Lydia Ann Emerson, a second cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, October 14, 1816. She was educated at the Ipswich Female Academy, 1829 to 1832, after which she taught in Royalston, Vermont, and in 1834 started a school of her own in Springfield, Vermont. In 1836 she was principal of the Putnam Female Seminary at Zanesville, Ohio, and after 1841 had charge of the female department of the Delaware Academy, Newark, Ohio. She was married to Charles E. Porter of Springfield, Vermont, in 1841 and died in 1898.
REFERENCES: John S. Hart, The Female Prose Writers of America, edition of 1855, 387; Allibone, Dict. Eng. Lit., II.
Dime Novels. Nos. 93, 104, 548
American Library (London). No. 79
Pocket Novels. No. 223
Waverley Library (quarto). No. 63
Waverley Library (octavo). No. 47
Boy's Library (octavo). No. 188
Pocket Library. No. 487
SPECIMEN OF MRS. PORTER'S STYLE
"Guilty or Not Guilty; or, The Ordeal of Fire." Dime Novel No. 104, pp. 45-48.
The day after the funeral, a message came from Squire Cushing to the Kent family, and to Mrs. Ross and Helen, requesting them to meet him at the Webb mansion, at two o'clock, P.M. As that hour drew nigh, he asked Robert March to go with him. "I may need you as a witness," he said.
As Robert entered the room where he had so often sat with the judge, what sad memories came over him. There was the familiar easy-chair in which his mother sat on that last evening when she bade him forget what was dearest to him in life, save herself; and there, too, sat the judge at three o'clock, P.M., only a few hours before his death, talking of business, and as absorbed in this life, as if no other stretched beyond in the illimitable future. Robert was not disappointed; he had been told that he must expect nothing from the rich man's store. He had been so thankful for the present received when he left the house, and had made such good use of it, that he felt now strong to carve out his own fortune. Once only when he looked at Helen, so beautiful even in her plain dress, did the thought cross his mind: "For her sake, I would like to change places with James Kent." The passing thought led him to look at that gentleman, and he was surprised to see him so pale and haggard, with his eyes fixed on the lawyer, as if he expected that gentleman to pronounce his death-sentence, instead of confirming his claim to a hundred thousand. Kitto, too, wore no expression of pleasure, but the same dogged, stupid look of low cunning which had become habitual to him. Mrs. Kent was restless, and rose to open the door, as if she felt oppressed with the atmosphere of the room. Even Mrs. Ross, usually so quiet, looked as if she would like to know what Squire Cushing wanted of her. Helen, alone, was serene, though the place itself could not awaken any cheerful emotions.
"I came here," said the lawyer, "in compliance with the wish of the deceased, who made me promise to perform this duty. I now hold in my hand the last will and testament of Judge Webb."
There was a perceptible commotion in the Kent family-group. James stared at Kitto like an enraged tiger; then the fire disappeared from his face, and he became more deadly pale than before. Kitto looked at his mother with a singular expression of incredulity and surprise.
"I thought there was no will," murmured Mrs. Kent, almost inaudibly.
Lawyer Cushing studied their faces with a quick, rapid glance, before which each member of the family shrunk. It was a glance which looked into their hearts.
He then slowly proceeded to read the document, which he had produced from his breast-pocket. Stripped of its legal phrases, its purport was as follows: To Mrs. Kent, a life annuity of two thousand dollars. The remainder of the large estate, saving some legacies to the Seamen's Friend Society and to the Town Library, was to be divided equally among the four following persons, namely: James Webb Kent, Kitto Webb Kent, Helen Wadsworth Ross, and Robert March. The last named individuals were so taken by surprise, that they involuntarily glanced at each other, and, "What can this mean!" was expressed in the face of each. The disappointment and rage of James and Kitto was too evident to escape notice. There was a sullen glare upon the face of the latter, which, Helen Ross afterward said, was fearful to look upon.
Mrs. Ross and Mr. Kent were perhaps the most satisfied individuals in the group; neither was named in the will.
Squire Cushing and Robert walked back to the office together. "Well, young man, and how do you feel, becoming suddenly rich with one stroke of a pen?"
"I feel as if it were all a dream, sir; I can not believe it. Are you sure it is correct ? Is my name really in that will?"
"I think I ought to know; I drew the will myself."
"It will take me a long while to believe it. I must think it over and sleep upon it, sir."
"And wake to find it real," said the lawyer.
"Robert," said Squire Cushing, "I have strange thoughts to-day—strange thoughts, Robert," and he came and laid his hand on the young man's shoulder. "Robert March, I congratulate you. You have been a good son, and a prudent, industrious young man, and will, I trust, make a good use of your money. God bless you. But, Robert, I have horrible thoughts!—horrible! I can't shake them off; and I would sooner lose my right hand than give them speech."
The lawyer paced his office back and forth with hasty strides, now and then stopping and laying his hand on Robert's shoulder, as the latter sat at a desk before a pile of papers. "Robert, do you believe in a devil?"
"So I have been taught from childhood," said Robert, "and it would be difficult for me now to reason myself out of that belief. Yes, sir; I believe in a devil—in an actual spirit of evil."
"Well, if ever there was a devil made suggestions to man, there's one making them to me, and I can't 'down' with the tempter. The more I try, the stronger he puts the case, and piles on the arguments, till I think he'll make me believe him. But, he's a liar, isn't he?"
"The good book says he is the father of lies; but, you are talking in an unknown tongue to me."
"Well, I'm glad of it. I'm glad you can't look into my heart to-night. Such horrible thoughts, suspicions, fears, are within me that I feel as if my soul was polluted by its unclean tenants. Ugh! There's no sweet sleep for me to-night. I'd fain wash seven times in Jordan, if, thereby, I could be free from these tormenting thoughts."
Robert looked at the lawyer and was troubled. "Suppose, sir, I bring your horse round and we ride. The fresh air will do you good."
"Right; let us have sunshine and the sweet breath of heaven, to chase away these thoughts that come to me straight from the bottomless pit."