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False Friends by A.L.O.E.

Charles Doe A.L.O.E.

“False Friends” on Proverbs 22:5, is written by Charlotte Maria Tucker (A.L.O.E.) is from “Precepts in Practice,” and is about love of money.


“Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward.”—Proverbs 22:5.

“Philip, your conduct has distressed me exceedingly,” said Lady Grange, laying her hand on the arm of her son, as they entered together the elegant apartment which had been fitted up as her boudoir. “You could not but know my feelings towards those two men, I will not call them gentlemen, whose company you have again forced upon me. You must be aware that your father has shut the doors of this house against them.”

“My father has shut the door against better men than they are,” said the youth, carelessly; “witness my own uncles Henry and George.”

The lip of the lady quivered, the indignant color rose even to her temples; she attempted to speak, but her voice failed her, and she turned aside to hide her emotion.

“Well, mother, I did not mean to vex you,” said Philip, who was rather weak in purpose than hardened in evil; “it was a shame to bring Jones and Wildrake here, but—but you see I couldn’t help it:” and he played uneasily with his gold-headed riding-whip, while his eye avoided meeting that of his mother.

“They have acquired some strange influence, some mysterious hold over you,” answered the lady. “It cannot be,” she added anxiously, “that you have broken your promise,—that they have drawn you again to the gaming table,—that you are involved in debt to these men?”

Philip whistled an air and sauntered up to the window.

Lady Grange pressed her hand over her eyes, and a sigh, a very heavy sigh, burst from her bosom. Philip heard, and turned impatiently round.

“There’s no use in making the worst of matters,” said he; “what’s done can’t be helped, and my debts, such as they are, won’t ruin a rich man like my father.”

“It is not that which I fear,” said the mother faintly, with a terrible consciousness that her son,—her hope, her pride, the delight of her heart, had entered on a course which, if persevered in, must end in his ruin both of body and soul. “I tremble at the thought of the misery which you are bringing on your self. These men are making you their victim: they are blinding your eyes; they are throwing a net around you, and you have not the resolution to break from the snare.”

“They are very pleasant, jovial fellows!” cried Philip, trying to hide under an appearance of careless gaiety the real annoyance which he felt at the words of his mother. “I’ve asked them to dine here today, and—”

“I shall not appear at the table,” said Lady Grange, drawing herself up with dignity; “and if your father should arrive—”

“Oh! he won’t arrive tonight; he never travels so late.”

“But Philip,” said the lady earnestly, again laying her cold hand on his arm—she was interrupted by her wayward and undutiful son.

“Mother, there’s no use in saying anything more on the subject; it only worries you, and puts me out of temper. I can’t, and I won’t be uncivil to my friends;” and turning hastily round, Philip quitted the apartment.

“Friends!” faintly echoed Lady Grange, as she saw the door close behind her misguided son. “Oh!” she exclaimed, throwing herself on a sofa, and burying her face, “was there ever a mother—ever a woman so unhappy as I am!”

Her cup was indeed very bitter; it was one which the luxuries which surrounded her had not the least power to sweeten. Her husband was a man possessing many noble qualities both of head and heart; but the fatal love of gold, like those petrifying springs which change living twigs to dead stone, had made him hardened, quarrelsome, and worldly. It had drawn him away from the worship of his God; for there is deep truth in the declaration of the apostle, that the covetous man is an idolater. It was this miserable love of gold which had induced Sir Gilbert to break with the family of his wife, and separate her from those to whom her loving heart still clung with the fondest affection. Lady Grange yearned for a sight of her early home; but gold had raised a barrier between her and the companions of her childhood. And what had the possession of gold done for the man who made it his idol? It had put snares in the path of his only son; it had made the weak-minded but head-strong youth be entrapped by the wicked for the sake of his wealth, as the ermine is hunted down for its rich fur. It had given to himself heavy responsibilities, for which he would have to answer at the bar of Heaven; for from him unto whom much has been given, much at the last day will be required.

Yes, Lady Grange was very miserable. And how did she endeavour to lighten the burden of her misery? Was it by counting over her jewels,—looking at the costly and beautiful things which adorned her dwelling,—thinking of her carriages and horses and glittering plate, or the number of her rich and titled friends? No; she sought comfort where widow Green had sought it, when her child lay dangerously ill, and there was neither a loaf on her shelf nor a penny in her purse. The rich lady did what the poor one had done,—she fell on her knees and with tears poured out her heart to the merciful Father of all. She told him her sorrows, she told him her fears; she asked him for that help which she so much required. Her case was a harder one than the widow’s. A visit from the clergyman, a present from a benevolent friend, God’s blessing on a simple remedy, had soon changed Mrs. Green’s sorrow into joy. The anguish of Lady Grange lay deeper; her faith was more sorely tried; her fears were not for the bodies but the souls of those whom she loved;—and where is the mortal who can give us a cure for the disease of sin?

While his mother was weeping and praying, Philip was revelling and drinking. Fast were the bottles pushed round, and often were the glasses refilled. The stately banqueting-room resounded with laughter and merriment; and as the evening advanced, with boisterous song. It was late before the young men quitted the table, and then, heated with wine, they threw the window wide open, to let the freshness of the night air cool their fevered temples.

Beautiful looked the park in the calm moonlight. Not a breath stirred the branches of the trees, their dark shadows lay motionless on the green sward: perfect silence and stillness reigned around. But the holy quietness of nature was rudely disturbed by the voices of the revellers.

With the conversation that passed I shall not soil my pages. The window opened into a broad stone balcony, and seating themselves upon its parapet, the young men exchanged stories and jests. After many sallies of so-called wit, Wildrake rallied Philip on the quantity of wine which he had taken, and betted that he could not walk steadily from the one end of the balcony to the other. Philip, with that insane pride which can plume itself on being mighty to mingle strong drink, maintained that his head was as clear, and his faculties as perfect, as though he had tasted nothing but water; and declared that he could walk round the edge of the parapet with as steady a step as he would tread the gravel path in the morning!

Wildrake laughed, and dared him to do it; Jones betted ten to one that he could not.

“Done!” cried Philip, and sprang up on the parapet in a moment!

“Come down again!” called out Wildrake, who had enough of sense left to perceive the folly and danger of the wager.

Philip did not appear to hear him. At tempting to balance himself by his arms, with a slow and unsteady step he began to make his way along the lofty and narrow edge.

The two young men held their breath. To one who with unsteady feet walks the slippery margin of temptation, the higher his position, the greater his danger; the loftier his elevation, the more perilous a fall!

“He will never get to the end!” said Jones, watching with some anxiety the movements of his companion.

The words had scarcely escaped his lips when they received a startling fulfilment. Philip had not proceeded half way along the parapet when a slight sound in the garden below him attracted his attention. He glanced down for a moment; and there, in the cold, clear moonlight, gazing sternly upon him, he beheld his father! The sudden start of surprise which he gave threw the youth off his balance,—he staggered back, lost his footing, stretched out his hands wildly to save himself, and fell with a loud cry to the ground!

All was now confusion and terror. There were the rushing of footsteps hither and thither, voices calling, bells loudly ringing,—and, above all, the voice of a mother’s anguish, piercing to the soul! Jones and Wildrake hurried off to the stables, saddled their horses themselves, and dashed off at full speed to summon a surgeon, glad of any excuse to make their escape from the place.

The unfortunate Philip was raised from the ground, and carried into the house. His groans showed the severity of his sufferings. The slightest motion was to him torture, and an hour of intense suspense ensued, before the arrival of the surgeon. Lady Grange made a painful effort to be calm. She thought of everything, did all that she could do for the relief of her son, and even strove to speak words of comfort and hope to her husband, who appeared almost stupified by his sorrow. Prayer was still her support,—prayer, silent, but almost unceasing.

The surgeon arrived,—the injuries received by the sufferer were examined, though it was long before Philip, unaccustomed to pain and incapable of self-control, would permit necessary measures to be taken. His resistance greatly added to his sufferings. He had sustained a compound fracture of his leg, besides numerous bruises and contusions. The broken bone had to be set, and the pale mother stood by, longing, in the fervor of her unselfish love, that she could endure the agony in the place of her son. The pampered child of luxury shrank sensitively from pain, and the thought that he had brought all his misery upon himself by his folly and disobedience rendered it yet more intolerable. When the surgeon had at length done his work, Lady Grange retired with him to another apartment, and, struggling to command her choking voice, asked him the question on the reply to which all her earthly happiness seemed to hang,— whether he had hope that the life of her boy might be spared.

“I have every hope,” said the surgeon, cheerfully, “if we can keep down the fever.” Then, for the first time since she had seen her son lie bleeding before her, the mother found the relief of tears.

Through the long night she quitted not the sufferer’s pillow, bathing his fevered brow, relieving his thirst, whispering comfort to his troubled spirit. Soon after daybreak Philip sank into a quiet, refreshing sleep; and Lady Grange, feeling as if a mountain’s weight had been lifted from her heart, hurried to carry the good news to her husband.

She found him in the spacious saloon, pacing restlessly to and fro. His brow was knit, his lips compressed; his disordered dress and haggard countenance showed that he, too, had watched the live-long night.

“He sleeps at last, Gilbert, thank God!” Her face brightened as she spoke; but there was no corresponding look of joy on that of her husband.

“Gilbert, the doctor assures me that there is every prospect of our dear boy’s restoration!”

“And to what is he to be restored?” said the father gloomily; “to poverty,—misery,—ruin?”

Lady Grange stood mute with surprise, scarcely believing the evidence of her senses, almost deeming that the words must have been uttered in a dream. But it was no dream, but one of those strange, stern realities which we meet with in life. Her husband indeed stood before her a ruined man! A commercial crash, like those which have so often reduced the rich to poverty, coming almost as suddenly as the earthquake which shakes the natural world, had overthrown all his fortune! The riches in which he had trusted had taken to themselves wings and flown away!

Here was another startling shock; but Lady Grange felt it far less than the first. It seemed to her that if her son were only spared to her, she could bear cheerfully any other trial. When riches had increased she had not set her heart upon them; she had endeavored to spend them as a good steward of God, and to lay up treasure in that blessed place where there is no danger of its ever being lost. Sir Gilbert was far more crushed than his wife was by this misfortune. He saw his idol broken before his eyes, and where was he to turn for comfort? Everything upon which his eye rested was a source of pain to him; for must he not part with all, leave all in which his heart had delighted, all in which his soul had taken pride? He forgot that poverty was only forestalling by a few years the inevitable work of death!

The day passed wearily away. Philip suffered much pain, was weak and low, and bitterly conscious how well he had earned the misery which he was called on to endure. It was a mercy that he was experiencing, before it was too late, that thorns and snares are in the way of the froward. He liked his mother to read the Bible to him, just a few verses at a time, as he had strength to bear it; and in this occupation she herself found the comfort which she needed. Sir Gilbert, full of his own troubles, scarcely ever entered the apartment of his son.

Towards evening a servant came softly into the sick-room, bringing a sealed letter for her lady. There was no post-mark upon it, and the girl informed her mistress that the gentle man who had brought it was waiting in the garden for a reply. The first glance at the hand-writing, at the well-known seal, brought color to the cheek of the lady. But it was a hand-writing which she had been forbidden to read! it was a seal which she must not break! She motioned to the maid to take her place beside the invalid, who happened at that moment to be sleeping, and with a quick step and a throbbing heart she hurried away to find her husband.

He was in his study, his arms resting on his open desk, and his head bowed down upon them. Bills and papers, scattered in profusion on the table, showed what had been the nature of the occupation which he had not had the courage to finish. He started from his posture of despair as his wife laid a gentle touch on his shoulder, and, without uttering a word, she placed the unopened letter in his hand.

My reader shall have the privilege of looking over Sir Gilbert’s shoulder, and perusing the contents of that letter:—

“Dearest Sister,—We have heard of your trials, and warmly sympathize in your sorrow. Let Sir Gilbert know that we have placed at his banker’s, after having settled it upon you, double the sum which caused our unhappy differences. Let the past be forgotten; let us again meet as those should meet who have gathered together round the same hearth, mourned over the same grave, and shared joys and sorrows together, as it is our anxious desire to do now. I shall be my own messenger, and shall wait in person to receive your reply.—Your ever attached brother,
“Henry Latour.”

A few minutes more and Lady Grange was in the arms of her brother; while Sir Gilbert was silently grasping the hand of one whom, but for misfortune, he would never have known as a friend.

All the neighborhood pitied the gentle lady, the benefactress of the poor, when she dismissed her servants, sold her jewels, and quitted her beautiful home to seek a humbler shelter. Amongst the hundreds who crowded to the public auction of the magnificent furniture and plate, which had been the admiration of all who had seen them, many thought with compassion of the late owners, reduced to such sudden poverty, though the generosity of the lady’s family had saved them from want or dependence.

And yet truly, never since her marriage had Lady Grange been less an object of compassion.

Her son was slowly but surely recovering, and his preservation from meeting sudden death unprepared was to her a source of unutterable thankfulness. Her own family appeared to regard her with even more tender affection than if no coldness had ever arisen between them; and their love was to her beyond price. Even Sir Gilbert’s harsh, worldly character was somewhat softened by trials, and by the unmerited kindness which he met with from those whom, in his prosperity, he had slighted and shunned. Lady Grange felt that her prayers had been answered indeed, though in a way very different from what she had hoped or expected. The chain by which her son had been gradually drawn down towards ruin, by those who sought his company for the sake of his money, had been suddenly snapped by the loss of his fortune. The weak youth was left to the guidance of those to whom his welfare was really dear. Philip, obliged to rouse himself from his indolence, and exert himself to earn his living, became a far wiser and more estimable man than he would ever have been as the heir to a fortune; and he never forgot the lesson which pain, weakness, and shame had taught him,—that the way of evil is also the way of sorrow: Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward.

Who Wisdom’s path forsakes,
Leaves all true joy behind:
He who the peace of others breaks,
No peace himself shall find.
Flowers above and thorns below,
Little pleasure, lasting woe,—
Such is the fate that sinners know!

The drunkard gaily sings
Above his foaming glass;
But shame and pain the revel brings,
Ere many hours can pass.
Flowers above and thorns below,
Little pleasure, lasting woe,—
Such is the fate that sinners know!

The thief may count his gains;—
If he the sum could see
Of future punishment and pains,
Sad would his reckoning be!
Flowers above and thorns below,
Little pleasure, lasting woe,—
Such is the fate that sinners know!

The Sabbath-breaker spurns
What Wisdom did ordain:
God’s rest to Satan’s use he turns,—
A blessing to a bane.
Flowers above and thorns below,
Little pleasure, lasting woe,—
Such is the fate which sinners know.

O Lord, to thee we pray;
Do thou our faith increase!
Help us to walk in Wisdom’s way,
The only way of peace!
For flowers above and thorns below,
Little pleasure, lasting woe,
Such is the fate which sinners know.

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