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cannot burn amid the anti-combustible material by which it is surrounded.
How might the zeal of Dorcas have been nurtured and directed! How might her sympathies have been warmed and expanded ! But in the eyes of her money-loving master she was a tool of toile not a thing of life and feeling: to her yet narrower mistress, whos, moral sphere was within the poor circle of her mercenary husband's, Dorcas was a drudge, goaded, not guided, through the unceasing round of household occupation; while the churlish, snappish voice, like the sound of the whip to which the negro starts, stimulated new exertions, or reproved occasional neglect. There existed in that house no idea that
"The heart leaps kindly back to kindness, and that
The labour we delight in, physics pain.' Duties which might have been disburthened of half their weight, and enlivened at the mere expense of a smile and a soft word, came, day after day, with a wearying iteration upon Dorcas. Now, too, for the first time in her life, she lived under ground. Her cottage home, lowly though it was, had no dungeon-keep for a domestic drudge: it stood upon a hill side, and the fresh winds, laden with the breath of rified flowers, revelled in through the doors and windows.
How is the disregard of mere humanity declared in all our social arrangements! Under-ground apartments for human habitation ought, even in the best houses, to brand a building with a bastile character. Why should any portion of our fellow. creatures be doomed to breathe continually beneath the surface of the soil ? Many a servant is worse off than the miner; for she lives all day, and sleeps at night, in a kitchen often dark, damp, and ill-ventilated ; in a place which common sense and common feeling would assign to nothing but coals and table-beer. Had crushed humanity any of the inflammability of the one, or the fermentability of even the other, this, and many other and more énormous arrangements, would have made it burst and blaze forth with indignant resistance.
In the midst of the moral desolation which surrounded Dorcas a beam at length appeared. Letitia, the youngest child of the family, came home from school for the holidays. This was a circumstance of no trifling importance to the feelings of Dorcas: a creature who, she hoped, would speak to her, would smile upon her, was arrived. These anticipations were at first in some degree realized : the child was full of news and high spirits, and scattered them somewhat at random; but it was not long ere she gave evidence of the narrow principle upon which her mind was being formed. Instead of being taught that every creature more useful than herself was essentially her superior---that every creature was, like herself, sensible to pleasure and to pain—that virtue consisted in promoting the one, and vice in producing the other-her mind held notions of an almost diametrically opposite tendency. Already, though little more than ten years old, she was pained that her father was a tradesman; was proud of an uncle because he was a professional man, and still prouder of an aunt, because she enjoyed an unearned income. The boardingschool cant of gentility, the circulating library cant of romance, had completely deranged her little head, and spoiled her young heart. False notions of happiness to be drawn from admiration and distinction employed her intellect; self-gratification engrossed her feelings. Her weak, ignorant mother declared, half in boast, half in lamentation, that Letty was resolved to be a lady, for that she would do nothing.'
It is a common notion among the utterly uncultivated that idleness and inutility are, with dress and self-indulgence, the constituents as well as the privileges of gentility: a proof of the manner in which example operates upon the multitude. When they see so little apparent connexion between real greatness and worldly greatness, who shall wonder that they mistake glare for glory, and prize a gilt carriage beyond an estimable character?
Letitia, vain, selfish, and unfeeling, proceeded in the common course; that is, from viewing Dorcas with contempt she soon began to treat her with insult. Untaught to sympathize with suffering, she did not shrink from inflicting it; while the idea of participating a pleasure, especially with one who occupied an inferior rank in society, never even glanced into her mind.
Many times, and in many ways, had the spirit of Dorcas been hurt. Sometimes a sigh-a tear-even a song, expressed or dissipated the painful feeling; for humanity, unless greatly outraged, learns to accommodate itself to necessity. An accident at length occurred, which, in itself trifling, was far other in its consequences. A party had been invited, to afford Mrs. Barton an opportunity for exhibiting a handsome set of china: just as in another walk of life a party is invited for the exhibition of a splendid service of plate. While restoring this treasured tea-service to its depository Dorcas unfortunately broke one of the pieces. Letty was present when the accident occurred. The involuntary delinquent, pale and trembling, alas, that feelings should be thus wasted !) entreated the child not to mention the circumstance, Dorcas assuring her that she would endeavour to match and replace the broken Fessel. But the little tyrant, prompt to reprove, and eager to punish, flew off to the sitting-room with the news of the disaster. Dorcas cautiously followed her for the purpose of listening. Thus generative is evil : there never was a base act which became not the parent of many. Oppression produces deceit, and instigates vengeance; torture invites retaliation, and insult generates hatred. Dorcas heard the little tale-bearer tell her story,-tell it amid attention and encouragement. First one, and then another, of the family sported some vulgar wit at the expense of Dorcas; her peculiarities of person-of manner-of speaking, were sneered at; on all sides rash, rude, illiberal opinions were freely vented : Dorcas was declared dull, stupid,, lazy, ugly. Thus wantonly were the accusing stones flung about, and in the very presence of the volume which prohibits such unwarrantable censure ; for Abel Barton and his family were regular rehearsers of the Bible, and regular appearers at church.
When the conversation closed, Dorcas stole back to the kitchen, a creature strangely changed from what she had hitherto been. Reproach and insult she had continually met, but there was in general some kind of ground, some pretext for them; they met her openly, and after some fashion or other she rebutted them. But the sarcasms to which she had just listened had been, in the instance of many of the speakers, unprovoked, and those sarcasms were calculated to wound her self-love in the highest degree. A few hours after this scene night closed in, and Dorcas mounted to her garret. That place which had hitherto been the theatre of her prayers to heaven, and her tears for home, what thoughts and feelings did it witness now ? Heart-burning rage and wishes
The wind of a December night was howling down the grateless fire-place, and waved the ragged curtain hung before the casement. Dorcas seated herself on the foot of her stump bedstead, and placed her candlestick, with its glimmering bit of rush, upon an old chair, the only other article of furniture in the room. She did not shiver, as she was wont; with cold and discomfort: her mind was too busy to heed her body. The smart of her insulted feelings subsided in favour of the calmer power of thought ; thought as to how those feelings might be satisfied—their revenge accomplished. Every kindly affection, every happy emotion, had started back into the far recesses of her spirit, which had now been for some time under a course of discipline that was gradually imposing on it a colder character than it had yet known.
To avoid details, which only serve as examples for error too easily learned without, it is enough to say that Dorcas became a pilferer. Those who had ridiculed, despised, insulted her, she robbed. There appeared to her a principle of equity in this act. Thus she did not reason; thus it might rather be said she felt. Perhaps some such feeling has stilled the conscience of many a criminal. The high morality which teaches us to return good for evil is never learned in the school of ignorance and oppression.
Want of knowledge, and an excess of the selfish feelings which had been so strongly excited, rendered Dorcas incapable of calculating remote consequences. She had her revenge in robbery, but her punishment in the dread of detection, which soon began to haunt her. She repented; if that may be termed repentance which writhes under the dread of the penalty incurred, not from remorse for the error committed. She had retaliated injury for injury, it is true; but so far had this been from bringing her satisfaction, that new misery was its fruitful consequences. The selfrespect, which had once told her that she did not deserve to meet the usage dealt to her, departed; and she bowed with a more acquiescent submission to insult in proportion as she felt selfdebased. She grew suspicious and apprehensive, and repose of mind departed altogether.
Detection came at last. It was a relief when it came. The anticipated evil is ever worse than the real one. In the latter case with present ruin comes the effort for present remedy: but the suspended calamity stimulates the imagination with horrors, which, like all phantoms, evade the power of reason.
Dorcas was at first threatened with prosecution; but this threat, from some cause or other, was not carried into effect: she was dismissed, with what was deemed a lighter punishment, privation of character.
Thus far there is nothing uncommon in the story of Dorcas; such events are of every-day occurrence, passing unknown or unnoted. How many may trace their introduction to misery from the conduct of some hard, exacting, unsympathizing task-mistress
- from insulting, unfeeling, uninstructed children—the rank germs of the moral upas whence they spring. These, by planting unnecessary thorns in the path of servitude, have continually driven victims to the wilderness; where the wolves wait to devour, and where the devoured are the denounced, not the devourers.
Dorcas, dismissed from her master's house, stood in the streets of London, with little money—no credit-no friends, encompassed by its terrors and its temptations. To go home would be to burthen those already bowed down; probably to meet the unkindest cut of all, to behold the eye which had once beamed upon her with love clouded by contempt. Her thoughts were of the darkest character: despair appeared waiting to give her to destruction ; or rather to that active despair that makes us ‘sin on because we have sinned.' She paced to and fro between Blackfriars-bridge (which spans the sleeping place of many a suicide) and that street of which the very stones are eloquent of human degradation, horror, and injury. She was very young; and how vital are all the feelings of the young! Her early impressions had been good, and their gracious spell was upon her heart. But Hope, the seraph-spirit, had folded her wings, and slept so profoundly that she seemed dead. Death, so unwelcome when he comes uncalled, is invoked as a friend by the friendless, as a refuge by the desolate. What have I to live for?' groaned the unloved, unhomed, unpitied Dorcas, as she again turned with strengthening purpose to the bridge. She reached it-she paused again in dread or doubt ; at that instant a little child, wild with terror, ran past her, weeping piteously; that cry turned the balance in favour of life and her fellow-creatures. She pursued the child, who had evidently strayed away from his home, or some guiding hand, and had, as the gloom of evening gathered, become conscious of his state. Dorcas took him in her arms, and the effort which she made to soothe the violence of his grief suspended or subdued her own.
The exhausted child bowed his head upon her neck, around which he had convulsively clasped his arms, and his tears ran on to her bosom, till, under the united influence of its warmth, his own weariness, and the pitying murmur of her voice, which lulled his ear, he fell into slumber.
How simple is the manner in which Nature acts upon her creatures, and how powerful! The little one's tears had fallen upon the breast of Dorcas like rain on a tempestuous sea, and like that had subdued it to a calm. To feel a creature cling to her--depend upon her-awakened the deadened impulses of humanity. The boy was to her a redeeming angel! She wrapped her shawl about him, and now suddenly animated with a healthy purpose, and with a heart filled with indescribable sensations, she walked rapidly away from the scene of her late despair.
In a short time she reached the door of a laundress whom Mrs. Barton occasionally employed. To this woman Dorcas related her case, and asked shelter for the night for herself and her little charge, whose story she also told. Her request was granted ; and Dorcas, like Gaffer Gray, proved
• That the poor man alone,
Of his morsel a morsel will give.' This is easily accounted for; there is no sympathy but in similarity of circumstances.
Dorcas passed the night in watching and tending the little foundling. It happened, fortunately for the work of regeneration going forward in the breast of Dorcas, that the infant was one of those affectionate little spirits who intuitively breathe of love; one who had been nurtured with gentle tones and soft caresses, and was prone to pay back to others the sweet wealth which had enriched himself.
The next day the humble friend of Dorcas proposed to her to carry the little wanderer to the work house. But his kind preserver repelled the idea, avowing that if none ever appeared to claim him, that she would cherish him, and toil for him as her own; that she already felt how such a design had lightened the load at her heart; how much sweeter would be the morsel she earned if shared with a creature whom she loved, and who loved her. Hope had awakened, and she was full of sanguine expectation of obtaining