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THE POWER OF FICTION.
where some one spoke favorably of “moral fic | what is not true; and you can't make anything tions." The person who did so was a stranger else out of it, argue as you will,” replied Deato the Deacon, and knew nothing of his family con Prescott, dogmatically. history.
“Pardon me for disagreeing with you,” said “Moral falsehood, you had better say," was the person. “If I have presented false views of half-rudely uttered by the Deacon.
life ; if I have made my story unnatural and im“ No," said the person to whom this was ad probable, and given it, at the same time, a power dressed,"moral fictions; or rather, imaginary to mislead the mind and deceive it in regard to histories, in which we see, as it were, the hid the legitimate tendency of either true or false den impulses of the heart imbodied in living
principles, then I have been guilty of uttering action; and thence are able more truly to un what is untrue; but not otherwise. There is derstand and sympathize with our fellow-men.” no attempt to deceive on my part. No one
“Sheer nonsense !" replied the Deacon. “No doubts that my history of a life, or my reprewire-drawn apologies like that will do. They sentation of a passage in life, is a composed cannot make a lie the truth. It is lying, sir, history, and not a literal detail of what has lying ! and you can make nothing else out of it." actually taken place.” “ What is a lie ?" was asked.
“Very ingenious, but mere sophistry," re“Anything that is not true.”
turned the Deacon. “And as to the good “And uttered with an intent to deceive ?” these things do, I always had my doubts on that “ Certainly.”
head; while the harm stares us in the face at “ Then, a fictitious history, written with in every turn. Reading of this kind enervates telligent skill, and a regard to just principles, is the mind, and makes it unfit for sober reflecnot a lie, for it is a true picture of human na tion, or active duties." ture, and seeks not to deceive any one. The “To that I will by no means assent, as a end in view is to do good, and the means em general principle," was answered to this declaployed injure no one, nor violate a single law in ration. “A bad novel or tale will do more the Decalogue."
harm in the world than a bad book of philoso“ Is not lying a violation of the Decalogue ?" phy; and, on the other hand, a good novel or said the Deacon.
tale will accomplish more good than a grave, “In what commandment is it forbidden ?” moral disquisition, I care not how true may be
“ Thou shall not bear false wilness against its teachings." thy neighbor.”
“ Preposterous ! Such a position is an in“Very well. Now, I wish to illustrate a sult to the human reason,” said Deacon Presmoral truth, and bring it directly home to the cott. minds of the people. I know that principles "Oh, no. Not by any means. The moral only have power when they influence our ac essay is a cold enunciation of truths, but the tions; and that when seen in their ultimate fictitious history not only declares the same effects, their quality is more fully understood. principles, but shows us their power in action. But I have no pertinent example to hold up to It takes hold of our sympathies it makes our the people; or, if I have, the doing so, by drag understandings clear by warming our affecging forth persons, or families, and directing to tions." ward them the public eye, would result in far “Precious few such histories are there !" more harm than good. I, therefore, imagine a said the Deacon. series of acts, from causes in the mind, intro “I think I have something," said the stranducing actors, of course, and carrying them on ger, resuming, “that will illustrate what I have through a variety of scenes, all legitimately re said. I met with a touching little story to-day, sulting from the principles that govern them. | and as I, fortunately, have it with me, I will, Now, if, in doing this, I am careful to show the with the permission of the company, read it. It difference between good and evil, and as care will take but a very few minutes." fully refrain from presenting vice in any attrac All asked for the story but the Deacon, and tive form, but rather make it repulsive as it he did not object to its being read. The story really is, am I guilty of bearing false witness was brief, but earnest. Singularly enough, against my neighbor ? Am I guilty of a moral for the individual who read it knew nothing, as wrong ?”
we have already intimated, of the family affairs “You are guilty of having given utterance to l of Deacon Prescott, it was the history of a pa
THE POWER OF FICTION.
rent's estrangement from his child, in conse-, not withstand. Fiction had done what reason quence of her marrying in direct opposition to had failed to accomplish-it had softened his his wishes. The struggles in the father's heart toward his child, and set free the long mind between pride and affection, between the pent-up streams of affection. He started up stern reasonings with which he sustained quickly, and to hide the emotion he felt, hurried himself, and the tender appeals that his heart away from the company, most of whom undermade for his child, were finely portrayed ; and stood what was passing in his mind. the Deacon was startled at the picture of him Mary, or rather, Mrs. Baldwin, was sitting self so suddenly and unexpectedly conjured up alone, with a sleeping babe on her lap, her before him. He sat and listened with the most thoughts tracing in the delicate features of her intense interest. To him it was no fiction, but babe's face a likeness to her father, when there a veritable history, for he recognized its truth came a tap at the door. in every line.
Come in." From a description of the father's unbending The door opened, and a form, the last expectspirit, the writer next turned to the loving child ed, came in hurriedly. he had thrown from him with so rude a hand "Father !” she exclaimed. that she had fallen to the earth. He opened “Mary! my child !” was responded in a quivthe door of her heart, and showed the father's ering voice. image still there. He pictured her as she A moment more, and the father and child really was, true to her husband, yet sad for the were in each other's arms. loss of a parent's love, and yearning to lie again Since that happy hour, the old man has less upon the bosom where her head had rested in to say against works of fiction. He is not their confiding love since the early dawn of child advocate, for old prejudices are still strong, and hood. He took the reader into the chamber old habits of thinking confirmed. The fact of where she sat alone, blotting with tears the their not being true is the stumbling-block with paper upon which she was writing an earnest him. He cannot clearly discriminate between appeal to her father to be taken back into his i writing a story and telling a lie. “ They are affections; and then he showed him the unre not true," is the mental position he takes. And lenting and unforgiving old man, as he spurned yet they are true, in the sense that the image in the tear-stained missive, and sent it back un a mirror is true—they are true reflections of opened.
what occur in real life. Deacon Prescott saw But the writer's end in composing this his and knew himself in a story, and, perceiving tory, was to fill the heart with the blessed spirit what manner of man he was, put off the evil of forgiveness, and in the conclusion of his that had so long clung to him, and made both story, he introduced a fitting combination of cir himself and others unhappy for years. Huncumstances to produce the effect desired that dreds and thousands in this world are benefited is, a reconciliation of the father and daughter. in like manner. There is no calculating the
“Now," said the individual who had read the amount of good that a well-wrought fiction, finely told story, addressing Deacon Prescott, based upon true principles, may effect in the “ do you not see that a picture like this would world. have double the power over the heart of a Those who, from a narrow prejudice, would father, who stood in such a relation to his child, blot this form of writing from the page of literathan any appeals to his reason that cold didac ture, are about as wise as a man would be if tics could make? Do you not- "
he dashed a mirror to pieces becanse it merely The speaker suddenly became silent, and reflected what was around it, instead of conlooked wonderingly at the individual he was taining the real things within itself that it picaddressing. The picture had come home to tured to the eye. Deacon Prescott with a power that he could
BY A. J. PRIME, M.D.
AUTHOR OF “ PASSAGES IN THE LIFE OF A PHYSICIAN.”
It was a terrible blow, which fell upon cestry—a thing in his case worth being proud Marion Lee, on the third anniversary of her of, if it is in any; of his rich old grandfather, marriage. It was also the second anniversary who built these old walls, and left exhaustless of the birthday of her boy, who was born just riches to his descendants; of his father, who one year after her marriage. But I must intro- had done deeds to make his descendants glory duce her formally to my readers, and for this in his memory; and he is proud of his wealth purpose let me take them to her father's house. - haughty old aristocrat, seeking to disguise Will you let me choose the time? Then let his true heart under the title of a republican. it be in May, one month before she was mar But in this he is honest. He thinks he is one, ried.
though he would willingly crush with his heel The house is a large, antique-looking build any man in the village who aspires to be his ing, near the centre of the village of - a equal. See-his stern dark eye is fixed upon few miles out of New York. Ample grounds us as we enter the door, as if he would drive surround it, and a fine green lawn spreads out us back. Shall we venture in ? before the door. In many places large forest Certainly we will. We are republicans too, trees stand in thick clumps, planted by the and have sterling blood running in our veinshand of man to be sure, years before, yet not blood that came down to us from the Pilgrims, in symmetrical rows, but as near like nature as who faced sterner frowns than man's. Who they could be scattered. Here and there a has better? Besides, I promised to introduce bunch of evergreens cluster together with you to Marion. She rises to welcome us. She their sombre shadow, and two or three ancient has her mother's look—the same mild blue eye pines whistle their doleful music in the gentle and auburn hair—the same graceful form and wind. Old ivy has crept up one end of the the same gentle heart. Her mother has been house, and covered it completely, and around dead for some years, but she lived long enough and over the old-fashioned portico is a dense and to leave, when she died, a holy influence on tangled growth of climbing plants that almost the mind of her daughter. Did I say her hearts inclose it. The lawn is sprinkled here and there was her mother's ? So it is, but there is in it with flower beds cut into the neat and close a strength of determination and firmness of shaven sod. Over all the place there is an air purpose that came from the father's side ; and of age, and a display of taste and luxury. The | though she is gentle, and affectionate, and kind, present possessor is the third in the line from yet to follow the dictates of her trustful wothe original owner, and he would not alter its man's love, she is ready this moment to sacriappearance on any account.
fice father, home, wealth, all, to be the wife of Let us enter the house. This is the sitting Harry Lee. Her father fears this, and hates room. I take it, reader, you are something of | him with all his heart, and rather than see a clairvoyant, and can see as I do. That stern Marion his wife, he would see her in her and haughty looking man of about fifty years, grave. Sweet Marion ! I love her as a sister in is Mr. Anderson-James Anderson-an incor- | spite of her stern old father and his aristocratic ruptible republican by profession, but at heart pride. Now let us go. as sturdy and uncompromising a despot as ever breathed. His very look, his eye, his position, “ Marion,” said her father. every movement speaks an indomitable pride, She calmly turned her face towards him, as and speaks the truth. He is proud of his an- / she laid her work in her lap to listen to him.
“ Marion, do you still continue to receive this Harry Lee with favor ?”
“ Father, you know "
“ Nay, answer me. Would you stoop so low as to marry this beggar?”
“He is no beggar, father,” she said firmly; and he saw his own spirit rising in his daughter. “Yet would I have you give your sanction to what is for my happiness.”
“Never, never. Sooner would I see you dead, than disgracing your family by such an alliance.".
They were unfortunate words to speak to a girl with Marion's spirit, and Marion's love, and most unfortunate just at that time, for they were hardly spoken before the subject of them entered. He was met at his entrance by a torrent of wrath. Marion interposed, but all in vain. The young man was driven from the house with curses.
He was no beggar. A few years before, bis father had been a man of immense wealth, and a friend of Mr. Anderson's. It was under such circumstances that their children first knew each other, and had affairs continued to stand as then, there would have been no hindrance in the way of their union. Indeed, the highest wish of the proud man would have been gratified. But by a series of misfortunes, Mr. Lee saw a large part of his wealth swept away, and under the accumulating sorrow consequent upon it, he sunk and died. The remaining property divided amongst the children made but a small portion for each. Harry had already commenced business as a lawyer, and in a distant part of the State, stimulated by his reduced circumstances, was pressing on to eminence. A strong love, in the mean time, had grown up in his heart for Marion, and he knew that she returned it. But with her father there was a great difference between Harry Lee the son of a rich man, and Harry Lee the poor lawyer, a distinction which resulted as we have already seen.
Marion did not weep. She returned to her seat, and calmly resumed her work. That night, when she retired to her room, a letter lay on the floor. She opened it and read:
“To-night, Marion dearest, at 12 o'clock, meet me at this window. Then if you will be mine-if you are still the same I have ever
known you—I shall be ready. If you know the c? depth of love that burns in my heart, you will
not hesitate. Yet why do I say so? Consider all—count the whole cost-wealth in your
father's house, or boundless and faithful love in mine, and then decide. I will be there."
She did not hesitate. She count the cost ! Had she not counted it over and over, and long ago made up her mind to be his wife, come what would ? It required but a few minutes to make all the preparation she required, and then she sat down by the open window to wait the hour. Her heart did not even beat out of its Ş natural course. She was calm and resolute.
True to the time, he was there, and in one moment she stood by his side. The next morning, the happy wife of Harry Lee, she was with him on their way to her new home.
Disappointed affection, the betrayed confidence of kind and affectionate parents, may break the heart. But the disappointed pride of such a father as Mr. Anderson sustains its own defeat; and when that same morning it was announced to him that Marion was not in her room and had not probably been there through the night, he understood at once all that had taken place, and though a torrent of fury rolled in his heart, and almost rose to his lip, he subdued it, and sat down to his solitary breakfast as if nothing had happened. And from that time, for years, the name of Marion was never on his tongue. Yet can I not believe, that, proud, and stern, and unforgiving as he was, that name was not often-always-in his heart, and dearer than it had ever been before ; for pride cannot quell the voice of conscience, and he knew he had done wrong. A month after she went away, she wrote to him, and told him she was happy, though sorry she had to find happiness in filial disobedience; and a long time after, that letter was seen worn and faded, as if it had been read over and over. But he made no reply to it. Yet let us believe, that had he ever known that she was suffering from want or the treachery of him she had trusted, he would have called her hastily back to his house and his heart. I do believe it, though he never had reason for doing so.
I would not seem to be the apologist of clandestine marriages, for I believe they generally turn out badly. But it was not so in this case. Marion was happy in her new and comparatively humble home-far happier than she had been in her father's house, for now she was united to the man she loved, and all his care was to make her so. He was respected in the place where they lived, and she found herself received with great joy and kindness by his