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   Chapter 6 No.6

True Riches; Or, Wealth Without Wings By T. S. Arthur Characters: 15956

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Edward Claire was in no doubt as to the reception the motherless child would receive from his kind-hearted wife. A word or two of explanation enabled her to comprehend the feeling from which he had acted.

"You were right, Edward," said she in hearty approval. "I am glad you brought her home. Come, dear," speaking to the wondering, partly shrinking orphan, "let me take off your bonnet."

She kissed the child's sweet lips and then gazed for some moments into her face, pleased, yet half surprised, at her remarkable beauty.

Little Fanny felt that she was among friends. The sad expression of her face soon wore off, light came back to her eyes, and her prattling tongue released itself from a long silence. An hour afterward, when she was laid to sleep in a temporary bed, made for her on the floor, her heavy eyelids fell quickly, with their long lashes upon her cheeks, and she was soon in the world of dreams.

Then followed a long and serious conference between Edward and his wife.

"I saw Mr. Melleville to-day," said the former.

"Did you? I am glad of that," was answered.

"He will give me a place."

"Glad again."

"But, Edith, as I supposed, he can only pay me a salary of four hundred dollars."

"No matter," was the prompt reply; "it is better than five hundred where you are."

"Can we live on it, Edith?" Edward spoke in a troubled voice.

"Why not? It is but to use a little more economy in our expenses-to live on two dollars a week less than we now spend; and that will not be very hard to do. Trust it to me, dear. I will bring the account out even. And we will be just as happy. As happy? Oh, a thousand times happier! A hundred dollars! How poorly will that compensate for broken peace and a disquieted conscience. Edward, is it possible for you to remain where you are, and be innocent?"

"I fear not, Edith," was the unhesitating reply. "And yet, dear, I should be man enough, should have integrity enough, to resist the temptations that might come in my way."

"Do not think of remaining where you are," said the young wife earnestly. "If Mr. Melleville will pay you four hundred dollars a year, take his offer and leave Mr. Jasper. It will be a gain rather than a loss to us."

"A gain, Edith?"

"Yes, a gain in all that is worth having in life-peace of mind flowing from a consciousness of right action. Will money buy this? No, Edward. Highly as riches are esteemed-the one great good in life as they are regarded-they never have given and never will give this best of all blessings. How little, how very little of the world's happiness, after all, flows from the possession of money. Did you ever think of that, Edward?"

"Perhaps not."

"And yet, is it not worth a passing thought? Mr. and Mrs. Casswell are rich-we are poor. Which do you think the happiest?"

"Oh, we are happiest, a thousand times," said Edward warmly. "I would not exchange places with him, were he worth a million for every thousand."

"Nor I with his wife," returned Edith. "So money, in their case, does not give happiness. Now look at William Everhart and his wife. When we were married they occupied two rooms, at a low rent, as we now do. Their income was just what ours has been. Well, they enjoyed life. We visited them frequently, and they often called to see us. But for a little ambition on the part of both to make some show, they would have possessed a large share of that inestimable blessing, contentment. After a while, William's salary was raised to one thousand dollars. Then they must have a whole house to themselves, as if their two nice rooms were not as large and comfortable, and as well suited to their real wants as before. They must, also, have showy furniture for their friends to look at. Were they any happier for this change?-for this marked improvement in their external condition? We have talked this over before, Edward. No, they were not. In fact, they were not so comfortable. With added means had come a whole train of clamorous wants, that even the doubled salary could not supply."

"Everhart gets fifteen hundred a year, now," remarked Claire.

"That will account, then," said Edith, smiling, "for Emma's unsettled state of mind when I last saw her. New wants have been created; and they have disturbed the former tranquillity."

"All are not so foolish as they have been. I think we might bear an increased income without the drawbacks that have attended theirs."

"If it had been best for us, my husband, God would have provided it. It is in his loving-kindness that he has opened the way so opportunely for you to leave the path of doubt and danger for one of confidence and safety; and, in doing it, he has really increased your salary."

"Increased it, Edith! Why do you say that?"

"Will we not be happier for the change?" asked Edith, smiling.

"I believe so."

"Then, surely, the salary is increased by so much of heartfelt pleasure. Why do you desire an increase rather than a diminution of income?"

"In order to procure more of the comforts of life," was answered.

"Comfort for the body, and satisfaction for the mind?"

"Yes."

"Could our bodies really enjoy more than they now enjoy? They are warmly clothed, fully fed, and are in good health. Is it not so?"

"It is."

"Then, if by taking Mr. Melleville's offer, you lose nothing for the body, and gain largely for the mind, is not your income increased?"

"Ah, Edith!" said Claire, fondly, "you are a wonderful reasoner. Who will gainsay such arguments?"

"Do I not argue fairly? Are not my positions sound, and my deductions clearly brought forth?"

"If I could always see and feel as I do now," said Claire, in a low, pleased tone of voice, "how smoothly would life glide onward. Money is not every thing. Ah! how fully that is seen. There are possessions not to be bought with gold."

"And they are mental possessions-states of the mind, Edward," spoke up Edith quickly. "Riches that never fade, nor fail; that take to themselves no wings. Oh, let us gather of these abundantly, as we walk on our way through life."

"Heaven has indeed blessed me." Such was the heartfelt admission of Edward Claire, made in the silence of his own thoughts. "With a different wife-a lover of the world and its poor vanities-how imminent would have been my danger! Alas! scarcely any thing less than a miracle would have saved me. I shudder as I realize the fearful danger through which I have just passed. I thank God for so good a wife."

The first inquiry made by Jasper, when he met Edward on the next morning, was in relation to what he had seen at the funeral, and, particularly, as to the disposition that had been made of the child.

"I took her home with me," was replied, in answer to a direct question.

"You did!" Jasper seemed taken by surprise. "How came that, Edward?"

"When I returned from the cemetery, I found the domestic ready to leave the house. Of course the poor child could not remain there alone; so I took her home with me for the night."

"How did your wife like that?" asked Jasper, with something in his tone that showed a personal interest in the reply.

"Very well. I did just what she would have done under the circumstances."

"You have only one child, I believe?" said Jasper, after a pause of some moments.

"That is all."

"Only three in family?"

"Only three."

"How would you like to increase it? Suppose you keep this child of Elder's, now she is with you. I have been looking a little into the affairs of the estate, and find that there are two houses, unincumbered, that are rented each for two hundred and fifty dollars a year. Of course, you will receive a reasonable sum for taking care of the child. What do you say to it? As executor, I will pay you five dollars a week for boarding and clothing her until she is twelve years of age. After that, a new arrangement can be made."

"I can't give an answer until I consult my wife," said C

laire, in reply to so unexpected a proposition.

"Urge her to accept the offer, Edward. Just think what it will add to your income. I'm sure it won't cost you one-half the sum, weekly, that I have specified, to find the child in every thing."

"Perhaps not. But all will depend on my wife. We are living, now, in two rooms, and keep no domestic. An addition of one to our family might so increase her care and labour as to make a servant necessary. Then we should have to have an additional room; the rent of which and the wages and board of the servant would amount to nearly as much as we would receive from you on account of the child."

"Yes, I see that," returned Jasper. And he mused for some moments. He was particularly anxious that Claire should take the orphan, for then all the trouble of looking after and caring for her would be taken from him, and that would be a good deal gained.

"I'll tell you what, Edward," he added. "If you will take her, I will call the sum six dollars a week-or three hundred a year. That will make the matter perfectly easy. If your wife does not seem at first inclined, talk to her seriously. This addition to your income will be a great help. To show her that I am perfectly in earnest, and that you can depend on receiving the sum specified, I will draw up a little agreement, which, if all parties are satisfied, can be signed at once."

Claire promised to talk the matter over with his wife at dinner-time.

The morning did not pass without varied assaults upon the young man's recent good resolutions. Several times he had customers in from whom it would have been easy to get more than a fair profit, but he steadily adhered to what he believed to be right, notwithstanding Jasper once or twice expressed dissatisfaction at his not having made better sales, and particularly at his failing to sell a piece of cloth, because he would not pledge his word as to its colour and quality-neither of which were good.

The proposition of Jasper for him to make, in his family, a place for the orphan, caused Claire to postpone the announcement of his intention to leave his service, until after he had seen and conferred with his wife.

At the usual dinner-hour, Claire returned home. His mind had become by this time somewhat disturbed. The long-cherished love of money, subdued for a brief season, was becoming active again. Here were six dollars to be added, weekly, to his income, provided his wife approved the arrangement,-and it was to come through Jasper. The more he thought of this increase, the more his natural cupidity was stirred, and the less willing he felt to give up the proposed one hundred dollars in his salary. If he persisted in leaving Jasper, there would, in all probability, be a breach between them, and this would, he felt certain, prevent an arrangement that he liked better and better the more he thought about it. He was in this state of mind when he arrived at home.

On pushing open the door of their sitting-room, the attention of Claire was arrested by the animated expression of his wife's face. She raised her finger to enjoin silence. Tripping lightly to his side, she drew her arm within his, and whispered-

"Come into the chamber, dear-tread softly-there, isn't that sweet?-isn't it lovely?"

The sight was lovely indeed. A pillow had been thrown on the floor, and upon this lay sleeping, arm in arm, the two children. Pressed close together were their rosy checks; and the sunny curls of Fanny Elder were mixed, like gleams of sunshine, amid the darker ringlets that covered profusely the head of little Edith.

"Did you ever see any thing so beautiful?" said the delighted mother.

"What a picture it would make!" remarked Edward, who was charmed with the sight.

"Oh, lovely! How I would like just such a picture!

"She is a beautiful child," said Edward.

"Very," was the hearty response. "Very-and so sweet-tempered and winning in her ways. Do you know, I am already attached to her. And little Edie is so delighted. They have played all the morning like kittens; and a little while ago lay down, just as you see them-tired out, I suppose-and fell off to sleep. It must have been hard for the mother to part with that child-hard, very hard."

And Mrs. Claire sighed.

"You will scarcely be willing to give her up, if she remains here long," said Edward.

"I don't know how I should feel to part from her, even now. Oh, isn't it sad to think that she has no living soul to love or care for her in the world."

"Mr. Jasper is her guardian, you know."

"Yes; and such a guardian!"

"I should not like to have my child dependent on his tender mercies, certainly. But he will have little to do with her beyond paying the bills for her maintenance. He will place her in some family to board; and her present comfort and future well-being will depend very much upon the character of the persons who have charge of her."

Edith sighed.

"I wish," said she, after a pause, "that we were able to take her. But we are not."

And she sighed again.

"Mr. Jasper will pay six dollars a week to any one who will take the entire care of her until she is twelve years of age."

"Will he?" A sudden light had gleamed over the face of Mrs. Claire.

"Yes; he said so this morning."

"Then, why may not we take her? I am willing," was Edith's quick suggestion.

"It is a great care and responsibility," said Edward.

"I shall not feel it so. When the heart prompts, duty becomes a pleasure. O yes, dear, let us take the child by all means."

"Can we make room for her?"

"Why not? Her little bed, in a corner of our chamber, will in noway incommode us; and through the day she will be a companion for Edie. If you could only have seen how sweetly they played together! Edie has not been half the trouble to-day that she usually is."

"It will rest altogether with you, Edith," said Claire, seriously. "In fact, Mr. Jasper proposed that we should take Fanny. I did not give him much encouragement, however."

"Have you any objection, dear?" asked Edith.

"None. The sum to be paid weekly will more than cover the additional cost of housekeeping. If you are prepared for the extra duties that must come, I have nothing to urge against the arrangement."

"If extra duties are involved, I will perform them as a labour of love. Without the sum to be paid for the child's maintenance, I would have been ready to take her in and let her share our home. She is now in the special guardianship of the Father of the fatherless, and he will provide for her, no matter who become the almoners of his bounty. This is my faith, Edward, and in this faith I would have freely acted even without the provision that has been made."

"Let it be then, as you wish, Edith."

"How providential this increase of our income, Edward!" said his wife, soon afterward, while the subject of taking Fanny into their little household was yet the burden of their conversation. "We shall gain here all, and more than all that will be lost in giving up your situation with Mr. Jasper. Did I not say to you that good would come of this guardianship; and is there not, even now, a foreshadowing of things to come?"

"Perhaps there is," replied Edward thoughtfully. "But my eye of faith is not so clear as yours."

"Let me see for you then, dear," said Edith, in a tender voice. "I am an earnest confider in the good purposes of our Heavenly Father. I trust in them, as a ship trusts in its well-grounded anchor. That, in summing up the events of our life, when the time of our departure comes, we shall see clearly that each has been wisely ordered or provided for by One who is infinitely good and wise, I never for an instant doubt. Oh, if you could only see with me, eye to eye, Edward! But you will, love, you will-that my heart assures me. It may be some time yet-but it will come."

"May it come right speedily!" was the fervent response of Edward

Claire.

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