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- From Wealth to Poverty - 2/45 -


"Well, Ruth, dear, God helping me, I will again be a man, and when I am tempted I will think of my dear little wife and my darling children at home; and remembering how they love me, though I have been such an indifferent husband and father to them, I will not touch nor taste the cursed stuff."

The tears gleamed in his eyes as he thus spoke, but feeling his manhood was being compromised he endeavored to suppress them, the effort, however, was in vain, for the deepest depths of a noble, sensitive nature had been wrought upon by the loving appeal of his wife and the pent-up feeling, gathering force by the very effort which he had made to suppress it, manifested itself in a series of short, choking sobs. He returned the kisses of his wife, clasped her convulsively to him, and, as he looked down into the upturned face, his eyes manifested an affection which found no expression in speech. He stooped down and fondly kissed his children and then opening the door, with satchel in hand, he darted out, only looking back when his wife called to him, as she stood with her three little ones on the threshold--

"Remember, Richard, your wife and children will pray for you, that our Father in heaven may preserve you from danger, give you strength to resist temptation, and bring you back in safety to those who love you better than their own lives."

He stood looking back for a moment, and as he saw his wife and children still gazing intently after him, he murmured, "God bless you, my darlings;" and turning again, walked rapidly on until he was lost to view.

CHAPTER II.

RICHARD AND RUTH ASHTON.

Richard Ashton was a native of the town of G----, in the county of B----, England. His father, who was a draper in good circumstances, had given his son a liberal education and had brought him up to his own calling. The son, a young man of quick parts, took advantage of the opportunities so generously offered to him and prosecuted his studies with commendable success, and by the time he was a stripling of sixteen was possessed of knowledge that few of his years could boast.

Richard was also an omniverous reader, and, as his father possessed a good library, he, from a very early period had literally devoured the contents of the books which lined its shelves, and thus became well versed in history, both ancient and modern, in the biographies of most of the celebrated men of all ages, and was also well acquainted with the most eminent poets, from Chaucer to Tennyson, ever having an apt quotation at his command to fasten home a maxim or make more pungent a witticism. In fact he had further developed a mind naturally broad by making his own the best thoughts of the ages, and his sensitive nature could not, knowingly, have given pain to a worm--no one that was worthy appealed in vain to his generosity, and it seemed to be the endeavor of his life to gain happiness by making those with whom he associated happy. With his genial disposition, sparkling wit, skill at repartee, and brilliant conversational powers, it was not at all surprising, with such a nature and such accomplishments, joined to an exceedingly handsome person he should have been voted a good fellow by the men and a "catch" by the young ladies who had entered that interesting period when they are considered eligible candidates for matrimony. And as he had, over and above his accomplishments, good prospects for the future, the mammas of the aforementioned young ladies should not receive severe censure if they did each exercise the utmost skill to secure for a son-in-law the coveted prize. But these delicate manifestations were not productive of the results which, it was whispered by the Mrs. Grundies of the neighborhood, would have been most agreeable to the parties interested, for his heart had long been given to one who was in all respects worthy of its best affections. It afforded him, however, no little amusement to find himself the object of so much attention, and he quietly enjoyed the situation, while the parties in question endeavored to out-manoeuvre each other, as they strove, as they supposed without appearing to strive, to capture the object of their ambition. There was such subtle tact exhibited and such powers of delicate blandishment displayed that he was convinced women were born diplomatists, and he now had some conception of how it was that in a broader field some of the sex had wielded such an influence over kings and statesmen as to be the powers behind the throne which ruled empires and kingdoms for their benison or their bane. He certainly would have possessed extraordinary attributes if his vanity had not been flattered, by being conscious he was thought worthy of such flattering attention; though his thoughts were tinged with cynicism when exhibitions of selfishness were not wanting in his fair friends, and as, sometimes, delicate hints were faintly outlined which darkened character, and inuendoes were whispered to the detriment of rivals, by lips that seemed moulded only to breathe blessings or whisper love.

As we have previously stated, Richard Ashton had met his fate years before, when, as a young man of eighteen, he attended a social party given by a Mrs. Edmunds, whose husband was a great friend of his father's, and a member of the same guild. He was there introduced to a modest, unpretentious, but yet cultivated and refined country maiden, Ruth Hamilton by name, who was a niece of his host. We will not say it was a case of love at first sight, though they certainly were, from the first, mutually attracted each to the other, for, when he entered into conversation, he found her so modest and unaffected, yet with a mind so well furnished--seeming to have an intelligent conception of every topic upon which they touched, as they ranged at will in their conversation, evincing such acumen of intellect and such practical comprehension of subjects of which many of her sex, who made much greater pretentious, were entirely ignorant, that Ashton, concluded she was a treasure, indeed, which he would make his own, if possible.

She might not by some be called a beauty, for she could not boast of classic regularity of feature; but no one could be long in her presence without yielding the, tribute which, at first sight, he was chary of giving. She was fair of complexion--not of a pallid hue, but tenderly tinted, like a peach blossom, and so transparent that the blue veins could be plainly discerned as they made their delicate tracery across her low, broad brow. Her mouth was small, but expressive, and her lips red and fresh as a rosebud. She had glorious gray eyes, large and expressive, luminous and deep, which in repose spoke of peace and calm, but which, when excited by mirth or by a witticism, glowed and scintillated like wavelets in the golden light of the sun.

Two such spirits, so alike in taste and yet so opposite in temperament and complexion, could scarcely fail to be mutually attractive; for he was dark and she fair; his temper was as the forked lightning's flash, quick and sometimes destructive, while she was ever calm, gentle, and self-possessed. In fact, they were the complement each of the other, and it was not long ere he had wooed and won her, and obtained the consent of her guardians to make her his wife.

They were married one beautiful day in the bright Spring-time, when nature had donned her loveliest dress, and the air was fragrant with the breath of flowers and vocal with the songs of birds. As they stood together at the altar--he with his wavy raven locks swept back from his broad brow, with his dark eyes flashing with intelligence; she with a face that rivalled in fairness the wreath of orange blossoms that crowned her luxuriant tresses of gold--they presented a picture of manly strength and sweet, womanly beauty that is seldom equalled and scarcely ever excelled.

As the guests congratulated them upon the happy consummation of their ardent desires, and expressed the hope that life would be to them as a summer's day with few clouds, they had every reason to believe their most sanguine hopes would be realized. Alas! many a day that has had a rosy morn, sweet with the breath of flowers and jocund with the voice of birds, has been dark with clouds and flashing angry lightnings ere noon. What a blessing it is that God in His mercy allows us to revel in the sunshine of the present, and does not darken our clear sky with the clouds of coming woe.

CHAPTER III.

ON THE DOWN GRADE.

A short time after their marriage Richard inherited the business and property of his father, whose health had been failing for years, and who died quite unexpectedly. His mother never recovered from the shock, but in a short time followed her loved husband to the grave. So the son was left with a good business and ample means, seeming to be on the road to opulence.

As the years rolled on business prospered, and the prattle of children's voices gladdened their home. First a boy came, with the fair hair and large dreamy eyes of the mother; then, two years later, a girl with the dark eyes and the raven black hair of the father, and their cup of bliss seemed full to overflowing.

Circumstances, however, had already occurred which caused Ruth very much uneasiness of mind, and sometimes when a friend called she had to absent herself for a short time until she had removed the traces of her tears.

Richard had joined the "Liberal Club," and as he threw his whole soul into anything which he deemed worthy of his attention, his wife soon had grave fears that it absorbed too much of his time. Hours which should have been devoted to business were spent in discussing the political issues of the day, and she felt they suffered serious loss, for there were left to his employees important transactions which should have had his undivided attention; and the course he had pursued had alienated some of his best customers. The Liberal Club of which he was a member was composed of the most ultra of the Radicals in that section of country--in fact a great many of its members had been participants in the Chartist agitation, and, a short time after Ashton joined, they invited Henry Vincent, the celebrated agitator, to deliver an address, he, while he remained in town, being the guest of Ashton. This gave great offence to many of his best customers--not only to those who were ultratories, but also to the whigs, and, as a consequence, many of them left him and gave their patronage to rival establishments.


From Wealth to Poverty - 2/45

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