THE NEW CURE FOR HEART-BREAK
LITTLE MISS PREVIOUS
by Douglass Sherley
THE NEW CURE FOR HEART-BREAK
A CHRISTMAS GIFT STORY
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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