How Mr. Frye Would Have Preached It
MR. FRYE and bis little wife live at our house. They took a room for themselves and their little girls, with full board, last December, when the Sloanmakers went to Illinois. This is how it happened that one Sunday, after dinner, in quite an assembly of the full boarders and of the breakfast boarders also, all of whom, except Mr. Jeffries, dine with 11s on Sunday, Mr. Frye told how he would have preached it.
What made this more remarkable was, that the Fryes are not apt to talk about themselves, or of their past life. I think they have always been favorites at the table; and Mrs. Frye has been rather a favorite among the “lady boarders.” But none of us knew' much where they had been, excepting that, like most other men, he had been in the army. Fie brought out his uniform coat for some charades the night of the birthday party. But till Sunday I did not knowr, for one, anything about the things he told us, and I do not think any one else did.
Every one had been to church that Sunday in the morning. Mrs. Whittemorc gives us breakfast on Sundayonly half an hour late, and almost all of us do go to church. I believe the Wingates w'ent out to Jamaica Plains to their mother’s, but I am almost sure every one else went to church. So at dinner, naturally enough, we talked over tlie sermons and the services. The Webbers had found Hollis Street shut, and had gone on to Mr. Clarke’s, where they had a sort of opening service, and a beautiful show of fall dowers, that some of their orphan boys had sent. Mr. Ray is rather musical. He told about a new Te Deum at St. Peter’s. The Jerdans always go to Ashburton Place. They bad heard Dr. Kirk. But it so happened that more of us than usual had been to the new church below Clinton Street. We had not found Dr. Warren there, however, but a strange minister. Some said it was Mr. Broadgood, one of the English delegates. But I knew it urns not he. For he said, “If you give an inch they take an ell,” and this is a sentence the English delegates cannot speak. The sexton thought it was Mr. Hapgood, from South Norridgewock. I asked Mr. Eels, one of the standing committee, and lie did not know. No matter who it was. He had preached what I thought was rather above the average sermon, on “ The way of transgressors is hard.”
Well, we got talking about the sermon. My -wife liked it better tiian I did. George Fifield liked it particularly-, and quoted, or tried to quote, the close to the Webbers ; only, as he said, he could not remember the precise language, and it depended a good deal on the manner of the delivery. Mrs. Watson confessed to being sleepy. Harry said he had sat under the gallery, and had not heard much, which is a less gallant way of making Mrs. Watson’s confession. The Fryes were both at church. They sat with me in Mrs. Austin’s pew. They were the only ones who said nothing about the sermon. Mrs. Frye never docs say much at table. But at last the matter became quite the topic of after-dinner discussion ; and I said to Frye that we had not had his opinion.
“ O,” said he, “ it was well enough. But if I had had that text, I should not have preached it so.”
“ How would you have preached it?” said Harry laughing.
Oddly enough, Frye’s face evidently flushed a little ; but he only said, “ Well, not so, — I should not have preached it that way.”
I did not know why the talk should make him uncomfortable, but I saw it did, and so I tried to change the subject. I asked John Webber if he had seen the Evening Gazette. But Harry has no tact; and after a little more banter, in which the rest of them at that end of the table joined, he said : “Now, Mr. Frye, tell us how you would have preached it.”
Mr. Frye turned pale this time. He just glanced at his wife, and then I saw she was pale too. But whatever else Frye is, he is a brave man, and he has very little back-clown about him. So he took up the glove, and said, if we had a mind to sit there half an hour, he would tell how he would have preached it. But he did not believe he could in less time. Harry was delighted with anything out of the common run, and screamed, “A sermon from Mr. Frye! — a sermon from Mr. Frye ! — reported expressly for this journal. No other paper has the news.” Poor Mrs. Frye said she must go up and see to her baby, and she slipped away. A gentleman whom I have not named said, in rebuke of us all, that we might be better employed, and he left also. He is preparing for a Sunday paper a series of sketches of popular preachers, and it is my opinion that he spent that afternoon in writing his account of the Rev. Dr. Smith I do not know, but I used to think he was a correspondent of the New York Observer, for I noticed once that he spoke of Jacqueline Pascal as if Jacqueline were a man’s name, and as if she wrote the Pcnsecs. When they were gone, Mr. Frye told us
How HE SHOULD HAVE PREACHED IT.
“ I SHOULD have said,” said Mr. Frye, “that when Jenny and I were married, fourteen years ago, at Milfold, there was not so good a blacksmith as I in that part of Worcester County. To be a good blacksmith in a country town requires not only strength of arm, and a reasonably correct eye, but a good deal of nerve. And when I first worked at the trade, and afterwards here, once when 1 worked in Hawley Street for good Deacon Safford, I got the reputation of being afraid of nothing. And I think I deserved it, as far as any man does. Certainly I was not easily frightened. So it happened that I was at work for the Semple Brothers, in Milfold, at the highest journeyman’s wages, and with lots of perquisites for shoeing the ugly horses. For a circle of fifteen miles round, there was not a kicking brute of the Cruiser family who, in the end, was not brought to our shop for Heber Frye to shoe. I have shod horses from Worcester, who came down with all four of their shoes oft' because nobody dared touch them. Now in the trade all such work is well paid for. As I say, I had the highest journeyman’s wages. And in any such hard case I was paid extra ; and as likely as not, if they had had trouble, I got a present beside. The Semples liked the reputation their shop was getting; and so, though I was a little fast, and would be off work at working hours sometimes, they kept me ; and if I had chosen to lay up money, I could have made myself—what I never did make myself—a forehanded man.
“Well, I fell in with Jenny there. And while we were engaged, she took care of me, and made me stick to work, and kept me near her. I did not want any other excitement, and I did not want any other companion. She would not go where I could drink, and I would not go anywhere where she did not go. And for the six months of our engagement, I was amazed to find how rich I was growing. When we were married, I was able to furnish the house prettily, — as nicely as any man in Milfold, — though it was on a baby-house scale, of course. But, as Tom Hood’s story says, we had six hair-cloth chairs, a dozen silver spoons, carpet on every room in the house, and everything to make us comfortable.”
But here Mr. Frye stopped and said: “This is going to be a longer sermon than I supposed, and those of you who are going to meeting had better go, for I hear the Old-South bell.” But nobody started. Even Mrs. Whittemore held firm, only moving her chair so that Isabel might take the dirty plates. The rest of us moved up a little way, and Mr. Frye went on.
“ We were married, and we lived as happily as could be, — a great deal more happily than I deserved, and almost as happily as my wife deserves, even. But, I tell you, there is nothing truer than the saying, ‘Easy earned, easy spent’; and I believe that perquisites and fees, unexpected and uncertain remu! iterations, are apt to be rather bad for a man. At least they make a sort of excuse for a man. I never could be made half as careful as Jenny is, or as I had better be. I spent pretty freely. I liked to spend money on her. And then I would get short; and then I would find myself hoping some halfbroken, kicking beast would be brought in, which nobody could manage but me. And if one came, and I managed him, and shod him, instead of feeling proud of the victory, as I fairly might, I would feel cross if the owner did not hand me a dollar-bill extra as he went away. Then I knew this was mean ; and then 1 would be mad with myself; and then, as I went home, I would stop at Williams’s or Richards’s, and get something to drink ; and then, when I got home, I would scold Jenny ; and after the baby came, 1 would swear at the baby if she cried; and then Jenny would cry, and then 1 would swear again; and I would go out again, and meet some of the fellows at Edwards’s, and would not know when I came home at night, and would be down at the shop late the next morning, and, what was worse, had not the nerve and grit which had given me the reputation I had there. Dutch courage, for practical purposes, ranks with Dutch gold-leaf or German silver.
“Well,” said Frye, rather pale again, but trying to laugh a little, “perhaps, my beloved hearers, you don’t know what this sort of thing is. If you don’t, lucky for you. When they asked that Brahmin, Gangooly, if he believed in hell, he said he believed there were a good many little hells, as he walked through Washington Street to come to the church that evening. If he had come into my house, almost any evening, he would have found one. Poor Jenny did her best. But a woman can’t do much. It is not coaxing you want. You know it’s hell a great deal better than anybody can tell you. It is will you want. You can make good enough resolutions about it: the thing is to keep them. All this time the Semples were getting cross. At last they got trusteed for my wages. And old Semple told me he would discharge me if it ever happened again. Then one day, Tourtellot’s black mare got away from me, knocked me down, and played the old Harry generally in the shop ; and the other hands said it was because I did not know what I was doing, which, by the way, was a lie. It was because my hand was not steady, nor my eye. What is it we used to speak at school, about failing brand and feeble hand? It was not that night, but it was some other night, when I was blue as Peter and cross as a hand-saw, that I stopped to take something on my way home. 1 remember now that Harry Patrick, who was always my true friend, tried to get me by the shops. He did get me by the hotel, for a strong man can do almost anything with a broken one ; but after I had promised him I would go home, he was fool enough to leave me, and then I stopped somewhere else, —no matter where, — you do not know Milfold, — and when I got home, it might as well have been anybody else. I don’t remember a thing. If the Prince Camaralzaman had gone there, I should now know as little what he did from my own memory. But what I did, — or rather what this hand and arm and leg and the rest of the machine did, — was, to kick the baby’s cradle over into the corner ; to knock poor Jane down with a chair, on top of it ; to put the chair through one window, and throw it out of the other; then to scream, ‘ Murder ! fire ! murder! fire!’ and then to tumble on the 4 hair-cloth sofa,’ which was to make us so comfortable, and go into a drunken sleep.
“ This was what I learned I did, the next morning, when I found myself in a justice’s court ; and for this the judge sent me up to Worcester to the House of Correction for three months. It was a 4 first offence,’ or it would have been longer. As for poor Jenny and the baby, neither of them could come and see me.”
By this time, Frye was done with pretending to smile. He stopped a minute, drank a little water from his tumbler, and said: “ Now you would think that would cure a man. Or you would think, as the law does, that three months in the House of Correction would‘correct ’ him. That is because you do not know. At the last day of the three months I thought so. There is not a man here who dreads liquor as I did that day. Harry Patrick, who, as I said, was my best friend, came to meet me when I went out. Richardson, the sheriff, as kind a man as lives, took pains to come down and see me, and said something encouraging to me. Harry had a buggy, that I need not be seen in the cars. And as we went home, I talked as well to him as any man ever talked. Jenny kissed me, and soothed me, and comforted me. The baby was afraid of me, but came to me before night; — and so, before a month was over, we had just such another scene again, and went through much the same after-scene, but that this time I went to Worcester for six months. For now it was not a first offence, you sec.
“Well, not to disgust you — more than I can help,” — and the poor fellow choked for the only time in the sermon, — “ not to disgust you more than I can help, — this happened three times. I believe things always do in stories. This did in fact. The ‘ third time ’ you go for twelve months. And one Sunday Harry had been over to see me, and had brought me a dear kind letter from poor Jenny, who was starving, with two children now, in an attic, on what washing she could get, and vestmaking, and all such humbugs,— one Sunday, I say, we were marched out to chapel, — they have a very good chapel in Worcester, — and a man preached ; and he preached from this very text you talk about, ‘ The way of transgressors is hard.’
“ What the man said, I know no more than you do. I don’t think I did then. Indeed, I do not think I cared much when he began. But it is a groat luxury to hear the human voice, when you have been at work on shoes for a week in a prison on our Massachusetts system, which they call the Silent System, where you have heard no word except the overseer’s directions. So I sat there, well pleased enough, — even glad to hear a sort of yang-yang they had for music, — and very glad to have some good souls who had come in sing. I remember they sang Devizes, which my father used to sing. So I got into a mood of revery as this preacher went on, and was thinking of Harry, and old Deacon Safford, and father, and Jenny, and what we would call the baby, when to my surprise the minister was finished. And he ended with the text, as some men do, you know. And he said, 4 The way of transgressors is hard.’ And I caught Wesson’s eye, — he was my turnkey,— and Wesson half laughed ; and, in violation of all order, I said across the passage to Wesson, ‘Damned hard! Wesson.’ Mrs. Whittemore, I beg your pardon, but I did say so.
“Wesson nodded, and looked sad. If he had informed on me, I don’t know where I should be now. But he looked sorry,—and I have not touched liquor again.
“ * was discharged the next Wednesday. Harry came for me again, as he always did. I told him I did not want to go on in Milfold. And the good fellow agreed. Pie brought me and Jenny and the babies down here to Boston. I ’ll tell you where we lived. We took two rooms in the third story in Genessee Street, and we began life again.
“ Now any of you who are tired can go away. But this is only one head of the sermon.”
Nobody went, —only Mrs. Whittemore made us leave the table, — and we moved up to the windows. Isabel took off the cloth, and put on the teacloth, and went off, I suppose, to the half-Sunday which was one of her “privileges.” Mr. Frye went on.
“People always have an excuse. Perhaps if we had not used the cars more or less, I should not have had this head in my discourse ; I know it all began with these Metropolitan tickets. I would not work at shoeing any more. I got a place in that shop where your firm are now, Mr. Webber, — the Beals were there then, — as a machinist. I had no difficulty ever with tools and iron. Pay was good enough. Work was steady, though rules were much stricter than at Milfold. But I had not got away, I have not till this hour, from that passion for extras. It is so much easier to earn an extra than to economize ; and it is a great deal easier still to plan how you will earn one, — and to think that is the same thing. I was tearing a strip of Neck cartickets in two, one day, to give Jenny half, when it occurred to me that there was a great moth of money. We spent twenty or thirty dollars a year on these tickets, and should be glad to spend twice as much. I think the fun of the thing at first, and then curiosity about it, set me on the business. I know I did not tell her. And before I had got my little hand-press started, and had succeeded in my electrotypes to my mind, and had spoiled a dozen blocks of wood in cutting my pattern, I had spent as much money five times over as all the car-tickets I ever printed would have cost me.”
“ You printed car-tickets ? ” said Mrs. Webber. “ I don’t understand.”
“O,” said poor Mr. Frye, blushing. “ I forgot that all people do not look on things as a machinist does, to see how they were made. Yes, Mrs. Webber, for two or three years, I printed all the Metropolitan tickets my wife and I used in riding. And eventually we rode a good deal. I satisfied such conscience as I had, by never selling any. And, as I said, I never told my wife. 1 tried to persuade myself it would be an economy after the plant was paid for. But it never was an economy. What was the •worst part of it was, that I hacl the plant. I had this little handy printingpress. You did not think why I got it, Mrs. Whittemore, when 1 printed your cards for you. That is rather a tempting thing to have in the house. And that little Grove’s battery, that I gilded your silver thimble with, Mrs. Stearns, is more of a temptation. Both together, I can tell you all, they start a man on more enterprises than are good for him.
“There is no danger,” he added, rather meditatively, “of the kind people call danger, if a man will only be reasonable, and be satisfied with what is good for him. It is the haste to be rich which is dangerous in that way, to people who would never have been * detected,’ as they call it, if they were willing to be reasonable and comfortable. " But it is not the detection and punishment which play the dogs with a man. It is the meanness and lying, after the first excitement of the enterprise is over. As I said, I never sold any car-tickets or stage-tickets. I just made enough for my own use and Jenny’s. I did give away a lot of concert-tickets one week at the shop; and I told the men that I had them for printing them. It was the off-part of the season, and the Music Hall was not half full, as it stood. 1 have sometimes thought the Steffanonis, or whoever it was, may have thanked me in their hearts for the audience. No. The trouble is, you see, you have to do things on the sly. I thought it would be a satisfaction to me to have five or six books out of the library at once ; and I got up my own libiary cards, — easy enough to fill them out with the names of dead people. But I never took any comfort in those books. George Fiske went into the gift-concert business. He knew I had this battery up stairs, and I used to gild his watch-backs for him. Well, George always paid me fairly, and I never told the lies at the counter and office and in the newspapers ; but I never saw a man take out his watch in the street, but I felt I was lying. I should not have stood it long, I suppose, any way; but I got tripped up at last pretty suddenly.”
“ You were arrested ? ” said little Lucas.
“ Arrested, my dear fellow ? No ! Whose business was it to arrest me. You do not keep your police to arrest people, do you ? No. The first breakdown was all along of the war. Look at that quarter-dollar.”
And Mr. Frye handed us a wellworn American quarter.
“ I carry that for a warning to transgressors. But I never told its story before. Now see here.”
And he lighted the gas at his side, balanced the quarter on his knife-blade, held it over the jet a minute, and the two silver sides fell on the table, while a little puddle of melted solder burned the “ Living Age,” which he held in his hand beneath.
“ There,” said he, “ did you ever see a worse quarter than that? Yet five minutes ago you would all have said it was worth thirty-seven cents in currency. Now, do you think, I had deposited with that battery, night after night, at last, eleven hundred and fifty-two silver eagles like that, and eleven hundred and fifty-two reverses like that, — twenty-four to a frame ; and I set the frames forty-eight times. I had just adjusted my lathe for polishing the backs,—if this thing was not so hot, I could show you, — when the banks suspended in 1861. And before I could get the backing in, and the soldering done, and the milling, and the tarnish well on, — you have to tarnish them. Mrs. Whittemore, in a mixture of lapis-lazuli and aquaregia, — why, silver coin was at a premium of ten per cent. Not a quarter was oflered by anybody in the shops ; and if anybody got one, it was sent somewhere where it was weighed within twenty-four hours. So all that speculation of mine flatted out. I kept two or three as a warning, like this one. But for the rest, — I had to melt down my silver to pay my little bills for turning-lathes and acids and lapis-lazuli, Mrs. Whittemore.”
And this time he laughed rather more good-naturedly.
“I laugh,” said he, “because this is the beginning of the end. We were living in Tyler Street when this happened ; and I had just enough persistency in me to say that if i could not have one quarter, I would another. But currency is a great deal harder. No! Mrs. Webber, you can't print bank-bills on a hand-press like that I have up stairs. It is not very easy to print them at all. But I was just so mad at my failure about the silver, that 1 went into my largest enterprise of all. I moved away my lathe to the shop ; I fitted up the closet in the attic for my chemicals ; I bought that pretty Volgtlander camera I showed you the other day, Mr. Barnes ; I seat out to Paris for the last edition of Barreswil’s book on Photography ; and that was where my skill in portraits began. I had to give up my place in the machine-shop. You can mill silver quarters at midnight; but you need sunshine to photograph currency. And then I had to open a photographic establishment, to satisfy the butcher and baker, and Jenny’s friends, and the mild police of the neighborhood generally, that I had something to do, and was entitled to have black fingers. I bought a show-case full of pictures of a man in Manchester, New Hampshire, — and horrid things they were. I hung that out at the door. Sometimes, to my rage and dismay, a sitter would come. I took care to be cross as a bear, to charge high, and to send them off with wretched pictures. They never came a second time. But 1 had to have some come, because of the mild police as I said; and I had to take Jenny’s friends for nothing. A photograph man has a good many deadheads, as well as one or two lay-figures. All this set me back. Then the government kept changing the pattern of its quarters. Worst of all, I had to let Jenny know this time, because it changed my life so entirely. 1 was, you see, roped into it by accident, I did not really know how. I promised her that, as soon as I was well out of debt, and the things all paid for, I would give it all up. But we were pretty badly in debt, and I should have to get more than two thousand dollars to make things square. And I had my pride up, and went on, till I did have, though it is a poor thing to boast of, as handsome a set of sheets of that second issue, and of their reverses, (they were printed for security on thin paper to be pasted together.) as Mr. Chase himself ever looked upon. Now, you need not look so frightened, my dear Mrs. Webber, for that was the end ! ”
“ How was it the end ? ” said she.
“ Why, my dear Mrs. Webber, as the minister said this morning, ‘ The wicked flee when no man pursueth.’ That comes into my sermon as it did into his. I had these lovely sheets, — they were lovely, though I say it,— three thousand sheets, twelve bills on a sheet, and the reverses too. 1 had just got up the gold sizing for the blotch round the face, when the doorbell rang. It was eight in the evening. Now we often had evening visitors; but it was arranged between Jenny and me, that, when they were all safe, Jenny should just touch a private bell that came up into the attic to my work-room. I heard the door-bell, but after the entry, no ting on my own.
“Who in thunder was it ? I slipped down one flight, and could see and hear nothing. 1 bolted the double doors. I put those precious negatives into my coal-stove, and opened the lower draft. I took those precious sheets and laid them in the two full bath-tubs that stood ready. That saint, Jenny, still kept the officers down stairs. They must be searching the cellar. If I only could get three minutes more! The glass of the negatives ran out in a puddle in the ash-heap. So far so good. The different piles of paper softened; and, pile by pile, I rolled them and rammed them into the open waste-pipe which for months had been prepared to take them in such an exigency to the sewer. I have not, — no, Mrs. Webber,— not one of those bills to show you. In seven minutes from that happy door-bell ring, the last shred of them was floating, in the condition of double refined 'papier tnachd, under ground, in Tyler Street, to the sea ; and I walked down stairs to see where Jenny was, and the officers.
“ Officers ! there were no officers. Only her nice old uncle and his wife had missed the train to Melrose, and had come to take tent with us.
“Jenny saw that I was nervous. But what could I say ? O dear ! we talked about early squashes, and Old Colony corn, and the best flavor for farina blanc-mange ; and then he and I talked politics, Governor Andrew, and the fall of Fort Henry, and what would happen to General Floyd. Till at last, after ten eternities, bed occurred to them as among the possibilities, and the dear old souls bade good night. Flis wife made him go. He had just got round to Jeff Davis ; and his last words to me were, ‘ The way of transgressors is hard.’
“ ‘ Hard, indeed,’ said I, as I turned round to Jenny. I was too wild with rage to scold. She did not know what was the matter. I spoke as gently as if I were asking her to marry me. And she — all amazement — declared she had struck my bell !
“ She had tried to. But as we tried it again, it was clear something had happened. It had been a piece of my own bell-hanging, and a kink in the wire had given way. Jenny had sent her signal, but the signal had not come. And I had sent my currency down to the sea for the sculpins to buy bait from the flounders with !
“ 'Jenny,’ said I, as I took down the candle from the ceiling, ‘you and I will go to bed. “ The way of the transgressor is hard,” beyond a peradventure.’
“ And as I looked at Jenny, I saw she was still too much frightened to begin to be glad. For me, I was not mad any longer. Do none of you fellows know what it is to feel that a game is played through, wholly through, and that you are glad it is done with ? Well, I can tell you what you do not know, — that if that game has required one constant lie, — or, what is the same thing, a steady concealment of real purpose, — and if it has forced you to lead in some little saint like my poor wife into the lie, — the relief of feeling that it is through is infinite.
“‘jenny, darling,’ said I, ‘don’t be afraid to be glad,—don’t be afraid of me. I was never so much pleased with anything in my life.’
“And she looked up — so happily! ‘Heber,’ said she, ‘the way of the transgressor is hard ’; — and we went to bed.
“ That is the end, brethren and sisters, of the second head of this discourse. Let us go into the parlor.”
So we went into the parlor.
Nobody said much in the parlor. But I noticed that all of them came in, which was unusual. Some of us lighted our cigars ; — I did. But Frye said nothing ; and I, for one, did not like to ask him to go on. But George Fificld, who, with a good deal of tenderness, has no tact, and always says the wrong thing, if there is any wrong thing to be said, blurted out, “Go ahead, Mr. Parson, we are all ready.”
“ Does any one want to hear the rest of such madness ?” said poor Mr. Frye.
“ Not if it pains you to tell us,” said good Mrs. Webber. “But really, really, you were very good to tell us what you did.”
And Mr. Frye went on.
“ If I had been preaching the sermon in my way,” said he, “I should have told you, what you could have guessed, that, having played that act through, I did not care to stay in Boston more than I liked to stay in Milfold. I had been married ten years, and I had learned two things : first, that a man can’t live, unless he keeps his body under ; next, that he can’t live and lie at the same time, — that he can’t live unless he keeps his ingenuity under, and his cunning and snakiness in general. To learn the first lesson had cleaned me out completely, and I hated Milfold, where I learned it. To learn the second had cleaned me out again, and left me two thousand dollars and more in debt,—so much worse than nothing. And, very naturally, I hated Boston, where I learned that too.
“What did I do ? I did what I always had done in trouble. I went to Harry Patrick, who happened to be here on business at the time. Harry had fought for me at school. He had coaxed my father for me when I was in scrapes. He took care of me when I was an apprentice. I have told you what he did for me in Milfold. He established me here. He sent his friends to see my wife. He had me chosen into his Lodge. He lent me money to buy my tools with. He introduced me at the Beals’. When I wanted my cameras and things he helped me to my credit. So of course I went to him. Well, I thought I was done with lying ; so I told him just the whole story. There was a quarter's rent due the next Monday. All the quarter’s bills at the shops were due, and some of them had arrears behind the beginning of the quarter. My winter’s over-coat, my best clothes, indeed, of every name, were at the Pawners’ Bank, where they keep your woollen clothes from the moths as well as those people on Washington Street do, but where they charge you quite as much for the preservation. Then I had borrowed, in money, twenty-five dollars here, five there, a hundred of one man, and so on, — old fellow-workmen at the machine-shop, — saying and thinking that I should be able to pay them in a few days. This was the reason, indeed, why I had hurried up the negatives, and printed off the impressions as steadily as I had,— because the 1st of October was at hand.
“ No. I was glad I did not have to write to him. I told him straight through, much as I have been telling you. If it has seemed to you that I was talking out of a book, it lias been because once — though of course never but once — I have been all over this wretched business in words before. I told Harry the whole. They say a man never tells all his debt. I suppose that is true. I did not tell him of some of the meanest of mine, and some that were most completely debts of honor. I said to myself that I could manage those myself some day. But then I told no lies. I said to him that this was about all. And he,— he did, as he always does, the completest and noblest thing that can be done. He gave me three coupon bonds which he had bought only the day before, meaning them for a birthday present for his mother. He gave me three hundred and twenty dollars in cash, and he went with me to the office of the photographic findings people, with a note of introduction Mr. Rice gave to him, and gave a note, jointly with me, for the chemicals and the cameras. So I was clear of debt that night, except the little things I had not told ; and I had near fifty dollars in my pocket.
“‘And what now?’ said he, when I went to thank him again the next morning,— and he spoke to me as cheerily as if I had never caused him a moment's care.
“ Well, lie wanted me to go on with the photograph room. But 1 hated it. I hated Boston. I hated the old shop. I hated the Tyler Street house. I hated the very color on my hands. 1 begged him to let me go with him to Washington. Perhaps I thought I should do better under his wing. I am ashamed to say that I had not then any special wish to serve the country, — God bless her ! — though I knew he was serving her so nobly. Nor did I know the whole meaning of the way of transgressors. Simply I hated Boston.
“ So he told me to leave the fortythree dollars with Jenny, and to come with him the next day to Washington. I had never been even to New York before. And at Washington not once did he fail me. For two or three weeks that I was hanging round, living at his charges, and hopelessly unable to do a thing for him, seeming like a fool, I suppose, because I know I felt like one, not once did he forget himself, nor speak an impatient word to me. And when he came unexpectedly back to our lodgings one day, an hour after he had gone out, to say that the head of the Department had that morning given him an appointment for me, or the promise of one, in the Bureau of Special Supplies, he was more glad than I was, you would have said. Not really ; but he was gentle about it, and took no credit to himself, and would have been glad it I could have believed that ‘The Chief’ had heard of me from my own fame, and had sent to him to find out where such a rare bird could be caught.
“ So pleasant days began again, Jenny and the children came on. Washington is, to my notion, the pleasantest city in America, if you have only the wherewithal. Always, you see, the great drama is going on before your eyes, and you arc one of the chorus. You see it all and hear it all, before the scenes and behind, and yet are even paid for standing and hearing the very first performers in the world. Tragedy sometimes, comedy sometimes, farce how often! melodrama every day. If you only obey Micawber, and insure the ‘result — happiness.’ But I could not do that, you know. Jenny could, and would, if I had let her. But I would buy books, — and I would take her on excursions,— I don't know, — Harry went off and 1 got in debt again. But I worked like a. dog at the bureau. I brought home copying for jenny. Always these odd jobs were my ruin. I was always hoping to help myself through. But I was early at work, and at night I screwed out the gas in the office ; and so I got promoted. That helped, but it ruined too. Promotion, too, was an ‘ odd job.’ I ran behind again, and I got promotion again. But when I ran behind a third time, no promotion came, and I —
“ O, no ! dear Mrs. Webber. I did not do as Floyd or those people do. I did what was a great deal worse, — as much worse as the sin of a being with a heart can be than the sin of a being with only a brain.
“In my new post I had the oversight of all the accounts from the Artificers’ Department in the field. By one of the intricacies, which I need not explain, they were in the habit of sending over for us to use, from the OuartermasterGeneral’s, the originals of all the reports they received, for us to see what we wanted by way of confirming our vouchers ; and we then sent them all back to them. This was because we were ahead of them. They were some weeks behindhand, and we were 1 fly,’ as our jargon called it. So it happened that I used to see Harry’s own official reports to their office, even before they read them themselves. They opened them, you know, and sent them to us, — we copied what we wanted, and sent them back again.
“ Of course I was interested in what he was doing. I need not say that he was doing it thoroughly well. He loved work. . He loved the country. He believed in the cause. And off there, at that strange little post, curiously separated from the grand armies, and in many matters reporting direct to Washington, he was cadi, viceroy, commissary, chief-engineer, schoolmaster, minister, major-general, and everything, under his modest major’s maple-leaves. It was a queer post,—just the place one dreams of when he fancies himself fit for everything,—just the place for an honest man, —yes, just the place for him.
“Strictly speaking, I had no right to read his reports. But then I did read them. I liked to know what lie was doing. At last, one infernal day, I happened to notice that lie had misunderstood one of the service regulations about returns, which had made us infinite trouble when I was in the large room with Blenker. I knew all about it. But it had confused Harry. I was glad I observed it before they did, and I wrote to him at once about it. I knew it might save him money to notice it; for they would stop his pay while they notified him. I wrote. But he never got the letter. The next week and the next this same variation in his accounts-keeping came in. Nothing wrong, you know; but —look here — if I had a blank I could show you. Well, no matter, —but just one of those things which you world’s people call 1 red tape.’ Really, one part of it sprang from his not understanding where the apostrophes belonged in ‘ Commissaries’ wagoners’ assistants’ rations.’ I wrote to him again and again and again. Four letters I wrote; but Sherman and Hardee and Benham and Hayes, and I do not know who, were raising Ned with the communications, and he never got one of my letters. And when the sixth of these accounts of his came, — well, I was in debt, I wanted a change,— well, — your Doctor to-day would have said the Devil came. I wish I thought it was anybody’s fault but mine. What did I do, but send over to the Quartermaster’s for the whole series, which we had sent back; and then 1 went up to the chief, I sent in my card, and I said to him that my attention had been called to this obliquity in accounts,— that I had warned Mr. Patrick, because I had formerly known him, that he was not construing the act correctly, — that he persisted in drawing as he did, and making the returns as he did,—and that, in short, though strictly it was not my business, yet, as it would be some months before the papers would be reached in order, (this was a lie, — they had really come to the first of them,) 1 thought it my duty to the government to call attention to the matter. As we both knew, I said, it was an isolated post, and an officer did not pass under the same observation as in most stations.
“Yes, I said all that. It was awful. I can't tell you wholly how or why I said it, I did not guess it would turn out as it did. 1 did hope I should be sent out on special service to inspect. But I did not think of anything more. But a nun cannot have just what he chooses. The chief — not his old chief, you know, who appointed me, but a new Pharaoh, a real Shepherd King who did not know him or me — the chief was one of those chiefs who makes up for utter incompetency in general by immense fiddling over a detail, — the chief, I say, had his cigar, and was comfortable, and knew no more about this post than you do, and asked me, in a patronizing way, about it, not confessing ignorance, but as a great man will. That temptation I could not resist. Who can ? You know a man’s business better than he knows it himself; and he asks you to tell it to him, and sits and enjoys. I say, not Abdiel nor Uriel in the host of heaven would have been pure enough to have resisted that temptation, if the Devil had feigned ignorance, and asked advice about keeping the peace in Pandemonium. At all events, I could not resist. I stood, — I sat at last, when he asked me, — and told him the whole story, adorned as I chose.
“The next day he sent for me again ; and I found more than my boldest hopes had fancied, — that he was thinking of displacing poor Harry, and putting me there as his substitute. Of course I blocked his wheels, you say, and explained. No such thing. I snapped at the promotion! Was not promotion what I must have ? I played modest, to be sure. ‘ I had not expected —but if the government wished — there were reasons — our bureau — my own early training,’ — this, that, and the other. Don't make me tell the whole : it was too nasty. The end was, that I was ordered to leave Washington with a colonel's commission, outranking Harry two grades, the right to name my staff when I got upon the ground, and a separate commission making me military governor of the district of Willston, Alabama, to report in duplicate to Washington and to the district head - quarters. Poor Harry was to report in person to the Department, in disgrace.
“ Here was a prize vastly higher than I had sought for. 1 was not very happy with it. But I had the grace to say to myself that I could pay my debts now, and would never go in debt again. I would even pay poor Harry, I thought; but then I had another qualm, as I remembered that there were near three thousand dollars due him, and that even a colonel’s pay and allowances would not stand that, in the first quarter. I did not go back to my own office then. I went home and told Jenny. I did not tell her where 1 was going. I only told her it was promotion, and high promotion. I bade her take comfort; and that very afternoon I turned over my papers and keys and hurried away.
“ I went on to Willston. I wish I were telling you how; but that is not a part of the sermon. I got there. I found Harry. He was amazed to see me. Pie was delighted. He took me right into his own little den, asked if there was bad news, asked what brought me, and — well, my friends, the worst thing of the whole, the worst thing in my life, was my telling him I had superseded him !
“And now, do you believe T had the face to say to him, that it was the saddest moment of my life ? That was true enough, God knows ! But I said more. I dared tell him that I had had no dream of what urns in the wind. That I did not receive my orders till I had left Washington, and that I had not a thought or suspicion who could have been caballing against him at the Department! I told him this, when I knew I had done the whole !
“ Good fellow ! He cried. I believe I did. He said, ‘ I can’t talk about it’; and he hurried away. I did not see him again till the war was done. 1 went out and found the gentlemen of his staff. Of course they hated me. By and by I had my own staff. They did not love me. The people hated me. Did you hear that man read to-day, ‘The citizens hated him, and said, We will not have this man to reign over us ’ ? But 1 am ahead of my story. It was Saturday night that I arrived. Sunday I dressed up and ‘attended religious worship with the garrison.’ Do you believe, the chaplain, a little wiry Sandemanian preacher, chose to tell those men, £ The way of transgressors is hard.’ And I had to stand and take it, without the consolation I am giving myself today.
“ It was not he that told me, — what I found out the night before, when I quailed under Harry’s eye, —that it is the way that is hard. I had always tried to think that it was a hard station that you got to,— a lock-up or a bankruptcy. But as I lied to Harry, and then as I met the staff, and now again behind this chaplain, 1 knew that what was hard was the 'way. And from that moment till 1 had to resign my commissions, I knew every second of life that the way was hard. I had good things happen, some, and lots of bad ones ; but I never got that feeling about the way out of my heart. I said just now my own gentlemen did not love me. I don't know why T say so, but that I thought so. For I thought nobody liked me or believed in me, — just because I hated myself after I stood there with Harry, and did not believe in myself. I tell you it was very hard for me to go through the routine of life there. As for success, — why, if Vesuvius had started up next door to' us and overwhelmed us, I should not have cared.
“ I suppose you know what did happen. If you do, the sermon is ended. There never should have been any post at Willston. We were there to ‘make Union sentiment.’ In fact, the Rebels lived on us, laughed at us, and hated us. Harry did conciliate some people, I think, and frightened more. I conciliated nobody, and frightened nobody. I bad begun wrong. ‘ Sinful heart makes feeble hand,’ —and it makes feeble head too, Mr. Marmion ; and, worse than that, a man can t make any friends of himself or anybody else with it. I tried a great diplomatic dodge. There was a lot of rice on a plantation, and I started a private negotiation with one Haraden who owned it, — not for myself, really, but for government. We wanted the rice. Then my chief woke up one day from a long sleep, and sent us a perfectly impossible string of instructions. Then I heard that Dick Wagstaff one of the enemy’s lighthorse, was threatening my outpost at Walker. I did not know what to do. How should 1 ? But I put on a bold face, and marched out the garrison, and went part way to Walker; and then 1 thought I had better go down to Haraden’s ; and then, -I tell you, it was just like a horrid dream, —then I remembered that the gunboats might have been sent up to help us, and I sent an express for them, and marched that way ; but then news came that we had been wrong about Walker, and I thought we had better cross back there. But while we were crossing, there came an awful rain. We could not get the guns on, and had to stop over night, not only in the wettest place you ever saw, but in the only place we ought not to have been in at all. And there, at the gray of morning, before my men could or would start a cannon, down came Dick WagstafPs flying squadron. What is worst is, that we found out, afterwards, there were but forty of them, and yet, m one horrid muddle of confusion, we left the guns, left what rice we had got, left ever so many men who had not time to tumble up, and, indeed, we hardly got back alive to Willston. If Dick Wagstaff had known his business half as well as he was thought to, not one of us would have seen the place again. But the queer thing of all this shame and disgrace to me was, that it almost comforted me. I remember my mother used to flog me when I was sulky, and say she would give me something to cry for. As we trailed back through the mud, it fairly pleased me to think that now, if I looked like a cursed hang-dog, people would not wonder. My outside was as bad at last as my in. I remember, as we came to the last bridge over the Coosa River, I, who was riding after the rear of the column, overtook McMurdy, — this chaplain I told you of. He was walking, leading his own horse, on which sat or crouched a man faint as death, so he could hardly hold on. I made McMurdy take my horse and trudged beside him for the rest ot the way. ‘This is pretty hard, Doctor,’ said I.
‘“Hard for us,’ said the grim little man, ‘but not so hard for us as for the Gray backs.’
“ ‘ I don’t see that,’ said I. But in a minute I saw that the little man was clear grit, and true to his cloth.
“He set his teeth, and said: ‘Not so hard for us, because we are right, and they are wrong. Every dog has his day, Colonel. They are bound to come to grief when the clock strikes for them.’
“Poor little Doctor. lie preached at me harder, when he said that, than the first day I saw him, when he was ‘ secondlying it,’ and ‘ in conclusioning it,7 to the men. I made my mouth up to say, ‘ The way of transgressors is hard, Doctor.’ But the cant stuck in my throat. That would have been too steep. Who was I, to say it ? I said nothing. He said nothing. But I trailed after him, up to my knees in that Alabama mud ; and I said to myself, It is the way that’s hard, by Jove. It is not the consequence that is hard, nor the punishment. That is rather easy in comparison. And I spoke aloud: ‘It’s the way.’ Just then a contraband’s mule pitched into me, — almost knocked me down, — and the little nigger said to me: ‘ Beg pardon, massa ; Jordan mighty hard road to trabbel to-night.7 I did not swear at him. I stood by and let him pass. And I said to myself: ‘Mighty hard. It is the way that’s hard, and not the bed you lie on at the end of it.7
“ Indeed, at that very moment of misery, utter failure, beastly defeat, I felt the first reaction from the misery that had galled me ever since I lied to Harry’s face. This was the end at last. All that was the way.
“ As soon as they heard of all this, of course I was relieved, in disgrace. I was bidden to report at Washington, just as Patrick had done. 1 swear to you I was a happier man than I had been since the day he left me there.
Mr. Frye stopped. And then he walked up and down the room. It was long since he had smiled or pretended to. But he rested on a chair-back now, and said: “That is all the sermon. I shall feel better now I have told you. I shall never tell any one again. But one revelation of such a thing a man had better make, where it costs him something. So I am glad to have tokl you.”
Mrs. Webber had her eyes full ot tears. “ You don’t tell us all,” said she, — “you don’t tell how you came here.”
“ That hardly belongs to the sermon,” said he. “Yes, it does. When I met Jenny, I told her the whole thing right through.
“ ‘ Poor "boy,’ said she ; ‘ it is hard,’ meaning to comfort me.
“ ‘ Jenny,’ said I, * it is hard. Drinking is hard ; cheating is hard. You and I found that out before. And this infernal intriguing — politics, I believe they call it — is the hardest of all. It 7s a hard way, Jenny.’
“ ‘ Body, mind, and soul,’ said poor fenny : ‘ it is hard any way 3 ; — and she cried.
« So did I. And then I went across, and sent in my name to Harry. He was all right again, and brevetted brigadier. And I said, ‘Plarry, ten times you have lifted me out of the gutter; ten times I have gone in deeper than before. This time 1 help myself. This time I have found out, what till now I have never believed, that 1 carried failure with me,— that I was therefore bound to fail, and had to tail. Many, said I, ‘ the very God in heaven does not choose to have a broken wire carry lightning, nor a lying life succeed. That’s why I ’ve failed. Now see me help myself.’
“ Harry gave me both his hands, shook mine heartily, and we said good byI came on here, because here I had been in the mud. I started this little patent about the clothes-brushes. I let the results look out for themselves. For me, all I care for now is the way. I pay as I go ; and I take care that Jordan shall be an easy road to travel. Harry came on last fall, and we ate our Thanksgiving together at Jenny’s father’s.
“ That is all my sermon.”
And now Frye lighted his cigar.
We agreed among the boarders that we would not mention this. But last Sunday, at a church I was at in Boothia Felix, the man led us through three quarters of an hour of what my grandfather’s spelling-book would have called “trisyllables on ality, elity, and ility,” and “polysyllables in ation, ition, etion, and otion.” It was three dreary quarters of abstract expression. When the fourth quarter began, he said, “ History is full of illustrations of our doctrine, but I will not weary you by their repetition.”
“ Old Cove,” said I, “ I wish you would. If you would just take that lesson from Mr. Frye ! ” Or I should have said so, had the ritual and etiquette of that congregation permitted.