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THERE was the quick, sharp rap of
the postman at the door. Our postman always seemed to sympathize with his bundle
of letters; and he knew us all so well, that he knew the contents or subjects of
our letters almost as well as if he had been clairvoyant.
I was expecting my brother on
that day; and, instead of him, there came a letter.
"Good news from William, I don't
doubt," said the postman, as he gave me change.
"There generally is good news
from brother," said I, smiling.
"William is a fine fellow," said
he, tightening the string on his bundle of letters, and then he went on his way.
I remember thinking, what if he
should lose one of those precious letters? What if he had lost mine? Why did he
not carry them in a bag? How could he risk losing such precious things? But they
all risk losing letters just the same way, for no letter-carrier in city or
village ever uses any security for his parcel of letters but a string while he
is distributing them to their many owners.
I went in to read my news from
brother, whatever it might be. My mother was in the large front-room, that
looked toward the south, with my invalid father. He was taking his dinner, and I
would not disturb him even with my treasure. So I stopped in the room, which was
dining-room, sitting-room, and library, in our cottage. I opened my letter
eagerly. I had not then learned to wait patiently, and least of all where
letters were concerned. I turned blind and faint when I saw where the letter was
For some moments I in vain
essayed to read. My head swam, and darkness veiled my eyes. At length I
recovered, and read:
"MY DEAR SISTER,—You will be
surprised when you see where my letter is dated. Since I last wrote you, I have
had fair success in collecting the debts due to father; and I began to be
encouraged, and to think I saw daylight for us. Three days ago I called on Mix,
who keeps the tavern by the steamboat-landing. You will remember that his was
the largest debt owing to father here. At first he said he could not pay me any
thing. Then he said he supposed the night's receipts would be pretty good, as
the night-train on the railroad would bring a good many for the morning boat;
and they must stay with him, for the other house was bad at best, and was being
painted now. He said he would give me something on the debt in the morning. I
had intended to be at home on the twenty-first, and it was hard to be detained;
but I staid. In the morning he gave me one hundred dollars, in five
twenty-dollar notes. I made my calculations, and found that by giving up my
stoppages at two other places I could still be at home on the twenty-first. I
was so glad of the prospect of so soon seeing you and mother, and our dear
helpless father, that I trembled with joy. I trembled so much when I was shaving
that I cut my chin. After I was again on my way the blood kept oozing, and I
stepped at an apothecary's to get a piece of court-plaster. It was near the
station, where I was to take the cars, and a mile from Mix's tavern. I had
bought the court-plaster, when I saw some surgical instruments lying on the
counter. They pleased me very much; and as father had told me I should have a
set for collecting, as soon as I had, received a hundred dollars, I bought them.
"I had a sort of misgiving about
the money I had got of Mix; I did not believe that it was bad, but I wished to
he better satisfied than I was about it. I asked the price of the instruments.
They were sold. There was a turnkey and a lancet, valued at three dollars, that
I could have. I bought them, and tendered one of my twenty-dollar notes in
payment. It was taken without question. I put the change and my instruments in
my pocket, very glad to be set at rest about my money. I then went over to the
station; the cars started in an hour, I was told, and I sat down to wait as
patiently as I could. Before half an hour had elapsed I was arrested for passing
counterfeit money. I was searched, and eighty dollars, of the same kind I had
passed, were found upon me. At first I was horrified; but I sent immediately for
Mix, scarcely doubting that he would say he had paid me the money. He refused to
come, declaring that he had paid me no money; but saying that I had paid him a
bad twenty-dollar note for my night's lodging, supper, and breakfast, thus
cheating him out of eighteen dollars good money. He said he would meet me at the
right time and place; that I was in good hands now; and that he was busy.
"I am in prison, sister dear, and
I don't know what will he my fate. All my money was taken from me by the officer
who arrested me, and I can do nothing but let you know the facts. If father were
not helpless he would be able to help me; as it is, he can think; and some kind
soul, I trust, will be able to carry out his suggestions. Keep up your courage,
Clara dear, and tell father and mother that I am cheerful in my affliction.
Write at once, and tell me what father says.
"Your loving brother,
I waited for my father to finish
his dinner, and then I called mother and showed her the letter. Grieved and
alarmed as she was, she endured all till my father had slept his usual hour
after his dinner.
Before I tell my readers what my
father said to the letter I must say something of our conditions. My father had
been a merchant in Medway for many years. He was ruined by the credit system.
After losing almost every thing he came to the village of Rosalba, where we now
lived. He bought the cottage in which my mother was born. He paid one half its
value, and depended on collecting the debts due to him in Medway and the
vicinity to pay the other half. My brother wished to study to be a physician,
and our uncle was considered the best medical man in Rosalba, and in our poverty
he could very greatly assist us by helping my brother in his education. We had
lived two years in the cottage. The first year we rented, the second we bought
We had let the garden belonging
to the cottage for half its produce, and I had taught school in summer; and
thus, with a very little money that my father had collected, we were supported.
We lived in a hard, grudging economy that no one knew of, not even my uncle. He
was doing what he could for my brother; more than we would have been willing to
accept from any other. The spectre always before us was the half payment for our
cottage, which remained to be made. And we lost all if we did not pay the
remainder at a time specified,
and which was drawing near. We
looked to the success of my brother's efforts in this collecting tour to secure
us the shelter of our cottage home. Food we trusted would come. The ravens are
fed; and we hoped and looked forward to the time when my brother should be a
successful physician, as our uncle was now.
What a terrible blow had fallen
on our devoted heads! Our sole hope, our idolized William, was in a prison,
accused of a crime that, if not disproved, might consign him to a penitentiary
for years, and blast his prospects forever.
My mother and I were wild with
grief. My father was quiet, but very sad. His disease, which was palsy of the
lower limbs, caused by a fall from his horse, had left his mind clear as when he
was in health.
"We must do what we can," said
he, "and be comforted that we know William is innocent. Now, Clara, you must go
to Judge Bixby. I will write a note to him. He will come here and consult with
me, or he will advise me in some way. I have notes against Mix for three hundred
dollars, besides the one William had with him, which was for two hundred and
fifty. These notes are so many probabilities against him. We must have some
person to go to Medway."
I wanted to say that Philip
Melvin would go, but I dared not speak his name. He was a student, reading law
with Judge Bixby. He had paid me the attentions of a lover till my parents
forbade me to receive them. My parents were proud of their ancestry. They were
proud of the former position, and prouder than all of the Puritan principles and
practices of their progenitors.
Now Philip Melvin was disgraced
from his birth. He was an illegitimate child. His mother was a simple
country-girl, who had died of a broken heart soon after his birth, and she had
never revealed the name of Philip's father. She had died in the alms-house, and
there her boy remained until he was seven years old. A lady visited the house
when he had just reached his seventh birthday, and asked for Philip. She wept
bitterly, it was said, over the beautiful child, and then she went to Judge
Bixby, and from that time he became as one of the children of the good and wise
Judge. Philip proved worthy of all the care and education which were bestowed on
him with liberal as well as paternal kindness; but notwithstanding all, he was
regarded as one who before his birth had
"fallen into a pit of ink,
From which the wide sea could not
wash him clean again."
I believe I loved Philip all the
better because every body seemed to keep the bitter fact of his birth in their
memory. He was nearly twenty-one years old. I was seventeen. I had never
disobeyed my parents, and I regarded my mother as a superior being. I was
required to treat Philip as a stranger; and I could give him no explanation
without wounding him more than I could ever bear to wound him. Poor fellow! I
did not doubt that he regarded his birth as the mark of Cain upon him. How could
I ever allude to the terrible fact? He saved me from my trouble by a manly
frankness, which greatly increased my respect and love for him. One day I met
him in a lonely road, in the neighborhood of the village. He stopped me.
"Clara," said he, "I have a word
to say to you."
The blood rushed to my face, a
burning flood. "You have said that you loved me," said he.
"I have," I whispered, hardly so
as to be heard." Have you changed?" asked Philip.
"NO," said I, aloud, and with
"Do you shun me of your own free-wil
?" "No, Philip."
"Your parents require it of you,
and — your brother also wishes you to shun me?"
"Yes," I said, bravely, and yet
"Because—" He could not utter the
words. He looked at me appealingly. I answered his thought.
"Yes, Philip; but I love you
better for your great sorrow. I love you better for all the affliction
Providence has permitted to come upon you."
"I thank you," said he, solemnly.
"Clara, if we are faithful to our love our time will come. We shall be happy
together some day."
I was silent.
"Do you not believe it?"
"I hope for it," I replied.
"Do not go yet," said he, as I
was about to pass on; "do not go till you have promised me to be faithful to
"I can be faithful only to my
parents," said I, bursting into tears; "but I will never love any one but you,
Philip, unless you forget me. Now let me go."
"Our time will come," said he;
and I went on my way.
I never saw him again, to speak
to him, till the day I went to Judge Bixby with my father's note. I met him on
the way, and I stopped and told him our great sorrow. I could not do otherwise,
for my heart turned to him with the hope of help.
"Go to the Judge," said he; "I
will be there by the time he has read and considered your father's note."
Judge Bixby read the note, and
was very much disturbed by it.
"This is very bad," said he. "We
must send some one at once to Medway. William must be released; Philip will go
to him. There he is now," said he, as he saw him through the window. Philip came
"Melvin, will you go to Medway
to-night?" said the Judge.
"Certainly, if you wish it," said
Judge Bixby took his pen and
wrote for some minutes; then he folded and addressed his letter without sealing
it. Then he wrote a note to my father. He then turned to Philip, saying,
"You will go to Mr. Bentley, and
get the notes which be has against Mix. Show this letter to him, which I have
written to a legal friend of mine in Medway. If Mr. Bentley thinks of any thing
more that he wishes me to write, you can return to
me; otherwise, you had better go
on to Medway to-night. I think you will do well to stay at Mix's tavern, and
when you pay your bill offer him this note." He took a fifty-dollar note from
his pocket, and handed it to Philip. "He has been so successful of late he may
give you one of those twenty-dollar notes in change for this, if you appear to
be a stranger merely passing over the road. Rascals are very often fools."
Philip and I went out together.
At the door he said, "I will bid you good-by, and hasten to your father. You can
come at your leisure. You may be sure I shall do my best, and you know for whose
sake I do it."
His words comforted me in my
great sorrow. I went home slowly, not wishing to arrive till Philip was gone. I
met him at the door. He took my hand, pressed it in silence, and went away. My
parents said little, and did not allude to the fact that Philip had gone to
I retired early, but spent the
night in sleepless agony. I prayed for my poor brother in prison, and for all
other prisoners. I felt sure that Philip would do William no good. I was glad to
find in the morning that my father hoped that much good would result from his
efforts. It was Tuesday evening when Philip left. He would arrive in Medway at
two o'clock the next morning. By Friday we ought to hear from him. The day came,
but no letter. I was indescribably miserable, and my father and mother were very
anxious. I could not speak freely to my parents. The night previous I had passed
through an experience strange to many, but the like of it had happened to me
several times. I could not speak of it at home, and my heart seemed like to
break that I could not. Finally I determined to go to Judge Bixby with my
secret. As there was no news from my brother, I asked leave to go to the Judge,
ostensibly to make inquiries.
Judge Bixby seemed to pity me
very much when I came into his office.
"Have you heard any thing from my
brother?" said I.
"Yes, dear," said he; and then he
seemed sorry be had made the admission. "The fact is, Miss Clara, we have been
quite put back in our proceedings; but we hope to have good news for you by
Monday, or Tuesday—certainly by Wedneeday."
I wished so much to tell him my
experience, but I feared he would think me crazed, or untruthful. But the
necessity to unburden my heart to some one constrained me, and I said,
"I want to tell you, Judge, what
I saw last night. As I lay in my bed, looking into the darkness, I saw Philip. I
shut my eyes and put my hands over them; but still I saw Philip Melvin. He was
in a large room, in a kind of hotel; there was no lock on the door, and he tried
to fasten the door with his knife; but I saw he had failed to do it effectually.
The knife-blade broke nearly off, but the handle did not fall away. He could not
see this, but I saw it. And I saw through the door, and saw a man on the outside
of the door, in the hall. It was half-past two in the morning, as I saw by
Philip's watch. He took off his coat and hung it beside a chair, and then lay
down in his clothes. Presently he fell into a heavy sleep. I felt perfectly sure
that a cup of coffee he had taken when he came in had some kind of
sleeping-powder in it. As he slept, I saw a bad-looking man come into the room;
he had a complexion almost like a mulatto, and only one eye. It was perfectly
dark in the room, and yet I saw him come in as plainly as I had seen Philip
before he put out his light. He took Philip's coat and examined the pockets; he
took out the pocket-book, laid the coat again across the chair, and then he went
out. 'Ah!' thought I, 'my poor brother is ruined now;' for I knew that your
letter was in that pocket-book, and I supposed the notes given to my father by
Mix were there also. I was in despair, but I followed the man from the room; he
had left his light outside the door. He took up the light and went to a distant
room, and locked himself in; I saw him take that fifty-dollar note from the
pocket-book; I read 'Merrimac Bank' on it with perfect ease; then he took your
letter to that lawyer in Medway and read it, and then, holding it in the candle,
he burned it; he took out several other papers, but I did not clearly see what
they were. All this may seem false and foolish to you, Judge, but I am sure it
all really happened. Something within me assures me that it is all true—that it
has happened to Philip Melvin, and if you ever see him, I believe he will tell
The Judge was reputed a skeptic
in religion, and I feared very much I should get only his contempt for my
relation. When I had finished he said very kindly,
"All this is very strange and
curious. Mix has but one eye, and he has had fever and ague till he looks like a
mulatto. Young Melvin was here yesterday; he had lost his pocket-book containing
my letter to my legal friend, also he had lost the fifty-dollar bank-note, which
was on the Merrimac Bank. Fortunately he had put Mix's notes, and some
memoranda, in the lining of his hat. He came back for another letter and further
instructions. He did not see any one in Medway but the one-eyed tavern-keeper
and a servant. He took the morning-train back, and I expect to hear from him on
Tuesday. I had marked the bank-note, so it is probable the miserable man has
stolen a rope to hang himself in taking it. Now, my little girl," said the
Judge, pleasantly, "if you see any more wonders to-night, I hope they will be
pleasant ones. I have had abundant evidence of the truth of the facts claimed
for clairvoyance, even to the breaking of Philip's knife, which I happen to know
was broken as you said. Tell your father that I have heard from Melvin; that
there is some unavoidable delay; but that I shall expect to hear good news by
I was not again clairvoyant; but
on Wednesday evening my brother and Philip Melvin came. We were all overjoyed;
but my joy was greatest, I am sure, for Philip had brought him. Brother asked
Philip to stay to supper, and my father and
mother begged him to do so; but
he said, cheerfully, that he must go directly to the Judge and give an account
of himself; and he left William to tell us his own story.
My brother said, "Mix would have
given us much trouble; for he gave out that the notes against him were forged.
But the rascal had stolen Philip's pocket-book. It had a marked bank-note in it
for fifty dollars. Our lawyer set one of Mix's creditors to dun him very
sharply, and at last he told him that he would take fifty dollars for a debt of
a hundred. This drew forth the marked note, and Mix is now shut up in my place.
Search has been made in his house, and in a false back to his writing-desk some
thousands, in bills of the same kind that he gave me, have been found."
Our great trouble was past; my
brother had been honorably restored to us. But poverty was upon us like an armed
man. The little money that William had been able to collect would do very little
toward paying for our home; and besides, we were obliged to take it for our
present support. It seemed sure that we must lose our cottage, which we had
named "Sunny Home." My parents and William were greatly afflicted, but I had a
presentiment of coming help. Only the day before our home must be paid for, or
lost, Judge Bixby came to see my father.
"I have been very sorry, Mr.
Bentley," said he, "that no one has been able to loan you the money to save your
place. It is hard to be poor, and have all one's friends poor. I am happy to
tell you now, at the eleventh hour, that one has come forward to advance you the
My father uttered an exclamation
of surprise; my mother said, "Thank God!" fervently.
"But who will do this, Judge?"
asked my father.
"Our young friend Philip Melvin,
who has just come into possession of his father's property. When Philip was
seven years old his father died. On his death-bed he told his mother of Philip,
and willed his large property to him; I was appointed the boy's guardian; and as
Philip was twenty-one yesterday, I delivered up my trust. Philip will be
admitted to the bar soon. He has fine ability, an irreproachable character, and
a larger property than any one in Rosalba. If I had a daughter to give in
marriage," said the Judge, regardless of my blushes, "I would sooner give her to
Philip Melvin than to any man I know."
A spasm of mental pain passed
over my father's countenance. "Thank Heaven, we are saved!" he said, "and only
at the expense of a false and wicked pride. Judge Bixby, will you ask Philip to
"I will," said our friend.
That evening Philip came and sat
alone with my father for a while. Then my mother was admitted to the conference.
"They both asked me to forgive them for their pride," said Philip to me. "I have
always regarded them more in pity than in anger. I have borne my lot as
patiently as I could, and Providence has been kind to me at last. Our time has
come, darling Clara."
"Thank Heaven!" said I.
"You have loved me for myself,
Clara; and we shall be happy. Your brother has treated me like his own brother
since the day we met in Medway Jail; but he has often said to me, 'Only much
affliction can ever conquer my parents' pride of family, and prejudices about
birth.' And then William said, 'As if an infant were to be cursed for the sin of
those who gave it life.' I replied, 'So far as such a prejudice can be made a
preventive of crime it is just, and I bow to it for the sake of the innocent.'
Now, Clara, since we can leave your parents comfortable, and in William's care,
I wish to go where no man will ever ask who were my parents."
I respected his sorrow; and I
said, "I will go to the end of the world with you, my Philip." And thus it is
that our graves will be far from those of our kindred.
we give a picture of the town of
STEVENSON, ALABAMA, now occupied by our forces. The sketch from which
our picture was taken was drawn by our artist, Mr. H. Mosler.
Stevenson is the junction of the
Memphis and Charleston, and the Nashville and Chattanooga railroads, and is
therefore a strategic position of considerable importance. Battle Creek, where
Buell's advance was stationed early in the
month, is ten miles from there. Stevenson itself lies in a valley encircled by
the Cumberland Mountains; the Tennessee flows about three miles east of the
place. In the event of any attempt being made by the Southern rebels to regain
possession of Tennessee, Stevenson would be one of the first places attacked.
On the same page we illustrate
ERECTION OF STOCKADES FOR DEFENSE BY NEGROES. Under the new Act of
Congress all negroes who come into our lines are set to work at once on
fortifications, and paid wages and freed as a reward for their labor. At and
near Stevenson very extensive works are being erected; some 400 negroes are
employed. John Contraband takes kindly to the work.
BATTLE OF CEDAR MOUNTAIN.
WE publish on
pages 552 and 553 a
large picture of the BATTLE OF CEDAR MOUNTAIN, from a sketch by our special
artist, Mr. Alfred R. Waud. We subjoin General Pope's official account of the
HEAD-QUARTERS, ARMY OF
MOUNTAIN, Aug. 13–5 P.M.
On Thursday morning the enemy
crossed the Rapidan, at Barnett's Ford, in heavy force, and advanced strong on
the road to Culpepper and Madison Court House. I had established my whole force
on the turnpike between Culpepper and Sperryville, ready to concentrate at
either place as soon as the enemy's plans were developed.
Early on Friday it became
apparent that the move on (Next