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Visiting As Neighbors
by [?]

“I see that the house next door has been taken,” remarked Mr. Leland to his wife, as they sat alone one pleasant summer evening.

“Yes. The family moved in to-day,” returned Mrs. Leland.

“Do you know their name?”

“It is Halloran.”

“Halloran, Halloran,” said Mr. Leland, musingly. “I wonder if it’s the same family that lived in Parker Street.”

“Yes, the same; and I wish they had stayed there.”

“Their moving in next door need not trouble us, Jane. They are not on our list of acquaintances.”

“But I shall have to call upon Mrs. Haloran; and Emma upon her grown-up daughter Mary.”

“I do not see how that is to follow as a consequence of their removal into our neighborhood.”

“Politeness requires us to visit them as neighbors.”

“Are they really our neighbors?” asked Mr. Leland, significantly.

“Certainly they are. How strange that you should ask the question!”

“What constitutes them such? Not mere proximity, certainly. Because a person happens to live in a house near by, can that make him or her really a neighbor, and entitled to the attention and consideration due a neighbor?”

This remark caused Mrs. Leland to look thoughtful. “It ought not,” she said, after sitting silent a little while, “but still, it does.”

“I do not think so. A neighbor–that is, one to whom kind offices is due–ought to come with higher claims than the mere fact of living in a certain house located near by the dwelling in which we reside. If mere location is to make any one a neighbor, we have no protection against the annoyance and intrusions of persons we do not like; nay, against evil-minded persons, who would delight more in doing us injury than good. These Hallorans for instance. They move in good society; but they are not persons to our mind. I should not like to see you on terms of intimacy with Mrs. Halloran, or Jane with her daughter. In fact, the latter I should feel, did it exist, to be a calamity.”

“Still they are our neighbors,” Mrs. Leland said. “I do not see how we can avoid calling upon them.”

“Perhaps,” remarked the husband, “you have not thought seriously enough on the subject.

“Who is my neighbor? is a question of importance, and ought to be answered in every mind. Something more than living in the same street, or block of houses, is evidently implied in the word neighbor. It clearly involves a reciprocity of good feelings. Mere proximity in space cannot effect this. It requires another kind of nearness–the nearness of similar affections; and these must, necessarily, be unselfish; for in selfishness there is no reciprocity. Under this view, could you consider yourself the neighbor of such a person as Mrs. Halloran?”

“No matter what the character, we should be kind to all. Every one should be our neighbor, so far as this is concerned. Do you not think so?”

“I do not, Jane.”

“Should we not be kind to every one?”

“Yes, kind; but not in the acceptation of the word as you have used it. There is a false, as well as a true kindness. And it often happens that true kindness appears to be any thing but what it really is. In order to be kind to another, we are not always required to exhibit flattering attentions. These often injure where distance and reserve would do good. Besides, they too frequently give power to such as are evil-disposed–a power that is exercised injuriously to others.”

“But the simple fact of my calling upon Mrs. Halloran cannot, possibly, give her the power of injuring me or any one else.”

“I think differently. The fact that you have called upon her will be a reason for some others to do the same; for, you know, there are persons who never act from a distinct sense of right, but merely follow in the wake of others. Thus the influence of a selfish, censorious, evil-minded woman will be extended. So far as you are concerned, the danger may be greater than you imagine. Is Mary Halloran, in your estimation, a fit companion for our daughter? Could she become intimate with her, and not suffer a moral deterioration?”