About this time I received the following letter from my Cousin Caroline:

"Dear Cousin:—I have had no time to keep up correspondence with anybody for the past year. The state of my father's health has required my constant attention, day and night, to a degree that has absorbed all my power, and left no time for writing. For the last six months father has been perfectly helpless with the most distressing form of chronic rheumatism. His sufferings have been protracted and intense, so that it has been wearing even to witness them; and the utmost that I could do seemed to bring very little relief. And when, at last, death closed the scene, it seemed to be in mercy, putting an end to sufferings which were intolerable.

"For a month after his death, I was in a state of utter prostration, both physical and mental,—worn out with watching and care. My poor father; he was himself to the last, reticent, silent, undemonstrative and uncommunicative. It seemed to me that I would have given worlds for one tender word from him. I felt a pity and a love that I dared not show; his sufferings went to my very heart; but he repelled every word of sympathy, and was cold and silent to the last. Yet I believe that he really loved me and that far within this frozen circle of ice, his soul was a lonely prisoner, longing to express itself, and unable; longing for the light and warmth of that love which never could touch him in its icy depths; and I am quite sure, it is my comfort to know, that death has broken the ice and melted the bands; and I believe that he has entered the kingdom of heaven as a little child.

"The hard skies of our New England, its rocky soil, its severe necessities, make characters like his; and they intrench themselves in a similar religious faith which makes them still harder. They live to aspire and to suffer, but never to express themselves; and every soft and warm heart that is connected with them pines and suffers and dies like flowers that are thrown upon icebergs.

"Well, all is now over, and I am free of the world. I have, in the division of the property, a few acres of wood-lot, and many acres of rough, stony land, and about a hundred dollars of yearly income. I must do something, therefore, for my own support. Ever since you left us I have been reading and studying under the care of your uncle, who, since your conversation with him, has been very kind and thoughtful. But then, of course, my studies have been interrupted by some duties, and, during the last year, suspended altogether by the necessity of giving myself to the care of father.

"Now, my desire is, if I could in any way earn the means, to go to France and perfect myself in medical studies. I am told that a medical education can be obtained there by women cheaper than anywhere else; and I have cast about in my own mind how I might earn money enough to enable me to do it. Now I ask you, who are in New York and on the press, who know me thoroughly, and it also, could I, should I come to New York, gain any situation as writer for the press, which would give me an income for a year or two, by which I could make enough to accomplish my purpose? I should not wish to be always a writer; it would be too exhausting; but if I could get into a profession that I am well adapted for, I should expect to succeed in it.

"I have the ability to live and make a respectable appearance upon a very little. I know enough, practically, of the arts of woman-craft to clothe myself handsomely for a small sum, and I am willing to live in cheap obscure lodgings, and think I could board myself, also, for a very moderate sum. I am willing to undergo privations, and to encounter hard work to carry my purpose, and I write to you, dear cousin, because I know you will speak to me just as freely as though I were not a woman, and give me your unbiased opinion as to whether or no I could do anything in the line that I indicate. I know that you would give me all the assistance in your power, and feel a perfect reliance upon your friendship."

The letter here digressed into local details and family incidents not necessary to be reproduced. I resolved to lay it before Bolton. It seemed to me that his reception of it would furnish some sort of clew to the mystery of his former acquaintance with her. The entire silence that he had always maintained with regard to his former knowledge of her, while yet he secretly treasured her picture, seemed to me to indicate that he might somehow have been connected with that passage of her life referred to by my mother when she said that Caroline's father had, at one period of her life, crushed out an interest that was vital to her.

"The sly old fox," said I to myself, "always draws me on to tell him everything, while he keeps a close mouth, and I learn nothing of him." Of course, I felt that to ask any questions or seek to pry into a past which he evidently was not disposed to talk about, would be an indelicate impertinence. But my conscience and sense of honor were quite appeased by this opportunity presented by Caroline's letter. Bolton was older in the press than I, and, with all his reticence and modesty, had a wide circle of influence. He seemed contented to seek nothing for himself; but I had had occasion to notice in my own experience that he was not boasting idly when he said, on our first acquaintance, that he had some influence in literary quarters. He had already procured for me, from an influential magazine, propositions for articles which were both flattering to my pride and lucrative in the remuneration. In this way, the prospect of my yearly income, which on the part of the Great Democracy was so very inadequate, was enlarged to a very respectable figure.


"Halloo, Bolton!" said I. "Have you got a foundling hospital here?"

I resolved, therefore, to go up to Bolton's room and put this letter into his hands. I knocked at the door, but no one answering I opened it and went in. He was not there, but an odd enough scene presented itself to me. The little tow-headed, freckled boy, that I had formerly remarked as an inmate of the apartment, was seated by the fire with a girl, somewhat younger than himself, nursing between them a large fat bundle of a baby.

"Hallo," said I, "what have we here? What are you doing here?" At this moment—before the children could answer—I heard Bolton coming up the stairs. He entered the room; a bright color mounted to his cheeks as he saw the group by the fire, and me.

"Hallo, Hal!" he said, with a sort of conscious laugh.

"Hallo, Bolton!" said I. "Have you got a foundling hospital here?"

"Oh, well, well," said he; "never mind; let 'em stay there. Do you want anything? There," said he, pulling a package of buns out of his pocket, "eat those; and when the baby gets asleep you can lay her on the bed in the other room. And there,"—to the boy,—"you read this story aloud to your sister when the baby is asleep. And now, Hal, what can I do for you? Suppose I come down into your room for awhile and talk?"

He took my arm, and we went down the stairs together; and when we got into my room he shut the door and said:

"The fact is Hal, I have to take care of that family—my washerwoman, you know. Poor Mrs. Molloy, she has a husband that about once a month makes a perfect devil of himself, so that the children are obliged to run and hide for fear of their lives. And then she has got the way of sending them to me, and I have to go down and attend to him."

"Bless me!" said I, "why will women live with such brutes? Why don't you make her separate from him?"

Bolton seated himself at my table, and leaned back in his chair, with a curious expression of countenance, very sad, yet not without a touch of humor in it.

"Well, you see," he said, "the fact is, Hal, she loves him."

"Well, she oughtn't to love him," said I.

"May be not; but she does," said he. "She loves that poor Pat Molloy so much that to be angry with him is just like your right hand being angry with your left hand. Suppose there's a great boil on the left hand, what's the right to do about it but simply bear the suffering and wait for it to get well? That, you see, is love; and because of it, you can't get women away from their husbands. What are you going to do about it?"

"But," said I, "it is perfectly absurd for a woman to cling to such a man."

"Well," said Bolton, "three weeks of the month Pat Molloy is just as kind and tender a father and husband as you will find, and then by the fourth week comes around his drunken spell, and he's a devil. Now she says, 'Sure sir, it's the drink. It's not Pat at all sir; he's not himself sir.' And she waits till it's over—taking care that he doesn't kill the children. Now, shall I persuade her to let him go to the devil? Does not Jesus Christ say, 'Gather up the fragments that nothing be lost'? He said it about a basket of bread; wouldn't he say it still more about the fragments of the human soul? If she leaves Pat, where will he go to? First, to some harlot, then to murder, and the gallows—and that gets him out of the way."

"Well," said I, "isn't he better out than in?"

"Who knows?" said Bolton. "All I have to say is, that poor Molly Molloy, with her broad Irish brogue, and her love that can't be tired, and can't give him up, and that bears, and believes, and hopes, and endures, seems to me a revelation of the Christ-like spirit a thousand times more than if she was tramping to a woman's rights convention and exposing her wrongs and calling down justice on his head."

"But," said I, "look at the children! Oughtn't she to part with him on their account?"

"Yes, look at the children," said he. "The little things have learned already, from their mother, to care for each other, and to care for their father. In their little childish way, they love and bear with him just as she does. The boy came to me this afternoon and said, 'Father's got another crazy spell.' Already he has a delicacy in his very mode of speaking; and he doesn't say his father is drunk, but that he is crazy, as he is. And then he and the little girl are so fatherly and motherly with the baby. Now, I say, all this growth of virtue around sin and sorrow is something to be revered. The fact is"—he added—

"The day for separating the tares from the wheat hasn't come yet. And it seems to me that the moral discipline of bearing with evil, patiently, is a great deal better and more ennobling than the most vigorous assertion of one's personal rights. I can see a great deal of suffering in that family from poor Pat's weakness and wickedness, but I also see most noble virtues growing up, even in these children, from the straits to which they are put. And as to poor Pat himself, he comes out of his demon-baptism penitent and humble, and more anxious to please than ever. It is really affecting to see with what zeal he serves me, when I have brought him through a 'drunk.' And yet I know that it will have to be gone over, and over, and over again. Sometimes it seems to me he is like the earth after a thunder-shower—fresher and clearer than he was before. And I am quite of Mrs. Molloy's mind—there is too much good in Pat to have him swept off into the gutter for the bad; and so, as God gives her grace to suffer, let her suffer. And if I can bear one little end of her cross, I will. If she does not save him in this life, she'll save him from sinking lower in demonism. She may only keep his head above water till he gets past the gates of death, and then, perhaps, in the next life, he will appear to be saved by just that much which she has done in keeping him up."

Bolton spoke with an intense earnestness, and a sad and solemn tone, as if he were shaken and almost convulsed by some deep, internal feeling. For some moments there was a silence between us,—the silence of a great unuttered emotion. At last, he drew a long breath, and said, "Well, Hal, what was it you wanted to talk about?"

"Oh," said I, "I have a letter from a friend of mine that I wanted to show you, to see whether you could do anything"—and I gave him Caroline's letter.

He sat down under the gas-light to read it. The sight of the hand-writing seemed to affect him at once. His large, dark eyes flashed over the letter, and he turned it quickly, and looked at the signature; a most unutterable expression passed over his face, like that of a man who is in danger of giving away to some violent emotion; and then, apparently by a great effort of self-constraint, he set himself carefully to reading the letter. He read it over two or three times, folded it up, and handed it back to me without any remark, and then sat leaning forward on the table with his face shaded with his hand.

"My cousin is a most uncommon character," I said; "and, as you will observe by this letter, has a good deal of ability as a writer."

"I am acquainted with her," he said, briefly, making a sudden movement with his hand.

"Indeed? Where did you know her?"

"Years ago," he said, briefly. "I taught the academy in her village, and she was one of my scholars. I know the character of her mind."

There was a dry brevity in all this, of a man who is afraid that he shall express more than he means to.

Said I, "I showed this letter to you because I thought you had more influence in the press than I have; and if you are acquainted with her, so much the better, as you can judge whether she can gain any employment here which would make it worth her while to come and try. I have always had an impression that she had very fine mental powers."

"There is no doubt about that," he said, hurriedly. "She is an exceptional woman."

He rose up, and took the letter from me. "If you will allow me to retain this a while," he said, "I will see what I can do; but just now I have some writing to finish. I will speak to you about it to-morrow."

That evening, I introduced the subject to my friend, Ida Van Arsdel, and gave her a sketch of Caroline's life-history. She entered into it with the warmest interest, and was enthusiastic in her desire that the plan might succeed.

"I hope that she will come to New York," she said, "so that we can make her acquaintance. Don't, pray, fail to let me know, Mr. Henderson, if she should be here, that I may call on her."

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