Harriet Wilson


Life is a strange avenue of various trees and flowers;
Lightsome at commencement, but darkening to its end in a distant,
massy portal.
It beginneth as a little path, edged with the violet and primrose,
A little path of lawny grass and soft to tiny feet.
Soon, spring thistles in the way.

JAMES' visit concluded. Frado had become
greatly attached to him, and with sorrow she
listened and joined in the farewells which pre-
ceded his exit. The remembrance of his kind-
ness cheered her through many a weary month,
and an occasional word to her in letters to Jack,
were like "cold waters to a thirsty soul." In-
telligence came that James would soon marry;
Frado hoped he would, and remove her from
such severe treatment as she was subject to.
There had been additional burdens laid on her
since his return. She must now milk the cows,
she had then only to drive. Flocks of sheep
had been added to the farm, which daily claimed


a portion of her time. In the absence of the
men, she must harness the horse for Mary and
her mother to ride, go to mill, in short, do the
work of a boy, could one be procured to endure
the tirades of Mrs. Bellmont. She was first up
in the morning, doing what she could towards
breakfast. Occasionally, she would utter some
funny thing for Jack's benefit, while she was
waiting on the table, provoking a sharp look
from his mother, or expulsion from the room.
On one such occasion, they found her on the
roof of the barn. Some repairs having been
necessary, a staging had been erected, and was
not wholly removed. Availing herself of lad-
ders, she was mounted in high glee on the top-
most board. Mr. Bellmont called sternly for her
to come down; poor Jane nearly fainted from
fear. Mrs. B. and Mary did not care if she
"broke her neck," while Jack and the men
laughed at her fearlessness. Strange, one spark
of playfulness could remain amid such constant
toil; but her natural temperament was in a
high degree mirthful, and the encouragement
she received from Jack and the hired men, con-
stantly nurtured the inclination. When she had


none of the family around to be merry with,
she would amuse herself with the animals.
Among the sheep was a willful leader, who al-
ways persisted in being first served, and many
times in his fury he had thrown down Nig, till,
provoked, she resolved to punish him. The pas-
ture in which the sheep grazed was founded on
three sides by a wide stream, which flowed on
one side at the base of precipitous banks. The
first spare moments at her command, she ran to
the pasture with a dish in her hand, and mount-
ing the highest point of land nearest the stream,
called the flock to their mock repast. Mr. Bell-
mont, with his laborers, were in sight, though
unseen by Frado. They paused to see what she
was about to do. Should she by any mishap
lose her footing, she must roll into the stream,
and, without aid, must drown. They thought of
shouting; but they feared an unexpected salute
might startle her, and thus ensure what they
were anxious to prevent. They watched in
breathless silence. The willful sheep came furi-
ously leaping and bounding far in advance of
the flock. Just as he leaped for the dish, she
suddenly jumped to one side, when down he rolled


into the river, and swimming across, remained
alone till night. The men lay down, convulsed
with laughter at the trick, and guessed at once
its object. Mr. Bellmont talked seriously to the
child for exposing herself to such danger; but
she hopped about on her toes, and with laugha-
ble grimaces replied, she knew she was quick
enough to "give him a slide."

But to return. James married a Baltimorean
lady of wealthy parentage, an indispensable
requisite, his mother had always taught him.
He did not marry her wealth, though; he loved
her, sincerely. She was not unlike his sister
Jane, who had a social, gentle, loving nature,
rather too yielding, her brother thought. His
Susan had a firmness which Jane needed to
complete her character, but which her ill health
may in a measure have failed to produce. Al-
though an invalid, she was not excluded from
society. Was it strange she should seem a desir-
able companion, a treasure as a wife?

Two young men seemed desirous of possess-
ing her. One was a neighbor, Henry Reed, a
tall, spare young man, with sandy hair, and blue,
sinister eyes. He seemed to appreciate her


wants, and watch with interest her improvement
or decay. His kindness she received, and by it
was almost won. Her mother wished her to en-
courage his attentions. She had counted the
acres which were to be transmitted to an only
son; she knew there was silver in the purse;
she would not have Jane too sentimental.
The eagerness with which he amassed wealth,
was repulsive to Jane; he did not spare his per-
son or beasts in its pursuit. She felt that to
such a man she should be considered an incum-
brance; she doubted if he would desire her, if
he did not know she would bring a handsome
patrimony. Her mother, full in favor with the
parents of Henry, commanded her to accept
him. She engaged herself, yielding to her
mother's wishes, because she had not strength to
oppose them; and sometimes, when witness of
her mother's and Mary's tyranny, she felt any
change would be preferable, even such a one as
this. She knew her husband should be the man
of her own selecting, one she was conscious of
preferring before all others. She could not say
this of Henry.

In this dilemma, a visitor came to Aunt


Abby's; one of her boy-favorites, George Means,
from an adjoining State. Sensible, plain looking,
agreeable, talented, he could not long be a
stranger to any one who wished to know him.
Jane was accustomed to sit much with Aunt
Abby always; her presence now seemed neces-
sary to assist in entertaining this youthful friend.
Jane was more pleased with him each day, and
silently wished Henry possessed more refinement,
and the polished manners of George. She felt
dissatisfied with her relation to him. His calls
while George was there, brought their opposing
qualities vividly before her, and she found it
disagreeable to force herself into those atten-
tions belonging to him. She received him ap-
parently only as a neighbor.

George returned home, and Jane endeavored
to stifle the risings of dissatisfaction, and had
nearly succeeded, when a letter came which
needed but one glance to assure her of its birth-
place; and she retired for its perusal. Well
was it for her that her mother's suspicion was
not aroused, or her curiosity startled to inquire
who it came from. After reading it, she glided
into Aunt Abby's, and placed it in her hands,
who was no stranger to Jane's trials.


George could not rest after his return, he
wrote, until he had communicated to Jane the
emotions her presence awakened, and his desire
to love and possess her as his own. He begged
to know if his affections were reciprocated, or
could be; if she would permit him to write to
her; if she was free from all obligation to

"What would mother say?" queried Jane, as
she received the letter from her aunt.

"Not much to comfort you."

"Now, aunt, George is just such a man as I
could really love, I think, from all I have seen
of him; you know I never could say that of

"Then don't marry him," interrupted Aunt

"Mother will make me."

"Your father won't."

"Well, aunt, what can I do? Would you
answer the letter, or not?"

"Yes, answer it. Tell him your situation."

"I shall not tell him all my feelings."
Jane answered that she had enjoyed his com-
pany much; she had seen nothing offensive in


his manner or appearance; that she was under
no obligations which forbade her receiving let-
ters from him as a friend and acquaintance.
George was puzzled by the reply. He wrote to
Aunt Abby, and from her learned all. He
could not see Jane thus sacrificed, without mak-
ing an effort to rescue her. Another visit fol-
lowed. George heard Jane say she preferred
him. He then conferred with Henry at his
home. It was not a pleasant subject to talk
upon. To be thus supplanted, was not to be
thought of. He would sacrifice everything but
his inheritance to secure his betrothed.
"And so you are the cause of her late cold-
ness towards me. Leave! I will talk no more
about it; the business is settled between us;
there it will remain," said Henry.

"Have you no wish to know the real state of
Jane's affections towards you?" asked George.

"No! Go, I say! go!" and Henry opened
the door for him to pass out.

He retired to Aunt Abby's. Henry soon fol-
lowed, and presented his cause to Mrs. Bellmont.
Provoked, surprised, indignant, she summoned
Jane to her presence, and after a lengthy tirade


upon Nab, and her satanic influence, told her
she could not break the bonds which held her
to Henry; she should not. George Means was
rightly named; he was, truly, mean enough;
she knew his family of old; his father had four
wives, and five times as many children.

"Go to your room, Miss Jane," she continued.

"Don't let me know of your being in Nab's for
one while."

The storm was now visible to all beholders.
Mr. Bellmont sought Jane. She told him her ob-
jections to Henry; showed him George's letter;
told her answer, the occasion of his visit. He
bade her not make herself sick; he would see
that she was not compelled to violate her free
choice in so important a transaction. He then
sought the two young men; told them he could
not as a father see his child compelled to an un-
congenial union; a free, voluntary choice was of
such importance to one of her health. She must
be left free to her own choice.

Jane sent Henry a letter of dismission; he her
one of a legal bearing, in which he balanced his
disappointment by a few hundreds.

To brave her mother's fury, nearly overcame


her, but the consolation of a kind father and
aunt cheered her on. After a suitable interval
she was married to George, and removed to his
home in Vermont. Thus another light disap-
peared from Nig's horizon. Another was soon to
follow. Jack was anxious to try his skill in pro-
viding for his own support; so a situation as
clerk in a store was procured in a Western city,
and six months after Jane's departure, was Nig
abandoned to the tender mercies of Mary and
her mother. As if to remove the last vestige of
earthly joy, Mrs. Bellmont sold the companion and
pet of Frado, the dog Fido.