A Letter from America.
It was no trifle of a job for Bessy Conway to write such a letter as she wished to send home. She could write a tolerably good hand, but her grammar was not equal to her caligraphy, save and except what orthographyhad been drummed into her head by old Master Lenihan, late principal of Ardfinnan school, the crossest and roughest, yet kindest, withal, that ever wielded " the rod of empire" in village school. Writing a letter was something that Bessy had never been called upon to do at home, and now when she found herself actually sitting down to the performance of that solemn act, the undertaking loomed up before her in awful magnitude. It was easy to say she would write, so long as her promise had reference to the future, but it was quite a different thing when ink and paper were in formidable array before her on the table, and the pen actually in her hand. Had it been to any one else she thought she would never have courage to begin, but as memory brought back the Preside at home, and the group of everloved, never-forgotten faces, and the tears that would fall from many eyes at the reading of " Bessy's letter," all her fears vanished, and she set about her task with the greatest alacrity, anxious only to cram as much news about America into the letter as one sheet of paper could well carry, It is true it took two or three evenings to complete the epistle, but when it was completed, she felt quite proud of her success, and was sure they'd all wonder at home to see what a flne letter she could write " I know they'll be
bringin' it to Father Ryan," said she to herself, "but no matter—I've seen worse letters than it comin' from America. It isn't as bad as Jemmy Hagan's that hardly any one could read a word of, an' it travelled the whole country round, and had to come to Master Lenihan at last, and it took him a full hour to make out what was in it."
Consoling herself with the reflection that her letter would not be so hard to decipher as Jemmy Hagan's, Bessy folded it very carefully and put it away mlfinished till she had seen the Murphys and Ned Finigan to know what word they had to send home. The letter read as follows, with just a little correction on our part:
"My dear father and mother," it went on, after the usual preliminaries hoping they were all in as good health as that left the writer, and so on, "my dear father and mother, I have so many things to tell you that I don't know where to begin. I'd like to let you know all I have seen and heard since I left home, but I'm afraid I can't put it all in one letter. Sometimes I wish you were all here with me, but then again I think to myself that you're far better where you are. To be sure there's a power of money made here, but there's many a one makes it that would be as well without it, for there's a good many of them turns to drink and one thing or another that leaves them worse in a little time than if they never had money to spend. Still there's thousands and thousands of Irish people in this one city that are happy and comfortable with the world flowing in on them, and they say there's some that doesn't know the end of their own riches. That may be, for them that told me wouldn't tell a lie more than the bishop but as I never saw any of these that have done so well, I can only speak from hearsay. If I didn't see many of the rich anyway, I have seen plenty of the poor, for I can't go a foot from the door without seeing them. To tell you the truth, there's a power of Irish poor in New York, and sorry, sorry I am to say it. And somehow or another, I think
they look more miserable here than the poor did at home. It would go to your heart to see the sights that I see every time I go outside the door—indeed, indeed it vrouldb (hod break hard fortune before every one ! And they tell me I only see a little of it after all, and that there's more misery hid away up in garrets and down in cellars than anybody living knows! I hope in God it isn't their own fault. They couldn't all do well, everybody knows that, for, dear knows ! I often see Irish people here that you'd wonder what part of Ireland they came from, and sure enough you'd be apt to think it's little business they had to come to America—but still I know myself there's hundreds and hundreds that might do better than they do, if it wasn't for the liquor, as I was tellin' you before. If the Lord would only take that curse from them, and put it out of their way altogether, there's many a one would turn out different. But though there's so many Irish people here in the height of misery, it's a comfort to see how many of them are decent and we'd off. There's hardly a church in New York where you'll not see a congregation of them with a priest of their own at the altar, and only for the fine churches and the beautiful pictures, and everything that way, I'd forget sometimes that it wasn't at home in Ardfinnan I was with Father Ryan there in his robes before me and the people of our own parish kneeling about me. God knows will I ever see that sight again.
"Ned Finigan has set up a fine public-house with a picture of Ardfinnan Castle over the door, and from that it's called The Castle Inn. I wouldn't know what the picture was myself, but Ned says it's Ardfinnan Castle, and, of course, he knows best. I forgot to tell you that himself and Ally Murphy made a match of it, and I declare to you, Ally looks fine.
"If Bessy Conway were writing now she would have a different story to tell. The misery indeed still exists—it cannot be otherwise in a city like New York, but the deserving poor have found aetive and devoted friends in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, now established in every part of the city.
and sociable behind the counter—it's the bar they call it— and so well she may, for she wears the best of dress, surely. Ned's getting fleshy, I think, and I'm afraid he takes a drop too much now and then, as indeed he can't well help it in the business he's in. They tell me they're making money in handfulls, and sure enough they have a fine place of it now, let it turn out as it may.
"Peery Murphy's people are doing pretty well. Peery himself has a dollar a day, they tell me, in a store where he got to be porter, and the boys are earning nearly as much, so, you sees they're getting along finely. Maly has a very good place that she got into a month or so after she landed, but I declare to you she has got to be so proud and has such a conceit out of herself that there is no standing her, all on account of the bit of finery that she was never used to before, so it has fairly turned her head, the creature ! If you met her on the road you would'nt know her from Adam, for it's rattling in her silks she is of a Sunday when she goes out, and a beautiful bonnet and veil that Mrs. Herbert herself might wear, and everything else to match that. And then nothing Could serve my lady but she must get her ears pierced and she has drops hangina down a'most to her shouldels It kills Mary and Ally entirely that they can't get 'the old woman' (that's their mother) to dress up a bit too, but Bridget won't hear to them at all, at all, and you'd die laughing to see how they'll go to the other side of the street fiom her and Peery because the old woman goes out in her dowdy cap and blue cloth cloak. But indeed it's not often they go out with them, and when they do that's the way they serve them. I'm thinking Maly is not putting much to the fore more than if she was at home in Ardfinllan. She spends all she earns on foolish dress that only makes a show of her, and indeed she's not the only one here that does that, for I know plenty of girls from our own county that have been years and years earning good wages and have nothing to show for it but dress Some of them haven't even
This was a severe trial for Bessy. She had received much real kindness from Mrs. Walters, and having left home in her service, she was doubly attached to her as a sort of link between the present and the past. She felt that no mistress in America could ever be to her what Mrs. Walters was, and a sense of loneliness chilled her heart, for it seemed as though she were about to lose her only friend, and be left amongst strangers in a strange land.
Then did the voice of the tempter whisper within her, "it's your own fault," repeating the words of Herbert. The warm blood rushed to her cheek and her pulses quickened. "I might be his wife !" she said softly to herself, " he told me so. Why wouldn't I take him at his wordy She sat musing awhile, but her thoughts took a different direction: "Nonsense! Bessy, sure you're no wife for the likes of him—it's the devil that's putting such notions in your head !— wouldn't you be a nice daughter-in-]aw for a grand lady like Mrs. Herbert, and sure you wouldn't know what to do, or how to act, if you were brought home to the big house ! Brought home, indeed ! I'm sure Master Henry himself never dare show his face there if he'd marry the likes of you, Bessy Conway ! and another thing, he's not the right sort, and it wouldn't be for the good of your soup so put than out of your head once for all." She thought of Paul's insinuations, and her heart sank within her; although Henry Herbert could never be anything to her more than he was, she could not bear to think that there was guilt on his soul—that some dark crime hung over him like the shadow of death. No ! no ! she could not, would not believe it; so fair a seeming could not be so false, or cover a heart seared and blackened with sin !
Captain Walters arrived in due time, and the next two weeks were weeks of bustle and preparation, farewell-parties, and visits P. D. A., as the French have it ("Pour Dire Adieu" to say farewell"). There was sorrow, too, in Mrs. Hibbard's house where every one loved Mrs. Walters; only Bridget with all her curses and ill-temper had none but the kindest feelings for the gentle English visitor, and old Wash blubbered like a great baby at the thoughts of losing her. "Many a good quarter and flfty cent piece she gave me," the old man would say, "and she all'as had a kind word for poor Wash. I feel dreadfal bad, I do ! Wish the Cap'n hadn't come!" As this somewhat selfish aspiration was only heard by the girls it served to amuse them, however the captain might have taken it, or Mrs. Walters. As for Bessy she could hardly raise her head during those two long weeks, and many a heavy sigh attested the grief of her heart.
To Besgy's great surprise one day the Captain asked her where the hunchback could be found, and she blushed as she gave the required information, she knew not why That very evening Paul was surprised by a visit from Captain Walters whom he was very glad to see safe back Dolly was not in at the time, and the Captain, being in a hurry, at once proceeded to business.
" I came" said he, " at the request of my wife to ask if you know where that Herbert is to be found "
" Well ! I can soon find it out for you, Captain," said Paul looking up inquiringly in his face; " but what's wrong now, your honor X has the mistress found out any thing new ?"
"Not exactly net he came to the house soon after I left and asked to see Bessy, but Mrs. Walters sent him away withont his errand, and gave him some wholesome advice. Since then she has heard nothing of him except that he was seen sometimes walking up and down in front of the house. Have you seen anything of him ?"
" Nothing worth speakin' of, your honor !—but is it true you're going to take Mrs. Walters home with you this time ?"
" True enough, Paul! don't you think it was timer But that is just what brought me now. Mrs. Walters wishes to leave Bessy Conway particularly in your charge—the only
danger she apprehends for her is from Herbert, and she thinks you have a check on him that do one else has."
"Maybe I have, your honor, maybe I haven't,—howsomever," and he nodded significantly, " we'll do our best—I say vve'll do our best, Captain !"
" Well ! I'll tell you what you'll do," said Captain Walters with his hand on the door; " when you And him out, tell him I want to see him immediately— imxnediately, remember !"
" Never fears your honor ! I'll remember !"
"Lest he should neglect coming," said the Captain, "tell him it's on a business of importance to himself. Good-bye, Paul . I'm sorry I can't wait to see Mrs Sheehan of whose good fortune I heard with much pleasure. Tell her so, will yott . I am always glad to hear of the aarrick people doing
"I don't misdoubt you, Captain," said Paul by way of a compliment, and the Captain laughed as he hurried down stairs, Paul hobbling after him with all the speed he could make. But I say, Paul !" cHed the Captain turning on the flrst landmg as the thought struck him, '< I say, what's come of ' the biggest man on board ?"'
" Oh ! your honor means Ned Finigan? He's well enough and growing mighty fat, as well he may ! he's keeping a liquor store, Captain !"
" Oh !—ah !—a liquor store I—hum. The very thing that flts him !—I thought he hadn't much taste for hard work !—good bye again, my little man !— lose no time in doing what I told.
In the course of half an hour Paul might be seen in close conversation with his friend Mike Milligan at the corner of Duane street, where the old Shakspeare Hotel jutted out in a sharp angle.
" And you're sure you can flnd him t" said Paul.
"Can I flnd you?" retorted the precocious juve;lile, which significant Interrogatory of course satisfled Paul's doubts.
" Where is he, then it?"
" Not far off, I guess!" said Mike with a grin, and he pointed over his shoulder.
" Oh ! it's there, is it?"
" Well ! he don't live there, but I saw him go in a little while ago—would you like to see him? "
"Yes ! but I don't want to go in. You must get him out, if you can." v "I'll do it !" said Mike, and in he went to the bar-room, with his parrot-like cry "Daily Herald! Buy a paper, sir!— buy a paper !"
One of the first that bought a paper was Henry Herbert who sat moodily-in a corner listening to something that Dixon was telling him in a low earnest tone. Dixon was much annoyed at the newsboy's interruption, and turning flercely bade him "go to the d_I!"
" I'd rather you'd go yourself, sir !"
"Get out of here, or I'll ring your ear for you !"
"I guess you'd better not,"saidtheprovokingimp, "there's M. P. 's about !" And with a mocking grimace away ran Mike, having pocketed the cents for EIerbert's paper, and made him a sign, moreover, that he was wanted outside.
Twenty minutes after, Captain Walters and Henry Herbert had a tete-a-tete in Mrs. Hibbard's front parlor. The light from a triple chandelier suspended from the ceiling fell full on Herbert's face, and muttering something about "weak eyes" he slightly changed his position so that his face was partially shaded.
" I was told you wished to see me, Captain Walters !" said Herbert vith a sort of nervous tremor in his voice which he vainly tried to conceal as the frank, manly Englishman flxed his eyes upon him.
" So I did, Mr Herbert."
"May I ask why?"
" Certainly you may. I wished to speak to you on a matter
which no way concerns myself, but much concerns you. Mrs. Walters returns with me to England in a few days."
" Well, sir !"
" Well, sir ! she has a servant-maid—by name Bessy Conway — with whom I believe Mr. Herbert is not unacquainted 1"
" Excuse me, Captain Walters ! "
" Excuse me, Mr. Herbert; pray allow me to finish what I was about to say!" Herbert bowed, and the Captain went on: "You are also probably aware that this young girl is a sort of protegee of my wife, who, indeed, prevailed upon her to come to America. She fears—mark me, Mr. Herbert—Mrs. Walters fears to leave her behind without any protection, for the girl is young, and unusually good-looking for one in her station."
" Ha! Captain Walters has found that out!" Herbert exclaimed with a fiushed cheek.
" Pardon me, Mr. Herbert !" said the Englishman coldly, " I allow no such insinuations—there is but one woman in the world on whom my eyes rest with pleasure. I repeat, this young girl is handsome—well for her, perhaps, if she were not —she is the more likely to attract the eyes of the libertine. Mrs. Walters cannot advise her—cannot ask her to go home again with her fortune untried, yet she shrinks from the responsibility of leaving her behind."
Herbert's face was too expressive to answer the purpose of dissimulation. He tried hard to look bold and unconcerned, but it would not do. He spoke, however, what he could not look.
" In what way does this concern me, Captain Walters s"
"You know that yourself, Mr. Herbert ! so do I." Herbert changed color and bit his lip. " Suffice it to say, we understand each other on that head, although I, for my part, cannot tmderstand why a young man possessed of your advantages does not fly higher."
" I was not aware," said lIerbert, with an incredulous smile, " that Captain Walters entertained so high an opinion of me."
"How high or how low is not now the question, Mr. Herbert; my time is very limited, and you will pardon me if I speak more plainly than you may relish. What are your intentions with regard to Bessy Conway?"
"Well, upon my honor! Captain Walters, it is a singular question from you to me ! Suppose I decline answering such a question ?"
" In that cased said Captain Walters, " I should feel myself under the necessity of informing your father, Wilson Herbert, of Ardfinnan, Ireland, late of Birmingham, England—"
"Really!" interrupted Herbert in a sarcastic tone, "you know my father better than—"
" Better than you do," said the Captain significantly. " Had I time, and did it suit my purpose, I could tell you things about your father which, if generally known, would unsettle his tenure of that Tipperary estate of his I confess myself an interested party, and one day or another when I have nothing better to do I may examine his title-deeds by the light of certain documents which are registered and in safe keeping in England. I see you understand me. Well ! what remains for me to say is this: if you have one particle of feeling for your father— for your mother and desire to keep off disgrace as long as possible from your family, you will let Bessy Conway alone, for I tell you the day that I hear of your renewing your attempts to seduce her from the path of virtue that very day will seal your father's doom, and draw down upon him the punishment he well deserves. I hope you now understand how this matter concerns you ?" he added ironically.
Herbert rose from his seat pale as death, his lips trembling with the passion which he dared not express in words He looked flercely at Captain Walters and the fingers of his right hand clutched at empty space and then closed as if convulsively. He rested that hand on the back of the chair from which he had risen, and looked the captain steadily in the blce. All this being done, he answered very slowly.
"Yes, I understand -- you mean to say that we are all in your power!"
"That is precisely what I mean."
"Oh! very well, Captain Walters! It is rather hard, but I suppose it can't be helped."
"Pardon me -- it can be helped -- and by you," said the Captina with emphasis. "I have told you how. Observe the conditions, and you shall not flind me a hard taskmaster. You will remember -- will you not?"
"I shall not forget," Herbert replied with a strange smile, and he moved towards the door, -- having reached it he turned and spoke again:
"Have the goodness to tell Mrs. Walters," said he, "that I have not forgotten what she told me when I saw her last -- I have battled bravely with temptation for so far, unaided and alone -- God knows how long I may be able to resist, for the world is trying me sorely. Captain Walters! I have given you no promise -- remember that! -- I wish you, sir, good night!" he bowed with cold and haughty politeness, and then let himself out as if fearful of hearing more.
"Upon my word and honor!" said the Captain to himself, as he stood a moment looking after him, "upon my word and honor! there is no accounting for tastes -- now can such a young fellow as that think seriously of little Bessy?"
If Captain Walters had seen the look of anguish on Herbert's face when he took Bessy's hand for a moment at the door he need have asked the question.
"Farewell, Bessy! farewell!" said he, and he squeezed her hand very hard, while she looked up in his face with astonishment depicted on every feature; "they will drive me to ruin," said the young man in a hoarse whisper, "they will break the one link that binds me still to virtue -- that is you! -- Bessy! Bessy! my brain is burning and my heart is breaking -- would that I were dead!"
"Master Henry dear! what ails you at all?" said Bessy anxiously, and the tears stood in her eyes. "Are you sick, what's the matter with you?"
"No, no, I'm well enough -- too well! -- God bless you! -- I would bless you, but my blessing might prove a curse! -- farewell! farewell!"
Raising the hand which he still held he pressed it for a moment to his throbbing brow, then dashing it from him, pulled the door open and darted out. He was speedily lost. Bessy's view in the shadow flung by the tall old trees over the moonlight street without.