Harriet Wilson


Oh, Grief beyond all other griefs, when fate
First leaves the young heart lone and desolate
In the wide world, without that only tie
For which it loved to live or feared to die;
Lorn as the hung-up lute, that ne'er hath spoken
Since the sad day its master-chord was broken!

LONELY MAG SMITH! See her as she walks with
downcast eyes and heavy heart. It was not
always thus. She had a loving, trusting heart.
Early deprived of parental guardianship, far
removed from relatives, she was left to guide her
tiny boat over life's surges alone and inexperi-
enced. As she merged into womanhood, unpro-
tected, uncherished, uncared for, there fell on her
ear the music of love, awakening an intensity of
emotion long dormant. It whispered of an ele-
vation before unaspired to; of ease and plenty


her simple heart had never dreamed of as hers.
She knew the voice of her charmer, so ravishing,
sounded far above her. It seemed like an an-
gel's, alluring her upward and onward. She
thought she could ascend to him and become an
equal. She surrendered to him a priceless gem,
which he proudly garnered as a trophy, with
those of other victims, and left her to her fate.
The world seemed full of hateful deceivers and
crushing arrogance. Conscious that the great
bond of union to her former companions was sev-
ered, that the disdain of others would be insup-
portable, she determined to leave the few friends
she possessed, and seek an asylum among strangers.
Her offspring came unwelcomed, and before its
nativity numbered weeks, it passed from earth,
ascending to a purer and better life.

"God be thanked," ejaculated Mag, as she saw
its breathing cease; "no one can taunt her with
my ruin."

Blessed release! may we all respond. How
many pure, innocent children not only inherit a
wicked heart of their own, claiming life-long
scrutiny and restraint, but are heirs also of pa-
rental disgrace and calumny, from which only


long years of patient endurance in paths of recti-
tude can disencumber them.
Mag's new home was soon contaminated by
the publicity of her fall; she had a feeling of
degradation oppressing her; but she resolved to
be circumspect, and try to regain in a measure
what she had lost. Then some foul tongue would
jest of her shame, and averted looks and cold
greetings disheartened her. She saw she could
not bury in forgetfulness her misdeed, so she
resolved to leave her home and seek another in
the place she at first fled from.

Alas, how fearful are we to be first in extend-
ing a helping hand to those who stagger in the
mires of infamy; to speak the first words of hope
and warning to those emerging into the sunlight
of morality! Who can tell what numbers, ad-
vancing just far enough to hear a cold welcome
and join in the reserved converse of professed
reformers, disappointed, disheartened, have cho-
sen to dwell in unclean places, rather than en-
counter these "holier-than-thou" of the great
brotherhood of man!

Such was Mag's experience; and disdaining to
ask favor or friendship from a sneering world,


she resolved to shut herself up in a hovel she
had often passed in better days, and which she
knew to be untenanted. She vowed to ask no
favors of familiar faces; to die neglected and for-
gotten before she would be dependent on any.
Removed from the village, she was seldom seen
except as upon your introduction, gentle reader,
with downcast visage, returning her work to her
employer, and thus providing herself with the
means of subsistence. In two years many hands
craved the same avocation; foreigners who
cheapened toil and clamored for a livelihood,
competed with her, and she could not thus sus-
tain herself. She was now above no drudgery.
Occasionally old acquaintances called to be fa-
vored with help of some kind, which she was glad
to bestow for the sake of the money it would
bring her; but the association with them was
such a painful reminder of by-gones, she re-
turned to her hut morose and revengeful, re-
fusing all offers of a better home than she pos-
sessed. Thus she lived for years, hugging her
wrongs, but making no effort to escape. She
had never known plenty, scarcely competency;
but the present was beyond comparison with


those innocent years when the coronet of virtue
was hers.

Every year her melancholy increased, her
means diminished. At last no one seemed to
notice her, save a kind-hearted African, who often
called to inquire after her health and to see if
she needed any fuel, he having the responsibility
of furnishing that article, and she in return mend-
ing or making garments.

"How much you earn dis week, Mag?" asked
he one Saturday evening.

"Little enough, Jim. Two or three days with-
out any dinner. I washed for the Reeds, and did
a small job for Mrs. Bellmont; that's all. I shall
starve soon, unless I can get more to do. Folks
seem as afraid to come here as if they expected
to get some awful disease. I don't believe there
is a person in the world but would be glad to
have me dead and out of the way."

"No, no, Mag! don't talk so. You shan't
starve so long as I have barrels to hoop. Peter
Greene boards me cheap. I'll help you, if nobody
else will."

A tear stood in Mag's faded eye. "I'm glad,"
she said, with a softer tone than before, "if there


is one who isn't glad to see me suffer. I b'lieve
all Singleton wants to see me punished, and feel
as if they could tell when I've been punished
long enough. It's a long day ahead they'll set
it, I reckon."

After the usual supply of fuel was prepared,
Jim returned home. Full of pity for Mag, he set
about devising measures for her relief. "By
golly!" said he to himself one day--for he had
become so absorbed in Mag's interest that he had
fallen into a habit of musing aloud--"By golly!
I wish she'd marry me."

"Who?" shouted Pete Greene, suddenly start-
ing from an unobserved corner of the rude shop.
"Where you come from, you sly nigger!" ex-
claimed Jim.

"Come, tell me, who is't?" said Pete; "Mag
Smith, you want to marry?"

"Git out, Pete! and when you come in dis shop
again, let a nigger know it. Don't steal in like
a thief."

Pity and love know little severance. One
attends the other. Jim acknowledged the pres-
ence of the former, and his efforts in Mag's behalf
told also of a finer principle.


This sudden expedient which he had uninten-
tionally disclosed, roused his thinking and invent-
ive powers to study upon the best method of
introducing the subject to Mag.

He belted his barrels, with many a scheme re-
volving in his mind, none of which quite satisfied
him, or seemed, on the whole, expedient. He
thought of the pleasing contrast between her fair
face and his own dark skin; the smooth, straight
hair, which he had once, in expression of pity,
kindly stroked on her now wrinkled but once
fair brow. There was a tempest gathering in his
heart, and at last, to ease his pent-up passion, he
exclaimed aloud, "By golly!" Recollecting his
former exposure, he glanced around to see if
Pete was in hearing again. Satisfied on this
point, he continued: "She'd be as much of a prize
to me as she'd fall short of coming up to the
mark with white folks. I don't care for past
things. I've done things 'fore now I's 'shamed
of. She's good enough for me, any how."
One more glance about the premises to be sure
Pete was away.

The next Saturday night brought Jim to the
hovel again. The cold was fast coming to tarry

its apportioned time. Mag was nearly despairing
of meeting its rigor.

"How's the wood, Mag?" asked Jim.

"All gone; and no more to cut, any how," was
the reply.

"Too bad!" Jim said. His truthful reply
would have been, I'm glad.

"Anything to eat in the house?" continued he.

"No," replied Mag.
"Too bad!" again, orally, with the same in-
ward gratulation as before.

"Well, Mag," said Jim, after a short pause,
"you's down low enough. I don't see but I've
got to take care of ye. 'Sposin' we marry!"
Mag raised her eyes, full of amazement, and
uttered a sonorous "What?"

Jim felt abashed for a moment. He knew well
what were her objections.

"You's had trial of white folks any how. They
run off and left ye, and now none of 'em come
near ye to see if you's dead or alive. I's black
outside, I know, but I's got a white heart inside.
Which you rather have, a black heart in a white
skin, or a white heart in a black one?"


"Oh, dear!" sighed Mag; "Nobody on earth
cares for me--"

"I do," interrupted Jim.

"I can do but two things," said she, "beg my
living, or get it from you."

"Take me, Mag. I can give you a better
home than this, and not let you suffer so."
He prevailed; they married. You can philos-
ophize, gentle reader, upon the impropriety of
such unions, and preach dozens of sermons on the
evils of amalgamation. Want is a more power-
ful philosopher and preacher. Poor Mag. She
has sundered another bond which held her to her
fellows. She has descended another step down
the ladder of infamy.