate of him, the truth of which we will vouch for. You may believe it, for it was related to us by a person well * acquainted with the facts, and upon whose veracity the utmost reliance may be placed. His name is Afred Holmes. Some ten years ago he was a member of one of our most respectable down-town mercantile firms, and possessed of a large circle of friends who entertained for him the highest personal esteem. By strict business habits,
close attention, and peculiar talents, he had acquired a considerable fortune. His cheerful smile and elastic step proclaimed him to be on good terms with the world. He was also a bachelor of thirty-five, with an erect form, lively eye, and engaging manners, and of course a fairer mark for the shafts of Cupid but though skilful as he was, the young archer could hit but once—and that once fairly. Mr. Holmes had won the affections of an accomplished lady of this city, who, besides many other charms, possessed in her own right a fortune of seventy thousand dollars. Many persons, perhaps, would consider this last charm a sufficient inducement to “immediate annexation;” but not so our merchant. On the contrary, it induced him to postpone that “consummation devoutly to be wished” until his own fortune should nearer approximate that of his betrothed. This, to be sure, was a very laudable ambition on his part; but we fear the example may be lost to a majority of persons similarly situated. But we are not going to diverge much from the matter of fact before us; for it will suffice that we give the “plain unvarnished tale,” without ornament or superfluity.
We have introduced Mr. Holmes as an active and prosperous merchant. However, a short time after the date at which we commenced this narrative, he began an indulgence that seldom fails to operate either upon the health or the morals of the lovers of strong drink. At first his irregularities were but little noticed, as he was always punctual at his business and select in his companions.
Drinking, however, is not apt to be a solitary vice, at any rate, it did not form an exception in the case of Mr. Holmes. In the course of a few months, inattention to business was the consequence of trespassing too far into the night with reveling companions. A fondness for whist parties grew into a passion for gambling; gambling led to heavy losses, and continued losses to heavy drafts upon the firm. We have no exact means of ascertaining how fast the money went from the pockets of Holmes—we only know that at the end of six months from the time when he first began to risk “the hazard of the die,” he received an intimation from the firm that his drafts already exceeded his interest, and that his services amounted to nothing. This took place when the delinquent partner was in a cool condition to examine for himself, which soon convinced him that he was a debtor to the concern for a large amount. He had sense enough and pride enough to perceive his situation. An unconditional surrender of all his interest in the business was demanded of him, which he at once acceeded to, and he went forth into the world a worse than penniless man. His debt was generously forgiven him, and an offer
made of a very handsome sum of money. He could but tender his obligations for the former, but the latter he peremtorily refused to accept. He had manliness enough to perceive that the proceedings of his partners were not tinctured with meanness or personal ill-will; and though he went into the world penniless and disgraced, he could but acknowledge that the fault lay at his own door.
The loss of business and reputation was not the only calamity that was the consequence of his dereliction from the stern path of duty. From the time that his friends began to speak of his frailties, he had relinquished his pretensions to the hand of her whom he had formerly so much loved. He had some spark of that honor left which forbade him to entail his misery upon one who deserved a higher degree of happiness than it was in his power to bestow. He ceased to visit her, and explained his motives in the following brief note :
MADAM—Rumor may have told you a thousand things concerning myself, and, if she be not lacking in her wanted volubility, she has probably informed you that I am totally unworthy of those pure sentiments of esteem with which you have seen proper to regard me. Believe her, however, for she can scarcely defame me more than I deserve. In short, Madam, my honor—what I have left— compels me to relinquish all hope of, and claim to your affections. I am bankrupt in my business— I am a drunkard and a gambler . These are hard terms, but they are no less true. I have lost the confidence of my friends, and my own respect for my former character. You certainly must have perceived, for some time past, something singularly unpleasant, if not ungentlemanly, in my behavior toward yourself. I have gone into your presence as no gentleman should appear before a lady, which must have given you serious doubts about trusting your happiness in a bark so frail—a marriage with a man like myself. I know of but one spot of brightness left in my character—that is, not to cumber you in the ruins of my own downfall. I respect you too much—I love you too fondly, to engulph you in the depths that howl above my own head. Do not preach reform to me—I believe in destiny. That we must never meet again, is certain; that I shall forget you, is impossible. Do not put yourself to the pain of answering this—I should prefer that you would not. You will soon forget me, and there are noble hearts enough left, with some one of whom you will yet be happy.
I must break off, however abrupt I may be. On such a subject words will multiply. I have written enough to explain why I must discontinue