THE NEW CURE FOR HEART-BREAK

TO

LITTLE MISS PREVIOUS

by Douglass Sherley

 

 

 

THE NEW CURE FOR HEART-BREAK

A CHRISTMAS GIFT STORY

Hat Mark.
Shaving Papers.
Embroidered Slippers.
Onyx Cuff Buttons.
Inkstand from Italy.
Her Picture—in Silver Frame.
Scarf-pin with Pearl and Diamonds.


It was Christmas eve, several years ago. We had dined together at the Cafe de la Paix, near the Grand Opera-house, Paris. The dinner was good, the wine excellent; but George Addison was best of all.

I have never known why he should have told me that night of his "Cure for Heart-break."

Was it the grouse?

Was it the Burgundy?

Was it some strange influence?

George Addison is the man who first came to the front in the literary world as the careful and successful editor of that now valuable book, "The Poets and Poetry of the South." A fresh edition—about the eleventh—is promised for the New Year.

But he fairly leaped into fame, and its unusual companion, large wealth, when he gave ungrudgingly to his anxious and generous public that curious little hand-book, "The Perfected Letter Writer."

Young ladies who live in the country buy it clandestinely, and eagerly read it privately, secretly, in their own quiet bed-chambers during the silent watches of the night. When occasion demands they boldly make extracts therefrom, which they awkwardly project into their labored notes and epistles of much length and less grace.

Even women of fashion have been known to buy it—and use it, not wisely, but freely.

There are men, too, who consult its pages reverently, frequently, and oftentimes, I must add, with most disastrous results. It is, as is well known, a valuable but dangerous manual.

Therefore the name of George Addison is a household word, although he is mentioned as the editor of "Poets and Poetry of the South," and never as the author of "The Perfected Letter Writer"—a book which is seldom discussed. But nothing, until now, has been known of his "New Cure for Heart-break." If he had lived a few years longer, and could have found time from the more heavy duties of his busy life, he doubtless would have turned to some use the practical workings of his wonderful cure. But Death, with that old fondness for a shining mark, has seen fit to remove him from this, the scene of his earthly labors (See rural sheet obituary notice).

In the early career of George Addison, when he was obscure and desperately poor, he met her—that inevitable she—Florence Barlowe.

She had three irresistible charms. She was very young; she was very pretty—and, most charming of all, she was very silly. Time could steal away—and doubtless did—the youth. Time could ravage—and surely must have—her beauty. But nothing could—and nothing did—mar the uninterrupted splendor of her foolishness. She was born a fool, lived a fool, and undoubtedly must have died—if dead—the death of a glorious and triumphant fool.

George Addison was from the first attentive. But he was shy in those days, and knew not how, in words, to frame the love that filled his heart and rose like a lump in his throat whenever he saw her pretty face and heard her soft voice. She was a fool, it is true, but she was like so many fools of her kind, full of a subtle craft which acts like the tempting bait on the hook that catches the unwary fish.

So she made him a present—it was of her own handiwork. Each Christmas tide she repeated the process; each year enriching the hook with a more tempting offer. It took her seven years to graduate in presents from a hat mark to a scarf-pin of little diamonds and a big rare pearl; but somehow there was a hitch and a halt within the heart of George Addison.

He never said the word. He just loved her, and waited. She grew desperate. She startled him by instituting a quarrel, which was not very much of a quarrel, for it takes two, I have always understood, to make one—in all senses of the word. He did not quite understand, and told her so. She wept in his presence, and forbade him the house. She made her father threaten his life, which was now almost a burden. He still did not understand; so he did—from her standpoint the worst thing possible—nothing. While she was impatiently waiting at home for a reconciliation and a proposal—which never came—he was dumbfounded with grief, and employed his time, tearfully of course, selecting all of her favorite poems—for she was fond of a certain kind of poetry. Then it was that the idea of "Poets and Poetry of the South" came upon him. The popularity of the book was assured in advance, because he selected only those poems that he thought would please Florence Barlowe—and her taste was average—so is the taste, I am told, of the general public.

About a year after their rupture his compilation volume appeared, and was an instantaneous success. The approach of Christmas made him painfully realize their estrangement. Finally he awakened to a full knowledge of the situation. A slow anger started up within him and gradually swept over him like a tidal wave.

It was Christmas eve.

He lighted his lamp—his quarters were still poor and very cheerless. He unlocked a drawer which contained his few treasures, and there they were—the seven gifts entire from the fair hand of pretty Florence Barlowe. There was also a little packet of letters, notes, and invitations from the same hand.

"She never really cared for me," he said, as he tenderly drew them out from their place one by one. "I want a love-cure," he added, "I must have one, for I must be done with this, and forever."

Now, gentle reader, do not censure him, this George Addison, lover, for he straightway sent them back to her? No, not that—but this: He deliberately—although it gave him a pang—arranged to dispose of them all as Christmas gifts to his friends and relatives. It was after this fashion: The hat-mark, G.A., done in violent yellow, on a glaring bit of blue satin, was hard to dispose of; but he finally thought of a little nephew—the incarnation of a small devil—so he wrote a note to the mother, inclosing the hat-mark, with this explanation: "G.A., you must readily see, stands for 'Good Always.' What could be more appropriate for your darling child?"

The shaving papers, like Joseph's coat of many colors, he sent to Uncle Hezekiah, an old family servant, who delighted in them, even until the hour of his happy death, unused, for who ever heard of using beautiful shaving papers!

The embroidered slippers, which had made up a trifle small, were mailed with much glee to a distant relative in Texas on a cattle ranch, where slippers were unnecessary—but Addison did not consider himself responsible for that—for he had discovered from personal experience that the less sensible the gift the more often it is given.

The onyx cuff buttons were well worn, and had rendered excellent service, although they were not good to look upon. Yet, Jennings, the chiropodist, had taken a fancy to them long ago, so he concluded to let him have them on the one condition that they must not be worn to the house of the Hon. Junius Barlowe, where it was his custom to go on the third Sunday of every month, and never to the Addison house, which he visited on the second Thursday of each month.

The inkstand from Italy was large in promise, but poor in fulfillment—the place for ink was infinitesimally small. George tried to use it once when he had three important thoughts to transmit. He wrote out two of them, but the third thought had to go dry. There was a much decayed gentleman of the old school who lived across the street from the Addisons. It had been the custom of George Addison's grandfather, and father also, to always send this individual some useful gift on Christmas Day; therefore the inkstand from Italy was sent over the next morning. It failed to give what might be termed complete satisfaction, but the old neighbor had not been satisfied for a small matter of fifty years. Therefore George held himself, and he was perfectly right, blameless.

It was easy enough to slip the picture of a pretty Dancer, who, in that long ago day, was all the rage among the young men about town—into the silver frame, heart-shape, but what could he do with her picture? It was much prior to the time of the cigarette craze and cigarette pictures—so he could not send it to one of those at that time uncreated establishments, to be copied and sent broadcast. He was something of an artist. He cleverly tinted the thing another color—made her eyes blue instead of brown, and changed her golden sunlit wealth of hair into a darker, if not richer shade. It was a full-length picture. Her trim figure was shown to advantage. Her slender white hands were clasped above her bosom, and there was a look of heavenly resignation on her serenely beautiful brow. He cruelly sent it to the editor of "Godey's Ladies' Magazine," and it was blazoned forth as a fashion plate, much enlarged and with many frills, in the following February number of that then valuable and highly fashionable periodical. In return he received their check for five dollars, drawn upon a National Bank of Philadelphia, and with a note stating that while the customary price was two dollars and fifty cents they felt constrained to send him a sum commensurate with the merits of the fancy picture which he had kindly forwarded them, and that they would be pleased to hear from him again, which they never did—nor their check either; for, while he was too poor to have kept it, yet he was too proud to cash it. I am told that it hangs in a Boston museum, framed with a rare collection of postage stamps—one of his many gifts to that edifying institution while yet alive.

Her final gift, the scarf-pin, with the big pearl and little diamonds, met with some mysterious disposition. In telling me the story in the French cafe, he hesitated, spoke vaguely, and finally refused to state just what he had done with the pin. He may have dropped the pearl, like Cleopatra, in a goblet of ruby wine and drained the contents with the dissolved jewel for dredges and for luck, and he may have given the pretty little diamonds to news boys or small negroes wandering haphazard about the highways of his town. Anyhow, this much is sure, it was given away—that much he made clear.

When he fell upon the letters with an idea of burning them—which I believe is more general than the returning of them—he fortunately bethought himself of publishing them—just as they were. And lo! then was born his "Perfected Letter Writer," which enabled him to leave a bequest of many thousand dollars to Harvard College, where he was educated, and also a certain sum of money to be discreetly distributed each year among the deserving and bashful young men of Boston, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three, to be used by them in making Christmas gifts to worthy young women of their choice.

As might have been expected, that clause of his will was successfully contested, on account of its vagueness, by his brother and sister, who morally, if not legally, cheated the "Bashful Young Men of Boston" out of a unique and much deserved, much needed inheritance. This cure for heart-break must be a severe but effectual one. When I met George Addison in Paris, then an old man, he was as rosy as a ripe apple, and just as mellow. He was gracious, kindly, and had learned well the difficult art of growing old with grace, and without noise. He dated his success, his happiness too, from the moment he made the resolution to trample on his feelings and rid himself in that novel method of every tangible vestige of that past, which he got rid of by gift, not burial. Therefore, he had no ghostly visitors—no useless regrets.

Florence Barlowe, with malice toward all and charity to none, devoted her outward self to good works of the conventional kind. She had several offers, but she never married, and she never forgave George Addison for his failure to speak for that which he might have had for the asking. Pride, not love, was the ruler of her heart—if she had one.

To those who have this Christmas tide the heart-ache, and the heart-break of love gone another way, let them try this new cure, and remember the happy, successful life, and the ripe old age, full of years and honor, of dear old George Addison, who wrote "The Poets and Poetry of the South" and "Perfected Letter Writer."