Mary, the Merchant's Daughter
Leaning gently forward, her shawl falling carelessly from her shoulders, and her bonnet thrown back from her
brow, the fair girl impressed a kiss on the cheek of her father, while the glossy ringlets of her hair mingled their
luxuriant brown with the white locks of the kind old man.
The father seated on the sofa, his hands clasping her slight and delicate fingers, looked up into her beaming
face with a look of unspeakable affection, while a warm glow of feeling flushed over the pale face of the mother,
a fine matronly dame of some forty-five, who stood gazing on her daughter, with one hand resting on the
The mild beams of an astral lamp diffused a softened and pleasing light through the parlor. The large mirror
glittering over the mantle, the curtains of crimson silk depending along the windows, the sofa on which the old
man was seated, the carpet of the finest texture, the costly chairs, the paintings that hung along the walls, and in
fine all the appointments of the parlor, designated the abode of luxury and affluence.
The father, who sate on the sofa gazing in the face of his child, was a man of some sixty years, with a fine
venerable countenance, wrinkled by care and time, with thin locks of snow-white hair falling along his high pale
forehead. In his calm blue eyes, looking forth from the shadow of a thick grey eyebrow, and in the general
contour of his face, you might trace as forcible a resemblance to his daughter, as ever was witnessed between an
old man just passing away from life, and a fair young girl, blooming and blushing on the very threshold of
womanhood. The old man was clad in glossy black, and his entire appearance, marked the respectable
merchant, who, retiring from active business, sought in the quietude of his own home, all the joys, that life, wealth
or affection united and linked in blessings, have in their power to bestow.
The mother, who stood resting her hand on her husband's shoulder, was, we have said, a fine matronly
dame of forty-five. A mild pale face, a deep black eye, and masses of raven hair, slightly sprinkled with the silver
threads of age, parted over a calm forehead, and tastefully disposed beneath a plain cap of lace, gave the
mother an appearance of sweetness and dignity combined, that was eminently effective in winning the respect
and love of all who looked upon her.
"Mary—my child—how lovely you have grown!" exclaimed the Merchant, in a deep quiet tone, as he
pressed her fair hands within his own, and looked up in her face.
"Nonsense! You will make the child vain—" whispered the wife playfully, yet her face flushed with affection,
and her eyes shone an answer to her husband s praise.
The girl was indeed beautiful.
As she stood there, in that quiet parlor, gazing in her father's face, she looked like a breathing picture of
youth, girlhood and innocence, painted by the finger of God. Her face was very beautiful. The small bonnet
thrown back from her forehead, suffered the rich curls of her brown hair to escape, and they fell twining and
glossy along each swelling cheek, as though they loved to rest upon the velvet skin. The features were regular,
her lips were full red and ripe, her round chin varied by a bewitching dimple, and her eyes were large, blue and
eloquent, with long and trembling lashes. You looked in those eyes, and felt that all the sunlight of a woman's
soul was shining on you. The face was lovely, most lovely, the skin, soft, velvety, blooming and transparent, the
eyes full of soul, the lips sweet with the ripeness of maiden hood, and the brow calm and white as alabaster, yet
was there no remarkable manifestation of thought, or mind, or intellect visible in the lines of that fair countenance.
It was the face of a woman formed to lean, to cling, to love, and never to lean on but one arm, never to cling but
to one bosom, never to love but once, and that till death and forever.
The fair round neck, and well-developed bust, shown to advantage in the close fitting dress of black silk,
the slender waist, and the ripening proportions of her figure, terminated by slight ancles and delicate feet, all gave
you the idea of a bud breaking into bloom, a blossom ripening into fruit, or what is higher and holier, a pure and
happy soul manifesting itself to the world, through the rounded outlines of a woman s form.
"Come, come father, you must not detain me any longer—" exclaimed the daughter in a sweet and low-
toned voice—"You know aunt Emily has been teasing me these two weeks, ever since I returned from boarding-
school, to come and stay with her all night. You know I was always a favorite with the dear old soul. She wants
to contrive some agreeable surprise for my birth-day, I believe. I'm sixteen next Christmas, and that is three days
off. Do let me go, that's a good father—"
"Had'nt you better put on your cloak, my love?" interrupted the Mother, regarding the daughter with a look
of fond affection—"The night is very cold, and you may suffer from exposure to the winter air—"
"Oh no, no, no, mother—" replied the fair girl, laughingly—"I do so hate these cloaks—they're so bungling
and so heavy! I'll just fling my shawl across my shoulders, and run all the way to Aunt Emily's. You know it's
only two squares distant in Third Street—"
"And then old Lewey will see you safe to the door?" exclaimed the Mother—"Well, well, go along my dear
child, take good care of yourself, and give my love to your Aunt—"
"These old maids are queer things"—said the Merchant with a smile—"Take care Mary or Aunt Emily will
find out all your secrets—"
And the old man smiled pleasantly to himself, for the idea of a girl, so young, so innocent, having any secrets
to be found out, was too amusing to be entertained without a smile.
A shade fell over the daughter's face so sudden and melancholy that her parents started with surprise.
"Why do you look so sad, my child?" exclaimed the Father, looking up in his daughter's face. "What is there
in the world to sadden you, my Mary?"
"Nothing, father, nothing—" murmured Mary, flinging her form on her father's bosom and twining her arms
round his neck as she kissed him again and again—"Only I was thinking—just thinking of Christmas, and—"
The fair girl rose suddenly from her father's bosom, and flung her arms hurriedly around her mother's neck,
imprinting kiss after kiss on her lips.
"Good bye mother—I'll be back—I'll be back—to-morrow."
And in an instant she glided hastily to the door and left the room.
"Lewey is'nt it very cold to night?" she asked as she observed the white-haired negro-servant waiting in the
hall, wrapped up in an enormous overcoat, with a comforter around his neck and a close fur cap surmounting his
grey wool and chubby round face—"I'm sorry to take you out in the cold, Lewey."
"Bress de baby's soul—" murmured the old negro opening the door—"Habbent I nuss you in dese arms
when you warnt so high? Lewey take cold ? Debbil a cold dis nigger take for no price when a-waitin' on missa
Mary stood upon the threshold of her home looking out into the cold starlit night. Her face was for a
moment overshadowed by an expression of the deepest melancholy, and her small foot trembled as it stepped
over the threshold. She looked hurriedly along the gloomy street, then cast her glance backwards into the entry,
and then with a wild bound she retraced her steps, and stood beside her father and her mother.
Again she kissed them, again flung her arms round their necks, and again bounded along the entry crying
laughingly to her parents--"Good night—good night—I'll be back to-morrow."
Again she stood upon the threshold, but all traces of laughter had vanished from her face. She was sad and
silent, and there were tears in her eyes. At least the old negro said so afterwards, and also that her tiny foot,
when resting on the door-sill, trembled like any leaf.
Why should her eye grow dim with tears and her foot tremble? Would not that tiny foot, when next it
crossed the threshold, bound forward with a gladsome movement, as the bride sprung to meet her father and her
mother once again? Would not that calm blue eye, now filled with tears, grow bright with a joy before unknown,
when it glanced over the husband's form, as for the first time he stood in the fathers presence? Would not
Christmas Eve be a merry night for the bride and all her friends as they went shouting merrily through the
luxuriantly furnished chambers of her father's mansion? Why should she fear to cross the threshold of her home,
when her coming back was to be heralded with blessings and crowned with love?
How will the future answer these trembling questions of that stainless heart?
She crossed the threshold, and not daring to look back, hurried along the gloomy street. It was clear, cold,
starlight, and the pathways were comparatively deserted. The keen winter wind nipped her cheek, and chilled
her form, but above her, the stars seemed smiling her onward, and she fancied the good angels, that ever watch
over woman's first and world-trusting love, looking kindly upon her from the skies.
After traversing Third street for some two squares, she stood before an ancient three-storied dwelling, at
the corner of Third and—streets, with the name of 'Miss. E. Graham,' on the door plate.
"Lewey you need'nt wait—"she said kindly—yet not without a deeper motive than kindness—to the aged
Negro who had attended her thus far—"I'll ring the bell myself. You had better hurry home and warm yourself—
and remember, Lewey, tell father and mother that they need not expect me home before to-morrow at noon.
Good night, Lewey."
"Good night, Missa Mary, Lor' Moses lub your soul—" muttered the honest old Negro, as, pulling his
furcap over his eyes, he strode homeward—"Dat ar babby's a angel, dat is widout de wings. De Lor grant when
dis here ole nigger gets to yander firmey-ment—dat is if niggers gets dar at all—he may be 'pinted to one ob de
benches near Missa Mary, so he can wait on her, handy as nuffin—dats all. She's a angel, and dis here night, is a
leetle colder dan any night in de memory ob dat genel'man de Fine Col'ector nebber finds—de berry oldest
Thus murmuring, Lewey trudged on his way, leaving Mary standing in front of Aunt Emily's door. Did she
pull the bell? I trow not, for no sooner was the negro out of sight, than the tall figure of a woman, dressed in
black, with a long veil drooping over her face, glided round the corner and stood by her side.
"Oh—Bessie—is that you?" cried Mary, in a trembling voice—"I'm so frightened I don't know what to do—
Oh Bessie—Bessie don't you think I had better turn back—"
"He waits for you—" said the strange woman, in a husky voice.
Mary hurriedly laid her hand on the stranger's arm. Her face was overspread with a sudden expression of
feeling, like a gleam of sunshine, seen through a broken cloud on a stormy day, and in a moment, they were
speeding down Third street toward the southern districts of the Quaker City. Another moment, and the eye
might look for them in vain.
And as they disappeared the State House clock rung out the hour of nine. This, as the reader will perceive,
was just four hours previous to the time when Byrnewood and Lorrimer closed their wager in the subterranean
establishment along Chesnut street. To the wager and its result we now turn our attention and the reader's
|Continue on now to Chapter Third,
in which Lorrimer and Byrnewood take their drunken debauch
to the streets of the Quaker City
Byrnewood and Lorrimer