external smoke, such as mark the course of subterranean fire. As the child grew more accustomed to Miss Asphyxia, while her hatred of her increased, somewhat of that native hardihood which had characterized her happier. days returned; and she began to use all the subtlety and secretiveness which belonged to her feminine nature in contriving how not to do the will of her tyrant, and yet not to seem designedly to oppose. It really gave the child a new impulse in living to devise little plans for annoying Miss Asphyxia without being herself detected. In all her daily toils she made nice calculations how slow she could possibly be, how blundering and awkward, without really bringing on herself a punishment; and when an acute and capable child turns all its faculties in such a direction, the results may be very considerable.

Miss Asphyxia found many things going wrong in her establishment in most unaccountable ways. One morning her sensibilities were almost paralyzed, on opening her milk-room door, to find there, with creamy whiskers, the venerable Tom, her own model cat, a beast who had grown up in the very sanctities of household decorum, and whom she was sure she had herself shut out of the house, with her usual punctuality, at nine o'clock the evening before. She could not dream that he had been enticed through Tina's window, caressed on her bed, and finally sped stealthily on his mission of revenge, while the child returned to her pillow to gloat over her success.

Miss Asphyxia also, in more than one instance, in her rapid gyrations, knocked down and destroyed a valuable bit of pottery or earthenware, that somehow had contrived to be stationed exactly in the wind of her elbow or her hand. It was the more vexatious because she broke them herself. And the child assumed stupid innocence :


How could she know Miss Sphyxy was coming that way?" or, "She didn't see her." True, she caught many a hasty cuff and sharp rebuke; but, with true Indian spirit, she did not mind singeing her own fingers if she only tortured her enemy.

It would be an endless task to describe the many vexations that can be made to arise in the course of household experience when there is a shrewd little elf watching with sharpened faculties for every opportunity to inflict an annoyance or do a mischief. In childhood the passions move with a simplicity of action unknown to any other period of life, and a child's hatred and a child's revenge have an intensity of bitterness entirely unalloyed by moral considerations;

and when a child is without an object of affection, and feels itself unloved, its whole vigor of being goes into the channels of hate.

Religious instruction, as imparted by Miss Asphyxia, had small influence in restraining the immediate force of passion. That "the law worketh wrath" is a maxim as old as the times of the Apostles. The image of a dreadful Judge-a great God, with ever-watchful eyes, that Miss Asphyxia told her about — roused that combative element in the child's heart which says in the heart of the fool, "There is no God." "After all," thought the little skeptic, "how does she know? She never saw him." Perhaps, after all, then, it might be only a fabrication of her tyrant to frighten her into submission. There was a dear Father that mainma used to tell her about; and perhaps he was the one, after all. As for the bear story, she had a private conversation with Sol, and was relieved by his confident assurance that there "had n't been no bears seen round in them parts these ten year"; so that she was safe in that regard, even if she should call Miss Asphyxia a bald-head, which she perfectly longed to do, just to see what would come of it.

In like manner, though the story of Ananias and Sapphira, struck down dead for lying, had been told her in forcible and threatening tones, yet still the little sinner thought within herself that such things must have ceased in our times, as she had told more than one clever lie which neither Miss Asphyxia nor any one else had found out.

In fact, the child considered herself and Miss Asphyxia as in a state of warfare which suspends all moral rules. In the stories of little girls who were taken captives by goblins or giants or witches, she remembered many accounts of sagacious deceptions which they had practised on their captors. Her very blood tingled when she thought of the success of some of them, how Hensel and Grettel had heated an oven red-hot, and persuaded the old witch to get into it by some cock-and-bull story of what she would find there; and how, the minute she got in, they shut up the oven door and burnt her all up! Miss Asphyxia thought the child a vexatious, careless, troublesome little baggage, it is true; but if she could have looked into her heart and seen her imaginings, she would probably have thought her a little fiend.

At last, one day, the smothered fire broke out. The child had had a half-hour of holiday, and had made herself happy in it by furbishing up her little bedroom. She had picked a pcony, a yellow lily, and

one or two blue irises, from the spot of flowers in the garden, and put them in a tin dipper on the table in her room, and ranged around them her broken bits of china, her red berries and fragments of glass, in various zigzags. The spirit of adornment thus roused within her, she remembered having seen her brother make pretty garlands of oakleaves; and, running out to an oak hard by, she stripped off an apronful of the leaves, and, sitting down in the kitchen door, began her attempts to plait them into garlands. She grew good-natured and happy as she wrought, and was beginning to find herself in charity even with Miss Asphyxia, when down came that individual, broom in hand, looking vengeful as those old Greek Furies who used to haunt houses, testifying their wrath by violent sweeping.


What under the canopy you up to now, making such a litter on my kitchen floor?" she said. "Can't I leave you a minute 'thout your gettin' into some mischief, I want to know? Pick 'em up, every leaf of 'em, and carry 'em and throw 'em over the fence; and don't you never let me find you bringing no such rubbish into my kitchen agin!"

In this unlucky moment she turned, and, looking into the little bedroom, whose door stood open, saw the arrangements there. 'What!" she said; "you been getting down the tin cup to put your messes into? Take 'em all out!" she said, seizing the flowers with a grasp that crumpled them, and throwing them into the child's apron. "Take 'em away, every one of 'em! You'd get everything out of place, from one end of the house to the other, if I did n't watch you!" And forthwith she swept off the child's treasures into her dust-pan.

In a moment all the smothered wrath of weeks blazed up in the little soul. She looked as if a fire had been kindled in her which reddened her cheeks and burned in her eyes; and, rushing blindly at Miss Asphyxia, she cried, "You are a wicked woman, a hateful old witch, and I hate you!"


Hity-tity! I thought I should have to give you a lesson before long, and so I shall," said Miss Asphyxia, seizing her with stern determination. "You've needed a good sound whipping for a long time, miss, and you are going to get it now. I'll whip you so that you'll remember it, I'll promise you."

And Miss Asphyxia kept her word, though the child, in the fury of despair, fought her with tooth and nail, and proved herself quite a


dangerous little animal; but at length strength got the better in the fray, and, sobbing, though unsubdued, the little culprit was put to bed without her supper.

In those days the literal use of the rod in the education of children was considered as a direct Bible teaching. The wisest, the most loving parent felt bound to it in many cases, even though every stroke cut into his own heart. The laws of New England allowed masters to correct their apprentices, and teachers their pupils, and even the public whipping-post was an institution of New England towns. It is not to be supposed, therefore, that Miss Asphyxia regarded herself otherwise than as thoroughly performing a most necessary duty. She was as ignorant of the blind agony of mingled shame, wrath, sense of degradation, and burning for revenge, which had been excited by her measures, as the icy east-wind of Boston flats is of the stinging and shivering it causes in its course. There is a class of coldly-conscientious, severe persons, who still, as a matter of duty and conscience, justify measures like these in education. Such persons are commonly both obtuse in sensibility and unimaginative in temperament; but if their imaginations could once be thoroughly enlightened to see the fiend-like passions, the terrific convulsions, which are roused in a child's soul by the irritation and degradation of such correction, they would shrink back appalled. With sensitive children left in the hands of stolid and unsympathizing force, such convulsions and mental agonies often are the beginning of a sort of slow moral insanity which gradually destroys all that is good in the soul.

As the child lay sobbing in a little convulsed heap in her bed, a hard, horny hand put back the curtain of the window, and the child felt something thrown on the bed. It was Sol, who, on coming in to his supper, had heard from Miss Asphyxia the whole story, and who, as a matter of course, sympathized entirely with the child. He had contrived to slip a doughnut into his pocket, when his hostess was looking the other way. When the child rose up in the bed and showed her swelled and tear-stained face, Sol whispered: “There's a doughnut I saved for ye. Don't dare say a word, ye know. She'll hear me."

The child was comforted, and actually went to sleep hugging the doughnut. She felt as if she loved Sol, and said so to the doughnut many times, although he had great horny fists, and eyes like oxen. With these he had a heart in his bosom, and the child loved him.

[ocr errors]



ALEXANDER HAMILTON STEPHENS, a distinguished statesman and political writer, was born in Taliaferro County, Georgia, in February, 1812. Graduating at Franklin College, Georgia, in 1832, he studied law, and in 1834 began the practice of his profession at Crawfordsville, in the same State. He soon took an active interest in politics, and served for six successive years in the State Legislature. In 1843 he was elected to the National House of Representatives, of which body he continued a prominent and respected member till the end of the Thirty-fifth Congress, when he declined a re-election. A zealous Whig, so long as that party existed, on its dissolution he acted with the Democrats, and supported the measures of the Buchanan administration. At the outbreak of the late civil war he stoutly opposed secession, as a question of expediency, though he defended the right of it. In February, 1861, he was elected Vice-President of the Confederacy, under the Provisional Constitution, and in November of that year was chosen to the same office under the regular Constitution. In 1873 he was elected to Congress as a Representative of Georgia. His writings have been almost exclusively on political subjects, and the chief of them are: A Constitutional View of the War between the States, and The Reviewers Reviewed, a reply to strictures on the first-named work. He is also the author of A Compen lium of the History of the United States. Mr. Stephens possesses a very acute and vigorous intellect, admirably equipped for analytical service, and for careful ratiocination. He has been an earnest student of the science of government, and his writings in illustration of it possess great philosophical value. His utterances have always commanded the respectful attention of his political antagonists, and his long and brilliant public career has, by universal consent, given him a title to rank among the foremost of American statesmen.


FOR success in life, it is essential that there should be a fixedness of purpose as to the object and designs to be attained. There should be a clear conception of the outlines of that character which is to be established. The business of life, in whatever pursuit it may be directed, is a great work. And in this, as in all other undertakings, it is important in the outset to have a clear conception of what is to be done. This is the first thing to be settled. What profession, what vocation, is to be followed? The only rule for determining this is natural ability and natural aptitude, or suitableness for the particular business selected. The decision in such case should always be governed by that ideal of character which a man, with high aspirations, should always form for himself.

The artist who has laid before him the huge misshapen block of marble, from which the almost living and breathing statue is to spring, under the operation of his chisel, first has the ideal in his mind. The magnificent Temple at Jerusalem, with all its halls and porticos, entrances, stairways, and arches, was designed by Solomon, in all its

« VorigeDoorgaan »