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A MAGAZINE OF
LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
TICKNOR AND FIELDS,
135, WASHINGTON STREET.
* * * * *
LONDON: TRUeBNER AND COMPANY.
M DCCC LXIV.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
PRINTED BY SAM'L CHISM, Franklin Printing House, 112 Congress St., Boston
RIVERSIDE, CAMBRIDGE: STEREOTYPED BY H.O. HOUGHTON AND COMPANY
Ambassadors in Bonds Caroline Chesebro
Annesley Hall and Newstead Abbey Mrs. R.C. Waterston
Beginning of the End, The C.C. Hazewell
Bryant G.S. Hillard
California as a Vineland
Convulsionists of St. Medard, The Robert Dale Owen
Cruise on Lake Ladoga, A Bayard Taylor
Fast-Day at Foxden, A
Fighting Facts for Fogies C.C. Hazewell
First Visit to Washington, The J.T. Trowbridge
Fouquet the Magnificent F. Sheldon
Genius J. Brownlee Brown
Glacial Period Prof. Louis Agassiz
Glaciers, External Appearance of Prof. Louis Agassiz
Glen Roy, in Scotland, The Parallel Roads of Prof. Louis Agassiz
Gold-Fields of Nova Scotia, The Arthur Gilman
Guides, A Talk about Maria S. Cummins
Half-Life, A, and Half a Life Miss E.H. Appleton
House and Home Papers Harriet Beecher Stowe
Irving, Washington Donald G. Mitchell
Life on the Sea Islands Miss Forten
Minister Plenipotentiary, The O.W. Holmes
Mormons, Among the Fitz-Hugh Ludlow
My Book Gail Hamilton
New-England Revolution of the Seventeenth Century, The, J.G. Palfrey
Northern Invasions E.E. Hale
Old Bachelor, Some Account of the Early Life of an Mrs. A.M. Diaz
Our Progressive Independence O.W. Holmes
Our Soldiers Mrs. Furness
Peninsular Campaign, The Lt.-Col. B.L. Alexander
Pictor Ignotus Gail Hamilton
Presidential Election, The C.C. Hazewell
Queen of California, The E.E. Hale
Ray Harriet E. Prescott
Relation of Art to Nature, On the J. Eliot Cabot
Rim, The Harriet E. Prescott
Robson George Augustus Sala
Schoolmaster's Story, The Mrs. A.M. Diaz
Stephen Yarrow Author of “Life in the Iron Mills”
Thackeray, William Makepeace Bayard Taylor
Types William Winter
Victory, How to Use E.E. Hale
Yo-Semite, Seven Weeks in the Great Fitz-Hugh Ludlow
Wet-Weather Work Donald G. Mitchell
Whittier D.A. Wasson
Winthrop, Governor John, in Old England G.E. Ellis
Black Preacher, The J.R. Lowell
Brother of Mercy, The John G. Whittier
Dante's “Paradiso,” Three Cantos of H.W. Longfellow
Gold Hair Robert Browning
Kalif of Baldacca, The H.W. Longfellow
Last Charge, The O.W. Holmes
Memoriae Positum R.G.S J.R. Lowell
My Brother and I J.T. Trowbridge
Neva, The Bayard Taylor
On Picket Duty Mrs. W.T. Johnson
Our Classmate O.W. Holmes
Planting of the Apple-Tree, The W.C. Bryant
Presence Alice, Gary
Prospice Robert Browning
Reaper's Dream, The T.B. Read
Reenlisted Lucy Larcom
Shakspeare O.W. Holmes
Snow Elizabeth A.C. Akers
Snow-Man, The C.J. Sprague
Song Alice Cary
To a Young Girl Dying T.W. Parsons
Under the Cliff Robert Browning
Wreck of Rivermouth, The John G. Whittier
REVIEWS AND LITERACY NOTICES.
Adams's Church Pastorals
Agassiz's Methods of Study in Natural History
Alger's Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life
Boynton's History of West Point
Browning's Sordello, Strafford, Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day
Craik's History of English Literature
Draper's History of the Intellectual Development of Europe
Foederalist, The, Dawson's Edition
Gillett's Life and Times of Huss
Merivale's History of the Romans under the Empire
Mill's Principles of Political Economy
My Days and Nights on the Battle-field
My Farm of Edgewood
Possibilities of Creation
Ray's Mental Hygiene
Renan, De l'Origine du Langage
Smiles's Industrial Biography
Spencer's Illustrations of Progress
Thackeray's Roundabout Papers
Ticknor's Life of Prescott
Tyndall on Heat
Weiss's Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker
RECENT AMERICAN PUBLICATIONS
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. XIII.—JANUARY, 1864—NO. LXXV.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
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Our magazine was introduced to the world bearing on the cover of its first number a vignette of the portraiture of the ever honored and revered John Winthrop, first Governor of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay. The effigies expressed a countenance, features, and a tone of character in beautiful harmony with all that we know of the man, all that he was and did. Gravity and loftiness of soul, tempered by a mild and tender delicacy, depth of experience, resolution of purpose, native dignity, acquired wisdom, and an harmonious equipoise of the robust virtues and the winning graces have set their unmistakable tokens on those lineaments. That vignette, after renewing from month to month before our readers, for nearly four years, as gracious and fragrant a memory as can engage the love of a New-England heart, gave place, in the month of June, 1861, to the only emblem, no longer personal, which might claim to supplant it. The national flag, during a struggle which has seen its dignity insulted only to rouse and nerve the spirit which shall vindicate its glory, has displaced that bearded and ruffed portraiture.
The visitor to the Massachusetts State-House may see, hanging in its Senate-Chamber, tolerably well preserved on its canvas, what is believed, on trustworthy evidence, to be Vandyck's own painting of Winthrop. Another portrait of him—not so agreeable to the eye, nor so faithful, we are sure, to the original, yet reputed to date from the lifetime of its subject—hangs in the Hall of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester. Those of our readers who have not lovingly pored and paused over Mr. Savage's elaborately illustrated edition of Governor Winthrop's Journal do not know what a profitable pleasure invites them, whenever they shall have grace to avail themselves of it. But who that knows John Winthrop through such materials of memory and such fruits of high and noble service as up to this time have been accessible and extant here has not longed for, and will not most heartily welcome, a new contribution, coming by surprise, unlooked for, unhoped for even, but yielding, from the very fountain-head, the means of a most intimate converse with him in that period of his life till now wholly unrecorded for us? We had known his character as displayed here. We have now a most authentic and complete development of the process by which that character was moulded and built abroad. The President of the Massachusetts Historical Society has been privileged to do a service which, with most rare felicity, embraces his indebtedness to his own good name, to his official place, and to the city and State which have invested him with so many of their highest honors.
The Honorable Robert C. Winthrop, a descendant in the seventh generation from our honored First Governor, seizing upon a brief vacation-interval in the course of his high public service, made a visit to England in the summer of 1847. He was naturally drawn towards his ancestral home at Groton, in Suffolk. The borough itself, with its own due share of historic interest, from men of mark and their deeds, is composed of one of those clusters of villages which are sure in an English landscape to have some charm in their picturesque combinations. The visitor had the privilege of worshipping on a Sunday in the same parish church where his ancestors, holding the right of presentation, had joined in the same form of service, to whose font they had brought their children in baptism, and at whose altar-rails they had stood for “the solemnization of matrimony,” and knelt in the office of communion. The second entry made in the parish register, still retained in the vestry, records the death of the head of the family in 1562. Outside the church, and close against its walls, is the tomb of the Winthrop family, which, by a happy coincidence, had just been repaired, as if ready to receive a visitor from a land where tombs are not supposed to have the justification of age for being dilapidated. The father, the grandfather, and perhaps the great-grandfather of our John Winthrop were committed to that repository. The family name and arms, with a Latin inscription in memory of the parents of the Governor, are legible still, “Beati sunt pacifici” is the benediction which either the choice of those who rest beneath it, or the congenial tribute of some survivor, has selected to close the epitaph. Only traces of the cellar of the mansion-house and of its garden-plot are now visible to mark the home where the Chief Magistrates of Massachusetts and Connecticut, father and son, had lived together and had matured the “conclusions” on which they exiled themselves.
A monstrous and idle tradition, heard by the visitor, as he surveyed the outlines of his ancestral home, prompted him to that labor of love which he has so felicitously performed, and with such providential helps, in a biography. The absurdity of the tradition, equally defiant as it is of the consistencies of character and the facts of chronology, is a warning to those who rely on these floating confoundings of fact and fiction, which, as some one has said, “are almost as misleading as history.” Two hundred years and more had seen that manor-house deserted of its former occupants. The neighboring residents had kept their name in remembrance, more, probably, through the help of the tomb than of the dwelling. Speculation and romance would deal with them as an extinct or an exiled family. The story had become current on the spot, that the Winthrops were regicides, and had fled to America, having, however, buried some precious hoard of money about their premises before their flight. Our author suggests the altogether likely idea that a suspicion might have attached to him as having come over to search for that treasure. Little may he have imagined what thoughts may have distracted the reverence of some of his humble fellow-worshippers in Groton Church who whispered the nature of his errand one to another. Our honored Governor and his son of Connecticut had been near a score of years on this soil before Charles I. was beheaded. Mr. Savage informs us that he was once asked by a descendant of the father whether he had received before his death tidings of the execution of his old master. The annotator is able to quote a letter from Roger Williams, “to his honored kind friend, Mr. John Winthrop at Nameag,” [New London,] lettered on the back, “Mr. Williams of ye high news about the king.” This letter, conveying recent tidings, was dated at Narragansett, June 26, 1649, two months after the elder Winthrop had died in Boston.
It was but natural that even the absurdity of the tradition lingering around the traces of the Groton manor should have served, with other far more constraining inducements, to excite in the visitor a purpose to employ his first period of relief from official service in rendering an act of public as well as of private obligation to the memory of his progenitors,—especially as there existed no adequate and extended biography, but only scattered and fragmentary memorials of them in our copious literary stores. Happily for him, and surely to the highest gratification of those who were to be his readers, materials most abundant, and of the most authentic and self-revealing sort, in journals and letters, were attainable, to give to the work essentially the character of an autobiography, and that, too, of the most attractive cast. A second visit of the author to England in 1859-60, and the most opportune reception of a large collection of original papers, preserved in another line of the Governor's descendants, put his fortunate biographer in possession of the means for completing a work surpassed by no similar volume known to us in the gracious attractions and in the substantial interest of its contents. The book may safely rely for its due reception upon the noble character, complete and harmonious in all the virtues, and upon the eminent public services, of its subject. It has other strong recommendations, affording, in style, method, and spirit, a model for books of the same class, and embracing all those paramount qualities of thoroughness, research, accuracy, good taste, incidental illustration, and, above all, an appreciative spirit, which stamp the worth of such labors.
We must leave almost unnoticed the author's elaborate chapter on the pedigree and the early history of the Winthrop family. He is content to begin this side of those who “came over with the Conqueror,” and to accept for ancestry men and women untitled, of the sterling English stock, delvers of the soil, and spinners of the fabrics of which it affords the raw material. He finds almost his own full name introducing a record on the Rolls of Court in the County of York for the year 1200. Adam Winthrop, grandfather of our Governor, himself the father, as he was also the son of other Adams, was born in Lavenham, Suffolk, October 9, 1498, six years after the discovery of this country by Columbus, and in the same year in which occurred the voyage of Vespucius, who gave his name to the continent. This second Adam Winthrop, at the age of seventeen, went to London, binding himself as an apprentice for ten years under the well-esteemed and profitable guild of the “clothiers,” or cloth-workers. At the expiration of his apprenticeship, in 1526, he was sworn a citizen of London, and, after filling the subordinate dignities of his craft, rose to the mastership of his company in 1551. The Lordship of the Manor of Groton, at the dissolution of the monasteries, was granted to Adam Winthrop in 1544. Retaining his mercantile relations in the great city, and probably residing there at intervals, he seated himself in landed dignity at his manor, and there he died in 1562. His memorialist now holds in his possession the original bronze plate which was put upon his tomb three hundred years ago, and which was probably removed to give place to the new inscription connected with the repairs already referred to. This ancient sepulchral brass bears in quaint old English characters the following inscription:—“Here lyeth Mr. Adam Wynthrop, Lorde &Patron of Groton, whiche departed owt of this Worlde the IXth day of November, in the yere of owre Lorde God MCCCCCLXII.” His widow, who had been his second wife, married William Mildmay; and his daughter Alice married Mr. Mildmay's son Thomas, who, being afterwards knighted, secured to the cloth-worker's daughter the title of “Lady Mildmay.” In the cabinet of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester, the visitor, on the asking, may be gratified with the sight and touch of a curious old relic which will bring him almost into contact with a most agreeable family-circle of the olden time. It is a serviceable posset-pot, with a silver tip and lid, both of which are gilded, the cover, still playing faithfully on its hinge, being chased with the device of Adam and Eve in the garden partaking of the forbidden fruit. An accompanying record reads as follows:—“At ye Feast of St. Michael, Ano. 1607, my Sister, ye Lady Mildmay, did give me a Stone Pot, tipped &covered wth. a Silver Lydd.” How many comforting concoctions and compounds, alternating with herb-drinks and medicated potions, may have been quaffed or swallowed with wry face from that precious old cup, who can now tell? Probably it ministered its more inviting contents to the elders of the successive generations in the family, while it was known by the younger members in their turn in connection with certain penalties for overeating and chills got from hard play. While having the relic in hand, the other day, the prompting was irresistible to bring it close to the appropriate organ, to ascertain, if possible, what had been the predominant character of its contents. But, faithful as the grave, it would reveal no secrets; having parted with all transient and artificial odors, it has resumed, as is most fitting, the smell of its parent earth.
The writer of that record accompanying the “Stone-Pot” with its “Silver Lydd” was Adam Winthrop, father of our Governor, and son of the last-mentioned Lord of Groton. This third Adam Winthrop—the sixth child of his father's second wife, and the eleventh of his thirteen children—was born in London, “in the street which is called Gracious,” (Grace-Church,) August 10, 1548. Losing his father at the age of fourteen, he was early bred as a lawyer in London, but soon engaged in agricultural interests at Groton, to the lordship of which he acceded by a license of alienation from an elder brother. There are sundry authentic relics and tokens of this good man which reveal to us those traits of his character, and those ways and influences of his domestic life, under the high-toned, yet most genial training of which his son was educated to the great enterprise Providence intended for him. There are even poetical pieces extant which prove that Adam sought intercourse with the Muses by making advances on his own part, though we must confess that he does not appear to have been fairly met half-way by that capricious and fastidious sisterhood. Many of his almanacs and diaries, with entries dating from 1595, and from which the author makes liberal and interesting transcripts in an Appendix, have been happily preserved, and have a grateful use to us. They help us to reconstruct an old home, a pleasant one, in or near which three generations of a good stock lived together after the highest pattern of an orderly, exemplary, prospered, and pious household. We infer from many significant trifles, that, while the old English comfort-loving, generous, and hospitable style prevailed there, the severer spirit of Puritanism had not attained ascendancy. Intercourse with the metropolis, though embarrassed with conditions requiring some buffeting and hardship, was compensated by the zest of adventure, and it was frequent enough to quicken the minds and to add to the bodily comforts and refinements of the family. Adam Winthrop must have been a fine specimen of the old English gentleman, with all of native polish which courtly experiences might or might not have given him, and with a simple, high-toned, upright, and neighborly spirit, which made him an apt and a faithful administrator of a great variety of trusts. His old Bible, now in the possession of Mr. George Livermore of Cambridge, represented the divine presence and law in his household, for all its members, parents and children, masters and servants. He entertained hospitably his full share of “the godly preachers,” who were the wandering luminaries, and, in some respects, the angelic visitants of those days. He was evidently a very patient listener to sermons, though we have not the proof in any surviving notebooks of his that one of his excellent son John's furnishes us, that he took pains to transcribe the heads, the savory passages, and the textual attestations of the elaborate, but utterly juiceless sermons of the time. The entries in his almanacs afford a curious variety, in which interesting events of public importance alternate with homely details touching the affairs of his neighborhood and the incidents in the domestic life of his relatives and acquaintance. One matter, as we shall soon see, on which a fact in the life, of Governor Winthrop depends, finds an unexpected disclosure from Adam's pen. Here are a few excerpts from these entries:—“1597. The VIth of July I received a privie seale to lend the Q. matie [Elizabeth] LXX. for a yere.”—“1602. Sept. the 27th day in ye mornying the Bell did goe for mother [a conventional epithet] Tiffeyn, but she recouered.” This decides a matter which has sometimes been disputed,—that, while with us, in our old times, “the passing bell" indicated the progress of a funeral train, anciently in England it signified that a soul was believed to be passing from a body supposed to be in extremis. And a doleful sound it must have been to those of whom it made a false report, as of “mother Tiffeyn.”—“ Decem. ye XXI day my brother Alibaster came to my house &toulde me yt he made certayne inglishe verses in his sleepe, wh. he recited unto me, &I lent him XLs.”—“1603 April ye 28th day was the funeralles kept at Westminster for our late Queene Elizabethe.”—“1603. On Munday ye seconde of Maye, one Keitley, a blackesmythe, dwellinge in Lynton in Cambridgeshire, had a poore man to his father whom he kepte. A gentleman of ye same Towne sent a horse to shoe, the father held up the horses legge whilest his soonne did shoe him. The horse struggled &stroke the father on ye belly with his foote &overthrewe him. The soonne laughed thereat &woulde not helpe his father uppe, for the which some that were present reproved him greatlye. The soonne went forwarde in shoinge of ye horse, &when he had donne he went uppon his backe, mynding to goe home with him. The horse presently did throughe him of his backe against a poste &clave his hed in sonder. Mistress Mannocke did knowe ye man, for his mother was her nurse. Grave judicium Dei in irrisorem patris sui.” These little scraps of Latin, sometimes running into a distich, are frequent signs of a certain classical proclivity of the writer. Any one who should infer, from the good man's arbitrary mode of spelling many words, that he was an illiterate person, would be grievously mistaken, in his ignorance of the universal characteristic and license of that age in that matter. The Queen herself was by no means so good a “speller,” by our standard, as was Adam Winthrop. The extraordinary way in which letters were then left out of words where they were needed, and most lavishly multiplied where no possible use could be made of them, is a phenomenon never accounted for.
Adam Winthrop was for several years auditor of the accounts of Trinity and St. John's Colleges, Cambridge, and records his visits to the University in the discharge of his duties. We have specimens of a pleasant correspondence between him and his sister, Lady Mildmay, also with his wife, marked by a sweet and gentle tone, the utterance of a kindly spirit,—fragrant records of hearts once so warm with love.
It must have been with supreme delight that Adam entered in his diary, that on January 12, 1587, [January 22, 1588, N.S.,] was born his only son, John, one of five children by his second wife. John came into the world between the years that marked, respectively, the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the visit of the Spanish Armada. We can well conceive under what gracious and godly influences he received his early nurture. His mother died only one year before he, at the age of forty-two, embarked for America, his father having not long preceded her. Evidence abundant was in our possession that John Winthrop had received what even now would be called a good education, and what in his own time was a comparatively rare one. It had generally been taken for granted, however, that he had never been a member of either of the Universities. His present biographer tells us that long before undertaking his present grateful task he had never been reconciled to admit the inference which had been drawn from silence on this point. He remembered, by references in his own reading, that by some oversight there had been an omission of names in the Cambridge University Register from June, 1589, to June, 1602, and that no admissions were recorded earlier than 1625. John Winthrop might, therefore, have at least “gone to college,” if he had not “gone through college.” His biographer had also noticed in the Governor's “Christian Experience,” drawn up and signed by him in New England on his forty-ninth birthday, 1636-7, an allusion to his having been at Cambridge when “about 14 yrs of age,” and having had a lingering fever there. An entry in the records of his father must have been a most grateful discovery to the Governor's descendant in the seventh generation. “1602. The 2d of December I rode to Cambridge. The VIIIth day John my soonne was admitted into Trinitie College.” But the old mystery vanishes only to give place to another, which has a spice of romance in it. John Winthrop did not graduate at Cambridge. He was a lawful husband when seventeen years of age, and a happy father at eighteen.
In a time-stained and most precious document from his pen and from his heart, relating his religious experience, to be referred to more particularly by-and-by, he charges himself in his youth with grievous sin. What we know of his whole life and character would of itself forbid us to accept literally his severe self-judgment, much more to draw from his language the inference which like language would warrant, if used in our times. Those who have even but a superficial acquaintance with religious diaries, especially with such as date from near that age, need not be told that their writers, when sincerely devout by the Puritan standard, aimed to search and judge their own hearts and lives with all that penetrating, self-revealing, unsparing scrutiny and severity which they believed were turned upon them by the all-seeing eye of infinite purity. They wished to anticipate the Great Tribunal, and to avert the surprise of any new disclosure there by admitting to themselves while still in the flesh the worst that it could pronounce against them. Men and women who before the daily companions and witnesses of their lives would stand stoutly, and honestly too, in self-defence against all imputations, and might even boast themselves—as St. Paul did—of a surplusage of merits of some sort, when registering the barometer and the thermometer of their religious experience were the most unrelenting self-accusers. It is safe to say, as a general thing, that those who in that introspection, in the measurement of their heats and chills of piety, grieved most deeply and found the most ingenious causes for self-infliction were either the most calculating hypocrites or the most truly godly. To which of the two classes any one particular individual might belong could not always be infallibly concluded from what he wrote. That comfort-loving and greed-indulging, yet picturesque, old sinner, Samuel Pepys, Esq., did not profess to keep a religious diary. But many such diaries have been kept by men who might have covered alternate pages with matter similar to his own, or with worse. We must interpret the religious diaries of that age by aids independent of those which their contents furnish us. John Winthrop, writing of his youth when he had grown to the full exalted stature of Christian manhood, and though sweetly mellowed in the graces of his character by genial ripening from within his soul, was still a Puritan of the severest standard theologically, and, by principle, charges himself with heinous sin. We feel assured that he was not only guiltless of any folly or error that would deserve such a designation, but that he even overstated the degree of his addiction to the lighter human faults. Only after such a preliminary assertion of incredulity as to any literal truth in them, could we consent to copy his own words, as follows:—“In my youth I was very lewdly disposed, inclining unto &attempting (so far as my heart enabled me) all kinds of wickedness, except swearing & scorning religion, wh. I had no temptation unto in regard of my education. About ten years of age I had some notions of God: for, in some frighting or danger, I have prayed unto God, &found manifest answer: ye remembrance whereof, many years after, made me think that God did love me: but it made me no whit the better. After I was twelve years old, I began to have some more savor of religion: &I thought I had more understanding in divinity than many of my years,” etc. Yes, he evidently had. And though the kind of “divinity” which had trained his soul was of a grim sort, his own purity and gentleness of spirit softened it while accepting it. He adds,—“Yet I was still very wild & dissolute: &as years came on, my lusts grew stronger, but yet under some restraint of my natural reason, whereby I had that command of myself that I could turn into any form. I would, as occasion required, write letters, &c. of mere vanity; &if occasion was, I could write savoury &godly counsel.” Seeing, however, that he was made a Justice of the Peace when eighteen years of age, the inference is a fair one—his own self-accusation to the contrary notwithstanding—that he was known in his own neighborhood as a youth of extraordinary excellence of character.
It would appear from the entries in his father's diaries that he was a member of college some eighteen months. Why he left before completing his course is to find its explanation for us either in the extreme sickness before referred to as visited upon him there, or in the agreeable “change in his condition,” as the awkward and sheepish phrase is, which immediately followed. The latter alternative leaves scope and offers temptations for such inventiveness of fancy about details and incidents, whys and wherefores, as the absence of all but the following stingy revelations may justify. The good Adam, after recording, in November, 1604, and in the ensuing March, two mysterious rides with his son, has left, this, under date of March 28th, 1605:—“My soonne was sollemly contracted to Mary Foorth, by Mr. Culverwell minister of Greate Stambridge in Essex cum consensu parentum.” Another ride into Essex, this time by the son alone, is entered under April 9th, and then on the 16th his marriage, “AEtatis suae 17 [annis] 3 mensibus et 4 diebus completis.” This reads pleasantly:—“The VIIIth of May my soonne &his wife came to Groton from London, &ye IXth I made a marriage feaste, when Sr. Thomas Mildmay &his lady my sister were present. The same day my sister Veysye came to me, &departed on ye 24th of Maye. My dawter Fones came the VIIIth &departed home ye XXIIId of Maye.” An expeditious closing up, with honey-moon and marriage-feast, of an evident love-passage, whose longer or shorter antecedents are not revealed. The biographer leaves his readers their choice of assigning the abrupt close of the college course of John Winthrop either to his grievous sickness, or to his love for Mary Forth, daughter and sole heir of John Forth, Esq., of Great Stambridge. We incline rather to the latter alternative as the stronger one, inasmuch as love for Mary may not only have been the direct cause of his loathing Cambridge, but may even have been the cause of his sickness, which in that case becomes so secondary a cause as hardly to be a cause at all. One thing is certain: our honored Puritan ancestors had no scruples against short engagements, early marriages, or rematings as often as circumstances favored.
The young bridegroom himself, in the record of his experience, which we quote again for another purpose, reserves the confession of any haste on his own part to enter the married state, and would seem delicately to insinuate parental influence in the case. “About eighteen years of age, being a man in stature &understanding, as my parents conceived me, I married into a family under Mr. Culverwell his ministry in Essex, , living there sometimes, I first found ye ministry of the word come home to my heart with power (for in all before I found only light): &after that, I found ye like in ye ministry of many others: so as there began to be some change: wh. I perceived in myself, &others took notice of.”
Six children were born to John Winthrop and his first wife,—three sons and three daughters. John, the eldest of these, afterwards Governor of Connecticut, was born February 22, 1606. Mary, the only one of the daughters surviving infancy, also came to this country, and married a son of Governor Thomas Dudley. In less than eleven years after her marriage, Mary Forth died, the husband being not yet twenty-eight years old, and the eldest child but nine.
The earliest record of his religious experience appears to have been made under date of 1606. Read with the allowances and abatements to which reference has already been made, all that this admirable man has left for us of this self-revelation—little dreaming that it would have such readers—is profoundly interesting and instructive, when estimated from a right point of view and with any degree of congeniality of spirit. Those who are familiar with his published New-England Journal have already recognized in him a man of a simple and humble spirit, of a grave, but not a gloomy temperament, kindly in his private estimate and generous in his public treatment of others, most unselfish, and rigidly upright. The noble native elements of his character, and the peculiar tone and style of the piety under which his religious experience was developed, mutually reacted upon each other, the result being that his natural virtues were refined and spiritualized, while the morbid and superstitious tendencies of his creed were to a degree neutralised. He seems to refer the crisis in his religious experience to a date immediately following upon his first marriage. But, as we shall see, a repeated trial in the furnace of sharp affliction deepened and enriched that experience. He tells us that during those happy years of his first marriage he had proposed to himself a change from the legal profession to the ministry. By a second marriage, December 6, 1615, to Thomasine Clopton, of a good family in the neighborhood, he had the promise of renewed joy in a condition which his warm-hearted sociability and his intense fondness for domestic relations made essential to his happiness, if not to his virtue. But one single year and one added day saw her and her infant child committed to the tomb, and made him again desolate. His biographer, not without misgivings indeed, but with a deliberation and healthfulness of judgment which most of his readers will approve as allowed to overrule them, has spread before us at length, from the most sacred privacy of the stricken mourner, heart-exercises and scenes in the death-chamber, such as engage with most painful, but still entrancing sympathy, the very soul of the reader. We know not where, in all our literature, to find matter like this, so bedewed and steeped in tenderness, so swift in its alternations between lacerating details and soothing suggestions. The author has put into print all that remains of the record of John Winthrop's “Experience,” in passages written contemporaneously with its incidents,—a document distinct from the record of his “Christian Experience,” written here. The account of Thomasine's death-bed exercises, as deciphered from the perishing manuscript, must, we think, stand by itself, either for criticism, or for the defiance of criticism. What we have had of similar scenes only in fragments, and as seen though veils, is here in the fulness of all that can harrow or comfort the human heart, spread before us clear of any withholding. It was the same year in which Shakspeare died, in a house built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a member of the same family-connection with Thomasine. Hour by hour, almost minute by minute, the stages of her transition are reported with infinite minuteness. Her own prayers, and those of a steady succession of religious friends, are noted; the melting intonations of her own utterances of anxiety or peace; the parting counsels or warnings addressed to her dependants; the last breathings of affection to those dearest; the occasional aberrations and cloudings of intelligence coming in the progress of her disease, which were assigned to temptations from Satan: all these are given to us. “Her feaver increased very violently upon hir, wh. the Devill made advantage of to moleste hir comforte, but she declaringe unto us with what temptations the devill did assault hir, bent hirselfe against them, prayinge with great vehemence for Gods helpe, &that he would not take away his lovinge kindnesse from hir, defyinge Satan, &spitting at him, so as we might see by hir setting of hir teethe, &fixinge her eyes, shakinge hir head &whole bodye, that she had a very greatt conflicte with the adversarye.” The mourner follows this scene to its close. Having transfigured all its dreariest passages with the kindling glow of his own undismayed faith, he lets his grateful spirit crown it with a sweet peace, and then he pays a most tender tribute to the gentle loveliness, fidelity, and Christian excellence of her with whom he had shared so true, though so brief, a joy.
This renewed affliction is turned by the still young sufferer to uses which should assure and intensify his piety according to the best Puritan type of it. He continues his heart-record. He subjects his mode of life, his feelings, habits and aims, the material of his daily food, and the degree of his love for various goods, as they are to be measured by a true scale, to the most rigid tests. He spares himself in nothing. The Bible does him as direct a service in rebuke and guidance as if every sentence in it had been written for himself. It is interesting to note that the quotations from it are from a version that preceded our own. His rules of self-discipline and spiritual culture, while wholly free from unwholesome asceticism, nevertheless required the curbing of all desires, and the utter subjection of every natural prompting to a crucial test, before its innocent or edifying character could pass unchallenged.
Vain would be the attempt in our generation to make Puritanism lovely or attractive. Its charms were for its original and sincere disciples, and do not survive them. There is no fashion of dress or furniture which may not be revived, and, if patronized as fashion, be at least tolerated. But for Puritanism there is no restoration. Its rehabilitated relics do not produce their best influence in any attempt to attract our admiration,—which they cannot do,—but in engaging our hearts' tolerant respect and confidence towards those who actually developed its principles at first-hand, its original disciples, who brought it into discredit afterwards by the very fidelity of their loyalty to it. Puritanism is an engaging and not offensive object to use, when regarded as the characteristic of only one single generation of men and women and children. It could not pass from that one generation into another without losing much of what grace it had, and acquiring most odious and mischievous elements. Entailed Puritanism being an actual impossibility, all attempts to realize it, all assumptions of success in it, have the worst features of sham and hypocrisy. The diligent students of the history and the social life of our own colonial days know very well what an unspeakable difference there was, in all that makes and manifests characters and dispositions, between the first comers here and the first native-born generation, and how painfully that difference tells to the discredit of the latter. The tap-roots of Puritanism struck very deep, and drew the sap of life vigorously. They dried very soon; they are now cut; and whatever owed its life exclusively to them has withered and must perish. A philosophy of Nature and existence now wholly discredited underlay the fundamental views and principles of Puritanism. The early records of our General Court are thickly strown with appointments of Fast-Days that the people might discover the especial occasion of God's anger toward them, manifested in the blight of some expected harvest, or in a scourge upon the cattle in the field. Some among us who claim to hold unreduced or softened the old ancestral faith have been twice in late years convened in our State-House, by especial call, to legislate upon the potato-disease and the pleuro-pneumonia among our herds. Their joint wisdom resulted in money-appropriations to discover causes and cures. The debates held on these two occasions would have grievously shocked our ancestors. But are there any among us who could in full sincerity, with logic and faith, have stood for the old devout theory of such visitations?
But if it would be equally vain and unjust to attempt to make Puritanism lovely to ourselves,—a quality which its noblest disciples did not presume to make its foremost attraction,—there is all the more reason why we should do it justice in its original and awfully real presentment in its single generation of veritable discipleship. What became drivelling and cant, presumption and bigotry, pretence and hypocrisy, as soon as a fair trial had tested it, was in the hearts, the speech, the convictions, and the habits of a considerable number of persons in one generation, the most thoroughly honest and earnest product of all the influences which had trained them. We read the heart-revelations of John Winthrop with the profoundest confidence, and even with a constraining sympathy. We venture to say that when this book shall be consulted, through all time to come, for the various uses of historical, religious, or literary illustration, not even the most trifling pen will ever turn a single sentence from its pages to purposes of levity or ridicule. Here we have Puritanism at first-hand: the original, unimitated, and transient resultant of influences which had been working to produce it, and which would continue their working so as to insure modifications of it. Winthrop notes it for a special Providence that his wife discovered a loathsome spider in the children's porridge before they had partaken of it. His religious philosophy stopped there. He did not put to himself the sort of questions which open in a train to our minds from any one observed fact, else he would have found himself asking after the special Providence which allowed the spider to fall into the porridge. His friend and successor in high-magistracy in New England, Governor John Endecott, wrote him a letter years afterward which is so characteristic of the faith of both of them that we will make free use of it. The letter is dated Salem, July 28th, 1640, and probably refers to the disaster by which the ship Mary Rose “was blown in pieces with her own powder, being 21 barrels,” in Charlestown harbor, the day preceding.[A]
“DEAREST SIR,—Hearing of ye remarkable stroake of Gods
hand uppon ye shippe &shippes companie of Bristoll, as also of
some Atheisticall passages &hellish profanations of ye Sabbaths
&deridings of ye people &wayes of God, I thought good to desire
a word or two of you of ye trueth of what you have heard. Such an
extraordinary judgement would be searched into, what Gods meaninge
is in it, both in respect of those whom it concernes more
especiallie in England, as also in regard of ourselves. God will
be honred in all dealings. We have heard of severall ungodlie
carriadges in that ship, as, first, in their way overbound they
wld. constantlie jeere at ye holy brethren of New England, &some
of ye marineer's would in a scoffe ask when they should come to
ye holie Land? 2. After they lay in the harbor Mr. Norice sent to
ye shippe one of our brethren uppon busines, &hee heard them
say, This is one of ye holie brethren, mockinglie disdainefullie. 3. That when some have been with them aboard to
buy necessaries, ye shippe men would usuallie say to some of them
that they could not want any thinge, they were full of ye
Spiritt. 4. That ye last Lords Day, or ye Lords Day before,
there were many drinkings aboard with singings &musick in tymes
of publique exercise. 5. That ye last fast ye master or captaine
of the shippe, with most of ye companie, would not goe to ye
meetinge, but read ye booke of common prayer so often over that
some of ye company said hee had worne that threed-bare, with many
such passages. Now if these or ye like be true, as I am persuaded
some of them are, I think ye trueth heereof would be made knowen,
by some faithfull hand in Bristoll or else where, for it is a very
remarkable &unusuall stroake,” etc., etc.
Governor Winthrop, who was a man of much milder spirit than Endecott, faithfully records this judgment, under its date in his Journal, with additional particulars. The explosion took place “about dinner time, no man knows how, &blew up all, viz. the captain, &nine or ten of his men, &some four or five strangers. There was a special providence that there were no more, for many principal men were going aboard at that time, &some were in a boat near the ship, &others were diverted by a sudden shower of rain, &others by other occasions.” The good Governor makes this startling record the occasion for mentioning “other examples of like kind.” Yet the especial providential significance which both he and Endecott could assign to such a calamity would need a readjustment in its interpretation, if compelled to take in two other conditions under which the mysterious ways of that Providence are manifested, namely: first, that many ships on board which there have been no such profane doings have met with similar disaster; and second, that many ships on board which there has been more heinous sinning have escaped the judgment.
But, as we have said, Puritanism was temporarily consistent with the philosophy of life and Nature for one age. It held no divided sway over John Winthrop, but filled his heart, his mind, and his spirit. If, by its influence over any one human being, regarded as an unqualified, unmodified style of piety, demanding entire allegiance, and not yielding to any mitigation through the tempering qualities of an individual,—if, of itself and by itself, Puritanism could be made lovely to us, John Winthrop might well be charged with that exacting representative office. We repeat, that we have no abatement to make of our exalted regard for him through force of a single sentence from his pen. Most profoundly are we impressed by the intensity and thoroughness of conviction, the fulness and frankness of avowal, and the delicate and fervent earnestness of self-consecration, which make these ancient oracles of a human heart fragrant with the odor of true piety. He uses no hackneyed terms, no second-hand or imitated phrases. His language, as well as his thoughts, his method, and ideal standard, are purely his own. Indeed, we might set up and sustain for him a claim of absolute individuality, if not even of originality, in the standard of godliness and righteousness which he fashioned for himself, and then with such zeal and heroism sought to attain.
Entering a third time the married state, John Winthrop, in April, 1618, took to wife Margaret, daughter of Sir John Tyndal. The clouds, which had gathered so deeply in repeated bereavement and gloom over his earlier years of domestic life, yielded now, and left alike the sky and the horizon of his prospects, to give place soon to the anxieties of grave enterprises, which animated while they burdened his spirit. This excellent and brave-hearted lady, as she opens her soul, and almost reveals what must have been a sweet and winning countenance, to the reader of her own letters in these pages, will henceforward be one of the enshrined saints of the New-England calendar. Little did she dream at her marriage what a destiny was before her. There was in store for her husband nearly thirty years of the truest heart-love and the closest sympathy in religious trust and consecration with her. We may anticipate our narrative at this point, to say that her situation did not allow her to accompany him on his own removal to this side of the ocean, but she followed him a year and a half afterwards, arriving in November, 1631, with his eldest son and others of his children, having lost on the voyage an infant whom he had probably never seen. Her death, in a prevailing sickness, June 14, 1647, drew from her husband this tribute to her:—“In this sickness the Governour's wife, daughter of Sir John Tindal, Knight, left this world for a better, being about fifty-six years of age: a woman of singular virtue, prudence, modesty, &piety & specially beloved &honored of all the country.” Though in the December of the same year we find the Governor again married, now to the Widow Martha Coytemore, we refer the incident to wilderness-straits and the exactions of necessity or expediency in domestic life.
But we must return to Margaret, the bride. It seems that there was some objection offered to Winthrop's suit by the lady's relatives. In one of the two charming letters which are preserved as written during his courtship to her, he refers to some “unequall conflicte” which she had to bear. These two letters, with one addressed to the lady by Father Adam, are unique as specimens of Puritan love-making. Solomon's Song is here put to the best use for which it is adapted, its only safe use.
The family-letters, which now increase in number, and vastly in their cheerfulness and radiance of spirit, and the birth of more children, present to us the most captivating glimpses of the English life of our first Chief Magistrate. From a will which he made in Groton in 1620, of course superseded after his change of country, it appears that he had then five sons and one daughter. The Lordship of Groton had been assigned to him by his father. This was the year of the hegira of the Plymouth Pilgrims, but we have as yet no intimation that Winthrop was looking in this direction.
For more than a decade of years the family-history now passes on, for the most part placidly, interspersed with those incidents and anxieties which give alike the charm and the import to the routine of existence to any closely knit fellowships sharing it together. Enough of the fragrant old material, in fast decaying papers, has come to light and been transcribed for security against all future risks, to preserve to us a fair restoration of the lights and shades of that domestic experience. Time has dealt kindly in sparing a variety of specimens, so as to give to that restoration a kaleidoscopic character. Winthrop's frequent visits to London, on his professional errands, gave occasion to constant correspondence between him and his wife, and so we have epistles burdened with the intensities and refinements of the purest affection. An occasional reference to church affairs by the Patron of Groton, with extracts from the record of his religious experience, continue for us the evidence that Winthrop was growing and deepening in the roots of his noble style of life. His piety evidently ripened and mellowed into the richest fruitage which any form of theological or devotional faith can produce. A severe and wellnigh fatal illness in London, which he concealed from his wife at Groton till its crisis was past, was made by him the occasion, as of many other good resolutions, so also of a renouncement of the use of tobacco, in which, by his own account, he, like many men as well as women at that time, had gone to excess. His good wife, though positively enjoined by him not to venture upon the winter's journey, in the letter which communicated to her the first tidings of his illness, immediately went to him in the great city, attended only by a female servant. In a previous malady from which he had suffered severely in one of his hands while at home, his son John, in London, had consulted in his behalf one of the helpful female practitioners of the time, and the correspondence relating to her advice, her ointments, and their efficacy, gives us some curiously illustrative matter in the history of the healing art. The good woman was sure that she could at once cure her patient, if he could be beneath her hands. She would receive no compensation.
A mystery has attached to a certain “office” which Winthrop held in London, and to which, in one of his previously published letters, he referred as having lost it. It now appears that that office was an Attorneyship of the Court of Wards and Liveries, an honorable and responsible trust. Its duties, with other provisional engagements, separated him so much from his home at one period, that he meditated the removal of his family from Groton. His wife's letters on the subject are delightful revelations of confidences. It is still only by inference that we can assign the loss of his office, to the business of which we have many references, to any especial cause. It may have been surrendered by him because he longed for more home-life, or because the growing spirit of discontent and apprehension as to the state of public affairs, which he shared with so many of his friends, made him obnoxious to the controlling heads in civil life.
We have also some admirable specimens of his correspondence with his son John, who, after his preliminary education at the school at Bury St. Edmund's, became, in 1622, in his seventeenth year, a member of Trinity College, Dublin, near his uncle and aunt Downing, parents of the famous Sir George Downing. These are beautiful and wise and generous expressions of a father's love and advice and dealings with a son, exposed to temptation at a critical age, and giving promise of the abilities and virtues which he afterwards exhibited so nobly as Governor of Connecticut. In one of the letters, to which the father asks replies in Latin, he writes, “I will not limit your allowance less than to ye uttermost of mine own estate. So as, if L20 be too little (as I always accounted it), you shall have L30; &when that shall not suffice, you shall have more. Only hold a sober &frugal course (yet without baseness), &I will shorten myself to enlarge you.” In another letter there is this fit commemoration of his father, Adam, dying at the age of seventy-five:—“I am sure, before this, you have knowledge of that wh., at the time when you wrote, you were ignorant of: viz., the departure of your grandfather (for I wrote over twice since). He hath finished his course: &is gathered to his people in peace, as the ripe corn into the barn. He thought long for ye day of his dissolution, &welcomed it most gladly. Thus is he gone before; &we must go after, in our time. This advantage he hath of us,—he shall not see ye evil wh. we may meet with ere we go hence. Happy those who stand in good terms with God &their own conscience: they shall not fear evil tidings: &in all changes they shall be ye same.”
There are likewise letters to the student at Dublin from his brother Forth, who succeeded him at the school at St. Edmund's. It is curious to note in these epistles of the school-boy the indifferent success of his manifestly sincere effort to use the technical language of Puritanism and to express its aims and ardors. The youth evidently feels freer when writing of the fortunes of some of his school-mates. This same Forth Winthrop became in course a student at Cambridge, and we have letters to his father, carried by the veritable Hobson immortalized by Milton.
The younger John went, on graduating, to London, to fit himself for the law. His name is found on the books as admitted to the Inner Temple in 1624. He appears early to have cherished some matrimonial purposes which did not work felicitously. Not liking his profession, he turned his thoughts toward the sea. He obtained a secretaryship in the naval service, and joined the expedition under the Duke of Buckingham, designed to relieve the French Protestants at Rochelle, in 1627. He afterwards made an Oriental tour, of the stages of which we have some account in his letters, in 1628-9, from Leghorn, Constantinople, etc. He was thwarted in a purpose to visit Jerusalem, and returned to England, by Holland. Notwithstanding the industrious fidelity of his father as a letter-writer, the son received no tidings from home during his whole absence of nearly fifteen months. What a contrast with our times!
Before undertaking this Oriental tour, the younger John had had proposals made to him, which seem to have engaged his own inclinations, to connect himself with Endecott's New-England enterprise. He wrote to consult the wishes of his father on the subject; but that father, who in less than two years was to find himself pledged to a more comprehensive scheme, involving a life-long exile in that far-off wilderness, dissuaded his son from the premature undertaking. It does not appear that the father had as yet presented to his mind the possibility of any such step. Yet, from the readiness which marked his own earnest and complete sympathy in the enterprise when first we find him concerned in it, we must infer that he had much previous acquaintance and sympathy with the early New-England adventurers from the moment that a religious spirit became prominent in their fellowship. He was a man who undertook no great work without the most careful deliberation, and a slow maturing of his decision.
During the absence of John at the East, many interesting and serious incidents occurred in the personal experience and in the domestic relations of his father, which doubtless helped the preparation of his spirit for the critical event of his life. He had that severe and threatening illness in London already referred to. We have many letters covering the period, filled with matter over which, as so full of what is common to the human heart in all time, we linger with consenting sympathy. A wayward and unconverted son, Henry by name, caused his father an anxiety which we see struggling painfully with parental affection and a high-toned Christian aim for all the members of his family. The son's course indicated rather profitlessness and recklessness than vice. He connected himself with an enterprise at Barbadoes. He drew heavily on his father's resources for money, and returned him some tobacco, which the father very frankly writes to him was “very ill-conditioned, foul, &full of stalks, &evil-colored.” He came over in the same expedition, though not in the same ship, with his father, and was accidentally drowned at Salem, July 2, 1630. In the first letter which the good Governor wrote to his wife after his landing here, dated “Charlestown, July 16, 1630,” are these sentences:—“We have met with many sad &discomfortable things, as thou shalt hear after; & ye Lord's hand hath been heavy upon myself in some very near to me. My son Henry! my son Henry! ah, poor child!” While the father was writing from London to this son, then supposed to be at Barbadoes, he had other matters of anxiety. His endeared brother-in-law, Fones, died, April 15, 1629, and four days afterwards Winthrop was called to part, at Groton, with his venerated mother, who died under the roof where she had lived so happily and graciously with his own family in his successive sorrows and delights.
The loss or resignation of his office, with the giving up of his law-chamber in London, and his evident premonitions of the sore troubles in affairs of Church and State which were soon to convulse his native land, doubtless guided him to a decision, some of the stages and incidents of which have left no record for us. Enough, however, of the process may still be traced among papers which have recently come to light, to open to us its inner workings, and to explain its development. A ride with his brother Downing into Lincolnshire, July 28, 1629, finds an entry in Winthrop's “Experiences,” that it may mark his gratitude to the Providence which preserved his life, when, as he writes, “my horse fell under me in a bogge in the fennes, so as I was allmost to ye waiste in water.” Beyond all doubt this ride was taken by the sympathizing travellers on a prearranged visit to Isaac Johnson, another of the New-England worthies, at Sempringham, on business connected with the Massachusetts enterprise. But the first recovered and extant document which proves that Winthrop was committing himself to the great work is a letter of his son John's, dated London, August 21, 1629, in reply to one from his father, which, it is evident from the tenor of the answer, had directly proposed the embarking of the interest of the whole family in the enterprise. A certain mysterious paper of “Conclusions,” referred to by the son, had been inclosed in the father's letter, which appears to be irrecoverable. There has been much discussion, with rival and contested claims and pleas, as to the authorship of that most valuable and critical document containing the propositions for the enterprise, with reasons and grounds, objections and answers. Our author urges, with force of arguments and the evidence of authentic papers, entirely to our satisfaction, that John Winthrop was essentially and substantially the digester and exponent of those pregnant considerations. The correspondence which follows proves how conscientiously the enterprise was weighed, and the reasons and objections debated. Godly ministers were consulted for their advice and cooeperation. No opposition or withholding of any shade or degree would seem to have been made by any member of Winthrop's family; his gentle, meek-hearted, but most heroic and high-souled wife, being, from first to last, his most cordial sympathizer and ally. We next find him entering into the decisive “Agreement,” at Cambridge, with eleven other of the foremost adventurers to New England, which pledged them “to inhabit and continue there.” It was only after most protracted, and, we may be sure, most devout deliberation, that the great decision was made, which involved the transfer of the patent, the setting up of a self-governing commonwealth on the foreign soil, and the committal of those who were to be its members to a life-long and exacting undertaking, from which there were to be no lookings-back. A day was appointed for the company to meet, on which two committees were chosen, to weigh and present with full force, respectively, the reasons for a removal, and the reasons against it. The “show of hands,” when these committees reported, fixed the purpose of the company on what they did not hesitate to believe was the leading of Providence.
From that moment we find Winthrop busy with cares and efforts of the most exacting character, drawing upon all his great energies, and engaging the fondest devotion of his manly and Christian heart. He gave himself, without stint or regret, with an unselfish and supreme consecration, to the work, cherishing its great aim as the matter of his most earnest piety, and attending to its pettiest details with a scrupulous fidelity which proved that conscience found its province there. We seem almost to be made spectators of the bustle and fervor of the old original Passover scenes of the Hebrew exodus. It is refreshing to pause for a moment over a touch of our common humanity, which we meet by the way. Winthrop in London “feeds with letters” the wife from whom he was so often parted. In one of them he tells her that he has purchased for her the stuff for a “gowne” to be sent by the carrier, and he adds, “Lett me knowe what triminge I shall send for thy gowne.” But Margaret, who could trust her honored husband in everything else, was a woman still, and must reserve, not only the rights of her sex, but the privilege of her own good taste for the fitnesses of things. So she guardedly replies,—in a postscript, of course,—“When I see the cloth, I will send word what triminge will serve.” In a modest parenthesis of another letter to her, dated October 29, 1629, he speaks of himself, as if all by the way, as “beinge chosen by ye Company to be their Governor.” The circumstances of his election and trust, so honorable and dignified, are happily told with sufficient particularity on our own Court Records. Governor Cradock, his honored predecessor, not intending immediate emigration, put the proposition, and announced the result which gave him such a successor.
Attending frequently upon meetings of the Company, and supervising its own business as well as his private affairs, all having in view what must then have been in the scale of the time a gigantic undertaking, full of vexations and embarrassments, Winthrop seizes upon a few days of crowded heart-strugglings to make his last visit at the dear homestead, and then to take of it his eternal farewell. How lovingly and admiringly do we follow him on his way from London, taking his last view of those many sweet scenes which were thenceforward to embower in his memory all the joys of more than forty years! He did not then know for what a rugged landscape, and for what uncouth habitations, he was to exchange those fair scenes and the ivy-clad and —festooned churches and cottages of his dear England. His wife, for reasons of prudence, was to remain for a while with some of his children, beside his eldest son, and was to follow him when he had made fit preparation for her. His last letters to her (and each of many was written as the last, because of frequent delays) after the embarkation of the company, are gems and jewels of a heart which was itself the pure shrine of a most fond and faithful love. His leave-taking at Groton was at the end of February, 1630; his embarkation was on March 22. The ships were weather-bound successively at Cowes and at Yarmouth, whence were written those melting epistles. A letter which he wrote to Sir William Spring, one of the Parliamentary members from Suffolk, a dear religions friend of his, overflows with an ardor and intenseness of affection which passes into the tone and language of feminine endearment, and fashions passages from the Song of Solomon into prayers. One sentence of that letter keeps sharp its lacerating point for the reader of to-day. “But I must leave you all: our farewells usually are pleasant passages; mine must be sorrowful; this addition of forever is a sad close.” And it was to be forever. Winthrop was never to see his native land again. Many of his associates made one or more homeward voyages. A few of them returned to resume their English citizenship in those troublous times which invited and exercised energies like those which had essayed to tame a wilderness. But the great and good leader of his blessed exodus never found the occasion, we know not that he ever felt the prompting, to recross the ocean. The purpose of his life and soul was a unit in its substance and consecration, and it had found its object. For nineteen years, most of them as Governor, and always as the leading spirit and the recognized Moses of the enterprise, he was spared to see the planting and the building-up which subdued the wilderness and reared a commonwealth. He had most noble and congenial associates in the chief magistrates of the other New-England colonies. Bradford and Winslow of Plymouth, Eaton of New Haven, his own son and Haynes and Hopkins of Connecticut, and Williams of Providence Plantations, were all of them men of signal virtue. They have all obtained a good report, and richly and eminently do they deserve it. They were, indeed, a providential galaxy of pure-hearted, unspotted, heroic men. There is a mild and sweet beauty in the star of Winthrop, the lustre of which asks no jealous or rival estimation.
* * * * *
Come, let us plant the apple-tree!
Cleave the tough greensward with the spade;
Wide let its hollow bed be made;
There gently lay the roots, and there
Sift the dark mould with kindly care,
And press it o'er them tenderly,
As, round the sleeping infant's feet,
We softly fold the cradle-sheet:
So plant we the apple-tree.
What plant we in the apple-tree?
Buds, which the breath of summer days
Shall lengthen into leafy sprays;
Boughs, where the thrush with crimson breast
Shall haunt and sing and hide her nest.
We plant upon the sunny lea
A shadow for the noontide hour,
A shelter from the summer shower,
When we plant the apple-tree.
What plant we in the apple-tree?
Sweets for a hundred flowery springs,
To load the May-wind's restless wings,
When, from the orchard-row, he pours
Its fragrance through our open doors;
A world of blossoms for the bee;
Flowers for the sick girl's silent room;
For the glad infant sprigs of bloom.
We plant with the apple-tree.
What plant we in the apple-tree?
Fruits that shall swell in sunny June,
And redden in the August noon,
And drop, as gentle airs come by
That fan the blue September sky;
While children, wild with noisy glee,
Shall scent their fragrance as they pass,
And search for them the tufted grass
At the foot of the apple-tree.
And when above this apple-tree
The winter stars are quivering bright,
And winds go howling through the night,
Girls, whose young eyes o'erflow with mirth,
Shall peel its fruit by cottage-hearth,
And guests in prouder homes shall see,
Heaped with the orange and the grape,
As fair as they in tint and shape,
The fruit of the apple-tree.
The fruitage of this apple-tree
Winds and our flag of stripe and star
Shall bear to coasts that lie afar,
Where men shall wonder at the view,
And ask in what fair groves they grew;
And they who roam beyond the sea
Shall look, and think of childhood's day,
And long hours passed in summer play
In the shade of the apple-tree.
Each year shall give this apple-tree
A broader flush of roseate bloom,
A deeper maze of verdurous gloom,
And loosen, when the frost-clouds lower,
The crisp brown leaves in thicker shower;
The years shall come and pass, but we
Shall hear no longer, where we lie,
The summer's songs, the autumn's sigh,
In the boughs of the apple-tree.
And time shall waste this apple-tree.
Oh, when its aged branches throw
Thin shadows on the sward below,
Shall fraud and force and iron will
Oppress the weak and helpless still?
What shall the tasks of mercy be,
Amid the toils, the strifes, the tears
Of those who live when length of years
Is wasting this apple-tree?
“Who planted this old apple-tree?”
The children of that distant day
Thus to some aged man shall say;
And, gazing on its mossy stem,
The gray-haired man shall answer them:
“A poet of the land was he,
Born in the rude, but good old times;
'Tis said he made some quaint old rhymes
On planting the apple-tree.”
* * * * *
So Beltran was a Rebel.
Vivia stood before the glass, brushing out black shadows from her long, fine hair. There lay the letter as little Jane had left it, as she had let it lie till all the doors had clanged between, as she had laid it down again. She paused, with the brush half lifted, to glance once more at the clear superscription, to turn it and touch with her finger-tips the firm seal. Then she went on lengthening out the tresses that curled back again at the end like something instinct with life.
How long it had been in coming!—gradual journeys up from those Southern shores, and slumber in some comrade's care till a flag of truce could bear it across beneath the shelter of its white wing. Months had passed. And where was Beltran now? Living,—Vivia had a proud assurance in her heart of that! Her heart that went swiftly gliding back into the past, and filling old scenes with fresh fire. Thinking thus, she bent forward with dark, steady gaze, as if she sought for its pictures in the uncertain depths of the mirror, and there they rose as of old the crystal gave them back to the seeker. It was no gracious woman bending there that she saw, but a scene where the very air infused with sunlight seemed to glow, the house with its wide veranda veiled in vines, and above it towering the rosy cloud of an oleander-tree, behind it the far azure strip of the bay, before it the long low line of sandy beach where the waters of the Gulf forever swung their silver tides with a sullen roar,—for the place was one of those islands that make the perpetual fortifications of the Texan coast. Vivia, a slender little maiden of eleven summers, rocks in a boat a rod from shore, and by her side, his length along the warm wave, his arm along the boat, a boy floats in his linen clothes, an amphibious child, so undersized as to seem but little more than a baby, and yet a year her senior. He swims round and round the skiff in circling frolics, followed by the great dog who gambols with them, he dives under it and comes up far in advance, he treads water as he returns, and, seizing the painter, draws it forward while she sits there like Thetis guiding her sea-horses. Then, as the sun flings down more fervid showers, together they beach the boat and scamper up the sand, where old Disney, who has been dredging for oysters in the great bed below, crowns his basket with little Ray, and bears him off perched aloft on his bent back. Vivia walks beside the old slave in her infantile dignity, and disregards the sundry attempts of Ray's outstretched arms, till of a sudden the beating play of hoofs runs along the ground, and Beltran, with his morning's game, races by on his fiery mustang, and, scarcely checking his speed as he passes, stoops from the saddle and lifts the little girl before him. Vivia would look back in triumph upon Ray in his ignoble conveyance, but the affair has already been too much for him, he has flung himself on the instant from old Disney's basket, as if he were careless whether he fell under the horse's feet or not, but knowing perfectly well that Beltran will catch him. And Beltran, suddenly pulling up with a fierce rein, does catch him, bestows him with Vivia, slightly to her dainty discomfort, and dashes on. Noon deepens; Vivia does not sleep, she seeks Ray, Ray who does not sleep either, but who is not to be beguiled. For, one day, the child in his troubled dreams had been found by Beltran with a white coil of fangs and venom for his pillow; and never since has Beltran taken his noontide siesta but Ray watches beside him till the thick brown lashes lift themselves once more. For, if Ray knows what worship is, he would show you Beltran enshrined in his heart, this brother a dozen years his elder, who had hailed his birth with stormy tears of joy, who had carried him for years when he was yet too weak to walk, who in his own full growth would seem to have absorbed the younger's share, were it not that, tiny as Ray may be, his every nerve is steel, made steel, though, by the other, and so trained and suppled and put at his service. It was Beltran who had first flung him astride the saddle and sent him loping off to town alone, but who had secretly followed him from thicket to thicket, and stood ready in the market-place at last to lift him down; it was Beltran who had given him his own rifle, had taught him to take the bird on the wing, had led him out at night to see the great silent alligator in his scale-armor sliding over the land from the coast and plunging into the fresh waters of the bay,—who took him with him on the long journeys for gathering in the cattle of the vast stock-farm, let him sleep beside himself on the bare prairie-floor, like a man, with his horse tethered to his boot, told him the spot in the game on which to draw his bead, showed him what part to dress, and made him chef de cuisine in every camp they crossed; it was he who had taught him how to hold himself in any wild stampede, on the prairie how to conquer fire with fire, to find water as much his element as air; it is Beltran, in short, who has made him this little marvel which at twelve years old he finds himself to be,—this brother who serves him so, and whom he adores, for whom he passionately expresses his devotion,—this brother whom he loves as he loves the very life he lives. So Vivia, too, sits down at Beltran's feet that day, and busies herself with those pink plumes of the spoonbill's wings which he brought home to her,—so that, when he wakes, he sees her standing there like the spirit of his dream, her dark eyes shining out from under the floating shadowy hair, and the rosy wings trembling on her little white shoulders. And just then Beltran has no word for Ray, the customary smiling word always waited for, since his eyes are on the vision at his feet, and straightway the child springs down, springs where he can intercept Beltran's view, seems to rise in his wrath a head above the girl, and, looking at Beltran all the while, slaps Vivia on the cheek. Instantly two hands have clasped about his wrists, two hands that hold him in a vice, and two eyes are gazing down into his own and paralyzing him. Still the grasp, the gaze, continue; as Vivia watches that look, a great blue glow from those eyes seems to cloud her own brain. The color rises on Ray's cheeks, his angry eyes fall, his chest heaves, his lips tremble, off from the long black lashes spin sprays of tears, he cannot move, he is so closely held, but slowly he turns his head, meets the red lips of the forgiving girl with his, then casts himself with sobs on Beltran's breast. And all that evening, as the sudden heavy clouds drive down and quench sunset and starlight, while they sit about a great fire, Beltran keeps her at his side and Ray maintains his place, and within there is light and love, and without the sand trembles to the shock of sound and the thunder of the surf, and the heaven is full of the wildly flying blast of the Norther.
Still, as Vivia gazed into the silent mirror, the salient points of her life started up as if memory held a torch to them in their dark recesses, and another picture printed its frosty spiculae upon the gray surface of the glass before her. No ardent arch of Southern noontide now, no wealth of flower and leaf, no pomp of regnant summer, but winter has darkened down over sad Northern countries, and white Arctic splendor hedges a lake about with the beauty of incomparable radiance; the trees whose branches overhang the verge are foamy fountains, frozen as they fall; distantly beyond them the crisp upland fields stretch their snowy sparkle to touch the frigid-flashing sapphire of the sky, and bluer than the sky itself their shadows fall about them; every thorn, every stem, is set, a spike of crusted lustre in its icy mail; the tingling air takes the breath in silvery wreaths; and wherever the gay garment of a skater breaks the monotone with a gleam of crimson or purple, the shining feet beneath chisel their fantastic curves upon a floor that is nothing but one glare of crystal sheen. And here, hero of the scene, glides Beltran, master of the Northern art as school-days made him, skates as of old some young Viking skated, all his being bubbling in a lofty glee, with blue eyes answering this icy brilliance as they dazzle back from the tawny countenance, with every muscle rippling grace and vigor to meet the proud volition, lithely cutting the air, swifter than the swallow's wing in its arrowy precision, careless as the floating flake in effortless motion, skimming along the lucid sheathing that answers his ringing heel with a tune of its own, and swaying in his almost aerial medium, lightly, easily, as the swimming fish sways to the currents of the tide. Scoring whitely their tracery of intricate lines, the groups go by in whorls, in angles, in sweeping circles, and the ice shrinks beneath them; here a fairy couple slide along, waving and bowing and swinging together; far away some recluse in his pleasure sports alone with folded arms, careening in the outward roll like the mast of a phantom-craft; everywhere inshore clusters of ruddy-cheeked boys race headlong with their hawkey-sticks, and with their wild cries, making benders where the ice surges in a long swell: and constantly in Beltran's wake slips Vivia, a scarlet shadow, while a clumsy little black outline is ever designing itself at her heels as Ray strives in vain to perfect the mysteries of the left stroke. All about, the keen air breathes its exhilaration, and the glow seems to penetrate the pores till the very blood dances along filled with such intoxicating influence; all above, the afternoon heaven deepens till it has no hidden richness, and between one and the pale gold of the coldly reddening horizon the white air seems hollow as the flaw in some great transparent jewel. Still they wind away in their gladness, when hurriedly Beltran reaches his hand for the heedless Vivia's, and hurriedly she sees terrifying grooves spreading round them, a great web-work of cracks,—the awful ice lifts itself, sinks, and out of a monstrous fissure chill death rises to meet them and ingulf them. In an instant, Ray, who might have escaped, has hurled himself upon them, and then, as they all struggle for one drowning breath in the flood, Vivia dimly divines through her horror an arm stretched first towards Ray, snatched back again, and bearing her to safety. Ray has already scrambled from the shallow breach where his brother alone found bottom; waiting hands assist Beltran; but as she lingers that moment shivering on the brink, blindly remembering the double movement of that arm beneath the ice, she silently asks, with a thrill, if he suffered Ray to save himself because he was a boy, and could, or because—because she was Vivia!
Southern noontide, winter twilight lost themselves again, as Vivia gazed, in the soft starry gleam of an April midnight. A quiet room, dimly lighted by a flame that dying eyes no longer see; two figures kneeling, one at either side of the mother,—the little apple-blossom of a mother brought up to die among her own people,—one shaking with his storm of sobs, the other supporting the dear, weary head on his strong breast, and stifling his very heart-beat lest it stir the frail life too roughly. And the mother lifts the lids of her faint eyes, as when a parting vapor reveals rifts of serene heaven, gazes for a moment into the depths of her first-born's tenderness, gropes darkly for his fingers and for the hot little hand thrust eagerly forth to meet hers, closes one about the other, and folds them both upon her own heart. Then Beltran bends and gathers from the lips the life that kindled his. With a despairing cry, Ray flings himself forward, and dead and living lie in Beltran's arms, while the strong convulsion of his heart rends up a hollow groan from its emptiness. And Vivia draws aside the curtain, and the gentle wind brings in the sweet earthy scent of fresh furrows lately wet with showers, and the ever-shifting procession of the silent stars unveil themselves of gauzy cloud, and glance sadly down with their abiding eyes upon these fleeting shadows.
After all, who can deny that there is magic in a mirror, a weird atmosphere imprisoned, between the metal and the glass, borrowing the occult powers of the gulf of space, and returning to us our own wraith and apparition at any hour of the day or night when we smite it with a ray of light,—reaching with its searching power into the dark places where we have hidden ourselves, and seizing and projecting them in open sight? Who doubts that this sheeny panel on so many walls, with wary art slurring off its elusive gleam, could, at the one compelling word, paint again the reflections of all on which it silently dreams in its reticent heart,—the joy, the grief, the weeping face, the laughing lip, the lover's kiss, the tyrant's sneer, almost the crouched and bleeding soul on which that sneer descended, of which some wandering beam carried record? When we remember the violin, inwardly ridged with the vibrations of old tunes, old discords, who would wonder to find some charactery of light tracing its indelible script within the crystal substance? And here, if Vivia saw one other scene blaze out before her and vanish, why not believe, for fancy's sake, that it was as real a picture as the image of the dark and beautiful girl herself bending there with the carmine stain upon her cheek, the glowing, parted lips, the shining eyes, the shadowy hair?
Late spring down on the Maryland farm: you know it by the intense blue through that quaint window draped with such a lushness of vines, such a glory of blossom. In at the open door, whose frame is arabesqued with hanging sprays of sweetbrier, with the pendent nest, with fluttering moth-wings sunshine-dusted, with crowds of bursting buds, pours the mellow sun in one great stream, pours from the peach-orchards the fragrant breeze laden with bird-song. A girl, standing aside, with clasped hands drooping before her, her gaze upon a shadow on the floor in the midst of that broad stream of light. Casting that shadow, under the lintel, a young man clad for travel. Since he left his Southern home, ruin has befallen it; he dares not ask one lapped in luxury to share such broken fortunes as his seem to-day, even though such stout shoulders, so valiant a heart, buffet them. If she loves, it is enough; they can wait; their treasure neither moth nor rust can corrupt; their jewel is imperishable. If she loves—He is looking in her eyes, holding to her his hands. Slowly the girl meets his glance. A long look, one long, silent look, infinitude in its assurance, its glow wrapping her, blue and smiling as heaven itself, reaching him like the evening star seen through tears,—a word, a touch, had profaned with a trait of earthliness so remote, so spiritual a betrothal. He goes, and still the upward-smiling girl sees the sunshine, hears the bird-song,—a boy dashes by the door and down the path to meet the last, close-lingering embrace of two waiting arms at the gate,—and then there is nothing but Vivia bending and gazing at herself in the glass with a flushed and fevered eagerness of rapture.
“The wild, sweet tunes that darkly deep
Thrill through thy veins and shroud thy sleep,
That swing thy blood with proud, glad sway,
And beat thy life's arterial play,—
Still wilt thou have this music sweep
Along thy brain its pulsing leap,—
Keep love away! keep love away!
“The joy of peace that wide and high
Like light floods through the soaring sky,
The day divine, the night akin,
Heaven in the heart, ah, wilt thou win,
The secret of the hoarded years,
Life rounded as the shining spheres,—
Let love come in! let love come in!”
she sang, to case her heart of its swelling gladness.
But here Vivia dared not concentrate her recollections, dared not dally with such distant delight,—twisted and tossed her hair into its coils, and once more opened the letter. Ray had not lived for three years under converging influences, years which are glowing wax beneath the seal of fresh impressions, years when one puts off or takes on the tendencies of a lifetime,—Ray had not lived those three school-years without contracting habits, whims, determinations of his own: let her have Beltran's reasons to meet Ray's objections.
They were up at the little meadow-side cottage of Mrs. Vennard, Ray's maternal aunt, a quiet widow, who was glad to receive her dying sister in her house a year and a half ago, as she had often received her boys before, and who was still willing to eke out her narrow income with the board of one nephew and any summer guest; and as that summer guest, owing to an old family-friendship that overlooked differences of rank and wealth, Vivia had, for many a season, been established. Here, when bodings of trouble began to darken her sunny fields, she had, in early spring, withdrawn again, leaving her maiden aunt to attend to the affairs of the homestead, or to find more luxurious residence in watering-places or cities, as she chose. For Vivia liked the placid life and freedom of the cottage, and here, too, she had oftenest met those dear friends to whom one winter her father, long since dead, had taken her, and half of all that was pleasant in her life had inwoven itself with the simple surroundings of the place. Here, in that fatal spring when the first tocsin alarmed the land, Ray, now scarcely any longer a boy, yet with a boy's singleness of mind, though possessing neither patience nor power for subtilties of difficult reason and truth, thinking of no lonely portion, but of the one great fact of country, had been fired with spontaneous fervor, and had ever since been like some restive steed champing the bit and quivering to start. As for Vivia, she was a Maryland woman. Too burningly indignant, the blood bubbled in her heart for words sometimes, and she would be glad of Beltran's weapons with which to confront Kay when he returned from Boston, whither, the day before, without a word's explanation, he had betaken himself. So she turned again to the open letter, and scanned its weightiest paragraphs.
“There is a strange reversal of right and wrong, when the American Peace Society declares itself for war. There is, then, a greater evil than war, even than civil war, with its red, fratricidal hands?—Slavery. But, could that be destroyed, it would be the first great evil ever overcome by force of arms. They fight tangibly with an intangible foe; tangible issues rise between them; the black, intangible phantom hovers safe behind. But even should they visibly succeed, is there not left the very root of the matter to put forth fresh growth,—that moral condition in which the thing lived at all? An evil that has its source in the heart must be eradicated by slow medicinal cure of the blood. To fight against the stars in their courses, one must have brands of starry temper. No sudden shocks of battle will sweep Slavery from the sphere. Can one conquer the universe by proclamation? 'Lyra will rise to-morrow,' said some one, after Caesar reformed the calendar. 'Doubtless,' replied Cicero, 'there is an edict for it.' But, believe me, there can be no broad, stupendous evil, unless it be a part of God's plan; and in His own time, without other help from us than the performance of our duty, it will slough off its slime and rise into some fair superstructure. Our efforts dash like spray against the rock,—the spray is broken, the rock remains. To annihilate evil with evil,—that is an error in itself against which every man is justified in taking up his sword.
“So far, I have allowed the sin. Yet, sin or not, in this country the estate of the slave is unalterable. Segregately, the institution is their protection. For though there is no record of the contact of superior and inferior races on a basis of equality, where the inferior did not absorb the superior, yet, if every slave were set free to-day, imbruted through generations, it could not be on a basis of equality that we should meet, and they would be as inevitably sunk and lost as the detritus that a river washes into the sea. If the black stay here, it must be as a menial. In his own latitudes, where, after the third generation, the white man ceases to exist, he is the stronger; there the black man is king: let him betake himself to his realm. Abolition is impracticable, colonization feasible; on either is gunpowder wasted: one cannot explode a lie by the blast.
“But saying the worst of our incubus that can be said, could all its possible accumulation of wrong and woe exceed that of four years of such a war as this? Think a moment of what this land was, what a great beacon and celestial city across the waves to the fugitives from tyranny; think of our powerful pride in eastern seas, in western ports, when each ship's armament carried with it the broadside of so many sovereign States, when each citizen felt his own hand nerved with a people's strength, when no young man woke in the morning without the perpetual aurora of high hopes before him, when peace and plenty were all about us,—and then think of misery at every hearth, of civilization thrust back a century, of the prestige of freedom lost among the nations, of the way paved for despots. And how needlessly!
“They taunted us, us the source of all their wealth, with the pauper's deserting the poor-house; we put it to proof; when, lo! with a hue and cry, the blood-hounds are upon us, the very dogs of war. So needless a war! For has it not been a fundamental principle that every people has a right to govern itself? We chose to exercise that right. Was it worth the while to refuse it? Exhausted, drained, dispeopled, they may chain a vassal province to their throne; but, woe be to them, upon that conquering day, their glory has departed from them! The first Revolution was but the prologue to this: that was sealed in blood; in this might have been demonstrated the progress made under eighty years of freedom, by a peaceful separation. It is the Flight of the Tartar Tribe anew, and the whole barbarous Northern nation pours its hordes after, hangs on the flank, harasses, impedes, slaughters,—but we reach the shadow of the Great Wall at last. If we had not the right to leave the league, how had we the right to enter? If we had not the right to leave, they also had not the right to withhold us. Yet, when we entered, resigning much, receiving much, retaining more, we were each a unit, a power, a commonwealth, a nation, or, as we chose to term it, a State,—as much a state as any of the great states of Europe, as Britain, as France, as Spain, and jealously ever since have we individually regarded any infringement on our integrity. That, and not the mere tangle of race that in time must unravel itself, is the question of the age. Long ago it was said that our people, holding it by transmission, never having struggled for it, would some day cease rightly to value the one chief bulwark of liberty. Nothing is more true. They of the North will lose it, we of the South shall gain it; for, battling on a grander scale than our ancestors, the South is to-day taking out the great habeas corpus of States!”
No matter whether all this was sophistry or truth. Beltran had said it,—that was enough; so strongly did she feel his personality in what he wrote, that the soul was exultant, jubilant, defiant, within her. Other words there were in the letter, such words as are written to but one; the blood swept up to Vivia's lips as she recalled them, and her heart sprang and bounded like one of those balls kept in perpetual play by the leaping, bubbling column of a fountain. She was in one of those dangerous states of excitement after which the ancients awaited disaster. That last picture of the mirror dazzled her vision again; she saw the sunshine, smelt the perfume, heard the bird-song. How a year had changed the scene! The house was a barrack; now down in her Maryland peach-orchards the black muzzles of Federal cannon yawned, and under the flickering shadows and sunshine the grimy gunners, knee-deep in grass and dew, brushed away the startled clover-blooms, as they touched fire to the breach. Beltran was a Rebel. Vivia was a Rebel, too! She ran down-stairs into her little parlor overflowing with flowers. As she walked to and fro, the silent keys of her pianoforte met her eye. Excellent conductors. Half standing, half sitting, she awoke its voices, and, to a rolling, silvery thunder of accompaniment, commenced singing,—
“The lads of Kilmarnock had swords and had spears
And lang-bladed daggers to kill cavaliers,
But they shrunk to the wall and the causey left free
At one toss of the bonnet of Bonny Dundee!
So fill up my cup, come fill up my can,
Saddle my horses and call up my men,
Open your west-port and let me gae free,
For it's up with the bonnets of Bonny Dundee!”
Some one in the distance, echoing the last line with an emphasis, caught her ear in the pause. It was Ray. He had already returned, then. She snatched the letter and sped into the kitchen, where she was sure to find him.
Mrs. Vennard rocked in her miniature sitting-room at one side, contentedly matching patchwork. Little Jane Vennard, her step-daughter,—usually at work in the mills, but, since their close, making herself busy at home, whither she had brought a cookery-book through which Ray declared he expected to eat his way,—bustled about from room to room. Ray sat before the fire in the kitchen and toasted some savory morsel suspended on a string athwart the blaze.
“Where have you been, Ray?” said Vivia, approaching, with her glowing cheeks, her sparkling eyes. “And what are you doing now?”
“Trying camp-life again,” replied Ray, looking up at her in a fixed admiration.
“I've had a letter from Beltran.”
“Oh! where is he?” cried Ray.
“Beltran is in camp.”
“Perhaps on the Rio Grande, perhaps on the Potomac.”
“Do you mean to say,” cried Ray, springing up, while string and all fell into the coals, “that Beltran, my brother”—
“Is a Rebel.”
“Then I am a rebel, too,” said Ray, chokingly, sitting down again, and mechanically stooping to pick up the burning string,—“a rebel to him!”
“You won't be a rebel to him, if you'll listen to reason,—his reason.”
“He's got no reason. It's only because he was there.”
“Now, Raymond Lamar! if you talk so, you sha'n't read the letter!”
“I don't want to read it.”
“Have you left off loving Beltran, because he differs from you?”
“Left off loving Beltran!”
Vivia waited a moment, leaning on the back of his chair, and then Ray, bending, covered his face with his hands, and the large tears oozed from between his brown fingers.
Little Jane, whipping the frothy snow of her eggs, went on whipping all the harder for fear Ray should know she saw him. And Vivia, with one hand upon his head, took away the brown fingers, that her own cool, fragrant palm might press upon his burning lids. Such sudden tears belong to such tropical natures. For there was no anger or sullenness in Ray's grief; he was just and simply sorry.
“He must have forgotten me,” said Ray, after a sober while.
“There was this note for you in mine, and a draft on New York, because he thought you might be in arrears.”
“No, I'm not. Aunty can have the draft, though; she may need it before I come back,” said Ray, brokenly, gazing into the fire. “Do you suppose Beltran wrote mine or yours first?”
“Then you've the last thing he ever set his hand to, perhaps!”
“Don't talk so, child!” said Vivia, with an angry shiver. “Come back! Where are you going?”
“I enlisted, yesterday, in the Kansas Cavalry.”
“Great heavens, Ray! was there not another regiment in all the world than one to be sent down to New Mexico to meet Beltran and the Texan Rangers?” cried Vivia, wringing her hands.
Ray was on his feet again, a swarm of expletives buzzing inarticulately at his lips.
“I never thought of that,” said he, whiter than ashes.
“What made you? oh, what made you?”
“There was no other company. I liked this captain. He gave me to-day's furlough. I'm going to-night; little Jane's promised to fix my traps; she's making me these cookies now, you see. Pshaw! Beltran's up on the Potomac, or else you couldn't have gotten this letter,—don't you know? You made my heart jump into my mouth!”
And resuming his seat, to find his string and jack in cinders, he turned round astride his chair and commenced notching his initials into its back, with cautious glances at his aunt.
“That's for little Jane to cry over after I'm gone,” said he.
“Ray—How do you think Beltran will like it?”
“I can't help what Beltran likes. I shall be doing God's work.”
“Beltran says God does His own work. He only requires of us our duty.”
“That is my duty.”
“You feel, Ray, as if you were possessed by the holy ardor of another Sir Galahad!”
“I feel, Vivia, that I shall give what strength I have towards ridding the world of its foulest disease.”
“With what a good grace that comes from you!”
“With all the better grace.”
“The old Berserker rage over again!”
“Quite as fine as running amuck.”
“Ray, the race that does not rise for itself deserves its fate.”
“Vivia, no race deserves such a fate as this one has found.”
“Idle! I have seen slavery; own slaves: there is nothing monstrous in it.”
“Wailing children, sundered families, women under the lash”—
“You know very well, Ray, that there is a law against the separation of families.”
“I never heard of it.”
“Audubon says there is.”
“A little bird told him,” interpolated Jane.
“But I've seen them separated.”
“I don't believe,” urged Vivia, “but for exceptional abuses, there's a system providing for a happier peasantry on the face of the earth.”
“It can't be a good system that allows such abuses.”
“There are even abuses of the sacraments.”
“Well, Ray, I don't believe in this pseudo-chivalry of yours, any more than Beltran does.”
“If Beltran said black was white, you'd think that true!”
“If Beltran said so, it would be true.”
“It's no more likely that he should be right than that I should be.”
“You couldn't have spoken so about Beltran once!”
“Well, black or white, slave or free, never think I shall sit by and see my country fall to ruins.”
“Your country? Do you suppose you love it any more than I do?”
“You're a woman.”
“Suppose I am a woman, you unkind boy”—
“Well, you only love half of it,—the Southern half.”
“I love my whole country!” cried Vivia, all aflame. “I love these purple, rust-stained granites here, the great savannas there,—the pine forests, the sea-like prairies,—every river rolling down its rocky bed,—every inch of its beautiful, glorious soil,—all its proud, free people. I love my whole country!”
“Only you hate some of its parasites. But Beltran would tell you that you haven't got any country. You may love your native State. As for country, it's nothing but a—what-you-may-call-it.”
“Very true. It is in observing the terms of that what-you-may-call-it,—that federation, that bond,—in mutual concessions, in fraternal remembrances, that we gain a country. And what a country!”
“Yes, what a country, Vivia! And shall I consent to resign an atom of it while there's a drop of blood in my body, to lose a single grain of its dust? When Beltran brought me here three years ago, I sailed day and night up a mighty river, from one zone into another,—sailed for weeks between banks that were still my own country. And if I had ever returned, we should have passed by the thundering ledges of New England, Jersey surfs and shallows, the sand-bars of the Carolinas, the shores of Florida lying like a faint green cloud long and low upon the horizon,—sailing a thousand miles again in our own waters. Enormous borders! and throughout their vast stretch happiness and promise! And shall I give such dominion to the first traitor that demands it? No! nor to the thousandth! There she lies, bleeding, torn, prostrate, a byword! Why, Vivia, this was my country, she that made me, reared me, gladdened me! It is the now crusade. I understand none of your syllogisms. My country is in danger. Here's my hand!”
And Ray stood erect, bristling and fiery, as some one reddening in the very light of battle.
And answering him only with flashing eyes, Vivia sang, in her triumphant, thrilling tones,—
“Hark to a wandering child's appeal,
Maryland! my Maryland!
My mother State, to thee I kneel,
Maryland! my Maryland!
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! my Maryland!”
“You're a wicked girl, Vivia, if you are as beautiful as Phryne!” exclaimed Ray, while little Jane picked herself up from the table, across which she had been leaning with both arms and her dish-towel, and staring forgetfully at him.
“Well, you young fanatic,” said she, “we can't convert each other. We are both incontrovertible. Let us be friends. One needs more time than we have to quarrel in.”
“Yes,” said Ray. “I am going this afternoon, and I shall drink of every river west of the Mississippi before I come back. It's a wild life, a royal life; I am thirsty for its excitement and adventure.”
“Jane,” called Mrs. Vennard from within, “did you find all the nests to-day?”
“All but two, Ma'am,” said little Jane, as she let a tempting odor escape from the tin oven. “The black hen got over the fence last night; she's down in the lot. And the cropple-crown laid away.”
“You'd better get them.”
“If you'd just as lief.”
“Oh, yes, Ma'am!”
“We'll go, too,” said Ray.
“Oh, no, you needn't.”
“We'd like to, little Jane. Are the cookies done? By George! don't they look like manna? They'll last all the way to Fort Riley. And be manna in the wilderness. Smoking hot. Have some, Vivia? Little Jane, I say, 't would be jolly, if you'd go along and cook for the regiment.”
“Is that all you'd want of me?”
“It's a wonderful region for grasshoppers out there, you know; you'd improvise us such charming dishes of locusts and wild honey! As for cookies, a snowflake and a sunbeam, and there they are,” said Ray, making inroads on the Fort-Riley stores; while little Jane set down a cup of beaten cream by his side.
“Janets are trumps! Vivia, don't you wish you were going to the war?”
“Yes,” said Vivia.
“There is something in it, isn't there?” said Ray. “You'll sit at home, and how your blood will boil! What keeps you women alive? Darning stockings, I suppose. There's only one thing I dread: 't would be hard to read of other men's glory, and I lying flat on my back. Would you make me cookies then, little Jane?”
Little Jane only gave him one swift, shy look: there was more promise in it than in many a vow. In return, Ray tossed her the sparkle of his dancing glance an instant, and then his eager fancies caught him again.
“We read of them,” said he, “those splendid scenes. What can there be like acting them? Ah, what a throb there is in it! The rush, the roar, the onslaught, the clanging trumpet, the wreathing smoke, and the mad horses. Dauntlessly defying danger. Ravishing fame from the teeth of the battery. See in what a great leap of the heart you spring with the forlorn hope up the escalade! Your soul kindles and flashes with your blade. You are nothing but a wrath. To die so, with all one's spirit at white-heat, awake, alert, aflame, must send one far up and along the heights of being. And if you live, there are other things to do; and how the women feel their fiery pulses fly, their hot tears start, as you go by, thinking of all the tumult, the din, the daring, the danger, and you a part of it!”
Little Jane was trembling and tying on her bonnet. As for Vivia, she burst into tears.
“Oh, Ray!” sobbed she, “I wish I were a man!”
“I don't!” said he. “Oh, it's rip-roarious! Come, let's follow our leader. We'll bring you back the cropple-crown, auntie.”
And so they departed, while, breaking into fresh carols, ringing and dulcet, as they went, Vivia's voice resounded till the woods pealed to the echo:—
“He waved his proud arm, and the trumpets were blown
The kettle-drums clashed, and the horsemen rode on,
Till o'er Ravelston crags and on Clermiston lea
Died away the wild war-notes of Bonny Dundee!”
Pursuing the white sun-bonnet down the pasture, Ray kept springing ahead with his elastic foot, threshing the juniper-plats that little Jane had already searched, and scattering about them the pungent fragrance of the sweet-fern thickets,—the breath of summer itself; then returning for a sober pace or two, would take off his hat, thrust a hand through the masses of his hair that looked like carved ebony, and show Vivia that his shadow was exactly as long as her own. And Vivia saw that all this beating and longing and burning had loosened and shot into manhood a nature that under the snow of its eightieth winter would yet be that of a boy. Ray could never be any taller than he was to-day, but he had broad, sturdy shoulders and a close-knit, nervous frame, while in his honest, ugly face, that, arch or grave, kept its one contrast of black eyes and brilliant teeth, there was as much to love as in the superb beauty of Beltran.
They had reached the meadow's edge at length; Ray was growing more serious, as the time hurried, when little Jane, with a smothered exclamation, prepared to cross the wall. For there they were, sleek and glossy, chattering gently to each other, pecking about, the wind blowing open their feathers till they became top-heavy, and looking for all the world, as Janet said, like pretty little old ladies dressed up to go out to tea. And near them, quite at home in the marshy domain, strutted and lunched a fine gallant of a turkey, who ruffled his redness, dropped all his plumes about him, and personated nothing less than some stately dowager sailing in flounces and brocades. Ray caught back their discoverer, launched a few stepping-stones across, and, speeding from foothold to foothold, very soon sent His Magnificence fluttering over the fence and forward before them, and returned with the two little runaway hens slung over his arm, where, after a trifle of protestation and a few subdued cackles of crestfallen acquiescence, having a great deal to tell the other hens on reaching home once more, they very contentedly enjoyed the new aspect of the world upsidedown.
“And here's where she's made her nest,” said little Jane, stepping aside from a tangle of blackberry-vines, herds-grass, and harebells, where lay a half-dozen pullet pearls. “A pretty mother you'd make, Miss, gadding and gossiping down in the meadow with that naughty black hen! Who do you suppose is going to bring up your family for you? Did you speak to the butterflies to hatch them under their yellow wings? I shall just tie you to an old shoe!”
And taking the winking, blinking culprits from Kay, she ran along home to make ready his package, for which there was not more than an hour left. Vivia turned to follow, for she also wanted to help; but Ray, lingering by the wall and pointing out some object, caused her to remain.
“It will be such a long time before I see it again,” said he.
They leaned upon the stone wall, interspersed, overgrown, and veiled with moss and maiden-hair and blossoming brambles. Before them lay the long meadow, sprinkled with sunbeams, green to its last ripe richness, discolored only where the tall grass made itself hoary in the breeze, or where some trail of dun brown ran up through all intermediate tints to break in a glory of gold at the foot of the screen of woods that far away gloomed like a frowning fortress of shade, but, approaching, feathered off its tips in the glow, and let the mellow warmth of olive light gild to a lustrous depth all its darkly verdurous hollows. Near them the vireos were singing loud and sweet.
“Vivia,” said Ray, after a pause, “if I should never come back”—
“You will come back.”
“But if I never did,—should you greatly care?”
“Beginning to despond! That is good! You won't go, then?”
“If the way lay over the bottomless pit, I should go.”
“And you can't get free, if you want to?”
“Ray, I could easily raise money enough upon my farm to buy”—
“If you talk so,” said Ray, whipping off the flowers, but looking up at her as he bent, and smiling, “I shall inform against you, and have your farm confiscated.”
“What! I can't talk as I please in a free country? Oh, it's not free, then! They've discovered at length that there's something better than freedom. They sent a woman to prison this spring for eating an orange in the street. They confiscated a girl's wedding-gown the other day, and now they've confiscated her bridegroom. Oh, it's a great cause that can't get along without my wedding-gown! Noblesse oblige!”
“It takes more wedding-gowns than yours, Vivia. Dips them in mourning.”
“Pray God it won't take mine yet!” cried she, with sudden fire.
“Vivia,” said Ray, facing her, “I asked you a question. Why didn't you answer it? Shouldn't you care?”
“You know, dear child, I should,—we all should, terribly.”
“But, Vivia, I mean, that you—that I”—
He paused, the ardor and eagerness suspended on cheek and lip, for Vivia met his glance and understood its simple speech,—since in some degree a dark eye lets you into the soul, where a blue one bluffs you off with its blaze, and under all its lucent splendor is as impenetrable as a turquoise. A girl of more vanity would have waited for plainer words. But Vivia only placed her warm hand on his, and said gently,—
“Ray, I love Beltran.”
There was a moment's quiet, while Ray looked away,—supporting his chin upon one hand, and a black cloud sweeping torridly down the stern face. One sharp struggle. A moment's quiet. Into it a wild rose kept shaking sweetness. After it a vireo broke into tremulous melody, gushing higher, fuller, stronger, clearer. Ray turned, his eyes wet, his face beaming. Said he,—
“I am more glad than if it were myself!”
Then Vivia bent, and, flushed with noble shame, she kissed him on the lips. A word, a grasp, she was leaning alone over the old stone wall, the birds were piping and fluting about her, and Ray was gone.
* * * * *
A month of rushing over land and lake, of resting at the very spots where he and Beltran had stayed together three years ago, of repeating the brief strolls they took, of reading again and again that last note, and Ray had crossed the great river of the West, and reached the headquarters of his regiment. There, induing their uniforms, and training their horses, all of which were yet to be shod, they brushed about the country, and skirmished with guerrillas, until going into camp for thorough drill preparatory to active service.
Convoying Government-trains through a region where were assembled in their war-paint thousands of Indians from the wild tribes of the plains and hills was venturous work enough, but it was not that to which Ray aspired. He must be one of those cherubim who on God's bidding speed; he could not serve with those who only stand and wait. His hot soul grew parched and faint with longing, and all the instincts of his battling blood began to war among themselves. At length one night there was hammering and clinking at the red field-fires, and by daybreak they were off for a mad gallop over plain and mountain, down river-banks and across deserts into New Mexico.
Fording the shallow Arkansas, trailing their way through prairie and timber,—reaching and skirting the scorching stretch,—riding all day, consumed with thirst, from green-mantling pool to pool, till the last lay sixty miles behind them, and men and horses made desperately for the stream, dashing in together to drink their fill, when they found it again foaming down the centre of its vast level plain, that receded twenty miles on either side without shrub or hillock,—finally their path wound in among the hills, and a day dawned that Ray will never forget.
The stars were large and solemn, hovering golden out of the high, dark heaven, as the troop defiled into the canon; they glinted with a steely lustre through the roof of fallen trees that arched the gorge from side to side, then a wind of morning blew and they grew pallid and wan in a shining haze, and, towering far up above them, vaguely terrific in shadow, the horsemen saw the heights they were to climb all grayly washed in the night-dew. So they swept up the mountain-side in their gay and breezy career, on from ascent to ascent, from abutment to abutment, crossing shrunken torrents, winding along sheer precipices, up into the milky clouds of heaven itself, till the rosy flare of dawn bathed all the air about them. There they halted, while, struggling after them, the first triumphant beam struck the bosses of their harness to glittering jewel-points, and, breaking through layer on layer of curdling vapor at their feet, suffused it to a wondrous fleece, where carnation and violet and the fire that lurks in the opal, wreathing with gorgeous involution, seethed together, until, at last, the whole resplendent mist wound itself away in silver threads on the spindles of the wind. Then boot in the stirrup again, onward, over the mountain's ridge, desolate rook defying the sun, downward, plunging through hanging forests, clearing the chasm, bridging ravines, and still at noon the eagles, circling and screaming above them, shook over them the dew from their plumes. Downward afresh in their wild ride, the rainbows of the cascades flying beside them, their afternoon shadows streaming up behind them, darkness beginning to gather in the deeps below them, the mighty mountain-masses around rearing themselves impenetrably in boding blackness and mystery against the yellow gleam, the purple breath of evening wrapping them, the dew again, again the stars, and they camped at the foot of a spur of hills with a waterfall for sentry on their left.
Through all the dash of the day, Ray had been in sparkling spirits, a very ecstasy of excitement, brimmed with an exuberance of valiant glee that played itself away in boyish freaks of daring and reckless acts of horsemanship. Now a loftier mood had followed, and, still wrought to some extreme tension, full of blind anticipation and awful assurance, he sat between the camp-fires, his hands clasped over his knees, and watched the evening star where it hung in a cleft of the rocks and seemed like the advent of some great spirit of annunciation. The tired horses had been staked out to graze, a temporary abatis erected, scouting-parties sent off in opposite directions, and at last the frosty air grew mild and mellow over the savory steam of broiling steaks and coffee smoking on beds of coals. There was a moment's lull in the hum of the little encampment, in all the jest and song and jingling stir of this scornfully intrepid company; perhaps for an instant the sense of the wilderness overawed them; perhaps it was only the customary precursor of increasing murmur;—before leaving his place, Ray suddenly stooped and laid his ear on the earth. There it was! Far off, far off, the phantasmal stroke of hoofs, rapid, many, unswerving. It had come,—all that he had awaited,—fate, or something else. Low and clear in the distance one bugle blew blast of warning. When he rose, the great yellow planet, wheeling slowly down the giant cleft in the rock, had vanished from sight.
Every man was on his feet, the place in alarum. Behind and beside them loomed the precipice and the waterfall;—there was surrender, there was conquest; there was no retreat. The fires were extinguished, the breastworks strengthened, weapons adjusted, and all the ireful preparations for hasty battle made. Then they expected their foe. Slowly over the crown of the mountain above them an aurora crept and brandished its spears.
As they waited there those few breathless moments, Ray examined his rifle coolly enough, and listened to the chirp of a solitary cricket that sung its thin strain so unbrokenly on the edge of strife as to represent something sublime in its petty indifference. He was stationed on the extreme left; near him the tumult of the torrent drowned much discordant noise, its fairy scarf forever forming and falling and floating on the evening air. He thought of Vivia sitting far away and looking out upon the quiet starlight night; then he thought of swampy midnight lairs, with maddened men in fevered covert there,—of little children crying for their mothers,—of girls betrayed to hell,—of flesh and blood at price,—of blistering, crisping fagot and stake to-day,—of all the anguish and despair down there before him. And with the vivid sting of it such a wrath raged along his veins, such a holy fire, that it seemed there were no arms tremendous enough for his handling, through his shut teeth darted imprecatory prayers for the power of some almighty vengeance, his soul leaped up in impatient fury, his limbs tingled for the death-grapple, when suddenly sound surged everywhere about them and they were in the midst of conflict. Silver trumpet-peals and clash and clang of iron, crying voices, whistling, singing, screaming shot, thunderous drum-rolls, sharp sheet of flame and instant abyss of blackness, horses' heads vaulting into sight, spurts of warm blood upon the brow, the bullet rushing like a blast beside the ear, all the terrible tempest of attack, trampled under the flashing hoof, climbing, clinching, slashing, back-falling beneath cracking revolvers, hand to hand in the night, both bands welded in one like hot and fusing metal, a spectral struggle of shuddering horror only half guessed by lurid gleams and under the light cloud flying across the stars. Clearly and remotely over the plain the hidden east sent up a glow into the sky; its reflection lay on Ray; he fought like one possessed of a demon, scattering destruction broadcast, so fiercely his anger wrapped him, white and formidable. Fresh onset after repulse, and, like the very crest of the toppling wave, one shadowy horseman in all the dark rout, spurring forward, the fight reeling after him, the silver lone star fitfully flashing on his visor, the boy singled for his rifle;—inciting such fearless rivalry, his fall were the fall of a hundred. Something hindered; the marksman delayed an instant; he would not waste a shot; and watching him, the dim outline, the sweeping sabre, the proud prowess, a strange yearning pity seized Ray, and he had half the mind to spare. In the midst of the shock and uproar there came to him a pulse of the brain's double action; he seemed long ago to have loved, to have admired, to have gloried in this splendid valor. But with the hint, and the humanity of it, back poured the ardor of his sacred devotion, all the impulsions of his passionate purpose: here was God's work! And then, with one swift bound of magnificent daring and defiance, the horseman confronted him, the fore-feet of his steed planted firmly half up the abatis, and his steel making lightnings round about him. There was a blinding flare of light full upon Ray's fiery form; in the sudden succeeding darkness horseman and rider towered rigid like a monolith of black marble. A great voice cried his name, a sabre went hurtling in one shining crescent across the white arc of the waterfall. Too late! There was another flare of light, but this time on the rider's face, a sound like the rolling of the heavens together in a scroll, and Ray, in one horrid, dizzy blaze, saw the broad gleam of the ivory brow, of the azure fire in the eyes, heard the heavy, downfalling crash, and, leaping over the abatis, deep into the midst of the slippery, raging death below, seized and drew something away, and fell upon it prostrate. There, under the tossing torrent, dragging himself up to the seal of their agony and their reproach, Ray looked into those dead eyes, which, lifted beyond the everlasting stars, felt not that he had crossed their vision.
Far away from outrage and disaster, many a weary stretch of travel, the meadow-side cottage basked in the afternoon sunlight of late Indian-summer. All the bare sprays of its shadowing limes quivered in the warmth of their purple life against a divine depth of heaven, and the woody distances swathed themselves in soft blue smoke before the sighing south-wind.
Round the girl who sat on the low door-stone, with idle hands crossed before her, puffs of ravishing resinous fragrance floated and fainted. Two butterflies, that spread their broad yellow wings like detached flakes of living sunshine stolen out of the sweet November weather, fluttered between the glossy darkness of her hair and a little posthumous rose, that, blowing beside the door, with time only half to unfold its white petals, surveyed the world in a quaint and sad surprise.
Vivia looked on all the tender loveliness of the dying year with a listless eye: waiting, weary waiting, makes the soul torpid to all but its pain. It was long since there had been any letter from Ray. In all this oppression of summer and of autumn there had come no report of Beltran. Her heart had lost its proud assurance, worn beneath the long strain of such suspense. Could she but have one word from him, half the term of her own life would be dust in the balance. A thousand fragmentary purposes were ever flitting through her thought. If she might know that he was simply living, if she could be sure he wanted her, she would make means to break through that dividing line, to find him, to battle by his side, to die at his feet! Her Beltran! so grave, so good, so heroic! and the thought of him in all his pride and beauty and power, in all his lofty gentleness and tender passion, in his strength tempered with genial complaisance and gracious courtesy, sent the old glad life, for a second, spinning from heart to lip.
The glassy lake began to ruffle itself below her, feeling the pulses of its interfluent springs, or sending through unseen sluices word of nightfall and evening winds to all its clustering companions that darkened their transparent depths in forest-shadows. As she saw it, and thought how soon now it would ice itself anew, the remembrance rushed over her, like a warm breath, of the winter's night after their escape from its freezing pool, when Beltran sat with them roasting chestnuts and spicing ale before the fire that so gayly crackled up the kitchen-chimney, a night of cheer. And how had it all faded! whither had they all separated? where were those brothers now? Heaven knew.
It had been a hard season, these months at the cottage. The price of labor had been high enough to exceed their means, and so the land had yielded ill, the grass was uncut on many a meadow; Ray's draft had not been honored; Vivia had of course received no dividend from her Tennessee State-bonds, and her peach-orchards were only a place of forage. Still Vivia stayed at the cottage, not so much by fervent entreaty, or because she had no other place to go to, as because there were strange, strong ties binding her there for a while. Should all else fail, with the ripened wealth of her voice at command, her future was of course secure from want. But there was a drearier want at Vivia's door, which neither that nor any other wealth would ever meet.
Little Jane came up the field with a basket of the last barberries lightly poised upon her head. A narrow wrinkle was beginning to divide the freckled fairness of her forehead. She kept it down with many an endeavor. Trying to croon to herself as she passed, and stopping only to hang one of the scarlet girandoles in Vivia's braids, she went in. The sunshine, loath to leave her pleasant little figure, followed after her, and played about her shadow on the floor.
Vivia still sat there and questioned the wide atmosphere, that, brooding palpitant between her and the lake, still withheld the desolating secret that horizon must have whispered to horizon throughout the aching distance.
“Oh that the bells in all these silent spires
Would clash their clangor on the sleeping air,
Ring their wild music out with throbbing choirs,
Ring peace in everywhere!”
she sang, and trembled as she sang. But there the burden broke, and rising, her eyes shaded by her hand, Vivia gazed down the lonely road where a stage-coach rolled along in a cloud of dust. What prescience, what instinct, it was that made her throw the shawl over her head, the shawl that Beltran liked to have her wear, and hasten down the field and away to lose herself in the wood, she alone could have told.
The slow minutes crept by, the coach had passed at length with loud wheel and resounding lash, its last dust was blowing after it, and it had left upon the door-stone a boy in army-blue, with his luggage beside him. A ghastly visage, a shrunken form, a crippled limb, were what he brought home from the war. With his one foot upon the threshold, he paused, and turned the face, gray under all its trace of weather, and furrowed, though so young, to meet the welcoming wind. He gazed upon the high sky out of which the sunshine waned, on the long champaign blending its gold and russet in one, on the melancholy forest over which the twilight was stealing; he lifted his cap with a gesture as if he bade it all farewell,—then he grasped his crutch and entered.
Without a word, Mrs. Vennard dropped the needles she was sorting upon the mat about her. Little Jane sprang forward, but checked herself in a strange awe.
“Let me go to bed, auntie,” said he, with a dry sob; “and I never want to get up again!”
* * * * *
Midnight was winding the world without in a white glimmer of misty moonlight, when the sharp beam of a taper smote Ray's sleepless eyes, and he saw Vivia at last standing before him. Over her wrapper clung the old shawl whose snowy web was sown with broidery of linnaea-bells, green vine and rosy blossom. Round her shoulders fell her shadowy hair. Through her slender fingers the redness of the flame played, and on her cheek a hectic coming and going like the broad beat and flush of an artery left it whiter than the spectral moonlight on the pane. She took away her hand, and let the illumination fall full upon his face,—a face haggard as a dead man's.
“Ray,” she said, “where is Beltran?” Only silence replied to her. He lay and stared up at her in a fixed and glassy glare. Breathless silence. Then Ray groaned, and turned his face to the wall. Vivia blew out the light.
* * * * *
The weeks crept away with the setting-in of the frosts. Little Jane's heart was heavy for all the misery she saw about her, but she had no time to make moan. Ray's amputated ankle was giving fresh trouble, and after that was well over, he still kept his room, refusing food or fire, and staring with hot, wakeful eyes at the cold ceiling. Vivia lingered, subdued and pale, beside the hearth, doing any quiet piece of work that came to hand; no one had seen her shed tears,—she had shown no strenuous sorrow; on the night of Ray's return she had slept her first unbroken sleep for months; her nerves, stretched so intensely and so long, lay loosely now in their passionate reaction; some element more interior than they saved her from prostration. She stayed there, sad and still, no longer any sparkle or flush about her, but with a mildness so unlike the Vivia of June that it had in it something infinitely touching. She would have been glad to assist little Jane in her crowded duties, yet succeeded only in being a hindrance; and learning a little of broths and diet-drinks every day, she contented herself with sitting silent and dreamy, and transforming old linen garments into bandages. Mrs. Vennard, meanwhile, waited on her nephew and bewailed herself.
But for little Jane,—she had no time to bewail herself. She had all these people, in fact, on her hands, and that with very limited means to meet their necessities. It was true they need not experience actual want,—but there was her store to be managed so that it should be at once wholesome and varied, and the first thing to do was to take an account of stock. The autumn's work had already been well done. She had carried berries enough to market to let her preserve her quinces and damsons in sirups clear as sunshine, and make her tiny allowance of currant and blackberry wines, where were innocently simulated the flavors of rare vintages. Crook-necked squashes decked the tall chimney-piece amid bunches of herbs and pearly strings of onions. She and Vivia had gathered the ripened apples themselves, and now goodly garlands of them hung from the attic-rafters, above the dried beans whose blossoms had so sweetened June, and above last year's corn-bins. That corn the first passing neighbor should take to mill and exchange a portion of for cracked wheat; and as the flour-barrel still held out, they would be tolerably well off for cereals, little Jane thought. They had kept only one cow, and Tommy Low would attend to her for the sake of his suppers,—suppers at which Vivia must forego her water-cresses now; but Janet had a bed of mushrooms growing down-cellar, that, broiled and buttered, were, she fancied, quite equal to venison-steaks. The hens, of course, must be sacrificed, all but a dozen of them; for, as there was no fresh meat for them in winter, they wouldn't lay, and would be only a dead weight, she said to herself, as, with her apron thrown over her neck, she stood watching them, finger on lip. However, that would give them poultry all through the holidays. Then there were the pigs to be killed on halves by a neighbor, as almost everything else out-doors had now to be done; and when that was accomplished, she found no time to call her soul her own while making her sausage and bacon and souse and brawn. Part of the pork would produce salt fish, without which what farm-house would stand?—and with old hucklebones, her potatoes and parsnips, those ruby beets and golden carrots, there was many a Julien soup to be had. Jones's-root, bruised and boiled, made a chocolate as good as Spanish. Instead of ginger, there were the wild caraway-seeds growing round the house. If she could only contrive some sugar and some vanilla-beans, she would be well satisfied to open her campaign. But as there had been for weeks only one single copper cent and two postage-stamps in the house, that seemed an impossibility. Hereupon an idea seized little Jane, and for several days she was busy in a mysterious rummage. Garrets and closets surrendered their hoards to her; files of old newspapers, old ledgers, old letter-backs, began to accumulate in heaps,—everything but books, for Jane had a religious respect for their recondite lore; she cut the margins off the magazines, and she grew miserly of the very shreds ravelling under Vivia's fingers. At length, one morning, after she had watched the windows unweariedly as a cat watches a mouse-hole, she hurriedly exclaimed,—
“There he is!”
“Who” asked Mrs. Vennard as hurriedly, with a dim idea that people in their State received visits from the sheriff.
“Our treasurer!” said little Jane.
And, indeed, the red cart crowned with yellow brooms and dazzling tin, the delight of housewives in lone places, was winding along the road; and in a few moments little Jane accosted its driver, standing victorious in the midst of her bags and bundles and baskets.
“How much were white rags?”
Laconic, through the urgencies of tobacco.
“Wal, they were consider'ble.”
“Six cents. 'T used to be half a cent Six cents now.”
“But the reason?” breathlessly.
“Reckoned 'twas the war's much as anything.”
One good thing out of Nazareth! Little Jane saw herself on the road to riches, and immediately had thoughts of selling the whole household-equipment for rags. She displayed her commodities.
“Did he pay in money?”
“Didn't like to; but then he did.”
“Fine day, to-day.”
And when the reluctant tinman went on his way again, she returned to spread the fabulous result before her mother. There were sugars and spices and whatnot. And though—woe worth the day!—she found that the sum yielded only half what once it would, still, by drinking her own tea in its acritude, they would do admirably; for tea even little Jane required as her tonic, and without it felt like nothing but a mollusk.
All this was very well, so far as it went; but the thrifty housekeeper soon found that it went no way at all. Those for whom she made her efforts wanted none of their results. She would have given all she had in the world to help these suffering beings; but her little cooking and concocting were all that she could do, and those they disregarded utterly. When in the dull forenoon she would have enlivened Vivia with her precious elderberry-wine, that a connoisseur must taste twice before telling from purplest Port, and Vivia only wet her lips at it, or when she carried Ray a roasted apple, its burnished sides bursting with juice and clotted with cream, and the boy glanced at it and never saw it, little Jane felt ready to cry; and she set to bethinking herself seriously if there were nothing else to be done.
One day, it was the day before Christmas, Jane took up to Ray's room one of her trifles, a whip, whose suave and frothy nothingness was piled over the sweet plum-pulp at bottom. Ray lay on the outside of the bed, with his thick poncho over him; he looked at her and at her tray, played with the teaspoon a moment, then rolled upon his side and shut his eyes. Little Jane took a half-dozen steps about the room, reached the door, hesitated, and came back.
“Ray,” said she, under her breath and with tears in her voice, “I wish you wouldn't do so. You don't know how it makes me feel. I can't do anything for you but bring whips and custards; and you won't touch those.”
Ray turned and looked up at her.
“Do you care, Janet?” said he; and, rising on one arm, he lifted the glass, and finished its delicate sweetmeat with a gust.
But as he threw himself back, little Jane took heart of grace once more.
“Ray, dear,” said she, “I don't think it's right for you to stay here alone in the cold. Won't you come down where it's warm? It's so much more cheerful by the fire.”
“I don't want to be cheerful,” said Ray.
Janet looked at the door, then summoned her forces, and, holding the high bedpost with both hands, said,—
“Ray, if God sent you any trouble, He never meant for you to take it so. You are repulsing Him every day. You are straightening yourself against Him. You are like a log on His hands. Can't you bend beneath it? Dear Ray, you need comfort, but you never will find it till you take up your life and your duties again, and come down among us.”
“What duties have I?” said Ray, hoarsely, looking along his footless limb. “The sooner my life ends, oh, the better! I want no comfort!”
But little Jane had gone.
Christmas day dawned clear and keen; the sky was full of its bluest sparkle, and, wheresoever it mounted and stretched over snowy fields, seemed to hold nothing but gladness. Vivia had wrapped herself in her cloak, and walked two miles to an early church-service, so if by any accord of worship she might put her heart in tune with the universe. She had been at home a half-hour already, and sat in her old nook with some idle work between her fingers. A broad blaze rolled its rosy volumes up the chimney, and threw its reflections on the shining shelves and into the great tin-kitchen, that, planted firmly, held up to the heat the very bird that had moved so majestically over the spring meadow, and which Mrs. Vennard was at present basting with such assiduity, that, if ever the knife should penetrate the crisp depth of envelope, it would certainly find the inclosure unscathed by fire. Little Jane was stirring enormous raisins into some wonderful batter of a pudding,—for she remembered the time when somebody used to pick out all his plums and leave the rest, and she meant, that, so far as her skill and her resources would go, there should be no abatement of Christmas cheer to-day. And if, after all, everybody disdained the bounteous affair, why it could go to Tommy Low's mother, who would not by any means disdain it. Every now and then she turned an anxious ear for any movement in the cold distance,—but there was only silence.
Suddenly Vivia started. A door had swung to, a strange sharp sound echoed on the staircase, the kitchen-door opened and closed, and Ray set his back against it. He did not attempt to move, but stood there darkly surveying them. Vivia looked at him a second, then rose quickly, crossed the room, and kissed him. Immediately Mrs. Vennard made a commotion, while the other led him forward and placed him in her chair. Little Jane pushed aside the pudding hastily, and proceeded to mull some of her mock Sherry, that his heart might be warmed within him; and the cat came rubbing against his crutch, as if she would make friends with it and take it into the family. Mrs. Vennard resumed her basting; Vivia began talking to him about her work and about her walk, murmuring pleasantly in her clear, low tone,—Janet now and then putting in a word. Ray sat there, sipping his spicy draught, and looking out with an unacquainted air at the stir to which his coming had lent some gladness. But his face was yet overcast with the shadows of the grave. In vain Mrs. Vennard fussed and fidgeted, in vain little Jane uttered any of her brisk, but sorry jesting, in vain Vivia's gentle voice;—it all touched Ray's heart no other way than as the rain slips along a tombstone. Vivia folded her work and disappeared; she was going to light a fire in her parlor, where there had been none yet, and where by-and-by in the evening shadows she might play to Ray, and charm him, perhaps, to rest. Mrs. Vennard divined her purpose, and hurried after her to join in the task. Ray found himself alone in his corner; he shivered. In spite of all the weeks of solitude, a sudden chill seized him; he gathered up his crutches, and stalked on them to the table where little Jane was yet finding something to do. She brought him a chair, and for a minute or two he watched her; then he was only staring vacantly at his hands, as they lay before him on the table.
If Janet was a busy soul, she was just as certainly a busybody. She had the loving and innocent habit of making herself a member of every one's equation. Just now she ached inwardly, when looking at Ray, and it was impossible for her not to try and help him.
“Ray, dear,” said she, leaving her work and standing before him, “I think you ought to smile now. Vivia has forgiven you. Take it as an earnest that God forgives you, too.”
“I haven't sinned against God,” said Ray. “I don't know who I sinned against. I killed my brother.”
And his face fell forward on his hands and wet them with jets of scalding tears. Full of awe and misery, little Jane dropped upon her knees beside him, and, clasping his hands in hers, said to herself some silent prayer.
* * * * *
After that placid-ending Christmas, after that first prayer, those first tears, after Vivia's music at nightfall, Ray was another creature. He no longer shut himself up in his room, but was down and about with little Jane at peep of day. Indeed, he had now a horror of being alone, following Janet from morn till eve, like a shadow, and stooping forward, when the dark began to gather, with great, silent tears rolling over his face, unless she came and took the cricket at his foot, slipping her warm hand into his, and helping him to himself with the unspoken sympathy. But it was a horror which nothing wholly lulled to sleep at last but Vivia's singing. Every night, for an hour or more, Vivia wrought the music's spell about him, while he lay back in his chair, and little Jane retreated across the hearth, not daring to intrude on such a season. They were seldom purely sad things that she played: sometimes the melody murmured its cantabile like a summer brook into which moonbeams bent, flowing along the lowland, breaking only in sprays of tune, and seeming to paint in its bosom the sleeping shadows of the fair field-flowers; and if ever the gentle strain lost its way, and found itself wandering among the massive chords, the profound melancholy, the blind groping of any Fifth Symphony or piercing Stabat Mater, she answered it, singing Elijah's hymn of rest; and as she sang, there grew in her voice a strength, a sweetness, that satisfied the very soul. When the nine-o'clock bell rang in from the village through the winter night's crystal clearness, little Jane would lightly nudge her mother and steal away to bed; and in the ruddy twilight of the felling fire the two talked softly, talked,—but never of that dark thing lying most deeply in the heart of either. Perhaps, by-and-by, when the thrilling wound should be only a scar, if ever that time should come, the one would be able to speak, the other to hear.
Week after week, now, Ray began to occupy himself about the house more and more, resuming in succession odd little jobs that during all this time had remained unfinished as on the day he went. He seemed desirous of taking up the days exactly as he had left them, of bridging over this gap and chasm, of ignoring the fatal summer. Something so dreadful had fallen into his life that it could not assimilate itself with the tissues of daily existence. The work must be slow that would volatilize such a black body of horror till it leavened all the being into power and grace undreamed of before.
But little Jane did not philosophize upon what she was so glad to see; she hailed every sign of outside interest as a symptom of returning health, and gave him a thousand occasions. Yesterday there were baskets to braid, and to-day he must initiate her in the complications of a dozen difficult sailor's-knots that he knew, and to-morrow there would be woodchuck-traps to make and show her how to set. For Janet's chief vexation had overtaken her in the absence of fresh eggs for breakfast, an absence that would be enduring, unless the small game of the forest could be lured into her snares and parcelled among the apathetic hens. Many were the recipes and the consultations on the subject, till at last Ray wrote out for her, in black-letter, a notice to be pinned up in the sight of every delinquent: “Twelve eggs, or death!” Whether it were the frozen rabbit-meat flung among them the day before, or whether it were the timely warning, there is no one to tell; but the next morning twelve eggs lay in the various hiding-places, which Mrs. Vennard declared to be as good eggs as ever were laid, and custards and cookies renewed their reign. Here, suddenly, Ray remembered the purse in his haversack, containing all his uncounted pay. It was a weary while that he stayed alone in the cold, leaning over it as if he stared at the thirty pieces of silver, a faint sickness seized him, then hurriedly sweeping it up, with a red spot burning cruelly into either cheek, he brought it down, and emptied it in little Jane's lap, though he would rather have seen it ground to impalpable dust. But, after a moment's thought, the astonished recipient kept it for a use of her own. Finally, one night, Ray proposed to instruct Janet in some particular branch of his general ignorance; and after those firelight-recitations, little Jane forgot to move her seat away, and her hand was kept in his through all the hour of Vivia's slow enchantment.
So the cold weather wore away, and spring stole into the scene like a surprise, finding Vivia as the winter found her,—but Ray still undergoing volcanic changes, now passionless lulls and now rages and spasms of grief: gradually out of them all he gathered his strength about him.
It was once more a morning of early June, sunrise was blushing over the meadows, and the gossamers of hoar dew lay in spidery veils of woven light and melted under the rosy beams. From her window one heard Vivia singing, and the strain stole down like the breath of the heavy honeysuckles that trellised her pane:—
“No more for me the eager day
Breaks its bright prison-bars;
The sunshine Thou hast stripped away,
But bared the eternal stars.
“Though in the cloud the wild bird sings,
His song falls not for me,
Alone while rosy heaven rings,—
But, Lord, alone with Thee!”
One well could know, in listening to the liquid melody of those clear tones, that love and sorrow had transfused her life at last to woof and warp of innermost joy that death itself could neither tarnish nor obscure. In a few moments she came down and joined Ray, where he stood upon the door-stone, with one arm resting over the shoulder of little Jane, and watched with him the antics of a youth who postured before them. It was some old acquaintance of Ray's, returned from the war; and as if he would demonstrate how wonderfully martial exercise supples joint and sinew, he was leaping in the air, turning his heel where his toe should be, hanging his foot on his arm and throwing it over his shoulder in a necklace, skipping and prancing on the grass like a veritable saltinbanco. Ray looked grimly on and inspected the evolutions; then there was long process of question and answer and asseveration, and, when the youth departed, little Jane had announced with authority that Ray should throw away his crutch and stand on two feet of his own again.
“What a gay fellow he is!” said Ray, drawing a breath of relief. “They're all alike, dancing on graves. To be an old Temeraire decked out in signal-flags after thunderous work well done, and settling down, is one thing. But we,—to-day, when one would think every woman in the land should wear the sackcloth and ashes of mourning, we break into a splendor of apparel that defies the butterflies and boughs of the dying year.”
“Two striking examples before you,” said little Jane, with a laugh, as she looked at her old print and at Vivia's gray gown.
“I wasn't thinking of you. I saw the ladies in the village yesterday,—they were pied and parded.”
“Children,” said Mrs. Vennard from within, “I've taken up the coffee now. I sha'n't wait a minute longer. Vivia, I'll beat an egg into yours.”
But the children had wandered down to the lake-shore, oblivious of her cry, and were standing on the rock watching their images glassed below and ever freshly shattered with rippling undulations. A wherry chained beside them Vivia rocked lightly with her foot.
“You and little Jane will set me down by-and-by?” she asked. “'T will be so much pleasanter than the coach.”
“And, Vivia dear, you will go, then?” exclaimed little Jane, with tearful eyes. “You will certainly go?”
“Yes,” said Vivia, looking out and far away, “I shall go to do that”—
“Which no one can ever do for you,” said Ray, with a shudder.
“Which some woman will praise Heaven for.”
“God bless you, Vivia!” cried little Jane.
“He has already blessed me,” said Vivia, softly.
Janet nestled nearer to Ray's side, as they stood. There was a tremor of gladness through all the dew of her glance. Ray looked down at her for a moment, and his hard brow softened, in his eyes hung a light like the reflection of a star in a breaking wave.
“He has blessed me, too,” said he. “Some day I shall be a man again. I have thrown away my crutch, Vivia,—for all my life I am going to have this little shoulder to lean upon.”
And over his sombre face a smile crept and deepened, like the yellow ray, that, after a long, dark day of driving rain, suddenly gilds the tree-tops and brims the sky; and though, when it went, the gloom shut drearily down again, still it bore the promise of fair day to-morrow.
* * * * *
BY CHRISTOPHER CROWFIELD.
THE RAVAGES OF A CARPET.
“My dear, it's so cheap!”
These words were spoken by my wife, as she sat gracefully on a roll of Brussels carpet which was spread out in flowery lengths on the floor of Messrs. Ketchem &Co.
“It's so cheap!”
Milton says that the love of praise is the last infirmity of noble minds. I think he had not rightly considered the subject. I believe that last infirmity is the love of getting things cheap! Understand me, now. I don't mean the love of getting cheap things, by which one understands showy, trashy, ill-made, spurious articles, bearing certain apparent resemblances to better things. All really sensible people are quite superior to that sort of cheapness. But those fortunate accidents which put within the power of a man things really good and valuable for half or a third of their value what mortal virtue and resolution can withstand? My friend Brown has a genuine Murillo, the joy of his heart and the light of his eyes, but he never fails to tell you, as its crowning merit, how he bought it in South America for just nothing,—how it hung smoky and deserted in the back of a counting-room, and was thrown in as a makeweight to bind a bargain, and, upon being cleaned, turned out a genuine Murillo; and then he takes out his cigar, and calls your attention to the points in it; he adjusts the curtain to let the sunlight fall just in the right spot; he takes you to this and the other point of view; and all this time you must confess, that, in your mind as well as his, the consideration that he got all this beauty for ten dollars adds lustre to the painting. Brown has paintings there for which he paid his thousands, and, being well advised, they are worth the thousands he paid; but this ewe-lamb that he got for nothing always gives him a secret exaltation in his own eyes. He seems to have credited to himself personally merit to the amount of what he should have paid for the picture. Then there is Mrs. Croesus, at the party yesterday evening, expatiating to my wife on the surprising cheapness of her point-lace set,—“Got for just nothing at all, my dear!” and a circle of admiring listeners echoes the sound. “Did you ever hear anything like it? I never heard of such a thing in my life”; and away sails Mrs. Croesus as if she had a collar composed of all the cardinal virtues. In fact, she is buoyed up with a secret sense of merit, so that her satin slippers scarcely touch the carpet. Even I myself am fond of showing a first edition of “Paradise Lost,” for which I gave a shilling in a London book-stall, and stating that I would not take a hundred dollars for it. Even I must confess there are points on which I am mortal.
But all this while my wife sits on her roll of carpet, looking into my face for approbation, and Marianne and Jane are pouring into my ear a running-fire of “How sweet! How lovely! Just like that one of Mrs. Tweedleum's!”
“And she gave two dollars and seventy-five cents a yard for hers, and this is”—
My wife here put her hand to her mouth, and pronounced the incredible sum in a whisper, with a species of sacred awe, common, as I have observed, to females in such interesting crises. In fact, Mr. Ketchem, standing smiling and amiable by, remarked to me that really he hoped Mrs. Crowfield would not name generally what she gave for the article, for positively it was so far below the usual rate of prices that he might give offence to other customers; but this was the very last of the pattern, and they were anxious to close off the old stock, and we had always traded with them, and he had a great respect for my wife's father, who had always traded with their firm, and so, when there were any little bargains to be thrown in any one's way, why, he naturally, of course—And here Mr. Ketchem bowed gracefully over the yardstick to my wife, and I consented.
Yes, I consented; but whenever I think of myself at that moment, I always am reminded, in a small way, of Adam taking the apple; and my wife, seated on that roll of carpet, has more than once suggested to my mind the classic image of Pandora opening her unlucky box. In fact, from the moment I had blandly assented to Mr. Ketchem's remarks, and said to my wife, with a gentle air of dignity, “Well, my dear, since it suits you, I think you had better take it,” there came a load on my prophetic soul, which not all the fluttering and chattering of my delighted girls and the more placid complacency of my wife could entirely dissipate. I presaged, I know not what, of coming woe; and all I presaged came to pass.
In order to know just what came to pass, I must give you a view of the house and home into which this carpet was introduced.
My wife and I were somewhat advanced housekeepers, and our dwelling was first furnished by her father, in the old-fashioned jog-trot days, when furniture was made with a view to its lasting from generation to generation. Everything was strong and comfortable,—heavy mahogany, guiltless of the modern device of veneering, and hewed out with a square solidity which had not an idea of change. It was, so to speak, a sort of granite foundation of the household structure. Then, we commenced housekeeping with the full idea that our house was a thing to be lived in, and that furniture was made to be used. That most sensible of women, Mrs. Crowfield, agreed fully with me that in our house there was to be nothing too good for ourselves,—no rooms shut up in holiday attire to be enjoyed by strangers for three or four days in the year, while we lived in holes and corners,—no best parlor from which we were to be excluded,—no best china which we were not to use,—no silver plate to be kept in the safe in the bank, and brought home only in case of a grand festival, while our daily meals were served with dingy Britannia. “Strike a broad, plain average,” I said to my wife; “have everything abundant, serviceable; and give all our friends exactly what we have ourselves, no better and no worse”;—and my wife smiled approval on my sentiment.
Smile! she did more than smile. My wife resembles one of those convex mirrors I have sometimes seen. Every idea I threw out, plain and simple, she reflected back upon me in a thousand little glitters and twinkles of her own; she made my crude conceptions come back to me in such perfectly dazzling performances that I hardly recognized them. My mind warms up, when I think what a home that woman made of our house from the very first day she moved into it. The great, large, airy parlor, with its ample bow-window, when she had arranged it, seemed a perfect trap to catch sunbeams. There was none of that discouraging trimness and newness that often repel a man's bachelor-friends after the first call, and make them feel,—“Oh, well, one cannot go in at Crowfield's now, unless one is dressed; one might put them out.” The first thing our parlor said to any one was, that we were not people to be put out, that we were wide-spread, easy-going, and jolly folk. Even if Tom Brown brought in Ponto and his shooting-bag, there was nothing in that parlor to strike terror into man and dog; for it was written on the face of things, that everybody there was to do just as he or she pleased. There were my books and my writing-table spread out with all its miscellaneous confusion of papers on one side of the fireplace, and there were my wife's great, ample sofa and work-table on the other; there I wrote my articles for the “North American,” and there she turned and ripped and altered her dresses, and there lay crochet and knitting and embroidery side by side with a weekly basket of family-mending, and in neighborly contiguity with the last book of the season, which my wife turned over as she took her after-dinner lounge on the sofa. And in the bow-window were canaries always singing, and a great stand of plants always fresh and blooming, and ivy which grew and clambered and twined about the pictures. Best of all, there was in our parlor that household altar, the blazing wood-fire, whose wholesome, hearty crackle is the truest household inspiration. I quite agree with one celebrated American author who holds that an open fireplace is an altar of patriotism. Would our Revolutionary fathers have gone barefooted and bleeding over snows to defend air-tight stoves and cooking-ranges? I trow not. It was the memory of the great open kitchen-fire, with its back-log and fore-stick of cord-wood, its roaring, hilarious voice of invitation, its dancing tongues of flame, that called to them through the snows of that dreadful winter to keep up their courage, that made their hearts warm and bright with a thousand reflected memories. Our neighbors said that it was delightful to sit by our fire,—but then, for their part, they could not afford it, wood was so ruinously dear, and all that. Most of these people could not, for the simple reason that they felt compelled, in order to maintain the family-dignity, to keep up a parlor with great pomp and circumstance of upholstery, where they sat only on dress-occasions, and of course the wood-fire was out of the question.
When children began to make their appearance in our establishment, my wife, like a well-conducted housekeeper, had the best of nursery-arrangements,—a room all warmed, lighted, and ventilated, and abounding in every proper resource of amusement to the rising race; but it was astonishing to see how, notwithstanding this, the centripetal attraction drew every pair of little pattering feet to our parlor.
“My dear, why don't you take your blocks up-stairs?”
“I want to be where oo are,” said with a piteous under-lip, was generally a most convincing answer.
Then the small people could not be disabused of the idea that certain chief treasures of their own would be safer under papa's writing-table or mamma's sofa than in the safest closet of their own domains. My writing-table was dockyard for Arthur's new ship, and stable for little Tom's pepper-and-salt-colored pony, and carriage-house for Charley's new wagon, while whole armies of paper dolls kept house in the recess behind mamma's sofa.
And then, in due time, came the tribe of pets who followed the little ones and rejoiced in the blaze of the firelight. The boys had a splendid Newfoundland, which, knowing our weakness, we warned them with awful gravity was never to be a parlor-dog; but, somehow, what with little beggings and pleadings on the part of Arthur and Tom, and the piteous melancholy with which Rover would look through the window-panes, when shut out from the blazing warmth into the dark, cold veranda, it at last came to pass that Rover gained a regular corner at the hearth, a regular status in every family-convocation. And then came a little black-and-tan English terrier for the girls; and then a fleecy poodle, who established himself on the corner of my wife's sofa; and for each of these some little voices pleaded, and some little heart would be so near broken at any slight, that my wife and I resigned ourselves to live in menagerie, the more so as we were obliged to confess a lurking weakness towards these four-footed children ourselves.
So we grew and flourished together,—children, dogs, birds, flowers, and all; and although my wife often, in paroxysms of housewifeliness to which the best of women are subject, would declare that we never were fit to be seen, yet I comforted her with the reflection that there were few people whose friends seemed to consider them better worth seeing, judging by the stream of visitors and loungers which was always setting towards our parlor. People seemed to find it good to be there; they said it was somehow home-like and pleasant, and that there was a kind of charm about it that made it easy to talk and easy to live; and as my girls and boys grew up, there seemed always to be some merry doing or other going on there. Arty and Tom brought home their college friends, who straightway took root there and seemed to fancy themselves a part of us. We had no reception-rooms apart, where the girls were to receive young gentlemen; all the courting and flirting that were to be done had for their arena the ample variety of surface presented by our parlor, which, with sofas and screens and lounges and recesses and writing-and work-tables disposed here and there, and the genuine laisser aller of the whole menage, seemed, on the whole, to have offered ample advantages enough; for, at the time I write of, two daughters were already established in marriage, and a third engaged, while my youngest was busy, as yet, in performing that little domestic ballet of the cat with the mouse, in the case of a most submissive youth of the neighborhood.
All this time our parlor-furniture, though of that granitic formation I have indicated, began to show marks of that decay to which things sublunary are liable. I cannot say that I dislike this look in a room. Take a fine, ample, hospitable apartment, where all things, freely and generously used, softly and indefinably grow old together, there is a sort of mellow tone and keeping which pleases my eye. What if the seams of the great inviting arm-chair, where so many friends have sat and lounged, do grow white? What, in fact, if some easy couch has an undeniable hole worn in its friendly cover? I regard with tenderness even these mortal weaknesses of these servants and witnesses of our good times and social fellowship. No vulgar touch wore them; they may be called, rather, the marks and indentations which the glittering in and out of the tide of social happiness has worn in the rocks of our strand. I would no more disturb the gradual toning-down and aging of a well-used set of furniture by smart improvements than I would have a modern dauber paint in emendations in a fine old picture.
So we men reason; but women do not always think as we do. There is a virulent demon of housekeeping, not wholly cast out in the best of them, and which often breaks out in unguarded moments. In fact, Miss Marianne, being on the lookout for furniture wherewith to begin a new establishment, and Jane, who had accompanied her in her peregrinations, had more than once thrown out little disparaging remarks on the time-worn appearance of our establishment, suggesting comparison with those of more modern-furnished rooms.
“It is positively scandalous, the way our furniture looks,” I one day heard her declaring to her mother; “and this old rag of a carpet!”
My feelings were hurt, not the less so that I knew that the large cloth which covered the middle of the floor, and which the women call a bocking, had been bought and nailed down there, after a solemn family-counsel, as the best means of concealing the too evident darns which years of good cheer had made needful in our stanch old household friend, the three-ply carpet, made in those days when to be a three-ply was a pledge of continuance and service.
Well, it was a joyous and bustling day, when, after one of those domestic whirlwinds which the women are fond of denominating house-cleaning, the new Brussels carpet was at length brought in and nailed down, and its beauty praised from mouth to mouth. Our old friends called in and admired, and all seemed to be well, except that I had that light and delicate presage of changes to come which indefinitely brooded over me.
The first premonitory symptom was the look of apprehensive suspicion with which the female senate regarded the genial sunbeams that had always glorified our bow-window.
“This house ought to have inside blinds,” said Marianne, with all the confident decision of youth; “this carpet will be ruined, if the sun is allowed to come in like that.”
“And that dirty little canary must really be hung in the kitchen,” said Jane; “he always did make such a litter, scattering his seed-chippings about; and he never takes his bath without flirting out some water. And, mamma, it appears to me it will never do to have the plants here. Plants are always either leaking through the pots upon the carpet, or scattering bits of blossoms and dead leaves, or some accident upsets or breaks a pot. It was no matter, you know, when we had the old carpet; but this we really want to have kept nice.”
Mamma stood her ground for the plants,—darlings of her heart for many a year,—but temporized, and showed that disposition towards compromise which is most inviting to aggression.
I confess I trembled; for, of all radicals on earth, none are to be compared to females that have once in hand a course of domestic innovation and reform. The sacred fire, the divine furor, burns in their bosoms, they become perfect Pythonesses, and every chair they sit on assumes the magic properties of the tripod. Hence the dismay that lodges in the bosoms of us males at the fateful spring and autumn seasons, denominated house-cleaning. Who can say whither the awful gods, the prophetic fates, may drive our fair household divinities; what sins of ours may be brought to light; what indulgences and compliances, which uninspired woman has granted in her ordinary mortal hours, may be torn from us? He who has been allowed to keep a pair of pet slippers in a concealed corner, and by the fireside indulged with a chair which he might, ad libitum, fill with all sorts of pamphlets and miscellaneous literature, suddenly finds himself reformed out of knowledge, his pamphlets tucked away into pigeon-holes and corners, and his slippers put in their place in the hall, with, perhaps, a brisk insinuation about the shocking dust and disorder that men will tolerate.
The fact was, that the very first night after the advent of the new carpet I had a prophetic dream. Among our treasures of art was a little etching, by an English artist-friend, the subject of which was the gambols of the household fairies in a baronial library after the household were in bed. The little people are represented in every attitude of frolic enjoyment. Some escalade the great arm-chair, and look down from its top as from a domestic Mont Blanc; some climb about the bellows; some scale the shaft of the shovel; while some, forming in magic ring, dance festively on the yet glowing hearth. Tiny troops promenade the writing-table. One perches himself quaintly on the top of the inkstand, and holds colloquy with another who sits cross-legged on a paper-weight, while a companion looks down on them from the top of the sand-box. It was an ingenious little device, and gave me the idea which I often expressed to my wife, that much of the peculiar feeling of security, composure, and enjoyment which seems to be the atmosphere of some rooms and houses came from the unsuspected presence of these little people, the household fairies, so that the belief in their existence became a solemn article of faith with me.
Accordingly, that evening, after the installation of the carpet, when my wife and daughters had gone to bed, as I sat with my slippered feet before the last coals of the fire, I fell asleep in my chair, and, lo! my own parlor presented to my eye a scene of busy life. The little people in green were tripping to and fro, but in great confusion. Evidently something was wrong among them; for they were fussing and chattering with each other, as if preparatory to a general movement. In the region of the bow-window I observed a tribe of them standing with tiny valises and carpet-bags in their hands, as though about to depart on a journey. On my writing-table another set stood around my inkstand and pen-rack, who, pointing to those on the floor, seemed to debate some question among themselves; while others of them appeared to be collecting and packing away in tiny trunks certain fairy treasures, preparatory to a general departure. When I looked at the social hearth, at my wife's sofa and work-basket, I saw similar appearances of dissatisfaction and confusion. It was evident that the household fairies were discussing the question of a general and simultaneous removal. I groaned in spirit, and, stretching out my hand, began a conciliatory address, when whisk went the whole scene from before my eyes, and I awaked to behold the form of my wife asking me if I were ill or had had the nightmare that I groaned so. I told her my dream, and we laughed at it together.
“We must give way to the girls a little,” she said. “It is natural, you know, that they should wish us to appear a little as other people do. The fact is, our parlor is somewhat dilapidated; think how many years we have lived in it without an article of new furniture.”
“I hate new furniture,” I remarked, in the bitterness of my soul. “I hate anything new.”
My wife answered me discreetly, according to approved principles of diplomacy. I was right. She sympathized with me. At the same time, it was not necessary, she remarked, that we should keep a hole in our sofa-cover and arm-chair; there would certainly be no harm in sending them to the upholsterer's to be new-covered; she didn't much mind, for her part, moving her plants to the south back-room, and the bird would do well enough in the kitchen: I had often complained of him for singing vociferously when I was reading aloud.
So our sofa went to the upholsterer's; but the upholsterer was struck with such horror at its clumsy, antiquated, unfashionable appearance, that he felt bound to make representations to my wife and daughters: positively, it would be better for them to get a new one, of a tempting pattern, which he showed them, than to try to do anything with that. With a stitch or so here and there it might do for a basement dining-room; but, for a parlor, he gave it as his disinterested opinion,—he must say, if the case were his own, he should get, etc., etc. In short, we had a new sofa and new chairs, and the plants and the birds were banished, and some dark green blinds were put up to exclude the sun from the parlor, and the blessed luminary was allowed there only at rare intervals when my wife and daughters were out shopping, and I acted out my uncivilized male instincts by pulling up every shade and vivifying the apartment as in days of old.
But this was not the worst of it. The new furniture and new carpet formed an opposition party in the room. I believe in my heart that for every little household fairy that went out with the dear old things there came in a tribe of discontented brownies with the new ones. These little wretches were always twitching at the gowns of my wife and daughters, jogging their elbows, and suggesting odious comparisons between the smart new articles and what remained of the old ones. They disparaged my writing-table in the corner; they disparaged the old-fashioned lounge in the other corner, which had been the maternal throne for years; they disparaged the work-table, the work-basket, with constant suggestions of how such things as these would look in certain well-kept parlors where new-fashioned furniture of the same sort as ours existed.
“We don't have any parlor,” said Jane, one day. “Our parlor has always been a sort of log-cabin,—library, study, nursery, greenhouse, all combined. We never have had things like other people.”
“Yes, and this open fire makes such a dust; and this carpet is one that shows every speck of dust; it keeps one always on the watch.”
“I wonder why papa never had a study to himself; I'm sure I should think he would like it better than sitting here among us all. Now there's the great south-room off the dining-room; if he would only move his things there, and have his open fire, we could then close up the fireplace, and put lounges in the recesses, and mamma could have her things in the nursery,—and then we should have a parlor fit to be seen.”
I overheard all this, though I pretended not to,—the little busy chits supposing me entirely buried in the recesses of a German book over which I was poring.
There are certain crises in a man's life when the female element in his household asserts itself in dominant forms that seem to threaten to overwhelm him. The fair creatures, who in most matters have depended on his judgment, evidently look upon him at these seasons as only a forlorn, incapable male creature, to be cajoled and flattered and persuaded out his native blindness and absurdity into the fairy-land of their wishes.
“Of course, mamma,” said the busy voices, “men can't understand such things. What can men know of housekeeping, and how things ought to look? Papa never goes into company; he don't know and don't care how the world is doing, and don't see that nobody now is living as we do.”
“Aha, my little mistresses, are you there?” I thought; and I mentally resolved on opposing a great force of what our politicians call backbone to this pretty domestic conspiracy.
“When you get my writing-table out of this corner, my pretty dears, I'd thank you to let me know it.”
Thus spake I in my blindness, fool that I was. Jupiter might as soon keep awake, when Juno came in best bib and tucker, and with the cestus of Venus, to get him to sleep. Poor Slender might as well hope to get the better of pretty Mistress Anne Page, as one of us clumsy-footed men might endeavor to escape from the tangled labyrinth of female wiles.
In short, in less than a year it was all done, without any quarrel, any noise, any violence,—done, I scarce knew when or how, but with the utmost deference to my wishes, the most amiable hopes that I would not put myself out, the most sincere protestations, that, if I liked it better as it was, my goddesses would give up and acquiesce. In fact, I seemed to do it of myself, constrained thereto by what the Emperor Napoleon has so happily called the logic of events,—that old, well-known logic by which the man who has once said A must say B, and he who has said B must say the whole alphabet. In a year, we had a parlor with two lounges in decorous recesses, a fashionable sofa, and six chairs and a looking-glass, and a grate always shut up, and a hole in the floor which kept the parlor warm, and great, heavy curtains that kept out all the light that was not already excluded by the green shades.
It was as proper and orderly a parlor as those of our most fashionable neighbors; and when our friends called, we took them stumbling into its darkened solitude, and opened a faint crack in one of the window-shades, and came down in our best clothes, and talked with them there. Our old friends rebelled at this, and asked what they had done to be treated so, and complained so bitterly that gradually we let them into the secret that there was a great south-room which I had taken for my study, where we all sat, where the old carpet was down, where the sun shone in at the great window, where my wife's plants flourished and the canary-bird sang, and my wife had her sofa in the corner, and the old brass andirons glistened and the wood-fire crackled,—in short, a room to which all the household fairies had emigrated.
When they once had found that out, it was difficult to get any of them to sit in our parlor. I had purposely christened the new room my study, that I might stand on my rights as master of ceremonies there, though I opened wide arms of welcome to any who chose to come. So, then, it would often come to pass, that, when we were sitting round the fire in my study of an evening, the girls would say,—
“Come, what do we always stay here for? Why don't we ever sit in the parlor?”
And then there would be manifested among guests and family-friends a general unwillingness to move.
“Oh, hang it, girls!” would Arthur say; “the parlor is well enough, all right; let it stay as it is, and let a fellow stay where he can do as he pleases and feels at home”; and to this view of the matter would respond divers of the nice young bachelors who were Arthur's and Tom's sworn friends.
In fact, nobody wanted to stay in our parlor now. It was a cold, correct, accomplished fact; the household fairies had left it,—and when the fairies leave a room, nobody ever feels at home in it. No pictures, curtains, no wealth of mirrors, no elegance of lounges, can in the least make up for their absence. They are a capricious little set; there are rooms where they will not stay, and rooms where they will; but no one can ever have a good time without them.
* * * * *
[Transcribers Note: Line that had notes associated with them have been numbered. The notes have been moved to the end of the canto.]
Even as a bird, 'mid the beloved leaves, 
Quiet upon the nest of her sweet brood
Throughout the night, that hideth all things from us,
Who, that she may behold their longed-for looks
And find the nourishment wherewith to feed them,
In which, to her, grave labors grateful are,
Anticipates the time on open spray
And with an ardent longing waits the sun,
Gazing intent, as soon as breaks the dawn:
Even thus my Lady standing was, erect
And vigilant, turned round towards the zone
Underneath which the sun displays least haste; 
So that beholding her distraught and eager,
Such I became as he is, who desiring
For something yearns, and hoping is appeased.
But brief the space from one When to the other;
From my awaiting, say I, to the seeing
The welkin grow resplendent more and more.
And Beatrice exclaimed: “Behold the hosts
Of the triumphant Christ, and all the fruit
Harvested by the rolling of these spheres!” 
It seemed to me her face was all on flame;
And eyes she had so full of ecstasy
That I must needs pass on without describing.
As when in nights serene of the full moon
Smiles Trivia among the nymphs eternal
Who paint the heaven through all its hollow cope,
Saw I, above the myriads of lamps,
A sun that one and all of them enkindled, 
E'en as our own does the supernal stars.
And through the living light transparent shone
The lucent substance so intensely clear
Into my sight, that I could not sustain it.
O Beatrice, my gentle guide and dear!
She said to me: “That which o'ermasters thee
A virtue is which no one can resist.
There are the wisdom and omnipotence
That oped the thoroughfares 'twixt heaven and earth,
For which there erst had been so long a yearning.”
As fire from out a cloud itself discharges,
Dilating so it finds not room therein,
And down, against its nature, falls to earth,
So did my mind, among those aliments
Becoming larger, issue from itself,
And what became of it cannot remember.
“Open thine eyes, and look at what I am: 
Thou hast beheld such things, that strong enough
Hast thou become to tolerate my smile.”
I was as one who still retains the feeling
Of a forgotten dream, and who endeavors
In vain to bring it back into his mind,
When I this invitation heard, deserving
Of so much gratitude, it never fades
Out of the book that chronicles the past.
If at this moment sounded all the tongues
That Polyhymnia and her sisters made 
Most lubrical with their delicious milk,
To aid me, to a thousandth of the truth
It would not reach, singing the holy smile,
And how the holy aspect it illumed.
And therefore, representing Paradise,
The sacred poem must perforce leap over,
Even as a man who finds his way cut off.
But whoso thinketh of the ponderous theme,
And of the mortal shoulder that sustains it,
Should blame it not, if under this it trembles.
It is no passage for a little boat
This which goes cleaving the audacious prow,
Nor for a pilot who would spare himself.
“Why does my face so much enamor thee,
That to the garden fair thou turnest not,
Which under the rays of Christ is blossoming?
There is the rose in which the Word Divine 
Became incarnate; there the lilies are
By whose perfume the good way was selected.”
Thus Beatrice; and I, who to her counsels
Was wholly ready, once again betook me
Unto the battle of the feeble brows.
As in a sunbeam, that unbroken passes 
Through fractured cloud, ere now a meadow of flowers
Mine eyes with shadow covered have beheld,
So I beheld the multitudinous splendors
Refulgent from above with burning rays,
Beholding not the source of the effulgence.
O thou benignant power that so imprint'st them! 
Thou didst exalt thyself to give more scope
There to the eyes, that were not strong enough.
The name of that fair flower I e'er invoke
Morning and evening utterly enthralled
My soul to gaze upon the greater fire.
And when in both mine eyes depicted were
The glory and greatness of the living star
Which conquers there, as here below it conquered,
Athwart the heavens descended a bright sheen 
Formed in a circle like a coronal,
And cinctured it, and whirled itself about it.
Whatever melody most sweetly soundeth
On earth, and to itself most draws the soul,
Would seem a cloud that, rent asunder, thunders,
Compared unto the sounding of that lyre
Wherewith was crowned the sapphire beautiful,
Which gives the clearest heaven its sapphire hue. 
“I am Angelic Love, that circle round
The joy sublime which breathes from out the bosom
That was the hostelry of our Desire;
And I shall circle, Lady of Heaven, while
Thou followest thy Son, and mak'st diviner
The sphere supreme, because thou enterest it.”
Thus did the circulated melody
Seal itself up; and all the other lights
Were making resonant the name of Mary.
The regal mantle of the volumes all 
Of that world, which most fervid is and living
With breath of God and with his works and ways,
Extended over us its inner curve,
So very distant, that its outward show,
There where I was, not yet appeared to me.
Therefore mine eyes did not possess the power
Of following the incoronated flame,
Which had ascended near to its own seed.
And as a little child, that towards its mother
Extends its arms, when it the milk has taken,
Through impulse kindled into outward flame,
Each of those gleams of white did upward stretch
So with its summit, that the deep affection
They had for Mary was revealed to me.
Thereafter they remained there in my sight,
Regina coeli singing with such sweetness, 
That ne'er from me has the delight departed.
Oh, what exuberance is garnered up
In those resplendent coffers, which had been
For sowing here below good husbandmen!
There they enjoy and live upon the treasure 
Which was acquired while weeping in the exile
Of Babylon, wherein the gold was left.
There triumpheth beneath the exalted Son
Of God and Mary, in his victory,
Both with the ancient council and the new,
He who doth keep the keys of such a glory. 
[Line 1: Dante is with Beatrice in the eighth circle, that of the fixed stars. She is gazing upwards, watching for the descent of the Triumph of Christ.]
[Line 12: Under the meridian, or at noon, the shadows being shorter move slower, and, therefore the sun seems less in haste.]
[Line 21: By the beneficent influences of the stars.]
[Line 29: The old belief that the stars were fed by the light of the sun. So Milton,—
“Hither, as to their fountain, other stars
Repair, and in their golden urns draw light.”
Here the stars are souls, the sun is Christ.]
[Line 45: Beatrice speaks.]
[Line 55: The Muse of harmony and singing.]
[Line 72: The rose is the Virgin Mary, Rosa Mundi, Rosa Mystica ; the lilies are the Apostles and other saints.]
[Line 78: The struggle between his eyes and the light.]
[Line 89: Christ reascends, that Dante's dazzled eyes, too feeble to bear the light of his presence, may behold the splendors around him.
The greater fire is the Virgin Mary, greater than any of those remaining. She is the living star, surpassing in brightness all other souls in heaven, as she did here on earth: Stella Maris, Stella Matutina.]
[Line 98: The Angel Gabriel, or Angelic Love.]
[Line 106: Sapphire is the color in which the old painters arrayed the Virgin.]
[Line 116: The regal mantle of all the volumes, or rolling orbs, of the world is the crystalline heaven, or Primus Mobile, which infolds all the others like a mantle.]
[Line 132: Easter hymn to the Virgin.]
[Line 137: Caring not for gold in the Babylonian exile of this life, they laid up treasures in the other.]
[Line 143: St. Peter, keeper of the keys, with the holy men of the Old and the New Testament.]
“O company elect to the great supper 
Of the Lamb glorified, who feedeth you
So that forever full is your desire,
If by the grace of God this man foretastes
Of whatsoever falleth from your table,
Or ever death prescribes to him the time,
Direct your mind to his immense desire, 
And him somewhat bedew; ye drinking are
Forever from the fount whence comes his thought.” 
Thus Beatrice; and those enraptured spirits
Made themselves spheres around their steadfast poles,
Flaming intensely in the guise of comets.
And as the wheels in works of horologes
Revolve so that the first to the beholder
Motionless seems, and the last one to fly,
So in like manner did those carols, dancing 
In different measure, by their affluence
Make me esteem them either swift or slow.
From that one which I noted of most beauty
Beheld I issue forth a fire so happy
That none it left there of a greater splendor;
And around Beatrice three several times 
It whirled itself with so divine a song,
My fantasy repeats it not to me;
Therefore the pen skips, and I write it not,
Since our imagination for such folds,
Much more our speech, is of a tint too glaring. 
“O holy sister mine, who us implorest 
With such devotion, by thine ardent love
Thou dost unbind me from that beautiful sphere!”
Thus, having stopped, the beatific fire
Unto my Lady did direct its breath,
Which spake in fashion as I here have said.
And she: “O light eterne of the great man
To whom our Lord delivered up the keys
He carried down of this miraculous joy,
This one examine on points light and grave,
As good beseemeth thee, about the Faith
By means of which thou on the sea didst walk.
If he loves well, and hopes well, and believes,
Is hid not from thee; for thou hast thy sight
Where everything beholds itself depicted. 
But since this kingdom has made citizens
By means of the true Faith, to glorify it
'Tis well he have the chance to speak thereof.”
As baccalaureate arms himself, and speaks not
Until the master doth propose the question,
To argue it, and not to terminate it,
So did I arm myself with every reason,
While she was speaking, that I might be ready
For such a questioner and such profession.
“Speak on, good Christian; manifest thyself; 
Say, what is Faith?” Whereat I raised my brow
Unto that light from which this was breathed forth.
Then turned I round to Beatrice, and she
Prompt signals made to me that I should pour
The water forth from my internal fountain.
“May grace, that suffers me to make confession,”
Began I, “to the great Centurion, 
Cause my conceptions all to be explicit!”
And I continued: “As the truthful pen,
Father, of thy dear brother wrote of it,
Who put with thee Rome into the good way,
Faith is the substance of the things we hope for,
And evidence of those that are not seen;
And this appears to me its quiddity.” 
Then heard I: “Very rightly thou perceivest,
If well thou understandest why he placed it
With substances and then with evidences.”
And I thereafterward: “The things profound,
That here vouchsafe to me their outward show,
Unto all eyes below are so concealed,
That they exist there only in belief,
Upon the which is founded the high hope,
And therefore take the nature of a substance.
And it behooveth us from this belief
To reason without having other views,
And hence it has the nature of evidence.”
Then heard I: “If whatever is acquired
Below as doctrine were thus understood,
No sophist's subtlety would there find place.”
Thus was breathed forth from that enkindled love;
Then added: “Thoroughly has been gone over
Already of this coin the alloy and weight;
But tell me if thou hast it in thy purse?”
And I: “Yes, both so shining and so round,
That in its stamp there is no peradventure.”
Thereafter issued from the light profound
That there resplendent was: “This precious jewel,
Upon the which is every virtue founded,
Whence hadst thou it?” And I: “The large outpouring
Of the Holy Spirit, which has been diffused
Upon the ancient parchments and the new, 
A syllogism is, which demonstrates it
With such acuteness, that, compared therewith,
All demonstration seems to me obtuse.”
And then I heard: “The ancient and the new
Postulates, that to thee are so conclusive,
Why dost thou take them for the word divine?”
And I: “The proof, which shows the truth to me,
Are the works subsequent, whereunto Nature
Ne'er heated iron yet, nor anvil beat.”
'Twas answered me: “Say, who assureth thee
That those works ever were? the thing itself
We wish to prove, nought else to thee affirms it.”
“Were the world to Christianity converted,”
I said, “withouten miracles, this one
Is such, the rest are not its hundredth part;
For thou didst enter destitute and fasting
Into the field to plant there the good plant,
Which was a vine and has become a thorn!”
This being finished, the high, holy Court
Resounded through the spheres, “One God we praise!”
In melody that there above is chanted.
And then that Baron, who from branch to branch, 
Examining, had thus conducted me,
Till the remotest leaves we were approaching,
Did recommence once more: “The Grace that lords it
Over thy intellect thy mouth has opened,
Up to this point, as it should opened be,
So that I do approve what forth emerged;
But now thou must express what thou believest,
And whence to thy belief it was presented.”
“O holy father! O thou spirit, who seest
What thou believedst, so that thou o'ercamest,
Towards the sepulchre, more youthful feet,” 
Began I, “thou dost wish me to declare
Forthwith the manner of my prompt belief,
And likewise thou the cause thereof demandest.
And I respond: In one God I believe,
Sole and eterne, who all the heaven doth move,
Himself unmoved, with love and with desire;
And of such faith not only have I proofs
Physical and metaphysical, but gives them
Likewise the truth that from this place rains down
Through Moses, through the Prophets and the Psalms,
Through the Evangel, and through you, who wrote
After the fiery Spirit sanctified you; 
In Persons three eterne believe I, and these
One essence I believe, so one and trine,
They bear conjunction both with sunt and est.
With the profound conjunction and divine,
Which now I touch upon, doth stamp my mind
Ofttimes the doctrine evangelical.
This the beginning is, this is the spark
Which afterwards dilates to vivid flame,
And, like a star in heaven, is sparkling in me.”
Even as a lord, who hears what pleases him,
His servant straight embraces, giving thanks
For the good news, as soon as he is silent;
So, giving me its benediction, singing,
Three times encircled me, when I was silent,
The apostolic light, at whose command
I spoken had, in speaking I so pleased him.
[Line 1: Beatrice speaks.]
[Line 7: Hunger and thirst after things divine.]
[Line 9: The grace of God.]
[Line 16: The carol was a dance as well as a song.]
[Line 22: St. Peter thrice encircles Beatrice, as the Angel Gabriel did the Virgin Mary in the preceding canto.]
[Line 27: Too glaring for painting such delicate draperies of song.]
[Line 28: St. Peter speaks to Beatrice.]
[Line 42: Fixed upon God, in whom all things reflected.]
[Line 52: St. Peter speaks to Dante.]
[Line 59: The great Head of the Church.]
[Line 66: In the Scholastic Philosophy, the essence of a thing, distinguishing it from all other things, was called its quiddity : an answer to the question, Quid est?]
[Line 93: The Old and New Testaments.]
[Line 115: In the Middle Ages earthly titles were sometimes given to the saints. Thus, Boccaccio speaks of Baron Messer San Antonio.]
[Line 126: St. John, xx. 3-8. St. John was the first to reach the sepulchre, but St. Peter the first to enter it.]
[Line 138: St. Peter and the other Apostles after Pentecost.]
If e'er it happen that the Poem Sacred, 
To which both heaven and earth have set their hand
Till it hath made me meagre many a year,
O'ercome the cruelty that bars me out
From the fair sheepfold, where a lamb I slumbered,
Obnoxious to the wolves that war upon it,
With other voice henceforth, with other fleece
Will I return as poet, and at my font
Baptismal will I take the laurel-crown; 
Because into the Faith that maketh known
All souls to God there entered I, and then
Peter for her sake so my brow encircled.
Thereafterward towards us moved a light
Out of that band whence issued the first-fruits 
Which of his vicars Christ behind him left,
And then, my Lady, full of ecstasy,
Said unto me: “Look, look! behold the Baron
For whom below Galicia is frequented.” 
In the same way as, when a dove alights
Near his companion, both of them pour forth,
Circling about and murmuring, their affection,
So I beheld one by the other grand
Prince glorified to be with welcome greeted,
Lauding the food that there above is eaten.
But when their gratulations were completed,
Silently coram me each one stood still,
So incandescent it o'ercame my sight.
Smiling thereafterwards, said Beatrice:
“Spirit august, by whom the benefactions
Of our Basilica have been described, 
Make Hope reverberate in this altitude;
Thou knowest as oft thou dost personify it
As Jesus to the three gave greater light,”— 
“Lift up thy head, and make thyself assured; 
For what comes hither from the mortal world
Must needs be ripened in our radiance.”
This exhortation from the second fire 
Came; and mine eyes I lifted to the hills, 
Which bent them down before with too great weight,
“Since, through his grace, our Emperor decrees
Thou shouldst confronted be, before thy death,
In the most secret chamber, with his Counts, 
So that, the truth beholding of this court,
Hope, which below there rightly fascinates,
In thee and others may thereby be strengthened;
Say what it is, and how is flowering with it
Thy mind, and say from whence it came to thee”:
Thus did the second light continue still.
And the Compassionate, who piloted 
The plumage of my wings in such high flight,
In the reply did thus anticipate me:
“No child whatever the Church Militant
Of greater hope possesses, as is written
In that Sun which irradiates all our band; 
Therefore it is conceded him from Egypt
To come into Jerusalem to see, 
Or ever yet his warfare is completed.
The other points, that not for knowledge' sake 
Have been demanded, but that he report
How much this virtue unto thee is pleasing,
To him I leave; for hard he will not find them,
Nor to be boasted of; them let him answer;
And may the grace of God in this assist him!”
As a disciple, who obeys his teacher,
Ready and willing, where he is expert,
So that his excellence may be revealed,
“Hope,” said I, “is the certain expectation 
Of glory in the hereafter, which proceedeth
From grace divine and merit precedent.
From many stars this light comes unto me;
But he instilled it first into my heart,
Who was chief singer unto the chief captain. 
Hope they in thee, in the high Theody
He says, all those who recognize thy name; 
And who does not, if he my faith possesses? 
Thou didst instil me, then, with his instilling
In the Epistle, so that I am full,
And upon others rain again your rain.” 
While I was speaking, in the living bosom
Of that effulgence quivered a sharp flash,
Sudden and frequent, in the guise of lightning.
Then breathed: “The love wherewith I am inflamed
Towards the virtue still, which followed me
Unto the palm and issue of the field,
Wills that I whisper thee, thou take delight
In her; and grateful to me is thy saying
Whatever things Hope promises to thee.”
And I: “The ancient Scriptures and the new
The mark establish, and this shows it me, 
Of all the souls whom God has made his friends.
Isaiah saith, that each one garmented
In his own land shall be with twofold garments, 
And his own land is this sweet life of yours.
Thy brother, too, far more explicitly,
There where he treateth of the robes of white, 
This revelation manifests to us.”
And first, and near the ending of these words,
Sperent in te from over us was heard,
To which responsive answered all the carols. 
Thereafterward among them gleamed a light, 
So that, if Cancer such a crystal had,
Winter would have a month of one sole day. 
And as uprises, goes, and enters the dance
A joyous maiden, only to do honor
To the new bride, and not from any failing, 
So saw I the illuminated splendor
Approach the two, who in a wheel revolved, 
As was beseeming to their ardent love.
It joined itself there in the song and music;
And fixed on them my Lady kept her look,
Even as a bride, silent and motionless.
“This is the one who lay upon the breast
Of him our Pelican; and this is he
To the great office from the cross elected.” 
My Lady thus; but therefore none the more
Removed her sight from its fixed contemplation,
Before or afterward, these words of hers.
Even as a man who gazes, and endeavors
To see the eclipsing of the sun a little,
And who, by seeing, sightless doth become,
So I became before that latest fire, 
While it was said, “Why dost thou daze thyself
To see a thing which here has no existence? 
Earth upon earth my body is, and shall be
With all the others there, until our number
With the eternal proposition tallies; 
With the two garments in the blessed cloister 
Are the two lights alone that have ascended: 
And this shalt thou take back into your world.” 
And at this utterance the flaming circle
Grew quiet, with the dulcet intermingling
Of sound that by the trinal breath was made, 
As to escape from danger or fatigue
The oars that erst were in the water beaten
Are all suspended at a whistle's sound.
Ah, how much in my mind was I disturbed,
When I turned round to look on Beatrice,
At not beholding her, although I was
Close at her side and in the Happy World!
[Line 1: This “Divina Commedia,” in which human science or Philosophy is symbolized in Virgil, and divine science or Theology in Beatrice.
“Fiorenza la Bella,” Florence the Fair. In one of his Canzoni, Dante says,—
“O mountain-song of mine, thou goest thy way;
Florence my town thou shalt perchance behold,
Which bars me from itself,
Devoid of love and naked of compassion.”]
[Line 9: This allusion to the Church of San Giovanni, “il mio bel San Giovanni,” as Dante calls it elsewhere, (Inf. xix. 17,) is a fitting prelude to the Canto in which St. John is to appear. Like the “laughing of the grass” in Canto xxx. 77, it is a “foreshadowing preface,” ombrifero prefazio, of what follows.
See Canto xxiv. 150;
“So, giving me its benediction, singing,
Three times encircled me, when I was silent,
The apostolic light.”]
[Line 14: St. Peter. “That we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” Epistle of St. James, i. 18.]
[Line 18: St. James. Pilgrimages are made to his tomb at Compostella in Galicia.]
[Line 30: The General Epistle of St. James, called the Epistola Cattolica, i. 17. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” Our Basilica: Paradise: the Church Triumphant.]
[Line 33: Peter, James, and John, representing the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity, and distinguished above the other apostles by clearer manifestations of their Master's favor.]
[Line 34: St. James speaks.]
[Line 37: The three Apostles, luminous above him, overwhelming him with light.]
[Line 38: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Psalm cxxi. 1.]
[Line 42: The most august spirits of the Celestial City.]
[Line 49: Beatrice.]
[Line 54: In God,
“Where everything beholds itself depicted.”
Canto xxiv. 42.]
[Line 56: To come from earth to heaven.]
[Line 58: “Say what it is,” and “whence it came to thee.”]
[Line 67: “Est spes certa expectatio futurae beatitudinis, veniens ex Dei gratia et meritis praecedentibus.” Petrus Lombardus, Magister Sententiarum.]
[Line 72: The Psalmist David.]
[Line 74: The Book of Psalms, or Songs of God.]
[Line 75: “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee.” Psalm ix. 10.]
[Line 78: Your rain: that is, of David and yourself.]
[Line 89: “The mark of the high calling and election sure.”]
[Line 92: The twofold garments are the glorified spirit and the glorified body.]
[Line 95: St. John, in the Apocalypse, vii. 9. “A great multitude which no man could number ... clothed with white robes.”]
[Line 99: Dances and songs commingled; the circling choirs, the celestial choristers.]
[Line 100: St. John the Evangelist.]
[Line 102: In winter the constellation Cancer rises at sunset; and if it had one star as bright as this, it would turn night into day.]
[Line 105: Such as vanity, ostentation, or the like.]
[Line 107: St. Peter and St. James are joined by St. John.]
[Line 114: Christ. “Then saith he to the disciple, 'Behold thy mother!' And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” St. John, xix. 27.]
[Line 122: St. John.]
[Line 124: “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee.”]
[Line 127: Till the predestined number of the elect is complete.]
[Line 128: The two garments: the glorified spirit and the glorified body.]
[Line 129: The two lights: Christ and the Virgin Mary.]
[Line 130: Carry back these tidings.]
[Line 133: The sacred trio of St. Peter, St. James, and St. John.]
* * * * *
Thus far we have examined chiefly the internal structure of the glacier; let us look now at its external appearance, and at the variety of curious phenomena connected with the deposit of foreign materials upon its surface, some of which seem quite inexplicable at first sight. Among the most striking of these are the large boulders elevated on columns of ice, standing sometimes ten feet or more above the level of the glacier, and the sand-pyramids, those conical hills of sand which occur not infrequently on all the large Alpine glaciers. One is at first quite at a loss to explain the presence of these pyramids in the midst of a frozen ice-field, and yet it has a very simple cause.
I have spoken of the many little rills arising on the surface of the ice in consequence of its melting. Indeed, the voice of the waters is rarely still on the glacier during the warm season, except at night. On a summer's day, a thousand streams are born before noontide, and die again at sunset; it is no uncommon thing to see a full cascade come rushing out from the lower end of a glacier during the heat of the day, and vanish again at its decline. Suppose one of these rivulets should fall into a deep, circular hole, such as often occur on the glacier, and the nature of which I shall presently explain, and that this cylindrical opening narrows to a mere crack at a greater or less depth within the ice, the water will find its way through the crack and filter down into the deeper mass; but the dust and sand carried along with it will be caught there, and form a deposit at the bottom of the hole. As day after day, throughout the summer, the rivulet is renewed, it carries with it an additional supply of these light materials, until the opening is gradually filled and the sand is brought to a level with the surface of the ice. We have already seen, that, in consequence of evaporation, melting, and other disintegrating causes, the level of the glacier sinks annually at the rate of from five to ten feet, according to stations. The natural consequence, of course, must be, that the sand is left standing above the surface of the ice, forming a mound which would constantly increase in height in proportion to the sinking of the surrounding ice, had it sufficient solidity to retain its original position. But a heap of sand, if unsupported, must very soon subside and be dispersed; and, indeed, these pyramids, which are often quite lofty, and yet look as if they would crumble at a touch, prove, on nearer examination, to be perfectly solid, and are, in fact, pyramids of ice with a thin sheet of sand spread over them. A word will explain how this transformation is brought about. As soon as the level of the glacier falls below the sand, thus depriving it of support, it sinks down and spreads slightly over the surrounding surface. In this condition it protects the ice immediately beneath it from the action of the sun. In proportion as the glacier wastes, this protected area rises above the general mass and becomes detached from it. The sand, of course, slides down over it, spreading toward its base, so as to cover a wider space below, and an ever-narrowing one above, until it gradually assumes the pyramidal form in which we find it, covered with a thin coating of sand. Every stage of this process may occasionally be seen upon the same glacier, in a number of sand-piles raised to various heights above the surface of the ice, approaching the perfect pyramidal form, or falling to pieces after standing for a short time erect.
The phenomenon of the large boulders, supported on tall pillars of ice, is of a similar character. A mass of rock, having fallen on the surface of the glacier, protects the ice immediately beneath it from the action of the sun; and as the level of the glacier sinks all around it, in consequence of the unceasing waste of the surface, the rock is gradually left standing on an ice-pillar of considerable height. In proportion as the column rises, however, the rays of the sun reach its sides, striking obliquely upon them under the boulder, and wearing them away, until the column becomes at last too slight to sustain its burden, and the rock falls again upon the glacier; or, owing to the unequal action of the sun, striking of course with most power on the southern side, the top of the pillar becomes slanting, and the boulder slides off. These ice-pillars, crowned with masses of rock, form a very picturesque feature in the scenery of the glacier, and are represented in many of the landscapes in which Swiss artists have endeavored to reproduce the grandeur and variety of Alpine views, especially in the masterly Aquarelles of Lory. The English reader will find them admirably well described and illustrated in Dr. Tyndall's work upon the glaciers. They are known throughout the Alps as “glacier-tables”; and many a time my fellow-travellers and I have spread our frugal meal on such a table, erected, as it seemed, especially for our convenience.
Another curious effect is that produced by small stones or pebbles, small enough to become heated through by the sun in summer. Such a heated pebble will of course melt the ice below it, and so wear a hole for itself into which it sinks. This process will continue as long as the sun reaches the pebble with force enough to heat it. Numbers of such deep, round holes, like organ-pipes, varying in size from the diameter of a minute pebble or a grain of coarse sand to that of an ordinary stone, are found on the glacier, and at the bottom of each is the pebble by which it was bored. The ice formed by the freezing of water collecting in such holes and in the fissures of the surface is a pure crystallized ice, very different in color from the ice of the great mass of the glacier produced by snow; and sometimes, after a rain and frost, the surface of a glacier looks like a mosaic-work, in consequence of such veins and cylinders or spots of clear ice with which it is inlaid.
Indeed, the aspect of the glacier changes constantly with the different conditions of the temperature. We may see it, when, during a long dry season, it has collected upon its surface all sorts of light floating materials, as dust, sand, and the like, so that it looks dull and soiled,—or when a heavy rain has washed the surface clean from all impurities and left it bright and fresh. We may see it when the heat and other disintegrating influences have acted upon the ice to a certain superficial depth, so that its surface is covered with a decomposed crust of broken, snowy ice, so permeated with air that it has a dead-white color, like pounded ice or glass. Those who see the glacier in this state miss the blue tint so often described as characteristic of its appearance in its lower portion, and as giving such a peculiar beauty to its caverns and vaults. But let them come again after a summer storm has swept away this loose sheet of broken, snowy ice above, and before the same process has had time to renew it, and they will find the compact, solid surface of the glacier of as pure a blue as if it reflected the sky above. We may see it in the early dawn, before the new ice of the preceding night begins to yield to the action of the sun, and the surface of the glacier is veined and inlaid with the water poured into its holes and fissures during the day and transformed into pure, fresh ice during the night,—or when the noonday heat has wakened all its streams, and rivulets sometimes as large as rivers rush along its surface, find their way to the lower extremity of the glacier, or, dashing down some gaping crevasse or open well, are lost beneath the ice.
It would seem from the quantity of water that is sometimes ingulfed within these open breaks in the ice, that the glacier must occasionally be fissured to a very great depth. I remember once, when boring a hole in the glacier in order to let down a self-regulating thermometer into its interior, seeing an immense fissure suddenly rent open, in consequence, no doubt, of the shocks given to the ice by the blows of the instruments. The effect was like that of an earthquake; the mass seemed to rock beneath us, and it was difficult to keep our feet. One of these glacial rivers was flowing past the spot at the time, and it was instantly lost in the newly formed chasm. However deep and wide the fissure might be, such a stream of water, constantly poured into it, and daily renewed throughout the summer, must eventually fill it and overflow, unless it finds its way through the whole mass of the glacier to the bottom on which it rests; it must have an outlet above or below. The fact that considerable rivulets (too broad to leap across, and too deep to wade through safely even with high boots) may entirely vanish in the glacier unquestionably shows one of two things,—that the whole mass must be soaked with water like a wet sponge, or the cavities reach the bottom of the glacier. Probably the two conditions are generally combined.
In direct connection with the narrower fissures are the so-called moulins,—the circular wells on the glacier. We will suppose that a transverse, narrow fissure has been formed across the glacier, and that one of the many rivulets flowing longitudinally along its surface empties into it. As the surface-water of the glacier, producing these rivulets, arises not only from the melting of the ice, but also from the condensation of vapor, or even from rain-falls, and flows over the scattered dust-particles and fragments of rock, it has always a temperature slightly above 32 deg., so that such a rivulet is necessarily warmer than the icy edge of the fissure over which it precipitates itself. In consequence of its higher temperature it melts the edge, gradually wearing it backward, till the straight margin of the fissure at the spot over which the water falls is changed to a semicircle; and as much of the water dashes in spray and foam against the other side, the same effect takes place there, by which a corresponding semicircle is formed exactly opposite the first. This goes on not only at the upper margin, but through the whole depth of the opening as far down as the water carries its higher temperature. In short, a semicircular groove is excavated on either side of the fissure for its whole depth along the line on which the rivulet holds its downward course. After a time, in consequence of the motion of the glacier, such a fissure may close again, and then the two semicircles thus brought together form at once one continuous circle, and we have one of the round deep openings on the glacier known as moulins, or wells, which may of course become perfectly dry, if any accident turns the rivulet aside or dries up its source. The most common cause of the intermittence of such a waterfall is the formation of a crevasse higher up, across the watercourse which supplied it, and which now begins another excavation.
These wells are often very profound. I have lowered a line for more than seven hundred feet in one of them before striking bottom; and one is by no means sure even then of having sounded the whole depth, for it may often happen that the water meets with some obstacle which prevents its direct descent, and, turning aside, continues its deeper course at a different angle. Such a well may be like a crooked shaft in a mine, changing its direction from time to time. I found this to be the case in one into which I caused myself to be lowered in order to examine the internal structure of the glacier. For some time my descent was straight and direct, but at a depth of about fifty feet there was a landing-place, as it were, from which the opening continued its farther course at quite a different angle. It is within these cylindrical openings in the ice that those accumulations of sand collect which form the pyramids described above.
One may often trace the gradual formation of these wells, because, as they require certain similar conditions, they are very apt to be found in various stages of completion along the same track where these conditions occur. Fissures, for instance, will often be produced along the same line, because, as the mass of the glacier moves on, its upper portions, as they advance, come successively in contact with inequalities of the bottom, in consequence of which the ice is strained beyond its power of resistance and cracks across. Rivulets are also likely to be renewed summer after summer over the same track, because certain conditions of the surface of the glacier, to which I have not yet alluded, and which favor the more rapid melting of the ice, remain unchanged year after year. Of course, the wells do not remain stationary any more than any other feature of the glacier. They move on with the advancing mass of ice, and we consequently find the older ones considerably lower down than the more recent ones. In ascending such a track as I have described, along which fissures and rivulets are likely to occur, we may meet first with a sand-pyramid; at a certain distance above that there may be a circular opening filled to its brim with the sand which has just reached the surface of the ice; a little above may be an open well with the rivulet still pouring into it; or higher up, we may meet an open fissure with the two semicircles opposite each other on the margins, but not yet united, as they will be presently by the closing of the fissure; or we may find near by another fissure, the edges of which are just beginning to wear in consequence of the action of the water. Thus, though we cannot trace the formation of such a cylindrical shaft in the glacier from the beginning to the end, we may by combining the separate facts observed in a number decipher their whole history.
In describing the surface of the glacier, I should not omit the shallow troughs which I have called “meridian holes,” from the accuracy with which they register the position of the sun. Here and there on the glacier there are patches of loose materials, dust, sand, pebbles, or gravel, accumulated by diminutive water-rills, and small enough to become heated during the day. They will, of course, be warmed first on their eastern side, then, still more powerfully, on their southern side, and in the afternoon with less force again on their western side, while the northern side will remain comparatively cool. Thus around more than half of their circumference they melt the ice in a semicircle, and the glacier is covered with little crescent-shaped troughs of this description, with a steep wall on one side and a shallow one on the other, and a little heap of loose materials in the bottom. They are the sundials of the glacier, recording the hour by the advance of the sun's rays upon them.
In recapitulating the results of my glacial experience, even in so condensed a form as that in which I intend to present them here, I shall be obliged to enter somewhat into personal narration, though at the risk of repeating what has been already told by the companions of my excursions, some of whom wrote out in a more popular form the incidents of our daily life which could not be fitly introduced into my own record of scientific research. When I first began my investigations upon the glaciers, now more than twenty-five years ago, scarcely any measurements of their size or their motion had been made. One of my principal objects, therefore, was to ascertain the thickness of the mass of ice, generally supposed to be from eighty to a hundred feet, and even less. The first year I took with me a hundred feet of iron rods, (no easy matter, where it had to be transported to the upper part of a glacier on men's backs,) thinking to bore the glacier through and through. As well might I have tried to sound the ocean with a ten-fathom line. The following year I took two hundred feet of rods with me, and again I was foiled. Eventually I succeeded in carrying up a thousand feet of line, and satisfied myself, after many attempts, that this was about the average thickness of the glacier of the Aar, on which I was working. I mention these failures, because they give some idea of the discouragements and difficulties which meet the investigator in any new field of research; and the student must remember, for his consolation under such disappointments, that his failures are almost as important to the cause of science and to those who follow him in the same road as his successes. It is much to know what we cannot do in any given direction,—the first step, indeed, toward the accomplishment of what we can do.
A like disappointment awaited me in my first attempt to ascertain by direct measurement the rate of motion in the glacier. Early observers had asserted that the glacier moved, but there had been no accurate demonstration of the fact, and so uniform is its general appearance from year to year that even the fact of its motion was denied by many. It is true that the progress of boulders had been watched; a mass of rock which had stood at a certain point on the glacier was found many feet below that point the following year; but the opponents of the theory insisted that it did not follow, because the mass of rock had moved, that therefore the mass of ice had moved with it. They believed that the boulder might have slid down for that distance. Neither did the occasional encroachment of the glaciers upon the valleys prove anything; it might he solely the effect of an unusual accumulation of snow in cold seasons. Here, then, was another question to be tested; and one of my first experiments was to plant stakes in the ice to ascertain whether they would change their position with reference to the sides of the valley or not. If the glacier moved, my stakes must of course move with it; if it was stationary, my stakes would remain standing where I had placed them, and any advance of other objects upon the surface of the glacier would be proved to be due to their sliding, or to some motion of their own, and not to that of the mass of ice on which they rested. I found neither the one nor the other of my anticipated results; after a short time, all the stakes lay flat on the ice, and I learned nothing from my first series of experiments, except that the surface of the glacier is wasted annually for a depth of at least five feet, in consequence of which my rods had lost their support, and fallen down. Similar disappointment was experienced by my friend Escher upon the great glacier of Aletsch.
My failure, however, taught me to sink the next set of stakes ten or fifteen feet below the surface of the ice, instead of five; and the experiment was attended with happier results. A stake planted eighteen feet deep in the ice, and cut on a level with the surface of the glacier, in the summer of 1840, was found, on my return in the summer of 1841, to project seven feet, and in the beginning of September it showed ten feet above the surface. Before leaving the glacier, in September, 1841, I planted six stakes at a certain distance from each other in a straight line across the upper part of the glacier, taking care to have the position of all the stakes determined with reference to certain fixed points on the rocky walls of the valley. When I returned, the following year, all the stakes had advanced considerably, and the straight line had changed to a crescent, the central rods having moved forward much faster than those nearer the sides, so that not only was the advance of the glacier clearly demonstrated, but also the fact that its middle portion moved faster than its margins. This furnished the first accurate data on record concerning the average movement of the glacier during the greater part of one year. In 1842 I caused a trigonometric survey of the whole glacier of the Aar to be made, and several lines across its whole width were staked and determined with reference to the sides of the valley;[B] for a number of successive years the survey was repeated, and furnished the numerous data concerning the motion of the glacier which I have published. I shall probably never have an opportunity of repeating these experiments, and examining anew the condition of the glacier of the Aar; but as all the measurements were taken with reference to certain fixed points recorded upon the map mentioned in the note, it would be easy to renew them over the same locality, and to make a direct comparison with my first results after an interval of a quarter of a century. Such a comparison would be very valuable to science, as showing any change in the condition of the glacier, its rate of motion, etc., since the time my survey was made.
These observations not only determined the fact of the motion of the glacier itself, as well as the inequality of its motion in different parts, but explained also a variety of phenomena indirectly connected with it. Among these were the position and direction of the crevasses, those gaping fissures of unknown depths, sometimes a mile or more in length, and often measuring several hundred feet in width, the terror, not only of the ordinary traveller, but of the most experienced mountaineers. There is a variety of such crevasses upon the glacier, but the most numerous and dangerous are the transverse and lateral ones. The transverse ones were readily accounted for after the motion of the glacier was admitted; they must take place, whenever, the glacier advancing over inequalities or steeper parts of its bed, the tension of the mass was so great that the cohesion of the particles was overcome, and the ice consequently rent apart. This would be especially the case wherever some steep angle in the bottom over which it moved presented an obstacle to the even advance of the mass. But the position of the lateral ones was not so easily understood. They are especially apt to occur wherever a promontory of rock juts out into the glacier; and when fresh, they usually slant obliquely upward, trending from the prominent wall toward the head of the glacier, while, when old, on the contrary, they turn downward, so that the crevasses around such a promontory are often arranged in the shape of a spread fan, diverging from it in different directions. When the movement of the glacier was fully understood, however, it became evident, that, in its effort to force itself around the promontory, the ice was violently torn apart, and that the rent must take place in a direction at right angles with that in which the mass was moving. If the mass be moving inward and downward, the direction of the rent must be obliquely upward. As now the mass continues to advance, the crevasses must advance with it; and as it moves more rapidly toward the middle than on the margins, that end of the crevasse which is farthest removed from the projecting rock must move more rapidly also; the consequence is, that all the older lateral crevasses, after a certain time, point downward, while the fresh ones point upward.
Not only does the glacier collect a variety of foreign materials on its upper surface, but its sides as well as its lower surface are studded with boulders, stones, pebbles, sand, coarse and fine gravel, so that it forms in reality a gigantic rasp, with sides hundreds of feet deep, and a surface thousands of feet wide and many miles in length, grinding over the bottom and along the walls between which it moves, polishing, grooving, and scratching them as it passes onward. One who is familiar with the track of this mighty engine will recognize at once where the large boulders have hollowed out their deeper furrows, where small pebbles have drawn their finer marks, where the stones with angular edges have left their sharp scratches, where sand and gravel have rubbed and smoothed the rocky surface, and left it bright and polished as if it came from the hand of the marble-worker. These marks are not to be mistaken by any one who has carefully observed them; the scratches, furrows, grooves, are always rectilinear, trending in the direction in which the glacier is moving, and most distinct on that side of the surface-inequalities facing the direction of the moving mass, while the lee-side remains mostly untouched.
It may be asked, how it is known that the glacier carries this powerful apparatus on its sides and bottom, when they are hidden from sight. I answer, that we might determine the fact theoretically from certain known conditions respecting the conformation of the glacier; to which I shall allude presently; but we need not resort to this kind of evidence, since we have ocular demonstration of the truth. Here and there on the sides of the glacier it is possible to penetrate between the walls and the ice to a great depth, and even to follow such a gap to the very bottom of the valley, and everywhere do we find the surface of the ice fretted as I have described it, with stones of every size, from the pebble to the boulder, and also with sand and gravel of all sorts, from the coarsest grain to the finest, and these materials, more or less firmly set in the ice, form the grating surface with which, in its onward movement down the Alpine valleys, it leaves everywhere unmistakable, traces of its passage.
We come now to the moraines, those walls of loose materials built by the glaciers themselves along their road. They have been divided into three classes, namely, lateral, medial, and terminal moraines. Let us look first at the lateral ones; and to understand them we must examine the conformation of the glacier below the neve, where it assumes the character of pure compact ice. We have seen that the fields of snow, where the glaciers have their origin, are level, and that lower down, where these masses of snow begin to descend toward the narrower valley, they follow its trough-like shape, sinking toward the centre and sloping upward against the sides, so that the surface of the glacier, about the region of the neve, is slightly concave. But lower down in the glacier proper, where it is completely transformed into ice, its surface becomes convex, for the following reason: The rocky walls of the valley, as they approach the plain, partake of its higher temperature. They become heated by the sun during the day in summer, so that the margins of the glacier melt rapidly in contact with them. In consequence of this, there is always in the lower part of the glacier a broad depression between the ice and the rocky walls, while, as this effect is not felt in the centre of the glacier, it there retains a higher level. The natural result of this is a convex surface, arching upward toward the middle, sinking toward the sides. It is in these broad, marginal depressions that the lateral moraines accumulate; masses of rock, stones, pebbles, dust, all the fragments, in short, which become loosened from the rocky walls above, fall into them, and it is a part of the materials so accumulated which gradually work their way downward between the ice and the walls, till the whole side of the glacier becomes studded with them. It is evident, that, when the glacier runs in a northerly or southerly direction, both the walls will be affected by the sun, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon, and in such a case the sides will be uniform, or nearly so. But when the trend of the valley is from east to west, or from west to east, the northern side only will feel the full force of the sun; and in such a case, only one side of the glacier will be convex in outline, while the other will remain nearly on a level with the middle. The large masses of loose materials which accumulate between the glacier and its rocky walls and upon its margins form the lateral moraines. These move most slowly, as the marginal portions of the glacier advance at a much slower rate than its centre.
The medial moraines arise in a different way, though they are directly connected with the lateral moraines. It often happens that two smaller glaciers unite, running into each other to form a larger one. Suppose two glaciers to be moving along two adjoining valleys, converging toward each other, and running in an easterly or westerly direction; at a certain point these two valleys open into a single valley, and here, of course, the two glaciers must meet, like two rivers rushing into a common bed. But as glaciers consist of a solid, and not a fluid, there will be no indiscriminate mingling of the two, and they will hold their course side by side. This being the case, the lateral moraine on the southern side of the northernmost glacier and that on the northern side of the southernmost one must meet in the centre of the combined glaciers. Such are the so-called medial moraines formed by the junction of two lateral ones. Sometimes a glacier may have a great number of tributaries, and in that case we may see several such moraines running in straight lines along its surface, all of which are called medial moraines in consequence of their origin midway between two combining glaciers. The glacier of the Aar represented in the wood-cut below affords a striking example of a large medial moraine. It is formed by the junction of the glaciers of the Lauter-Aar, on the right-hand side of the wood-cut, and the Finster-Aar, on the left; and the union of their inner lateral moraines, in the centre of the diagram, forms the stony wall down the centre of the larger glacier, called its medial moraine. This moraine at some points is not less than sixty feet high. We have here an effect similar to that of the glacier-tables and the sand-pyramids. The wall protects the ice beneath it, and prevents it from sinking at the same rate as the surrounding surface, while its heated surface increases the melting of the adjacent surfaces of ice, thus forming longitudinal depressions along the medial moraines, in which the largest rivulets and the most conspicuous sand-pyramids, the deepest wells and the finest waterfalls, are usually met with. As the medial moraines rest upon that part of the glacier which moves fastest, they of course advance much more rapidly than the lateral moraines.
[Illustration: Glacier of the Aar.]
The terminal moraines consist of all the debris brought down by the glacier to its lower extremity. In consequence of the more rapid movement of the centre of the glacier, it always terminates in a semicircle at its lower end, where these materials collect, and the terminal moraines, of course, follow the outline of the glacier. The wood-cut below represents the terminal moraine of the glacier of Viesch.
Sometimes, when a number of cold summers have succeeded each other, preventing the glacier from melting in proportion to its advance, the accumulation of materials at its terminus becomes very considerable; and when, in consequence of a succession of warm summers, it gradually melts and retreats from the line it has been occupying, a large semicircular wall is left, spanning the valley from side to side, through which the stream issuing from the glacier may be seen cutting its way. It is important to notice that such terminal moraines may actually span the whole width of a valley, from side to side, and be interrupted only where watercourses of sufficient power break through them. To suppose that such transverse walls of loose materials could be thrown across a valley by a river were to suppose that it could build dams across its bed while it is flowing. Such transverse or crescent-shaped moraines are everywhere the work of glaciers.
All these moraines are the land-marks, so to speak, by which we trace the height and extent, as well as the progress and retreat, of glaciers in former times. Suppose, for instance, that a glacier were to disappear entirely. For ages it has been a gigantic ice-raft, receiving all sorts of materials on its surface as it travelled onward, and bearing them along with it; while the hard particles of rock set in its lower surface have been polishing and fashioning the whole surface over which it extended. As it now melts, it drops its various burdens on the ground; boulders are the mile-stones marking the different stages of its journey, the terminal and lateral moraines are the framework which it erected around itself as it moved forward, and which define its boundaries centuries after it has vanished, while the scratches and furrows it has left on the surface below show the direction of its motion.
All the materials which reach the bottom of the glacier, and are moving under its weight, so far as they are not firmly set in the ice must be pressed against one another, as well as against the rocky bottom, and will be rounded off, polished, and scratched, like the rock itself over which they pass. The pebbles or stones set fast in the ice will be thus polished and scratched, however, only over the surface exposed; but, as they may sometimes move in their socket, like a loosely mounted stone, the different surfaces may in turn undergo this process, and in the end all the loose materials under a glacier become more or less polished, scratched, and grooved. These marks exhibit also the peculiarity so characteristic of the grooves and scratches on the bed and walls of the valley: they are rectilinear, trending in the direction in which the superincumbent mass advances, though, of course, owing to the changes in the position of the pebbles or boulders, they may cross each other in every direction on their surface.
As the larger materials are pressed onward with the finer ones, that is, with the sand, gravel, and mud accumulated at the bottom of the glacier, the component parts of this underlying bed of debris will be mixed together without any reference to their size or weight. The softest mud and finest sand may be in immediate contact with the bottom of the valley, while larger rocks and pebbles may be held in the ice above; or their position may be reversed, and the coarser materials may rest below, while the finer ones are pressed between them or overlying them. In short, the whole accumulation of loose debris under the glacier, resulting from the trituration of all kinds of angular fragments reaching the lower surface of the ice, presents a sort of paste in which coarser and lighter materials are impacted without reference to bulk or weight. Those fragments which are most polished, rounded, grooved, or scratched, have travelled longest under the glacier, and are derived from the hardest rocks, which have resisted the general crushing and pounding for a longer time. The masses of rock on the upper surface of the glacier, on the contrary, are carried along on its back without undergoing any such friction. Lying side by side, or one above another, without being subject to pressure from the ice, they retain, both in the lateral and medial moraines, and even in the terminal moraines, their original size, their rough surfaces, and their angular form. Whenever, therefore, a glacier melts, it is evident that the lower materials will be found covered by the angular surface-materials now brought into immediate contact with the former in consequence of the disappearance of the intervening ice. The most careful observations and surveys have shown this everywhere to be the case; wherever a large tract of glacier has disappeared, the moraines, with their large angular boulders, are found resting upon this bottom layer of rounded materials scattered through a paste of mud and sand.
We shall see hereafter how far we can follow these traces, and what they tell us of the past history of glaciers, and of the changes the climates of our globe have undergone.
* * * * *
A CHRISTMAS STORY.
Sometime in the year 1856, a family named Yarrow moved into the neighborhood where I then lived, and rented a small house with a bit of ground attached to it, on one of the rich bottom-farms lying along the eastern shore of the Ohio. The mother, two or three children, and their dog Ready made up the quiet household: not one to attract notice from any cause. People soon knew Martha Yarrow,—all that was in her. She was Western-and farm-born; whatever Nature had given her of good or bad, therefore, thrust itself out at once with pungent directness.
The family supported themselves by selling their poultry and vegetables to the hucksters, leading an eventless life enough, until the change occurred, some five years after they came into the neighborhood, of which I am going to tell you.
I called it a Christmas Story, not so much because it happened on a Christmas, as because the meaning of it seemed suited to that day; and I thought, too, that nobody grows tired of Christmas stories, especially if he chance to have been born in one of those families where the day is kept in the old fashion: it roots itself so deep, that memory, in whatever quaint superstition, or homely affection for mother or brother, or unreasoning trust in God, may outlive our childhood, and underlie our older years. And surely that is as just, as wise a thing,—to strip off for a child the smirched trading-dress of one day at least, and send it down through the long procession of the years with its true face bared, to waken in him a live sense of man's love and God's love. Some one, perhaps, had done this for this woman, Mrs. Yarrow, long ago; for, let the months before and after be bare as they chose, she kept this day of Christmas with a feverish anxiety, more eager than her children even to make every moment warm and throb with pleasure, and enjoying them herself, to their last breath, with the whole zest of a nervous, strong-blooded nature. Yet she may have had another reason for it.
The evening before the Christmas of which we write, she had gone out to the well with her son before closing the house for the night.
“There's no danger of thaw before morning, Jem?”—looking anxiously up into the night, as they rested the bucket on the curb.
“Thaw! there's a woman's notion for you! Why, the very crow is frozen out of the cocks yonder!”—stretching his arms, and clapping his hollow cheat, as if he were six feet high. “No, we'll not have a thaw, little woman.”
The children often called her that, in a fond, protecting way; but it sounded most oddly from Jem, he was such a weak, swaggering sparrow of a little chap. He stretched his hands as high as he could reach up to her hips, and smoothed her linsey dress down: if it had been her face, the touch could not have been more tender.
“You don't think of the luck we always have. Why, it couldn't rain on Christmas for you or me, mother!”
She laughed, nodding several times.
“Well, that is sure, Jem,” stopping to look into the lean, emphatic little face, and to pass her hand over the tow-colored hair.
Somehow, the bond between mother and son was curiously strong to-night. It was always so on Christmas. At other times they were much like two children in companionship, but Christmas never came without bringing a vague sense of cowering close together as though some danger stood near them. There was something half fierce, now, in the way she caressed his face.
“Come on with the bucket, brother,” she said, cheerfully, stamping the clogging snow from her shoes, shading her eyes with her hand, and looking over the white stretch to the black line of hills chopping the east. “More like a hail-gust than rain. But I was afraid of that, you see,” as they went up the path. “There's an old saying, that trouble always comes with rain. And it did in my life—to me”—
She was talking to herself. Jem whistled, pretending not to hear; but he peered sharply into her face, with the relish which all sickly, premature children have for a mystery or pain. Very seldom was there hint of either about Martha Yarrow. She was an Ohio woman, small-boned, muscular, with healthy, quick blood, not a scrofulous, ill-tempered drop in her veins; in her brain only a very few and obstinate opinions, maybe, but all of them lying open to the sight of anybody who cared to know them. Not long ago, she had been a pretty, bouncing country-belle; now, she was a hard-working housewife: a Whig, because all the Clarks (her own family) were Whigs: going to the Baptist church, with no clear ideas about close communion or immersion, because she had married a country-parson. With a consciousness that she had borne a heavier pain in her life than most women, and ought to feel scourged and sad, she did cry out with such feeling sometimes,—but with a keen, natural relish for apple-butter parings, or fair-days, or a neighbor dropping in to tea, or anything that would give the children and herself a chance to joke and laugh, and be like other people again. Between the two feelings, her temper was odd and uncertain enough. But in this December air, now, her still rounded cheek grew red, her breast heaved, her eyes sparkled, glad as a child would be, simply because it was cold and Christmas was coming; while the child Jem, with his tougher, less sappy animal nature, jogged gravely beside her, head and eyes down. As for her every-day life, nobody's fires burned, nobody's windows shone like Martha Yarrow's; not a pound of butter went to market with the creamy, clovery taste her fingers worked into hers. She put a flavor, an elastic spring, into every bit of work she did, making it play. The very nervousness of the woman, her sudden fits of laughter and tears, impressed you as the effervescence of a zest of life which began at her birth. Nobody ever got to the end, or expected to get to the end, of her stories and scraps of old songs. Then, every day some new plan, keeping the whole house awake and alive: when Tom's birthday came, a surprise-feast of raspberries and cake; when Jem's new trousers were produced, they had been made up over-night, a dead secret, ten shining dimes in the pocket, fresh from the mint; even the penny string of blue beads for Catty, bought of Sims the peddler, was hid under her plate, and made quite a jollification of that supper. You may be sure, the five years just gone in that house had been short and merry and cozy enough for the children. Before that—Here Jem's memory flagged: he had been a baby then; Catty just born; yet, somehow, he never thought of that unknown time without the furtive, keen glance into his mother's face, and a frightened choking in the heart under his puny chest. Somewhere, back yonder, or in the years coming, some vague horror waited for him to fight. To-night, (always at Christmas, although then the glow and comfort of all days reached its heat,) this unaccountable dread was on the boy; why, he never knew. It might be that under the hurry and preparation of Martha Yarrow on that day some deeper meaning did lie, which his instinct had discerned: more probably, however, it was but the sickly vagary of a child grown old too fast.
They hurried along the path now to reach the house and shut the night outside, for every moment the cold and dark were growing heavier; the snow rasping under their feet, as its crust cracked; overhead, the sky-air frozen thin and gray, holding dead a low, watery half-moon; now and then a more earthy, thicker gust breaking sharply round the hill, taking their breath. It was only a step, however, and Tom was holding the house-door open, letting a ruddy light stream out, and with it a savory smell of supper. Tom halloed, and that blue-eyed pudge of a Catty pounded on the window with her fat little fist. How hot the fire glowed! Somehow all Christmas seemed waiting in there. It was time to hurry along. Even Ready came out, shaking his shaggy old sides impatiently in the snow, and began to dog them, snapping at Jem's heels. Like most old people, he liked his ease, and was apt to be out of sorts, if meals were kept waiting. Ready's whims always made Martha laugh as she did when she was a young girl: they knew each other then, long before Jem was born.
“Come on, old Truepenny,” she said, going in.
There was comfort. Nothing in that house, from the red woollen curtains to the bright poker, which did not have its part to play for Christmas. Nothing that did not say “Christmas,” from Catty's eyes to the very supper-table. Of course, I don't mean the Christmas dinner, when I say supper. Tom could have told you. Somewhere in his paunchy little body he kept a perpetual bill of fare, checked off or unchecked. He based and stayed his mind now on preparations in the pantry. Something solid there! A haunch of venison, mince-meat, winter succotash, a roasted peahen,—and that is the top and crown of Nature's efforts in the way of fowls. For suppers,—pish! However, Tom ate with the rest. Mother was hungry; so they were very leisurely, and joked and laughed to that extent that even Catty was uproarious when they were through. Then Jem fell to work at the great coals, and battered them into a rousing fire.
“I'll go and fasten the shutters,” said Tom.
Martha Yarrow's back was to the window. She turned sharply. The sickly white moon lighted up the snow-waste out there; some one might be out in those frozen fields,—some one who was coming home,—who had been gone for years,—years. Jem was watching her.
“Leave the windows alone, Tom,” he said. “It won't hurt the night to see my fire.”
He pulled his cricket close up to her, and took her hand to pet. It was cold, and her teeth chattered. However, they were all so snug and close together, and Christmas, that great warm-hearted day, was so near upon them, as full of love and hearty, warm enjoyment as the living God could send it, that its breath filled all their hearts; and presently Martha Yarrow's face was brighter than Catty's. They were noisy and busy enough. The programme for to-morrow was to make out; that put all heads to work to plan: the stockings to be opened, and dinner, and maybe a visit to the menagerie in the afternoon. That was Martha's surprise, and she was not disappointed in the applause it brought. It made the tears come to her eyes, an hour after, when she was going to bed, remembering it.
“It takes such a little thing to make them happy,” she said to herself,—“or me, either,” with a somewhat silly face.
She tried to thank God for giving them so much, but only sobbed. After the confusion about the show was over, and Catty had been wakened into a vague jungle of tigers and lions and Shetland ponies, and put to sleep again, they subsided enough to remember the winding-up of the day. Quiet that was to be; the children from Shag's Point were coming up, some half-dozen in all, for their share of Christmas. Poorer than the Yarrows, you understand? though but a little; in fact, there were not many steps farther down: peahens and cranberries were not for every day. Well, to-morrow evening Jem would tell them the story of the Stable and the Child, and how that the Child was with us yet, if we could only see. Jem was always his mother's spokesman, and put the meaning of Christmas into words: she never talked of such things. Yet they always watched her face, when they spoke of them,—watched it now, and looked, as she did, into the little room beyond the kitchen where they sat, their eyes growing still and brighter. There might have been a tinge of the savage or the Frenchman in Martha Yarrow's nature, she had so strong a propensity to make real, apparent to the senses, what few ideas she had, even her religion. A good skill to do it, too. The recess out of the kitchen was only a small closet, but, with the aid of a softly tinted curtain or two, and the nebulous light of a concealed lamp, she had contrived to give it an air of distance and reserve. Within were green wreaths hung over the whitewashed walls, and an altar-shaped little white table, covered with heaps of crimson leaves and bright berries, such as grow in the snow; only a few flowers, but enough to fill the air with fragrance; the children's Christmas gifts, and wax-lights burning before a picture, the child Jesus, looking down on them with a smile as glad as their own. A thoroughly real person to the boys, this Christ for childhood; for she built the little altar before this picture on all their holidays: something in the woman herself needing the story of the Stable and the Child. If she were doing a healthier work on the souls of that morbid Jem and glutton Tom than could a thousand after-sermons, she did not know it: never guessed, either, when they absorbed day by day hardly enough the force of her tough-muscled endurance and wholesome laugh, that she prepared the way of the Lord and made His paths straight. Yet what matter who knew?
But to go on with our story. There were times—once or twice to-night, for instance—when she ceased doing even her unconscious work. Assuredly, somewhere back in her life, something had gone amiss with this silly, helpful creature, and left a taint on her brain. The hearty, pretty smile would go suddenly from her face, something foreign looking out of it, instead, as if a pestilent thought had got into her soul; she would rise uneasily, going to the window, looking out, her forehead leaning on the glass, her body twitching weakly. One would think from her face she saw some work in the world which God had forgotten. What could it matter to her? Whatever hurt her, it was the one word which her garrulous lips never hinted. Once to-night she spoke more plainly than Jem had ever known her to do in all his life. It was after the children had gone to bed, which they did, shouting and singing, and playing circus-riders over the pillows, their mother leaning her elbows on the foot-board, laughing, in the mean time. Jem got up, after the others were asleep, and stole after her, in his little flannel drawers, back to the kitchen. By the window again, as he had feared, the woollen sock which she was knitting for Tom in her hand, the yarn all tangled and broken. Ready was by her knees, winking sleepily. The old dog was growing surly with his years, as we said: Jem remembered when he used to romp and tussle with him, but that was long ago: he lay in the chimney-corner always now, growling at Martha herself even, if her singing or laugh disturbed his nap. But when these strange moods came on her, Jem noticed that the yellow old beast seemed conscious of it sooner than any one beside, crept up to her, stood by her: that she clung to him, not to her children. He was licking her hand now, his red eye, drowsy though it was, watching her as if danger were nigh. A dog you would not slight. Inside of his hot-headedness and courage there was that reserved look in his eyes, which some men and brutes have, that says they have a life of their own to live separate from yours, and they know it. The boy crept up jealously, thrust his numb fingers into his mother's hand. She started, looking down.
“It grows into a clear winter's night, Jemmy,” trying to speak carelessly.
So they stood looking out together. The fire had burned down into a great bed of flameless coals, the kitchen glowed warm and red, throwing out even a patch of ruddy light on the snow-covered yard without. A cold, but comfortable home-look out there: the bit of garden, fences, cow-house, pump, heaped with the snow; old Dolly asleep in her stable: Jem wrapped himself in his mother's skirt with a sudden relish of warm snugness. What made her pull at Ready's neck with such nervous jerks? She saw nothing beyond? Jem stood on tiptoe, peering out. There was no hint of the hailstorm they had prophesied, in the night: the moon stood lower now in the sky, filling the air with a yellow, frosty brilliance. Yet something strangely cold, dead, unfamiliar, in the night yonder, chilled him. Neither sound nor motion there; hills, river, and fields, distinct, sharply cut in pallor, but ghost-like: it made him afraid. There seemed to be no end of them; the hills to the north ran low, and beyond them he could see more blue and cold and distance, going on—who could tell where? to the eternal ice and snow, it might be. She felt it, he knew. The boy was frightened, tried to pull her back to the fire, when something he saw outside made him stop suddenly. Shag's Hill, the nearest of the ledge to the house, is a low, narrow cone, with a sharp rim against the sky; the moon had sunk half behind it, lighting the surface of drifted snow which faced them. Across this there suddenly fell a long, uncertain shadow, which belonged neither to bush nor tree: it might be the flicker of a cloud; or a man, passing across the top of the hill, would make it. It was nothing; some of the coal-diggers from the Point going home; he pulled at her petticoat again.
“Come to the fire, dear,” he said, looking up.
Her whole face and neck were hot; she laughed and trembled as if some spasm were upon her.
“Do you see?” she cried, trying to force the window open. “Oh, Jemmy, it might be! it might!”
Jem was used to his mother's unaccountable whims of mood. Ready, however, startled him. The dog pricked up his ears, sniffed the air once or twice, then, after a grave pause of a minute, with a sharp howl, such as Jem had not heard him give for years, dashed through the kitchen into the wash-shed and out across the fields. Martha Yarrow turned away from the window, and leaned her head against the dresser-shelves: standing quite still, only that she clutched Jem's hand. The clock ticked noisily as a half-hour went by; the fire burned lower and dark. The dog came back at last, dragging his feet heavily, came up close to her, and crouched down with a half human moan. After a long time he got up, went out into the wash-kitchen in a spiritless way, and did not return again that night. She did not move. It seemed a long time to the child before she turned, her face wet with tears, and took him up in her arms, chafing his cold feet.
“It could not be! I knew that, Jemmy. I wasn't a fool. But I thought—Oh, Pet, I've waited such a long while!”
He patted her cheeks, soothing her,—the more effectually, perhaps, that he did not know what troubled her.
“Why, it's Christmas, mother,” he said.
“I know that. You see, I thought,” her eyes fastened on his in an appealing sort of way, “that, being Christmas, if there should be any lost body wandering out on the fields that God had forgotten—What then?” all the blood gone from her face. “Why, what then, Jem? No home, no one to say to him, 'Here's home, here's wife and children a-waiting to love you,—oh, sick with waiting to love you!' No one to say that, Jem. And him wandering out in the cold, going quick back to the mouth of hell, not knowing how God loved him.”
“If there is such a one,” Jem said, steadily, though his lip trembled, “God will let him know.”
“There is no such one,” sharply. “There is no one yonder but knows his home, and is nearer to his God than you or I, James Yarrow.”
The boy made no reply,—sat on her knees looking earnestly into the fire. He had more nearly guessed her secret than she knew,—near enough to know how to comfort her. After a while, when she was quiet, he turned, and put his thin arms about her neck, smiling.
“Take me into your bed, mother, I'm so cold! Let me into old Catty's place this once.”
She nodded, pleased, and, putting him to bed, soon followed him. When she held him snugly in her arms, the replenished fire making hot, flickering shadows from the next room, he whispered,—
“Next Christmas, mother! Only one year more!”
Again the quick shiver of her body; but this time her breath was gentle, a soft light in her eyes.
“Well, and then, my son?”
“Why, some one else then will call me son. How long he has been gone, dear! so long that I never saw him since I was a bit of a baby.”
“Five years. Yes. Well, dear?” anxiously.
Her eyes were shut, he stroked the lids softly, thinking how moist and red her lips were: never as beautiful a face as the little mother's; for so Jem, feeling quite grown up in his heart, called her there.
“Well, then, no more trouble, but somebody to take care of us all the time. Whenever I see a preacher, now, I think of father”—stopping abruptly, with that anxious, incisive look so sad to see on a child's face.
She did not reply at first; then,—
“He preached God's word as he knew it,” she said, dryly.
“And whenever I hear of a good, brave man, I think, 'That's like father!'”
Her eyes opened now.
“That's true, Jemmy! God knows that's true! So proud my boy will be of his father!”
She did not say anything more, but began playing with his hair, her month unsteady, and a bashful, dreamy smile in her eyes. She looked very young and girlish in the mellow light.
“He's not coarse like me, Jem,” she said at last. “Even more like a woman in some ways. He always came nearer to you children, for instance; I mind how you always used to creep away from me close to him at night. He hates noise, Stephen does,—and mean, scraping ways, such as we're used to, being poor. My boy'll mind that? We'll keep anything shabby out of his sight, when he comes back.”
“I'll mind,” said Jem, dryly. “But—Well, no matter. We're to try and be like him, Tom and I? I understand.”
She drew down her head suddenly into the pillow. Jem had been growing sleepy, but he started wide awake now, trying to see her face: the pretty pink color his questions had brought was gone from it.
“Did you speak, mother?”
“I said we are to be men like him, Tom and I, if we can?”
He knew he had touched her to the quick somehow: his heart beat thick with the old childish terror, as he waited for her answer.
“Yes, you are to try, my son.”
Martha Yarrow's frivolous chirruping voice was altered, with meaning in it he never had heard before, as if her answer came out of some depth where God had faced her soul, and forced it to speak truth. But when, after that, the boy, curious to know more, went on with his questions, she quieted him gravely, kissed him good-night, and turned over,—to sleep, he concluded, from her regular breathing. However, when Jem, after a while, began to snore, she got up and went to the kitchen-fire, kneeling down on the stone hearth: her head was on fire, and her body cold.
“So they shall be like him!” she whispered, with a fierce, baited look, as if by her wife's trust in him she defied the whole world. “I have kept my word. I've tried to make his sons what God made him in the beginning.”
That was true: she had kept her word. Five years ago, when the great scandal came on the church in ——, and their minister was tried for forgery, and sentenced to six years' imprisonment in the penitentiary, the first letter his wife wrote to him there had these words: “For the boys, my husband, they never shall know of this thing. They shall know you as God and I do, Stephen. I'll make them men like you, if I can: except in your religion; for I believe, before God, the Devil taught you that.”
When the man read that in his cell, a dry, quiet smile came over his face. He had not expected such a keen opinion from his shallow, easy-going wife: he did not think there was so much insight in her.
“It's a deep sounding you give, Martha, true or not,” folding up the letter. “And so the boys will never know?” going back to his solitary cobbling, for they were making a shoemaker of him.
If there were any remorse under his quiet, or impatience at fate, or gnawing homesickness, he did not show it. That was the last letter or message that came from his wife. The friends of other prisoners were admitted to visit them, but no one ever asked to see him; the five years went by; every day the same bar of sunlight struck across his bench, and glittered on the point of his awl, gray in winter, yellow in summer; but no day brought a word or a sign from the outer world but that. The man grew thin, mere skin and bone; but then he was scrofulous. He asked no questions, ceased at last to look up, when the jailer brought his meals, to see if he carried a letter. Sometimes, when he used to stand chafing his stubbly chin in the evening at the slit cut in the stones for his window, looking at the red brick chimney-pot he could see over the penitentiary-wall, it seemed like something of outer life, and he would mutter, “She said the boys would never know.” Once, too, a year or two after that, when the jailer came into “quiet Stevy's” cell, (for so he nicknamed him,) Yarrow came up, and took him by the coat-buttons, looking up and gabbling something about Martha and the little chaps in a maudlin sort of way,—then, with a silly laugh, lay down on his pallet.
“I never felt sorry for the little whiffet before,” said the fat jailer, when he came out. “He's so close; but it's a cursed shame in his people to give him the go-by that way,—there!”
But when he went back an hour or two after, he found he had gained no ground with Stevy; he was dry, silent as ever: he had come to himself, meanwhile, and shivered with disgust at the fear that any madness had made him commit himself to this mass of flesh.
“'Mortised with the sacred garlic,'“ he muttered, with the usual dry twinkle in his eyes.
Ben caught the last word.
“It's a good yarb, garlic,” he said, confusedly. “Uses it on hot coals mostly, under broilin' steaks. Well, good night.—He's a queer chap, though,” after he had gone out,—“beyond me.”
Five years being gone, Martha Yarrow, sitting by her fire to-night, could only repeat the words of her letter. She had taken out a daguerreotype of her husband, and was looking at it. He was a small man; young; dressed in a suit of rusty black, with a certain subdued, credulous, incomplete air about him, like a man forced at birth into some iron mould of circumstance, and whose own proper muscles and soul had never had a chance of air to grow. A homely, saddened, uncouthly shaped face,—one that would be sure to go snubbed and unread through the world, to find at last some woman who would know its latent meaning, and worship it with the heat of passion which this country-girl had given. Withal, a cheerful, quizzical smile on the lips. Poor Martha's eyes filled, the moment she looked at that; and so she went back to her first years of married life, full of keen, relishing enjoyment, all coming from him, quiet, silent as he was,—remembering how her maddest freaks were indulged with that same odd, dry laugh. She stood alone now.
“And in these years I have grown used to being alone,”—standing up, stretching her arms suddenly above her head, and letting them fall again.
It was a lie: she knew that the tired sinking within her of body and soul was harder to bear now than the day he went away, and she weaker to bear it. If she could but lean her head on his breast for one moment, and feel him pat her hair with the old “Tut! tut! why, what ails my girl?” it would give her more strength than all her prayers. She couldn't think of herself as anything but a girl, when she remembered her husband: these years were nothing.
Her mouth grew drier and hotter, as she sat there looking into the face, polishing the glass with her hand, kissing it. “I'm so tired, Stephen!” she would whisper now and then. Only those who know the unuttered mysterious bond in the soul of a true wife and husband can comprehend what Martha Yarrow bore, when it was torn apart, and by no fault of hers. “God meant him for me,” she sometimes said, savagely; “no man had a right to part us.” She looked at the picture, feeling that he was purer than any baby she had nursed at her breast, nearer God. “It was his religion was to blame. That was the ruin of us all. I believe he never knew who the good God was; how could he?” thinking of his father, who used to sit in the chimney-corner,—one of those acrid doctrine-professors who sour the water of life into gall and vinegar before they dole it out to their children. She was glad she had told him her mind before they parted,—to what his teaching had brought his son. “I cut deep that day, and I thank God for it,” she said, her face white.
She had brought the children here to be near the penitentiary, but she had never been allowed to see him. No letters came from him. His brother, John Yarrow, sent hers to him. There was some formula of admission, he said, which she did not understand. The time was nearly up; in one year more he would be free. Well, and then? He had been in one of the ways that butted down on hell; how would he come back to her? In all these years, silence. Who would bring him back? Who? They were keen enough to put him in,—but who would stay with him, to say, “You've slipped, boy, but stand up again”? Who would hold out a kind hand at the gate, when he came out, with “Here's a place, Yarrow. Here's home, and love, and God waiting; try another chance”? Who would do that? No wonder she looked out that night, thinking there was some work forgotten.
Martha sat there until dawn came, moving only to replenish the fire lest the children should take cold. In all her life she never forgot that night. Some furious instinct seemed at work within her, goading her to be up and doing. What should she do? Why should she disquiet herself? Her husband was safe asleep in his cell. Yet all night long she could not keep her soul back from crying to God to save him in his deadly peril, to bring him there at once to her, to the children. When morning broke, cold and sweet-breathed, russet clouds, dyed with the latent crimson day, thronging up from behind the hills, she tried to thrust down all the pains of the night as moody fancies. They did not go. She bathed herself, woke the children, laughed and romped with them (for their year's holiday should not be damped); but the cold, unsufferable weight within dragged her physically down. Trifles without, too, beset her with vague fears. Ready was gone; for years he had not left the house at night. The children began to look with uneasy eyes at her face: she would betray all. She kept her fingers thrust in the breast of her wrapper to touch the case of the picture: she could hold herself quiet so. How cold and unmeaning the light was that day to her! and every tick of the clock seemed to beat straight on her brain. So the morning crept by. She grew so sure—without reason—that it was the last day of waiting, that, when the children went out to build their snow-man, she sat down on Jem's chest, shivering and dizzy; when the snow cracked under a step outside, afraid to turn her head,—thinking he would be standing in the door, with the old patient smile on his mouth, and his hand out. But he did not come.
* * * * *
About half a mile on the other side of Shag's Hill there is a hotel, off from the road, looking like an overgrown Swiss chalet. Not a country-tavern by any means. Starr, a New-York caterer, keeps it, as a sort of boarding-house for a few wealthy Pittsburg families in summer: however, if you should stop there at any time of the year, you would be sure of a delicate croquette and a fair glass of wine. Usually, Starr and his family are the only occupants in winter, but on this Christmas eve there were lights in two of the upper rooms. M. Soule, the Mobile financier, so well known through the West, with his family, had occupied them for about a week; this evening, too, a Mr. Frazier from St. Louis was at the house: there was a collision of trains near Beaver, and he had left the other passengers and come over to Starr's, intending to go on horseback up to Pittsburg in the morning. An old acquaintance of the Soules, apparently: he had dined with them that evening, and when Starr went up about ten o'clock to know if Mr. Soule wished to go out gunning in the morning, he found the old man still standing with his back to the fire, talking sharply of the Little Miami Railroad shares, then beginning to go up. “A thorough old Shylock,” thought Starr, waiting, scanning the acrid, wizened face with its protruding black eyes, the dried-up figure in a baggy suit of blue, a white collar turned down nearly to the shoulders, and the gray hair knotted in a queue. He looked at the landlord, scowling at the interruption: M. Soule, on the contrary, spoke heartily, as if suddenly relieved of a bore.
“Of course, of course, Starr; I'll be off by four. I'll saddle my own horse,—no need to disturb any of your people; let them sleep on Christmas at least, poor devils. The partridges about here are really worth tasting,” turning to Frazier, “and Starr tells me of a mythical deer back in the hills. You see,” with a bow, “it will not be possible for me to breakfast with you. I'll see you at Pittsburg about those snares,—say, on Monday.”
“Yes,” buttoning his coat, with a furtive glance of contempt at Soule's burly figure and eager face. Was this the far-famed Nimrod of the money-hunt? “I'll say to Pryor you had other game on hand to-day.”
“Other game,—yes,” with a sudden gravity,—pushing his hair back, and looking in the fire, while the old man made his formal adieus to his wife. They lasted some time, for Madame Soule was a courtly little body, with all her quiet.
“I must make an early start, too,” said Frazier, turning again. “Glad of the chance to take a bracing ride. Banks closed to-morrow, so no time's lost, eh? Well, good night, Soule,” perceiving that the other did not see his outstretched hand; “don't come down; good night”; and so shuffled down the stairs.
“Pah!” said Soule, with a breath of relief. “His blood's like water. He never owed a dollar, and never gave one away.”
The usual genial laugh came back to his face, as he turned to Madame Soule and began to romp with the baby lying in her lap. He was a tall man, about six feet high, with a handsome face, red hair, a frank blue eye, and a natural, genuine laugh. Whatever else history may record of him, a man of generous blood and sensitive instincts. His subdued dress, quiet voice, suited him, were indigenous to his nature, not assumed: even Starr could see that. Starr used afterwards, when they became the country's gossip, to talk of little traits in these people, showing the purity of their refinement. To this day he believes in them. How unostentatious their kindness was: the delicate, scentless air that hung about them: the fresh flowers always near. “Eating with iron forks, an' not a word,—my silver being packed; their under-clothes like gossamer, outside plainer than mine. Bah! I know the real stuff, when I see it, I hope. No sham there!”
When the baby was tired of its romp, Madame Soule hushed it to sleep. She was the quietest nurse ever lived,—the quietest woman,—one whom you scarce noted when with her, and forgot as soon as you left the room. Nature had made her up with its most faint, few lines, and palest coloring. Soule, however, had found out the delicate beauty, and all else that lay beneath. There was a passionate fierceness sometimes in his look at her, and a something else stranger,—such an expression as a dog gives his master. She never talked but to him.
“I thought you would have breakfasted with him, perhaps,” she said, now.
“No. I'm too much of an Arab, Judith. I can't eat a man's salt and empty his pocket at the same time.”
“I'm glad you did not,” smiling as the baby caught at his father's seals, then glancing at the watch when Soule held it out for him. “Nearly eleven. It is time your brother was here. See, John, how pink its feet are, and dimpled,”—putting one to her mouth with a burst of childish laughter.
Soule played with a solitary white calla that stood near in a crystal vase, gulped down a glass of wine hastily, held the delicate glass up to see how like a golden bubble it was, then threw it down.
“Are you sure we are right in this, child?”
She stopped playing with the baby, but did not look up.
“About your brother?”
“I thought”—with the doubtful look of one who is about to essay his strength against flint. “It has been a hard life,—Stephen's,—and through us. What if we let him go?” anxiously. “What would be better? He has children,”—taking the baby's hand in his.
“Yes, children,—clods, like his wife,”—the pink lip curling. “You should know your brother, John Yarrow. You do know the stuff that is in him. Will his brain ever muddle down to find comfort in that inn-keeper's daughter? Is it likely? Besides, they are dead to him now. You have succeeded in keeping them apart.”
If she saw the dark flush in his face at this, she did not notice it, but went on hastily.
“Stephen never had a chance, and you know it, John. He was too weak to break the trammels at home, as you did,—let himself be forced to preach what his soul knew was a lie. When you tried to open the door for him to a broader life”—
“I shut him in a penitentiary-cell,” with a bitter laugh. “They taught him to make shoes.”
“Was it your fault? Now that he is free, then,” going on steadily, still patting the child's cheek, “you mean to shake him off,—having used him. Push him back into the old slough. He can make a decent living there, cobbling, I know. Be generous, John,” with a keen glance of the pale brown eyes. “If you succeed in this thing to-morrow, take him with us out of the United States. There is trouble coming here. Give him a chance for education,—to know something of the world he lives in,—to catch one or two free breaths before he dies. He has been the man in the iron cage, since his birth, it seems to me.”
She got up as she spoke, rang the bell, and gave the baby to its nurse, wrapping it up in a blanket or two. When she turned, her husband was standing on the hearth-rug, a half-laugh in his eyes.
“What is it?”
“The plain meaning of all this is, that there is no one who can do this foul job to-morrow but Stephen Yarrow, and for my sake it must be done; ergo—Well, well! You do love me, child!”
Her eyes filled with sudden tears; she caught hold of his arm, and clung to it.
“I do love you, God knows! What is Stephen Yarrow to me, soul or body? Don't be harsh with me, John!”
“Harsh? No, Judith,” stroking the colorless curls gently; looking back; thinking that she had done much for him; he would humor her whim, not behave like a beast to her. But his brother—It would be better for Stephen in the end. Certainly. Yet he sighed: a womanish, unable sigh.
A year or two afterwards, (for I am not writing of a fictitious character,) this man's frauds were discovered. They were larger and more uniformly successful than any that had ever been perpetrated in the States, but there was about them a subtle, dogged daring that did not belong to Yarrow's character, and shrewd people who had known them began to talk of this shadow of a woman who went about with him,—a quadroon, they said,—and hinted strongly that it was she who had been the vital power of the partnership, and Yarrow but the well-chosen tool. There are no means of knowing the truth of the conjecture, for Yarrow escaped: she followed him, but is dead, so their secret is safe. Fraud, however, was but one half of his story. Soule gave like a prince,—secretly, with a woman-like, anxious helpfulness, a passionate eagerness, as if the pain or want of a human being were insufferable to him. In this he was alone: the woman had no share in it. She was as cold, impervious to the suffering of others as nothing but a snake or a selfish woman can be: whatever muddy human feeling did ooze from her brain was for this man only. And yet, when we think of it, she was, as they guessed, a quadroon: maybe, under the low, waxy-skinned forehead that Yarrow's fingers were patting that night there might have been a revengeful consciousness of the wrongs of her race that justified to her the harm she did. It is likely: the coarsest negroes argue in that way. God help them! At any rate, we shall come closest to Christ's rule of justice in trying to find a sore heart behind the vicious fingers of the woman.
While the two stood in the pleasant light of the warm room waiting for him, Stephen Yarrow came towards the house across the fields. It was his shadow that his wife and Jem saw crossing Shag's Hill. He was a free man now,—by virtue of his nickname, “quiet Stevy,” in part. It startled him as much as the jailer, when his release was sent in a year before the time, “in consideration of his uniform good conduct.” The truth was, that M. Soule took an interest in the poor wretch, and had said a few words in his favor to the Governor at a dinner-party the other evening, so the release was signed the next day. Soule had called to see the man when he came to Pittsburg, and spent an hour or two in his cell. The next morning he was free to go, but he had stayed a week longer, making a pair of red morocco shoes for the jailer's little girl,—idling over them: when they were done, tying them on, himself, with a wonderful bow-knot, and looking anxiously in her clean Dutch face to see if she were pleased.
“Kiss the gentleman, Meg,” growled Ben. “Where's yer manners?”
Stephen drew back sharply. The innocent baby! who lived out-of-doors! Ben must have forgotten who he was: a thief, belonging to this cell. They were going to let him out; but what difference did that make? His thin face grew wet with perspiration, as he walked away. Why, his very fingers had felt too impure to him, as he tied on her shoes. He went away an hour after, only nodding goodbye to Ben, looking down with an odd grin at the clothes he had asked the jailer to buy for him. Ben had chosen a greenish coat and trousers and yellow waistcoat. He did not shake hands with him. Ben had been mixing hog-food, and the marks were on his fingers. This was yesterday: he was going now to meet his brother, as he requested. Well, what else was there for him to do?
He did not look up often, as he plodded over the fields: when he did, it hurt him somehow, this terrible wastefulness, this boundless unused air, and stretch of room. It even pained hiss weakened eyes: so long the oblong slip of clay running from the cell to the wall had been his share, and the yellow patch of sky and brick chimney-top beyond. For so many thousands, too, no more. But they were thieves, foul, like him. Pure men this was for. Stephen looked like an old man now, in spite of Ben's party-colored rigging: stooped and lean, his step slouched: his head almost bald under the old fur cap. Something in the sharpened face, too, looked as if more than eyesight had been palsied in these years of utter solitude: the brain was dulled with sluggishly gnawing over and over the few animal ideas they leave for prisoners' souls,—or, as probably, thoroughly imbruted by them. Soule thought the latter.
When the convict had finished his dull walk, he sat down on the wooden staircase that led to his brother's rooms for half an hour, slowly rubbing his legs, conscious of nothing but some flesh-pain, apparently,—and when he did enter the chamber, bowed as indifferently to Soule and his wife as though they had parted carelessly yesterday. His brother glanced at the woman: one look would certainly be enough for her. Poor Stephen's power? If it ever had been, its essence was long since exhaled: there was nothing in his whole nature now but the stalest dregs, surely? Perhaps she thought differently: she looked at the man keenly, and then gave a quick, warning glance to her husband, as she sat down to her sewing. Soule did not heed it as he usually did: he was choked and sick to see what a wreck his brother really was. God help us! to think of the time when Stephen and he were boys together, and this was the end of it!
“Come to the fire, old fellow!” he said, huskily. “You're blue with cold. We used to have snows like this at home, eh?”
The man passed the lady with the quaint, shy bow that used to be habitual with him towards women, (he still used it to the jailer's wife,) and held his hands over the blaze. His brother followed him: his wife had never seen him so nervous or excited: he stood close to the convict, smoothing his coat on the shoulder, taking off his cap.
“Why, why! this cloth's too thin, even for summer; I—Oh, Stephen, these are hard times,—hard! But I mean to do something for you, God knows. Sit down, sit down, you're tired, boy,” turning off, going to the window, his hands behind him,—coming back again. “We're going to help you, Judith and I.”
Soule did not see the look which the convict shot at the woman, when he spoke these words; but she did,—and knew, that, however her husband might contrive to deceive himself, he never would his brother. If Stephen Yarrow's soul went down to any deeper depth to-night, it would be conscious in its going. What manner of man was he? What was his wife, or long-ago home, or his old God, now, to him? It mattered to them: for, if he were not a tool, they were ruined. She stitched quietly at her soft floss and flannel. Soule was sincere; let him explain what his wish was, himself; it would be wiser for her to be silent; this man, she remembered, had eyes that never understood a lie.
Yarrow did not sit down; his brother stood close, leaning his unsteady hand upon his arm.
“I knew you would not fail me, Stephen. To-morrow will be a turning-point in both our lives. Circumstances have conspired to help me in my plan.”
He began to stammer. The other looked at him quietly, inquiringly.
“You remember what I told you on Tuesday?” more hastily. “I have dealt heavily in stocks lately; it needs one blow more, and our future is secure for life. Yours and mine, I mean,—yours and mine, Stephen. This paper old Frazier carries,—he Is going to New York with it. If I can keep it out of the market for a week, my speculation is assured,—I can realize half a million, at least. Frazier is an old man, weak: he crosses the Narrows to-morrow morning on horseback.”
He stopped abruptly, playing with a shell on the mantel-shelf.
“I understand,” in a dry voice; “you want him robbed; and my hands came at the right nick of time.”
“Pish! you use coarse words. A man's brain must be distempered to call that robbery; the paper, as I said, is neither money nor its equivalent.”
There was a silence of some moments.
“I must have it,” his eye growing fierce. “You could take it and leave the man unhurt. I could have done it myself, but he's an old man, I want him left unhurt. If I had done it—Well,” chewing his lips, “it would not have been convenient for him to have gone on with that story. He knows me. Is the affair quite plain now?”
Yarrow nodded slowly, looking in the fire.
“If I were not strong enough to-morrow, what then?”
“I will be with you,—near. I must have the paper. He is an old Shylock, after all,” with a desperate carelessness. “His soul would not weigh heavily against me, if it were let out.”
Yarrow passed his hand over his face; it was colorless. Yet he looked bewildered. The bare thought of murder was not clear to him yet.
“Drink some wine, Stephen,” said his brother, pouring out a goblet for himself. “I carry my own drinking-apparatus. This Sherry”—
Yarrow tasted it, and put down the glass.
“I was cheated in it, eh?”
“Yes, you were.”
“Your palate was always keener than mine. I”—
His mouth looked blue and cold under his whiskers: then they both stood vacantly silent, while the woman sewed.
“Tut! we will look at the matter practically, as business-men,” said Soule at last, affecting a gruff, hearty tone, and walking about,—but was silent there.
The convict did not answer. No sound but the rough wind without blowing the drifted snow and pebbles from the asphalt roof against the frosted panes, and the angry fire of bitumen within breaking into clefts of blue and scarlet flame, thrusting its jets of fierce light out from its cage: impatient, it may be, of this convict, this sickly, shrivelled bit of humanity standing there; wondering the nauseated life in his nostrils or soul claimed yet its share of God's breath. Society had taken the man like a root torn out of native unctuous soil, kept it in a damp cellar, hid out the breath and light. If after a while it withered away, whose fault was it? If there were no hand now to plant it again, do you look for it to grow rotten, or not? One would have said Soule was a root that had been planted in fat, loamy ground, to look at him. There was a healthy, liberal, lazy life for you! Yet the winter sky looked gray and dumb when he passed the window, and the fire-light broke fiercest against his bluff figure going to and fro. No matter; something there that would have warmed your heart to him: something genial, careless, big-natured, from the loose red hair to the indolent, portly stride. “Who knows? A comfortable, true-hearted, merry clergyman,—a jolly farmer, with open house, and a bit of good racing-stock in the stable,—if bigotry in his boyhood, and this woman, had not crossed him. They had crossed him: there was not an atom of unpolluted nature left: you saw the taint in every syllable he spoke. Fresh and malignant to-night, when this tempted soul hung in the balance.
“We're letting the matter slip too long. Something must be decided upon. Stephen!” nervously, “wake up! You have forgotten our subject, I think.”
“No,” the bald head raised out of the coat-collar in which it had sunk. “Go on.”
Soule looked at him perplexed a moment. Was he dulled, or had he learned in those years to shut in looks and thoughts closer prisoners than himself?
“It is a mere question of time,” he said, a little composed. “Frazier is an agent: shall this money accrue to me or to his employers? I have risked all on it. I must have it at any cost.”
“At any cost?”
“At any,” boldly. “Is it any easier for me to talk of that chance than you, Stephen?”
“No, John. Your hands are clean,” with an exhausted look. “I know that. You had a kind Irish heart. What money you made with one hand you flung away with the other.”
Soule blushed like a woman.
“No matter,” beating some dust off his boot. “But for Frazier,—I've talked that over with Judith, and—I don't value human life as you do: it may Lave been my residence in the South. It matters little how a man dies, so he lives right. This Frazier, if he dies to defend his package, would do a nobler deed than in any of his dime-scraping days. For me, my part is not robbery. The paper is neither specie nor a draft.”
His tongue swung fluently now, for it had convinced himself.
“There is but a night left to decide. What will you do, Stephen?”
He put his hand on the green coat with its gaudy buttons, and leaned against his brother as they used to go arms over shoulders to school. Soule's big throat was full of tears; he had never felt so full of sorrowful pity as in this the foulest purpose of his life. Unselfish it seemed to him. O God! what a hard life Stephen's had been! This would cure him: two or three sea-voyages, a winter in Florence, would freshen him a little, maybe,—but not much.
“Eh? What will you do, old fellow?” striking his shoulder. “This is the last night.”
“I know that. I have been waiting for it all my life.”
He put his red handkerchief up to his mouth to conceal the face, as if its meaning were growing too plain. Soule looked at him fixedly a moment, then, taking him by the button, began tapping off his sentences on his breast.
“I'll state the case. I'll be plain. Stephen, you want food; you want clothes; you”—
“Is that all I want?” facing him.
The woman started, as she saw his face fully, and his look, for the first time. A quiet blue eye, unutterably kind and sad: a slow, compelling face, that would look on his life barely, day after day, year after year, never drowsing over its sore or pain until he had wrung its full meaning out to the last dregs.
“All you want? Clothing? food?” stammered Soule,—something in the face having stopped his garrulous breath. “I did not say that, Stephen.”
The wind struck sharper on the rattling panes; the yellow and brown heats grew deeper. One saw how it was then. No beggar turned from God so empty-handed as this man to-day. His place in the world slipped: his chance gone: sick, sinking; his brain mad for knowledge: his hands stretched out for work: no man to give it to him: whatever God he had lost to him: the thief's smell, he thought, on every breath he drew, every rag of clothes he wore. Hundreds of convicts leave our prison-doors with souls as hungry and near death as this.
“I have lost something—since I went in there,” he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. “I do not think it will ever come back.”
Soule put his big hand to his face mechanically.
“Don't say that, boy! I know—The world has gone on, it has left you behind—You”—
He choked,—could not go on: he would have put half the strength and life in himself into Yarrow's lank little body that moment, if he could. There was a something else lost, different from all these, of which they both thought, but they did not speak of it. The convict looked out into the night. Beyond the square patch of window and that near dark, how full the world was of happy homes getting ready for Christmas! children and happy wives! Soule understood.
“I don't say I can bring you back what you have lost, Stephen. I offer you the best I can. You're not an old man,—barely thirty: you must have years to acquire fresh bone and muscle. Set your brain to work, meanwhile. Give it a chance.”
“It never had one,” said the convict, with a queer, faint smile.
“Hillo! that looks like old times!” brightening up. “No, it never had. Do you think I forget our alley-house with its three rooms? the carpentering by day, and the arithmetic by night? the sweltering, sultry Sunday mornings in church, and the afternoons sniffling over the catechism among the rain-butts in the back-yard? Do you remember the preachers, the travelling agents, that put up with us? how they snarled at other churches, and helped themselves out of the shop, as if to be a man of God implied a mean beggar? I don't say my father was a hypocrite when he made you a colporteur, and so one of them; but”—
He paused. Even in this frothy-brained fellow, his religion or his doubt lay deeper than all. His face grew dark.
“I tell you, if there is one thing I loathe, it is the God and His day that were taught to me when I was a child: joyless, hard, cruel. Fire—humph!—and brimstone for all but a few hundred. I remember. Well, I don't know yet if there is any better,” with a vague look. “A man shifts for himself in the next chance as well as now, I suppose. Did you believe what you preached, Stephen?” with an abrupt change. “God! how you used to writhe under it at first!”
“They forced me into it,” said Yarrow. “I was only a boy. You remember that I was only a boy,—just out of the shop. The more uneducated a man was in our church-pulpit then, the better. I knew nothing, John,” appealingly. “When I preached about foreordination and hell-fire, it was in coarse slang: I knew that. I used to think there might be a different God and books and another life farther out in the world, if I could only get at it. I never was strong, and they had forced me into it; and when you came to me to help you with your plan, I wanted to get out, and”—
“You did help me,”—chafing the limp fingers. “That was my first start, that Pesson note. I owe that to you, Stephen.”
“I have paid for it,” looking him steadily in the eye, some unexpected manliness rising up, making his tone bitter and marrowy. “I paid for it. But no matter for that. But now you come again. I have had time to think over these things in yonder, John.”
Soule dropped his hand, drew back, and was silent a moment.
“Let it be so. But did you think what you would do, if you refused your aid to me? Have you found work? or a God to preach?”
Something in these last words took Yarrow's sudden strength away. He did not answer for a moment.
“Work?” feebly. “No,—I haven't heard of any work. As for a God”—
“Well, then, what are your purposes?” coldly.
“I don't know. I never was worth much,” he gasped out at last, stooping, and pulling at his shoestrings.
“And now”—said Soule.
“There's no need for you to say that!” with a sharp cry. “I don't forget that I have slipped,—that it's too late,—I don't forget.”
His hands jerked at his coat-fronts in a wild, dazed way.
The woman rose, and let in the air.
“I thank you. I'm not sick.”
Soule turned away. He could not meet the look on the pinched convict-face,—the soul of the man crying out for God or his brother, something to help. There was a silence for a few moments.
“You will come with me, Stephen,” quietly: then, after a pause, “It is for life. There is but little time left to decide.”
Was there no help? Had the true God no messenger? The winter-wind blowing through the window filled with fine frost wet his face, lifted the smothering off his lungs. His eyes grew clear, as his full sense returned after a while: seeing only at first, it so happened, the fire in its square frame; and thinking only of that, as the mind always drowsily absorbs the nearest trifle after a spasm of pain. A bed of pale red coals now, furred over with white and pearl-colored ashes. It was a long time since he had seen any open fire,—years, he believed. Where was it that there had been a fire just like that, with the ashes like moss over the heat,—and on a night in winter, too, the wind rattling the panes? Where was it? While Soule stood waiting for his answer, his mind was drifting back, like that of a man in his dotage, through its dull, muddy thoughts, after that one silly memory. He struck on it at last. A year or two after he was married. In the bedroom. Martha was sitting by the fire, with the old yellow dog beside her: she was trying to ride the baby on his neck,—he was the clumsiest brute! He came in and stopped to see the fun; he noticed the fire then, how cozy and warm it all was: outside it was hailing, a gust shaking the house. He had been doing a bit of carpentering,—he did like to go back to the old trade! This was a wicker chair for the baby,—he had made it in the stable for a surprise: the girl always liked surprises and such nonsense. He put it down with a flourish, and he remembered how she laughed, and Ready growled, and how he and she both got on their knees to seat the youngster in, and tie him with his bandanna handkerchief. So silly that all was! When they were on the floor there, and had Master Jem fastened in, be remembered how she suddenly turned, and put her arms about his neck, as shyly as when they were first married, and kissed him. “Only God knows how good you are to me, Stephen,” she said. There were tears in her eyes.—Yarrow passed his hand over his forehead. Did ever a thought come into your mind like a fresh, clean air into a stove-heated, foul room? or like the first hearty, living call of Greatheart through the dungeons of Giant Despair?
“You do not answer me, Stephen?” said his brother. “You will go with me?”
Yarrow's head was more erect, his eyes less glazed.
“It may be. The chance for me's over in the world, I think. I may as well serve you. And yet”—
“Give me time to think. I want out-of-doors. It's close here. I'll meet you in the morning.”
Soule caught his wife's uneasy glance.
“What is this, Stephen?”
“Nothing,” looking dully out into the night.
“There's some you said were dead,”—as if no one were speaking, with the same dull look. “Or lost: I think they're not dead. If there might be a chance yet! If I could but see Martha and the little chaps, it would save me, John Yarrow, no matter what they'd learned to think of me. They're mine,—my little chaps. She said the boys should never know. She said that of her own free will.”
“Is it likely she could keep her word?” said Soule, sneeringly.
“Why, why, she loved me, John,”—a moist color and smile coming out on his face. “There's a little thing I minded just now that—Yes, Martha kept her word.”
He tapped with his fingers thoughtfully on the mantel-shelf, the smile lingering yet on his face. The woman's woollen sewing fell from her hand, and she spoke for the first time. Her tone had a harsh, metallic twang in it: Yarrow turned curiously, as he heard it.
“What could they be to you, if you found them? They have forgotten you. In five years they have not sent you a message.”
“No,—I know, Madam.”
Even that did not hurt him. His face kindled slowly,—still turned to the fire, as if it were telling him some old story: looking to her at last, steadfast and manly, like a man who has healthy common-sense dominant in his head, and an unselfish love at work in his heart. Such a one is not far from the kingdom of heaven.
“It seems to me as if there might be a chance—yet. It's a long time. But Martha loved me, Madam. You don't know—I think I'll go, John. It's close here, 's I said. I'll meet you at the far bridge by dawn, and let you know.”
“It is your only chance,” said Soule, roughly, as he followed him to the door.
He was a ruined man, if he were balked in this.
“You do not know how the world meets a returned felon, Stephen; you”—
“Let me go,” feebly, putting his hand up to his chin in the old fashion.
“I think I know that. I—I've thought of that a good deal. But it seemed to me as if there might be a chance”; and so, without a word of farewell, went stumbling down the stairs.
He had given a wistful look at the fire, as he turned away. Perhaps that would comfort him. God surely has “many voices in the world, and none of them is without its signification.”
An hour before dawn, Yarrow found the place in which he had appointed to meet his brother. The night had been dark, hailing at intervals; he had gone tramping up and down the hills and stubble-fields, through snow and half-frozen mud-gullies, hardly conscious of what he did. The night seemed long to him now, looking back. He found a burnt sycamore-stump and got up on it, shivered awhile, felt his shirt, which was wet to the skin, then took off his shoes and cleared the lumps of slush out of them. There was something horrible to him in this unbroken silence and dark and wet cold: he had been in his hot cell so long, the frost stung him differently from other men, the icy thaw was wetter. It was a narrow cut in the hills where he was, a bridle-road leading back and running zigzag for some miles until it returned to the railroad-track. A lonely, unfrequented place: Frazier would take this by-path; Soule had chosen it well to meet him. There was a rickety bridge crossing a hill-stream a few rods beyond. Yarrow pushed the dripping cap off his forehead, and looked around. No light nor life on any side: even in the heavens yawned that breathless, uncolored silence that precedes a winter's dawn. He could see the Ohio through the gully: why, it used to be a broad, full-breasted river, glancing all over with light, loaded with steamers and rafts going down to the Mississippi. He had gone down once, rafting, with lumber, and a jolly three weeks' float they had of it. Now it was a solid, shapeless mass of blocks of ice and mud. Winter? yes, but the world was altered somehow, the very river seemed struck with death. His teeth chattered; he began to try to rub some warmth into his rheumatic legs and arms; tried to bring back the fancy of last night about Martha and the fire. But that was a long way off: there were all these years' mastering memories to fade it out, you know, and besides, a diseased habit of desponding. The world was wide to him, cowering out from a cell: where were Martha and the little chaps lost in it? John said they were dead. Where should he turn now? There was an aguish pain in his spine that blinded him: since yesterday he had eaten nothing,—he had no money to buy a meal; he was a felon,—who would give him work? “There's some things certain in the world,” he muttered.
“That was silly last night,—silly. And yet,—if there could have been a chance!”
He looked up steadily into the sickly, discolored sky: nothing there but the fog from these swamps. He had not wished so much that he could hear of Martha and the children, when he looked up, as of something else that he needed more. Even the foulest and most careless soul that God ever made has some moments when it grows homesick, conscious of the awful vacuum below its life, the Eternal Arm not being there. Yarrow was neither foul nor careless. All his life, most in those years in the prison, he had been hungry for Something to rest on, to own him. Sometimes, when his evil behavior had seemed vilest to him, he had felt himself trembling on the verge of a great forgiveness. But he could see so little of the sky in the cell there,—only that three-cornered patch: he had a fancy, that, if once he were out in the world that He made,—in the free air,—that, if there were a God, he would find Him out. He had not found Him.
He sat on the stump awhile, his hands over his eyes, then got down slowly, buttoning his soggy waistcoat and coat.
“I don't see as there's a chance,” he said, dully. “I was a fool to think there was any better God than the one that”—digging his toe into the frozen pools. “It's all ruled. I'm not one of the elect.”
That was all. After that, he stood waiting for his brother.
“I'll help him. He's the best I know.”
Even the faint sigh choked before it rose to his lips,—both manhood and hope were so dead with inanition; yet a life's failure went in it.
While he stood waiting, Martha Yarrow sat by her kitchen-fire crying to God to help him; but He knew what things were needed before she asked Him.
Soule, with his gun and game-bag, had been coursing over the hills three miles back, since four o'clock. He had bagged a squirrel or two, enough to suffice for his morning's work, and now, his piece unloaded, came stealthily towards the place of rendezvous. He had little hope that Stephen would help him: he had made up his mind to go through the affair alone. If he did it, that involved—Pah! what was in a word? Men died every day. He had quite resolved: Judith and he had talked the matter over all night. But if Frazier were a younger man, and could fight for it! Perhaps he was armed: Soule's face flashed: he stooped and broke the trigger of his gun, and then went on with a much less heavy step. They would be more even now. He wanted to reach the bridge by dawn, and meet his brother. If he refused to help him, he would send him away, and wait for Frazier alone. About nine o'clock he might expect him.
Frazier, however, had changed his plan. He told Starr the night before, that, as M. Soule would not breakfast with him, he had concluded to rise early, and be off by dawn. “If there's nothing to be done about the Miami shares, there is no use wasting time here,” he thought. So, while Stephen Yarrow waited near the bridge, the smoke was curling out of the kitchen-chimney where the cook was making ready the cashier's beefsteak, and the old man was crawling out of bed. He could hear Starr's children in the room overhead making an uproar over their stockings. “Christmas morning, by the way! I must take some knick-knack back to Totty.” (As if his trunk were not always filled with things for Totty, and his shirts crammed into the lid, when he came home!) “Something for mother, too,” as he pulled on his socks. “Gloves, now, hey? A dozen pair. I wish I had asked Madame Soule what size she wore, last night. Their hands are about the same size. Mother always had a tidy little paw. So will Totty, eh?” And so finished dressing, thinking Soule had a neat little wife, but insipid.
So Christmas morning came to all of them, the day when, a long time ago, One who had made a good happy world came back to find and save that which was lost in it. In these few hundred years had He forgotten the way of finding?
Stephen Yarrow had fallen into an uneasy doze by the road-side. He had done with thinking, when he said, “I'll go with John.” The way through life seemed to open clear, exactly the same as it had been before. There was an end of it. There might have been a chance, but there was none. He drowsed off into a brutish slumber. Something like a kiss woke him. It was only the morning air. A clear, sweet-breathed dawn, as we said, that seemed somehow to have caught a scent of far-off harvest-farms, in lands where it was not winter. Warm brown clouds yonder with a glow like wine in them, the splendor of the coming day hinting of itself through.
“I must have slept,” said Yarrow, taking off his cap to shake it dry.
There were a thousand shining points on the dingy fur. He rubbed his heavy eyes and looked about him. The misty rime of the night had frozen on hills and woods and river,—frosted the whole earth in one glittering, delicate sheath. The first level bar of sunlight put into the nostrils of the dead world of the night before the breath of life. Once in a lifetime, maybe, the sight meets a man's eyes which Yarrow saw that morning. The very clear blue of the air thrilled with electric vigor; from the rounded rose-colored summits of the western hills to the tiniest ire-cased grass-spear at his feet, the land flashed back unnumbered soft and splendid dyes to heaven; the hemlock-forests near had grouped themselves into glittering temples, mosques, churches, whatever form in which men have tried to please God by worshipping Him; the smoke from the distant village floated up in a constant silver and violet vapor like an incense-breath. Neither was it a dead morning. The far-off tinkle of cowbells reached him now and then, the cheery crow from one farm-yard to another, even children's voices calling, and at last a slow, sweet chime of churchbells.
“They told me it was Christmas morning,” he said, pulling off the old cap again.
Yarrow's chin had sunk on his breast, as his eager eyes drank all this morning in. He breathed short and quick, like a child before whom some incredible pleasure flashes open.
“Well,” with a long breath, putting on his cap, “I didn't think of aught like this, yonder. God help us!”
He didn't know why he smiled or rubbed his hands cheerfully. His sleep had refreshed him, maybe. But it seemed as if the great beauty and tenderness of the world were for him, this morning,—as if some great Power stretched out its arms to him, and spoke through it.
“I'll not be silly again,” straightening himself, and buttoning his coat; but before the words were spoken, his head had sunk again, and he stood quiet.
Something in all this brought Martha and the little chaps before him, he did not know why, but his heart ached with a sharper pain than ever, that made his eyes wet with tears.
“If there should be a chance!”—lifting his hands to the deep of blue in the east.
This was the free air in which he used to think he could find God.
“What if it were true that He was there,—loving, not hating, taking care of Martha, and”—
He stopped, catching the word.
“No. I've slipped. I don't forget.”
He did forget. He did not remember that he was a thief, standing there. Whatever substance had been in him at his birth trustworthy rose up now to meet the voice of God that called to him aloud. His lank jaws grew red, his eyes a deeper blue, a look in them which his mother may have seen the like of years and years ago; he beat with his knuckles on his breast nervously.
“If there could be a chance!” he said, unceasingly; “if I might try again!”
There was a crackling in the snow-laden bushes upon the hill: he looked back, and saw his brother coming from the other side, his game-bag over his shoulder, stooping to avoid notice, his eyes fixed intently on some object on the road beyond. It was an old man on horseback, jogging slowly up the path, whistling as he came. Yarrow shuddered with a sudden horror.
“He means murder! That is Frazier. You could not do it to-day, John! To-day!” as if Soule could hear him.
He was between his brother and his victim. The old man came slower, the hill being steep, looking at the frosted trees, and seeing neither Yarrow nor the burly figure crouching, tiger-like, among the bushes. One moment, and he would have passed the bend of the hill,—Soule could reach him.
“God help me!” whispered Yarrow, and threw himself forward, pushing the horse back on his haunches. “Go back! Ten steps farther, and it's too late! Back, I say!”
The old man gasped.
“Why! what! a slip? an' water-gully?”
“No matter,” leading the horse, trembling from head to foot.
Up on the hill there was a sharp break, a heavy footstep on a dead root. Would John go back or come on? he was strong enough to master both. Yarrow's throat choked, but he led the horse steadily down the path, deaf to Frazier's questions.
“Do not draw rein until you reach the station,” giving him the bridle at last.
The old man looked back: he had seen the figure dimly.
“If there's danger, I'll not leave you to meet it alone, my friend,” fumbling in his breast for a weapon.
Yarrow stamped impatiently.
“Put spurs to your horse!”—wiping his mouth; “it will be yet too late!”
Frazier gave a glance at his face, and obeyed him. A moment more, and he was out of sight. Yarrow watched him, and then slowly turned, and raised his head. Soule had come down, and was standing close beside him, leaning on his gun. It was the last time the brothers ever faced each other, and their natures, as God made them, came out bare in that look: Yarrow's, under all, was the tougher-fibred of the two. John's eyes fell.
“Stephen, this will hurt me. I”—
“I thought it was well done,”—his hand going uncertainly to his mouth.
“Well, well! you have chosen,”—after a pause.
“Good bye, boy.”
They held each other's hands for a minute; then Soule turned off, and strode down the hill. He loosened his cravat as he went, and took a long breath of relief.
“It was a vile job! But”—his face much troubled. But his wife heard the story without a word, nor ever alluded to it afterwards. She was human, like the rest of us.
A moment after he was gone, a curious change took place in the convict, a reaction,—the excitement being gone. The pain and exposure and hunger had room to tell now on body and soul. He stretched himself out on a drift of snow, drunken with sleep, yet every nerve quivering and conscious, trying to catch another echo of Soule's step. He was his brother, he was all he had; it was terrible to be thus alone in the world: going back to the time when they worked in the shop together. He raised his head even, and called him,—“Jack!”—once or twice, as he used to then. It was too late. Such a generous, bull-headed fellow he was then, taking his own way, and being led at last. He was gone now, and forever. He was all he had.
The day was out broadly now,—a thorough winter's day, cold and clear, the frosty air sending a glow through your blood. It sent none into Yarrow's thinned veins: he was too far gone with all these many years. The place, as I said, was a lonely one, niched between hills, yet near enough main roads for him to hear sounds from them: people calling to each other, about Christmas often; carriages rolling by; great Conestoga wagons, with their dozens of tinkling bells, and the driver singing; dogs and children chasing each other through the snow. The big world was awake and busy and glad, but it passed him by.
“For this man that might have been it has as much use as for a bit of cold victuals thrown into the street. And the worst is,” with a bitter smile, “I know it, to my heart's core.”
The morning passed by, as he lay there, growing colder, his brain duller.
“I did not think this coat was so thin,” he would mutter, as he tried to pull it over him.
If he got up, where should he go? What use, eh? It was warmer in the snow than walking about. Conscious at last only of a metallic taste in his mouth, a weakness creeping closer to his heart every moment, and a dull wonder if there could yet be a chance. It seemed very far away now. And Martha and the little chaps—Oh, well!
Some hours may have passed as he lay there, and sleep came; for I fancy it was a dream that brought the final sharp thought into his brain. He dragged himself up on one elbow, the old queer smile on his lips.
“I will try,” he said.
It took him some time to make his way out into the main road, but he did it at last, straightening his wet hair under the old cap.
“It's so like a dog to die that way! I'll try, just once, how the world looks when I face it.”
He sat down outside of a blacksmith's forge, the only building in sight, on the pump-trough, and looked wearily about. His head fell now and then on his breast from weakness.
“It won't be a very long trial. I'll not beg for food, and I'm not equal to much work just now,”—with the same grim half-smile.
No one was in sight but the blacksmith and some crony, looking over a newspaper. Inside. They nodded, when they saw him, and said,—
“Hillo!” said Yarrow.
Then they went on with their paper. That was the only sound for a long time. Some farmers passed after a while, giving him good-morning, in country-fashion. A trifle, but it was warm, heartsome: he had put the world on trial, you know, and he was not very far from death. Men more soured than Yarrow have been surprised to find it was God's world, with God's own heart, warm and kindly, speaking through every human heart in it, if they touched them right. About noon, the blacksmith's children brought him his dinner in a tin bucket, leaving it inside. When they came out, one freckled baby-girl came up to Yarrow.
“Tie my shoe,” she said, putting up one foot, peremptorily. “Are you hungry?” looking at him curiously, after he had done it, at the same time holding up a warm seed-cake she was eating to his mouth. He was ashamed that the spicy smile tempted him to take it. He put it away, and seated her on his foot.
“Let me ride you plough-boy fashion,” he said, trotting her gently for a minute.
Her father passed them.
“You must pardon me,” said Yarrow, with a bow. “I used to ride my boy so, and”—
“Eh? Yes. Sudy's a good girl. You've lost your little boy, now?” looking in Yarrow's face.
“Yes, I've lost him.”
The blacksmith stood silent a moment, then went in. Soon after a tall man rode up on a gray horse; it had cast a shoe, and while the smith went to work within, the rider sat down by Yarrow on the trough, and began to talk of the weather, politics, etc., in a quiet, pleasant way, making a joke now and then. He had a thin face, with a scraggy fringe of yellow hair and whisker about it, and a gray, penetrating eye. The shoe was on presently, and mounting, with a touch of his hat to Yarrow, he rode off. The convict hesitated a moment, then called to him.
“I have a word to say to you,” coming up, and putting his hand on the horse's mane.
The man glanced at him, then jumped down.
“Well, my friend?”
“You're a clergyman?”
“So was I once. If you had known, just now, that I was a felon two days ago released from the penitentiary, what would you have said to me? Guilty, when I went in, remember. A thief.”
The man was silent, looking in Yarrow's face. Then he put his hand on his arm.
“Shall I tell you?”
“I would have said, that, if ever you preach God's truth again, you will have learned a deeper lesson than I.”
If he meant to startle the man's soul into life, he had done it. He a teacher, who hardly knew if that good God lived!
“Let me go,” he cried, breaking loose from the other's hand.
“No. I can help you. For God's sake tell me who you are.”
But Yarrow left him, and went down the road, hiding, when he tried to pursue him,—sitting close behind a pile of lumber. He was there when found: so tired that the last hour and the last years began to seem like dreams. Something cold roused him, nozzling at his throat. An old yellow dog, its eyes burning.
“Why, Ready,” he said, faintly, “have you come?”
“Come home,” said the dog's eyes, speaking out what the whole day had tried to say: “they're waiting for you; they've been waiting always; home's there, and love's there, and the good God's there, and it's Christmas day. Come home!”
Yarrow struggled up, and put his arms about the dog's neck: kissed him with all the hunger for love smothered in these many years.
“He don't know I'm a thief,” he thought.
Ready bit angrily at coat and trousers.
“Be a man, and come home.”
Yarrow understood. He caught his breath, as he went along, holding by the fence now and then.
“It's the chance!” he said. “And Martha! It's Martha and the little chaps!”
But he was not sure. He was yet so near to the place where it would have been forever too late. If Ready saw that with his wary eye, turned now and then, as he trotted before,—if he had any terror in his dumb soul, (or whatever you choose to call it,) or any mad joy, or desire to go clean daft with rollicking in the snow at what he had done, he put it off to another season, and kept a stern face on his captive. But Yarrow watched it; it was the first home-face of them all.
“Be a man,” it said. “Let the thief go. Home's before you, and love, and years of hard work for the God you did not know.”
So they went on together. They came at last to the house,—home. He grew blind then, and stopped at the gate; but the dog went slower, and waited for him to follow, pushed the door open softly, and, when he went in, laid down in his old place, and put his paws over his face.
When Martha Yarrow heard the step at last, she got up. But seeing how it was with him, she only put her arms quietly about his neck, and said,—
“I've waited so long, my husband!”
That was all.
He lay in his old bed that evening; he made her open the door, feeling strong enough to look at them now, Jem and Tom and Catty, in the warm, well-lighted room, with all its little Christmas gayeties. They had known many happy holidays, but none like this: coming in on tiptoe to look at the white, sad face on the pillow, and to say, under their breath, “It's father.” They had waited so long for him. When he heard them, the closed eyes always opened anxiously, and looked at them: kind eyes, full of a more tender, wishful love than even mother's. They came in only now and then, but Martha he would not let go from him, held her hand all day. Ready had made his way up on the bed and lay over his feet.
“That's right, old Truepenny!” he said.
They laughed at that: he had not forgotten the old name. When Martha looked at the old yellow dog, she felt her eyes fill with tears.
“God did not want a messenger,” she thought: as if He ever did!
That evening, while he lay with her head on his breast, as she sat by the bed, he watched the boys a long time.
“Martha,” he said, at last, “you said that they should never know. Did you keep your word?”
“I kept it, Stephen.”
He was quiet a long while after that, and then he said,—
“Some day I will tell them. It's all clearer to me now. If ever I find the good God, I'll teach Him to my boys out of my own life. They'll not love me less.”
He did not talk much that day; even to her he could not say that which was in his heart; but it seemed to him there was One who heard and understood,—looking out, after all was quiet that night, into the far depth of the silent sky, and going over his whole wretched life down to that bitterest word of all, as if he had found a hearer more patient, more tender than either wife or child.
“Is there any use to try?” he cried. “I was a thief.”
Then, in the silence, came to him the memory of the old question,—
“Hath no man condemned thee?”
He put his hands over his face:—
“No man, Lord!”
And the answer came for all time:—
“Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more.”
* * * * *
Beneath the trees,
My life-long friends in this dear spot,
Sad now for eyes that see them not,
I hear the autumnal breeze
Wake the sear leaves to sigh for gladness gone,
Whispering hoarse presage of oblivion,—
Hear, restless as the seas,
Time's grim feet rustling through the withered grace
Of many a spreading realm and strong-stemmed race,
Even as my own through these.
Why make we moan
For loss that doth enrich us yet
With upward yearnings of regret?
Bleaker than unmossed stone
Our lives were but for this immortal gain
Of unstilled longing and inspiring pain!
As thrills of long-hushed tone
Live in the viol, so our souls grow fine
With keen vibrations from the touch divine
Of noble natures gone.
'T were indiscreet
To vex the shy and sacred grief
With harsh obtrusions of relief;
Yet, Verse, with noiseless feet,
Go whisper, “This death hath far choicer ends
Than slowly to impearl in hearts of friends;
These obsequies 'tis meet
Not to seclude in closets of the heart,
But, church-like, with wide door-ways, to impart
Even to the heedless street.”
Brave, good, and true,
I see him stand before me now,
And read again on that clear brow,
Where victory's signal flew,
How sweet were life! Yet, by the mouth firm-set,
And look made up for Duty's utmost debt,
I could divine he knew
That death within the sulphurous hostile lines,
In the mere wreck of nobly pitched designs,
Plucks heart's-ease, and not rue.
Happy their end
Who vanish down life's evening stream
Placid as swans that drift in dream
Round the next river-bend!
Happy long life, with honor at the close,
Friends' painless tears, the softened thought of foes!
And yet, like him, to spend
All at a gush, keeping our first faith sure
From mid-life's doubt and eld's contentment poor,
What more could Fortune send?
Right in the van,
On the red rampart's slippery swell,
With heart that beat a charge, he fell
Forward, as fits a man:
But the high soul burns on to light men's feet
Where death for noble ends makes dying sweet;
His life her crescent's span
Orbs full with share in their undarkening days
Who ever climbed the battailous steeps of praise
Since valor's praise began.
His life's expense
Hath won for him coeval youth
With the immaculate prime of Truth;
While we, who make pretence
At living on, and wake and eat and sleep,
And life's stale trick by repetition keep,
Our fickle permanence
(A poor leaf-shadow on a brook, whose play
Of busy idlesse ceases with our day)
Is the mere cheat of sense.
We bide our chance,
Unhappy, and make terms with Fate
A little more to let us wait:
He leads for aye the advance,
Hope's forlorn-hopes that plant the desperate good
For nobler Earths and days of manlier mood;
Our wall of circumstance
Cleared at a bound, he flashes o'er the fight,
A saintly shape of fame, to cheer the right
And steel each wavering glance.
I write of one,
While with dim eyes I think of three:
Who weeps not others fair and brave as he?
Ah, when the fight is won,
Dear Land, whom triflers now make bold to scorn,
(Thee! from whose forehead Earth awaits her morn!)
How nobler shall the sun
Flame in thy sky, how braver breathe thy air,
That thou bred'st children who for thee could dare
And die as thine have done!
* * * * *
The trouble about biographies is that by the time they are written the person is dead. You have heard of him remotely. You know that he sang a world's songs, founded great empires, won brilliant victories, did heroes' work; but you do not know the little tender touches of his life, the things that bring him into near kinship with humanity, and set him by the household hearth without unclasping the diadem from his brow, until he is dead, and it is too late forevermore. Then with vague restlessness you visit the brook in which his trout-line drooped, you pluck a leaf from the elm that shaded his regal head, you walk in the graveyard that holds in its bosom his silent dust, only to feel with unavailing regret that no sunshine of his presence can gleam upon you. The life that stirred in his voice, shone in his eye, and fortressed itself in his unconscious bearing, can make to you no revelation. It is departed, none knows whither. He is as much a part of the past as if he had tended docks for Abraham on the plains of Mamre.
This, when biographies are at their best. Generally, they are at their worst. Generally, they don't know the things you wish to learn, and when they do, they don't tell them. They give you statistics, facts, reflections, eulogies, dissertations; but what you hunger and thirst after is the man's inner life. Of what use is it to know what a man does, unless you know what made him do it? This you can seldom learn from memoirs. Look at the numerous brood that followed in the wake of Shelley's fame. Every one gives you, not Shelley, but himself, served up in Shelley sauce. Think of your own experience: do you not know that the vital facts of your life are hermetically sealed? Do you not know that you are a world within a world, whose history and geography may be summed up in that phrase which used to make the interior of Africa the most delightful spot in the whole atlas,—“Unexplored Region”? One person may have started an expedition here, and another there. Here one may have struck a river-course, and there one may have looked down into a valley-depth, and all may have brought away their golden grain; but the one has not followed the river to its source, nor the other wandered bewilderingly through the valley-lands, and none have traversed the Field of the Cloth of Gold. So the geographies are all alike: boundaries, capital, chief towns, rivers, mountains, and lakes. And what is true of you is doubtless true of all. Faith is not to be put in biographies. They can tell what your name is, and what was your grandfather's coat of arms, when you were born, where you lived, and how you died,—though, if they are no more accurate after you are dead than they are before, their statements will hardly come under the head of “reliable intelligence.” But even if they are accurate, what then? Suppose you were born in Pikesville: a thousand people drew their first breath there, and not one of them was like you in character or fate. You were born in some year of our Lord. Thousands upon thousands date from the same year, and each went his own way,—
“One to long darkness and the frozen tide,
One to the peaceful sea!”
All this is nothing and accounts for nothing, yet this is all. Whether you were susceptible of calmness or deeply turbulent,—whether you were amiable, or only amiably disposed,—whether you were inwardly blest and only superficially unrestful, safely moored even while tossing on an unquiet sea,—what you thought, what you hoped, how you felt, yes, and how you lived and loved and hated, they do not know and cannot tell. A biographer may be ever so conscientious, but he stands on the outside of the circle of his subject, and his view will lack symmetry. There is but one who, from his position in the centre, is competent to give a fair and full picture, and that is your own self. A few may possess imagination, and so partially atone for the disadvantages of position; but, ten hundred thousand to one, they will not have a chance at your life. You must die knowing that you are at the mercy of whoever can hold a pen.
Unless you take time by the forelock and write your biography yourself! Then you will be sure to do no harm, inasmuch as no one is obliged to read your narrative; and you may do much good, because, if any one does read it and become interested in you, he will have the pleasant consciousness of living in the same world with you. When he drives through your street, he can put his head out of the carriage-window and stand a chance of seeing you just coming in at the front gate. Also, if you write your biography yourself, you can have your choice as to what shall go in and what shall stay out. You can make a discreet selection of your letters, giving the go-by to that especial one in which you rather—is there such a word as spooneyly?—offered yourself to your wife. Every word was as good as the Bank of England to her, for to her you were a lover, a knight, a great brown-bearded angel, and all metaphors, however violent, fell upon good ground. But to the people who read your life you will be a trader, a lawyer, a shoemaker, who pays his butcher's bills and looks after the main chance, and the metaphors, emptied of their fire, but retaining their form, will seem incongruous, not to say ridiculous. I do not say that your wife's lover and knight and angel are not a higher and a better, yes, and a truer you, than the world's trader and lawyer; still your love-letters will probably do better in the bosom of the love-lettered than on a bookseller's shelves. Besides these advantages, there is another in prae-humous publication. If you wait for your biography till you are dead, it is extremely probable you will lose it altogether. The world has so much to see to ahead that it can hardly spare a glance over its shoulder to take note of what is behind. Take the note yourself and make sure of it You will then know where you are, and be master of the situation.
I purpose, therefore, to write the history of my life, from my entrance upon it down to a period which is within the memory of men still living. In so doing, I shall not be careful to trace out that common ground which may be supposed to underlie all lives, but only indicate those features which serve to distinguish one from another. Everybody is christened, cuts his teeth, and eats bread and molasses. Silently will we, therefore, infer the bread and molasses, and swiftly stride in seven-league boots from mountain-peak to mountain-peak.
I was born of parents who, though not poor, were respectable, and I had also the additional distinction of being a precocious child. I differed from most precocious children, however, in not dying young, and that opportunity, once let slip, is now forever gone. I believe the precocious children who do not die young develop into idiots. My family have never been without well-grounded fears in that line.
Nothing of any importance happened to me after I was born till I grew up and wrote a book. Indeed, I believe I may say even that never happened, for I did not write a book. Rather a book came to pass,—somewhat like the goldsmithery of Aaron, who threw the ear-rings into the fire, and “there came out this calf”! I went out one day alone, as was my wont, in an open boat, and drifted beyond sight of land. I had heard that shipwrecked mariners sometimes throw out a bottle of papers to give posterity a clue to their fate. I threw out a bottle of papers, less out of regard to posterity than to myself. They floated into a printing-press, stiffened themselves, and came forth a book, whereon I sailed safely ashore, grateful. Alas, in another confusion will there be another resource?
It is this book which is to form the first, and quite possibly the last chapter of my life and sufferings, for I don't suppose anything will ever happen to me again. To be sure, in the book I have just been reading a girl marries her groom, leaves him, rejects two lovers, kills her husband, accepts one lover, loses him, marries the second, first husband comes to light again and is shot, marries second husband over again, and goes a-journeying with second husband and first lover, first cousin and two children, in the South of France, before she is twenty-two years old. But in my country girls think themselves extremely well off for adventures with one marriage and no murder. But then the girls in my country do not have the murderous black eyes which shine so in romances.
My book being fairly wound up and set a-going, of course you wish to know what came of it. Don't pretend you don't care, for you know you do. Only don't look at me too closely, or you will disconcert me. Veil now and then your intent eyes, or my story will surely droop under their steadfastness. Look sometimes into yonder sunset sky and the beautiful reticulations drawn darkly against its glowing sheets of color. You will none the less listen, and I shall all the more enjoy.
You have read much about the anxieties, the forebodings, the anticipatory tremors of new authors. So have I, but I never felt them,—not a single foreboding. I was delighted to write a book, and it never occurred to me that everybody would not be just as delighted to read it. The first time my book weighed on me was one morning when a thin, meagre little letter came to me, which turned out to be only a card bearing the laconic inscription,—
“Twelve copies 'New Sun' sent by express, with the compliments of the Publishers.”
The “New Sun” was my book. I put on my hat and walked straightway up to the hole in the rock, about a mile round the corner, where the expressman always leaves my parcels, and took up the package to bring home. It was very heavy. I balanced it first on one arm and then on the other, until, as the poet has it,—
“Both were nigh to breaking.”
Then I lifted it by the cords, but they cut my fingers. Then I remembered the natural law, that internal atmospheric pressure prevents any consciousness of the enormous external pressure exerted by an atmosphere forty-five miles thick, and applied the law, saying, “These books have all been upon the inside of my head, of course I shall not feel them on the outside.” So I put the package on my head, and walked on, making believe I was in a gymnasium, keeping a sharp watch fore and aft, and considering the distant rumbling of wheels a signal for lowering my colors. In my country people do not carry their burdens on their heads, nor would they be likely to account for me on the principles of Natural Philosophy. I might have been apprehended as a lunatic, but for my timely caution. Thus the “New Suns” came home and were speedily divested of their dun wrappings. I lingered over them, admiring their clear type, their fragrance, their crispness. I opened them wide, because they would open so frankly. I delighted myself with their fair, fine smoothness. And then I began to read. I am ashamed to say I never read a more interesting book!
How very true it is that suffering is about equally distributed, after all! If you don't have your troubles spread out, you have them in a lump. The furies may seem to be held in abeyance, but they will only lay on their lashes all the harder when they do come. My unnatural calmness was succeeded by a storm of consternation. I pass over the few days that followed. If you ever put yourself into a pillory in the night just to see how it seemed, and then found yourself fastened there in good earnest, and day dawning, and all the marketmen and shopkeepers up and stirring, and everybody coming by in a few minutes, you will not need to ask how I felt. When you write a book, you are quite alone and your pen is entirely private; but when it comes to you so unquestionably printed, and inexorable, and out-of-doors—Ah, me! It did not seem like a book at all,—not at all the abstraction and impersonality that were intended, but my proper self bevelled and (with another syllable inserted) walking out into the world with malice aforethought.
But though a writer is before critics, did it never occur to you that the critics are just as much before the writers? A critic's talk about a book is just as truly a revelation of the critic as the writer's talk in the book is a revelation of the writer. One man gives you an opinion that implies attention. He does not go into the depths of the matter, but he tells you honestly what he likes and what he does not like. This is good. This is precisely what you wish to know, and will indirectly help you. Another, from the steps of a throne, in a few sentences, it may be, or a few columns, classifies you, interprets you not only to the world, but to yourself; and for this you are immeasurably glad and grateful. It is neither praise nor censure that you value, but recognition. Let a writer but feel that a critic reaches into the arcana of his thought, and no assent is too hearty, nor any dissent too severe. Another glances up from his eager political strife, and with the sincerest kindness pens you a nice little sugar-plum, chiefly flour and water, but flavored with sugar. Thank you! Another flounders in a wash of words, holding in solution the faintest salt of sense. Heaven help him! Another dips his spear-point in poison and lets fly. Do you not see that these people are an open book? Do you not read here the tranquillity of a self-poised life, the Inner sight of clairvoyance, the bitterness of disappointed hopes and unsuccessful plans, the amiability that is not founded upon strength, the pettiness that puts pique above principle, the frankness that scorns affectation, the comprehensiveness that embraces all things in its vision, and commands not only acquiescence, but allegiance, the great-heartedness that by virtue of its own magnetism attracts all that is good and annihilates all that is bad?
When my poor little ewe-lamb went out into the world, I did not fear any shearing he might encounter in America. I don't mind my own countrymen. I like them, but I am not afraid of them. Two elements go to make up a book: matter and manner. The former, of course, is its author's own. He maintains it against all comers. Opposition does not terrify him, for it is a mere difference of opinion. One is just as likely to be right as another, and in a hundred years probably we shall all be found wrong together. But manner can be judged by a fixed standard. Bad English is bad English this very day, whatever you or I think about it; and bad English is a bad thing. When I know it, I avoid it, except under extreme temptation; but the trouble is, I don't know it. I am continually learning that words in certain relations are misplaced where I never suspected the smallest derangement, and, no doubt, there are many dislocations which I have not yet discovered. So far as my own people are concerned, I don't take this to heart,—because my countryman very likely perpetrates three barbarisms in correcting my one. He knows this thing that I did not, but then I know something else that he does not, and so keep the balance true. Moreover, my America, if I don't use good English, whose fault is it? You have had me from the beginning. The raw material was as good as the average; why did you not work it up better? I went to the best schools you gave me. I learned everything I was set to learn. You can nowhere find a teacher who will tell you that I ever evaded a lesson. I was greedy of gain. I spared neither time nor toil. I lost no opportunity, and here I am, just as good as you made me. So, if there is any one to blame, it is you, for not giving me better facilities. The Children's Aid Society warned New York a dozen years ago that a “dangerous class of untaught” pagans was growing up in her streets; but she did not think it worth while to arouse herself and educate them, and one morning she found them burning her house over her head. You too, my country, have been repeatedly warned of your dangerous class, a class whom, with malice aforethought, you leave half educated, and, from ignorance, idle,—and now comes Nemesis! New York had a mob, and you have—me.
The real ogre was those terrible Englishmen. I was brought up on the British Quarterlies. Their high and mighty ways entered into my soul. I never did have any courage or independence, to begin with; and when they condescended to tread our shores with such lordly airs, I should have been only too glad to burn incense for a propitiation. So impressive was their loftiness, their haughty patronage, that their supercilious sneers at our provincialism were heart-rending, I came to look at everything with an eye to English judgment. It was not so much whether a book or a custom were good as whether it would be likely to meet with English approval. To be the object of their displeasure was a calamity, and at even a growl from their dreadful throats I was ready to die of terror. And this slavish subservience lasted beyond the school-room.
But it so happened that by the time my book was set afloat, the Reviewers had lost their fangs. The war came, and they went over to the enemy, every one: “North British,” “London Quarterly,” “Edinburgh,” and even the liberal “Westminster,” had but one tone. “Blackwood” was seized with an evil spirit, and wallowed foaming. The English people may be all right at the heart. Their slow, but sure and sturdy sense may bring them at length within hailing distance of the truth. Noble men among them, Mill and Cairnes and Smith and their kind, made their voices heard in the midst of opposing din, even through the very pages which had rung with Southern cheers: but it is not the English people who make up the Quarterly Reviews. It was not the voice of Mill or Cairnes that answered first across the waters to the boom of Liberty's guns. When our blood was hot and our hearts high, and sneers were ten thousand times harder to bear than blows, we found sneers in plenty where we looked for God-speed. It may not have been the English heart, only the English head. But we could not get at the English heart, and the English head was continually thrust against ours. The fires may have burned warmly on many a hearth, but we could not see them. The only light that shot athwart the waters was from the high watch-towers, and it was lurid. This wrought a change. The English may take on airs in literature; for our little leisure leaves us short repose, and it would be strange indeed, if their civilization of centuries had not left its marks in a finer culture and a deeper thought. But when, leaving literature and coming down into the fastnesses of life, they gave us hatred for love, and scorn for reverence,—when they sneered at that which we held sacred, and reviled that which we counted honorable,—when, green-eyed and gloating, they saw through their glasses not only darkly, but disjointed and askance,—when devotion became to them fanaticism, and love of liberty was lust of power,—did virtue go out of them, or had it never been in? This, at least, was wrought: when one part of the temple of our reverence was undermined, the whole structure came down. They who showed themselves so morally weak cannot maintain even the intellectual or aesthetic superiority which they have assumed. Henceforth their blame or praise is not what it was hitherto. When a man rails at my country, it is little that he rails at me. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, they of his household would as soon be called little flies as anything else.
(As a matter of fact, I don't suppose my little venture has ever been heard of across the ocean. You think it is very presumptuous in me ever to have thought of it; but I did not think of it. I was only afraid of it. Suppose the British Quarterly has not vision microscopic enough to discern you; you like to know how you would feel in a certain contingency, even if it should never happen. Besides, so many strange things arise every day, that incongruity seems to have lost its force. Nothing surprises. Cause and effect are continually dissolving partnership. Merit and reward do not hunt in couples. If the Tycoon should send a deputation requesting me to come over at once and settle matters between himself and his Daimios, I should simply tell him that I had not the time, but I should not be surprised.)
But if we only did reverence England as once we reverenced her, this is what I would say:—“Upon my country do not visit my sins. Upon my country's fame let me fasten no blot. Wherever I am wrong, inelegant, inaccurate, provincial, visit all your reprobation upon me,—
'Me, me: adsum, qui feci; in me convertite ferrum,
O Angli! mea fraus omnis,'—
upon me as a writer, not upon me as an American. Do not regard me as the exponent of American culture, or as anywhere near the high-water mark of American letters. I am not one of the select few, but of the promiscuous many. Born and bred in a farm-yard, and pattering about among the hens and geese and calves and lambs when other children were learning to talk like gentlemen and scholars, what can you expect of me? It is a wonder that I am as tolerable as I am. It is a sign of the greatness of my country, that I, who, if I lived in England, should be scattering my h-s in wild confusion, and asking whether Americans were black or copper-colored, am able in this land of free schools and equal rights to straighten out my verbs and keep my nouns intact. If you will see the highest, look on the heights. If you look at me, look at me where I am: not among those whose infancy was cradled in leisure and luxury, whose life from the beginning has been carefully attuned to the finest issues, who for purity of language and dignity of mental bearing may throw down the gauntlet to the proudest nation in the world,—but among those children of the soil who take its color, who share its qualities, who give out its fragrance, who love it and lay their hearts to it and grow with it, rocky and rugged, yet cherish, it may be hoped, its little dimples of verdure here and there,—who show not what, with closest cultivation, it might become, but what, under the broad skies and the free winds and the common dews and showers, it is. Our conservatories can boast hues as gorgeous, forms as stately, texture as fine as yours; but don't look for camellias in a cornfield.”
Does this seem a little inconsistent with what I was saying just now to my homemade critics? Very likely. But truth is many-sided, and one side you may present at home and the other abroad, according to the exigencies of the case. You may lecture your country in one breath, and defend her in the next, without being inconsistent.
Oh, England, England! what shall recompense us for our Lost Leader? Great and Mighty One, from whose brow no hand but thine own could ever have plucked the crown! Beautiful land, sacred with the ashes of our sires, radiant with the victories of the past, brilliant with hopes for the future,—
“O Love, I have loved you! O my soul,
I have lost you!”
Ah, if these two fatal years might be blotted out! If we could stand once again where we stood on that October day when the young Prince, whose gentle blood commanded our attention, and whose gentle ways won our hearts, bore back to his mother-land and ours the benedictions of a people! Upon that pale, that white-faced shore I shall one day look, but woe is me for the bitter memories that will spring up for the love and loyalty so ruthlessly rent away!
So I borrow your ears, my countrymen, and tell you why it is impossible to defer to you as much as one would like. Partly, it is because you talk so wide of the mark. It may not be practicable or desirable to say much; but so much the more ought what you do say to be to the point. A good carpenter needs not to vindicate his skill by hammering away hour after hour on the same shingle; but while he does strike, he hits the nail on the head. Moreover, you show by your remarks that you have such—such—well, stupid is what I mean, but I am afraid it would not be polite to employ that word, so I merely give you the meaning, and leave you to choose a word to your liking—ideas about the nature, the facts, and the objects of writing. Look at it a moment. With your gray goose-quill you sit, O Rhadamanthus, and to your waiting audience pleasantly enough affirm that I have “taken Benlomond for my model.” But when I happen to remember that the larger part of my book was written and printed not only before I had ever met Benlomond, but before he had ever been heard of in this country at least, what faith can I have in your sagacity? And when, remembering those remarkable coincidences which sometimes surprise and baffle us, which in science make Adams and Le Verrier discover the same planet at the same time without knowing anything of each other's calculations, and which in any department seem to indicate that a great tide sweeps over humanity, bearing us on its bosom whithersoever it will, so that
“God's puppets, best and worst,
Are we; there is no last nor first,”—
I institute an examination of Benlomond to discover those generic or specific peculiarities which are supposed to have made their mark on me, why, I find for resemblance, that the situations, look you, is both alike. There is a river in Macedon; there is also, moreover, a river in Monmouth: 'tis as like as my fingers to my fingers, and there is salmons in both!
Have I taken Benlomond for my model? But why not Josephus and Ricardo and Francois and Michel, any and all who have poured their fancies and feelings into this mould? Why select the last disciple and ignore the first apostle? Many prophets have been in Israel whom I resemble as much, to say the least, as this Benlomond. Is it not, my friend, that, in the multitude of your words and ways, you have not found time to renew your acquaintance with these ancient worthies, and so their features have somewhat faded from your memory? but Benlomond came in but yesterday, and because he is a newspaper-topic, him you know; and because at the first blush you running can read that there is a river in Monmouth and also a river in Macedon, and salmons in both,—'tis as like as my fingers to my fingers, and Monmouth was built on the model of Macedon! Ah, my eagle-eyes, Judea, too, had its Jordan, and Damascus its Abana and Pharpar, and little Massachusetts its Merrimac, which,
Goes singing down his meadows.”
But Judea did not type Damascus. The Merrimac bears not the sign of Abana, nor was Abana born of Jordan: all, obedient to the word of the Lord, trickled forth from their springs among the hills, and wander down, one through his vine-land, one through his olive-groves, and one to meet the roaring of the mill-wheel's rage.
I lay no claim to originality. Uttering feebly, but only
“The thoughts that arise in me,”
I know full well that the soil has been tilled and the seed scattered of all that is worthy in the world. Where giants have wrestled, it is not for pigmies to boast their prowess. Where the gods have trodden, let mortals walk unsandalled. The lowliest of their learners, I sit at the feet of the masters. To me, as to all the world, the great and the good of the olden times have left their legacy, and the monarchs of to-day have scattered blessing. Upon me, as upon all, have their grateful showers descended. My brow have they crowned with their goodness, and on my life have their paths dropped fatness. Dreaming under their vines and fig-trees, I have gathered in my lap and garnered in my heart their mellow fruits.
“With them I take delight in weal
And seek relief in woe,
And while I understand and feel
How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedewed
With tears of heartfelt gratitude.”
But, though with gladness and joy I render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, he shall not have that which does not belong to him. Neither Benlomond, nor any living man, nor any one man, living or dead, has any claim to my fealty, be it worth much or little. If I cannot go in to the banquet on Olympus by the bidding of the master of the feast, I will forswear ambrosia altogether, and to the end of my days feed on millet with the peasants in the Vale of Tempe.
Then you sail on another tack, smile and shake your head and say, “It is all very well, but it has not the element of immortality. Observe the difference between this writer and Charles Lamb. One is ginger-pop beer that foams and froths and is gone, while the other is the sound Madeira that will be better fifty years hence than now.”
Well, what of it? Do you mean to say, that, because a man has no argosies sailing in from, the isles of Eden, freighted with the juices of the tropics, he shall not brew hops in his own cellar? Because you will have none but the vintages of dead centuries, shall not the people delight their hearts with new wine? Because you are an epicure, shall there be no more cakes and ale? Go to! It is a happy fate to be a poet's Falernian, old and mellow, sealed in amphorae, to be crowned with linden-garlands and the late rose. But for all earth's acres there are few Sabine farms, whither poet, sage, and statesman come to lose in the murmur of Bandusian founts the din of faction and of strife; and even there it is not always Caecuban or Calenian, neither Formian nor Falernian, but the vile Sabinum in common cups and wreathed with simple myrtle, that bubbles up its welcome. So, since there must be lighter draughts, or many a poor man go thirsty, we who are but the ginger-pop of life may well rejoice, remembering that ginger-pop is nourishing and tonic,—that thousands of weary wayfarers who could never know the taste of the costly brands, and who go sadly and wearily, will be fleeter of foot and gladder of soul because of its humble and evanescent foam.
Ginger-pop beer is it that you scoff? Verily, you do an unconsidered deed. When one remembers all the liquids, medicinal, soporific, insipid, poisonous, which flood the throat of humanity, one may deem himself a favorite of Fortune to be placed so high in the catalogue. Though upon his lowliness gleam down the rosy and purple lights of rare old wines aloft, yet from his altitude he can look below upon a profane crowd in thick array of depth immeasurable, and rejoice that he is not stagnant water nor exasperated vinegar nor disappointed buttermilk. Nay, I am not only content, but exultant. It may be an ignoble satisfaction, yet I believe I would rather flash and fade in one moment of happy daylight than be corked and cob-webbed for fifty years in the dungeons of an unsunned cellar, with a remote possibility, indeed, of coming up from my incarceration to moisten the lips of beauty or loosen the tongue of eloquence, but with a far surer prospect of but adding one more to the potations of the glutton and wine-bibber.
And what, after all, is this oblivion which you flaunt so threateningly? Even if I do encounter it, no misfortune will happen unto me but such as is common unto men. Of all the souls of this generation, the number that will sift through the meshes of the years is infinitesimately small. The overwhelming majority of names will turn out to be chaff, and be blown away. I shall be forgotten, but I shall be forgotten in very good company. The greater part of my kin-folk and acquaintance, your own self, my critic, and your family and friends, will go down in the same darkness which ingulfs me. When I am dead, I shall be no deader than the rest of you, and I shall have been a great deal more alive while I was alive.
I am not afraid to be forgotten. Posterity will have its own soothsayers, and somewhere among the stars, I trust, I shall be living a life so intense and complete that I shall never once think to lament that I am not mulling on a bookshelf down here. Besides, if you insist upon it, I am not going to be forgotten. You don't know anything more about it than I do. Knowledge is not always prescience. “This will never do,” ruled Jeffrey from his judgment-seat. “Order reigns in Warsaw,” pronounced Sebastiani. “I have now gone through the Bible,” chuckled Tom Paine, “as a man would go through a wood with an axe on his shoulder, and fell trees. Here they lie, and the priests, if they can, may replant them. They may, perhaps, stick them in the ground, but they will never make them grow.” But Wordsworth to-day is reverenced by the nation that could barb no arrow sharp enough to shoot at him. The evening sky that bends above Warsaw is red with the watch-fires of her old warfare bursting anew from their smouldering ashes. And the oaks that doughty Paine fancied himself to have levelled show not so much as a scratch upon their sturdy trunks. Nay, I do not forget that even Charles Lamb was fiercely belabored by his own generation. So, when upon me you pass sentence of speedy death, I assure you that I shall live a thousand years, and there is nobody in the world who can demonstrate that I am in the wrong. Even if after a while I disappear, it proves nothing; you cannot tell whether I am really submerged, or only lying in the trough of the sea to mount the crest of the coming wave. Till the thousandth year proves me moribund, I shall stoutly maintain that I am immortal.
Concerning Charles Lamb the less you say the better. It is easy to build up a reputation for sagacity by offering incense to the gods who are already shrined. Of course there is a difference between us. A pretty rout you would make, if there were not. But, for all your adoration of Charles Lamb, I dare say he would have liked me a great deal better than he would you. Would? Why should I intrench myself in hypothesis? Does he not? When I knock at the door of the Inner Temple, does he not fling it wide open, and does not his face welcome me? When the red fire glows on the hearth, have I not sat far into the night, Bridget sitting beside me with heaven's own light shining in her beautiful eyes, and above her dear head the white gleam of guardian angels hovering tenderly? And when Elia arches his brows, and lowers at me his storm-clouds, which I do not mind for the sunshine that will not be hidden behind them,—when in the sweet, play of June lights and shadows, and the golden haze of Indian-summer, I forget even the kingly words that go ringing through the land, waking the mountain-echo,—when I look out upon this gray afternoon, and see no leaden skies, no pinched and sullen fields, but green paths, gem-bestrewn from autumn's jewelled hand, and warm light glinting through the apple-trees under which he stood that soft October day, till
“Conscious seems the frozen sod
And beechen slope whereon he trod,”—
O Alexander, get out of my sunshine with your bugbear of a Charles Lamb! “I have heard you for some time with patience. I have been cool,—quite cool; but don't put me in a frenzy!”
Well, friend, when you have satisfied yourself with the limiting, you begin on the descriptive adjectives, and pronounce me egotistical. Certainly. I should be unlike all others of my race, if I were not. It is a wise and merciful arrangement of Providence, that every one is to himself the centre of the universe. What a fatal world would this be, if it were otherwise! When one thinks what a collection of insignificances we are, how dispensable the most useful of us is to everybody, how little there is in any of us to make any one care about us, and of how small importance it is to others what becomes of us,—when one thinks that even this round earth is so small, that, if it should fall into the arms of the sun, the sun would just open his mouth and swallow it whole, and nobody ever suspect it, (vide Tyndall on Heat,) one must see that this self-love, self-care, and self-interest play a most important part in the Divine Economy. If one did not keep himself afloat, he would surely go under. As it is, no matter how disagreeable a person is, he likes himself,—no matter how uninteresting, he is interested in himself. Everybody, you, my critic, as well, likes to talk about himself, if he can get other people to listen; and so long as I can get several thousand people to listen to me, I shall keep talking, you may be sure, and so would you,—and if you don't, it is only because you can't! You are just as egotistical as I am, only you won't own it frankly, as I do. True, I might escape censure by using such circumlocutions as “the writer,” “the author,” or still more cumbrously by dressing out some lay figure, calling it Frederic or Frederika, and then, like the Delphic priestesses, uttering my sentiments through its mouth, for the space of a folio novel; but at bottom it would be my own self all the while; and besides, in order to get at the thing I wanted to say, I should have to detain you on a thousand things that I did not care about, but which would be necessary as links, because, when you have made a man or a woman, you must do, something with him. You can't leave him standing, without any visible means of support. One person writes a novel of four hundred pages to convince you in a roundabout way, through thirty different characters, that a certain law, or the mode of administering it, is unjust. He does not mention himself, but makes his men and women speak his arguments. Another man writes a treatise of forty pages and gives you his views out of his own mouth. But he does not put himself into his treatise any more than the other into his novel. For my part, I think the use of “I" is the shortest and simplest way of launching one's opinions. Even a we bulges out into twice the space that I requires, besides seeming to try to evade responsibility. Better say “I” straight out,—“I,” responsible for my words here and elsewhere, as they used to say in Congress under the old regime. Besides being the most brave, “I” is also the most modest. It delivers your opinions to the world through a perfectly transparent medium. “I” has no relations. It has no consciousness. It is a pure abstraction. It detains you not a moment from the subject. “The writer” does. It brings up ideas entirely detached from the theme, and is therefore impertinent. All you are after is the thing that is thought. It is not of the smallest consequence who thought it. You may be certain that it is not always the people who use “I” the most freely who think most about themselves; and if you are offended, consider whether it may not be owing to a certain morbidness of your taste as much as to egotism in the offender.
Remember, also, that, when a writer talks of himself, he is not necessarily speaking of his own definite John Smith-ship, that does the marketing and pays the taxes and is a useful member of society. Not at all. It is himself as one unit of the great sum of mankind. He means himself, not as an isolated individual, but as a part of humanity. His narration is pertinent, because it relates to the human family. He brings forward a part of the common property. He does not touch that which pertains exclusively to himself. His self is self-created. His imaginative may have as large a share in the person as his descriptive powers. You don't understand me precisely? Sorry for you.
You think me arrogant. You would think so a great deal more, if you knew me better. At heart I believe I incline very much to the opinion of a charming friend of mine, that, “after all, nobody in the world is of much account but Susy and me,”—only in my formula I leave out Susy. Don't, therefore, think solely of the arrogance that is revealed, but think also of the masses concealed, and in consideration of the greater repression pardon the great expression. It is not the persons who sin the least, but those who overcome the strongest temptations, who are the most virtuous. People endowed by Nature with a sweet humility do not deserve half the credit for their lovely character that those who are naturally selfish and arrogant often deserve for being no more disagreeable than they are. Yes, it must be confessed, you are right in attributing arrogance,—though, after this meek confession and repentance, if you do not forgive me freely and fully, for past and future, your secondary will be a great deal worse than my original sin;—but you never would accuse me of “an arrogance that disdains docility,” if you had seen the mean-spirited way in which I sit down by the side of an editor and let him ram-page over my manuscript. Out fly my best thoughts, my finest figures, my sharpest epigrams,—without chloroform,—and I give no sign. I have heard that successful authors can always have everything their own way. I must be the greatest—or the smallest—failure of the age.
“It will be much better to omit this,” says the High Inquisitor, turning the thumb-screw.
“No,” I writhe. “Take everything else, but leave that.”
“I am glad to see that you agree with me,” he responds, with Mephistophelian courtesy; and away it goes, and I say nothing, thankful that enough is left to hobble in at all.
“Revealing somewhat of the arrogance of success,” you comment, directed by your Evil Genius, upon that especial chapter which was written in a gully of the Valley of Humiliation, when I was gasping under an AEtna of rejected manuscripts,—when there was not a respectable newspaper in the country by which I had not been “declined with thanks,”—when, in the desperation of my determination, I had recourse to bribery, and sent an editor a dollar with the manuscript, to pay him for the fifteen minutes it would take to read it. (Mem. I never heard from editor, manuscript, or dollar.) No, it may be arrogance, but it is not the arrogance of success. Whatever it was, it was in the grain. And, to look at it in another light, I cannot have been “spoiled by the indulgent praise which my early efforts received,” because, on the other hand, I have always been praised,—
“Like to the Pontic monarch of old days,
I fed on poisons, till they had no power,
But were a kind of nutriment.”
The earliest event I remember is being presented with two cents by one of the “Committee” visiting the school. And if I could stand two cents in my tender infancy, don't you suppose I can stand your penny-a-lining now I am grown up? I may have been spoiled, or I may not have been worth much to begin with; but the mischief was all done before you ever heard of me. Confine yourself to facts: dismiss conjectures. State actions: shun motives. Give results: avoid causes, if you would insure confidence in your sagacity.
But all this will I forgive and forget, if you will not tell me to stop writing. That I cannot and will not do. You may iterate and reiterate, that the public will tire of me. I am sorry for the public, but it is strong and will be easily rested. Sorry? No, I am not; I am glad. I should like to pay back a part of the weariness which the public has inflicted on me in the shape of lectures, lessons, sermons, speeches, customs, fashions. Why should it have the monopoly of fatiguing? Minorities have their rights as well as majorities. The spout of a tea-kettle is not to be compared, in point of bulk, to the tea-kettle, but it puts in a claim for an equal depth of water, and Nature acknowledges the claim. I cannot think of reining in yet. I have but just begun. And everything is so interesting. Nothing is isolated. Nothing is insignificant. Everything you touch thrills. It does not seem to matter much what you look at: only look long enough, and a life, its life, starts out. You see that it has causes and consequences, dependencies, bearings, and all manner of social interests; and before you know it, you have become involved in those interests and are one of the family. For the time, you stake all on that issue, and fight to the death. As soon as that is decided, and you stop to take breath a moment, something else comes equally interesting and seeming equally important, and again your lance is in rest. When it comes to the quantities of morals, there isn't much difference between one thing and another. And you ask me to fold my hands and sit still! Not I. One of my youthful maxims was, “Do something, if it's mischief”; and I intend to follow it, especially the condition. I promise to do the best I can, but I shall do it. I will never write for the sake of writing, but I will say my say. I have not been rumbling underground all my life, to find a volcano at last, and then let it be choked up after a single eruption. There are rows of blocks standing around the walls of my workshop, waiting to be chiselled. They won't be Apollos,—but even Puck is a Robin Goodfellow, since,
“In one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail hath threshed the corn
That ten day-laborers could not end.”
And I shall not confine myself to my sphere. I hate my sphere. I like everything that is outside of it,—or, better still, my sphere rounds out infinitely into space. Nihil humani a me alienum puto. I was born into the whole world. I am monarch of all I survey. Wherever I see symptoms of a pie, thither shall my fingers travel. Wherever a windmill flaps, it shall go hard but I will have a tilt at it. I shall not wait till I know what I am talking about. If I did, I never should talk at all. It is a well-known principle in educational science, that the surest way to learn anything is to teach it. How fast would Geology get on, if its professors talked only of what they knew? Planting their feet firmly on facts, they feel about in all directions for theories. By carefully noting, publishing, comparing, discussing their uncertainties, they presently arrive at a certainty. Horace might advocate nine years' delay. He was building for himself a monument that should defy the rolling years. He was setting to work in cool blood to compass immortality, and a little time, more or less, made no difference. Apollo and Bacchus could afford to wait. Beautiful daughters of beautiful mothers will exist to the world's end, and their praises will always be in order. But when, unmindful of the next generation, which will have its books and its memories, though you are unread and forgotten, mindful only of this generation which groans and travails in pain, you look on suffering that you yearn to assuage, danger of which you long to warn, sadness which you would fain dispel, burdens which you would strive, though ever so little, to lighten, delay, even for things so desirable as complete knowledge and perfect polish, becomes not only absurd, but impossible. Better shoot into the cavern, even if you don't know in what precise part of it the dragon lies coiled. The flash of your powder may reveal his whereabouts to a surer marksman. A transient immortality is of no importance; it is of importance that hearts be purified, homes made happy, paths cleared, clouds dispelled. Is that ignoble? Very well. But the noblest way to benefit posterity is to serve the present age,—to serve it by doing one's best, indeed, but by doing it now, not waiting for some distant day when one can do it better. A writer deserves no pardon for careless or hurried writing. As much time as he has mental ability to spend on it, so much time he should devote to it. But then speed it on its way. Shut it up for a term of years, and you will perhaps have a manuscript that says begin where it used to say commence, but in the mean time all the people whom you wished to save have died of a broken heart,—or lived with one, which is still worse. Besides, even for improvement, it is better to publish your paper than to keep it in the drawer. There, all the amendments it can receive will come from the few feeble advances in knowledge which you may be so fortunate as to make. But print it and every one immediately gives you especial attention and the benefit of his judgment. If you should happen to serve in the right wing of Orthodoxy, you will have the inestimable boon of the freest criticism from the left wing. And it is the religious newspapers for not mincing matters. Between Jew and Gentile hostility is the normal condition of things; and is carried on peaceably enough; but when Jew meets Jew, then comes the tug of war! These people obey to the letter the Apostolic injunction, and confess your faults one to another with a relish that is marvellous to behold, and which must furnish to the unbelieving world a lively commentary on the old text, “Behold how these Christians love one another!” When their own list of your shortcomings is exhausted, ten to one they will take up the parable of somebody else; and if little Johnny Horner sitting in the corner of his sanctum has not room in his crowded columns for the whole pie in which his brother Horner has served you up, never fear but he will put in his thumb and pick out the plums to enliven his feast withal.
No. I shall keep on writing,—hit, if I can, miss, if I must, but shoot any way. There is a great deal of firing that kills no men and breaches no walls, but it worries the enemy. John Brown did not in the least know what he was doing. His definite attempt was a fatal failure; but the great and guilty conspiracy behind, of which he saw nothing, was smitten to the heart under his random blows; his sixteen white men and five negroes, flung blindly and recklessly against the ramparts of Slavery, were but the precursors of that great host, black and white, which has since gone down, organized and intelligent, to tread the wine-press of the wrath of God.
I fear I am committing the rhetorical error of comparing small things with great; but, if Virgil could bring in the Cyclops and their thunderbolts to illustrate his bees, and Demetrius Phalereus justify it, you will hardly count it a capital offence in me,—and I don't much care if you do, if I can only convince you that I am not going to be silent because I don't know the Alpha and Omega of things. I don't pretend to be logical, or consistent, or coherent. Nature is not. A forest of oaks burns down or is cut down, and do oaks spring again? No. Pines. Logic, is baffled, but the land is bettered. A field of corn is planted, and Nature does not set herself to protect it, but sends a flock of crows to devour it; the farmers grumble, but the crows are saved alive. Freezing water contracts awhile, and then without any provocation turns right about face and expands; if your pitcher stands in the way, so much the worse for your pitcher, but the little fishes are grateful; and with all her whims and inconsequences, Nature gets on from year to year without once failing of seed-time and harvest, cold or heat. How is it with you and your logic, you men who have been to college and discovered what you are talking about? You who discuss politics and decide affairs, are you not continually accusing each other of sophistry, inconsistency, and shying away from the point? Take up any political or religious newspaper, and see, if any faith is to be put in testimony, how deficient in logic are all these logic-mongers,—how all the learned and logical are accused by other learned and logical of false assumptions, of invalid reasoning, of foregone conclusions, of pride and prejudice and passion. One would say that the result of your profound researches was only to make you more intensely illogical than you could otherwise be.
“As skilful divers to the bottom fall
Swifter than they who cannot swim at all,
So in the sea of sophisms, to my thinking.
You have a strange alacrity in sinking.”
(Ego et Dorset fecimus!)
Sure I am my humble ability in the way of unreason can never compass fallacies so stupendous as those which you attribute to each other; and if this is all the result of your logic, I will none of it, initialed to possess at least the advantage, that, when I write nonsense, I know it is nonsense, while you write it and think it sense. But your thinking so does not make it so, and you need not rule me out of court on the strength of it. I acknowledge, in the domain of letters, none but Squatter Sovereignty. In literature, unlike morals, might makes right. If I think you are cultivating the soil to its utmost capacity, I shall not meddle; but if it seems to me that you are letting it lie fallow while I can draw a furrow to some purpose, you need not warn me off with your old title-deeds; in my ploughshare shall drive. To a better farmer I will yield right gladly, but I will not be scared away by a sign-board.
Nor need you go very far out of your way to affirm that I have not the requisite experience for writing on such and such topics. As a principle your remark is absurd. Cannot a doctor prescribe for typhus fever, unless he has had typhus fever himself? On the contrary, is he not the better able to prescribe from always having had a sound mind in a sound body? As a fact, my experience in those things concerning which you allege its insufficiency has never been presented to you for judgment, and its discussion is therefore entirely irrelevant. If my statements are false, they are false; if my arguments are inconclusive, they are inconclusive: disprove the one and refute the other. But whether this state of things be owing to a want of experience, or inability to use experience aright, or any personal circumstance whatever, is a matter in regard to which all the laws of literary courtesy forbid you to concern yourself.
And pray, Gentle Critic, do not tell me that I must be content simply to amuse, or must—anything else. Must is a hard word; be not over-confident of its power. I feel a grandmotherly interest in the world and its ways; and much as I should like to amuse it, I shall never be content with that. You may not like to be instructed, my dear children, but instructed you shall be. You read long ago, in your story-book, that little Tommy Piper didn't want his face washed, though he was very willing to be amused with soap-bubbles; but his face needed washing and got it. I come to you with soap-bubbles indeed, but with scrubbing-brushes also. If you take to them kindly, it will soon be over; but if you scream and struggle, I shall not only scrub the harder, but be all the longer about it.
Sometimes your grave refutations are very amusing. It is astonishing to see how crank-proof sundry minds are. Everything seems to them on a dead level of categorical proposition. They walk up to every statue with their measuring-line of Barbara, Celarent, Darii, Ferioque Prioris, and measure them off with equal solemnity, telling you severely that this nose is far longer than the classic rule admits, and this arm has not the swelling proportions of life,—never seeing, that, though another statue was indeed designed for an Antinoues, this was never meant to be anything but a broomstick dressed in your grandfather's cloak, with a lantern in a pumpkin for a head. Oh, the dreariness of having to explain pleasantry! of appending to your banter Artemas Ward's parenthesis, “This is a goak”! of dealing with people who do not know the difference between a blow and a “love-pat,” between Quaker guns and an Armstrong battery, between a granite paving-stone and the moonshine on a mud-puddle!
Dear Public, don't begin to be tired yet. I am not. There are many books still to come, if they can ever be brought to light. They were ready long ago, but no publisher could be found; and now that I have found a publisher, I cannot find the books. There is a treatise on the Curvature of the Square,—a Dissertation on Foreign Literature,—two or three novels,—a book on Human Life, that is going to turn the world upside down,—a book on Theology, dull enough to be sensible, that is going to turn it back again,—and a bandboxful of children's stories. Still, in spite of this formidable prospect, take the consolation that an end is sure to come. There is not a particle of reserved force or dormant power or anything of the kind for you to dread. All there is of me is awake. I have struck twelve, and at longest it will be but a little while before I shall run down,—
“And silence like a poultice come
To heal the blows of sound.”
And does not the exquisite sensation of departed pain almost atone for the discomfort of its presence? How heartily, for your sake, would I be the most profound and able writer in the world, and how gladly should all my profundity and ability be laid at your feet! And since
“the good but wished with God is done,”
can you not find it in your heart to “yearn o'er my little good and pardon my much ill”?
Public, you must, whether you can or not. It is a case of life and death. I am good for nothing but writing; and if you take that resource away,—you know what the book says about mischief and Satan and idle hands! and you certainly will take it away, if you do not speak peaceably unto me. All that I said before was only bravado,—just to keep a bold front to the foe. I can confide to you under the rose, that, though without are fightings, within are fears. Pope, was it, who used to look around upon the missives hurled at him, and say, “These are my amusement”? But they are not mine. I want you to like me and be good-natured. It is not that you must always agree with opinions, or not take exception to what is exceptionable; it is only that you shall not say things in a sour, cross, disagreeable way. Impale the bait on your arming-wire, but handle it as if you loved it. Talk thunderbolts, if necessary, but don't “make faces.” The soft south-wind is very, charming; the northwest-wind, though sharp, is bracing and healthful; but your raw east-winds,—oh! chain them in the caverns of AEolia, the country of storms.
Bear with me a little longer in my folly; and, indeed, bear with me, you who are strong, for the sake of the weak. Many and many there may be to whom the meat of your metaphysics is indigestible and unpalatable, but who find strength and cheer in the sincere milk of such words as I can give. To you who have already set your feet on the high places, that may be but a bruised reed which is a staff to those who are still struggling up. Do you go on churning the cream of thought, and salting down its butter for future ages; I will spread it on thin for the weak digestions of this. Let scarfs, garters, gold amuse your riper stage, and beads and prayer-books be the toys of age, but wax not over-wroth, when you behold the child, by Nature's kindly law, pleased with a rattle!
And after all, Dear Public, it is partly your own fault that I venture to make still further draughts upon your patience. Though I have trimmed my sails to opposing rather than to favoring gales, it is not because the latter have been wanting. But a pin that pricks your finger attracts to itself far more attention for the time than the thousand influences that wrap you about only to soothe and delight. The reception that has been harsh and unfriendly bears no manner of proportion to that which has been genial and generous. So where you have given me an inch I take an ell, and commission this bright morning—shine to bear to you my thanks. For every kind word, whether it have come to me through the highways or the by-ways, from far or near, from known or unknown, I pray you receive my grateful acknowledgment. And do not fail to remember, that he, who, even though self-impelled, goes out from the shelter of his selfhood into the presence of the great congregation, incurs a Loss which no praise can make good, encounters a Fate against which no appreciation is a shield, invokes a Shadow in which the mens conscia recti is the only resource, and the knowledge of shadows dispelled the only consolation.
* * * * *
Mr. Henry Ward Beecher went to Great Britain already well known at home as the favorite preacher of a large parish, an ardent advocate of certain leading reforms, one of the most popular lecturers of the country, a bold, outspoken, fertile, ready, crowd-compelling orator, whose reported sermons and speeches were fuller of catholic humanity than of theological subtilties, and whose sympathies were of that lively sort which are apt to leap the sectarian fold and find good Christians in every denomination. He was welcomed by friendly persons on the other side of the Atlantic, partly for these merits, partly also as “the son of the celebrated Dr. Beecher” and “the brother of Mrs. Beecher Stowe.”
After a few months' absence he returns to America, having finished a more remarkable embassy than any envoy who has represented us in Europe since Franklin pleaded the cause of the young Republic at the Court of Versailles. He kissed no royal hand, he talked with no courtly diplomatists, he was the guest of no titled legislator, he had no official existence. But through the heart of the people he reached nobles, ministers, courtiers, the throne itself. He whom the “Times" attacks, he whom “Punch” caricatures, is a power in the land. We may be very sure, that, if an American is the aim of their pensioned garroters and hired vitriol-throwers, he is an object of fear as well as of hatred, and that the assault proves his ability as well as his love of freedom and zeal for the nation to which he belongs.
Mr. Beecher's European story is a short one in time, but a long one in events. He went out a lamb, a tired clergyman in need of travel; and as such he did not strive nor cry, nor did any man hear his voice in the streets. But in the den of lions where his pathway led him he remembered hid own lion's nature, and uttered his voice to such effect that its echoes in the great vaulted caverns of London and Liverpool are still reaching us, as the sound of the woodman's axe is heard long after the stroke is seen, as the light of the star shines upon us many days after its departure from the source of radiance.
Mr. Beecher made a single speech in Great Britain, but it was delivered piecemeal in different places. Its exordium was uttered on the ninth of October at Manchester, and its peroration was pronounced on the twentieth of the same month in Exeter Hall. He has himself furnished us an analysis of the train of representations and arguments of which this protracted and many-jointed oration was made up. At Manchester he attempted to give a history of that series of political movements, extending through half a century, the logical and inevitable end of which was open conflict between the two opposing forces of Freedom and Slavery. At Glasgow his discourse seems to have been almost unpremeditated. A meeting of one or two Temperance advocates, who had come to greet him as a brother in their cause, took on, “quite accidentally,” a political character, and Mr. Beecher gratified the assembly with an address which really looks as if it had been in great measure called forth by the pressure of the moment. It seems more like a conversation than a set harangue. First, he very good-humoredly defines his position on the Temperance question, and then naturally slides into some self-revelations, which we who know him accept as the simple expression of the man's character. This plain speaking made him at home among strangers more immediately, perhaps, than anything else he could have told them. “I am born without moral fear. I have expressed my views in any audience, and it never cost me a struggle. I never could help doing it.”
The way a man handles his egoisms is a test of his mastery over an audience or a class of readers. What we want to know about the person who is to counsel or lead us is just what he is, and nobody can tell us so well as himself. Every real master of speaking or writing uses his personality as he would any other serviceable material; the very moment a speaker or writer begins to use it, not for his main purpose, but for vanity's sake, as all weak people are sure to do, hearers and readers feel the difference in a moment. Mr. Beecher is a strong, healthy man, in mind and body. His nerves have never been corrugated with alcohol; his thinking-marrow is not brown with tobacco-fumes, like a meerschaum, as are the brains of so many unfortunate Americans; he is the same lusty, warm-blooded, strong-fibred, brave-hearted, bright-souled, clear-eyed creature that he was when the college boys at Amherst acknowledged him as the chiefest among their football-kickers. He has the simple frankness of a man who feels himself to be perfectly sound in bodily, mental, and moral structure; and his self-revelation is a thousand times nobler than the assumed impersonality which is a common trick with cunning speakers who never forget their own interests. Thus it is, that, wherever Mr. Beecher goes, everybody feels, after he has addressed them once or twice, that they know him well, almost as if they had always known him; and there is not a man in the land who has such a multitude that look upon him as if he were their brother.
Having magnetized his Glasgow audience, he continued the subject already opened at Manchester by showing, in the midst of that great toiling population, the deadly influence exerted by Slavery in bringing labor into contempt, and its ruinous consequences to the free working-man everywhere. In Edinburgh he explained how the Nation grew up out of separate States, each jealous of its special sovereignty; how the struggle for the control of the united Nation, after leaving it for a long time in the hands of the South, to be used in favor of Slavery, at length gave it into those of the North, whose influence was to be for Freedom; and that for this reason the South, when it could no longer rule the Nation, rebelled against it. In Liverpool, the centre of vast commercial and manufacturing interests, he showed how those interests are injured by Slavery,—“that this attempt to cover the fairest portion of the earth with a slave-population that buys nothing, and a degraded white population that buys next to nothing, should array against it the sympathy of every true political economist and every thoughtful and far-seeing manufacturer, as tending to strike at the vital want of commerce,—not the want of cotton, but the want of customers.”
In his great closing effort at Exeter Hall in London, Mr. Beecher began by disclaiming the honor of having been a pioneer in the anti-slavery movement, which he found in progress at his entry upon public life, when he “fell into the ranks, and fought as well as he knew how, in the ranks or in command.” He unfolded before his audience the plan and connection of his previous addresses, showing how they were related to each other as parts of a consecutive series. He had endeavored, he told them, to enlist the judgment, the conscience, the interests of the British people against the attempt to spread Slavery over the continent, and the rebellion it has kindled. He had shown that Slavery was the only cause of the war, that sympathy with the South was only aiding the building up of a slave-empire, that the North was contending for its own existence and that of popular institutions.
Mr. Beecher then asked his audience to look at the question with him from the American point of view. He showed how the conflict began as a moral question; the sensitiveness of the South; the tenderness for them on the part of many Northern apologizers, with whom he himself had never stood. He pointed out how the question gradually emerged in politics; the encroachments of the South, until they reached the Judiciary itself; he repeated to them the admissions of Mr. Stephens as to the preponderating influence the South had all along held in the Government. An interruption obliged him to explain that adjustment of our State and National governments which Englishmen seem to find so hard to understand. Nothing shows his peculiar powers to more advantage than just such interruptions. Then he displays his felicitous facility of illustration, his familiar way of bringing a great question to the test of some parallel fact that everybody before him knows. An American state-question looks as mysterious to an English audience as an ear of Indian corn wrapt in its sheath to an English wheat-grower. Mr. Beecher husks it for them as only an American born and bred can do. He wants a few sharp questions to rouse his quick spirit. He could almost afford to carry with him his picadores to sting him with sarcasms, his chulos to flap their inflammatory epithets in his face, and his banderilleros to stab him with their fiery insults into a plaza de toros,—an audience of John Bulls.
Having cleared up this matter so that our comatose cousins understood the relations of the dough and the apple in our national dumpling,—to borrow one of their royal reminiscences,—having eulogized the fidelity of the North to the national compact, he referred to the action of “that most true, honest, just, and conscientious magistrate, Mr. Lincoln,”—at the mention of whose name the audience cheered as long and loud as if they had descended from the ancient Ephesians.
Mr. Beecher went on to show how the North could not help fighting when it was attacked, and to give the reasons that made it necessary to fight,—reasons which none but a consistent Friend or avowed non-resistant can pretend to dispute: His ordinary style in speaking is pointed, staccatoed, as is that of most successful extemporaneous speakers; he is “short-gaited”; the movement of his thoughts is that of the chopping sea, rather than the long, rolling, rhythmical wave-procession of phrase-balancing rhetoricians. But when the lance has pricked him deep enough, when the red flag has flashed in his face often enough, when the fireworks have hissed and sputtered around him long enough, when the cheers have warmed him so that all his life is roused, then his intellectual sparkle becomes a steady glow, and his nimble sentences change their form, and become long-drawn, stately periods.
“Standing by my cradle, standing by my hearth, standing by the altar of the church, standing by all the places that mark the name and memory of heroic men who poured their blood and lives for principle, I declare that in ten or twenty years of war we will sacrifice everything we have for principle. If the love of popular liberty is dead in Great Britain, you will not understand us; but if the love of liberty lives as it once lived, and has worthy successors of those renowned men that were our ancestors as much as yours, and whose example and principles we inherit to make fruitful as so much seed-corn in a new and fertile land, then you will understand our firm, invincible determination—deep as the sea, firm as the mountains, but calm as the heavens above us—to fight this war through at all hazards and at every cost.”
When have Englishmen listened to nobler words, fuller of the true soul of eloquence? Never, surely, since their nation entered the abdominous period of its existence, recognized in all its ideal portraits, for which food and sleep are the prime conditions of well-being. Yet the old instinct which has made the name of Englishman glorious in the past was there, in the audience before him, and there was “immense cheering,” relieved by some slight colubrine demonstrations.
Mr. Beecher openly accused certain “important organs” of deliberately darkening the truth and falsifying the facts. The audience thereupon gave three groans for a paper called the “Times,” once respectably edited, now deservedly held as cheap as an epigram of Mr. Carlyle's or a promise to pay dated at Richmond. He showed the monstrous absurdity of England's attacking us for fighting, and for fighting to uphold a principle. “On what shore has not the prow of your ships dashed? What land is there with a name and a people where your banner has not led your soldiers? And when the great resurrection- reveille shall sound, it will muster British soldiers from every clime and people under the whole heaven. Ah! but it is said this is war against your own blood. How long is it since you poured soldiers into Canada, and let all your yards work day and night to avenge the taking of two men out of the Trent?” How ignominious the pretended humanity of England looked in the light of these questions! And even while Mr. Beecher was speaking, a lurid glow was crimsoning the waters of the Pacific from the flames of a great burning city, set on fire by British ships to avenge a crime committed by some remote inhabitant of the same country,—an act of wholesale barbarity unapproached by any deed which can be laid to the charge of the American Union in the course of this long, exasperating conflict!
Mr. Beecher explained that the people who sympathized with the South were those whose voices reached America, while the friends of the North were little heard. The first had bows and arrows; the second have shafts, but no bows to launch them.
“How about the Russians?”
Everybody remembers how neatly Mr. Beecher caught this envenomed dart, and, turning it end for end, drove it through his antagonist's shield of triple bull's-hide. “Now you know what we felt when you were flirting with Mr. Mason at your Lord Mayor's banquet.” A cleaner and straighter “counter” than that, if we may change the image to one his audience would appreciate better, is hardly to be found in the records of British pugilism.
The orator concluded by a rather sanguine statement of his change of opinion as to British sentiment, of the assurance he should carry back of the enthusiasm for the cause of the North, and by an exhortation to unity of action with those who share their civilization and religion, for the furtherance of the gospel and the happiness of mankind.
The audience cheered again, Professor Newman moved a warm vote of thanks, and the meeting dissolved, wiser and better, we hope, for the truths which had been so boldly declared before them.
What is the net result, so far as we can see, of Mr. Beecher's voluntary embassy? So far as he is concerned, it has been to lift him from the position of one of the most popular preachers and lecturers, to that of one of the most popular men in the country. Those who hate his philanthropy admire his courage. Those who disagree with him in theology recognize him as having a claim to the title of Apostle quite as good as that of John Eliot, whom Christian England sent to heathen America two centuries ago, and who, in spite of the singularly stupid questionings of the natives, and the violent opposition of the sachems and powwows, or priests, succeeded in reclaiming large numbers of the copper-colored aborigines.
The change of opinion wrought by Mr. Beecher in England is far less easy to estimate; indeed, we shall never have the means of determining what it may have been. The organs of opinion which have been against us will continue their assaults, and those which have been our friends will continue to defend us. The public men who have committed themselves will be consistent in the right or in the wrong, as they may have chosen at first. To know what Mr. Beecher has effected, we must not go to Exeter Hall and follow its enthusiastic audience as they are swayed hither and thither by his arguments and appeals; we must not count the crowd of admiring friends and sympathizers whom he, like all personages of note, draws around him: the fire-fly calls other fire-flies about him, but the great community of beetles goes blundering round in the dark as before. Mr. Cobden has given us the test in a letter quoted by Mr. Beecher in the course of his speech at the Brooklyn Academy. “You will carry back,” he says, “an intimate acquaintance with a state of feeling in this country among what, for [want of] a better name, I call the ruling class. Their sympathy is undoubtedly strongly for the South, with the instinctive satisfaction at the prospect of the disruption of the great Republic. It is natural enough.” “But,” he says, “our masses have an instinctive feeling that their cause is bound up in the prosperity of the States,—the United States. It is true that they have not a particle of power in the direct form of a vote; but when millions in this country are led by the religious middle class, they can go and prevent the governing class from pursuing a policy hostile to their sympathies.”
This power of the non-voting classes is an idea that gives us pause. It is one of those suggestions, like Lord Brougham's of the “unknown public,” which, in a single phrase, and a sentence or two of explanation, tell a whole history. This is the class John Bunyan wrote for before the bishops had his Allegory in presentable calf and gold-leaf,—before England knew that her poor tinker had shaped a pictured urn for her full of such visions as no dreamer had seen since Dante. This is the class that believes in John Bright and Richard Cobden and all the defenders of true American principles. It absorbs intelligence as melting ice renders heat latent; there is no living power directly generated with which we can move pistons and wheels, but the first step in the production of steam-force is to make the ice fluid. No intellectual thermometer can reveal to us how much ignorance or prejudice has melted away in the fire of Mr. Beecher's passionate eloquence, but by-and-by this will tell as a working-force. The non-voter's conscience will reach the Privy Council, and the hand of the ignorant, but Christianized laborer trace its own purpose in the letters of the royal signature.
We are living in a period, not of events only, but of epochs. We are in the transition-stage from the miocene to the pliocene period of human existence. A new heaven is forming over our head behind the curtain of clouds which rises from our smoking battle-fields. A new earth is shaping itself under our feet amidst the tremors and convulsions that agitate the soil upon which we tread. But there is no such thing as a surprise in the order of Nature. The kingdom of God, even, cometh not with observation.
The visit of an overworked clergyman to Europe is not in appearance an event of momentous interest to the world. The fact that he delivered a few speeches before British audiences might seem to merit notice in a local paper or two, but is of very little consequence, one would say, to the British nation, compared to the fact that Her Majesty took an airing last Wednesday, or of much significance to Americans, by the side of the fact that his Excellency, Governor Seymour, had written a letter recommending the Union Fire Company always to play on the wood-shed when the house is in flames.
But, in point of fact, this unofficial visit of a private citizen—in connection with these addresses delivered to miscellaneous crowds by an envoy not extraordinary and a minister nullipotentiary, for all that his credentials showed—was an event of national importance. It was much more than this; it was the beginning of a new order of things in the relations of nations to each other. It is but a little while since any graceless woman who helped a crowned profligate to break the commandments could light a national quarrel with the taper that sealed her billets-doux to his equerries and grooms, and kindle it to a war with the fan that was supposed to hide her blushes. More and more, by virtue of advancing civilization and easy intercourse between distant lands, the average common sense and intelligence of the people begin to reach from nation to nation. Mr. Beecher's visit is the most notable expression of this movement of national life. It marks the nisus formativus which begins the organization of that unwritten and only half spoken public opinion recognized by Mr. Cobden as a great underlying force even in England. It needs a little republican pollen-dust to cause the evolution of its else barren germs. The fruit of Mr. Beecher's visit will ripen in due time, not only in direct results, but in opening the way to future moral embassies, going forth unheralded, unsanctioned by State documents, in the simple strength of Christian manhood, on their errands of truth and peace.
The Devil had got the start of the clergyman, as he very often does, after all. The wretches who have been for three years pouring their leperous distilment into the ears of Great Britain had preoccupied the ground, and were determined to silence the minister, if they could. For this purpose they looked to the heathen populace of the nominally Christian British cities. They covered the walls with blood-red placards, they stimulated the mob by inflammatory appeals, they filled the air with threats of riot and murder. It was in the midst of scenes like these that the single, solitary American opened his lips to speak in behalf of his country.
The danger is now over, and we find it hard to make real to our imagination the terrors of a mob such as swarms out of the dens of Liverpool and London. We know well enough in this country what Irish mobs are: the Old Country exports them to us in pieces, ready to put together on arriving, as we send houses to California. Ireland is the country of shillalahs and broken crowns, of Donnybrook fairs, where men with whiskey in their heads settle their feuds or work off their sprightliness with the arms of Nature, sometimes aided by the least dangerous of weapons. But England is the land of prize-fights, of scientific brutality, which has flourished under the patronage of her hereditary legislators and other “Corinthian” supporters. The pugilistic dynasty came in with the House of Brunswick, and has held divided empire with it ever since. The Briton who claims Chatham's language as his mother-tongue may appropriate the dialect of the ring as far more truly indigenous than the German-French of his every-day discourse. Of the three Burkes whose names are historical, the orator is known to but a few hundred thousands. The prize-fighter, with his interesting personal infirmity, is the common property of the millions, and would have headed the list in celebrity, but for that other of the name who added a new invention to the arts of industry and enriched the English language with a term which bids fair to outlive the reputation of his illustrious namesake. Around the professors and heroes of the art of personal violence are collected the practitioners of various callings less dignified by the manly qualities they demand. The Gangs of Three that waylay the solitary pedestrian,—the Choker in the middle, next the victim who is to be strangled and cleaned out,—the larger guilds of Hustlers who bonnet a man and beat his breath out of him and empty his pockets before he knows what is the matter with him,—the Burglars, with their “jimmies” in their pockets,—the fighting robbers, with their brass knuckles,—the whole set in a vast thief-constituency, thick as rats in sewers,—these were the disputants whom the emissaries of the Slave Power called upon to refute the arguments of the Brooklyn clergyman.
It was not pleasant to move in streets where such human rattlesnakes and cobras were coiling and lying in wait. Great cities are the poison-glands of civilization everywhere; but the secretions of those hideous crypts and blind passages that empty themselves into the thoroughfares of English towns are so deadly, that, but for her penal colonies, England, girt by water, as the scorpion with flame, would perish, self-stung, by her own venom. The legates of the great Anti-Civilization have colonized England, as England has colonized Botany Bay. They know the venal ruffianism of the fist and bludgeon, as well as that of the press. Fortunately, they are short of funds, or Mr. Beecher might have disappeared after the manner of Romulus, and never have come to light, except in the saintly fashion of relics,—such as white finger-rings and breastpins, like those which some devotees of the Southern mode of worship are said to have been fond of wearing.
From these dangers, which he faced like a man, we welcome him back to a country which is proud of his courage and ability and grateful for his services. The highest and lowest classes of England cannot be in sympathy with the free North. No dynasty can look the fact of successful, triumphant self-government in the face without seeing a shroud in its banner and hearing a knell in its shouts of victory. As to those lower classes who are too low to be reached by the life-giving breath of popular liberty, we cannot reach them yet. A Christian civilization has suffered them, in the very heart of its great cities, to sink almost to the level of Du Chaillu's West-African quadrumana. But the thoughtful, religious middle class of Great Britain, with their enlightened leaders and their conscientious followers among the laboring masses, have listened and will always listen to the voice of any true and adequate representative of that new form of human society now in full course of development in Republican North America. They have never listened to a nobler and more thoroughly national speaker than the minister, clothed with full powers from Nature and bearing the authentic credentials from his Divine Master, to whom, on his return from his successful embassy, we renew our grateful welcome.
* * * * *
A GREETING FOR THE NEW YEAR.
We are at the close of the third year of the Secession War. It is customary to speak of the contest as having been inaugurated by the attack on Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861; but, in strictness, it was begun in December, 1860, when the Carolinians formally seceded from the Union, which was as much an act of war as that involved in firing upon the national flag that waved over the strongest of the Federal forts at Charleston. Even those who insist that there can be no war without the use of weapons must admit that the act of firing upon the Star of the West, which vessel was seeking to land men and stores at Sumter, was an overt act, and as significant of the purpose of the Secessionists as anything since done by them. That occurred in January, 1861; and because our Government did not choose to accept it as the beginning of those hostilities which had been resolved upon by the Southern ultras, it does not follow that men are bound to shut their eyes to the truth. But we all took the insults that were offered to the flag in President Buchanan's time as coolly as if that were the proper course of things, while the attack on Sumter had the same effect on us that the acknowledgment of the Pretender as King of Great Britain and Ireland by Louis XIV. had on the English. War was then promptly accepted, and has ever since been waged, with that various fortune which is known to all contests, and which will be so known while wars shall be known on earth,—in other words, while our planet shall be the abiding-place of men. We have had victories, and we have had defeats, which is the common lot; but, taken as a whole, we have but little reason to complain of results, if we compare our situation now with what it was at the close of 1862. Great things have been done in 1863, such as place the military result of the war beyond all doubt, and permitting us to hope for the early restoration of peace, provided the people shall furnish their Government with the human material necessary to inflict upon the enemy that grace stroke which shall put them out of their pain by putting an end to their existence; and that Government itself shall not be wanting in that energy, without which men and money are worse than useless in war,—for then they would be but wasted.
The year opened darkly for us; for not even the success of General Rosecrans on the well-contested field of Murfreesboro'—a success literally extorted from a brave and stubborn and skilful foe—could altogether compensate for the Union defeat at Fredericksburg, a defeat that gave additional force to the gloomy words of those grognards who had adopted the doctrine that it was impossible for the Army of the Potomac to accomplish anything worthy of its numbers, and of the position and purpose assigned to it in the war. Months rolled on, and little was done, the mere military losses and gains being not far from equally shared by the two parties; but that was positively a loss to the enemy, whose position it has been from the first, that they must have so large a proportion of the successes as should tend to encourage their people at home and their advocates abroad, and so compensate for their inferiority in numbers and in property. Nothing has tended more, all through the war, to show the vast difference in the parties to it, than the little effect which serious reverses have had on the Unionists in comparison with the effect of similar reverses on the Confederates. No blow that we have received—and many blows have been dealt upon us—has been followed by any loss of territory, any decrease of the means of warfare, or any diminution of our purpose to carry on the contest to the last piece of gold and the last greasy greenback. The enemy have taken of our men, our cannon, our stores, and our money, more than once, but not one of their victories produced any “fruit" beyond what was gleaned from the battle-field itself. Our victories, on the contrary, have been fruitful, as the position of our forces on the enemy's coast, and on much of their territory, and in many of their ports, most satisfactorily proves. As an English military critic said, the Rebels might gain battles, but all the solid advantages were with their opponents. A Union victory was so much achieved toward final and complete success; a Confederate victory only operated to postpone the subjugation of the Rebels for a few days, or perhaps weeks. We could afford to blunder, while they could not; and the prospect of the gallows made the brains of Davis and Lee uncommonly clear, and caused them to plan skilfully and to strike boldly, in order that they might get out and keep out of the road that leads to it,—the road to ruin.
The movement in April, under General Hooker, which led to the Battle of Chancellorsville, was a failure, and for some time the country was much depressed in consequence; but our failure, there and then, proved to be really a great gain. Had General Hooker succeeded in defeating General Lee in battle, the latter would, it is altogether probable, have succeeded in retreating to Richmond, behind the defences of which he would have held our forces at bay, and the Peninsular campaign of 1862 might have been repeated; for we had not men enough to render the capture of Richmond certain through the effect of regular and steady operations. The death of Stonewall Jackson, one of the incidents of the April advance, was a severe loss to the enemy, and promises to be as fatal to their cause as was that of Dundee to the hopes of the House of Stuart. General Lee's success was really fatal to him. It compelled him to make a movement in his turn, in June, and at Gettysburg we had ample compensation for Chancellorsville; and the capture of Morgan and his men, in Ohio, following hard upon Lee's retreat from Pennsylvania, put an end to all attempts at invasion on the part of the Rebels, while we continued to hold all that we had acquired of their territory, and soon added more of it to our previous acquisitions. At the same time that General Meade was disposing of the main Rebel army, General Grant was taking Vicksburg, and General Banks was triumphing at Port Hudson. Generals Pemberton and Gardner had defended those Southern strongholds with a skill and a gallantry that do them great credit, considering them merely as military operations; but the superior generalship of General Grant at and near Vicksburg compelled them to surrender, and to place in Union hands posts the possession of which was necessary to maintain the integrity of the Confederacy. General Grant's least merit was the taking of Vicksburg. The operations through the success of which he was enabled to shut up a large force of brave men in Vicksburg, and to cut them off from all hope of being relieved, were of the highest order of military excellence, and justly entitle him to be called a great soldier, and no man can be only a great soldier, for that intellectual rank implies in its possessor qualities that fit him for any department of his country's service. General Grant was admirably seconded and supported by his lieutenants and their subordinates and men, or he must have failed before such courageous and stubborn foes. He was also supported by the naval force commanded by Admiral Porter, whose heroic exploits and scientific services added new lustre to a name that already stood most high in our naval history. He commanded men worthy of himself and the service, and whose deeds must be ever remembered. General Banks and his associates were not less successful in their undertaking, and had been as well seconded as General Grant. The Mississippi was placed at our control, and the enemy were deprived of those supplies, both domestic and foreign, which they had drawn in so large quantities from the trans-Mississippi territory. Through Texas, which had contrived to keep up a great commerce, the supplies of foreign materiel had been very large; and from the same rich and extensive State came thousands of beeves, sheep, and hogs, that were consumed by Southern soldiers in Virginia and the Carolinas. Generals Grant and Banks put an end to this mode of supplying the Rebels with food and other articles; and at a later period the success of General Banks near the Rio Grande was hardly less useful in putting an end to much of the Texan foreign trade, whereby the Rebels beyond the Mississippi must find their powers to do mischief very materially lessened.
In the mean time, Charleston, whence rebellion had spread over the South, had been assailed by a large force, military and naval, commanded by General Gillmore and Rear-Admiral Dahlgren. General Gillmore had become famous as the captor of Fort Pulaski, under circumstances that had seemed to render success impossible; and hence it was expected that he would quickly take Charleston. It is not believed that that very able and modest officer ever said a word to give rise to the popular expectation. He knew the gravity of the task he had undertaken, and we believe, that, if all the facts connected therewith could be published, it would be found that he has accomplished all that he ever promised to do or expected to do. He has done much, and done it admirably; and not the least of the effects of his deeds is this,—that the report of his guns reached to Europe, and caused the intelligent military men of that dominating quarter of the world to doubt whether their respective countries were militarily prepared to support intervention, even if to intervention there existed no moral or political objections. He has demolished Sumter, and that fortress which was the scene of our first failure has ceased to exist. He has completed the blockade of Charleston, which was almost daily violated before he brought his batteries into play. We have the high authority of no less a personage than Mr. Jefferson Davis himself,—a gentleman who never “speaks out” when anything is to be made by reticence,—that Wilmington is now the only port left to the Confederacy; and this is the highest possible compliment that could be paid to the excellence of General Gillmore's operations, and to the value of his services. Since he arrived near Charleston, that port has been as hermetically sealed as Cronstadt in December; whereas, until he began his scientific and most useful labors, Charleston was one of the most flourishing seaports in the whole circle of commerce. As to the taking of Charleston, our opinion is, and has been from the first, that the history of the War of the American Revolution demonstrates that the Carolina city can be had only as the result of extensive land-operations, carried on by a power which has command of the sea. Sir Henry Clinton failed before the place in 1776, his attack being naval in its character; and he succeeded in taking it in 1780, when he had control of the main-land, and made his approaches regularly. Even after he had obtained command of the harbor, and Fort Moultrie had been first passed and then taken, and no American maritime force remained to oppose his fleet, he had to depend upon the action of his army for success. We fear that the event will prove that we can succeed at Charleston only by following Sir Henry's wise course. “The things which have been are the things which shall be.”
Late in the summer, General Rosecrans resumed operations, and marched upon Chattanooga, while General Burnside moved into East Tennessee, and obtained possession of Knoxville. General Burnside's march was one of the most difficult ever made in war, and tasked the powers of his men to the utmost; but all difficulties were surmounted, and the loyal people of the country which he entered and regained were gladdened by seeing the national flag flying once more over their heads. Both these movements were at first brilliantly successful; but the enemy were impressed with the importance of the points taken or threatened by our forces, and they concentrated great masses of troops, in the hope of being able to defeat our armies, regain the territory lost, and transfer the seat of war far to the north. The Battle of Chickamauga was fought, and a portion of General Rosecrans's army was defeated, while another portion, under General Thomas, stubbornly maintained its ground, and inflicted great damage on the enemy. The effect of General Thomas's heroic resistance was, that the enemy's grand purpose was baffled. Their loss was so severe, and their men had been so roughly handled, that they could not advance farther, and the time thus gained was promptly turned to account, by General Rosecrans in the first instance, and by Government. The Union army was soon reorganized by its energetic leader, and placed in condition to make effectual resistance to the enemy, should they endeavor to advance. The Government's action was rapid and useful. General Grant was placed in immediate command of the army, which was largely reinforced, and preparations were quickly made for the resumption of offensive operations. In the mean time, General Bragg had sent General Longstreet to attack General Burnside; and as Longstreet has been looked upon, since the death of Jackson, as the best of the Rebel fighting generals, great hopes were entertained of his success. Apparently taking advantage of the absence of so large a body of Rebel troops under so good a leader, General Grant resumed the offensive on the twenty-third of November, and during three days' hard fighting inflicted upon General Bragg a series of defeats, in which Generals Thomas, Hooker, and Sherman were the active Union commanders. The Unionists were completely victorious at all points, taking several strong positions, forty-six pieces of cannon, five thousand muskets, valuable stores, and seven thousand prisoners, besides killing and wounding great numbers. All these successes were gained at a cost of only forty-five hundred men. The skill of General Grant and his lieutenants, and the valor of their troops, were signally displayed in these operations, the first assured intelligence of which reached the North in time to add to the pleasures of the National Thanksgiving, as the first news of Gettysburg had come to us on the Fourth of July.
The November victories put an end to all fear that the enemy might be able to carry out their original project, while it seemed to be certain that the scene of active operations would be transferred from East Tennessee to Northern Georgia. General Burnside still held Knoxville, and it was supposed that General Longstreet would find it difficult to escape destruction. General Bragg had retreated to Dalton, which is about a hundred miles from Atlanta, and is reported to have summoned General Longstreet to rejoin him. The Army of the Potomac, which had borne itself very gallantly in some of the autumnal operations consequent on Lee's advance, had followed the army commanded by this General when it retreated, inflicting on it considerable loss, and crossing the Rapid Ann.[C]
Victories have been gained by the Unionists in other quarters,—in Missouri, in Arkansas, in Louisiana, and in Mississippi,—whereby the enemy's numbers have been diminished, and territory brought under the Union flag that until recently was held by the Rebels, and from which they drew means of subsistence now no longer available to them.
The effects of all the successes which have been mentioned are various. We have deprived the enemy of extensive portions of territory, in most of their States. Tennessee is rescued; Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri are placed beyond all danger of being taken by the Rebels; in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas we hold places of much political and military importance; Mississippi is practically ours; Alabama yields little to our foe; Georgia is invaded, instead of remaining the basis of a grand attack on Tennessee and Kentucky; the Carolinas, greatly favored by geographical circumstances, are barely able to hold out against attacks that are not made in force, and portions of their territory are ours; Virginia is exhausted, and there the enemy cannot long remain, even should they meet with no reverses in the field; and, finally, as General Grant's successes at Vicksburg halved the Confederacy, so have his Chattanooga successes quartered it. The Rebels are no longer one people, but are divided into a number of communities, which cannot act together, even if we could suppose their populations to be animated by one spirit, which certainly they are not. Of the inhabitants of the original Confederacy probably two-fifths are no longer under the control of the Richmond Government; and of the remainder a very large proportion are said to be massed in Georgia, a State that has hitherto suffered little from the war, but which now seems about to become the scene of vast and important operations, which cannot be carried on without causing sweeping devastation. The public journals state that there are two million slaves in Georgia, most of whom have been taken or sent thither by their owners, inhabitants of other States. This must tend greatly to increase the difficulties of the enemy, whose stores of food and clothing are not large in any of the Atlantic or Gulf States.
Much stress has been placed on “the starvation-theory,” and it is probable that there is much suffering in the Confederacy; but this does not proceed so much from the positive absence of food as from other causes. The first of these causes is undoubtedly the loss of all faith in the Southern currency. That currency has not yet fallen so low as the Continental currency fell, when it required a bushel of it to pay for a peck of potatoes, but it is at a terrible discount, and the day is fast coming when it will be regarded as of no more value than so many pieces of brown paper; and its depreciation, and the prospect of its soon becoming utterly worthless, are among the chief consequences of the triumphs of our arms. Men see that there will be no power to make payment, and they will not part with their property for rags so rotten. They may wish success to the Confederate cause, but “they must live,” and live they cannot on paper that is nothing but paper. The journal that is understood to speak for Mr. Davis recommends a forced loan, the last resort of men the last days of whose power are near at hand. Another cause of the scarcity of food in the South is to be found in the condition of Southern communications. If all the food in the Confederacy could be equally distributed, now and hereafter, we doubt not that every person living there would get enough to eat, and even have something to spare,—civilians as well as soldiers, blacks as well as whites; but no such distribution is possible, because there are but indifferent means for the conveyance of food from places where it is abundant to places where famine's ascendency is becoming established. The Southern railways have been terribly worked for three years, and are now worn out, with no hope of their rails and rolling-stock being renewed. Our troops have rendered hundreds of miles of those ways useless, and they have possession of other lines. Southern harbors and rivers are held or commanded by Northern ships or armies. The Mississippi, which was once so useful to the Rebels, has, now that we control it, become a “big ditch,” separating their armies from their principal source of supply. It is that “last ditch” in which they are to die. That wide extent of Southern territory, which has so often been mentioned at home and abroad as presenting the leading reason why we never could conquer the Rebels, now works against them, and in our favor. Food may be abundant to wastefulness in some States, while in others people may be dying for the want of it. The Secessionists are now situated as most peoples used to be, before good roads became common. The South is becoming reduced to that state which was known to some parts of England before that country had made for itself the best roads of Christendom, and when there would be starvation in one parish, while perhaps in the next the fruits of the earth were rotting on its surface, because there were no means of getting them to market. With a currency so debased that no man will willingly take it, while all men readily take Union greenbacks,—with railways either worn out or held by foes,—with but one harbor this side of the Mississippi that is not closely shut up, and that harbor in course of becoming closed completely,—with their rivers furnishing means for attack, instead of lines of defence,—with their territory and numbers daily decreasing,—with defeat overtaking their armies on almost every field,—with the expressed determination of the North to prosecute the war, be the consequences what they may,—with the constant increase of Union numbers,—and with the steady refusal of foreign powers to recognize the Confederacy, or to afford it any countenance or open assistance,—the Rebels must be infatuated, and determined to provoke destruction, if they do not soon make overtures for peace.
It is all very well for the “chivalrous classes” at the South, whoever they may happen to be, to talk about “dying in the last ditch,” and of imitating the action of Pelayo and his friends; but common folk like to die in their beds, and to receive the inevitable visitant with decorum, to an exhibition of which ditches are decidedly unfavorable. As to Pelayo, he lived in an age in which there were neither railways nor rifled cannon, neither steamships nor Parrott guns, neither Monitors nor greenbacks,—else he and his would either have been routed out of the Asturian Mountains, or have been compelled to remain there forever. The conditions of modern life and society are highly unfavorable to those heroic modes of resistance and existence in which alone gentlemen of Pelayo's pursuits can hope to flourish. We Saracens of the North would ask nothing better than to have Pelayo Davis lead all his valiant ragamuffins into the strongest range of mountains that could be found in all Secessia, there to establish the new Kingdom of Gijon. We should deserve the worst that could befall us, if we failed to vindicate the common American idea, that this country is no place for lovers of crowns and kingdoms.
As to the guerrillas, we know that they are an exasperating set of fellows, but they must soon disappear before the advance of the Union armies. A guerrillade on an extensive scale and of long continuance is possible only while it is supported by the presence of large and successful regular armies. Had Wellington been driven out of the Peninsula, the Spanish guerrillas would have given little trouble to the intrusive French king at Madrid. Defeat Lee, and Mosby will vanish. After all, the Southern guerrillas are not much worse than other Southrons were at no very remote period. It is within the memory of even middle-aged persons, that the southwestern portion of our country was in as lawless a state as ever were the borders of England and Scotland, and with no Belted Will to hang up ruffians to swing in the wind. As those ruffians were mostly removed by time, and the scenes of their labors became the seats of prosperous and well-ordered communities, so will the guerrillas of to-day be made to give way by that inexorable reformer and avenger. Order will once more prevail in the Southwest, and cotton, tobacco, and rice again yield their increase to regular industry,—an industry that shall be all the more productive, because exercised by free men.
The political incidents of 1863 are as encouraging as the incidents of war. The discontent that existed toward the close of 1862—a discontent by no means groundless—led to the apparent defeat of the war-party in many States, and to the decrease of its strength in others. But it was an illogical conclusion that the people were dissatisfied with the war, when they only meant to express their dissatisfaction with the manner in which it was conducted. Their votes in 1863 truly expressed their feeling. In every State but New Jersey the war-party was successful, its majority in Ohio being 100,000, in New York 30,000, in Pennsylvania 15,000, in Massachusetts, 40,000, in Iowa 32,000, in Maine 22,000, in California 20,000. And so on throughout the country. The popular voice is still for war, but for war boldly, and therefore wisely, waged.
The improvement that has taken place in our foreign relations is even greater than that which has come over our domestic affairs; and for the first time since the opening of the civil war, it is possible for Americans to say that there is every reason for believing that they are to be left to settle their own affairs according to their own ideas as to the fitness of things. This change, like all important changes in human affairs, is due to a variety of causes. In part it is owing to what we considered to be among our greatest misfortunes, and in part to those successes which changed the condition of affairs. Our failure at Fredericksburg, at the close of 1862, strengthened the general European impression that the Rebels were to succeed; and as their defeat at Murfreesboro was not followed by an advance of our forces, that impression was not weakened by General Bragg's failure, though that was more signal than was the failure of General Burnside. If the Rebels were to succeed, why should European governments do anything in aid of their cause, at the hazard of war with us? Our defeat at Chancellorsville, last May, tended still further to strengthen foreign belief that the Secessionists were to be the winning party, and that they were competent to do all their own work; but if it had not soon been followed by signal reverses to the Rebel arms, it is certain that the Confederacy would have been acknowledged by most European nations, on the plausible ground that its existence had been established on the battle-field, and that we could not object to the admission of a self-evident fact by foreign sovereigns and statesmen, who were bound to look after the welfare of their own subjects and countrymen, whose interests were greatly concerned with the trade of our Southern country. Fortunately for all parties but the Rebels, those reverses came suddenly and with such emphasis as to create serious doubts in the European mind as to the superiority of the South as a fighting community. In an evil hour for his cause, General Lee abandoned that wise defensive system to which he had so long and so successfully adhered, and made a movement into the Free States. What was the immediate cause of his change of proceeding will probably never be accurately known to the existing generation. On the face of things no good political reason appears for that change being made; and on military grounds it was sure to lead to disaster, unless the North had become the most craven of countries. So bad was Lee's advance into the North, militarily speaking, that it would have been the part of good policy to allow him to march without resistance to a point at least a hundred miles beyond that field on which he was to find his fate. A Gettysburg that should have been fought that distance from the base of Southern operations could have had no other result than the destruction of the main Southern army; and that occurring at about the same time that Port Hudson and Vicksburg surrendered, the war could have been ended by a series of thunder-strokes. Not a man of Lee's army could have escaped. But the pride of the country prevented the adoption of a course that promised the most splendid of successes, and compelled our Government and our commander to forego the noblest opportunity that had presented itself to effect the enemy's annihilation. Gettysburg was made immortal, and Lee escaped, not without tremendous losses, yet with the larger part of his army, and with much booty, that perhaps compensated his own loss in materiel. He was beaten, on a field of his own choosing, and with numbers in his favor; and his previous victories, the almost uniform success that had attended his earlier movements, made his Pennsylvania reverses all the more grave in the estimation of foreigners. Immediately after news was sent abroad of his defeat and retreat, tidings came to us, and soon were spread over the world, that the Rebels had experienced the most terrible disasters in the Southwest, whereby the so-called Confederacy had been cut in two. These facts gave pause to those intentions of acknowledgment which had undoubtedly been entertained in European courts and cabinets; and nothing afterward occurred, down to the day of Chickamauga, which was calculated to effect a change in the minds of the rulers of the Old World. But when intelligence of Chickamauga reached Europe, England had taken a position so determinedly hostile to intervention in any of its many forms and stages that even a much greater disaster than that could have produced no evil to our cause abroad. For it is to be remembered that the whole business of intervention has lain from the beginning in the bosom of England, and that, if she had chosen to act against us in force, she could have done so with the strongest hope of success, if merely our humiliation, or even our destruction, had been her object, and without any immediate danger threatening herself as the consequence of her hostile action. The French Government, not France, or any considerable portion of the French people, has been ready to interfere in behalf of the Rebels for more than two years, and would have entered upon the process of intervention long since, if it had not been held back by the obstinate refusal of England to unite with her in that pro-slavery crusade which, it is with regret we say it, the French Emperor has so much at heart; and without the aid and assistance of England, the ruler of France could not and durst not move an inch against us. Not the least, nor least strange, of the changes of this mutable world is to be seen in the circumstance that France should be restrained from undoing the work of the Bourbons and of Napoleon I. by England's firm opposition to the wishes and purposes of Napoleon III. The Bourbon policy, as well in Spain as in France, brought about the early overthrow of England's rule over the territory of the old United States; and the first Napoleon sold Louisiana to us for a song, because he was convinced, that, by so doing, he should aid to build up a formidable naval rival of England. The man who seeks to undo all this, to destroy what Bourbon and Bonaparte sacrificed so much to effect, is the heir of Bonaparte, and the expounder and illustrator of Napoleon's ideas; and the power that places herself resolutely across his path, and will not join in his plot to erase us from the list of nations is—England! In a romance such a state of things would be pronounced too absurd for invention; but in this every-day world it is nothing but a commonplace incident, extraordinary as it may seem at the first thought that is bestowed upon it.
That England governs France in this matter of intervention in our quarrel is clear enough, as also are the reasons why Paris will not move to the aid of the Rebels unless London shall keep even step with her. France asked England to unite with her in an offer of mediation, which would have been an armed mediation, had England fallen into the Gallic trap, but which amounted to nothing when it proceeded from France alone. England withdrew from the Mexican business as soon as she saw that France was bent upon a course that might lead to trouble with the United States, and left her to create a throne in that country. As soon as England put the broad arrow upon the rams of that eminent pastoral character, Laird of Birkenhead, France withdrew the permission which she had formally bestowed upon MM. Arman and Vorney to build four powerful steamships for the Rebels at Nantes and Bordeaux. France would acknowledge the Confederacy to-day, and send a minister to Richmond, and consuls to Mobile and Galveston and Wilmington, if England would but agree to be to her against us what Spain was to her for us in the days of our Revolution. But England will not join with her ancient enemy to effect the ruin of a country of the existence of which she should be proud, seeing that it is her own creation.
Why, then, is it that there is so much ill-feeling in America toward England, while none is felt toward France,—England being, as it were, our shield against that French sword which is raised over our head, upon which its holder would bring it down with imperial force? Principally the difference is due to that peculiarity in the human character which leads men to think much of insults and but little of injuries. We doubt if any strong enmity was ever created in the minds of men or nations through the infliction of injuries, though injuring parties have an undoubted right to hate their victims; and we are sure that an insult was never yet forgiven by any nation, or by any individual, whose resentment was of any account. Now, England has poured insults upon us, or rather Englishmen have done so, until we have become as sore as bears who have been assailed by bees. English statesmen and politicians have told us that we were wrong in fighting for the restoration of the Union, violating our own principles, and literally committing the grossest, of crimes,—taking care to add, that our sins would provide their own punishment, for we could not put down the Rebels. Even moderate-minded men in England have not hesitated to condemn our course, while admitting that our conduct was natural, on the ground that we had no hope of success, and that useless wars are simply horrible. Our English enemies have been fierce and vindictive blackguards,—as witness Roebuck, Lyndsay, and Lord R. Cecil,—while most of our friends there have deemed it the best policy to make use of very moderate language, when speaking of our cause, or of the conduct of our public men. Englishmen of distinction, some of whom have long been held in high esteem here, have not hesitated to express a desire for our overthrow, because we were becoming too strong, though our free population is not materially different, as regards numbers, from that of the British Islands, and is as nothing when compared with the number of Queen Victoria's subjects. They were not ashamed to be so thoroughly un-English as to admit the existence of fear in their minds of a people living three thousand miles from their country: a circumstance to be noted; for your Englishman is apt to err on the side of contempt for others, and as a rule he fears nobody. Others have so wantonly misrepresented the character of our cause,—Mr. Carlyle is a notable member of this class,—that it is impossible not to be offended, when listening to their astounding falsehoods. But it is the British press that has done most to array Americans against England. That press is very ably conducted, and the most noted of its members have displayed a degree of hostility toward us that could not have been predicted without the prophet being suspected of madness, or of diabolical inspiration. All its articles attacking us are reproduced here, and are read by everybody, and the effect thereof can be imagined. Toward us British journalists are playing the same part that was played by their predecessors toward France sixty years since, and which converted what was meant to be a permanent peace into the mere truce of Amiens. Insolent and egotistical as a class, though there are highly honorable exceptions, those journalists have done more to make their country the object of dislike than has been accomplished by all other Englishmen. Their deeds show that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that its conquests are permanent. It has been said that France has been as unfriendly to us as England, and that, therefore, we ought to feel for her the same dislike as that of which England is the object. But, admitting the assertion to be true, we know little of what the French have said or written concerning us. The difference of language prevents us from taking much offence at Gallic criticism. Not one American in a hundred reads French; and of those who do read it, not one in a thousand, journalists apart, ever sees a French quarterly, monthly, weekly, or daily publication. Occasionally, an article from a French journal is translated for some one of our newspapers, but it is oftener of a friendly character than otherwise. The best French publications support the Union cause, at their head standing the “Debats,” which is not the inferior of the “Times” in respect to ability, and is far its superior in all other respects. Besides, judging from such articles from the French presses devoted to Secession interests as have come under our observation, they are neither so able nor so venomous as those which appear in British Secession journals and magazines. Most of them might be translated for the purpose of showing that the French have no wish for our destruction, while the language of the British articles indicates the existence of an intense personal hostility, and an eager desire to see the United States partitioned like Poland. We should be something much above, or as much below, the standard of humanity, if we were not moved deeply by such evidences of fierce hatred, expressed in the fiercest of language.
In assuming a strictly impartial position, England follows a sense of interest, which is proper and praiseworthy. She cannot, supposing her to be wise, be desirous of our destruction; for, that accomplished, she would be more open than ever to a French attack. Let Napoleon III. accomplish those European purposes to which his mind is now directed, and he would be impelled to quarrel with England by a variety of considerations, should this Republic be broken up into half a dozen feeble and quarrelsome confederacies. But with the United States in existence, and powerful enough to command respect, he would not dare to seek the overthrow of the British Empire. We could not permit him to head a crusade for England's annihilation, no matter what might be our feeling toward the mother-land. A just regard for our own interests would impel us to side with her, should she be placed in serious danger. Such was, substantially, President Jefferson's opinion, sixty years ago, when the first Napoleon was so bent upon the conquest of England; and we think that his views are applicable to the existing circumstances of the world. Where should we have been now, if England had quarrelled with and been conquered by Napoleon III.? We must distinguish between the English nation and Englishmen,—between the English Government, which has, perhaps, borne itself as favorably toward us as it could, and that English aristocracy which has, as a rule, exhibited so strong a desire to have us extinguished, even while it has repeatedly refused to take steps preparatory to war; and the two countries should be persuaded to understand that neither can perish without the life of the other being placed in great danger. The best answer to be made to the wordy attacks of Englishmen is to be found in success. That answer would be complete; and if it cannot be made, what will it signify to us what shall be said of us by foreigners? The bitterest attacks can never disturb the dead.
One cause of the change of England's course toward us is to be found in our own change of moral position. The President's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on the first of January, 1863; and from that time the anti-slavery people of England have been on our side; and their influence is great, and bears upon the supporters of the Palmerston Ministry with peculiar force. Had our Government persisted in the pro-slavery policy which it favored down to the autumn of 1862, it is not at all unlikely that the English intervention party would have been strong enough to compel their country to go with France in her mediation scheme,—and the step from mediation to intervention would have been but a short one; but the committal of the North to anti-slavery views, and the union of their cause with that of emancipation, threw the English Abolitionists, men who largely represent England's moral worth, on our side. The Proclamation, therefore, even if it could be proved that it had not led to the liberation of one slave, has been of immense service to us, and the President deserves the thanks of every loyal American for having issued it. He threw a shell into the foreign Secession camp, the explosion of which was fatal to that “cordial understanding” that was to have operated for our annihilation.
* * * * *
Such was the year of the Proclamation, and its history is marvellous in our eyes. It stands in striking contrast to the other years of the war, both of which closed badly for us, and left the impression that the enemy's case was a good one, speaking militarily. Our improved condition should be attributed to the true cause. When, in the Parliament of 1601, Mr. Speaker Croke said that the kingdom of England “had been defended by the mighty arm of the Queen,” Elizabeth exclaimed from the throne, “No, Mr. Speaker, but rather by the mighty hand of God!” So with us. We have been saved “by the mighty hand of God.” Neither “malice domestic” nor “foreign levy” has prevailed at our expense. Whether we had the right to expect Heaven's aid, we cannot undertake to say; but we know that we should not have deserved it, had we continued to link the nation's cause to that of oppression, and had we shed blood and expended gold in order to restore the system of slavery and the sway of slaveholders.
* * * * *
Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker, Minister of the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society, Boston. By JOHN WEISS. In Two Volumes. 8vo. London.
Such a life of Theodore Parker as Mr. Parton has written of Andrew Jackson would be accepted as an American classic. For such a life, however, it is manifestly unreasonable to look. Not until the present generation has passed away, not until the perilous questions which vex men's souls to-day shall rest forever, could any competent biographer regard the “iconoclast of the Music Hall” as a subject for complacent literary speculation or calm judicial discourse. For us, this life of Parker must be interpreted by one of the family. He shall best use these precious letters and journals who is spiritually related to their writer, if not bound to him by the feebler tie of blood. And assuming the necessity of a partisan, or, as it might more gently be expressed, wholly sympathetic biographer, there is little but commendation for Mr. Weiss. With admirable clearness and strength he rings out the full tone of thought and belief among that earnest school of thinkers and doers of which Theodore Parker was the representative. Full as are these goodly octavos with the best legacies of him whose life is written, we have returned no less frequently to the deeply reflective arguments and acute criticisms of Mr. Weiss. Let the keen discrimination of a passage taken almost at random justify us, if it may.
“Some people say that they are not indebted to Mr. Parker for a single thought. The word 'thought' is so loosely used that a definition of terms must precede our estimate of Mr. Parker's suggestiveness and originality. Men who are kept by a commonplace-book go about raking everywhere for glittering scraps, which they carry home to be sorted in their aesthetic junk-shop. Any portable bit that strikes the fancy is a thought. There are literary rag-pickers of every degree of ability; and a great deal of judgment can be shown in finding the scrap or nail you want in a heap of rubbish. Quotable matter is generally considered to be strongly veined with thought. Some people estimate a writer according to the number of apt sentences imbedded in his work. But who is judge of aptness itself? What is apt for an epigram is not apt for a revolution: the shock of a witty antithesis is related to the healthy stimulus of creative thinking, as a small electrical battery to the terrestrial currents. Well-built rhetorical climaxes, sharp and sudden contrasts, Poor Richard's common-sense, a page boiled down to a sentence, a fresh simile from Nature, a subtle mood projected upon Nature, a swift controversial retort, all these things are called thoughts. The pleasure in them is so great, that one fancies they leave him in their debt. That depends upon one's standard of indebtedness. Now a penny-a-liner is indebted to a single phrase which furnishes his column; a clergyman near Saturday night seizes with rapture the clue of a fine simile which spins into a 'beautiful sermon'; for the material of his verses a rhymester is 'indebted' to an anecdote or incident. In a higher degree all kinds of literary work are indebted to that commerce of ideas between the minds of all nations, which fit up interiors more comfortably, and upholster them better than before. And everything that gets into circulation is called a thought, be it a discovery in science, a mechanical invention, the statement of a natural law, comparative statistics, rules of economy, diplomatic circulars, and fine magazine-writing. It is the manoeuvring of the different arms in the great service of humanity, solid or dashing, on a field already gained. But the thought which organizes the fresh advance goes with the pioneer-train that bridges streams, that mines the hill, that feels the country. The controlling plan puts itself forth with that swarthy set of leather-aproned men shouldering picks and axes. How brilliantly the uniforms defile afterward, with flashing points and rhythmic swing, over the fresh causeway, to hold and maintain a position whose value was ideally conceived! So that the brightest facings do not cover the boldest thought.”
By omissions here and there,—in all not amounting to ten pages of printed matter,—these literary remains of Theodore Parker might have been made less offensive to believers in the Christian Revelation, as well as to the not small class of gentlemanly skeptics who go through whatever motions the best society esteems correct. In these days, many worthy people, who are not quite sound upon Noah's ark, or even the destruction of the swine, will wince perceptibly at hearing the Lord's Supper called “a heathenish rite.” And it would be unfair to the memories of most noted men to stereotype for ten thousand eyes the rough estimates of familiar letters, or the fragmentary ejaculations of a private journal. But Mr. Parker never scrupled to exhibit before the world all that was worst in him. There are few chapters that will not recall defects publicly shown by the preacher and author. The reader can scarcely miss a corroboration of a shrewd observation of Macaulay, that there is no proposition so monstrously untrue in politics or morals as to be incapable of proof by what shall sound like a logical demonstration from admitted principles. Theodore Parker was a strong and honest man. Yet few strong men have so lain at the mercy of some narrow bit of logic; few honest ones have so warped facts to match opinions. We speak of exceptional instances, not of ordinary habits. He seemed unable to persuade himself that a scheme of faith which was false to him could be true to others of equal intelligence and virtue. He fell too easily into the spasmodic vice of the day, and said striking things rather than true ones. He assumed a basis of faith every whit as dogmatic as special revelation, and sometimes grievously misrepresented the creeds which he assailed. Strangers might go to the Music Hall to breathe the free air of a catholic liberality, and find nothing but the old fierceness of sectarianism broken loose against the sects. Let us make every deduction which a candid criticism is compelled to claim, and Theodore Parker stands a noble representative of Republican America. His place is still among the immortals who are not the creatures of an age, but its regenerators. For it is not the life of a great skeptic, but the work of a great believer, which is brought before us in these volumes. This uncompromising enemy of the creeds was the ally of their highest uses. His soul never lacked that dear and personal object of worship which is offered by the Christian Revelation in its common acceptance. He could have lived in no more jubilant confidence of immortality, had he enjoyed the tactual satisfactions of Thomas himself. No Catholic nun feels more delicious assurance of the protection of the Virgin, no Protestant maiden knows a more blissful consciousness of the Saviour's marital affection towards her particular church, than felt this Theodore Parker in the fatherly and motherly tenderness of the Great Cause of All. Certainly, few doubters have ever doubted to so much purpose as he. Men who are skeptical through the intellect in the Christian creeds seldom live so sturdily the Christian life. Yet we cannot think that the fervent faith with which he wrought came from what was exceptional in his belief; it was rather a good gift of native and special sort. For it is a true insight which leads Tennyson to warn him whose faith does not trust itself to form, that his sister is “quicker unto good” from the hallowed symbol through which she receives a divine truth. Many who flatter themselves that they have outgrown the need of a human embodiment of the Father's love have only induced a plasticity of mind which prevents the life from taking shape in any positive affirmation. “It is a strong help to me,” writes a Congregational minister, “to find a man, standing on the extreme verge of liberal theology, holding so firmly, so tenaciously, to the one true religion, love to God and man.” But may all men stand there, and cling to it as resolutely as he did?
The ancestors of Theodore Parker seem to have been creditable offshoots from the Puritan stock. They were men and women of thrift and sagacity. Of his mother there are very sweet glimpses. He describes her as “imaginative, delicate-minded, and poetic, yet a very practical woman.” She appears to have been thoroughly religious, but without taste for the niceties of dogmatic theology. Piety did not have to be laboriously put into her, before it could generously come out. “I have known few,” writes her son, “in whom the religious instincts were so active and profound, and who seemed to me to enjoy so completely the life of God in the soul of man.” And again he says, “Religion was the inheritance my mother gave,—gave me in my birth,—gave me in her teachings. Many sons have been better born than I, few have had so good a mother. I mention these things to show you how I came to have the views of religion that I have now. My head is not more natural to my body, has not more grown with it, than my religion out of my soul and with it. With me religion was not carpentry, something built up of dry wood, from without; but it was growth,—growth of a germ in my soul.” Thus we see that Parker was not singular in his sources of goodness and nobility: here also have the strong and worthy men of all time received their inspiration. The mother's sphere is never confined to the household, but expands for joy or bitterness through the world at large. A youth of farm-work, snatches of study, and school-teaching, seem to be the appointed curriculum for our trustworthy men. In addition to this, Theodore achieves a slight connection with Harvard,—insufficient for a degree, yet enough for him, if not for the College. Then he teaches a private class in Boston, and presently opens school in Watertown. Here, for the first time, comes a modest success after the world's measurement. He has soon thirty-five, and afterwards fifty-four scholars. And now occurs an incident which is unaccountably degraded to the minion type of a note. It is, however, just what the reader wants to know, and deserves Italics and double-leading, if human actions are ever sufficiently noteworthy for these honors. The Watertown teacher receives a colored girl who has been sent to him, and then consents to dismiss her in deference to the prejudices of Caucasian patrons. Simon Peter denied the Saviour for whom he was afterwards crucified with his head hanging down. One day we shall find this schoolmaster leaving most cherished work, and braving all social obloquies, that he may stand closer than a brother to the despised and ignorant of the outcast race. The colored girl was amply avenged. But the teacher is here, as ever after, a learner, and his leisure is filled with languages, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, Spanish, and French. During his subsequent stay at the Cambridge Divinity School, there are added studies in Italian, Portuguese, Icelandic, Chaldaic, Arabic, Persian, and Coptic. Of his proficiency in this Babel of tongues the evidence is not very conclusive. Professor Willard is said to have applied to the young divinity-student for advice in some nice matters of Hebrew and Syriac. Theology there can be no doubt that he thoroughly mastered. After a brief season of itinerancy through Massachusetts pulpits, he is settled at West Roxbury. And here begins that agony of doubt dismal and unprofitable to contemplate, when it is not redeemed by a manly ardor which searches on for attainable grounds of trust. But in this young minister the faith of a little child cannot be superseded by the advents of geology and carnal criticism. Some of the Biblical conceptions of the Deity may be found inadequate, but Nature and the human soul are full of His presence and glow with His inspirations. Within the limits of capacity and obedience, every man and woman may receive direct nourishment from God. At length the South-Boston sermon of 1841 separates the position of Theodore Parker from that of his Unitarian brethren. After this, his life belongs to the public. He is known of men as an assailant of respectable and sacred things, a bitter critic of political and social usages. That these manifestations were but small portions of the total of his life, the public may now discern.
We can recall no published correspondence of the century which combines more excellent and diverse qualities than this with which Mr. Weiss has plentifully filled his pages. Occasions for which the completest of Complete Letter-Writers has failed to provide are met by Mr. Parker with consummate discretion. His letters are to Senators, Shakers, Professors, Doctors, Slaveholders, Abolitionists, morbid girls, and heroic women: they are all equally rich in spontaneity, simplicity, and point. Keen criticisms of noted men, speculations upon society, homely wisdom of the household, estimates of the arts, and consolations of religion, all packed in plain and precise English, seem to have been ever ready for delivery. If Mr. Parker had not chosen the unpopularity of a great man, he could have had the abundant popularity of a clever one. Let us see how he outlines the Seer of Stockholm for an inquiring correspondent:—
“Swedenborg has had the fate to be worshipped as a half-god, on the one side; and on the other, to be despised and laughed at. It seems to me that he was a man of genius, of wide learning, of deep and genuine piety But he had an abnormal, queer sort of mind, dreamy, dozy, clairvoyant, Andrew-Jackson-Davisy; and besides, he loved opium and strong coffee, and wrote under the influence of those drugs. A wise man may get many nice bits out of him, and be the healthier for such eating; but if he swallows Swedenborg whole, as the fashion is with his followers,—why, it lays hard in the stomach, and the man has a nightmare on him all his natural life, and talks about 'the Word,' and 'the Spirit,' 'correspondences,' 'receivers.' Yet the Swedenborgians have a calm and religious beauty in their lives which is much to be admired.”
The deeply affectionate nature of Theodore Parker glows warmly through the Correspondence and Journal. His friends were necessities, and were loved with a devotion by no means characteristic of Americans. He could give his life to ideas, but his heart must be given to persons, young and old. Turning from his task of opposition and conflict, he would yearn for the society of little children, whose household loves might dull the noise and violence and passion through which he daily walked. “The great joy of my life,” he writes, “cannot be intellectual action, neither practical work. Though I joy in both, it is the affections which open the spring of mortal delight. But the object of my affections, dearest of all, is not at hand. How strange that I should have no children, and only get a little sad sort of happiness, not of the affectional quality! I am only an old maid in life, after all my bettying about in literature and philanthropy.” And in a letter to Dr. Francis there comes an exclamation of which the arrangement is very pathetic in its significance,—“I have no child, and the worst reputation of any minister in all America!”
We are in no position to estimate with any exactness either the adaptation of Theodore Parker to our national well-being or his positive aid to the mental and moral progress of New-England society. Violent denunciations in the interest of the various sects and policies that he attacked will for the present be levelled against him. Neither will there be wanting extravagant eulogiums from personal friends, fellow-religionists, and zealous reformers. Only the distant view of a generation yet to be can see him in just relation to the men of this time. In judging the weight and work of a contemporary, we attach an over-importance to the number and social position of his nominal adherents; while, in estimating the utility of an historic leader, we instinctively feel that these things are almost the last to be considered. For the greatest influence for good has come from men who have struggled in feeble minorities,—ever alienating would-be friends by an invincible honesty, or even by an invincible fanaticism. Not to the excellences or extravagances of a handful of persons who precisely agree with his views of Christianity may we look for the influence of Theodore Parker which to-day works among us. We might find it in greater power in Brownson's Catholic Review, in the humane magnetism of orthodox Mr. Beecher, in the Episcopal ministrations of Dr. Tyng. For any intelligent Christian must allow that those claiming to represent the Church of Christ have too often sided with the oppressor, fettered human thought in departments foreign to religion, and inculcated degrading beliefs, which scholars eminent in orthodoxy declare indeducible from any Biblical precept. It is not the incredibleness of a metaphysical belief, but a laxity or cowardice of the practice connected with it, which can point the reformer's gibe and wing his sarcasm. Theodore Parker virtually told the Christian minister that he must reprove profitable and popular sins, or else stand at great disadvantage in the trial between Rationalism and Supernaturalism which is vexing the age. In rich and prosperous communities Christianity has been too prone to degenerate into a mere credence of dogma; it must reassert itself as the type of ethics. It is also good that the clergy, intrusted with the defence of the faith delivered to saints, be compelled to place themselves on a level with the ripest scholarship of the day. For ends such as these the life of this critic and protester has abundantly wrought. If he has pulled down a meeting-house here and there, we are confident that he has been instrumental in building up many more to an effective Christianity.
Peculiar. A Tale of the Great Transition. By EPES SARGENT. New York: G.W. Carleton. 12mo.
There seems to be an element of luck in the production of highly successful plays and novels. To succeed in this department of imaginative writing, it is not enough that the author has literary power and skill. Else why do the failures of every great novelist and playwright almost always outnumber the successes? Even Shakspeare offers no exception to the fact. What a descent from “Hamlet” to “Titus Andronicus,” from “Othello” to “Cymbeline”! Miss Bronte writes “Jane Eyre,” and fails ever afterwards to come up to her own standard. Bulwer delights us with “The Caxtons,” and then sinks to the dulness of “The Strange Story.” Dickens gives us “Oliver Twist,” and then tries the patience of confiding readers in “Martin Chuzzlewit.” We will not undertake to analyze all the reasons for these startling discrepancies; but one obvious reason is infelicity in the choice of a subject. A subject teeming with the right capabilities will often enable an ordinary playwright to produce a drama that will rouse an audience to wild enthusiasm; whereas, if the subject is un-pregnant with dramatic issues, not even genius can invest it with the charm that commands the sympathy and attention of the many. Watch a large, miscellaneous audience, as it listens, rapt, intent, and weeping, to Kotzebue's “Stranger,” and see the same audience as it tries to attend to Talfourd's “Ion.” Yet here it is the hack writer who succeeds and the true poet who fails. Why? Because the former has hit upon a subject which gives him at once the advantage of nearness to the popular heart, while the latter has selected a theme remote and unsympathetic.
In “Peculiar” Mr. Sargent has had the luck, if we may so call it, of finding the materials for his plot in incidents which carry in themselves so much of dramatic power that a story is evolved from them with the facility and inevitableness of a fate. When the United States forces under General Butler occupied New Orleans, certain developments connected with the workings of “the peculiar institution” were made, which showed a state of social degradation of which we had not supposed even Slavery capable. It appeared that women, so white as to be undistinguishable from the fairest Anglo-Saxons, were held as slaves, lashed as slaves, subjected to all the indignities which irresponsible mastership involves.
“Peculiar” derives its title from one of the characters of the novel, an escaped negro slave, who has received from his sportive master the name of “Peculiar Institution.” The great dramatic fact of the story lies in the kidnapping of the infant child of wealthy Northern parents who have been killed in a steamboat-explosion on the Mississippi. The child, a girl, is saved from the water, but saved by two “mean whites,” creatures and hangers-on of the Slave Power, who take her to New Orleans, and finally, being in want of money, sell her with other slaves at auction. In a very graphic and truthful scene, the “vendue” is depicted. About this little girl, Clara by name, the intensest interest is thenceforth made to centre. Her every movement is artfully made a matter of moment to the reader.
Antecedent to the introduction of Clara, the true heroine of the novel, we have the story of Estelle, also a white slave. At first this story seems like an episode, but it is soon found to be inextricably interwoven with the plot. The author has shown remarkable dexterity in preserving the unity of the action so impressively, while dealing with such a variety of characters. Like a floating melody or tema in a symphony or an opera, the souvenirs of Estelle are introduced almost with the effect of pathetic music. Indeed, to those accustomed to look at plots as works of art, the constructive skill manifest in this novel will be not the least of its attractive features.
One word as to the characters. These are drawn with a firm, confident pencil, as if they were portraits from life. Occasionally, from very superabundance of material, the author leaves his outline unfilled. But the important characters are all live and actual flesh and blood. In Pompilard, a capitally drawn figure, many New-Yorkers will recognize an original, faithfully limned. In Colonel Delancy Hyde, “Virginia-born,” we have a most amusing representative of the lower orders of the “Chivalry.” Estelle is a charming creation, and we know of few such touching love-stories as that through which she moves with such naturalness and grace. In the cousins Vance and Kenrick we have strongly marked and delicately discriminated portraits. The negro “Peculiar” is made to attract much of our sympathy and respect. He is not the buffoon that the stage and the novel generally make of the black man. He belongs rather to the class of which Frederick Douglas is a type. It is no more than poetic justice that from “Peculiar” the book should take its name.
We should say more of the plot, did we not purposely abstain from marring the reader's interest by any indiscreet foreshadowing. Everybody seems to be reading or intending to read the book; and its success is already so far assured that no hostile criticism can gainsay or check it. Not the least of the merits of “Peculiar” is the healthy patriotic spirit which runs through it, vivifying and intensifying the whole. The style is remarkably animated, often eloquent, and would of itself impart interest to a story far less rich than this in incident, and less powerful in plot.
The Life of William Hickling Prescott. By GEORGE TICKNOR. Boston: Ticknor &Fields.
The third edition of Mr. Ticknor's “History of Spanish Literature" was noticed with due commendation in our number for November last. That was a work drawn exclusively from the region of the intellect, and written by the “dry light” of the understanding. The author appeared throughout in a purely judicial capacity. His task was to summon before his literary tribunal the writers of a foreign country, and mostly of past generations, and pronounce sentence upon their claims and merits. Learning, method, sound judgment, and good taste are displayed in it; but the subject afforded no chance for the expression of those personal traits which are shown in daily life, and make up a man's reputation in the community where he dwells.
But the Life of Prescott is a book of another mood, and drawn from other fountains than those of the understanding. It glows with human sympathies, and is warm with human feeling. It is the record of a long and faithful friendship, which began in youth and continued unbroken to the last. It is the elder of the two that discharges this last office of affection to his younger brother. Mr. Ticknor could not write the life of Mr. Prescott without showing how worthy he himself was of having so true, so loving, and so faithful a friend. But he has done this unconsciously and unintentionally. For it is one of the charms of this delightful book—one of the most attractive of the attractive class of literary biography to which it belongs that we have ever read—that the biographer never intrudes himself between his subject and the reader. The story of Mr. Prescott's life is told simply and naturally, and as far as possible in Mr. Prescott's own words, drawn from his diaries and letters. Whatever Mr. Ticknor has occasion to say is said with good taste and good feeling, and he has shown a fine judgment in making his portraiture of his friend so life-like and so true in detail, and yet in never overstepping the line of that inner circle into which the public has no right to enter. We have in these pages a record of Mr. Prescott's life from his cradle to his grave, sufficiently minute to show what manner of man he was, and what influences went to make up his mind and character; and it is a record of more than common value, as well as interest.
For the last twenty years of his life Mr. Prescott was one of the most eminent and widely known of the residents of Boston. He was universally beloved, esteemed, and admired. He was one of the first persons whom a stranger coming among us wished to see. His person and countenance were familiar to many who had no further acquaintance with him; and as he walked about our streets, many a glance of interest was turned upon him of which he himself was unconscious. The general knowledge that his literary honors had been won under no common difficulties, owing to his defective sight, invested his name and presence with a peculiar feeling of admiration and regard. The public at large, including those persons who had but a slight acquaintance with him, saw in him a man very attractive in personal appearance, and of manners singularly frank and engaging. There was the same charm in his conversation, his aspect, the expression of his countenance, that was felt in his writings. Everything that he did seemed to have been done easily, spontaneously, and without effort. There were no marks of toil and endurance, of temptations resisted and seductions overcome. His graceful and limpid style seemed to flow along with the natural movement of a running stream, and to those who saw his winning smile and listened to his gay and animated talk he appeared like one who had basked in sunshine all his days and never known the iron discipline of life.
But this was not true; at least, it was not the whole truth. Besides this external, superficial aspect, there was an inner life which was known only to the few who knew him intimately, and which his biography has now revealed to the world. This memoir sets the author of “Ferdinand and Isabella” before the public, as Mr. Ticknor says in his preface, “as a man whose life for more than forty years was one of almost constant struggle,—of an almost constant sacrifice of impulse to duty, of the present to the future.” Take Mr. Prescott as he was at the age of twenty-five, and see what the chances are, as the world goes, of his becoming a laborious and successful man of letters. He was handsome in person, attractive in manners, possessed of a competent property, very happy in his domestic relations, with one eye destroyed and the other impaired by a cruel accident; what was more probable, more natural, than that he should become a mere man of wit and pleasure about town, and never write anything beyond a newspaper-article or a review? And we should remember that defective sight was not the only disability under which he labored. His health was never robust, and he was a frequent sufferer from rheumatism and dyspepsia,—the former a winter visitor, and the latter a summer. And not only this, but there was yet another lion in his path. His temperament was naturally indolent. He was fond of social gayety, of light reading, of domestic chat. He had that love of lounging which Sydney Smith said no Scotchman but Sir James Mackintosh ever had. But there was a stoical element in him, lying beneath this easy and pleasure-loving temperament, and subduing and controlling it. He had a vigilant conscience and a very strong will. He had early come to the conclusion that not only no honor and no usefulness, but no happiness, could be secured without a regular and daily recurring occupation. He made up his mind, after due reflection and consideration, to make literature his profession; and not only that, but he further made up his mind to toil in this, his chosen and voluntary vocation, with the patient and uninterrupted industry of a professional man whose daily bread depends upon his daily labor.
And the biography before us reveals that inner life of struggle and conquest which, while Mr. Prescott was living, was known only to his most intimate friends. We see here how resolutely and steadily he contended, not only against defective sight and indifferent health, but also against the love of ease and the seductions of indolence. We see with what strenuous effort his literary honors were won, as well as with what gentleness they were worn. And thus the work has a distinct moral value, and is full of encouragement to those who, under similar or inferior disabilities, have determined to make the choice of Hercules, and prefer a life of labor to a life of pleasure. And this moral lesson is conveyed in a most winning and engaging way. The interest of the narrative is kept up to the end with the freshness of a well-constructed work of fiction. It is an interest not derived from stirring adventures, for Mr. Prescott's life was very uneventful, but from its happy portraiture of those delightful qualities of mind and character of which his life was a revelation. Though it tells of constant struggle and not a little suffering, the tone of the book is genial, sunny, and cheerful, as was the temperament of the historian himself. For it is a remarkable fact that Mr. Prescott's bodily infirmities never had any effect in making his mind or his character morbid. His spiritual nature was eminently healthy. His leading intellectual trait was sound good sense and the power of seeing men and things as they were. He had no whims, no paradoxes, no prejudices. His histories reflect the aggregate judgment of mankind upon the personages he describes and the events he narrates, without extravagance or overstatement in any direction. And it was the same with his character, as shown in daily life; it was frank, generous, cordial, and manly. No man was less querulous, less irritable, less exacting than he. His social nature was warm; discriminating, but not fastidious. He liked men for the good there was in them, and his taste in friendship was wide and catholic. He was rich in friends, and this book proves how just a title to such wealth he could show. We shall be surprised, if this biography does not attain a popularity as wide and as enduring as that enjoyed by any of Mr. Prescott's historical works. It is largely made up of extracts from his letters and private journals, which are full of the playful humor, the ready sympathy, the sunny temper, the kindly judgment of men and things, which made the historian so dear to his friends and so popular among his acquaintances.
We cannot dismiss this book without saying a word or two in praise of its externals. Handsome books are, happily, no longer so rare a product of the American press as to require heralding when they do appear, but this is so beautiful a specimen of the art of book-manufacturing that it deserves special commendation. The type, paper, press-work, and illustrations are all admirable, and the whole is a result not easily to be surpassed in any part of the world.
My Farm of Edgewood. A Country Book. By the Author of “Reveries of a Bachelor.” New York: Charles Scribner. 12mo.
When “Ik Marvel” ten years ago turned farmer, a good proportion of the reading public supposed that his experiment would combine the defects of gentleman-and poet-farming, and that he would escape the bankruptcy of Shenstone only by possessing the purse of Astor. That a man of refined sentiments, elegant tastes, wide cultivation, and humane and tender genius, given, moreover, to indulgences in “Reveries” and the “Dream-Life,” should succeed in the real business of agriculture, seemed a monstrous supposition to those cockney idealists who consider the cultivation of the mind incompatible with the cultivation of the ground, who cannot bring, by any theory of the association of ideas, practical talent into neighborly good-will with lofty aspirations, and who necessarily connect the government of brutes with an imbruted intelligence. The book we have under review is a blunt contradiction to objectors of the literary class. That it is practical, the coarsest farmer must admit; that its practicality is not purchased by any mean and unwise concessions to “popular prejudice,” the most sensitive litterateur will concede; and that the whole representation constitutes a most charming book, all readers will be eager to pronounce. Indeed, the critic of the volume is somewhat puzzled to harmonize the fine rhythm of the periods, and the superb propriety of the tone, with the subject-matter. The bleakest and most ghastly aspects of Nature,—the most prosaic facts of the farmer's life,—Irish servants and compost-heaps,—cows which try to consume their own milk,—beehives which send forth swarms to sting the children of the house, and give no honey,—soils which refuse to bear the products which intelligence has anticipated,—all are transformed into “something rich and strange” by the poet's alchemy, without any sacrifice of truth, or the insertion of details which a farmer would disavow as inaccurate or sentimental. The “Ik” is a full counterpoise to the “Marvel,” even to the most literal reader of the volume, though it is certain that no book has ever before appeared in our country in which the farmer-life of New England has assumed so poetic a form. The “chiel” among the agriculturists “taking notes” will be more likely to seduce than to warn; and if the record of his eventual triumphs be received as gospel truth, we must expect a vast emigration of the men of mind from the cities to the country. Who would not cheerfully encounter all the vexations attending a settlement in “My Farm in Edgewood” for the compensations so bountifully provided for the privations?
To the literary reader the doubt will arise, whether the writer of this work might not have more profitably employed his time, during the last ten years, in creating thoughts than in “improving” land,—in diffusing information than in selling milk. As a poetic, scientific, and practical farmer, he has doubtless silenced all cynic doubts of his capacity to make four or six per cent. on the capital he invested in land; but it is plain, that, without capital, he might have made three or four times as much by the genial exercise of his literary power. The talent exercised on his farm we must, therefore, consider from a financial point of view to have been more or less wasted. As a “gentleman-farmer,” he might easily have repaired from his study all the losses which his trained subordinates of the garden and the field incurred from the lack of his constant superintendence. Everything which a man of mind could want in a country-residence might have been obtained without his personal oversight of every minute detail, and the net result of the gains of the year would have been greater, if, instead of riding daily into New Haven to sell his milk, he had stayed quietly in his study to write for the magazines. This calculation we have made from a rigid scrutiny of the figures in which the author sums up, year after year, his gains.
We have been provoked into this comparison by the evident glee with which Ik Marvel parades the results of his agricultural labors. So earnest is he to show that a man of genius can make money by farming, that he is inclined to overlook the distinction between the work of an ordinary and that of an extraordinary mind. Waiving this consideration, we have nothing to object to his ten years' seclusion from literature. That seclusion has brought him into contact with the rough realities of a farmer's life, has enabled him personally to inspect every process of agriculture, and furnish his mind with an entirely new class of facts. The result is a book whose merit can hardly be overpraised. It should be in every farmer's library, as a volume full of practical advice to aid his daily work, and full of ennobling suggestions to lift his calling into a kind of epic dignity. As a book for the generality of readers, it far exceeds any previous work of the author in force, naturalness, and beauty, in vividness of description and richness of style, and in that indefinable element of genius which envelops the most prosaic details in an atmosphere of refinement and grace.
Methods of Study in Natural History. By L. AGASSIZ. Boston: Ticknor &Fields. 12mo.
A work from the scientific storehouse of Professor Agassiz needs only to have attention called to its existence to command universal welcome. The readers of the “Atlantic” are already in some measure familiar with its contents, being a reprint of a series of papers published in this journal; but they will be read again with double satisfaction in this continuous form. The avowed purpose is “to give some general hints to young students as to the methods by which scientific truth has been reached.”
There are many lovers of Nature, and many students of Nature; but there are very few whom we may term philosophers of Nature. In other words, there are those who are charmed with the external world, its landscapes, its beauteous forms and tints, and all its various adaptations to fascinate the senses,—and those who delight in deciphering and describing all the details of individual objects, and their wonderful fitness to the role they have severally or unitedly to play; and there is the man who, endowed with all this, seeks to go still farther, and from myriads of observations to deduce great general truths. He is the philosopher.
When Agassiz arrived in this country, there were many good observers of Nature here, and many who had accumulated a large store of facts. Each one had been working in his own way, almost alone, scarcely knowing the ultimate aims of scientific research, much less knowing how to arrive at them. To him, more than to any other person, zooelogists in this country are indebted for showing them how to work, and for presenting to them a plan to be worked out, with processes and means by which this is to be done. And now he designs to diffuse these high aims and methods throughout the community. As he says, “The time has come when scientific truth must cease to be the property of the few, when it must be woven into the common life of the world.” Of all men, he is the one to gain the ear and understanding of the public on such matters, and to command the recognition of his conclusions. His faculty of simplifying great principles, and of clothing them in such language and with such illustrations as to render them intelligible and attractive to the uninstructed, is one of Professor Agassiz's most rare characteristics. In these chapters he has unfolded some of the methods by which high scientific results have been and may be attained, and has well illustrated them. In a short sketch of the progress of Natural History, he has noticed the methods which were successively pursued in its study, and the long time which elapsed before anything like true science was developed; he has pointed out the necessity and nature of classification, the important terms employed, as classes, orders, families, genera, and species, and their signification, and dwells upon the great idea that all the denominations represented by these terms exist definitely in Nature, and can be legitimate and permanent only as they conform to the plan laid down by Nature herself. Much of the work is devoted to the enforcement of this doctrine. He shows us, more especially by the class of Radiates, how objects at first view widely different all conform to the same definite plan, and how some which during a part of their history would not be suspected of having any alliance with each other, yet, by alternate generations, come to be identical. He shows, by the ovarian egg, the great simplicity and apparent identity of the beginnings of all animal life, and the successive steps by which the diversified forms of animals are developed, and insists upon the necessity of following the history of an animal through all its phases before its true place in the grand plan can be determined. He discusses the permanence of species, and the limits of their variation, which he illustrates more especially by the growth of corals, and most emphatically expresses his dissent from the startling development-doctrines of Darwin. But it would be fruitless to attempt an abstract of the numerous truths he has alluded to, and the methods by which such truths are to be sought. It is to these truths, in contradistinction to the mere study and description of species, and the building up of systems on external characters alone, that he hopes to direct attention. Those comprehensive truths are few. Agassiz tells us, that, after a whole life devoted to the study of Nature, a simple sentence may express all he himself has done: “I have shown that there is a correspondence between the succession of fishes in geological times and the different stages of their growth in the egg,—this is all.” Though this is by no means the limit of his claim so modestly expressed, yet that was a grand generalization, and, like the great doctrine of gravitation, and the demonstration by Cuvier of the existence of races of animals and plants on the globe anterior to those now existing, it proves to be of almost indefinite application, and, like those doctrines, has revolutionized science.
The peculiar scientific views here presented this is no place to criticize. But we may say that to every student of liberal culture this work is essential. Every teacher's table and every school-library should be furnished with it.
Hannah Thurston: A Story of American Life. By BAYARD TAYLOR. New York: G.P. Putnam.
Mr. Bayard Taylor evidently does not subscribe to the theory which “Friends in Council” attributes to a large class: “that men cannot excel in more things than one; and that, if they can, they had better be quiet about it.” Having already achieved a reputation as a traveller, a poet, and a secretary to a foreign legation, he now enters the lists with the novelists, who must look well to their laurels, if they would not have them snatched from their brows by this new-comer.
The book is called “A Story of American Life.” It is American life, just as the statue of the Venus de' Medici or the Apollo Belvedere is the representation of the human figure. No Athenian belle, no Delphic athlete, stood for those beautiful shapes; but the nose was modelled from one copy, the limbs from another, the brow from a third, and the result is a joy forever. So the American life portrayed in this story is a conglomeration, and partially a caricature, of the various isms which have disturbed the strata of our social life. That early American village should present within its outmost circle the collection of peculiarities gathered here would be little less than marvellous. That they are found in so many American villages as to justify their being attributed to American villages in general is preposterous. Certainly, this picture does not daguerreotype New England, however it may be in New York,—and though New England is small and provincial and New York is large and cosmopolitan, still we respectfully submit that any characteristic which may belong to New York and does not belong to New England is local and not national; and though a writer, for his own convenience and the better to convey his moral, may, if he choose, group all the wickednesses and weaknesses of the land in one secluded spot, he ought not to convey to strangers so wrong an idea of our rural social life as to make that spot the exponent of all.—So much for the title.
We now open the book, and are immediately in the midst of scenes which have an indescribable familiarity. We have a confused sense of having met these people before. Certainly they have a strong family-likeness to denizens of modern novels. The sewing-circles and small-talk savor of the cheap wit of Widow Bedott. Jutnapore must have descended in a right line from Borrioboola-Gha. The traditional spinsters with their “withered bosoms” march in four abreast. The hereditary clergymen, hungry, sectarian, sanctimonious, rabid, form into line with the precision acquired by long drill. The hero and heroine stand up as good as married in the first chapter. The features of the hero are instantly recognizable. There is the small stir, the rising of the curtain, and some one steps upon the stage, “tall and sunburnt, with a moustache,”—'tis he! Alonzo!—“with easy self-possession and a genial air,”—the very man,—“habitual manners slightly touched with reserve, but no man could unbend more easily,”—who but he, our old acquaintance?—“a rich baritone voice,” “strung with true masculine fibre,” striking in among the sharps and flats and bringing them all into harmony,—that is the invariable way. “Generally, the least intellectual persons sing with the truest and most touching expression, because voice and intellect are rarely combined, [the reason seems to us rather a restatement of the fact,] but Maxwell Woodbury's fine organ had not been given to him at the expense of his brain.” Certainly not. He never would have been our hero, if it had. When you add, that “his manners were thoroughly refined, and his property large enough and not too large for leisure,” why, one might almost send a sheriff to arrest him, trusting to this description to make sure of his identity. The heroine is of course the “pale, quiet, earnest-looking girl,” who, in the midst of snoods, frocks, jackets, pocket-handkerchiefs, and other commonplace handicraft, is embroidering with green silk upon warm brown cloth the thready stems and frail diminishing fronds of a group of fern-leaves,—who alone among assured matrons and faded spinsters is visited by “a flitting blush, delicate and transient as the shadow of a rose tossed upon marble,”—and who matches the “glorious lay” of the hero, that “thrilled and shook her with its despairing solemnity,” with an Alpine song, that, pure and sweet, sets the hero once more face to face with the Rosenlaui glacier and the jagged pyramid of the Wetterhorn.
To this there is no special objection. Every man has a right to heap virtues and graces upon his hero, and to heighten their effect by as much uncouthness and insincerity as he chooses to attribute to the subordinates; but so far as he professes to represent life, he should keep within the bounds of natural laws. If he chooses to introduce time-honored personages, we shall not quarrel with him, although we certainly think it desirable that some fresh piquancy in their characters shall be the vindication of their reappearance. We may regret that a subtle, but palpable ridicule is cast upon foreign missions,—a cause which, whether successful or unsuccessful in its immediate objects, will forever stand recorded as one of the most unselfish, the most sublime, and the most Christ-like movements that have ever been originated by man. The hero does, indeed, patronize them to the extent of saying that he has “seen something of your missions in India, and believes that they are capable of accomplishing much good,”—adding, however, lest his words excite hopes too sanguine, “Still, you must not expect immediate returns. It is only the lowest caste that is now reached, and the Christianizing of India must come, eventually, from the highest,”—words which we shall be very ready to take as opinion, but very slow to receive as oracle, since, from the time when the Founder of Christianity was upon the earth, and the common people heard him gladly, while the higher classes thrust him out of their synagogues, till the present day, the history of Christianity has been the history of an influence rising from the lower layers of society into the upper, rather than filtering down from the upper into the lower.
Since, also, however vulgarly the Grindles may put it, it is true that drunkenness is the agony of wives, the dread of mothers,—that it does destroy hopes, desolate hearths, break hearts,—that within the last two years it has added to its terrible deeds wide disasters to our arms, long sorrow to our country, and fruitless death in a thousand households,—we think it would have been well, if the discredit cast upon temperance measures, and the discomfiture visited upon its advocates, had been accompanied by a less covert recognition of the evil and by a more obvious sympathy with its victims. Since the methods taken to insure self-control are insufficient, would it not have been possible to indicate better? Since Woodbury does not think abstinence to be the cure of intemperance, could he not justify his practice by a higher principle than self-indulgence, lay it on a deeper foundation than dilettanteism?
We regret, also, that in a book by Bayard Taylor there should have been found room for such a paragraph as this:—
“The churches in the village undertook their periodical
'revivals,' which absorbed the interest of the community while
they lasted. It was not the usual season in Ptolemy for such
agitations of the religious atmosphere,—but the Methodist
clergyman, a very zealous and impassioned speaker, having
initiated the movement with great success, the other sects became
alarmed lest he should sweep all the repentant sinners of the
place into his own fold. As soon as they could obtain help from
Tiberius, the Baptists followed, and the Rev. Lemuel Styles was
constrained to do likewise. For a few days the latter regained the
ground he had lost, and seemed about to distance his competitors.
Luckily for him,... the material for conversion, drawn upon from
so many different quarters, was soon exhausted; but the rival
churches stoutly held out, until convinced that neither had any
further advantage to gain over the other.”
No one who has given to the religious phenomena of the day the smallest degree of intellectual and sympathetic attention can fail to pronounce this a gross and ill-bred caricature. Ridicule is the legitimate weapon of Truth; but ridicule that strikes rudely and indiscriminately, wounding without benefiting, is not found in the hands of Christian courtesy. We regret these blemishes, and such as these, the more because we are persuaded that the effects produced were not intended by the author. We believe, not only from his previous reputation, but from the spirit of the book, which warms, deepens, and clarifies itself as it goes on, that he aimed only at results pure, healthful, and desirable. It is by no design of his, that young feet, already wavering downward, will not be strengthened to pause, to turn, to steady themselves, but will rather be lured on by his words. It is no purpose of his to make the crusts of Materialism harden still more hopelessly above the stifled soul. He designs to ridicule only that which is ridiculous. There are evidences of a purpose to relieve the darkness of his coloring in each instance by lines of light, but it is not made palpable enough for running readers. He has seen the weakness that generally develops itself in, and the hypocrisy that almost invariably clings to the skirts of a great popular movement, and it is these alone which he aims to bring down. In this he is right. He errs in that his vision is neither clear nor broad. He does not always wisely discriminate as to the nature or extent of the disease, or the effect of the remedy which he applies. The cause of the difficulty has baffled his researches. The people upon whom his strictures fall, and to whom strictures belong, will be inflamed, but they will not be enlightened; and they who do see the real nature of the movement, its bane as well as its blessing, and who are constantly laboring to separate the chaff from the wheat, will not be helped, but hindered, by his well-meant efforts.
But, as we intimated, the book, like fame, increases in going. Under all the wit and humor, which are often very charming, under all the satire, which is none the less enjoyable because occasionally half-hidden, under the somewhat multifarious machinery, which the peculiar structure of the book renders necessary, there rises slowly into view and presently into prominence the outline of a purpose as noble as it is rare. In the teeth of popular prejudice, Bayard Taylor has had the courage to take for his heroine a woman “strong-minded,” austere in her faith, past her first youth, given to public speaking, and imbued, we might almost say to stubbornness, with ultra ideas of “woman's rights.” True, he has given her to us in the most modified form possible to such a character, utterly pure, unselfish, true, refined, without ambition, impelled by the highest motives, and guided by the highest principles. But the conjunction of these two classes of qualities in one person is the real Malakoff. That accomplished and the work is done. In this conception lies the true originality of the book. In this attempt lies the true consciousness of power. He who can make his hero say,—“It was my profound appreciation of those very elements in your character which led you to take up these claims of woman and make them your own, that opened the way for you to my heart: I reverence the qualities, without accepting all the conclusions born of them,”—has a deeper insight than most of his fellows. He shows that he looks at things, and not at the traditions of things. He is not led away by the cry of the mob, and the gleam of gold so pure and solid almost changes into indignation our regret that he has ever suffered himself to be deceived by the glare of tawdry tinsel.
Yet even here he has not struck all truth. It is the most improbable thing in the world that any woman should have built up such a wall around herself as is represented here. It is morally impossible that such a woman as Hannah Thurston should have done it. It is simply unnatural. It might, perhaps, happen, just as a woman might happen to have been born with five fingers on each hand. But it is not with freaks of Nature, it is with Nature, that we have to deal. Girls may please themselves with fine-sounding phrases about equal powers and equal rights in marriage, but they generally vanish with the first approach of a living affection. No idea of independence or equality ever, we dare affirm, came between a great nature and its great love. No woman of exalted aims and large capacities, it may be safely said, will ever be held back from love, or even from marriage, by any scruples as to her relative standing. The stumbling-block in the way of such a woman as Hannah Thurston would not be a dread of the “submission of love,” but rather of a submission without love, a submission of mere contiguity to somewhat hard, false, coarse, unjust, naming itself with a name to which it had no title. If she trusted her lover thoroughly, she would intrust all risks to love. She would know with her head and feel with her heart, that, with the chivalry, the intensity, the reverence, the elevation of such a sentiment as she imagined, there could be neither bondage nor freedom, neither mine nor thine, but a oneness that would bring all relations into harmony with itself. The very essence of love is humility, and at the same time its glory is that it abolishes all laws, all rights, all powers, and is to itself alone law, right, and power. By the completeness of self-abnegation may the footsteps of love be traced. This partially the author recognizes, choosing it for the conclusion of the whole matter, but erring in that he makes it come with resistance and reluctance, the conquest of love, instead of spontaneously and unconsciously, its necessary concomitant.
In the hero of the story and his relations to the heroine, with occasional questionable traits, we find often a generosity, delicacy, and devotion which give promise of good. A man who can conceive a character so much above the common level, where the common level has always been low, cannot fail by continued observation and candid thinking to rise still higher. Frequently already, seeming hardly to be conscious of it, he impinges upon a far-reaching, deep-lying, but generally unrecognized truth. When men shall have come to study the nature of woman, instead of haranguing about her duties, a great point will have been gained.
The blemishes which we have pointed out, and others which we have not pointed out, are only blemishes, and chiefly upon the surface. They mar, but they do not vitiate.
The limits of a magazine will not admit that adequate analysis and criticism which the ability of the book, both in point of subject and treatment, deserves. We have only space to say, that, making every allowance for every fault, it has the merit of being a pioneer, and an able pioneer, in a tract which has been hitherto, so far as we know, unbroken wilderness. Its author has not solved the problem,—he does not even understand all its conditions; but he is travelling in the direction of the true solution: and he offers us the rare, we had almost said the solitary, spectacle of a man and an opponent bringing to the discussion of the “Woman's-Rights question” an appreciable degree of sense, justice, and moral dignity.
* * * * *
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[A] The letter is given in the valuable collection of “Winthrop Papers,” drawn from the same rich repository which has furnished many of the precious materials in the volume before us. The collection appears as the Sixth Volume of the IVth Series of Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
[B] All the trigonometrical measurements connected with my experiments were very ably conducted by Mr. Wild, now Professor at the Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich; they are recorded in the topographical survey and map of the glacier of the Aar, accompanying my “Systeme Glaciare.”
[C] Since the above was written, intelligence has been received of the defeat of General Longstreet, the losses experienced by the enemy being great. This disposes of the remains of the great army which Mr. Davis had assembled to reconquer Tennessee, and to reestablish communications between the various parts of the Southern Confederacy on this side of the Mississippi. The Army of the Potomac has returned to its former ground, near Washington.