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A TALE OF LIFE-ASSURANCE, BY MRS S. C. HALL.*
U DO not tell you whether the village of Repton, where
the two brothers John and Charles Adams originally resided, is near or far from London: it is a pretty
village to this day; and when John Adams, some five-and-thirty years ago, stood on the top of Repton Hill, and looked down upon the houses—the little church, whose simple gate was flanked by two noble yew-trees, beneath
whose branches he had often sat—the murmuring riv in which he had often fished—the cherry orchards, where the ripe fruit hung like balls of coral; when he looked down upon all these dear domestic sights—for so every native of Repton considered them-John Adams might have been supposed to question if he had acted wisely in selling to his brother Charles the share of the well-cultivated farm, which had been equally divided at their father's death. It extended to the left of the spot on which he was standing, almost within a ring fence; the meadows fresh shorn of their produce, and fragrant with the perfume of new hay; the crops full of promise; and the lazy cattle laving themselves in the standing pond of the abundant farm-yard. In a
This interesting little story appeared originally in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, for which it was written by the amiable and gifted authoress. It has been issued in the present convenient form, for the purpose of universal distribution by all who are anxious to promote that most desirable practice the insuring of lives for the benefit of surviving
paddock, set apart for his especial use, was the old blind horse his father had bestrode during the last fifteen years of his life: it leant its sightless head upon the gate, half upturned, he fancied, towards where he stood. It is wonderful what small things will sometimes stir up the hearts of strong men, ay, and, what is still more difficult, even of ambitious men. Yet he did not feel at that moment a regret for the fair acres he had parted with; he was full of the importance which the possession of a considerable sum of money gives a young man, who has been fagging almost unsuccessfully in an arduous profession, and one
which requires a certain appearance of success to command success — - for John Adams even then placed M.D. after his plain name; yet still, despite the absence of sorrow, and the consciousness of increased power, he continued to look at poor old Ball until his eyes swam in tears,
With the presence of his father, which the sight of the old horse had conjured up, came the remembrance of his peculiarities, his habits, his expressions; and he wondered, as they passed in review before him, how he could ever have thought the dear old man testy or tedious. Even his frequent quotations from “ Poor Richard” appeared to him, for the first time, the results of common prudence; and his rude but wise rhyme, when, in the joy of his heart, he told his father he had absolutely received five guineas as one fee from an ancient dame who had three middleaged daughters (he had not, however, acquainted his father with that fact), came more forcibly to his memory than it had ever done to his ear
“For want and age save while you may;
No morning sun shines all the day." He repeated the last line over and over again, as his father had done; but as his “morning sun” was at that moment shining, it is not matter of astonishment that the remembrance was evanescent, and that it did not make the impression upon him his father had desired long before.
A young, unmarried, handsome physician, with about three thousand pounds in his pocket, and good expectations," might be excused for building « des châteaux
en Espagne.” A very wise old lady once said to me, “Those who have none on earth, may be forgiven for building them in the air; but those who have them on earth should be content therewith.” Not so, however, was John Adams; he built and built, and then by degrees de scended to the realities of his position. What power would not that three thousand pounds give him! He wondered if Dr Lee would turn his back upon him now, when they met in consultation; and Mr Chubb, the county apothecary, would he laugh, and ask him if he could read his own prescriptions ? Then he recurred to a dream for it was so vague at that time as to be little more—whether it would not be better to abandon altogether
country practice, and establish himself in the metropolis London. A thousand pounds, advantageously spent, with a few introductions, would do a great deal in London, and that was not a third of what he had. And this great idea banished all remembrance of the past, all sense of the present—the young aspirant thought only of the future.
Five years have passed. Dr John Adams was 4 settled” in a small "showy" house in the vicinity of Mayfair; he had, the world said, made an excellent match. He married a very pretty girl, “ highly connected,” and was considered to be possessed of personal property, because, for so young a physician, Dr Adams lived in " a superior style. His brother Charles was still residing in the old farm-house, to which, beyond the mere keeping it in repair, he had done but little, except, indeed, adding a wife to his establishment-a very gentle, loving, yet industrious girl, whose dower was too small to have been her only attraction. Thus both brothers might be said to be fairly launched in life. It might be imagined that Charles Adams—having determined to reside in his native village, and remain, what his father and grandfather had been, a simple gentleman farmer, and that rather on a small than a large scale—was altogether without that feeling of ambition which stimulates exertion and elevates the mind. Charles Adams had quite enough of this—which may be said, like fire, to be “a good servant, but a bad master”—but he made it subservient to the dictates of prudence-and a forethought, the gift, perhaps, that above all others we should most earnestlý covet for those whose prosperity we would secure. To save his brother's portion of the freehold from going into the hands of strangers, he incurred a debt; and wisely-while he gave to his land all that was necessary to make it yield its increase—he abridged all other expenses, and was ably seconded in this by his wife, who resolved, until principal and interest were discharged, to live quietly and carefully. Charles contended that every appearance made beyond a man's means was an attempted
upon the public; while John shook his head, and answered that it might do very well for Charles to say so, as no one expected the sack that brought the grain to market to be of fine Holland, but that no man in a profession could get on in London without making an appearance.” At this Charles shrugged his shoulders, and thanked God he lived at Repton.
The brothers, as years moved rapidly on-engaged as they were by their mutual industry and success in their several fields of action-met but seldom. It was impossible to say which of the two continued the most prosperous. Dr Adams made several lucky hits; and having so obtained a position, was fortunate in
an abundance of patients in an intermediate sort of state -that is, neither very well nor very ill. Of a really bland and courteous nature, he was kind and attentive to all, and it was
certain that such of his patients as were only in moderate circumstances, got well long before those who were rich. His friends attributed this to his humanity as much as to his skill; his enemies said he did not like “poor patients.” Perhaps there was a mingling of truth in both statements. The money he had received for his portion of the land was spent, certainly, before his receipts equalled his expenditure; and, strangely enough, by the time the farmer had paid off his debt, the doctor was involved, not to a large amount, but enough to render his appearance” to a certain degree fictitious. This embarrassment, to do him justice, was not of long continuance; he became the fashion; and before prosperity had turned his head by an influx of wealth, so as to render him careless, he got rid of his debt, and then his wife agreed with him “ that they might live as they pleased.".
It so happened that Charles Adams was present when this observation was made, and it spoke well for both the brothers that their different positions in society had not in the smallest degree cooled their boyhood's affection; not even the money transactions of former times, which so frequently create disunion, had changed them; they met less frequently, but they always met with pleasure, and separated with regret.
“Well!” exclaimed the doctor triumphantly, as he glanced around his splendid rooms, and threw himself into a chaise longue—then a new luxury—“well
, it is certainly a charming feeling to be entirely out of debt.”'
“ And yet,” said his wife, “it would not be wise to confess it our circle.”
Why?" inquired Charles. “ Because it would prove that we had been in it," answered the lady.
" At all events,” said John, “now I shall not have to reproach myself with every extra expense, and think I ought to pay my debts first; now I may live exactly as I please.”
“I do not think so,” said Charles.
“Not think so !” repeated Mrs Adams in a tone of astonishment.
“ Not think so !” exclaimed John. “Do I not make the money myself!" “Granted, my dear fellow; to be sure you do,” said Charles.
“Then why should I not spend it as pleases me best? Is there any reason why I should not?”
As if to give the strongest dramatic effect to Charles's opinion, the nurse at that moment opened the drawing-room door, and four little laughing children rushed into the room.
“There—are four reasons against your spending your income exactly as you please; unless, indeed, part of your plan be to provide for them,” answered Charles very seriously.
“ I am sure,” observed Mrs Adams with the half-offended air of a weak woman when she hear's the truth, “ John need not be
told his duty to his children; he has always been a most affectionate father."
“A father may be fond and foolish,” said Charles, who was peculiarly English in his mode of giving an opinion. "For my part, I could not kiss my little Mary and Anne when I go to bed at night, if I did not feel I had already formed an accumulating fund for their future support-a support they will need all the more when their parents are taken from them, as they must be in the course of time."
“They must marry,” said Mrs Adams.
“That is a chance," replied Charles; "women hang on hands now-a-days. At all events, by God's blessing, I am resolved that, if they are beauties, they shall never be forced by poverty to accept unworthy matches; if they are plain, they shall have enough to live upon without husbands."
“ That is easy enough for you, Charles,” said the doctor, " who have had your broad acres to support you, and no necessity for expenditure or show of any kind; who might go from Monday morning till Saturday night in home-spun, and never give anything beyond home-brewed and gooseberry wine, with a chance bottle of port to your visitors; while I—Heaven help me—was obliged to dash in a well-appointed equipage, entertain, and appear to be doing a great deal in my profession, when a guinea would pine in solitude for a week together in my pocket.”
“I do not want to talk with you of the past, John,” said Charles ; “our ideas are more likely to agree now than they were ten or twelve years ago; I will speak of the future and present. You are now out of debt, in the very prime of life, and in the receipt of a splendid income; but do not, let me intreat you, spend it as it comes ; lay by something for those children ; provide for them either by insurance, or some of the many means that are open to us all. Do not, my dear brother, be betrayed by health, or the temptation for display, to live up to an income the nature of which is so essentially precarious.”
"Really," murmured Mrs Adams, “you put one into very low spirits."
Charles remained silent, waiting his brother's reply.
“My dear Charles,” he said at last," there is a great deal of truth in what you say-certainly a great deal; but I cannot change my style of living, strange as it may seem. If I did, I should lose my practice. And then I must educate my children ; that is an imperative duty, is it not?"
"Certainly it is; it is a part of the provision I have spoken of, but not the whole a portion only. If you have the means to do both, it is your duty to do both; and you have the means. Nay, my dear sister, do not seem angry or annoyed with me; it is for the sake of your children I speak; it is to prevent their ever knowing practically what we do know theoretically—that the world is a hard world; hard and unfeeling to those who