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“AND will you promise, Ruth, not to yield to your father's importunities—promise, that neither threats of punishment nor offers of reward shall induce you to listen to Mr. Sewall's proposals?” The question, as the reader will readily suppose, came from a young man. His garb was plain and somewhat the worse for wear; and it would have been difficult to infer from it what his profession might be. One person might have taken him for a farmer, another for an apothecary's clerk, and another for an usher in some not very prosperous academy. But Alfred Stanwood was in fact the son of a poor curate in one of the county towns of England. His father wished to educate him for the church; but Alfred, although by no means averse from intellectual pursuits, was not at all ambitious of following the paternal example. He delighted to be out of doors—in the free, free air—beneath the unobstructed arch of the heavens, and with the unpaved turf under his feet. He had a passion for all manly sports—was an excellent shot, and an adroit angler; and the end and aim of his hopes was to become an independent farmer —an intelligent, practical agriculturist. Better would it be for the world, if such tastes were more prevalent in civilized communities. And what said Ruth–Ruth Bradshaw—to the interrogatory we have quoted? She lifted her small, finely formed head; and, with a look, which was a confirmation more convincing than bond and seal could have rendered, she replied: vol. xxv.11.-21
“Come what may, Alfred, do not fear, that I will ever consent to be another's. Circumstances may compel me to refuse to unite my fortunes with yours; but never, never will I call any man but you my husband.”
It was the old story—the obstructions in the way of the “course of true love.” Farmer Bradshaw was of the higher order of English tenantry; and held a beautiful farm belonging to the estate of Lord Broadmeadow. But times grew hard— misfortunes entered the farmer's family—and he was in arrears for a large amount of rent. He began to fear that he should have to abandon the old homestead. One day Lord Broadmeadow, fatigued with hunting, called for refreshments at his house; and Ruth was summoned to serve him with ale and bread. His lordship seemed so much charmed with his fair attendant, that he detained her in conversation for upwards of an hour; and on his way home could think of nothing but her
beautiful face and her graceful ways.
His lordship was a widower, with two or three daughters, and as many sons. He was in politics a tory, and in religion a staunch churchman. He reverenced the opinion of the world, and would not have done an indiscreet or immoral thing for a dukedom—that is, if there was any probability of its being found out. In his steward, Sewall, he had a most congenial and convenient ally; one who agreed with him fully in the sentiment that vice was not vice so it was kept veiled from ob
servation, or wore the vizor of decorum. Sewall had a son named Wellington, who, with a handsome exterior, possessed hardly brains enough to keep his body from decomposing. In vain had the father laboured to teach him the multiplication table. Wellington could not master any thing so complicate. For no nameable employment did he seem to have an aptitude. Nay, I do him injustice. Brummell himself could not have tied a cravat more unexceptionably,–Wellington was great at tying cravats. A day or two after Lord Broadmeadow's acci. dental visit, Mr. Sewall junior managed to become acquainted with farmer Bradshaw and his pretty
daughter; and a week had not passed before he
made the latter an offer of marriage. Ruth rejected him and his offer with the most unhesitating frankness; but, when the proposition, in all its bearings, was laid before her father, he did not so unceremoniously dismiss the young man's pretensions. By the proffered marriage it was made apparent that not only would the farmer's arrears of debt be cancelled; but that his house would be repaired, his grounds improved, and the rent of the whole farm reduced one half. Furthermore, Ruth would have a suite of handsome apartments appropriated to her use at the castle; and be in a position to render many services to her father and his family. Bradshaw was not, perhaps, a more selfish man than his neighbours; but he could not be blind to the advantages of this arrangement. He did not for a moment suspect the origin of the scheme; for, though willing to marry his daughter to a man whom she did not love, he would have shrunk from lending his countenance to any plan by which she would have been dishonoured in the eye of the law or of society. There are some people who will strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. But an unexpected obstacle now presented itself to the accomplishment of the father's wishes. Ruth, who had always been so tractable and compliant,--who had been swayed by the lightest wishes of her parents—opposed an iron will to the proposition that she should marry the steward's son. To his amazement, the farmer discovered that he could neither terrify nor coax her into compliance. “Ruth, will you not save me from ruin?” he exclaimed, falling upon his knees before her, and clasping his hands in a paroxysm of excitement. “No human power, my father,” she replied, “can make me take this step. Ah! what do you call ruin? Loss of property—debt—imprisonment —disease—death? Do you mean any of these
disasters? For your sake I will cheerfully sub-.
mit to any one or all of them. Surely they are easier to bear than the loss of one's self-respect and peace of mind—the serene smile of one's own conscience. No man can be ruined while he has that; and without that—life has nothing worth the taking.” Bradshaw started to his feet, and angrily asked,
“Where the deuce did you pick up all this sentimental nonsense, girl? I wish you to be honourably and comfortably married; and, to judge from your tone, one would suppose I demanded of you
something discreditable and degrading.”
“Ay, that it is—degrading!” sighed Ruth. “How?” returned Bradshaw. “Degrading! Is not Wellington Sewall as respectably born and bred as your father's daughter? Does he not offer you a comfortable maintenance, wealth, and influential friends, while the only dowry you bring him is your face and person?” “True, most true!” said Ruth. “Could I bring him a free soul and a devoted heart, it would be all well.’’ “What childish flummery!” interrupted the father. “You would tell me, I suppose, that you fancy some one else—that young vagabond, Stanwood, most probably—with his fishing rods and artificial flies, and without a copper in his pocket to jingle on a tombstone. A pretty match for you that would be, truly! Come, Ruth, my dear daughter, act like a girl of sense, and let me tell young Sewall that you are ready to be his wife.” “Never! Do not urge it. Never, never will I consent! Not to save the universe and all its inhabitants from devouring flames would I consent!” exclaimed Ruth. For a moment, Bradshaw was startled and silenced by the energy with which she spoke. At length, with constrained calmness, he said: “A parent's curse is not the most encouraging legacy with which to be sent forth into the world. Beware Ruth, beware how you tempt me to curse you!” “A parent's curse,” she replied, “is a terrible thing; but, if unmerited, terrible only for him who utters it. My dear father, do not be cast down, because fortune frowns a little. We may be driven from our comfortable home, but He who feeds the sparrows will provide us shelter and food and raiment.” “Pshaw! It is all very well to quote scripture,” said the farmer, “but I never could get my wagon out of the mud by calling upon Jupiter.” “But, if we obey his laws—if we are active and vigilant—if we put our own shoulders to the wheel—we shall easily get out of our troubles. Did not the preacher tell us last Sunday, that God helps those who help themselves?" “I never knew you so obstinate, Ruth,” said farmer Bradshaw; and, as if he half relented in his importunities, he put on his hat and quitted the room. But he was not allowed to remain long unmolested by those who held him in their toils. That very day, the elder Sewall threatened him with an ejectment; and the young man renewed his proposals, with promises of additional advantages. Bradshaw resolved to make one final appeal to his daughter. It was unsuccessful; and, in a storm of rage and despair, he turned her out of doors, commanding her, if she wished to escape his curse, not to see him again,
unless she was ready to comply with his reasonable request. Trembling and in tears, she hurriedly seized her shawl and bonnet, and rushed from the house. It was a clear, autumnal night; and the new moon, a slim, glittering crescent, hung over the western horizon. As she crossed the arched bridge, which marked the boundary of her father's fields, she saw a well-known figure leaning over the side,
apparently watching the ripples of the brook as
they flashed and hurried away beneath the starlight. It was Alfred Stanwood. “Blessings upon you, Ruth! If I started at your step, it was not that I did not know it was yours. But, you are weeping. What has happened? Nay, compose yourself. What has happened, my own Ruth?” With much difficulty, for her speech was interrupted by bitter sobs, Ruth communicated the intelligence of Sewall's renewed persecutions, and her father's recent conduct. As she finished her recital, Stanwood clasped her enthusiastically to his breast, as if there he would shield her from all trouble and alarm. “Let us consider what we had best do, under these circumstances,” said he, linking his arm about her waist, and sauntering on with her towards the main road. “Had it not been for love of you, Ruth, I would long since have left this crowded land, where all the avenues to occupation seem to be filled, and pitched my tent in some new uncultivated tract of country in the United States. I have thoroughly acquainted myself with the privations and liabilities, to which an adventurer subjects himself by such a step, but I believe that I have the energy and perseverance to overcome all ordinary difficulties. Tell me, Ruth, would you cross the Atlantic with me?” “Am I not homeless?” she replied. “And even were it not so—were all the luxuries mine, which wealth could collect, would I not forsake them to live with you in a wilderness!” “I believe you, Ruth! And now, let me consider. I have a sister living about nine miles from this place, who, though poor, is devotedly attached to me. Have you strength, think you, to walk that distance to-night?” “Yes, Alfred, I was faint, for the first time in my life, a short time since, but I am strong now. But, what would you do? Would you leave your father's house? Ah! he has not treated you as mine has me.” “Nevertheless, he will strenuously oppose the step I am about to take.” “And what is that?” “In the first place I will conduct you to my sister's, where you shall pass the night under her own roof, and in her own bed, for she is a widow. In the morning we will send for a clergyman, and be married Nay, do not tremble. Is marriage such a terrible thing? The moment I can call you my own, we will procure from my sister the few
clothes that will be necessary for our purpose, and start for London.” “And in London, Alfred,—what will you do there?” “The few shillings I have with me will be by that time nearly exhausted. I will straightway find out the captain of some ship that is to sail for New York, engage with him to do sailor's duty the whole voyage, on condition that he gives us our passage free; and when we reach the United States • ? “Ay, and then, Alfred,—what will you do then?” “We will do the best we can, and trust to Providence. Will you venture, Ruth?” “Yes, my dear Alfred!” she exclaimed heartily, placing her hand in his, and stepping on with alacrity. Alfred had not been extravagant in his expectations, and they did not prove illusory. His plans were all successfully carried into effect. With Ruth for his wife he quitted England, and, after a few months of hardship and disappointment in the great commercial metropolis of America, succeeded in making an arrangement with a private land company, by which, with very limited pecuniary means, he was enabled to remove to Iowa. Here, in the course of two years, he found himself the proprietor of a noble and extensive domain, upon which he had erected a small but comfortable cottage, after an English model. Prosperity attended all his labours. Applying his practical and scientific intelligence upon agricultural subjects to the cultivation and improvement of his
grounds, he soon made the wilderness around T him to blossom like the rose.
Game was so abundant, that it required but little skill to supply himself with enough for his wants. With health and contentment for his guests, life sped on undarkened by the ills which beset the paths of the majority of mankind. Nor was Ruth's lot a less happy one, although her temper was naturally less buoyant and bright. Two daughters and a son had appeared to bless the emigrant couple; and how welcome to their parents had they been! Little anxiety had Alfred experienced how he should provide for them. As many more, and as many more again might come, and still they would be hailed as heaven's choicest gifts. Five years had passed since Ruth stood an outcast from her home on the little stone bridge. How had it fared with farmer Bradshaw during that time? Some six months after Ruth's departure, Mr. Wellington Sewall had, in a state of inebriety, communicated to the farmer certain facts in regard to the motives which led him to seek an alliance with his daughter, which were neither very honourable to himself nor to his employer, Lord Broadmeadow. On receiving the intelligence, Bradshaw naturally felt deep at his treatment of Ruth, and experienced a thrill of satisfaction that she had resisted his attempts to unite her
to a man who proved to be so utterly unworthy and contemptsble. From that moment, it became the paramount object of his existence to relieve himself of his liabilities in England, and seek out his daughter in America, that he might receive her forgiveness ere he died. He had written many letters, which had never reached their destination. He had no clue to the discovery of Stanwood, who had not been long settled in his forest home when he sent for his father and sisters, and had them comfortably settled in his neighbourhood. At length the moment arrived when Bradshaw found himself free to quit the land of his fathers. He converted his whole property into gold and silver, and embarked for New York. Here he advertised in several of the daily papers, but was unable to procure any positive information in regard to his son-in-law's family. He finally resolved to travel on foot through some of the newly settled states and territories, and make the most exact inquiries. On a beautiful day in June, he came in sight of a cottage in one of the most fertile and picturesque parts of Iowa. He had been walking several hours, and was faint with fatigue and thirst. The continued failure of his search had affected his spirits, and he had begun to despond, and to fear that he should never again see his only child. He seated himself on a log in front of the cottage, and leaning his weather-beaten cheek upon his hand, gave up his thoughts to the bitterest retrospections. He had not been many moments in this position when he felt something cold touch the hand which was resting on his knee. He started, and found
it was the nose of a little spaniel, who with a half distrustful look, was cautiously reconnoitering him. At the same instant, Bradshaw looked up, and saw three children, the eldest with a pitcher of milk in her hand, approaching him as if half afraid to disturb his reverie. He beckoned them with a smile to come near, and having quaffed the milk, smoothed back the hair of the bearer, and asked what might be her name. “Ruth Stanwood, sir!” replied the girl, curtseying respectfully. Bradshaw's heart seemed to jumpinto his mouth. He fetched a long, deep breath, and, turning to the youngest child, who was a boy, said, “And your name, my merry man—what may that be?” “My name, sir, is Tom Bradshaw Stanwood. I was named after my grandfather.” The old man became so deeply agitated as to alarm the children; but he controlled his emotions, and asked: “Your father and mother—are they both alive?” “Dear, yes, sir!” exclaimed the elder girl. “Mother is in the kitchen, stewing some cherries, and father has gone to catch some trout for super.” p Bradshaw was soon amply repaid for his past sufferings—the penalties of a hasty temper and a want of fortitude to resist the harsher evils of life. It need only be added that Ruth and her hushand were overjoyed at receiving him into their family, and that he became so well pleased with his new home, that he was never heard to sigh for his old one in merry England.