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True Riches; Or, Wealth Without Wings By T. S. Arthur Characters: 14654

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


As on the previous evening, Mrs. Claire was alone for some time later than usual, but now with an anxious, almost fearful looking for her husband's return. Suddenly she had taken the alarm. A deep, brooding shadow was on her heart, though she could not see the bird of night from whose wings it had fallen. Frequently, during the afternoon, tears had wet her cheek; and when an old friend of her mother's, who lived in the country, and who had come to the city in order to make a few purchases, called to see her, it was with difficulty she could hide her disturbed feelings from observation.

The absent one came in at last, and with so much of the old, frank, loving spirit in his voice and manner, that the troubled heart of Mrs. Claire beat with freer pulsations. And yet something about her husband appeared strange. There was a marked difference between his state of mind now, and on the evening before. Even at dinner-time he was silent and abstracted.

In fact, Edward Claire was, for the first time, acting a part toward his wife; and, as in all such cases, there was sufficient over-action to betray the artifice, or, at least, to awaken a doubt. Still, Edith was greatly relieved by the change, and she chided herself for having permitted doubt and vague questionings to find a harbour in her thoughts.

During tea-time, Claire chatted freely, as was his custom; but he grew serious as they sat together, after the table was cleared away, and Edith had taken her sewing. Then, for the first time, he thought out of himself sufficiently to remember his visit to the house of death in the morning, and he said-

"I witnessed something this morning, dear, that has made me feel sad ever since."

"What was that, Edward?" inquired the wife, looking instantly into his face, with a strongly manifested interest.

"I don't think you knew Mr. Elder or his family-Ruben Elder?"

"I have heard the name, nothing more."

"Mr. Elder died last week."

"Ah! What family did he leave?"

"A wife and one child."

Mrs. Claire sighed.

"Did he leave them comfortably off in the world?" she asked, after a brief silence.

"I don't know; but I'm afraid, he's not left much, if any thing. Mr.

Jasper has been appointed the executor."

"Mr. Jasper!"

"Yes. This morning he called to see Mrs. Elder, and found her in a very low state. In fact, she died while he was there."

"Edward! Died?"

"Yes, died; and her only child, a sweet little girl, not five years old, is now a friendless orphan."

"How very sad!"

"Sad enough, Edith, sad enough. Mr. Jasper, who has no taste for scenes of distress, wished me to look after the funeral arrangements; so I went to the house, and attended to matters as well as I could. Ah me! It has cast a gloom over my feelings that I find it hard to cast off."

"Did you see the child?" inquired Mrs. Claire, the mother's impulse giving direction to her thoughts.

"Yes; and a lovely child it is. Poor thing!"

"There are near relatives, I presume?"

"None; at least, so Jasper says."

"What is to become of the child?"

"Dear above knows! As for her legal guardian, she has nothing to hope from his humanity. She will naturally find a home somewhere-a home procured for money. But her future comfort and well-being will depend more on a series of happy accidents than on the good-will of the hard-hearted man to whose tender mercies the dying parents have committed her."

"Not happy accidents, Edward," said Mrs. Claire, with a tender smile; "say, wise providences. There is no such thing as chance."

"As you will, dear," returned the husband, with a slight change in his tone. "I would not call that providence wise by which Leonard Jasper became the guardian of a friendless child."

"This is because you cannot see the end from the beginning, Edward. The Lord's providence does not regard merely the external comfort and well-being of his creatures; it looks far beyond this, and regards their internal interests. It permits evil and suffering to-day, but only that good, a higher than earthly good, may come on the morrow. It was no blind chance, believe me, my husband, that led to the appointment of Mr. Jasper as the guardian of this poor child. Eternal purposes are involved therein, as surely as God is infinitely wise and good. Good to one, perhaps to many, will grow out of what now seems a deeply to be regretted circumstance."

"You're a happy reasoner, Edith. I wish I could believe in so consoling a philosophy."

"Edward!" There was a change in Mrs. Claire's voice, and a look blending surprise with a gentle rebuke in her countenance. "Edward, how can you speak so? Is not mine the plain Christian doctrine? Is it not to be found everywhere in the Bible?"

"Doubtless, Edith; but I'm not one of the pious kind, you know."

Claire forced a smile to his face, but his wife looked serious, and remarked-

"I don't like to hear you talk so, Edward. There is in it, to me, something profane. Ah, my dear husband, in this simple yet all-embracing doctrine of providence lies the whole secret of human happiness. If our Creator be infinite, wise, and good, he will seek the well-being of his creatures, even though they turn from him to do violence to his laws; and, in his infinite love and wisdom, will so order and arrange events as to make every thing conspire to the end in view. Both bodily and mental suffering are often permitted to take place, as the only agencies by which to counteract hereditary evils that would otherwise destroy the soul."

"Ah, Edie! Edie!" said Claire, interrupting his wife, in a fond, playful tone, "you are a wise preacher, and as good as you are wise. I only wish that I could see and feel as you do; no doubt it would be better for me in the end. But such a wish is vain."

"Oh, say not so, dear husband!" exclaimed Edith, with unexpected earnestness; "say not so! It hurts me almost like words of personal unkindness."

"But how can I be as good as you are? It isn't in me."

"I am not good, Edward. There is none good but God," answered the wife solemnly.

"Oh yes, yes! You are an angel!" returned Claire, with a sudden emotion that he could not control. "And I-and I-"

He checked himself, turned his face partly away to conceal its expression, sat motionless for a moment, and then burying his face on the bosom of his wife, sobbed for the space of nearly a minute, overcome by a passion that he in vain struggled to master.

Never had Edith seen her husband so moved. No wonder that she was startled, even frightened.

"Oh, Edward, dear Edward! what ails you?" were her eager, agitated words, so soon as she could speak. "What has happened? Oh, tell me, my husband, my dear husband!"

But Claire answered not, though he was gaining some control over his feelings.

"Oh, Edward! won't you speak to me? Won't you tell me all your troubles, all your heart? Am I not your wife, and do I not love you with a love no words can express? Am I not your best and closest friend? Would I not even lay down my life for your good? Dear Edward, what has caused this great emotion?"

Thus urged, thus pleaded the tearful Edith. But there was no reply, though the strong tremor which had thrilled through the frame of Claire had subsided. He was still bowed forward, with hi

s face hid on her bosom, while her arm was drawn lovingly around him. So they remained for a time longer. At length, the young man lifted himself up, and fixed his eyes upon her. His countenance was pale and sad, and bore traces of intense suffering.

"My husband! my dear husband!" murmured Edith.

"My wife! my good angel!" was the low, thrilling response; and Claire pressed his lips almost reverently upon the brow of his wife.

"I have had a fearful dream, Edith!" said he; "a very fearful dream.

Thank God, I am awake now."

"A dream, Edward?" returned his wife, not fully comprehending him.

"Yes, love, a dream; yet far too real. Surely, I dreamed, or was under some dire enchantment. But the spell is gone-gone, I trust, for ever."

"What spell, love? Oh, speak to me a plainer language!"

"I think, Edith," said the young man, after remaining thoughtfully silent for some time, "that I will try and get another place. I don't believe it is good for me to live with Leonard Jasper. Gold is the god he worships; and I find myself daily tempted to bend my knee in the same idolatry."

"Edward!" A shadow had fallen on the face of Edith.

"You look troubled at my words, Edith," resumed the young man; "yet what I say is true, too true. I wish it were not so. Ah! this passage through the world, hard and toilsome as it is, has many, many dangers."

"If we put our trust in God, we need have no fear," said Edith, in a gentle yet earnest and penetrating voice, laying her hand lovingly on the hot forehead of her husband, and gazing into his eyes.

"Nothing without can harm us. Our worst enemies are within."

"Within?"

"Yes, love; within our bosoms. Into our distrusts and unsatisfied desires they enter, and tempt us to evil."

"True, true," said Claire, in an abstracted manner, and as if speaking to himself.

"What more do we want to make us happy?" asked Edith, comprehending still more clearly her husband's state of mind.

Claire sighed deeply, but made no answer.

"More money could not do it," she added.

"Money would procure us many comforts that we do not now possess," said the young man.

"I doubt this, Edward. It might give more of the elegancies of life; but, as I have often said, these do not always produce corresponding pleasure. If they come, without too ardent seeking, in the good pleasure of Providence, as the reward of useful and honest labour, then they may increase the delights of life; but never otherwise. If the heart is set on them, their acquirement will surely end in disappointment. Possession will create satiety; and the mind too quickly turns from the good it has toiled for in hope so long, to fret itself because there is an imagined higher good beyond. Believe me, Edward, if we are not satisfied with what God gives us as the reward of useful toil to-day, we will not be satisfied with what he gives to-morrow."

"Perhaps you are right, Edith; I believe you are. My mind has a glimpse of the truth, but to fully realize it is hard. Ah, I wish that I possessed more of your trusting spirit!"

"We are both cared for, Edward, by the same infinite love-cared for, whether we doubt and fear, or trust confidingly."

"It must be so. I see it now, I feel it now-see it and feel it in the light of your clearer intuitions. Ah, how different from this pure faith is the faith of the world! Men worship gold as their god; they trust only in riches."

"And their god is ever mocking them. To-day he smiles upon his votary, and to-morrow hides his face in darkness. To-day he gives full coffers, that are empty to-morrow. But the true riches offered so freely to all by the living God are blessed both in the getting and in the keeping. These never produce satiety, never take to themselves wings. Good affections and true thoughts continually nourish and re-create the mind. They are the soul's wealth, the perennial fountains of all true enjoyment. With these, and sufficient for the body's health and comfort, all may be happy: without them, the riches of the world have no power to satisfy."

A pause ensued, during which the minds of both wandered back a little.

"If you feel," said Edith, recalling the words of her husband, "that there is danger in remaining where you are"-

"That was hastily spoken," Edward Claire interrupted his wife, "and in a moment of weakness. I must resist the evil that assaults me. I must strive with and overcome the tempter. I must think less of this world and its riches; and in my thoughts place a higher value upon the riches without wings of which you have spoken to me so often."

"Can you remain where you are, and be out of danger?" asked Edith.

"There is danger everywhere."

"Ay; but in some positions more imminent danger. Is it well to court temptation?"

"Perhaps not. But I cannot afford to give up my place with Jasper."

"Yet, while remaining, you will be strongly tempted."

"Jasper is dishonest at heart. He is ever trying to overreach in dealing, and expects every one in his employment to be as keen as himself."

"Oh, Edward, do not remain with him a day longer! There is death to the spirit in the very atmosphere around such a man. You cannot serve such a master, and be true to yourself and to God. It is impossible."

"I believe you are right in that, Edith; I know you are right," said the young man, with a strong emphasis on the last sentence. "But what am I to do? Five hundred dollars a year is little enough for our wants; I have, as you know, been dissatisfied with that. I can hardly get as much in another situation. I know of but one opening, and that is with Melleville."

"Go back to him, Edward," said his wife.

"And get but four hundred a year? It is all he can pay."

"If but three hundred, it were a situation far to be preferred to the one you now hold."

"A hundred dollars a year, Edith, taken from our present income, would deprive us of many comforts."

"Think of how much we would gain in true inward enjoyment, Edward, by such a change. Have you grown happier since you entered the store of Mr. Jasper?"

The young man shook his head sadly, and murmured, "Alas! no."

"Can anything compensate for the anguish of mind we have both suffered in the last few hours, Edward?"

There was a quick flushing of the face, as Edith said this.

"Both suffered!" exclaimed Edward, with a look of surprise.

"Ay, both, love. Can the heart of my husband feel a jar of discord, and mine not thrill painfully? Can he be in temptation, without an overshadowing of my spirit? Can he be in darkness, and I at the same time in light? No, no; that were impossible. You have been in great peril; I knew that some evil threatened you, even before you confessed it with your lips. Oh, Edward, we have both tasted, in the last few hours, a bitterer cup than has yet been placed to our lips. May we not be called upon to drink it to the very dregs!"

"Amen!" fell solemnly from the lips of Edward Claire, as a cold shudder crept along his nerves. If there had been any wavering in his mind before, there was none now. He resolved to make restitution in the morning, and, as soon as opportunity offered, to leave a place where he was so strongly tempted to step aside from the path of integrity. The virtue of his wife had saved him.

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