My story now opens in New York, whither I am come to seek my fortune as a maker and seller of the invisible fabrics of the brain.

During my year in Europe I had done my best to make myself known at the workshops of different literary periodicals, as a fabricator of these airy wares. I tried all sorts and sizes of articles, from grave to gay, from lively to severe, sowing them broadcast in various papers, without regard to pecuniary profit, and the consequence was that I came back to New York as a writer favorably known, who had made something of a position. To be sure my foot was on the lowest round of the ladder, but it was on the ladder, and I meant to climb.

"To climb—to what?" In the answer a man gives to that question lies the whole character of his life-work. If to climb be merely to gain a name, and a competence, a home, a wife, and children, with the means of keeping them in ease and comfort, the question, though beset with difficulties of practical performance, is comparatively simple. But if in addition to this a man is to build himself up after an ideal standard, as carefully as if he were a temple to stand for eternity; if he is to lend a hand to help that great living temple which God is perfecting in human society, the question becomes more complicated still.

I fear some of my fair readers are by this time impatient to see something of "my wife." Let me tell them for their comfort that at this moment, when I entered New York on a drizzly, lonesome December evening she was there, fair as a star, though I knew it not. The same may be true of you, young man. If you are ever to be married, your wife is probably now in the world; some house holds her, and there are mortal eyes at this hour to whom her lineaments are as familiar as they are unknown to you. So much for the doctrine of predestination.

But at this hour that I speak of, though the lady in question was a living and blessed fact, and though she looked on the same stars, and breathed the same air, and trod daily the same sidewalk with myself, I was not, as I perceive, any the wiser or better for it at this particular period of my existence.

In fact, though she was in a large part the unperceived spring and motive of all that I did, yet at this particular time I was so busy in adjusting the material foundations of my life that the ideas of marrying and giving in marriage were never less immediately in my thoughts. I came into New York a stranger. I knew nobody personally, and I had no time for visiting.

I had been, in the course of my wanderings, in many cities. I had lingered in Paris, Rome, Florence, and Naples, and, with the exception of London, I never found a place so difficult to breathe the breath of any ideality, or any enthusiasm, or exaltation of any description, as New York. London, with its ponderous gloom, its sullen, mammoth, aristocratic shadows, seems to benumb, and chill, and freeze the soul; but New York impressed me like a great hot furnace, where twig, spray, and flower wither in a moment, and the little birds flying over, drop down dead. My first impulse in life there was to cover, and conceal, and hide in the deepest and most remote caverns of my heart anything that was sacred, and delicate, and tender, lest the flame should scorch it. Balzac in his epigrammatic manner has characterized New York as the city where there is "neither faith, hope, nor charity," and, as he never came here, I suppose he must have taken his impressions from the descriptions of unfortunate compatriots, who have landed strangers and been precipitated into the very rush and whirl of its grinding selfishness, and its desperate don't-care manner of doing things. There is abundance of selfishness and hardness in Paris, but it is concealed under a veil of ideality. The city wooes you like a home, it gives you picture-galleries, fountains, gardens, and grottoes, and a good natured lounging population, who have nothing to do but make themselves agreeable.

I must confess that my first emotion in making my way about the streets of New York, before I had associated them with any intimacy or acquaintances, was a vague sort of terror, such as one would feel at being jostled among cannibals, who on a reasonable provocation wouldn't hesitate to skin him and pick his bones. There was such a driving, merciless, fierce "take-care-of-yourself, and devil take the hindmost" air, even to the drays and omnibuses, and hackmen, that I had somewhat the feeling of being in an unregulated menagerie, not knowing at what moment some wild beast might spring upon me. As I became more acquainted in the circles centering around the different publications, I felt an acrid, eager, nipping air, in which it appeared to me that everybody had put on defensive armor in regard to his own innermost and most precious feelings, and like the lobster, armed himself with claws to seize and to tear that which came in his way. The rivalry between great literary organs was so intense, and the competition so vivid, that the offering of any flower of fancy or feeling to any of them, seemed about as absurd as if a man should offer a tea-rose bud to the bawling, shouting hackman that shake their whips and scream at the landing.

Everything in life and death, and time and eternity, whether high as Heaven, or deep as hell, seemed to be looked upon only as subject matter for advertisement, and material for running a paper. Hand out your wares! advertise them and see what they will bring, seemed to be the only law of production, at whose behest the most delicate webs and traceries of fancy, the most solemn and tender mysteries of feeling, the most awful of religious emotions came to have a trademark and market value! In short, New York is the great business mart, the Vanity Fair of the world, where everything is pushed by advertising and competition, not even excepting the great moral enterprise of bringing in the millennium; and in the first blast and blare of its busy, noisy publicity and activity, I felt my inner spirits shrink and tremble with dismay. Even the religion of this modern century bears the deep impress of the trade-mark, which calendars its financial value.

I could not but think what the sweet and retiring Galilean, who in the old days was weary and worn with the rush of crowds in simple old Palestine, must think if he looks down now, on the way in which his religion is advertised and pushed in modern society. Certain it is, if it be the kingdom of God that is coming in our times, it is coming with very great observation, and people have long since forgot the idea that they are not to say "Lo, here!" and "Lo, there!" since that is precisely what a large part of the world are getting their living by doing.

These ideas I must confess bore with great weight on my mind, as I had just parted from my mother, whose last words were that whatever else I did, and whether I gained anything for this life or not, she trusted that I would live an humble, self-denying, Christian life. I must own that for the first few weeks of looking into the interior management of literary life in New York, the idea at times often seemed to me really ludicrous. To be humble, yet to seek success in society where it is the first duty to crow from morning till night, and to praise, and vaunt, and glorify, at the top of one's lungs, one's own party, or paper, or magazine, seemed to me sufficiently amusing. However, in conformity with a solemn promise made to my mother, I lost no time in uniting myself with a Christian body, of my father's own denomination, and presented a letter from the Church in Highland to the brethren of the Bethany Church.

And here I will say that for a young man who wants shelter, and nourishment and shade for the development of his fine moral sensibilities, a breakwater to keep the waves of materialism from dashing over and drowning his higher life, there is nothing better, as yet to be found, than a union with some one of the many bodies of differing names and denominations calling themselves Christian Churches. A Christian Church, according to the very best definition of the name ever yet given, is a congregation of faithful men in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance; and making due allowance for all the ignorance, and prejudice, and mistakes, and even the willful hypocrisy, which, as human nature is, must always exist in such connections, I must say that I think these Churches are the best form of social moral culture yet invented, and not to be dispensed with till something more fully answering the purpose has been tested for as long a time as they.

These are caravans that cross the hot and weary sands of life, and while there may be wrangling and undesirable administration at times within them, yet, after all, the pilgrim that undertakes alone is but a speck in the wide desert, too often blown away, and withering like the leaf before the wind.

The great congregation of the Bethany on Sabbath days, all standing up together and joining in mighty hymn-singing, though all were outwardly unknown to me, seemed to thrill my heart with a sense of solemn companionship, in my earliest and most sacred religious associations. It was a congregation largely made up of young men, who like myself were strangers, away from home and friends, and whose hearts, touched and warmed by the familiar sounds, seemed to send forth magnetic odors like the interlocked pine trees under the warm sunshine of a June day.

I have long felt that he who would work his brain for a living, without premature wear upon the organ, must have Sunday placed as a sacred barrier of entire oblivion, so far as possible, of the course of his week-day cares. And what oblivion can be more complete than to rise on the wings of religious ordinance into the region of those diviner faculties by which man recognizes his heirship to all that is in God?

In like manner I found an oasis in the hot and hurried course of my week-day life, by dropping in to the weekly prayer-meeting. The large, bright, pleasant room seemed so social and home-like, the rows of cheerful, well-dressed, thoughtful people, seemed, even before I knew one of them, fatherly, motherly, brotherly, and sisterly, as they joined with the piano in familiar hymn-singing, while the pastor sat among them as a father in his family, and easy social conversation went on with regard to the various methods and aspects of the practical religious life.

To me, a stranger, and naturally shy and undemonstrative, this socialism was in the highest degree warming and inspiring. I do not mean to set the praise of this Church above that of a hundred others, with which I might have become connected, but I will say that here I met the types of some of those good old-fashioned Christians that Hawthorne celebrates in his "Celestial Railroad," under the name of Messrs. "Stick to the Right," and "Foot it to Heaven," men better known among the poor and afflicted than in fashionable or literary circles, men who, without troubling their heads about much speculation, are footing it to Heaven on the old, time-worn, narrow way, and carrying with them as many as they can induce to go.

Having thus provided against being drawn down and utterly swamped in the bread-and-subsistence struggle that was before me, I sought to gain a position in connection with some paper in New York. I had offers under consideration from several of them. The conductors of "The Moral Spouting Horn" had conversed with me touching their projects, and I had also been furnishing letters for the "Great Democracy," and one of the proprietors had invited me to a private dinner, I suppose for the purpose of looking me over and trying my paces before he concluded to purchase me.

Mr. Goldstick was a florid, middle-aged man, with a slightly bald head, an easy portliness of manner, and that air of comfortable patronage which men who are up in the world sometimes carry towards young aspirants. It was his policy and his way to put himself at once on a footing of equality with them, easy, jolly, and free; justly thinking that thereby he gained a more unguarded insight into the inner citadel of their nature, and could see in the easy play of their faculties just about how much they could be made to answer his purposes. I had a chatty, merry dinner of it, and found all my native shyness melting away under his charming affability. In fact, during the latter part of the time, I almost felt that I could have told him anything that I could have told my own mother. What did we not talk about that is of interest in these stirring times? Philosophy, history, science, religion, life, death, and immortality—all received the most graceful off-hand treatment, and were discussed with a singular unanimity of sentiment—that unanimity which always takes place when the partner in a discussion has the controlling purpose to be of the same mind as yourself. When, under the warm and sunny air of this genial nature, I had fully expanded, and confidence was in full blossom, came the immediate business conversation in relation to the paper.

"I am rejoiced," said Mr. Goldstick, "in these days of skepticism to come across a young man with real religious convictions. I am not, I regret to say, a religious professor myself, but I appreciate it, Mr. Henderson, as the element most wanting in our modern life."

Here Mr. Goldstick sighed and rolled up his eyes, and took a glass of wine.

I felt encouraged in this sympathetic atmosphere to unfold to him my somewhat idealized views of what might be accomplished by the daily press, by editors as truly under moral vows and consecrations, as the clergymen who ministered at the altar.

He caught the idea from me with enthusiasm, and went on to expand it with a vigor and richness of imagery, and to illustrate it with a profusion of incidents, which left me far behind him, gazing after him with reverential admiration.

"Mr. Henderson," said he, "The Great Democracy is not primarily a money-making enterprise—it is a great moral engine; it is for the great American people, and it contemplates results which look to the complete regeneration of society."

I ventured here to remark that the same object had been stated to me by the Moral Spouting Horn.

His countenance assumed at once an expression of intense disgust.

"Is it possible," he said, "that the charlatan has been trying to get hold of you? My dear fellow," he added, drawing near to me with a confidential air, "of course I would be the last man to infringe on the courtesies due to my brethren of the press, and you must be aware that our present conversation is to be considered strictly confidential."

I assured him with fervor that I should consider it so.

"Well, then," he said, "between ourselves, I may say that The Moral Spouting Horn is a humbug. On mature reflection," he added, "I don't know but duty requires me to go farther, and say, in the strictest confidence, you understand, that I consider The Moral Spouting Horn a swindle."

Here it occurred to me that the same communication had been made in equal confidence, by the proprietor of The Moral Spouting Horn in relation to The Great Democracy. But, much as I was warmed into confidence by the genial atmosphere of my friend, I had still enough prudence to forbear making this statement.

"Now," said he, "my young friend, in devoting yourself to the service of The Great Democracy you may consider yourself as serving the cause of God and mankind in ways that no clergyman has an equal chance of doing. Beside the press, sir, the pulpit is effete. It is, so to speak," he added, with a sweep of the right hand, "nowhere. Of course the responsibilities of conducting such an organ are tremendous, tremendous," he added, reflectively, as I looked at him with awe; "and that is why I require in my writers, above all things, the clearest and firmest moral convictions. Sir, it is a critical period in our history; there is an amount of corruption in this nation that threatens its dissolution; the Church and the Pulpit have proved entirely inadequate to stem it. It rests with the Press."

There was a solemn pause, in which nothing was heard but the clink of the decanter on the glass, as he poured out another glass of wine.

"It is a great responsibility," I remarked, with a sigh.

"Enormous!" he added, with almost a groan, eyeing me sternly. "Consider," he went on, "the evils of the tremendously corrupted literature which is now being poured upon the community. Sir, we are fast drifting to destruction, it is a solemn fact. The public mind must be aroused and strengthened to resist; they must be taught to discriminate; there must be a just standard of moral criticism no less than of intellectual, and that must be attended to in our paper."

I was delighted to find his views in such accordance with my own, and assured him I should be only too happy to do what I could to forward them.

"We have been charmed and delighted," he said, "with your contributions hitherto; they have a high moral tone and have been deservedly popular, and it is our desire to secure you as a stated contributor in a semi-editorial capacity, looking towards future developments. We wish that it were in our power to pay a more liberal sum than we can offer, but you must be aware, Mr. Henderson, that great moral enterprises must always depend, in a certain degree, on the element of self-sacrifice in its promoters."

I reflected, at this moment, on my father's life, and assented with enthusiasm—remarking that "if I could only get enough to furnish me with the necessaries of life I should be delighted to go into the glorious work with him, and give to it the whole enthusiasm of my soul."

"You have the right spirit, young man," he said. "It is delightful to witness this freshness of moral feeling." And thus, before our interview was closed, I had signed a contract of service to Mr. Goldstick, at very moderate wages, but my heart was filled with exulting joy at the idea of the possibilities of the situation.

I was young, and ardent; I did not, at this moment, want to make money so much as to make myself felt in the great world. It was the very spirit of Phæton; I wanted to have a hand on the reins, and a touch of the whip, and guide the fiery horses of Progress.

I had written stories, and sung songs, but I was not quite content with those; I wanted the anonymous pulpit of the Editor to speak in, the opportunity of being the daily invisible companion and counselor of thousands about their daily paths. The offer of Mr. Goldstick, as I understood it, looked that way, and I resolved to deserve so well of him by unlimited devotion to the interests of the paper, that he should open my way before me.

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