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_A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics._
VOL. XV.--JUNE, 1865.--NO. XCII.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
A LETTER ABOUT ENGLAND.
Dear Mr. Editor,--The name of your magazine shall not deter me from sending you my slight reflections But you have been across, and will agree with me that it is the great misfortune of this earth that so much salt-water is still lying around between its various countries. The steam-condenser is supposed to diminish its bulk by shortening the transit from one point to another; but a delicate conscience must aver that there is a good deal left. The ocean is chiefly remarkable as the element out of which the dry land came. It is only when the land and sea combine to frame the mighty coast-line of a continent, and to fringe it with weed which the tide uncovers twice a day, that the mind is saluted with health and beauty. The fine instinct of Mr. Thoreau furnished him with a truth, without the trouble of a single game at pitch and toss with the mysterious element; for he says,--
"The middle sea contains no crimson dulse, Its deeper waves cast up no pearls to view, Along the shore my hand is on its pulse, And I converse with many a shipwrecked crew."
On the broad Atlantic there is no smell of the sea. That comes from the brown rocks whence iodine is exhaled to brace the nerves and the fancy, while summer woods chasten all the air. At best, the ocean is austere and unsympathetic; and a sensible, that is, a sensitive, stomach understands it to be demoralized by the monstrous krakens which are viciously brooding in its depths. (If the pronoun "it," in the last sentence, should refer to stomach, the sense will still be clear.) In fact, this water has been left over from the making of the earth: like the Dodo and the Moa, it should have evaporated. How pleasant it is to be assured by Sir Charles Lyell that the land is still rising in so many quarters of the globe! for we may anticipate that millennial epoch when there shall be "no more sea."
However, the old impression which great spaces used to make upon the imagination gives way to the new sensation of annihilating spaces. It would be more correct now to speak of differences than of distances. The difference between one country and another is all that now makes the distance between them. For man is now overcoming space faster than he is obliterating national peculiarities. And when one goes abroad, the universal humanity in whose interest all material and political triumphs are gained is not felt by him so soon as the specific divergence which makes the character of lands and people. Oaks and elms, hawthorn and beeches, are on either side the ocean; but you measure the voyage by their unlikeness to each other, and wonder how soon you have got so far. The strawberry ripens with a different flavor and texture. The sun is less racy in all the common garden-stuff whose names we know. Pears and peaches we are disappointed in recognizing; they seem as if ripened by the sun's proxy, the moon; and our boys would hardly pick up the apples in the fields. But England undulates with grass that seems to fix the fluent color of the greenest waves on either hand. And our eagle-eyed blue sky droops its lid over the island, as the moisture gathers, with a more equable compassion than we know for all shrubs and blades and grazing cattle.
Both the pain and the tonic in being absent from your home and country are administered by difference. In gulping that three thousand miles the taste is austere, but the stimulus is wholesome. We learn to appreciate, but also to correct, the fare we have at home.
The difference is twofold between England and America. England differs, first, in the inveterate way in which the people hold on to all that they have inherited; second, in the gradual, but equally inveterate, way in which they labor to improve their inheritance. The future is gained by the same temper in which the past is held; so that, if the past is secure, the future is also: none the less because the past seems so irrevocably built, but rather in consequence of that, because it betrays the method of the builders.
These two characteristics, apparently irreconcilable, are really organic, and come of position, climate, diet, and slowly amalgamated races of men. Herne's oak in Windsor Forest and the monarchy in Windsor Castle grew on the same terms. Branch after branch the oak has fallen, till on the last day of the summer of 1863 the wind brought the shattered remnant to the ground. Whether the monarchy decay like this or not, it has served to shelter a great people; and the English people is still vital with its slow robustness, and is good for depositing its annual rings these thousand years.
Let us look a little more closely at this apparent contradiction.
The superficial view of England breeds a kind of hopelessness in the mind of the observer. He says to himself,--"All these stereotyped habits and opinions, these ways of thinking, writing, building, living, and dying, seem irrepealable; and the worst fault of their comparative excellence is, that they appear determined not to yield another inch to improvement." The Englishman says that America is forever bullying with her restlessness and innovation. The American might at first say that England bullied by never budging,--bullied the future, and every rational or humane suggestion, by planting a portly attitude to challenge the New Jerusalem in an overbearing chest voice, through which the timid clarion of the angels is not heard.
If an observer knows anything of the history of England, he cannot deny that vast changes have been made in every department of life: domestic habits, social economics, the courts of law, the Church, the liberty of the press and of speech, in short, all the roads, whether material or mental, by which mankind travels to its ultimate purpose, have been graded, widened, solidly equipped and built. A thousand years have converted three or four races into one people,--and all that time and weather have made upon it such strong imprints that you cannot see the difference between a pyramid and a cathedral sooner than you can the distinctive nationality of England. But for that very reason you despair of it, just as you do of a cathedral which cannot be adapted to the wants of a new religious age. At the same time that you venerate the history of England, and are thankful for the great expansion which she gave to human rights, you almost quarrel with it, because at first it seems like an old stratum with its men and women imbedded; its institutions, once so softly and lightly deposited, now become a tough clay; its structures, once so curiously devised for living tenants, now crusts and shells; its tracks of warm and bleeding feet now set in a stiff soil that will take no future impression.
All this is due to the first glance you get at the hard, realistic England of to-day. You have noticed a machine clutch its raw material and twist and turn it through its relentless bowels. That is the way the habits of England seize you when you land, and begin to appropriate your personality. This is the first offence of England in the eyes of an American, whose favorite phrase, "the largest liberty," is too synonymous with the absence of any settled habits. Prescribed ways of doing everything are the scum which a traveller first gathers in England. Perhaps he thinks that he has caught the English nationality in his skimmer; and as he rather contemptuously examines these topmost and handiest traits, he grumbles to himself that these are the habits of a very old nation, that lives on an island, and keeps up a fleet, not to bridge, but to widen narrow seas. Such respect for routine and observance can nowhere else be perceived. An American is so little prepared for this that he is disposed to quarrel with it even in railway-stations, where it is most excellent. But it penetrates all forms and institutions; the Established Church itself is a specimen of complete arranging and engineering; the worshippers are classified, ticketed, and despatched safely rolling on the broad gauge of the Liturgy, in confidence of being set down at last where the conductors have contracted to take them. How accurately everybody in England knows his own place!--and he accepts it, however humble, with a determined feeling that it is inevitable. The audience is so packed that everybody remains quiet. The demeanor of the servants is as settled and universally deferential as Westminster Abbey is Gothic. Mr. Lindsay or Mr. Roebuck might forget to revile America, or Lord Palmerston, England's right hand, forget his cunning, as soon as a servant might forget his place. A thousand years have settled him in it; and you are supposed by him to have had the benefit of as many years in determining your own position and relation to him. You are electrified when a waiter first touches his hat to you; it is as if he had discharged something into you by the gesture, which is likely to exhaust him, and you expect to have to offer him a chair. But his deference is an integral part of the stability of England. When he forgets it, look for a panic in the Exchange, the collapse of credit, and the assassination of the Queen.
This mutual deference in a country that is so strictly apportioned into castes becomes an unconscious toadyism, which is saved from being very repulsive only by the frank and childlike ways of the people. If it is carried too far, they are the first to see it. The "Times" could not report a case of murder without remarking, as it described the direction of the fatal shot, "What was a very singular fact, a part of the charge, after crossing the apartment, entered a picture of her Majesty the Queen on the opposite wall";--that is, in committing the murder, the charge of powder went too far; it ought to have stuck to its business, instead of violating one of the chief proprieties of a limited monarchy. But when the Queen went down to Greenwich summer before last to embark for Belgium, an over-zealous official issued an order that no person should be admitted into the yard of the dock, no workman should cross the yard while she was in it, and no one should look out of a window until she had gone. This was his British sense of the behavior due to a Queen who was in mourning for her husband, and might dislike to be observed. But the whole press derided this order, and subjected it to indignant criticism; the officer was styled flunky and tyrant, and the Queen herself was obliged to rebuke and disavow it.
In doing everything in England, there is so little excitement, because it is felt to be irregular. The temper of the people is well kept by the smooth and even island air; the moist southwestern winds come and soothe with calm lips the check. The thermometer, like everything else, knows its place; and when once it succeeded in passing through twenty degrees in the course of a day, the oldest inhabitant of London grew anxious; it was feared that stocks, too, would fall. The thunderstorms understand propriety, and simply growl, like the dissatisfied Englishman. Vivid effects, sharp contrasts, violent exertions, cannot be sustained in that insular atmosphere. It seems as if London, like a lover of the weed, were pacified by its own smoke. I saw two huge wagons turn from opposite quarters into a narrow lane. The drivers kept their horses moving till the heads of the leaders touched; then they sat still and looked at each other. Both were determined that it was a point of honor to stay where they were. After a few words of rather substantial English had passed between them, both subsided into a dogged equanimity. A crowd gathered instantly, but with as little tumult as ants make; it regarded the occurrence as a milder form of pugilism, and watched the result with interest. A policeman passed blandly from one wagon to the other, represented the necessities of the public traffic, hoped they would settle it shortly, urged the matter as an intimate friend of the parties, till at length the man who was conscious that he turned into the lane the last gathered up his reins and backed out of it. It was a little index of the popular disposition; and I expected that as soon as the country became convinced that it had driven rashly into our civil strait, it would deliberately back out of it. And this it is now slowly engaged in doing.
The two great parties of the Church and Liberalism are blocking each other in the same manner; but in this case Liberalism has turned into the great thoroughfare of the world's movement, and finds the Church, like a disabled omnibus, disputing the passage by simply lying across it. Dr. Temple and one hundred liberal Fellows of Oxford sent up to Parliament a petition which prayed for the abolition of the subscription test. At Oxford two subscriptions are required as a qualification for academic degrees: one to the Thirty-Nine Articles, and one to the third article of the thirty-sixth Canon. Liberal clergymen and members of the Church of England find this test odious, because it constrains the conscience to accept ancient formulas of belief without the benefit of private interpretation. The conservatives desire to maintain the test, thinking that it will be a barrier to the tide of private interpretation which is just now mounting so high. The petitioners perceive that no test can prevent a man from having his own thoughts; that it is therefore obsolete; that it drives out of the Church the best men,--those, namely, who think with independent vigor, and whose activity would put a new soul into the old Establishment. When this petition came up for debate in the House of Commons, the conservative speakers accused the petitioners of wishing to set up a new school of theological belief and criticism. Mr. Gladstone made a speech, full of grace and an even vigor, to the effect that he could not conceive of religion disconnected from definite statements such as those which the Church possessed; the idea was to his mind as absurd as to conceive of manifestations of life without a body. Mr. Goschen, the new member from London, made his maiden speech on this occasion. It was very earnest and liberal, and reminded one of American styles of speaking, being less even and conversational than the style which Englishmen admire. His opinion was, that all tests should be abolished, and that inclusion was safer than exclusion: meaning that the Church ought to keep herself so organized as to absorb the best vitality of every generation, instead of turning it out to become cold and hostile. The phrase which he used is the very essence of a republican policy. It represents the tendency of the people of England, as distinguished from its ministers and the traditions of its government. That phrase will one day be safely driven clear through the highway where the omnibus is now lying; but for the present, the abolition of tests and church-rates, the recognition of every shade of dissent, and the graver political reformation which waits behind all these are held in check by the _vis inertiæ_ of an Establishment that lies across the road.
During the exciting anti-church-rate contests of 1840, the Church party in Rochdale, which had been defeated in an attempt to levy a church-rate where for several years none had been collected, held a meeting to try the matter over again. It was adjourned from the church to the graveyard. The vicar, as chairman, occupied one tombstone, and John Bright stood upon another to make one of his strong defences of the rights of Voluntaryism. In the course of the discussion, the vicar's warden rendered an account of the dilapidations of the building which the proposed rate was to repair, and stated, with great simplicity, that "the foundations were giving way,"--a significant remark, which the meeting, though held in a grave place, received with shouts of laughter. Such a statement may well be taken as symbolical of the condition of the Establishment, when liberal criticism, represented by Colenso, Stanley, Jowett, Baden Powell, and a respectable minority, is silently crumbling the underpinning, while the full service is intoned above and the pampered ceremonial swells the aisles.
If the opponents of liberal thinking ever bring an action against a prominent dissenter from their views, the Privy Council gets rid of the case by deciding it upon the purely technical position of the Church,--as in the case of Dr. Williams, whose offence was the publication of his Essay on Bunsen, and Mr. Wilson, whose essay was entitled "Séances Historiques de Genève--The National Church." The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council decide that they have no power to define what is true and what is false doctrine, but only what has been established to be the law of the Church upon the true and legal construction of her Articles and Formularies.
I. The Church does not require her clergy to believe in the inspiration of _all_ portions of the Scriptures.
II. Nor that the Atonement operates by _substitution_ of Christ's suffering for our sins.
III. Nor that the phrase "everlasting fire," in the Athanasian Creed, is to be received as a final and hopeless statement.
As a specimen of the popular element which is at work among the uneducated classes to make the people itself of England its real church, it is worth while to observe what Mr. Spurgeon is doing. His chapel stands on the southern side of the Thames, between the Victoria and Surrey Theatres, where the British subject is served with the domestic and nautical drama. On those stages the language struts and aspirates, and the effects are borrowed from Vauxhall and Cremorne for plays which are constructed to hold the greatest possible amount of cockneyism and grotesqueness, with the principal object of showing how villany and murder are uniformly overcome by virtue, whose kettle sings upon the hob above a pile of buttered muffins at last; and the pit, which came in for a shilling, pays the extra tribute of a tear. These shop-keepers of the Surrey side sit on Sunday beneath Mr. Spurgeon's platform, whose early preaching betrayed the proximity of the theatres, but was for that very reason admirably seasoned to attract his listeners. If he ever did slide down the rail of his pulpit-stairs, as reported, in order to dramatize the swift descent of the soul into iniquity, and then painfully climb up again to show its difficult return, the action was received, doubtless, in its full ethical import, and shook the suburban heart. His blunt and ordinary language, sinning frequently against taste, and stooping sometimes to be coarse, was the very vehicle to take his hearers up at the pit-door, theatrical or theological, and send them in wholesomer directions. It was a fortunate--his co-religionists would say providential--adaptation of an earnest and religious man to the field of his labor. For, as time passed, the phrases and demeanor of his preaching improved,--their absurdities have, no doubt, been caricatured by the London press,--and the temper of the man was more plainly observed to be sincere, fervent, and devoted to a certain set of religious preconceptions. The want of culture and of general intelligence was not so lamentable in such a neighborhood. He led, by many lengths, the Victoria and Surrey stage. If he had more deeply reflected upon the subjects which he handled like a simple-hearted boy, he would have failed to keep four thousand men and women warm in the hollow of his hand from Sunday to Sunday, for a dozen years, and to organize their whole moral and religious activity in forms that are admirably adapted to carry on the work of popular dissent.
His audience represents the district, and is an advertisement of the kind of spiritual instruction which it needs and gets. Not many large heads sit in the pews; narrowness, unreflecting earnestness, and healthy desires are imprinted upon the faces upturned towards his clear and level delivery. He is never exactly vapid, and he never soars. His theology is full of British beer; but the common-sense of his points and illustrations relative to morals and piety is a lucid interval by which the hearers profit. They follow his textual allusions in their little Bibles, and devoutly receive the crude and amusing interpretations as utterances of the highest exegetical skill. But their faces shine when the discourse moralizes; it seems to take them by the button, so friendly it is,--but it looks them closely in the eye, without heat and distant zeal, with great, manly expostulation, rather, and half-humorous argument, that sometimes make the tears stand upon the lids. The florid countenances become a shade paler with listening, the dark complexions glow with a brooding religiosity. It is plain that he has a hungry people, and feeds them with what suits their frames the best. His clear voice, well fuelled by a full, though rather flabby frame, rolls into all the galleries and corners of the vast building without effort; his gestures are even and well balanced; and you are, in fact, surprised to see how good a natural orator he is. You went to hear him, expecting to find some justification for the stories which impute to him a low and egotistic presence, and a delivery that depends upon broadness for its effects. But he appears unpretending, in spite of the satisfied look which he casts around the congregation when he first steps to the railing of the platform. He is evidently conscious that he owns the building and the audience; but, content with that, he makes no attempt to put them in his pocket; on the contrary, he almost instantly becomes seriously engaged in transferring into them his lesson for the day. His style of extemporaneous speaking is conversational,--the better English suspect all other styles,--and this of itself shows what improvement has taken place in the Surrey region. If at first he indulged in rant, he has now subsided into an even vein; he puts things plumply, and tells his feelings gravely, and makes his points without quackery. So it is plain that when he gives notice of a contribution for his college, in which young men are trained for the ministry, and states simply, in justification, that one hundred and fifty have already left it, and are now engaged in preaching the dissenting word, he is to be regarded as one of the decided influences which are now at work to bring the people up to self-consciousness, self-respect, and political importance.
It is very characteristic that the National Church is called an Establishment,--in other words, something that stays where it was put some time ago. The thing which ought to move first, and move continually through all the avenues of the public life, to keep them clear of the obstructions of ignorance and superstition, and prevent the great travel and intercourse of thought from stagnating, is the thing in England which is most unwilling to stir. Already a fearful accumulation of passengers and vehicles, whose patience is nearly exhausted, is anxious to be let through in time to keep appointment with the world's grave business. Young thoughts are hurrying to be indorsed; mature paper dreads to be protested; the hour of the world's liberal exchange is about to strike. Depend upon it, at the critical moment, when the pressure in the rear becomes the most emphatic, the people in the omnibus will have to get out and assist the passengers in drawing it to one side, where it will remain a long time unmolested.
But the first thing which you say concerning the men and institutions of England is, that they are established. In America some things are finished before they are done; but there are no tottering trestle-bridges in the routes of English enterprise to let the travellers through. When a business firm becomes fairly built up, it lasts a hundred years or more. Shop-signs are not taken down except by the weather; new fronts grow so slowly along the ancient streets that they appear to be deposited by secretion, like corals and shells. I took a book to a printer, and found he was the grandson of the man who published "Junius" in 1769, doing business in the same dingy court and office, with the old regularity and deliberation. When I said, that, for want of time, I should have to risk formidable errata and print at the rate of sixty-four pages a day, he plainly suspected me of derangement and of a desire to impart my condition to his machinery. On repeating it with calmness, he set it down for Yankee braggadocio, and assured me that not an author in England could print at that rate. Then he went to work. They detest being hurried, but their latent momentum is very great. Limited suffrage and many administrative abuses will feel it soon, as similar things have felt it before.
But you are deceived at first, and anticipate deterioration rather than improvement for the people of England. The city of London, with its two and a half millions of inhabitants, looks like a huge stone that has been pried over a sweet well; nobody need expect to draw water there any more; fresh ones must be dug, we say, in America, in Russia, to reach primitive human nature again, and set it free to make the wilderness blossom. London looks as if it had slowly grown from the soil and the climate, like a lichen that clings closely to its rocky site. The heavy, many-storied buildings of Portland stone are blackened by the smoke till they appear more like quarries then habitations; the swarms of human beings look ephemeral as moths. The finest architecture becomes in a few years indistinguishable, and delicate ornamentation is as much superfluous as among the weather-stained cliffs and boulders of the coast. Monumental inscriptions are smutted and half-obliterated, but the scurf protects the monument. Under the huge pile of St. Paul's the ceaseless traffic of human passions passes as through a defile of the hills. When the lights spring forth towards evening, and sparkle on the great dull masses, it seems as if the buildings had been there forever, and forever would be, endowed with some elemental process which puts forth the lighting. Newgate itself, without windows towards the street, a huge angle of dead walls, with heavy iron fetters suspended over the gateways, and statues so blackened in their niches as to dispel the illusion that they ever did or could suggest humanity, is a settled gloom in the midst of the city, like the thought of a discouraged and defeated man. It has a terrible suggestion that crime is established in London,--immutable methods of being guilty and of being condemned--all old, old, and irrepealable.
From Primrose Hill, beyond Regent's Park, and towards the open country, the profile of the city can be seen at one view, as it emerges from the smoke, is heavily described athwart it, and plunges into it again, like a great, silent feature of the earth itself, lifted in an atmosphere whose density seems to be a part of the antiquity. Hidden in that smoke the streets roll night and day, like great arteries, to feed, replace, repair, business, pleasure, and misery, but to change it no more than the blood changes the tricks of an old brain or the settled beating of a stubborn heart.
These are some of the physical aspects which seduce a traveller into the impression that the vigor and glory of England have culminated, and would fall apart sooner than take on new forms or yield to the moulding power of popular ideas.
The impression is deepened by the feeling of hostility to American institutions, and by the special dislike of the North, which the past four years have betrayed. The commercial and ruling classes had been skilfully prepared, by applications of Southern sentiment, for the declaration of neutrality, which was supposed to contain the triple chance of destroying a dangerous republic, of securing unlimited supplies of cotton by free-trade, and of erecting in the South an oligarchic form of government. Under the circumstances, they felt that neutrality was a kind of merit in them, and a magnanimity which the declining North ought to have hailed with enthusiasm, as it showed that England scorned to take a more deadly advantage of our perilous position. This anti-Northern feeling is, and always has been, confined to the Tory classes, in and out of the Government, to the rich and their dependants, to the confirmed High-Churchmen. Even an American resident, if he was wealthy, and liked the Church of England, and had settled down into a British country-seat with British ways of living, would be sure to misrepresent the North, to be pleased at its defeats and annoyed by its successes, partly from commercial and partly from pro-slavery considerations. The America which he remembered, and regretted that he could not still be proud of, was the America where Pierce and Buchanan were Presidents, where Jefferson Davis and John B. Floyd were Secretaries of War. He had, in short, become a Tory; for Toryism is regard for usages at the expense of men. He and the English Tory desired the triumph of Slavery, because it was the best thing for the negro, and the quietest thing for trade and government. The only difference between them is, that he would own slaves, if he had an opportunity, while the Englishman would not, partly because his own servants are so excellent. But both of them would subscribe to the Boston "Courier." The English Tory hates to have the poor classes of London use the railways on the Lord's Day, to go and find God's beauty in the Crystal Palace and the daisy-haunted fields. One of the most striking spectacles in London is found on Sunday, by standing on some bridge that spans the Thames, to watch the little river-steamers, black with human beings, that shoot like big water-bugs from the piers every five minutes, and fussily elbow their way down-stream to various places of resort. On that day people cluster like bees all over the omnibuses, till the vehicle looks like a mere ball of humanity stuck together, rolling down to some excursion-train. This is a bitter sight to an old-fashioned Churchman.[A] The American Tory will hate _any_ day that releases the poor and the oppressed into God's glorious liberty. One of the most worthy and offensive men you can meet in London is the American Tory of this description: worthy, because honest and clean and free from vice; offensive, because totally destitute of republican principle. If stripped of his wealth, he might become a rich man's invaluable flunky, and carry the decorous prayer-book to church, bringing up the rear of the family with formalism. Toryism has a profound respect for external godliness, and remembers that the Southerner sympathizes with bishops, who, like Meade of Virginia, preach from the text, "Servants, obey your masters," and, like Polk of Louisiana, convert old sermons upon the divine sanction of Slavery into cartridge-paper. We must recollect, too, that a good many educated Englishmen dislike republican institutions because they have identified the phrase with all the atrocious things which successive pro-slavery administrations have conceived and perpetrated; for the Englishman is dull at understanding foreign politics, and reads the "Times," though he strongly avers that he is not influenced by it. An administration appears to an Englishman to be the country; he has not yet heard an authoritative interpretation of republicanism, for a Washington cabinet has not till lately spoken the mind of the common people. But when he understands us better he will dread us all the more, because the people in all countries speak the same language in expressing the same wants; and when universal suffrage puts universal justice on its throne in America, injustice will everywhere uneasily await the ballot which shall place it in the minority. The dislike of the English Tory is already passing into this second stage, when his hope of a dissolved Union gives place to his dread of a regenerated country that hastens to propagate its best ideas.
There were three elements in this anti-Northern feeling. First, a sympathy with the smaller and feebler party. This is a trait which puts the English people by the side of the Turk in the Crimea, the Circassian in the Caucasus, the Pole, the Dane,--which inspired Milton's famous letter, in the name of Cromwell, that espoused the cause of the Waldenses. In fact, wherever the smaller and weaker party has no relations with England, the country hurries to protect it. But where, as in the case of the Irish, the Sepoy, the New-Zealander, the Caffre, and the Chinese, England's interest is touched by the objections of people to her own harsh and inveterate rule, she has no magnanimity, and forgets the sentiments of her nobler minds. The same Cromwell who threatened Europe in behalf of the Waldenses contrived the massacre of the Irish at Drogheda. So when sympathy with the distant South harmonized with dread of the North, she was willingly misled by Southern agents to see a war of conquest and aggression.
The second element is a fear of the ultimate consequences of a Union reconstructed without Slavery; for then Mr. Bright may argue in favor of universal suffrage, uninterrupted by allusions to the arrogance and coarseness, the boastful and aggressive spirit belonging to a pro-slavery America. "Why do you desire the dissolution of the Union?" asked one Englishman of another. "Oh, I have no reason, except that the Americans are so bounceable I want to see them humbled." But we were the weakest when Slavery made us so loud-mouthed and vaporing; we shall be strongest when the cause of our boasting has disappeared. When a country is fully conscious of the principles that belong to it, and sees them cleansed with her children's blood, through eyes that stand full with tears, she will invite, but no longer threaten; and the flag which she once waved in the face of all mankind to exasperate will rain persuasion as often as it is unfurled.
But it will be a long time before the Englishman appreciates the altered condition of this country and resigns his prejudices, in consequence of another element in this un-American feeling, namely, insular ignorance. Among the contraband articles which are with difficulty smuggled into any point of the English coast is an accurate knowledge of the polity and condition of another country. Indifference is the coastguard which protects, without moving, every inlet and harbor. The Englishman is surprised, if all the world is not intimately acquainted with the British Constitution, which is not a written document, but a practical result that appears in all the administrative forms of the country, and can be studied only on the spot; but he will not take the trouble to inquire into the relation which the separate States bear to the Federal government; and he seems prevented by some congenital deficiency from understanding how the latter is the direct result of the independence of the former. The question he asks most frequently is, "Why has not an independent State the right to secede?" He is infected by nature with Mr. Calhoun's fallacy. You cannot make a Tory understand that powers are derived from the consent of the governed, and that the consent is itself an institution. "What becomes of State rights?" he asks. And when you reply, that the concentred function of each State is contained within a diffused popular will whose centre is at Washington, and that thirty-four concentrations of this kind are nothing more than thirty-four general conveniences, he takes you slowly by the button, looks pityingly in your face, and says, "That is a Northern crotchet, which this civil war has come to cure," and then he leaves you. It is in vain that you shout after him, "That is a Northern principle, which this war has come to confirm": he was out of hearing before he left. You feel that you are a stranger in the house of your own mother. You walk about among these slow, good-natured men, with plump boys' faces and men's chests, and hear them speak your language without your sense. They have a limited one, like their monarchy. How admirably it keeps the square miles of their own island! how shockingly it tends the acres of Ireland! how haughtily it ignored and trampled upon the instincts of the Hindoo! how unwilling it is to see a difference between the circumstances of Australia and those of England! How it blundered into a neutrality which was a recognition of infamy! This is the distance which Toryism spreads between the mother country and our own.
But this must not be accepted as a final statement of the prospects of England, or of its relation to America. There is, in the first place, a great popular sympathy with the North, and it prophesies the future condition of England. When you use the phrase, "people of England," understand that the Toryism which governs England is left out. Bigoted Churchmen, who are afraid that the island will drag its anchor because Bishop Colenso notices some errors in the Pentateuch,--shifty politicians, like Russell and Palmerston,--sour ones, like Roebuck,--scandalous ones, like Lindsay,--and conservatives, like Cecil and Gladstone, now make all the political blunders which they call governing England. Their constituents are two thirds of the merchants, nearly all the literary men, nearly all the clergymen, half the University fellows and professors. But the people of England have not yet been mentioned. They govern England at this moment, and yet John Bright sits almost alone for them in Parliament; John Stuart Mill, Professors Cairnes, Newman, Goldwin Smith, are almost their only powerful writers. The people of England put the broad arrow of their Queen upon the Rebel rams. They stay at home, and by taking the penny papers slowly undermine the "Times." They have defeated every attempt to organize a party for Southern recognition, by simply staying away from the public meetings which the sympathizers called. Once they uttered their opinion by the lips of starving operatives, when the distress in the manufacturing districts was deepest, and capitalists were chary of their aid. The Southern agent was busy then, in all the towns and villages where the misery dwelt. "You are starving."--"Yes."--"And it is for want of cotton."--"So it seems."--"Well, do you mean to sit here? Come out in great force, as in the old Chartist times; tell the manufacturer and the minister to break that blockade and let bread into the mouths of your little ones." And the answer was, "We prefer that they should starve." Again and again, the answer was, "We would rather starve." And this haggard patience was saving the manufacturer himself from ruin, who had been engaged in over-manufacturing, till his warehouses groaned with an enormous stock which the cotton blockade enabled him to work off. Great fortunes have been made in this way, while the operative slowly went to rags, road-mending, and the poor-rates. In London, hard upon midnight, I have often been attracted by the sound of street-music to a little group, in the centre of which stood half a dozen pallid and threadbare men, playing gentle tunes upon the faithful instruments which clung to their sad fortunes. And on a square of canvas, lighted by a lantern, or set in the flaring gas, I have read, to the sound of these paupers' music, the story of America: "Lancashire Weavers out of Work," "Poor Operatives' Band,--a penny, if you please." That music keeps the heart of England quiet while your cannons roar. It is the pulse of the people of England, responding in the faint distance to the throb of victory.
Another sight which can be seen by day in London streets belongs also to the people of England. When there was a dearth of troops during the Crimean War, the coast forts were stripped of their garrisons, and there was a call made by Government for volunteers to fill their places. Citizens came forward and manned the forts. This was the origin of the volunteer force of England, which has grown to be very formidable,--since jealousy of France, dread of invasion, and the need of troops for India have always deterred the Government from recalling the arms which it first put into the hands of the people. The force now comprises infantry, cavalry, light and heavy artillery, organized like the regular army, and under the control of the Horse Guards. Rifle-corps and target-practice have become a mania. The Government encourages it by magnificent reviews and prizes for the best shooting, utterly unconscious that Government itself may one day be the target. But a bloody revolution can hardly occur again in England. It will only be necessary, at some critical moment, for the London volunteers to march as far as Charing-Cross on their way towards Parliament and the Palace. The concession would be there before them.
Mr. Holyoake, who is one of the most vigorous champions of free thought and popular rights in England, says,--"Revolution is no longer necessary in English politics. Our wise and noble forefathers, of those old times of which modern radicals in many towns know too little, laid broad foundations of freedom in our midst. It only needs that we build upon these, and the English educated classes, who always move in the grooves of precedent, will acquiesce with a reasonable readiness."[B]
The feeling of the radical class of English workmen is elsewhere illustrated by Mr. Holyoake with a story from the Allendale mining district. "Four miners published a volume of poems. One of these four in his poem talks of tyranny falling at a moment's notice. Tyranny is not in such a hurry. A 'voice of thunder' is to proclaim its doom. Alas, it is the voice of steady intelligent purpose, much more difficult to elicit, and not that of 'thunder,' which is to accomplish that. The poet of course has a vision about the 'equal share' which the fall of tyranny is to end in. The 'equal share' system would not last a day, as everybody who reflects knows, and would give endless trouble to renew it every morning."[C]
It is a striking characteristic of English Toryism, that it gives way just in time. Every reform has hitherto been granted as it was on the point of being extorted. Official carriages roll over the very spot where Charles I. dropped his self-willed head; Lady Macbeth might wash her hands as soon as the English people their memories of the civil bloodstain. Toryism knows one thing well: that no water-pipes can be made strong enough to withstand the sudden stoppage of a long column of water. They will burst and overflow. No matter what material may be in motion, if the motion be suddenly arrested, heat, in a direct ratio to the motion, is developed. A decided popular tendency will never be peremptorily stopped in England.
It is therefore a grand sight to an American, when the well-appointed companies of London riflemen march up Fleet Street and the Strand, through Temple-Bar, that bars nothing any longer, and stands there a decaying symbol of Toryism itself. The brass bands may play, "Britannia rules the Waves," or "God save the Queen," but to the American ear they sound, "The Waves rule Britannia," "God save the Common People!" Every shouldered musket shall be a vote; the uniform shall represent community of interest and sentiment. The rhythm of the living column is the march of England's steady justice into coal-mines and factories, Church and State.
For this reason we ought to cultivate pacific relations with the Government of England. Beware lest the question of the Alabama break loose to prey upon the true commerce of mankind! A war would put back the people of England for fifty years. When England is at war, the people are apt to rally to the Government. The island is so small, that, when a feeling once gets started, it sweeps all men away into an inconsiderate and almost savage support of the public honor. If Toryism cannot secure to itself the benefit of a war upon some point that involves an English prejudice or interest, it cannot prevent the rising strength of the people from going into opposition. Dissenters of every class are emptying the pews of the Establishment; liberal thinkers now hold University fellowships only to avoid surrendering all the ground to a reactionary party. The abolition of the stamp-tax has freed the daily press, and expensive newspapers no longer represent little cliques, but belong to the people of England, who take their pennyworth of honest criticism every morning; and the best of these newspapers have been for three years on the side of Northern republicanism. This is the instinct of human nature, which knows its rights and hungers to possess them.
We are maintaining half a million of men in the field, half a million outlets of our heart's blood, because we believe that inclusion is better than exclusion. The nation's instinct for that truth has gone into camp. It is a belief that the life of the Republic depends upon including every State, and including every citizen, and including every emigrant, and including every slave, in the right to live, labor, and be happy, and excluding none. We feel that the blood we lose in fighting for that plain maxim of republican economy will make again fast enough when the maxim has prevailed. The weaver of Lancashire, who plays out his hunger in London streets, and our seamen who make the weaver wait while they watch three thousand miles of seaboard, are both listening to the rote of the same great truth, as it dashes on the shores of Time, and brings bracing air to the people who are sick with waiting. If we are gaining battles because we love the rights of the common people, our success will include the English weaver, Dissenters will build churches on our corner-stone of Liberty, the taxed will borrow our ballot-boxes to contain their votes, and none shall be excluded but the betrayers of mankind.
[A] Mr. Holyoake, in an article upon the condition of the lead-miners of Middlesborough, says, while urging the need of excursions and some forms of recreation,--"The rough, uncultivated workman is driven to seek in beer and licentiousness that recreation which a wise piety ought to provide for him amid the refining scenes of Nature. If excursions were possible and encouraged, the wife must go as well as the husband; and if the mother went, the children would go; and if the children went, it would be impossible to take them in rags and dirt. The pride of the father would be awakened. His pipe and pot would often be laid upon the shelf, and the proceeds spent in Sunday clothes for the children. The steamboat and excursion-train are as great moralizers in their way as the church and the preacher. We call the attention of the British Association to this matter, for here their influence would bring about an improvement. They will send a board of geologists to examine the condition of the earth of Cleveland, which can very well take care of itself. Let them send a board of their eminent physicians to look after the condition of the people."
[B] From an admirable oration, delivered at Rochdale, Feb. 2, 1864, upon the political services and career of the late Alderman Livesey.
[C] From a very lively and instructive report of a visit of the British Association, in 1863, to Mr. Beaumont's lead mines at Allenheads, fifty miles from Newcastle.
A PROSE HENRIADE.
People sometimes talk about the quiet of the country. I should like to know where they find it. I never saw any in this part of the world. The country seems to me to be the place of all places where everything is going on. Especially in Spring one becomes almost distracted. What is Spring in the city? Dead bricks under your feet; dead rocks all around you. There are beautiful things in the shop-windows, but they never do anything. It is just the same as it was yesterday and as it will be to-morrow. I suppose a faint sense of warmth and fragrance does settle down into the city's old cold heart, and at a few breathing-holes--little irregular patches, lovely, but minute, called "Central Park," or "Boston Common"--Nature comes up to blow. And there are the Spring bonnets. Still, as a general thing, I should not think it could make much difference whether it were June or January.
But Spring in the country,--O season rightly named!--a goddess-queen glides through the heavens and the earth, and all that is therein springs up to meet her and do obeisance. We, gross and heavy, blind and deaf, are slow to catch the flutter of her robes, the music of her footfall, the odor of her breath; the shine of her far-off coming. We call it cold and Winter still. We huddle about the fires and wonder if the Spring will never come; and all the while, lo, the Spring is here! Ten thousand watching eyes, ten thousand waiting ears, laid along the ground, have signalled the royal approach. Ten thousand times ten thousand voices sound the notes of preparation. Everywhere there is hurrying and scurrying. Every tiny, sleeping germ of animal and vegetable life springs to its feet, wide awake, and girded for the race. Now you must be wide awake too, or you will be ignominiously left behind among the baggage.
The time of the singing of birds is come, and the time of the cackling of homely, honest barn-yard fowls, who have never had justice done them. Why do we extol foreign growths and neglect the children of the soil? Where is there a more magnificent bird than the Rooster? What a lofty air! What a spirited pose of the head! Note his elaborately scalloped comb, his stately steppings, the lithe, quick, graceful motions of his arching neck. Mark his brilliant plumage, smooth and lustrous as satin, soft as floss silk. What necklace of a duchess ever surpassed in beauty the circles of feathers which he wears, layer shooting over layer, up and down, hither and thither, an amber waterfall, swift and soundless as the light, but never disturbing the matchless order of his array? What plume from African deserts can rival the rich hues, the graceful curves, and the palm-like erectness of his tail? All his colors are tropical in depth and intensity. With every quick motion the tints change as in a prism, and each tint is more splendid than the last; green more beautiful than any green, except that of a duck's neck; brown infiltrated with gold, and ranging through the whole gamut of its possibilities. I am not sure that this last is correct in point of expression, but it is correct in point of sense, as any one who ever saw a red rooster will bear witness.
Hens are not intrinsically handsome, but they abundantly prove the truth of the old adage, "Handsome is that handsome does." Lord Kaimes describes one kind of beauty as that founded on the relations of objects. And I am sure that the relation of a hen to a dozen fair, white, pure eggs, and the relation of those eggs to puddings and custards, and the twenty-five cents which they can have for the asking, make even an ungainly hen, like many heroines in novels, "not beautiful, but very interesting." "Twenty thousand dollars," said a connoisseur in such matters, "is a handsome feature in any lady's face." And the "cut-cut-cut-ca-D-A-H-cut" of a hen, whose word is as good as her bond for an egg a day, is a handsome feather in any bird's coat. Once, however, this trumpet of victory deceived me, though by no fault of the hen's. I heard it sounding lustily, and I ransacked the barn on tiptoe to discover the new-made nest and the exultant _mater-familias_. But instead of a white old hen with yellow legs, who had laid her master many eggs, there, on a barrel, stood brave Chanticleer, cackling away for dear life,--Hercules holding the distaff among his Omphales! Now--for there are many things to be learned from hens--mark the injustice of the tyrant man. From time immemorial, girls--at least country girls--have been taught that
"A whistling girl and a crowing hen Always come to some bad end";
but not a word is said about a cackling rooster! Worse still, a crowing hen is so rare a thing that its very existence is problematical. I never heard of one out of that couplet. I have made diligent inquiry, but I have not been able to find any person who had heard, or who had ever seen or heard of any one who had heard, a crowing hen. But these very hands have fed, these very eyes seen, and these ears heard a cackling rooster! Where is manly impartiality, not to say chivalry? Why do men overlook the crying sins of their own sex, and expend all their energies in attempting to eradicate sins which never existed in the other?
I have lived among hens lately, and I know all about them. They are just like people. Not a few only, but the whole human race, are chicken-hearted.
Hens are fond of little mysteries. With tons of hay at their disposal, they will steal a nest in a discarded feeding-trough. With nobody in the world to harbor an evil thought against them, they will hide under the corn-stalks as carefully as if a sheriff were on their track. They will not go to their nests while you are about, but tarry midway and meditate profoundly on fixed fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute, till you are tired of watching and waiting, and withdraw. No, you did not know it all before. The world is in a state of Cimmerian darkness regarding hens. There were never any chickens hatched till three weeks from a week before Fast Day. How should you, my readers, know anything about them? Be docile, and I will enlighten you.
Hens must have a depression where the bump of locality should be, for they have no manner of tenderness for old haunts. "Where are the birds in last year's nests?" queries the poet; but he might have asked quite as pertinently, "Where are the birds in last month's nests?" Echo, if she were at all familiar with the subject, would reply, "The birds are all right, but where are the nests?" Hens very sensibly decide that it is easier to build a new house than to keep the old one in order; and having laid one round of eggs, off they go to erect, or rather to excavate, another dwelling. You have scarcely learned the way to their nook above the great beam when it is abandoned, and they betake themselves to a hole at the very bottom of the haystack. I wish I could tell you a story about a Hebrew prophet crawling under a barn after hen's eggs, and crawling out again from the musty darkness into sweet light with his clothes full of cobwebs, his eyes full of dust, his hands full of eggs, to find himself winking and blinking in the midst of a party of ladies and gentlemen who had come lion-hunting from a farre countrie. I cannot tell you, because it would be a breach of confidence; but I am going to edit my Sheikh's Life and Letters, if I live long enough, and he does not live too long, and then you shall have the whole story, with names, dates, and costumes.
Another very singular habit hens have, of dusting themselves. They do not seem to care for bathing, like canary-birds; but in warm afternoons, when they have eaten their fill, they like to stroll into the highway, where the dust lies ankle-deep in heaps and ridges, and settle down and stir and burrow in it till it has penetrated through all their inmost feathers, and so filled them, that, when they arise and shake themselves, they stand in a cloud of dust. I do not like this habit in the hens; yet I observe how a correspondence exists in all the Vertebrata; for do not fine ladies similarly dust themselves? They do not, indeed, sit in the road _à la Turque_. They box up the dust, and take it to their dressing-rooms, and, because Nature has not provided them with feathers, ingenuity more than supplies the deficiency with the softest of white down brushes, that harbor and convey the coveted dust. I doubt not through the races one resembling purpose runs; and many a stately matron and many a lovely maiden might truly say unto the hen, "Thou art my sister."
Did I say I knew all about hens? The half was not told you, for I am wise about chickens too. I know their tribe from "egg to bird," as the country people say, when they wish to express the most radical, sweeping acquaintance with any subject,--a phrase, by the way, whose felicity is hardly to be comprehended till experience has unfolded its meaning.
When hens have laid a certain number of eggs,--twelve or twenty,--they evince a strong disposition, I might almost say a determination, to sit.[D] In every such case, it is plain that they ought to be allowed to sit. It is a violation of Nature to souse them in cold water in order to make them change their minds; and I believe, with Marcus Antoninus, that nothing is evil which is according to Nature. But people want eggs, and they do not care for Nature; and the consequence is, that hens are obliged to undergo "heroic treatment" of various kinds. Sometimes it is the cold bath; sometimes it is the hospital. One I tied to the bottom of a post of the standards; but, eager to escape, and ignorant of the qualities of cord, she flew up over the top rail, and, the next time I entered the barn, presented the unpleasing spectacle of a dignified and deliberate fowl hanging in mid-air by one leg. Greatly alarmed, I hurried her down. Life was not extinct, except in that leg. I rubbed it tenderly till warmth was restored, and then it grew so hot that I feared inflammation would set in, and made local applications to reduce the tendency, wondering in my own mind whether, in case worse should come to worst, she could get on at all with a Palmer leg. The next morning the question became unnecessary, as she walked quite well with her own. The remaining hens were put in hospital till they signified a willingness to resume their former profitable habits,--except one who was arbitrarily chosen to be foster-mother of the future brood. Fifteen eggs, fair and fresh, reserved for the purpose, I counted out and put into her nest; and there she sat day after day and all day long, with a quietness, a silent, patient persistence, which I admired, but could not in the least imitate; for I kept continually poking under her and prying her up to see how matters stood. Many hens would have resented so much interference, but she knew it was sympathy, and not malice; besides, she was very good-natured, and so was I, and we stood on the best possible footing towards each other. A. G. says, "A hen's time is not much to her"; and in this case his opinion was certainly correct.
One morning I thought I heard a faint noise. Routing out the good old creature, that I might take observations, eggs still, and no chickens, were discernible, but the tiniest, little, silvery, sunny-hearted chirp that you ever heard, inside the eggs, and a little, tender pecking from every imprisoned chick, standing at his crystal door, and, with his faint, fairy knock, knock, knock, craving admission into the great world. Never can I forget or describe the sensations of that moment; and, as promise rapidly culminated in performance,--as the eggs ceased to be eggs, and analyzed themselves into shattered shells and chirping chickens,--it seemed as if I had been transported back to the beginning of creation. Right before my eyes I saw, in my hands I held, the mystery of life. These eggs, that had been laid under my very eyes as it were, that I had my own self hunted and found and confiscated and restored,--these eggs that I had broken and eaten a thousand times, and learned of a surety to be nothing but eggs,--were before me now; and, lo, they were eyes and feathers and bill and claws! Yes, little puff-ball, I saw you when you were hard and cold and had no more life than a Lima bean. I might have scrambled you, or boiled you, or made a pasch-egg of you, and you would not have known that anything was happening. If you had been cooked then, you would have been only an omelet; now you may be a fricassee. As I looked at the nest, so lately full only of white quiet, now swarming with downy life, and vocal with low, soft music,
"I felt a newer life in every gale."
Oh, no one can tell, till he has chickens of his own, what delicious emotions are stirred in the heart by their downy, appealing tenderness!
Swarming, however, as the nest seemed, it soon transpired that only seven chickens had transpired. Eight eggs still maintained their integrity. I remarked to the hen, that she would better keep on awhile longer, and I would take the seven into the house, and provide for them. She assented, having, justly enough, all confidence in my sagacity; and I put them into a warm old worsted hood, and brought them into the house. But the hood was not a hen, though it was tucked around them almost to the point of suffocation; and they filled the house with dolorous cries,--"yapping" it is called in the rural districts. Nothing would soothe them but to be cuddled together in somebody's lap, and brooded with somebody's hand. Then their shrill, piercing shrieks would die away into a contented chirp of heartfelt satisfaction. I took a world of comfort in those chickens,--it is so pleasant to feel that you are really making sentient beings happy. The tiny things grew so familiar and fond in a few hours that they could hardly tell which was which,--I or the hen. They would all fall asleep in a soft, stirring lump for five seconds, and then rouse up, with no apparent cause, but as suddenly and simultaneously as if the drum had beat a reveille, and go foraging about in the most enterprising manner. One would snap at a ring, under the impression that it was petrified dough, I suppose; and all the rest would rush up determinedly to secure a share in the prize. Next they would pounce upon a button, evidently thinking it curd; and though they must have concluded, after a while, that it was the hardest kind of coagulated milk on record, they were not restrained from renewing the attack in squads at irregular intervals. When they first broke camp, we put soaked and sweetened cracker into their bills; but they developed such an appetite, that, in view of the high price of sugar, we cut off their allowance, and economized on Indian meal and bread-water. Every night they went to the hen, and every morning they came in to me; and still Dame Partlett sat with stolid patience, and still eight eggs remained. I concluded, at length, to let the eggs take their chance with another hen, and restore the first to freedom and her chickens. But just as I was about to commence operations, some one announced, that, if eggs are inverted during the process of incubation, the chickens from them will be crazy. Appalled at the thought of a brood of chickens laboring under an aberration of mind, yet fired with the love of scientific investigation, I inverted one by way of experiment, and placed it in another nest. The next morning, when I entered the barn, Biddy stretched out her neck, and declared that there was no use in waiting any longer, and she was determined to leave the place, which she accordingly did, discovering, to my surprise, two little dead, crushed, flattened chickens, Poor things! I coaxed them on a shingle, and took them into the house to show to a person whose name has been often mentioned in these pages, and who, in all experimental matters, considers my testimony good for nothing without the strongest corroborative evidence. Notice now the unreasoning obstinacy with which people will cling to their prejudices in the face of the most palpable opposing facts.
"Where did these come from?" I asked.
"Probably the hen trod on them and killed them," he said.
"But there were seven whole eggs remaining, and the insane one was in another nest."
"Well, he supposed some other hen might have laid in the nest after the first had begun to sit. They often did."
"No, for I had counted them every day."
Here, then, was an equation to be produced between fifteen original eggs on one side, and seven whole eggs, seven live chickens, two dead chickens, and another egg on the other. My theory was, that two of the eggs contained twins.
"But no," says Halicarnassus,--"such a thing was never known as two live chickens from one egg.
"But these were dead chickens," I affirmed.
"But they were alive when they pecked out. They could not break the shell when they were dead."
"But the two dead chickens may have been in the same shell with two live ones, and, when the live ones broke the shell, the dead ones dropped out."
"But here are the facts, Mr. Gradgrind,--seven live chickens, two dead chickens, seven whole eggs, and another egg to be accounted for, and only fifteen eggs to account for them."
Yet, as if a thing that never happened on our farm is a thing that never can happen, oblivious of the fact that "a pair of chickens" is a common phrase enough,--simply because a man never saw twin chickens, he maintains that there cannot be any such thing as twin chickens. This, too, in spite of one egg I brought in large enough to hold a brood of chickens. In fact, it does not look like an egg; it looks like the keel of a man-of-war.
The problem remains unsolved. But never, while I remember my addition table, can you make me believe that seven whole----But the individual mentioned above is so sore on this point, that, the moment I get as far as that, he leaves the room, and my equation remains unstated.
There is a great deal of human nature in hens. They have the same qualities that people have, but unmodified. A human mother loves her children, but she is restrained by a sense of propriety from tearing other mothers' children in pieces. A hen has no such checks; her motherhood exists without any qualification. Her intense love for her own brood is softened by no social requirements. If a poor lost waif from another coop strays into her realm, no pity, no sympathy springing from the memory of her own offspring, moves her to kindness; but she goes at it with a demoniac fury, and would peck its little life out, if fear did not lend it wings. She has a self-abnegation great as that of human mothers. Her voracity and timidity disappear. She goes almost without food herself, that her chicks may eat. She scatters the dough about with her own bill, that it may be accessible to the little bills, or, perhaps, to teach them how to work. The wire-worms, the bugs, the flies, all the choice little tidbits that her soul loves, she divides for her chicks, reserving not a morsel for herself. All their gambols and pranks and wild ways she bears with untiring patience. They hop up by twos and threes on her back. They peck at her bill. One saucy little imp actually jumped up and caught hold of the little red lappet above her beak, and, hanging to it, swung back and forth half a dozen times; and she was evidently only amused, and reckoned it a mark of precocity.
Yet, with all her intense, absorbing parental love, she has very serious deficiencies,--deficiencies occasioned by the same lack of modification which I have before mentioned. Devoted to her little ones, she will scratch vigorously and untiringly to provide them food, yet fails to remember that they do not stand before her in a straight line out of harm's way, but are hovering around her on all sides in a dangerous proximity. Like the poet, she looks not forward nor behind. If they are beyond reach, very well; if they are not, all the same; scratch, scratch, scratch in the soil goes her great, strong, horny claw, and up flies a cloud of dust, and away goes a poor unfortunate, whirling involuntary somersets through the air without the least warning. She is a living monument of the mischief that may be done by giving undue prominence to one idea. I only wonder that so few broken heads and dislocated joints bear witness to the falseness of such philosophy. I am quite sure, that, if _I_ should give the chickens such merciless impulses, they would not recover from the effects so speedily. Unlike human mothers, too, she has no especial tenderness for invalids. She makes arrangements only for a healthy family. If a pair of tiny wings droop, and a pair of tiny legs falter, so much the worse for the poor unlucky owner; but not one journey the less does Mother Hen take. She is the very soul of impartiality; but there is no cosseting. Sick or well, chick must run with the others, or be left behind. Run they do, with a remarkable uniformity. I marvel to see the perfect understanding among them all. Obedience is absolute on the one side, and control on the other, and without a single harsh measure. It is pure Quaker discipline, simple moral suasion. The specks understand her every word, and so do I--almost. When she is stepping about in a general way,--and hens always step,--she has simply a motherly sort of cluck, that is but a general expression of affection and oversight. But the moment she finds a worm or a crumb or a splash of dough, the note changes into a quick, eager "Here! here! here!" and away rushes the brood pell-mell and topsy-turvy. If a stray cat approaches, or danger in any form, her defiant, menacing "C-r-r-r-r!" shows her anger and alarm.
See how, in Bedford jail, John Bunyan turned to good account the lessons learned in barn-yards. "'Yet again,' said he, 'observe and look.' So they gave heed and perceived that the hen did walk in a fourfold method towards her chickens. 1. She had a _common call_, and that she hath all day long; 2. She had a _special call_, and that she had but sometimes; 3. She had a _brooding note_; and, 4. She had an _outcry_. 'Now,' said he, 'compare this hen to your king, and these chickens to his obedient ones. For, answerable to her, himself has his methods which he walketh in towards his people: by his _common call_ he gives nothing; by his _special call_ he always has something to give; he has also a _brooding voice_ for them that are under his wing; and he has an _outcry_ to give the alarm when he seeth the enemy come. I chose, my darlings, to lead you into the room where such things are, because you are women, and they are easy for you.'" Kind Mr. Interpreter!
To personal fear, as I have intimated, the hen-mother is a stranger; but her power is not always equal to her pluck. One week ago this very day,--ah, me! this very hour,--the cat ran by the window with a chicken in her mouth. Cats are a separate feature in country establishments. In the city I have understood them to lead a nomadic, disturbed, and somewhat shabby life. In the country they attach themselves to special localities and prey upon the human race. We have three steady and several occasional cats quartered upon us. One was retained for the name of the thing,--called derivatively Maltesa, and Molly "for short." One was adopted for charity,--a hideous, saffron-hued, forlorn little wretch, left behind by a Milesian family, called, from its color, Aurora, contracted into Rory O'More. The third was a fierce black-and-white unnamed wild creature, of whom one never got more than a glimpse in her savage flight. Cats are tolerated here from a tradition that they catch rats and mice, but they don't. We catch the mice ourselves and put them in a barrel, and put a cat in after them; and then she is frightened out of her wits. As for rats, they will gather wherever corn and potatoes congregate, cats or no cats. It is said in the country, that, if you write a polite letter to rats, asking them to go away, they will go. I received my information from one who had tried the experiment, or known it to be tried, with great success. Standing ready always to write a letter on the slightest provocation, you may be sure I did not neglect so good an opportunity. The letter acknowledged their skill and sagacity, applauded their valor and their perseverance, but stated, that, in the present scarcity of labor, the resident family were not able to provide more supplies than were necessary for their own immediate use and for that of our brave soldiers, and they must therefore beg the Messrs. Rats to leave their country for their country's good. It was laid on the potato-chest, and I have never seen a rat since!
While I have been penning this quadrupedic episode, you may imagine Molly, formerly Maltesa, as Kinglake would say, bearing off the chicken in triumph to her domicile. But the alarm is given, and the whole plantation turns out to rescue the victim or perish in the attempt. Molly takes refuge in a sleigh, but is ignominiously ejected. She rushes _per saltum_ under the corn-barn, and defies us all to follow her. But she does not know that in a contest strategy may be an overmatch for swiftness. She is familiar with the sheltering power of the elevated corn-barn, but she never conjectures to what base uses a clothes-pole may come, until one plunges into her sides. As she is not a St. Médard Convulsionist, she does not like it, but strikes a bee-line for the piazza, and rushes through the lattice-work into the darkness underneath. We stoop to conquer, and she hurls Greek fire at us from her wrathful eyes, but cannot stand against a reinforcement of poles which vex her soul. With teeth still fastened upon her now unconscious victim, she leaves her place of refuge, which indeed was no refuge for her, and gallops through the yard and across the field; but an unseen column has flanked her, and she turns back only to fall into the hands of the main army,--too late, alas! for the tender chick, who has picked his last worm and will never chirp again. But his death is speedily avenged. Within the space of three days, Molly, formerly Maltesa, is taken into custody, tried, convicted, sentenced, remanded to prison in an old wagon-box, and transported to Botany Bay, greatly to the delight of Rory O'More, formerly Aurora, who, in the presence of her overgrown contemporary, was never suffered to call her soul her own, much less a bone or a crust. Indeed, Molly never seemed half so anxious to eat, herself, as she was to bind Rory to total abstinence. When a plate was set for them, the preliminary ceremony was invariably a box on the ear for poor Rory, or a grab on the neck, from Molly's spasmodic paw, which would not release its hold till armed intervention set in and enforced a growling neutrality. In short, like the hens, these cats held up a mirror to human nature. They showed what men and women would be, if they were--cats; which they would be, if a few modifying qualities were left out. They exhibit selfishness and greed in their pure forms, and we see and ought to shun the unlovely shapes. Evil propensities may be hidden by a silver veil, but they are none the less evil and bring forth evil fruit. Let cats delight to snarl and bite, but let men and women be generous and beneficent.
Little chickens, tender and winsome as they are, early discover the same disposition. When one of them comes into possession of the fore-quarter of a fly, he does not share it with his brother. He does not even quietly swallow it himself. He clutches it in his bill and flies around in circles and irregular polygons, like one distracted, trying to find a corner where he can gormandize alone. It is no matter that not a single chicken is in pursuit, nor that there is enough and to spare for all. He hears a voice we cannot hear, telling him that the Philistines be upon him. And every chicken snatches his morsel and radiates from every other as fast as his little legs can carry him. His selfishness overpowers his sense,--which is, indeed, not a very signal victory, for his selfishness is very strong and his sense is very weak. It is no wonder that Hopeful was well-nigh moved to anger, and queried, "Why art thou so tart, my brother?" when Christian said to him, "Thou talkest like one upon whose head is the shell to this very day." To be compared to a chicken is disparaging enough; but to be compared to a chicken so very young that he has not yet quite divested himself of his shell must be, as Pet Marjorie would say, "what Nature itself can't endure." A little chicken's greedy crop blinds his eyes to every consideration except that of the insect squirming in his bill. He is beautiful and round and full of cunning ways, but he has no resources for an emergency. He will lose his reckoning and be quite out at sea, though only ten steps from home. He never knows enough to turn a corner. All his intelligence is like light, moving only in straight lines. He is impetuous and timid, and has not the smallest presence of mind or sagacity to discern between friend and foe. He has no confidence in any earthly power that does not reside in an old hen. Her cluck will he follow to the last ditch, and to nothing else will he give heed. I am afraid that the Interpreter was putting almost too fine a point upon it, when he had Christiana and her children "into another room, where was a hen and chickens, and bid them observe awhile. So one of the chickens went to the trough to drink, and every time she drank she lift up her head and her eyes towards heaven. 'See,' said he, 'what this little chick doth, and learn of her to acknowledge whence your mercies come, by receiving them with looking up.'" Doubtless the chick lift her eyes towards heaven, but a close acquaintance with the race would put anything but acknowledgment in the act. A gratitude that thanks Heaven for favors received and then runs into a hole to prevent any other person from sharing the benefit of those favors is a very questionable kind of gratitude, and certainly should be confined to the bipeds that wear feathers.
Yet, if you take away selfishness from a chicken's moral make-up, and fatuity from his intellectual, you have a very charming little creature left. For, apart from their excessive greed, chickens seem to be affectionate. They have sweet social ways. They huddle together with fond caressing chatter, and chirp soft lullabies. Their toilet performances are full of interest. They trim each other's bills with great thoroughness and dexterity, much better indeed than they dress their own heads,--for their bungling, bungling little claws make sad work of it. It is as much as they can do to stand on two feet, and they naturally make several revolutions when they attempt to stand on one. Nothing can be more ludicrous than their early efforts to walk. They do not really walk. They sight their object, waver, balance, decide, and then tumble forward, stopping all in a heap as soon as the original impetus is lost, generally some way ahead of the place to which they wished to go. It is delightful to watch them as drowsiness films their round, bright, black eyes, and the dear old mother croons them under her ample wings, and they nestle in perfect harmony. How they manage to bestow themselves with such limited accommodations, or how they manage to breathe in a room so close, it is difficult to imagine. They certainly deal a staggering blow to our preconceived notions of the necessity of oxygen and ventilation, but they make it easy to see whence the Germans derived their fashion of sleeping under feather-beds. But breathe and bestow themselves they do. The deep mother-heart and the broad mother-wings take them all in. They penetrate her feathers, and open for themselves unseen little doors into the mysterious, brooding, beckoning darkness. But it is long before they can arrange themselves satisfactorily. They chirp, and stir, and snuggle, trying to find the warmest and softest nook. Now an uneasy head is thrust out, and now a whole tiny body, but it soon reënters in another quarter, and at length the stir and chirr grow still. You see only a collection of little legs, as if the hen were a banyan-tree, and presently even they disappear, she settles down comfortably, and all are wrapped in a slumberous silence. And as I sit by the hour, watching their winning ways, and see all the steps of this sleepy subsidence, I can but remember that outburst of love and sorrow from the lips of Him who, though He came to earth from a dwelling-place of ineffable glory, called nothing unclean because it was common, found no homely detail too trivial or too homely to illustrate the Father's love, but from the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, the lilies of the field, the stones in the street, the foxes in their holes, the patch on a coat, the oxen in the furrow, the sheep in the pit, the camel under his burden, drew lessons of divine pity and patience, of heavenly duty and delight. Standing in the presence of the great congregation, seeing, as never man saw, the hypocrisy and the iniquity gathered before Him,--seeing too, alas! the calamities and the woe that awaited this doomed people, a god-like pity overbears His righteous indignation, and cries out in passionate appeal, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
* * * * *
The agriculturist says that women take care of young chickens much better than men. I do not know how that may be, but I know that my experiments with chickens have been attended with a success so brilliant that unfortunate poultry-fanciers have appealed to me for assistance. I have even taken ailing chickens from the city to board. A brood of nineteen had rapidly dwindled down to eleven when it was brought to me, one even then dying. His little life ebbed away in a few hours; but of the remaining ten, nine, now in the third week of their abode under my roof, have recovered health, strength, and spirits, and bid fair to live to a good old age, if not prematurely cut off. One of them, more feeble than the others, needed and received especial attention. Him I tended through dreary days of east wind and rain in a box on the mantel-piece, nursing him through a severe attack of asthma, feeding and amusing him through his protracted convalescence, holding him in my hand one whole Sunday afternoon to relieve him of home-sickness and hen-sickness, and being rewarded at last by seeing animation and activity come back to his poor sickly little body. He will never be a robust chicken. He seems to have a permanent distortion of the spine, and his crop is one-sided; and if there is any such thing as blind staggers, he has them. Besides, he has a strong and increasing tendency not to grow. This, however, I reckon a beauty rather than a blemish. It is the one fatal defect in chickens that they grow. With them, youth and beauty are truly inseparable terms. The better they are, the worse they look. After they are three weeks old, every day detracts from their comeliness. They lose their plump roundness, their fascinating, soft down, and put out the most ridiculous little wings and tails and hard-looking feathers, and are no longer dear, tender chicks, but small hens,--a very uninteresting Young America. It is said, that, if you give chickens rum, they will not grow, but retain always their juvenile size and appearance. Under our present laws it is somewhat difficult, I suppose, to obtain rum, and I fear it would be still more difficult to administer it. I have concluded instead to keep some hen sitting through the summer, and so have a regular succession of young chickens. The growth of my little patient was not arrested at a sufficiently early stage to secure his perpetual good looks, and, as I intimated, he will never, probably, be the Windship of his race; but he has found his appetite, he is free from acute disease, he runs about with the rest, under-sized, but bright, happy, and enterprising, and is therefore a well-spring of pleasure. Indeed, in view of the fact that I have unquestionably saved his life, we talk seriously of opening a _Hôtel des Invalides_, a kind of Chicken's Home, that the benefits which he has received may be extended to all his unfortunate brethren who stand in need.
[D] I say _sit_ out of regard to the proprieties of the occasion; but I do not expose myself to ridicule by going about among the neighbors and talking of a _sitting_ hen! Everywhere, but in the "Atlantic," hens _set_.
"The rest is silence."--HAMLET.
The message of the god I seek In voice, in vision, or in dream,-- Alike on frosty Dorian peak, Or by the slow Arcadian stream: Where'er the oracle is heard, I bow the head and bend the knee; In dream, in vision, or in word, The sacred secret reaches me.
Athwart the dim Trophonian caves, Bat-like, the gloomy whisper flew; The lisping plash of Paphian waves Bathed every pulse in fiery dew: From Phoebus, on his cloven hill, A shaft of beauty pierced the air, And oaks of gray Dodona still Betrayed the Thunderer's presence there.
The warmth of love, the grace of art, The joys that breath and blood express, The desperate forays of the heart Into an unknown wilderness,-- All these I know: but sterner needs Demand the knowledge which must dower The life that on achievement feeds, The grand activity of power.
What each reveals the shadow throw Of something unrevealed behind; The Secret's lips forever close To mock the secret undivined: Thence late I come, in weary dreams The son of Isis to implore, Whose temple-front of granite gleams Across the Desert's yellow floor.
Lo! where the sand, insatiate, drinks The steady splendor of the air, Crouched on her heavy paws, the Sphinx Looks forth with old, unwearied stare! Behind her, on the burning wall, The long processions flash and glow: The pillared shadows of the hall Sleep with their lotus-crowns below.
A square of dark beyond, the door Breathes out the deep adytum's gloom: I cross the court's deserted floor, And stand within the awful room. The priests repose from finished rite; No echo rings from pavements trod; And sits alone, in swarthy light, The naked child, the temple's god.
No sceptre, orb, or mystic toy Proclaims his godship, young and warm: He sits alone, a naked boy, Clad in the beauty of his form. Dark, solemn stars, of radiance mild, His eyes illume the golden shade, And sweetest lips that never smiled The finger hushes, on them laid.
Oh, never yet in trance or dream That falls when crowned desire has died, So breathed the air of power supreme, So breathed, and calmed, and satisfied! Did then those mystic lips unclose, Or that diviner silence make A seeming voice? The flame arose, The deity his message spake:
"If me thou knowest, stretch thy hand And my possessions thou shalt reach: I grant no help, I break no band, I sit above the gods that teach. The latest-born, my realm includes The old, the strong, the near, the far,-- Serene beyond their changeful moods, And fixed as Night's unmoving star.
"A child, I leave the dance of Earth To be my hornèd mother's care: My father Ammon's Bacchic mirth, Delighting gods, I may not share. I turn from Beauty, Love, and Power, In singing vale, on laughing sea; From Youth and Hope, and wait the hour When weary Knowledge turns to me.
"Beneath my hand the sacred springs Of Man's mysterious being burst, And Death within my shadow brings The last of life, to greet the first. There is no god, or grand or fair, On Orcan or Olympian field, But must to me his treasures bear, His one peculiar secret yield.
"I wear no garment, drop no shade Before the eyes that all things see; My worshippers, howe'er arrayed, Come in their nakedness to me. The forms of life like gilded towers May soar, in air and sunshine drest,-- The home of Passions and of Powers,-- Yet mine the crypts whereon they rest.
"Embracing all, sustaining all, Consoling with unuttered lore, Who finds me in my voiceless hall Shall need the oracles no more. I am the knowledge that insures Peace, after Thought's bewildering range; I am the patience that endures; I am the truth that cannot change!"
I went down to the farm-yard one day last month, and as I opened the gate I heard Pat Malony say, "Biddy! Biddy!" I thought at first he was calling a hen, but then I remembered the hens were all shut into the poultry-house that day, to be sorted, and numbered, and condemned: so I looked again, thinking perhaps Pat's little lame sister had strayed up from the village and gone into the barn after Sylvy's kittens, or a pigeon-egg, or to see a new calf; but, to my surprise, I saw a red cow, of no particular beauty or breed, coming out of the stable-door, looking about her as if in search of somebody or something; and when Pat called again, "Biddy! Biddy! Biddy!" the creature walked up to him across the yard, stretched out her awkward neck, sniffed a little, and cropped from his hand the wisp of rowen hay he held, as composedly as if she were a tame kitten, and then followed him all round the yard for more, which I am sorry to say she did not get. Pat had only displayed her accomplishments to astonish me, and then shut her in her stall again. I afterward hunted out Biddy's history, and here it is.
On the Derby turnpike, just before you enter Hanerford, everybody that ever travelled that road will remember Joseph German's bakery. It was a red brick house, with dusty windows toward the street, and just inside the door a little shop, where Mr. German retailed the scalloped cookies, fluted gingerbread, long loaves of bread, and scantly filled pies, in which he dealt, and which were manufactured in the long shop, where in summer you caught glimpses of flour-barrels all a-row, and men who might have come out of those barrels, so strewed with flour were all their clothes,--paper-cap and white apron scarcely to be distinguished from the rest of the dress, as far as color and dustiness went. Here, too, when her father drove out the cart every afternoon, sitting in front of the counter with her sewing or her knitting, Dely German, the baker's pretty daughter, dealt out the cakes and rattled the pennies in her apron-pocket with so good a grace, that not a young farmer came into Hanerford with grain or potatoes or live stock, who did not cast a glance in at the shop-door, going toward town, and go in on his return, ostensibly to buy a sheet of gingerbread or a dozen cookies for his refreshment on the drive homeward. It was a curious thing to see how much hungrier they were on the way home than coming into town. Though they might have had a good dinner in Hanerford, that never appeased their appetites entirely, while in the morning they had driven their slow teams all the way without so much as thinking of cakes and cheese! So by the time Dely was seventeen, her black eyes and bright cheeks were well known for miles about, and many a youth, going home to the clean kitchen where his old mother sat by the fire knitting, or his spinster sister scolded and scrubbed over his muddy boot-tracks, thought how pretty it would look to see Dely German sitting on the other side, in her neat calico frock and white apron, her black hair shining smooth, and her fresh, bright face looking a welcome.
But Dely did not think about any one of them in a reciprocal manner; she liked them all pretty well, but she loved nobody except her father and mother, her three cats and all their kittens, the big dog, the old horse, and a wheezy robin that she kept in a cage, because her favorite cat had half killed it one day, and it never could fly any more. For all these dumb things she had a really intense affection: as for her father and mother, she seemed to be a part of them; it never occurred to her that they could leave her, or she them; and when old Joe German died one summer day, just after Dely was seventeen, she was nearly distracted. However, people who must work for their living have to get over their sorrows, practically, much sooner than those who can afford time to indulge them; and as Dely knew more about the business and the shop than anybody but the foreman, she had to resume her place at the counter before her father had been buried a week. It was a great source of embarrassment to her rural admirers to see Dely in her black frock, pale and sober, when they went in; they did not know what to say; they felt as if their hands and feet had grown very big all at once, and as if the cents in their pockets never could be got at, at which they turned red and hot and got choked, and went away, swearing internally at their own blundering shyness, and deeper smitten than ever with Dely, because they wanted to comfort her so very much, and didn't know how!
One, however, had the sense and simplicity to know how, and that was George Adams, a fine healthy young fellow from Hartland Hollow, who came in at least once a week with a load of produce from the farm on which he was head man. The first time he went after his rations of gingerbread, and found Dely in her mourning, he held out his hand and shook hers heartily. Dely looked up into his honest blue eyes and saw them full of pity.
"I'm real sorry for you!" said George, "My father died two years ago."
Dely burst into tears, and George couldn't help stroking her bright hair softly and saying, "Oh, don't!" So she wiped her eyes, and sold him the cookies he wanted; but from that day there was one of Dely's customers that she liked best, one team of white horses she always looked out for, and one voice that hurried the color into her face, if it was ever so pale and the upshot of pity and produce and gingerbread was that George Adams and Dely German were heartily in love with each other, and Dely began to be comforted for her father's loss six months after he died. Not that she knew why, or that George had ever said anything to her more than was kind and friendly, but she felt a sense of rest, and yet a sweet restlessness, when he was in her thoughts or presence, that beguiled her grief and made her unintentionally happy: it was the old, old story; the one eternal novelty that never loses its vitality, its interest, its bewitching power, nor ever will till Time shall be no more.
But the year had not elapsed, devoted to double crape and triple quillings, before Dely's mother, too, began to be consoled. She was a pleasant, placid, feeble-natured woman, who liked her husband very well, and fretted at him in a mild, persistent way a good deal. He swore and chewed tobacco, which annoyed her; he also kept a tight grip of his money, which was not pleasant; but she missed him very much when he died, and cried and rocked, and said how afflicted she was, as much as was necessary, even in the neighbors' opinion. But as time went on, she found the business very hard to manage; even with Dely and the foreman to help her, the ledger got all astray, and the day-book followed its example; so when old Tom Kenyon, who kept the tavern half a mile farther out, took to coming Sunday nights to see the "Widder German," and finally proposed to share her troubles and carry on the bakery in a matrimonial partnership, Mrs. German said she "guessed she would," and announced to Dely on Monday morning that she was going to have a step-father. Dely was astonished and indignant, but to no purpose. Mrs. German cried and rocked, and rocked and cried again, rather more saliently than when her husband died, but for all that she did not retract; and in due time she got into the stage with her elderly lover and went to Meriden, where they got married, and came home next day to carry on the bakery.
Joe German had been foolish enough to leave all his property to his wife, and Dely had no resource but to stay at home and endure her disagreeable position as well as she could, for Tom Kenyon swore and chewed, and smoked beside; moreover, he drank,--not to real drunkenness, but enough to make him cross and intractable; worse than all, he had a son, the only child of his first marriage, and it soon became unpleasantly evident to Dely that Steve Kenyon had a mind to marry her, and his father had a mind he should. Now it is all very well to marry a person one likes, but to go through that ceremony with one you dislike is more than anybody has a right to require, in my opinion, as well as Dely's; so when her mother urged upon her the various advantages of the match, Steve Kenyon being the present master and prospective owner of his father's tavern, a great resort for horse-jockeys, cattle-dealers, and frequenters of State and County fairs, Dely still objected to marry him. But the more she objected, the more her mother talked, her step-father swore, and the swaggering lover persisted in his attentions at all times, so that the poor girl had scarce a half-hour to herself. She grew thin and pale and unhappy enough; and one day George Adams, stepping in unexpectedly, found her with her apron to her eyes, crying most bitterly. It took some persuasion, and some more daring caresses than he had yet ventured on, to get Dely's secret trouble to light. I am inclined to think George kissed her at least once before she would tell him what she was crying about; but Dely naturally came to the conclusion, that, if he loved her enough to kiss her, and she loved him enough to like it, she might as well share her troubles, and the consequence was, George asked her then and there to share his. Not that either of them thought there would be troubles under that copartnership, for the day was sufficient to them; and it did not daunt Dely in the least to know that George's only possessions were a heifer calf, a suit of clothes, and twenty dollars.
About a month after this eventful day, Dely went into Hanerford on an errand, she said; so did George Adams. They stepped into the minister's together and were married; so Dely's errand was done, and she rode out on the front seat of George's empty wagon, stopping at the bakery to tell her mother and get her trunk: having wisely chosen a day for her errand when her step-father had gone away after a load of flour down to Hanerford wharves. Mrs. Kenyon went at once into wild hysterics, and called Dely a jade-hopper, and an ungrateful child; but not understanding the opprobrium of the one term, and not deserving the other, the poor girl only cried a little, and helped George with her trunk, which held all she could call her own in the world,--her clothes, two or three cheap trinkets, and a few books. She kissed the cats all round, hugged the dog, was glad her robin had died, and then said good-bye to her mother, who refused to kiss her, and said George Adams was a snake in the grass. This was too much for Dely; she wiped her eyes, and clambered over the wagon-wheel, and took her place beside George with a smile so much like crying that he began to whistle, and never stopped for two miles. By that time they were in a piece of thick pine woods, when, looking both before and behind to be certain no one was coming, he put his arm round his wife and kissed her, which seemed to have a consoling effect; and by the time they reached his mother's little house, Dely was as bright as ever.
A little bit of a house it was to bring a wife to, but it suited Dely. It stood on the edge of a pine wood, where the fragrance of the resinous boughs kept the air sweet and pure, and their leaves thrilled responsive to every breeze. The house was very small and very red, it had two rooms below and one above, but it was neater than many a five-story mansion, and far more cheerful; and when Dely went in at the door, she thought there could be no prettier sight than the exquisitely neat old woman sitting in her arm-chair on one side of the fireplace, and her beautiful cat on the other, purring and winking, while the tea-kettle sang and sputtered over the bright fire of pine-cones, and the tea-table at the other side of the room was spread with such clean linen and such shining crockery that it made one hungry even to look at the brown bread and butter and pink radishes that were Dely's wedding-supper.
It is very odd how happy people can be, when they are as poor as poverty, and don't know where to look for their living but to the work of their own hands. Genteel poverty is horrible; it is impossible for one to be poor, and elegant, and comfortable; but downright, simple, unblushing poverty may be the most blessed of states; and though it was somewhat of a descent in the social scale for Dely to marry a farm-hand, foreman though he might be, she loved her George so devoutly and healthily that she was as happy as a woman could be. George's mother, the sweetest and tenderest mother to him, took his wife to a place beside his in her heart, and the two women loved each other the more for this man's sake; he was a bond between them, not a division; hard work left them no thought of rankling jealousy to make their lives bitter, and Dely was happier than ever she had thought she should be away from her mother. Nor did the hard work hurt her; for she took to her own share all of it that was out of doors and troublesome to the infirmities of the old lady. She tended the calf in its little log hut, shook down the coarse hay for its bed, made its gruel till it grew beyond gruel, then drove it daily to the pasture where it fed, gave it extra rations of bread and apple-parings and carrot-tops, till the creature knew her voice and ran to her call like a pet kitten, rubbing its soft, wet nose against her red cheek, and showing in a dozen blundering, calfish ways that it both knew and loved her.
There are two sorts of people in the world,--those who love animals, and those who do not. I have seen them both, I have known both; and if sick or oppressed, or borne down with dreadful sympathies for a groaning nation in mortal struggle, I should go for aid, for pity, of the relief of kindred feeling, to those I had seen touched with quick tenderness for the lower creation,--who remember that "the whole creation travaileth in pain together," and who learn God's own lesson of caring for the fallen sparrow, and the ox that treadeth out the corn. With men or women who despise animals and treat them as mere beasts and brutes I never want to trust my weary heart or my aching head; but with Dely I could have trusted both safely, and the calf and the cat agreed with me.
So, in this happy, homely life, the sweet centre of her own bright little world, Dely passed the first year of her wedded life, and then the war came! Dreadful pivot of almost all our late lives! On it also this rude idyl turned. George enlisted for the war.
It was not in Dely or his mother to stop him. Though tears fell on every round of his blue socks and sprinkled his flannel shirts plentifully,--though the old woman's wan and wrinkled face paled and saddened, and the young one's fair throat quivered with choking sobs when they were alone,--still, whenever George appeared, he was greeted with smiles and cheer, strengthened and steadied from this home armory better than with sabre and bayonet, "with might in the inner man." George was a brave fellow, no doubt, and would do good service to his free country; but it is a question with me, whether, when the Lord calls out his "noble army of martyrs" before the universe of men and angels, that army will not be found officered and led by just such women as these, who fought silently with the flesh and the Devil by their own hearth, quickened by no stinging excitement of battle, no thrill of splendid strength and fury in soul and body, no tempting delight of honor or even recognition from their peers,--upheld only by the dull, recurrent necessities of duty and love.
At any rate, George went, and they stayed. The town made them an allowance as a volunteer's family; they had George's bounty to begin with; and a friendly boy from the farm near by came and sawed their wood, took care of the garden, and, when Dely could not go to pasture with the heifer, drove her to and fro daily.
After George had been gone three months, Dely had a little baby. Tiny and bright as it was, it seemed like a small star fallen down from some upper sky to lighten their darkness. Dely was almost too happy; and the old grandmother, fast slipping into that other world whence baby seemed to have but newly arrived, stayed her feeble steps a little longer to wait upon her son's child. Yet, for all the baby, Dely never forgot her dumb loves. The cat had still its place on the foot of her bed; and her first walk was to the barn, where the heifer lowed welcome to her mistress, and rubbed her head against the hand that caressed her with as much feeling as a cow can show, however much she may have. And Biddy, the heifer, was a good friend to that little household, all through that long ensuing winter. It went to Dely's heart to sell her first calf to the butcher, but they could not raise it, and when it was taken away she threw her check apron over her head, and buried her face deep in the pillow, that she might not hear the cries of appeal and grief her favorite uttered. After this, Biddy would let no one milk her but her mistress; and many an inarticulate confidence passed between the two while the sharp streams of milk spun and foamed into the pail below, as Dely's skilful hands coaxed it down.
They heard from George often: he was well, and busy with drill and camp life,--not in active service as yet. Incidentally, too, Dely heard of her mother. Old Kenyon was dead of apoplexy, and Steve like to die of drink. This was a bit of teamster's gossip, but proved to be true. Toward the end of the winter, old Mother Adams slept quietly in the Lord. No pain or sickness grasped her, though she knew she was dying, kissed and blessed Dely, sent a mother's message to George, and took the baby for the last time into her arms; then she laid her head on the pillow, smiled and drew a long breath,--no more.
Poor Dely's life was very lonely; she buried her dead out of her sight, wrote a loving, sobbing letter to George, and began to try to live alone. Hard enough it was! March revenged itself on the past toleration of winter; snow fell in blinding fury, and drifts hid the fences and fenced the doors all through Hartland Hollow. Day after day Dely struggled through the path to the barn to feed Biddy and milk her; and a warm mess of bread and milk often formed her only meal in that bitter weather. It is not credible to those who think no more of animals than of chairs and stones how much society and solace they afford to those who do love them, Biddy was really Dely's friend. Many a long day passed when no human face but the baby's greeted her from dawn till dusk, But the cow's beautiful purple eyes always turned to welcome her as she entered its shed-door; her wet muzzle touched Dely's cheek with a velvet caress; and while her mistress drew from the downy bag its white and rich stores, Biddy would turn her head round, and eye her with such mild looks, and breathe such fragrance toward her, that Dely, in her solitary and friendless state, came to regard her as a real sentient being, capable of love and sympathy, and had an affection for her that would seem utter nonsense to half, perhaps three quarters, of the people in this unsentimental world. Many a time did the lonely little woman lay her head on Biddy's neck, and talk to her about George with sobs and silences interspersed; and many a piece of dry bread steeped in warm water, or golden carrot, or mess of stewed turnips and bran flavored the dry hay that was the staple of the cow's diet. The cat was old now, and objected to the baby so strenuously that Dely regarded her as partly insane from age; and though she was kind to her of course, and fed her faithfully, still a cat that could growl at George's baby was not regarded with the same complacent kindness that had always blessed her before; and whenever the baby was asleep at milking-time, Pussy was locked into the closet,--a proceeding she resented. Biddy, on the contrary, seemed to admire the child,--she certainly did not object to her,--and necessarily obtained thereby a far higher place in Dely's heart than the cat.
As I have already said, Dely had heard of her step-father's death some time before; and one stormy day, the last week in March, a team coming from Hanerford with grain stopped at the door of the little red house, and the driver handed Dely a dirty and ill-written letter from her mother. Just such an epistle it was as might have been expected from Mrs. Kenyon,--full of weak sorrow, and entreaties to Dely to come home and live; she was old and tired, the bakery was coming to trouble for want of a good manager, the foreman was a rogue, and the business failing fast, and she wanted George and Dely there: evidently, she had not heard, when the letter began, of George's departure or baby's birth; but the latter half said, "Cum, anyway. I want to se the Baby. Ime an old critur, a sinking into my graiv, and when george cums back from the wars he must liv hear the rest off his life."
Dely's tender heart was greatly stirred by the letter, yet she was undecided what to do. Here she was alone and poor; there would be her mother,--and she loved her mother, though she could not respect her; there, too, was plenty for all; and if George should ever come home, the bakery business was just the thing for him,--he had energy and courage enough to redeem a sinking affair like that. But then what should she do with the cow? Puss could go home with her; but Biddy?--there was no place for Biddy. Pasture was scarce and dear about Hanerford; Dely's father had given up keeping a cow long before his death for that reason; but how could Dely leave and sell her faithful friend and companion? Her heart sank at the thought; it almost turned the scale, for one pitiful moment, against common-sense and filial feeling. But baby coughed,--nothing more than a slight cold, yet Dely thought, as she had often thought before, with a quick thrill of terror, What if baby were ever sick? Seven miles between her and the nearest doctor; nobody to send, nobody to leave baby with, and she herself utterly inexperienced in the care of children. The matter was decided at once; and before the driver who brought her mother's letter had come, on his next journey, for the answer he had offered to carry, Dely's letter was written, sealed, and put on the shelf, and she was busy contriving and piecing out a warm hood and cloak for baby to ride in.
But every time she went to the barn to milk Biddy or feed her, the tears sprang to her eyes, and her mind misgave her. Never before had the dainty bits of food been so plentiful for her pet, or her neck so tenderly stroked. Dely had written to her mother that she would come to her as soon as her affairs were settled, and she had spoken to Orrin Nye, who brought the letter, to find a purchaser for her cow. Grandfather Hollis, who bought Biddy, and in whose farm-yard I made her acquaintance, gave me the drover's account of the matter, which will be better in his words than mine. It seems he brought quite a herd of milch cows down to Avondale, which is twenty miles from Hanerford, and hearing that Grandfather wanted a couple of cows, he came to "trade with him," as he expressed it. He had two beautiful Ayrshires in the lot,--clean heads, shining skins, and good milkers,--that mightily pleased the old gentleman's fancy; for he had long brooded over his favorite scheme of a pure-blooded herd, and the red and white clouded Ayrshires showed beautifully on his green hillside pastures, and were good stock besides. But Aaron Stow insisted so pertinaciously that he should buy this red cow, that the Squire shoved his hat back and put both his hands in his pockets, a symptom of determination with him, and began to question him. They fenced awhile, in true Yankee fashion, till at last Grandfather became exasperated.
"Look here, Aaron Stow!" said he, "what in thunder do you pester me so about that cow for? She's a good enough beast, I see, for a native; but those Ayrshires are better cows and better blood, and you know it. What are you navigating round me for, so glib?"
"Well, now, Squire," returned Aaron, whittling at the gate with sudden vehemence, "fact is, I've set my mind on your buyin' that critter, an' you jes' set down on that 'ere milkin'-stool an' I'll tell ye the rights on 't, though I feel kinder meechin' myself, to be so soft about it as I be."
"Leave off shaving my new gate, then, and don't think I'm going to trust a hundred and eighty-five solid flesh to a three-legged stool. I'm too old for that. I'll sit on the step here. Now go ahead, man."
So Grandfather sat down on the step, and Aaron turned his back against the gate and kicked one boot on the other. He was not used to narration.
"Well, you know we had a dreadful spell o' weather a month ago, Squire. There ha'n't never been such a March in my day as this last; an' 't was worse up our way 'n' 't was here, an' down to Hartland Holler was the beat of all. Why, it snowed an' it blowed an' it friz till all Natur' couldn't stan' it no more! Well, about them days I was down to Hartland Centre a-buyin' some fat cattle for Hanerford market, an' I met Orrin Nye drivin' his team pretty spry, for he see it was comin' on to snow; but when he catched sight o' me, he stopped the horses an' hollered out to me, so I stepped along an' asked what he wanted; an' he said there was a woman down to the Holler that had a cow to sell, an' he knowed I was apt to buy cow-critters along in the spring, so he'd spoke about it, for she was kinder in a hurry to sell, for she was goin' to move. So I said I'd see to 't, an' he driv along. I thought likely I should git it cheap, ef she was in a hurry to sell, an' I concluded I'd go along next day; 't wa'n't more 'n' seven mile from the Centre, down by a piece o' piny woods, an' the woman was Miss Adams. I used ter know George Adams quite a spell ago, an' he was a likely feller. Well, it come on to snow jest as fine an' dry as sand, an' the wind blew like needles, an', come next day, when I started to foot it down there, I didn't feel as though I could ha' gone, ef I hadn't been sure of a good bargain; the snow hadn't driv much, but the weather had settled down dreadful cold; 't was dead still, an' the air sorter cut ye to breathe it; but I'm naterally hardy, an' I kep' along till I got there. I didn't feel so all-fired cold as I hev sometimes, but when I stepped in to the door, an' she asked me to hev a cheer by the fire, fust I knew I didn't know nothin'; I come to the floor like a felled ox. I expect I must ha' been nigh on to dead with clear cold, for she was the best part o' ten minutes bringin' on me to. She rubbed my hands an' face with camphire an' gin me some hot tea; she hadn't got no sperits in the house, but she did everything a little woman could do, an' I was warmed through an' through afore long, an' we stepped out into the shed to look at the cow.
"Well, Squire, I ha'n't got much natur' into me noway, an' it 's well I ha'n't; but that cow beat all, I declare for 't! She put her head round the minute Miss Adams come in; an' if ever you see a dumb beast pleased, that 'ere cow was tickled to pieces. She put her nose down to the woman's cheek, an' she licked her hands, an' she moved up agin' her an' rubbed her ear on her,--she all but talked; an' when I looked round an' see them black eyes o' Miss Adams's with wet in 'em, I 'most wished I had a pocket-handkercher myself.
"'You won't sell her to a hard master, will you?' says she. 'I want her to go where she'll be well cared for, an' I shall know where she is; for if ever things comes right agin, I want to hev her back. She's been half my livin' an' all my company for quite a spell, an' I shall miss her dreadfully.'
"'Well,' says I, 'I'll take her down to Squire Hollis's in Avondale; he's got a cow-barn good enough for a Representative to set in, an' clean water, an' chains to halter 'em up with, an' a dry yard where the water all dreens off as slick as can be, an' there a'n't such a piece o' land nowhere round for root-crops; an' the Squire he sets such store by his cows an' things, I've heerd tell he turned off two Irishmen for abusin' on 'em; an' they has their bags washed an' their tails combed every day in the year,--an' I don't know but what they ties 'em up with a blew ribbin.'"
"Get out!" growled Grandfather.
"Can't, jest yet, Squire, not t'll I've done. Anyway, I figgered it off to her, an' she was kinder consoled up to think on 't; for I told her I thought likely you'd buy her cow, an' when we come to do the tradin' part, why, con-found it! she wa'n't no more fit to buy an' sell a critter than my three-year-old Hepsy. I said a piece back I ha'n't got much natur', an' a man that trades dumb beasts the biggest part o' the time hedn't oughter hev; but I swan to man! natur' was too much for me this time; I couldn't no more ha' bought that cow cheap than I could ha' sold my old gran'ther to a tin-peddler. Somehow, she was so innocent, an' she felt so to part with the critter, an' then she let me know 't George was in the army; an' thinks I, I guess I'll help the Gov'ment along some; I can't fight, 'cause I'm subject to rheumatiz in my back, but I can look out for them that can; so, take the hull on 't, long an' broad, why, I up an' gin her seventy-five dollars for that cow,--an' I'd ha' gin twenty more not to ha' seen Miss Adams's face a-lookin' arter me an' her when we went away from the door.
"So now, Squire, you can take her or leave her."
Aaron Stow knew his man. Squire Hollis pulled out his pocket-book and paid seventy-five dollars on the spot for a native cow called Biddy.
"Now clear out with your Ayrshires!" said he, irascibly. "I'm a fool, but I won't buy them, too."
"Well, Squire, good day," said Aaron, with a grin.
But I am credibly informed that the next week he did come back with the two Ayrshires, and sold them to Grandfather, remarking to the farmer that he "should ha' been a darned fool to take the old gentleman at his word; for he never knowed a man hanker arter harnsome stock but what he bought it, fust or last."
Now I also discovered that the regiment George enlisted in was one whose Colonel I knew well: so I wrote and asked about Sergeant Adams. My report was highly honorable to George, but had some bad news in it: he had been severely wounded in the right leg, and, though recovering, would be disabled from further service. A fortnight after I drove into Hanerford with Grandfather Hollis, and we stopped at the old bakery. It looked exquisitely neat in the shop, as well as prosperous externally, and Dely stood behind the counter with a lovely child in her arms. Grandfather bought about half a bushel of crackers and cookies, while I played with the baby. As he paid for them, he said in his kind old voice that nobody can hear without pleasure,--
"I believe I have a pet of yours in my barn at Avondale, Mrs. Adams."
Dely's eyes lighted up, and a quick flush of feeling glowed on her pretty face.
"Oh, Sir! you did buy Biddy, then? and you are Squire Hollis?"
"Yes, Ma'am, and Biddy is well, and well cared for, as fat and sleek as a mole, and still comes to her name."
"Thank you kindly, Sir!" said Dely, with an emphasis that gave the simple phrase most earnest meaning.
"And how is your husband, Mrs. Adams?" said I.
A deeper glow displaced the fading blush Grandfather had called out, and her beautiful eyes flashed at me.
"Quite well, I thank you, and not so very lame. And he's coming home next week."
She took the baby from me, as she spoke, and, looking in its bright little face, said,--
"Call him, Baby!"
"Pa-pa!" said the child.
"If ever you come to Avondale, Mrs. Adams, come and see my cows," said Grandfather, as he gathered up the reins. "You maybe sure I won't sell Biddy to anybody but you."
Dely smiled from the steps where she stood; and we drove away.
NEEDLE AND GARDEN.
THE STORY OF A SEAMSTRESS WHO LAID DOWN HER NEEDLE AND BECAME A STRAWBERRY-GIRL.
WRITTEN BY HERSELF.
I cannot tell why the price of everything we eat or drink or wear has so much increased during the last year or two. I have heard many reasons given, and have read of so many more, all differing, as to lead me to suspect that no one really knows. Yet there is a general, broad admission that it must in some way be owing to the war, for every one knows that such enhancement did not previously exist. But among the strange, the unaccountable, the utterly heartless facts of this eventful crisis is the reduction of the wages of the sewing-woman, while the cost of everything necessary to keep her alive is threefold greater than before. The salaries of clerks have been raised, the wages of the working-man increased, in some cases doubled, the labor of men in every department of business is better paid, yet that of the sewing-woman is reduced in price.
The heartlessness of the fact is equalled only by its strangeness. Every article of clothing which the sewing-woman makes commands a higher price than formerly, yet she receives much less for her work than when it sold for a lower one. And while thus meagrely paid, there has been a demand for the labor of her hands so urgent that the like was never seen among us. A customer, in the person of the Government, came into the market and created a demand for clothing, that swept every factory clear of its accumulated stock, and bound the proprietors in contracts for more, which required them to run night and day. All this unexampled product was to be made up into tents, accoutrements, and army-clothing, and principally by women. One would suppose, that, with so unusual a call for female labor, there would be an increase of female wages. It was so in the case of those who fabricated cannon, muskets, powder, and all other articles which a government consumes in time of war, and which men produce: they demanded higher wages for their work, and obtained them: the increase showing itself to the buyer in the enhanced price of the article.
This enhancement became contagious: it spread to everything,--doubling and trebling the price of whatever the community required, except the single item of the sewing-woman's labor. Had the price of this remained even stationary, it would have excited surprise; but that her wages should be cut down at a time when everybody's else went up excited astonishment among such as became aware of it, while the reduction coming contemporaneously with an unprecedented rise in the price of all the necessaries of life overwhelmed this deserving class with indescribable misery. Multitudes of them gave up the commonest articles of food,--coffee, tea, butter, and sugar,--and others dispensed even with many of the actual necessaries. How could they eat butter at sixty cents a pound, when earning only fifteen cents a day?
Finally the reduction of sewing-women's wages became so shamefully great as to raise a wailing cry from these poor victims of cupidity, which attracted public attention. It was shown that as the price of food rose, their wages went down. In 1861 the sewing-woman received seventeen and a half cents for making a shirt, sugar being then thirteen cents a pound; but in 1864, when sugar was up to thirty cents, the price for making a shirt had been ground down to eight cents! It was nearly the same with all other articles of her work, as the following list of cruel reductions in the prices paid at our arsenal and by contractors will show.
COMPARISON OF PRICES FOR 1861 AND 1864.
_Arsenal._ _Arsenal._ _Contractors._ 1861. 1864. 1864. Shirts, 17-1/2 15 8 Drawers, 12-1/2 10 7 @ 8 Infantry Pantaloons, 42-1/2 27 17 @ 20 Cavalry Pantaloons, 60 50 28 @ 30 Lined Blouses, 45 40 20 Unlined Blouses, 40 35 15 @ 20 Cavalry Jackets, 1.12-1/2 1.00 75 @ 80 Overalls, 25 20 8 Bed Sacks, 20 20 7 Covering Canteens, 4 2-1/2 --
Here was a state of things wholly without parallel in our previous social history. On such wages women could not exist; they were the strongest and surest temptation to the abandonment of a virtuous course of life. Labor was here evidently cheated of its just reward. The Government gave out the work by contract at the prices indicated in the first two columns, and the contractors put it out among the sewing-women at the inhuman rates set down in the third column. In this wrong the Government participated; for it reduced its prices to the sewing-women, while it was constantly increasing those it paid to every other class of work-people. Even the freedmen on the sea-islands or in the contraband camps made better wages,--while the liberated negro washer-woman, who had never been paid wages during a life of sixty years, was suddenly elevated to a position about the camps which enabled her to earn more, every day, than thousands of intelligent and exemplary needle-women in Philadelphia.
An extraordinary feature of the case was, that, while there was probably four times as much sewing to be done, there were at least ten times as many women to do it as before. The condition of things showed that this must be the fact, because, though the work to be given out was enormous in amount, yet there was a crowd and pressure to obtain it which was even greater. I saw this myself on more than one occasion.
While congratulating ourselves that our women have not yet been degraded to working at coal-mining, dressed in men's attire, or at gathering up manure in the streets of a great city, we may be sure, that, if, in this emergency, they were saved from actual starvation, it was not through any generous, spontaneous outpouring of that sympathy whose fountain is in the bottom of men's pockets. They pined, and worked, and saved themselves.
At last they met together in public, common sufferers under a common calamity, interchanged their experiences, and mingled their tears. If the personal history of the pupils in my sewing-school was diversified, in this assembly the domestic experience of each individual was in mournful harmony with that of all. The great majority were wives of soldiers who had gone forth to uphold the flag of our country. Hundreds of them were clad in mourning,--their husbands had died in battle,--their remittances of pay had ceased,--their dependence had been suddenly cut off,--and they were thus thrown back upon the needle, which they had laid down on getting married. Oh, how many hollow cheeks and attenuated figures were to be seen in that sad meeting of working-women! There was the dull eye, the pinched-up face, which betokened absolute deprivation of necessary food,--yet withal, the careful adjustment of a faded shawl or dress, the honest pride, even in the depth of misery, to be at least decent, after the effort to preserve the old gentility had been found vain.
It was the extraordinary number of the wives and daughters of the killed and wounded in battle, who, suddenly added to the standing army of sewing-women, had glutted the labor-market of the city, and whose impatient necessity for employment had enabled heartless contractors to cut down the making of a shirt to eight cents. I remember, when the first rumor of the first battle reached our city, how the news-resorts were thronged by these women to know whether they had been made widows or not,--how the crowd pressed up to and surged around the placards containing the lists of killed and wounded,--how those away off from these centres of early intelligence waited feverishly for the morning paper to tell them whether they were to be miserable or happy. I remember, too, how, as the bloody contest went on, this impatient anxiety died out,--use seemed to have made their condition a sort of second nature,--they kept at home, hopeful, but resigned. Alas! how many, in the end, needed all the resignation that God mercifully extends to the stricken deer of the great human family!
They came together on the occasion referred to to compare grievances, and devise whatever poor remedy might be found to be in the power of a body of friendless needle-women. The straits to which many of these deserving widows had been reduced were awful. The rich men of my native city may hang their heads in shame over the recital of sufferings at their very door. No generous movement had been made by any of them in mitigation.
One widow, taking out shirts at the arsenal, earned two dollars and forty cents in two weeks, but was denied permission to take them in when done, though urgently needing her pay, being told that she would be making too much money. Another made vests with ten button-holes and three pockets for fifteen cents, furnishing her own cotton at twenty cents a spool. A third, whose husband was then in the army, found the price of infantry-pantaloons reduced from forty-two to twenty-seven cents,--reduced by the Government itself,--but she made eight pair a week, took care of five children, and was always on the verge of starvation. She declared, that, if it were not for her children, she would gladly lie down and die! A fourth worked for contractors on overalls at five cents a pair! Having the aid of a sewing-machine, she made six pair daily, but was the object of insult and abuse from her employer.
The widow of a brave man who gave up his life at Fredericksburg worked for the Government, and made eight pair of pantaloons a week, receiving two dollars and sixteen cents for the uninterrupted labor of six days of eighteen hours each. Another made thirteen pair of drawers for a dollar, and by working early and late could sometimes earn two dollars in the week. The wife of another soldier, still fighting to uphold the flag, worked on great-coats for the contractors at thirty cents each, and earned eighty cents a week, keeping herself and three children on that! A wounded hero came home to die, and did so, after lingering six months dependent on his wife. With six children, she could earn only two dollars and a quarter a week, though working incessantly. She did contrive to feed them, but they went barefoot all winter.
An aged woman worked on tents, making in each tent forty-six button-holes, sewing on forty-six buttons, then buttoning them together, then making twenty eyelet-holes,--all for sixteen cents. After working a whole day without tasting food, she took in her work just five minutes after the hour for receiving and paying for the week's labor. She was told there was no more work for her. Then she asked them to pay her for what she had just delivered, but was refused. She told them she was without a cent, and that, if forced to wait till another pay-day, she must starve. The reply was, "Starve and be d----d! That is none of my business. We have our rules, and shall not break them for any ----."
A soldier's wife had bought coal by the bucketful all winter, at the rate of sixteen dollars a ton, and worked on flannel shirts at a dollar and thirty cents a dozen. She was never able to eat a full meal, and many times went to bed hungry. A tailor gave to another sewing-woman a lot of pantaloons to make up. The cloth being rotten, the stitches of one pair tore out, but by exercising great care she succeeded in getting the others made up. When she took them in, he accused her of having ruined them, and refused to pay her anything. She threatened suit, whereupon he told her to "sue and be d----d," and finally offered a shilling a pair, which her necessities forced her to accept. Another needle-woman worked on hat-leathers at two and a half cents a dozen. She found her own silk and cotton, and put upwards of five thousand stitches into the dozen leathers. How could such a slave exist? Her four children and herself breakfasted on bread and molasses, with malt coffee sweetened with molasses. They dined on potatoes, and made a quarter peck serve for three meals!
So much for the mercy of the Government and the conduct of the trade. Now for the doings of those who claimed to belong to the religious class. One public praying man paid less than any other contractor, and frequently allowed his hands to go unpaid for two or three weeks together. Another would give only a dollar for making thirteen shirts and drawers, of which a woman could finish but three in a day. One of those in his employ, becoming weary of such low pay, applied for work at another tailor's. There she found the inspector cursing an aged woman. When solicited for work, he told the applicant to "clear out and be d----d; he didn't want to see anything in bonnet or hoops again that day."
What but fallen women must some of the subjects of such atrocious treatment become? It was ascertained from a letter sent by one of this class, that she had given way under the pressure of starvation. She said,--
"I was once an innocent girl, the daughter of a clergyman. Left an orphan at an early age, I tried hard to make a living, but, unable to endure the hard labor and live upon the poor pay I received, I fell into sin. Tell your public that thousands like me have been driven by want to crime. Tell them, that, though it is well to save human souls from pollution, it is better that they shall be kept pure, and know no shame."
Another confessed as much; but how many more were driven to the same alternative, who remained mute under their shame, no one can tell. Yet the men who thus drove virtuous women to despair were amassing large fortunes. Their names appeared in the newspapers as liberal contributors to every public charity that was started,--to sanitary fairs, to women's-aid societies, to the sick and wounded soldiers, to everything that would be likely to bring their names into print. They figured as respectable and spirited citizens. Of all men they were supremely loyal. Loyal to what? Not to the cause of poor famishing women, but to their own interest. Some of them were church-members, famous as class-leaders and exhorters, powerful in prayer, especially when made in public, counterparts of the Pharisees of old. Their wives and daughters wore silk dresses, hundred-dollar shawls, and had boxes at the opera.
What would have been said of this unheard-of robbery by the men who won victories at Gettysburg and Atlanta, had they known that it was committed on the wives and mothers whom they had left behind? These women gave up husbands and sons to fight the battles of the nation, never dreaming that those who remained at home to make fortunes would seek to do so by starving them. They considered the first sacrifice great enough; but here was another. Who but they can describe how terrible it was?
On this subject employers have generally remained silent, offering few rebuttals to these charges of cruelty, extortion, and robbery. The sewing-women and their friends have remonstrated, but the oppressors have rarely condescended to reply. Even those of the same sex, who have large establishments and employ numbers of women, have seldom done so. This silence has been significant of inability, an admission of the facts alleged.
Philanthropy has not been idle, however, while these impositions on sewing-women have been practised. Numerous plans for preventing them, and for otherwise improving the condition of the sex, have been proposed, some of which have been put into successful operation,--the object sought for being to diversify employment by opening other occupations than that of the needle. It is a settled truism, that the measure of civilization in a nation is the condition of its women. While heathen and savage, they are drudges; when enlightened by education and moulded by Christianity, they rise to the highest plane of humanity. When a Neapolitan woman gave birth to a girl, it was, until very recently, the custom of the poorer classes to display a black flag from an upper window of the house, to avoid the unpleasant necessity of informing inquirers of the sex of the infant. Even at the birth of a child in the higher ranks, the midwife and physician who are in attendance never announce to the anxious mother the sex of the newly born, if a girl, until pressed to disclose it, because a female child is never welcome.
It is much the fashion of the times to say that the sphere of woman is exclusively within the domestic circle. It is highly probable that the great majority desire no wider range; but even in the obscure quietude of that circle they are subject to a thousand chances. We see what kind of husbands many women obtain,--and that even the most deserving are at times overtaken by sickness or poverty, and then are left with no certain means of living. Poets and novelists may limit their destiny to that of being beautiful and charming, but the wise and considerate have long since seen that some comprehensive improvement in their condition is needed. Their resources must be enlarged and made available. It will increase their self-respect, and make them spurn dependence on the charity of friends. I am inclined to think that all true women are working-women,--at least they would be such, if they could obtain the proper employment. American girls cannot all become house-servants, and few of them are willing to be such. Their aspirations are evidently higher. They have sought the factory, the bindery, the printing-office,--thus graduating, by force of their own inherent aptitude for better things, to a higher and more intellectual occupation, leaving the Irish and Germans in undisputed possession of the kitchen.
A volume has been printed, giving a list of employments suitable for women, but meagre in practical suggestions how to secure them. It was thought that the war would bring about a brisk demand for female labor, as great armies cannot be collected without causing a corresponding drain from many occupations into which women would thus find admission. But the melancholy facts already recited show how fallacious the idea is, that war can be in any way a blessing to the sex. If some have been employed in consequence, multitudes who had been previously supported by their husbands have been compelled to beg for work. The war has everywhere brought poverty and grief to the humbler classes of American women.
It is true that in the West, where the foreign population is large, the German women go into the fields, and plough, and sow, and reap, and harvest, with all the skill and activity of the men. It is equally true of other sections of our country, in which no harvests would be gathered, but for female help. But these are exceptional cases; and these women can live without working on shirts at five to eight cents apiece.
While the distress was greatest in our city, some one advertised for two men, to be employed in a millinery establishment, who were acquainted with trimmings, and before the day had passed, sixty applicants had presented themselves for the situation: the men had not become scarcer. Another shop, which advertised for three girls, at a dollar and a half a week, "intelligent, genteel girls," as the advertisement read, was so overrun before night with applications for even that pitiful compensation, that the proprietor lost his temper under the annoyance, and drove many away with insult and abuse. If the war gives employment to women in the fields, it affords an insufficient amount of it in the cities.
There are more female beggars in our streets, with infants in their arms, than ever before. The saloons and beer-shops, stripped of their male bar-tenders, have adopted female substitutes, driven by necessity to take up with an employment that always demoralizes a woman. The surgical records of the army show, that, among the wounded brought into the hospitals, many women have thus been discovered as soldiers. Others have been detected and sent home, Many of these heroines declared that they entered the army because they could find no other employment. The incognito they had preserved was strongly confirmatory of their truthfulness. These are some of the minor effects of the war upon our sex. Many have been sadly demoralizing, while probably very few have been in any way beneficial.
It is one of the curiosities of the study how to improve the condition of women, that the most eccentric plans have originated with their own sex. The deportation of girls from England to Australia and other colonies, where the majority of settlers are single men, is patronized and presided over by ladies. It has been so extensive as to confer the utmost benefit on distant settlements, equalizing the disparity of the sexes, promoting a higher civilization by a proper infusion of female society, and providing homes for thousands of virtuous, but friendless and dependent girls, who had found the utmost difficulty in obtaining even a precarious living. The exodus of American girls from New England to California, as teachers first and wives afterwards, which some years ago took place, originated with an American lady, who personally superintended the enterprise. All through the West there are families whose mothers are of the same enterprising class, while the South is not without its representatives. There is a tribe of writers whose study it is to ridicule and sneer at these humane and truly noble efforts to make dependent women comfortable; but happily their sarcasm has been unavailing.
I knew a young girl who was without a single relation in the world, so far as she was aware. She had been picked up from a curb-stone in the street, at the foot of a lamp-post, when perhaps only a week old,--her mother having abandoned her to the charity of the first passer. She was found by the watchman on his midnight beat, who, having no children, adopted her as his own. One may feel surprised that foundlings are so frequently adopted into respectable families, especially when infants of only a few weeks old. But there are solitary couples whose hearts instinctively yearn for the possession of children. Providence having denied them offspring, they fill the void in their affections by taking to their bosoms the helpless, friendless, and abandoned waifs of others. Foundlings are preferred, because there is no chance of their reclamation; the mother never troubles herself to demand possession of her child; she may remember it, but it is only to rejoice at having cast it off. The new parents are not annoyed by outside interference. The foundling grows in their affections; they love it as they would their own offspring; it cannot be torn away from them.
When only ten years of age, the protectors of the child referred to both died, and she was turned loose to shift for herself. For three years she underwent all the hardships incident to changing one bad mistress for another, being poorly clothed, half fed, her education discontinued, even the privilege of the Sunday school denied her, a total stranger to kindness or sympathy.
An agent of a children's-aid society one day saw her washing the pavement in front of her mistress's house, and being struck by her shabby dress and evidently uncared-for condition, accosted her and ascertained the principal facts of her little history. She was of just the class whom it was the mission of the society to save from the destitution and danger of a totally friendless position, by sending them to good homes in the West. Thither she went, liberated from an uncompensated bondage to the scrubbing-brush and washtub, and was ushered into a new and joyous existence by the agency of one of the noblest charities that Christian benevolence ever put it into the human heart to extend to orphan children. The foundling of the lamp-post, thus having an opening made for her, improved it and prospered. Out of the atmosphere of city life, she grew up virtuous and respected. Her true origin had been charitably concealed; she was known as an orphan; it would have done no good to have it said that she was a foundling. She married well, and became the mother of a family.
Hundreds of street-tramping orphan girls, with surroundings more unfriendly to female purity than those of this foundling, have been taken from the lowest haunts of a shocking city-life by the same noble charity, and introduced into peaceful country homes, where they have grown up to be respectable members of society. In this emigration effort women have been conspicuous actors. In England they have been equally prominent in promoting the emigration of nearly half a million of unmarried females to the various colonies. They publish books, and pamphlets, and magazines, and newspapers, in advocacy of the movement. Educated and intellectual ladies leave wealthy homes and accompany their emigrants on voyages of thousands of miles, to see that they are comfortably cared for.
It would seem that in the ordering of Divine Providence there will always be a multitude of women who do not marry. It is shown by the census of every country in which the population is numbered periodically, that there is an excess of females. In England there are thirty women in every hundred who never marry, and there are three millions who earn their own living. It is there contended that all effort is improper which is directed toward making celibacy easy for women, and that marriage, their only true vocation, should be promoted at any cost, even at that of distributing through the colonies England's half million of unmarried ones. Some declare that it is impossible to make the labor of single women remunerative, or their lives free and happy. But if the occupations of women were raised and diversified as much as they might be, such impossibility would of itself be impossible. If it is to be granted that a woman possesses only inferior powers, let her be taught to use such powers as she has.
I doubt not that He who created woman has some mission, some purpose, for those who, in His divine ordering, remain single. There is a church which has taken note of this great fact, and devotes its single women to cloisters or to hospitals, sometimes to useful objects, sometimes to improper ones,--but seeing that they are a numerous class, it has specifically appropriated them. I presume the lesson of a single life, the necessity of living alone, must be a difficult one to learn. The heart, the young heart always, is perpetually seeking for something to love. Amid the duties of the household, around the domestic fireside, this loving spirit has room for growth, expansion, and intensity. The soft tendrils which it is ever throwing out find gentle objects to which they may cling with indissoluble attachment. Solitude is fatal to the household affections. The single woman lives in a comparative solitude,--a solitude of the heart.
Yet it cannot be denied that even such hermitesses find compensations in their retirement. If one resolve to remain single,--and it must require strength of mind to come to this determination,--it is remarkable how Nature fits such a woman for a position for which she could not have been created. She takes her stand with a power of endurance not exceeded by that of the other sex, and becomes more independent and at ease than they. Let man's condition be what it may, whether rich or poor, he will find his home cheerless and uncomfortable without the presence of a woman. His desolateness at an hotel or boarding-house is proverbial. He is unceasingly conscious that he has no home. But the single woman can create one for herself.
Go into the cells of any prison for women, and those who never visited such abodes will be astonished at the neatness, the order, the embellishments, which many of them display. The home feeling that seems to be natural to most of us develops itself here with affecting energy. No man could surround his penitential cell with graces so profuse and pleasing as do some of these unfortunate women.
Thus, go where a woman may, a native instinct teaches and qualifies her to make a home for herself. If single, taste and housewifery are combined within even the narrow limits of one or two rooms. Her singleness need not chill the heart,--for there are other things to love than men. The power to make tender friendships was born with her, and is part of her nature; nor does it leave her now. She has, moreover, the proud satisfaction of knowing that she has never lived to tempt others to an act of sin and shame. But are the men who live equally solitary lives as guiltless as she?
GOING TO SLEEP.
The light is fading down the sky, The shadows grow and multiply, I hear the thrushes' evening song; But I have borne with toil and wrong So long, so long! Dim dreams my drowsy senses drown,-- So, darling, kiss my eyelids down!
My life's brief spring went wasted by,-- My summer ended fruitlessly; I learned to hunger, strive, and wait,-- I found you, love,--oh, happy fate!-- So late, so late! Now all my fields are turning brown,-- So, darling, kiss my eyelids down!
Oh, blessed sleep! oh, perfect rest! Thus pillowed on your faithful breast, Nor life nor death is wholly drear, O tender heart, since you are here, So dear, so dear! Sweet love, my soul's sufficient crown! Now, darling, kiss my eyelids down!
Miss Johns meets the new-comer with as large a share of kindness as she can force into her manner; but her welcome lacks, somehow, the sympathetic glow to which Adèle has been used; it has not even the spontaneity and heartiness which had belonged to the greeting of that worldly woman, Mrs. Brindlock. And as the wondering little stranger passes up the path, and into the door of the parsonage, with her hand in that of the spinster, she cannot help contrasting the one cold kiss of the tall lady in black with the shower of warm ones which her old godmother had bestowed at parting. Yet in the eye of the Doctor sister Eliza had hardly ever worn a more beaming look, and he was duly grateful for the strong interest which she evidently showed in the child of his poor friend. She had equipped herself indeed in her best silk and with her most elaborate toilet, and had exhausted all her strategy,--whether in respect of dress, of decorations for the chamber, or of the profuse supper which was in course of preparation,--to make a profound and favorable impression upon the heart of the stranger.
The spinster was not a little mortified at her evident want of success, most notably in respect to the elaborate arrangements of the chamber of the young guest, who seemed to regard the dainty hangings of the little bed, and the scattered ornaments, as matters of course; but making her way to the window which commanded a view of both garden and orchard, Adèle clapped her hands with glee at sight of the flaming hollyhocks and the trees laden with golden pippins. It was, indeed, a pretty scene: silvery traces of the brook sparkled in the green meadow below the orchard, and the hills beyond were checkered by the fields of buckwheat in broad patches of white bloom, and these again were skirted by masses of luxuriant wood that crowned all the heights. To the eye of Adèle, used only to the bare hill-sides and scanty olive-orchards of Marseilles, the view was marvellously fair.
"_Tiens!_ there are chickens and doves," said she, still gazing eagerly out; "oh, I am sure I shall love this new home!"
And thus saying, she tripped back from the window to where Miss Eliza was admiringly intent upon the unpacking and arranging of the little wardrobe of her guest. Adèle, in the flush of her joyful expectations from the scene that had burst upon her out of doors, now prattled more freely with the spinster,--tossing out the folds of her dresses, as they successively came to light, with her dainty fingers, and giving some quick, girlish judgment upon each.
"This godmother gave me, dear, good soul!--and she sewed this bow upon it; isn't it coquette? And there is the white muslin,--oh, how crushed!--that was for my church-dress, first communion, you know; but papa said, 'Better wait,'--so I never wore it."
Thus woman and child grew into easy acquaintance over the great trunk of Adèle: the latter plunging her little hands among the silken folds of dress after dress with the careless air of one whose every wish had been petted; and the spinster forecasting the pride she would herself take in accompanying this little sprite, in these French robes, to the house of her good friends, the Hapgoods, or in exciting the wonderment of those most excellent people, the Tourtelots.
Meantime Reuben, with a resolute show of boyish indifference, has been straying off with Phil Elderkin, although he has caught a glimpse of the carriage at the door. Later he makes his way into the study, where the Doctor, after giving him kindly reproof for not being at home to welcome them, urges upon him the duty of kindness to the young stranger who has come to make her home with them, and trusts that Providence may overrule her presence there to the improvement and blessing of both. It is, in fact, a little lecture which the good, but prosy Doctor pronounces to the boy; from which he slipping away, so soon as a good gap occurs in the discourse, strolls with a jaunty affectation of carelessness into the parlor. His Aunt Eliza is there now seated at the table, and Adèle standing by the hearth, on which a little fire has just been kindled. She gives a quick, eager look at him, under which his assumed carelessness vanishes in an instant.
"This is Adèle, our little French guest, Reuben."
The lad throws a quick, searching glance upon her, but is abashed by the look of half-confidence and half-merriment that he sees twinkling in her eye. The boy's awkwardness seems to infect her, too, for a moment.
"I should think, Reuben, you would welcome Adèle to the parsonage," said the spinster.
And Reuben, glancing again from under his brow, sidles along the table, with far less of ease than he had worn when he came whistling through the hall,--sidles nearer and nearer, till she, with a coy approach that seems to be full of doubt, meets him with a little furtive hand-shake. Then he, retiring a step, leans with one elbow on the friendly table, eying her curiously, and more boldly when he discovers that her look is downcast, and that she seems to be warming her feet at the blaze.
Miss Johns has watched narrowly this approach of her two _protégés_, with an interest quite uncommon to her; and now, with a policy that would have honored a more adroit tactician, she slips quietly from the room.
Reuben feels freer at this, knowing that the gray eye is not upon the watch; Adèle too, perhaps; at any rate, she lifts her face with a look that invites Reuben to speech.
"You came in a ship, didn't you?"
"Oh, yes! a big, big ship!"
"I should like to sail in a ship," said Reuben; "did you like it?"
"Not very much," said Adèle, "the deck was so slippery, and the waves were so high, oh, so high!"--and the little maid makes an explanatory gesture with her two hands, the like of which for grace and expressiveness Reuben had certainly never seen in any girl of Ashfield. His eyes twinkled at it.
"Were you afraid?" said he.
"Oh, not much."
"Because you know," said Reuben, consolingly, "if the ship had sunk, you could have come on shore in the small boats." He saw a merry laugh of wonderment threatening in her face, and continued authoritatively, "Nat Boody has been in a sloop, and he says they always carry small boats to pick up people when the big ships go down."
Adèle laughed outright. "But how would they carry the bread, and the stove, and the water, and the anchor, and all the things? Besides, the great waves would knock a small boat in pieces."
Reuben felt a humiliating sense of being no match for the little stranger on sea topics, so he changed the theme.
"Are you going to Miss Onthank's?"
"_That's_ a funny name," says Adèle; "that's the school, isn't it? Yes, I suppose I'll go there: you go, don't you?"
"Yes," says Reuben, "but I don't think I'll go very long."
"Why not?" says Adèle.
"I'm getting too big to go to a girls' school," said Reuben.
"Oh!"--and there was a little playful malice in the girl's observation that piqued the boy.
"Do the scholars like her?" continued Adèle.
"Pretty well," said Reuben; "but she hung up a little girl about as big as you, once, upon a nail in a corner of the school-room."
"_Quelle bête!_" exclaimed Adèle.
"That's French, isn't it?"
"Yes, and it means she's a bad woman to do such things."
In this way they prattled on, and grew into a certain familiarity: the boy entertaining an immense respect for her French, and for her knowledge of the sea and ships; but stubbornly determined to maintain the superiority which he thought justly to belong to his superior age and sex.
That evening, after the little people were asleep, the spinster and the Doctor conferred together in regard to Adèle. It was agreed between them that she should enter at once upon her school duties, and that particular inquiry concerning her religious beliefs, particular instruction on that score,--further than what belonged to the judicious system of Miss Onthank,--should be deferred for the present. At the same time the Doctor enjoined upon his sister the propriety of commencing upon the next Saturday evening the usual instructions in the Shorter Catechism, and of insisting upon punctual attendance upon the family devotions. The good Doctor hoped by these appointed means gradually to ripen the religious sensibilities of the little stranger, so that she might be prepared for that stern denunciation of those follies of the Romish Church amid which she had been educated, and that it would be his duty at no distant day to declare to her.
The spinster had been so captivated by a certain air of modish elegance in Adèle as to lead her almost to forget the weightier obligations of her Christian duty toward her. She conceived that she would find in her a means of recovering some influence over Reuben,--never doubting that the boy would be attracted by her frolicsome humor, and would be eager for her companionship. It was possible, moreover, that there might be some appeal to the boy's jealousies, when he found the favors which he had spurned were lavished upon Adèle. It was therefore in the best of temper and with the airiest of hopes (though not altogether spiritual ones) that Miss Eliza conducted the discussion with the Doctor. In two things only they had differed, and in this each had gained and each lost a point. The Doctor utterly refused to conform his pronunciation to the rigors which Miss Eliza prescribed; for him Adèle should be always and only Adaly. On the other hand, the parson's exactions in regard to sundry modifications of the little girl's dress miscarried: the spinster insisted upon all the furbelows as they had come from the hands of the French modiste; and in this she left the field with flying colors.
The next day Doctor Johns wrote to his friend Maverick, announcing the safe arrival of his child at Ashfield, and spoke in terms which were warm for him, of the interest which both his sister and himself felt in her welfare. "He was pained," he said, "to perceive that she spoke almost with gayety of serious things, and feared greatly that her keen relish for the beauties and delights of this sinful world, and her exuberant enjoyment of mere temporal blessings, would make it hard to wean her from them and to centre her desires upon the eternal world. But, my friend, all things are possible with God: and I shall diligently pray that she may return to you, in a few years, sobered in mind, and a self-denying missionary of the true faith."
No such event could take place in Ashfield as the arrival of this young stranger at the parsonage, without exciting a world of talk up and down the street. There were stories that she came of a vile Popish family, and there were those who gravely believed that the poor little creature had made only a hair-breadth escape from the thongs of the Inquisition. There were few even of those who knew that she was the daughter of a wealthy gentleman, now domiciled in France, and an old friend of the Doctor's, who did not look upon her with a tender interest, as one miraculously snatched by the hands of the good Doctor from the snares of perdition. The gay trappings of silks and ribbons in which she paced up the aisle of the meeting-house upon her first Sunday, under the patronizing eye of the stern spinster, were looked upon by the more elderly worshippers--most of all by the mothers of young daughters--as the badges of the Woman of Babylon, and as fit belongings to those accustomed to dwell in the tents of wickedness. Even Dame Tourtelot, in whose pew the face of Miss Almira waxes yellow between two great saffron bows, commiserates the poor heathen child who has been decked like a lamb for the sacrifice. "I wonder Miss Eliza don't pull off them ribbons from the little minx," said she, as she marched home in the "intermission," locked commandingly to the arm of the Deacon.
"Waäl, I s'pose they're paid for," returns the Deacon.
"What's that to do with it, Tourtelot?"
"Waäl, Huldy, we do pootty much all we can for Almiry in that line: this 'ere Maverick, I guess, doos the same. What's the odds, arter all?"
"Odds enough, Tourtelot," as the poor man found before bedtime: he had no flip.
The Elderkins, however, were more considerate. Very early after her arrival, Adèle had found her way to their homestead, under the guidance of Miss Eliza, and by her frank, demonstrative manner had established herself at once in the affections of the whole family. The Squire, indeed, had rallied the parson not a little, in his boisterous, hearty fashion, upon his introduction of such a dangerous young Jesuit into so orthodox a parish.
At all which, so seriously uttered as to take the Doctor fairly aback, good Mrs. Elderkin shook her finger warningly at the head of the Squire, and said, "Now, for shame, Giles!"
Good Mrs. Elderkin was, indeed, the pattern woman of the parish in all charitable deeds,--not only outside, (where so many charitable natures find their limits,) but indoors. With gentle speech and gentle manner, she gave, maybe, her occasional closet-counsel to the Squire; but most times her efforts to win him to a more serious habit of thought are covered under the shape of some charming plea for a kindness to herself or the "dear girls," which she knows that he will not have the hardihood to resist. And even this method she does not push too far,--making it a cardinal point in her womanly strategy that his home shall be always grateful to the Squire,--that he shall never be driven from it by any thought or suspicion of her exactions. Thus, if Grace--who is her oldest daughter, and almost woman grown--has some evening appointment at Bible class, or other such gathering, and, the boys being out, appeals timidly to the father, good Mrs. Elderkin says,--
"I am afraid your papa is too tired, Grace; do let him enjoy himself."
At which the Squire, shaking off his lethargy, says,--
"Get your things, child!"
And as he goes out with Grace, he is rewarded by one of those tender smiles upon the lip of the mother which captivated him twenty years before, and which still make his fireside the most cherished spot in the town.
No wonder that the little half-orphaned creature, Adèle, with her explosive warmth of heart, is kindly received among the Elderkins. Phil was some three years her senior, a ruddy-faced, open-hearted fellow, who had been well-nurtured, like his two elder brothers, but in whom a certain waywardness just now appearing was attributed very much, by the closely observing mother, to the influence of that interesting, but mischievous boy, Reuben. Phil was the superior in age, indeed, and in muscle, (as we may find proof,) but in nerve-power the more delicate-featured boy of the parson outranked him.
Rose Elderkin was a year younger than the French stranger, and a marvellously fair type of New England girl-beauty: light brown hair in unwieldy masses; skin wonderfully clear and transparent, and that flushed at a rebuke, or a run down the village street, till her cheeks blazed with scarlet; a lip delicately thin, but blood-red, and exquisitely cut; a great hazel eye, that in her moments of glee, or any occasional excitement, fairly danced and sparkled with a kind of insane merriment, and at other times took on a demure and pensive look, which to future wooers might possibly prove the more dangerous of the two. The features named make up a captivating girlish beauty, but one which, under a New England atmosphere, is rarely carried forward into womanhood. The lips grow pinched and bloodless; the skin blanched against all proof of blushes; the eyes sunken, and the blithe sparkle that was so full of infectious joy is lost forever in that exhausting blaze of girlhood. But we make no prophecy in regard to the future of our little friend Rose. Adèle thinks her very charming; Reuben is disposed to rank her--whatever Phil may think or say--far above Suke Boody. And in his reading of the delightful "Children of the Abbey," which he has stolen, (by favor of Phil, who owns the book,) he has thought of Rose when Amanda first appeared; and when the divine Amanda is in tears, he has thought of Rose; and when Amanda smiles, with Mortimer kneeling at her feet, he has still thought of Rose.
These four, Adèle, Phil, Rose, and Reuben are fellow-attendants at the school of the excellent Miss Betsey Onthank. The schoolhouse itself is a modest one, and stands upon a cross-road leading from the main street of the village, and is upon the side of the little brook which courses through the valley lying to the westward. A half-dozen or more of sugar-maples stand near it, and throw over it a grateful shade in August. In March these trees are exposed to a series of tappings on the part of the more mechanically inclined of the pupils,--Phil Elderkin being chiefest,--and gimlets, quills, and dinner-pails are brought into requisition with prodigious results. In the heats of summer, and when the brook is low, adventurous ones, of whom Reuben is chiefest, undertake to dam its current; and it being traditional in the school that one day a strange fisherman once took out two trout, half as long as Miss Onthank's ruler, from under the bridge by which the high road crosses the brook, Reuben plies every artifice, whether of bent pins, or hooks purchased from the Tew partners, (unknown to Aunt Eliza, who is prejudiced against fish-hooks as dangerous,) to catch a third; and finding other resources vain, he punches two or three holes through the bottom of his little dinner-pail, to make a scoop-net of it, and manfully wades under the bridge to explore all the hollows of that unknown region. While in this precarious position, he is reported by some timid child to the mistress, who straightway sallies out, ferule in hand and cap-strings flying, and orders him to land; which Reuben, taking warning by the threatening tone of the old lady, refuses, unless she promises not to flog him; and the kind-hearted mistress, fearing too long exposure of the lad to the chilly water, gives the promise. But with the tell-tale pail dangling at his belt, he does not escape so easily the inquisitive Aunt Eliza.
The excellent Miss Onthank--for by this title the parson always compliments her--is a type of a schoolmistress which is found no longer: grave, stately, with two great moppets of hair on either side her brow, (as in the old engravings of Louis Philippe's good queen Amelia,) very resolute, very learned in the boundaries of all Christian and heathen countries, patient to a fault, with a marvellous capacity for pointing out with her bodkin every letter to some wee thing at its first stage of spelling, and yet keeping an eye upon all the school-room; reading a chapter from the Bible, and saying a prayer each morning upon her bended knees,--the little ones all kneeling in concert,--with an air that would have adorned the most stately prioress of a convent; using her red ferule betimes on little, mischievous, smarting hands, yet not over-severe, and kind beneath all her gravity. She regards Adèle with a peculiar tenderness, and hopes to make herself the humble and unworthy instrument of redeeming her from the wicked estate in which she has been reared. And Adèle, though not comprehending the excess of her zeal, and opening her eyes in great wonderment when the good woman talks about her "providential deliverance from the artful snares of the adversary," is as free in her talk with the grave mistress as if she were her mother confessor.
Phil and Reuben, being the oldest boys of the school, resent the indignity of being still subject to woman rule by a concerted series of rebellious outbreaks. Some six or eight months after the arrival of Adèle upon the scene, this rebel attitude culminates in an incident that occasions a change of programme. The rebels on their way to school espy a few clam-shells before some huckster's door, and, putting two or three in their pockets, seize the opportunity when the good lady's eyes are closed in the morning prayer to send two or three scaling about the room, which fall with a clatter among the startled little ones. One, aimed more justly by Reuben, strikes the grave mistress full upon the forehead, and leaves a red cut from which one or two beads of blood trickle down.
Adèle, who has not learned yet that obstinate closing of the eyes which most of the scholars have been taught, and to whom the sight recalls the painted heads of martyrs in an old church at Marseilles, gives a little hysteric scream. But the mistress, with face unchanged and voice uplifted and unmoved, completes her religious duty.
The whole school is horrified, on rising from their knees, at sight of the old lady's bleeding head. The mistress wipes her forehead calmly, and, picking up the shell at her feet, says, "Who threw this?"
There is silence in the room.
"Adèle," she continues, "I heard you scream, child; do you know who threw this?"
Adèle gives a quick, inquiring glance at Reuben, whose face is imperturbable, rallies her courage for a struggle against the will of the mistress, and then bursts into tears.
Reuben cannot stand this.
"_I_ threw it, Marm," says he, with a great tremor in his voice.
The mistress beckons him to her, and, as he walks thither, motions to a bench near her, and says gravely,--
"Sit by me, Reuben."
There he keeps till school-hours are over, wondering what shape the punishment will take. At last, when all are gone, the mistress leads him into her private closet, and says solemnly,--
"Reuben, this is a crime against God. I forgive you; I hope He may"; and she bids him kneel beside her, while she prays in a way that makes the tears start to the eyes of the boy.
Then, home,--she walking by his side, and leading him straight into the study of the grave Doctor, to whom she unfolds the story, begging him not to punish the lad, believing that he is penitent. And the meekness and kindliness of the good woman make a Christian picture for the mind of Reuben, in sad contrast with the prim austerity of Aunt Eliza,--a picture that he never loses,--that keeps him meekly obedient for the rest of the quarter; after which, by the advice of Miss Onthank, both Phil and Reuben are transferred to the boys' academy upon the Common.
Meantime, Adèle is making friends in Ashfield and in the parsonage. The irrepressible buoyancy of her character cannot be kept under even by the severity of conduct which belongs to the home of the Doctor. If she yields rigid obedience to all the laws of the household, as she is taught to do, her vivacity sparkles all the more in those short intervals of time when the laws are silent. There is something in this beaming mirth of hers which the Doctor loves, though he struggles against the love. He shuts his door fast, that the snatches of some profane song from her little lips (with him all French songs are profane) may not come in to disturb him; but as her voice rises cheerily, higher and higher, in the summer dusk, he catches himself lending a profane ear; the blitheness, the sweetness, the mellowness of her tones win upon his dreary solitude; there is something softer in them than in the measured vocables of sister Eliza; it brings a souvenir of the girlish Rachel, and his memory floats back upon the strains of the new singer, to the days when that dear voice filled his heart; and he thinks--thanking Adaly for the thought--she is singing with the angels now!
But the spinster, who has no ear for music, in the midst of such a carol, will cry out in sharp tones from her chamber, "Adèle, Adèle, not so loud, child! you will disturb the Doctor!"
Even then Adèle has her resource in the garden and the orchard, where she never tires of wandering up and down,--and never wandering there but some fragment of a song breaks from her lips.
From time to time the Doctor summons her to his study to have serious talk with her. She has, indeed, shared the Saturday-night instruction in the Catechism, in company with Reuben, and being quick at words, no matter how long they may be, she has learned it all; and Reuben and she dash through "what is required" and "what is forbidden" and "the reasons annexed" like a pair of prancing horses, kept diligently in hand by that excellent whip, Miss Johns. But the study has not wrought that gravity in the mind of the child which the good parson had hoped for; the seed, he fears, has fallen upon stony places. He therefore, as we have said, summons her from time to time to his study.
And Adèle comes, always at the first summons, with a tripping step, and, with a little coquettish adjustment of her dress and hair, flings herself into the big chair before him,--
"Now, New Papa, here I am!"
"Ah, Adaly! I wish, child, that you could be more serious than you are."
"Serious! ha! ha!"--(she sees a look of pain on the face of the Doctor,) "but I will be,--I am"; and with great effort she throws a most unnatural expression of repose into her face.
"You are a good girl, Adaly; but this is not the seriousness I want to find in you. I want you to feel, my child, that you are walking on the brink of a precipice,--that your heart is desperately wicked."
"Oh, no, New Papa! you don't think I'm desperately wicked?"--and she says it with a charming eagerness of manner.
"Yes, desperately wicked, Adaly,--leaning to the things of this world, and not fastening your affections on things above, on the realities beyond the grave."
"But all that is so far away, New Papa!"
"Not so far as you think, child; they may come to-day."
Adèle is sobered in earnest now, and tosses her little feet back and forth, in an agony of apprehension.
The Doctor continues,--
"_To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts_"; and the sentiment and utterance are so like to the usual ones of the pulpit, that Adèle takes courage again.
The little girl has a profound respect for the Doctor; his calmness, his equanimity, his persistent zeal in his work, would alone provoke it. But she sees, furthermore,--what she does not see always in "Aunt Eliza,"--a dignity of character that is proof against all irritating humors; then, too, he has appeared to Adèle a very pattern of justice. She had taken exceptions, indeed, when, on one or two rare occasions, he had reached down the birch rod which lay upon the same hooks with the sword of Major Johns, in the study, and had called in Reuben for extraordinary discipline; but the boy's manifest acquiescence in the affair when his cool moments came next morning, and the melancholy air of kindness with which the Doctor went in to kiss him a goodnight, after such regimen, kept alive her faith in the unvarying justice of the parson. Therefore she tried hard to torture her poor little heart into a feeling of its own blackness, (for that it was very black she had the good man's averment,) she listened gravely to all he had to urge, and when he had fairly overburdened her with the enumeration of her wicked, worldly appetites, she could only say, with a burst of emotion,--
"Well, but, New Papa, the good God will forgive me."
"Yes, Adaly, yes,--I trust so, if forgiveness be sought in fear and trembling. But remember, 'When God created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him upon condition of perfect obedience.'"
This brings back to poor Adèle the drudgery of the Saturday's Catechism, associated with the sharp correctives of Aunt Eliza; and she can only offer a pleading kiss to the Doctor, and ask plaintively,--
"May I go now?"
"One moment, Adaly,"--and he makes her kneel beside him, while he prays, fervently, passionately, drawing her frail little figure to himself, even as he prays, as if he would carry her with him in his arms into the celestial presence.
The boy Reuben, too, has had his seasons of this closet struggle; but they are rarer now; the lad has shrewdly learned to adjust himself to all the requirements of such occasions. He has put on a leaden acquiescence in the Doctor's theories, whether with regard to sanctification or redemption, that is most disheartening to the parson. Does any question of the Doctor's, by any catch-word, suggest an answer from the "Shorter Catechism" as applicable, Reuben is ready with it on the instant.
Does the Doctor ask,--
"Do you know, my son, the sinfulness of the estate in which you are living?"
"Sinfulness of the estate whereunto man fell?" says Reuben, briskly.
"Know it like a book:--'Consists in the guilt of _Adam's_ first sin the want of original righteousness and the corruption of his whole nature which is commonly called original sin together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.' There's a wasp on your shoulder, father,--there's two of 'em; I'll kill em."
No wonder the good Doctor is disheartened, and trusts more and more, in respect to his boy, to the silent influences of the Spirit.
Adèle has no open quarrels with Miss Johns; she is obedient; she, too, has fallen under the influence of that magnetic voice, and accepts the orders and the commendations conveyed by it as if they were utterances of Fate. Yet, with her childish instincts, she has formed a very fair estimate of the character of Miss Eliza; it is doubtful even if she has not fathomed it in certain directions more correctly and profoundly than the grave Doctor. She sees clearly that the spinster's unvarying solicitude in regard to the dress and appearance of "dear Adèle" is due more to that hard pride of character which she nurses every day of her life than to any tenderness for the little stranger. For at the hands of her old godmother and of her father Adèle has known what real tenderness was. It is a lesson children never unlearn.
"Adèle, my dear, you look charmingly to-day, with that pink bow in your hair. Do you know, I think pink is becoming to you, my child?"
And Adèle listens with a composed smile, not unwilling to be admired. What girl of--any age is? But the admiration of Miss Johns does not touch her; it never calls a tear to her eye.
In the bright belt-buckle, in the big leg-of-mutton sleeves, in the glittering brooch containing coils of the Johns' hair, in the jaunty walk and authoritative air of the spinster, the quick, keen eye of Adèle sees something more than the meek Christian teacher and friend. It is a sin in her to see it, perhaps; but she cannot help it.
Miss Johns has not succeeded in exciting the jealousy of Reuben,--at least, not in the manner she had hoped. Her influence over him is clearly on the wane. He sees, indeed, her exaggerated devotion to the little stranger,--which serves, in her presence, at least, to call out all his indifference. Yet even this, Adèle, with her girlish instinct, seems to understand, too, and bears the boy no grudge in consequence of it. Nay, when he has received some special administration of the parson's discipline, she allows her sympathy to find play in a tender word or two that touch Reuben more than he dares to show.
And when they meet down the orchard, away from the lynx eye of Aunt Eliza, there are rare apples far out upon overhanging limbs that he can pluck, by dint of venturous climbing, for her; and as he sees through the boughs her delicate figure tripping through the grass, and lingers to watch it, there comes a thought that _she_ must be the Amanda of the story, and not Rose,--and he, perched in the apple-tree, a glowing Mortimer.
In the year 183-, Mr. Maverick writes to his friend Johns that the disturbed condition of public affairs in France will compel him to postpone his intended visit to America, and may possibly detain him for a long time to come. He further says,--"In order to prevent all possible hazards which may grow out of our revolutionary fervor on this side of the water, I have invested in United States securities, for the benefit of my dear little Adèle, a sum of money which will yield some seven hundred dollars a year. Of this I propose to make you trustee, and desire that you should draw so much of the yearly interest as you may determine to be for her best good, denying her no reasonable requests, and making your household reckoning clear of all possible deficit on her account.
"I am charmed with the improved tone of her letters, and am delighted to see by them that even under your grave regimen she has not lost her old buoyancy of spirits. My dear Johns, I owe you a debt in this matter which I shall never be able to repay. Kiss the little witch for me; tell her that 'Papa' always thinks of her, as he sits solitary upon the green bench under the arbor. God bless the dear one, and keep all trouble from her!"
She, gaining in height now month by month, wins more and more upon the grave Doctor,--wins upon Rose, who loves her as she loves her sisters,--wins upon Phil, whose liking for her is becoming demonstrative to a degree that prompts a little jealousy in the warm-blooded Reuben, and that drives out all thought of the pink cheeks and fat arms of Suke Boody. Miss Johns still regards her with admiring eyes, and shows all her old assiduity in looking after her comforts and silken trappings. Day after day, in summer weather, Rose and she idle together along the embowered paths of the village; the Tew partners greet the pair with smiles; good Mistress Elderkin has always a cordial welcome; the stout Squire stoops to kiss the little Jesuit, who blushes at the tender affront through all the brownness of her cheek, like a rose. Day after day the rumble of the mill breaks on the country quietude; and as autumn comes in, burning with all its forest fires, the farmer's flails beat time together, as they did ten years before.
At the academy, Phil and Reuben plot mischief, and they cement their friendship with not a few boyish quarrels.
Thus, Reuben, in the way of the boyish pomologists of those days, has buried at midsummer in the orchard a dozen or more of the finest windfalls from the early apple-trees, that they may mellow, away from the air, into good eating condition, and he has marked the spot in his boyish way with a little pyramid of stones. Strolling down the orchard a few days later, he sees Phil coming away from that locality, with his pockets bulging out ominously, and munching a great apple with extraordinary relish. Perhaps there is a thought that he may design a gift out of the stolen stores for Adèle; at any rate, Reuben flies at him.
"I say, Phil, that's doosed mean now, to be stealing my apples!"
"Who's stole your apples?" says Phil, with a great roar of voice.
"You have," says Reuben; and having now come near enough to find his pyramid of stones all laid low, he says more angrily,--"You're a thief! and you've got 'em in your pocket!"
"Thief!" says Phil, looking threateningly, and throwing away his apple half-eaten, "if you call me a thief, I say you're a----you know what."
"Well, blast you," says Reuben, boiling with rage, "say it! Call me a liar, if you dare!"
"I do dare," says Phil, "if you accuse me of stealing your apples; and I say you're a liar, and be darned to you!"
At this, Reuben, though he is the shorter by two or three inches, and no match for his foe at fisticuffs, plants a blow straight in Philip's face. (He said afterward, when all was settled, that he was ten times more mortified to think that he had done such a thing in his father's orchard.)
But Phil closed upon him, and kneading him with his knuckles in the back, and with a trip, threw him heavily, falling prone upon him. Reuben, in a frenzy, and with a torrent of much worse language than he was in the habit of using, was struggling to turn him, when a sharp, loud voice, which they both knew only too well, came down the wind,--"Boys! boys!" and presently the Doctor comes up panting.
"What does this mean? Philip, I'm ashamed of you!" he continues; and Philip rises.
Reuben, rising, too, the instant after, and with his fury unchecked, dashes at Phil again; when the Doctor seizes him by the collar and drags him aside.
"He struck me," says Phil.
"And he stole my apples and called me a liar," says Reuben, with the tears starting, though he tries desperately to keep them back, seeing that Phil shows no such evidence of emotion.
"Tut! tut!" says the Doctor,--"you are both too angry for a straight story. Come with me."
And taking each by the hand, he led them through the garden and house, directly into his study. There he opens a closet-door, with the sharp order, "Step in here, Reuben, until I hear Philip's story." This Phil tells straight-forwardly,--how he was passing through the orchard with a pocketful of apples, which a neighbor's boy had given, and how Reuben came upon him with swift accusation, and then the fight. "But he hurt me more than I hurt him," says Phil, wiping his nose, which showed a little ooze of blood.
"Good!" says the Doctor,--"I think you tell the truth."
"Thank you," says Phil,--"I know I do, Doctor."
Next Reuben is called out.
"Do you _know_ he took the apples?" asks the Doctor.
"Don't know," says Reuben,--"but he was by the place, and the stones thrown down."
"And is that sufficient cause, Reuben, for accusing your friend?"
At which, Reuben, shifting his position uneasily from one foot to the other, says,--
"I believe he did, though."
"Stop, Sir!" says the Doctor in a voice that makes Reuben sidle away.
"Here," says Phil, commiserating him in a grand way, and beginning to discharge his pockets on the Doctor's table, "he may have them, if he wants them."
Reuben stares at them a moment in astonishment, then breaks out with a great tremor in his voice, but roundly enough,--
"By George! they're not the same apples at all. I'm sorry I told you that, Phil."
"Don't say 'By George' before me, or anywhere else," says the Doctor, sharply. "It's but a sneaking oath, Sir; yet" (more gently) "I'm glad of your honesty, Reuben."
At the instigation of the parson they shake hands; after which he leads them both into his closet, beckoning them to kneel on either side of him, as he commends them in his stately way to Heaven, trusting that they may live in good-fellowship henceforth, and keep His counsel, who was the great Peacemaker, always in their hearts.
Next morning, when Reuben goes to reconnoitre the place of his buried treasure, he finds all safe, and taking the better half of the fruit, he marches away with a proud step to the Elderkin house. The basket is for Phil. But Phil is not at home; so he leaves the gift, and a message, with a short story of it all, with the tender Rose, whose eyes dance with girlish admiration at this stammered tale of his, and her fingers tremble when they touch the boy's in the transfer of his little burden.
Reuben walks away prouder yet; is not this sweet-faced girl, after all, Amanda?
There come quarrels, however, with the academy teacher not so easily smoothed over. The Doctor and the master hold long consultations. Reuben, it is to be feared, has bad associates. The boy makes interest, through Nat Boody, with the stage-driver; and one day the old ladies are horrified at seeing the parson's son mounted on the box of the coach beside the driver, and putting his boyish fingers to the test of four-in-hand. Of course he is a truant that day from school, and toiling back footsore and weary, after tea, he can give but a lame account of himself. He brings, another time, a horrid fighting cur, (as Miss Eliza terms it in her disgust,) for which he has bartered away the new muffler that the spinster has knit. He thinks it a splendid bargain. Miss Johns and the Doctor do not.
He is reported by credible witnesses as loitering about the tavern in the summer nights, long after prayers are over at the parsonage, and the lights are out: thus it is discovered, to the great horror of the household, that by connivance with Phil he makes his way over the roof of the kitchen from his chamber-window to join in these night forays. After long consideration, in which Grandfather Handby is brought into consultation, it is decided to place the boy for a while under the charge of the latter for discipline, and with the hope that removal from his town associates may work good. But within a fortnight after the change is made, Grandfather Handby drives across the country in his wagon, with Reuben seated beside him with a comic gravity on his face; and the old gentleman, pleading the infirmities of age, and giving the boy a farewell tap on the cheek, (for he loves him, though he has whipped him almost daily,) restores him to the paternal roof.
At this crisis, Squire Elderkin--who, to tell truth, has a little fear of the wayward propensities of the parson's son in misleading Phil--recommends trial of the discipline of a certain Parson Brummem, who fills the parish-pulpit upon Bolton Hill. This dignitary was a tall, lank, leathern-faced man, of incorruptible zeal and stately gravity, who held under his stern dominion a little flock of two hundred souls, and who, eking out a narrow parochial stipend by the week-day office of teaching, had gained large repute for his subjugation of refractory boys.
A feeble little invalid wife cringed beside him along the journey of life; and it would be pitiful to think that she had not long ago entered, in way of remuneration, upon paths of pleasantness beyond the grave.
Parson Brummem received Brother Johns, when he drove with Reuben to the parsonage-door, on that wild waste of Bolton Hill, with all the unction of manner that belonged to him; but it was so grave an unction as to chill poor Reuben to the marrow of his bones. A week's experience only dispersed the chill when the tingle of the parson's big rod wrought a glow in him that was almost madness. Yet Reuben chafed not so much at the whippings--to which he was well used--as at the dreariness of the new home, the melancholy waste of common over which March winds blew all the year, the pinched faces that met him without other recognition than, "One o' Parson Brummem's b'ys." Nor indoors was the aspect more inviting: a big red table, around which sat six fellow-martyrs with their slates and geographies; a tall desk, at which Brummem indited his sermons; and from time to time a little side-door opening timidly, through which came a weary woman's voice, "Ezekiel, dear, one minute!" at which the great man strides thither, and lends, his great ear to the family council.
Ah, the long, weary mornings, when the sun, pouring through the curtainless south windows a great blaze upon the oaken floor, lights up for Reuben only the cobwebbed corners, the faded roundabouts of fellow-martyrs, the dismal figures of Daboll, the shining tail-coat of Master Brummem, as he stalks up and down from hour to hour, collecting in this way his scattered thoughts for some new argumentative thrust of the quill into the sixthly or the seventhly of his next week's sermon! And the long and weary afternoons, when the sun with a mocking bounty pours through the dusty and curtainless windows to the west, lighting only again the gray and speckled roundabouts of the fagging boys, the maps of Malte-Brun, and the shining forehead of the Brummem!
There is a dismal, graceless, bald air about town and house and master, which is utterly revolting to the lad, whose childish feet had pattered beside the tender Rachel along the embowered paths of Ashfield. The lack of congeniality affronts his whole nature. In the keenness of his martyrdom, (none the less real because fancied,) the leathern-faced, gaunt Brummem takes the shape of some Giant Despair with bloody maw and mace,--and he, the child of some Christiana, for whose guiding hand he gropes vainly: she has gone before to the Celestial City!
The rod of the master does not cure the chronic state of moody rebellion into which Reuben lapses, with these fancies on him. It drives him at last to an act of desperation. The lesson in Daboll that day was a hard one; but it was not the lesson, or his short-comings in it,--it was not the hand of the master, which had been heavy on him,--but it was a vague, dismal sense of the dreariness of his surroundings, of the starched looks that met him, of the weary monotony, of the lack of sympathy, which goaded him to the final overt act of rebellion,--which made him dash his leathern-bound arithmetic full into the face of the master, and then sit down, burying his face in his hands.
The stern doctrines of Parson Brummem had taught him, at least, a rigid self-command. He did not strike the lad. But recovering from his amazement, he says, "Very well, very well, Master Reuben, we will sleep upon this"; and then, tapping at the inner door, "Keziah, make ready the little chamber over the hall for Master Johns: he must be by himself to-night: give him a glass of water and a slice of dry bread: nothing else, Sir," (turning to Reuben now,) "until you come to me to-morrow at nine, in this place, and ask my pardon"; and he motions him to the door.
Reuben staggers out,--staggers up the stairs into the dismal chamber. It looks out only upon a bald waste of common. Shortly after, a slatternly maid brings his prison fare, and, with a little kindly discretion, has added secretly a roll of gingerbread. Reuben thanks her, and says, "You're a good woman, Keziah; and I say, won't you fetch me my cap, there's a good un; it's cold here." The maid, with great show of caution, complies; a few minutes after, the parson comes, and, looking in warningly, closes and locks the door outside.
A weary evening follows, in which thoughts of Adèle, of nights at the Elderkins', of Phil, of Rose, flash upon him, and spend their richness, leaving him more madly disconsolate. Then come thoughts of the morning humiliation, of the boys pointing their fingers at him after school.
"No, they sha'n't, by George!"
And with this decision he dropped asleep; with this decision ripened in him, he woke at three in the morning,--waited for the hall clock to strike, that he might be sure of his hour,--tied together the two sheets of Mistress Brummem's bed, opened the window gently, dropped out his improvised cable, slid upon it safely to the ground, and before day had broken or any of the townsfolk were astir, had crossed all the more open portion of the village, and by sunrise had plunged into the wooded swamp-land which lay three miles westward toward the river.
THE GREAT LAKES:
THEIR OUTLETS AND DEFENCES.
Four years ago there appeared in this magazine two articles upon the Great Lakes and their Harbors.[E] In these papers the commercial importance of the Lakes was set forth, and it was shown that their commerce was at that time nearly equal in amount to the whole foreign trade of the country. Within those four years the relative value of these two branches of commerce has greatly changed. The foreign trade, under the efforts of open foes and secret enemies, has fallen off very largely. A committee of the New York Board of Trade, in an appeal to the Secretary of the Navy for protection against British pirates, made the statement, that the imports into that port during the first quarter of 1860, in American vessels, were $62,598,326,--in foreign vessels, $30,918,051; and that in 1863, during the same period, the imports in American vessels were $23,403,830,--in foreign vessels, $65,889,853;--in other words, that in three years of war, our navigation on the ocean had declined more than one half, and that of foreign nations had increased in nearly the same proportion.
The two great branches of internal trade before the war consisted of the trade of the Lakes and the canals leading from them to the seaboard, and the trade of the Mississippi and its tributaries. The latter branch being interrupted or destroyed by the Rebellion, it follows that at the present time the principal commerce left to the Atlantic cities is that of the Great Lakes and the States about them, usually known as the Northwest.
This commerce amounts at present to at least twelve hundred millions of dollars annually, and increases so rapidly that all estimates of its prospective value have hitherto fallen far short of the truth. It employs about two thousand vessels and twenty thousand sailors, besides four great lines of railroad. It sends to the seaboard one hundred million bushels of grain, two million hogs, and half a million of cattle, composing the principal part of the food of the Atlantic States, (it being well known that the wheat crop of New York would hardly feed her people for one third of the year, and that that of New England is sufficient for only about three weeks' consumption,) and affording a large surplus for exportation.
In a memorial of the Hon. S. B. Ruggles of New York to President Lincoln, on the enlargement of the New York canals, he says,--"The cereal wealth yearly floated on these waters now exceeds one hundred million bushels. It is difficult to present a distinct idea of a quantity so enormous. Suffice it to say, that the portion of it (about two thirds) moving to market on the Erie and Oswego Canals requires a line of boats more than forty miles long to carry it." On the Lakes it requires a fleet of five thousand vessels carrying twenty thousand bushels each. If loaded in railroad-cars of the usual capacity, it would take two hundred and fifty thousand of them, or a train more than one thousand miles in length. The four great lines from the Lakes to the seaboard would each have to run four hundred cars a day for half the year to carry this grain to market. Speaking of the grain-trade, Mr. Ruggles says,--"Its existence is a new fact in the history of man. In quantity, it already much exceeds the whole export of cereals from the Russian Empire, the great compeer of the United States, whose total export of cereals was in 1857 but forty-nine million bushels, being less than half the amount carried in 1861 upon the American Lakes. It was the constant aim of ancient Rome, even in the zenith of its power, to provision the capital and the adjacent provinces from the outlying portions of the empire. The yearly crop contributed by Egypt was fifteen million bushels. Under the prudent administration of the Emperor Severus, a large store of corn was accumulated and kept on hand, sufficient to guard the empire from famine for seven years. The total amount thus provided was but one hundred and ninety million bushels. The product of 1860 in the five Lake States of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, was three hundred and fifty-four million bushels."
Another branch of the Lake trade, which is yet in its infancy, but which promises to reach vast proportions in a few years, is the iron and copper trade of Lake Superior. In 1864 about two hundred and forty-eight thousand tons of iron ore and seventeen thousand tons of copper ore and metal were shipped from that lake,--enough to load thirteen hundred and twenty-five vessels of two hundred tons burden. This trade has wholly grown up within the last ten years.
Let the Erie and Oswego Canals be again enlarged, as advocated so ably by Mr. Ruggles, let the railroad lines be equipped with double tracks, and this trade of the Lake country will still follow them up and outstrip their efforts. The man is now living in Chicago, hardly past middle age, who, less than thirty years ago, shipped the first invoice of grain from that city which now ships fifty millions; and should he live to the common age of mankind, he will probably see the shipment of a hundred millions from that port alone.
The population of Illinois has doubled in each of the last two decades, and there is no reason why it should not continue to do so in the next. That would give it in 1870 about three and a half millions of people, most of them farmers and producers, and farmers who, by help of their fertile soil, the ease of its cultivation, and the general use of agricultural machinery, are able to produce a very large amount of grain or meat to the working hand.
These fleets of sail-vessels and steamers, and these railroad-trains which go Eastward thus loaded with grain and provisions, return West with freight more various, though as valuable. The teas, silks, and spices of India, the coffee of Brazil, the sugar and cigars of Cuba, the wines and rich fabrics of France, the varied manufactures of England, and the products of the New England workshops and factories, all find a market in the Northwest.
What, then, is the proper and sufficient outlet of this commerce? The Canadians, although their share of it is only one quarter as large as our own, have shown us the way. They have constructed canals connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario, and others around the rapids of the St. Lawrence. Let us do the same on the American side, so that vessels may load in Chicago or Milwaukee, and deliver their cargoes in New York, Boston, or Liverpool, without breaking bulk. To Europe this is the shorter route, as the figures will show:--
Distance from Chicago to New York by lakes, canal, and river 1,500 miles Distance from New York to Liverpool 2,980 " ----- 4,480 "
Distance from Chicago to Montreal by Welland Canal 1,348 miles Distance from Montreal to Liverpool 2,740 " ----- 4,088 "
The St. Lawrence River is the natural outlet of the Lakes, and, if rendered accessible to us by canals, must be the cheapest outlet. It is well known that a few years ago corn was worth on the prairies of Illinois only ten cents per bushel, when the same article was selling in New York at seventy cents, six sevenths of the price being consumed in transportation. The consequence was, that many farmers found it more for their interest to use their surplus corn for fuel than to sell it for ten cents. The great disturbance in values caused by the war, and the vast demand for grain and forage for the army, have reduced this disproportion in prices very much for the time, but it may be looked for again on the return of peace.
Now it would seem that one of the most important questions to be settled in this country is how to cheapen food. If, by the construction of these canals to give access to the St. Lawrence, grain can be laid down in New York ten cents a bushel cheaper than it now is done, the saving on the present shipments of breadstuffs from the Lakes would be ten millions of dollars annually. It is probable, however, that the saving in freight would be much greater than this, if the canals were built of sufficient capacity to admit the largest class of Lake vessels. This direct trade between the Upper Lakes and Europe was commenced a few years before the breaking out of the Rebellion, and was beginning to assume important proportions, when the war put a stop to it, as it has to so much of our foreign commerce.
While the present article was in preparation, the bill for the construction of these canals passed the House of Representatives, as also one for the deepening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, concerning which the report of the Hon. Isaac N. Arnold of Illinois, chairman of the committee of the House on the defence of lakes and rivers, thus remarks:--"The realization of the grand idea of a ship-canal from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi, for military and commercial purposes, is the great work of the age. In effect, commercially, it turns the Mississippi into Lake Michigan, and makes an outlet for the Great Lakes at New Orleans, and of the Mississippi at New York. It brings together the two great systems of water communication of our country,--the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, and the canals connecting the Lakes with the ocean on the east, and the Mississippi and Missouri, with all their tributaries, on the west and south. This communication, so vast, can be effected at small expense, and with no long delay. It is but carrying out the plan of Nature. A great river, rivalling the St. Lawrence in volume, at no distant day was discharged from Lake Michigan, by the Illinois, into the Mississippi. Its banks, its currents, its islands, and deposits can still be easily traced, and it only needs a deepening of the present channel for a few miles, to reopen a magnificent river from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi."
It is a very important point, in considering this question of the enlargement of existing canals and the construction of new ones, that they have, under the new conditions of naval warfare, come to be an important element in the harbor defences of the Lakes. We have the testimony of Captain Ericsson himself, whose Monitor vessels have already done so much for the country, as to this availability. He writes,--"An impregnable war-vessel, twenty-five feet wide and two hundred feet long, with a shot-proof turret, carrying a gun of fifteen inch calibre, with a ball of four hundred and fifty pounds, and capable of destroying any hostile vessel that can be put on the Lakes, will draw, without ammunition, coal, or stores, but six feet and six inches water, and consequently will need only a canal wide and deep enough to float a vessel of those dimensions, with locks of sufficient size to pass it."
Great Britain has already secured to herself the means of access to the Lakes by her system of Canadian canals, and the Military Committee of the House express the opinion, that, in case of a war with that power, "a small fleet of light-draught, heavily armed, iron-clad gunboats, could, in one short month, in despite of any opposition that could be made by extemporized batteries, pass up the St. Lawrence, and shell every city and village from Ogdensburg to Chicago. At one blow it could sweep our commerce from that entire chain of lakes. Such a fleet would have it in its power to inflict a loss to be reckoned only by hundreds of millions, so vast is the wealth thus exposed to the depredations of a maritime enemy." We were saved from such a blow, a few months ago, only by the failure of the Rebel agents in Canada to procure, either by purchase or piracy, a swift armed steamer.
Ever since the War of 1812, England has been preparing, in the event of another war, to strike at this, our vital point. In 1814 the Duke of Wellington declared "that a naval superiority on the Lakes is a _sine qua non_ of success in war on the frontier of Canada." Years before, William Hall, Governor of the Northwestern Territory, made the same declaration to our Government, and the capture of Detroit by the British in 1812 was due to their failure to respond to his appeal for a naval force. In 1817 the Lakes were put on a peace establishment of one gun on each side, which was a good bargain for England, she having at that time larger interests on the Lakes than the United States. Now ours exceed hers in the ratio of four to one.
What said the London "Times" in January, 1862, in reference to the Trent excitement? "As soon as the St. Lawrence opens again there will be an end of our difficulty. We can then pour into the Lakes such a fleet of gunboats, and other craft, as will give us the complete and immediate command of those waters. Directly the navigation is clear, we can send up vessel after vessel without any restriction, except such as are imposed by the size of the canals. The Americans would have no such resource. They would have no access to the Lakes from the sea, and it is impossible that they could construct vessels of any considerable power in the interval that would elapse before the ice broke up. With the opening of spring the Lakes would be ours."
This is just what the English did in the War of 1812. They secured the command of the Lakes at the beginning of the war, and kept it and that of all the adjacent country, till Perry built a fleet on Lake Erie, with which he wrested their supremacy from them by hard fighting. Let us not be caught in that way a second time.
There is a party in the country opposed to the enlargement of these canals. It is represented in Congress by able men. Their principal arguments are the following: First, that there is no military necessity for the enlargement; that materials for building gunboats can be accumulated at various points on the Lakes, to be used in the event of war. Secondly, that by sending a strong force to destroy the Canadian canals, the enemy's gunboats can be prevented from entering the Lakes. A third argument is, that it is useless to attempt to contend with England, the greatest naval power in the world; that we shall never have vessels enough to afford a fleet on the coast and one on the Lakes; that England would never allow us to equal her in that respect, and that it would be changing the entire policy of the nation to attempt it. A fourth argument which we have seen gravely stated against the canal enlargements is, that the mouth of the St. Lawrence is the place to defend the Lakes, and that, if that hole were stopped, the rats could not enter.
In reply to the first of these arguments, the above quotation from the London "Times" shows that the British Government well know the importance of striking the first blow, and that long before our gunboats could be launched that blow would have been delivered.
As to the second, we may be sure that the Canadian canals would be defended with all the power and skill of England; and we know, by the experience of the last four years, the difference between offensive and defensive warfare, both sides being equally matched in fighting qualities.
The third argument is the same used by Jefferson and his party before the War of 1812. He thought that to build war vessels was only to build them for the British, as they would be sure to take them. As to changing the policy of the nation, by increasing our navy, let us hope that it is already changed, and forever. Its policy has heretofore been a Southern policy, a slaveholders' policy; it has discouraged the navy, and kept it down to the smallest possible dimensions, because a navy is essentially a Northern institution. You cannot man a navy with slaves or mean whites; it must have a commercial marine behind it, and that the South never had. Our navy ought never again to be inferior in fighting strength to that of England. In that way we shall always avoid war.
As to the plan of defending the Lakes at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, we would ask this question: If the blockade of Wilmington was a task beyond the power of our navy, how would it be able to blockade an estuary from fifty to a hundred miles in width?
With these enlarged canals, by which gunboats and monitors could be moved from the Atlantic and the Mississippi to the Lakes, and _vice versa_, and by the system of shore defences recommended some years ago by General Totten, namely, strong fortifications at Mackinaw, perfectly commanding those straits, and serving as a refuge to war steamers, works at the lower end of Lake Huron, at Detroit, and at the entrance of Niagara River, these waters will be protected from all foreign enemies. Lake Ontario will also need a system of works to protect our important canals and railroads, which in many places approach so near the shore as to be in danger from an enterprising enemy. It is recommended by the Military Committee, that a naval depot should be established at Erie, as the most safe and suitable harbor on the lake of that name.
If, as is probable, a naval station and depot should be thought necessary on the Upper Lakes, the city of Milwaukee has strong claims to be chosen for its site. There is the best and safest harbor on Lake Michigan, so situated as to be easily defended, in the midst of a heavily timbered country, accessible to the iron and copper of Lake Superior and the coal of Illinois. Milwaukee enjoys one of the cheapest markets for food, together with a very healthy climate. Finally, she is connected by rail with the great Western centres of population, so that all the necessary troops for her defence could be gathered about her at twenty-four hours' notice.
It may be well here to remark, that as yet the Northwest has had little assistance from the General Government. Large sums of money have annually been laid out in the defences of the seaboard, both North and South, while this immense Lake region has had the annual appropriation of one eighteen pounder! Every small river and petty inlet on the Southern coast, whence a bale of cotton or a barrel of turpentine could be shipped, has had its fort; while the important post of Mackinaw, the Gibraltar of the Lakes, is garrisoned by an invalid sergeant, who sits solitary on its ruinous walls.
The result at which we arrive is, that these canal enlargements would at once be valuable, both as commercial and military works. They have a national importance, in that they will assist in feeding and defending the nation. The States interested in them have a population of ten millions, they have seventy-one representatives in Congress, and they have furnished fully one half the fighting-men who have gone to defend our flag and protect our nationality in the field. How that work has been done, let the victorious campaigns of Grant and Sherman attest. Those great leaders are Western men, and their invincible columns, who, from Belmont to Savannah, have, like Cromwell's Ironsides, "never met an enemy whom they have not broken in pieces," are men of Western birth or training.
[E] See Nos. for February and March, 1861,--Vol. VII. pp. 226, 313.
TO CAROLINA CORONADO.
A lily anchored by the Spanish main, Swaying and shining in the surge of youth, Yet holding in thy breast the gold of truth,--
Such didst thou seem above the waves of pain, And through the stormy turbulence of war, Until we heard thy patriot voice afar!
Now, Sister, with the burning heart of Spain, We speak to thee from this New England strand, And grasp and hold thee with a firm right hand!
For thou hast touched our people with thy word,-- Only a gentle woman's word, but one With the great work our Nation has begun.
By Liberty thy earnest soul was stirred, And waked and urged Estremadura's men To pour the heroic wine of life again.
As in the dawn of Summer flits a bird From his low nest and springs into the air, Hurrying a double concert and a prayer,--
So Liberty, with thy sweet voice allied, Walks in thy footsteps, with her laurel strows Thy footway, with thy trustful spirit glows.
Esteem her friendship with unwavering pride! Teach thou thy children what the years have brought, Wisdom and love superior to thy thought!
Once thou hast said, "All men may win her side, But women never!" Sister, do not fear, Recall thy words, since Love has made truth clear.
For Love is master, and we know no other, Save self-compelling service to the right, Which is but Love in the seraphic sight.
Teach this thy sons and to each man thy brother,-- A secret learned in silent joys of home, A secret whence the lights of being come.
So guided by this lamp, O wife and mother, Turn thine eyes hither to the Western shore, Where red streams run and iron thunders roar!
We watch the star of Freedom slowly rise And glimmer through the changes of the time, While errors beat their low retreating chime.
We ask for nought, we need not to be wise, We find both men and women at their post, Equal and different in one mighty host.
Divided suffering, unity of cries,-- Divided labor, unity of life,-- Divided struggle, one reward for strife.
As autumn winds sweep over tossing seas And reach the happy shore, and fling the flowers And lower each gorgeous head by their rude powers,--
So sweep the winds of war through quiet leas And bend our budding treasures in the dust, Yet Freedom's cause shall neither mar nor rust.
The seed shall spring where none can thirst or freeze, Shall bear a floweret fairer than the old, As lilies shine before all blossoms told:
A liberty for woman in her home, Bound by the only chains which give her peace,-- Immortal chains which death may not release:
A liberty where Justice wide may roam, And Reverence sit the chief at every feast, With Love as master, and Contempt as least:
A liberty where the oppressed may come, The black and white, the woman and the man, And recognize themselves in Heaven's wide plan
Then while the morning odors of the sea Blow from the westward and caress thy brow, Remember where thy loving sisters bow:
Perchance beneath the hand of Victory, Which leaves a tear and then a silentness, While crowds move by forgetful of one less;
Or where a burst of gracious ecstasy Rising shall fill the eastward flitting air, And with thy spirit mount the hills of prayer.
Since, in modern literature, there are so few really good comedies that we may count them all upon our fingers, a man who has written two must be worth knowing. We ask permission to introduce Jean François Regnard to those who do not know him.
He comes recommended by the great critic Boileau, who liked him, quarrelled with him, and made up again. Forty years later, Voltaire wrote that the man who did not enjoy Regnard was not capable of appreciating Molière. Then came M. de La Harpe, the authority in such matters for two generations: he devotes a chapter to Regnard, and calls him the worthy successor of Molière. And Béranger, in his charming autobiography, an epilogue worthy of the noble part he had played upon the stage of the world, speaks of the unflagging gayety and abundant wit of Regnard's dialogue, and of his lively and graceful style. "In my opinion," he adds, "Regnard would be the first of modern comedians, if Molière had not been given to us."
In spite of the idle complainings into which authors are betrayed by the pleasure human nature takes in talking about self to attentive listeners, all who are familiar with the history of the brethren of the quill know, that, as a class, they have had a large share of the good things of the earth,--cheerful occupation, respected position, comfortable subsistence, and long life. France, in particular, has been the _Pays de Cocagne_ of book-makers for the last two hundred years. Neither praise, pay, nor rank has been wanting to those who deserved them. But in the long line of _littérateurs_ who have flourished since Cardinal Richelieu founded the Academy, few were so fortunate as Regnard. He entered upon his career with wealth, health, and a jovial temperament: three supreme blessings he kept through life.
He was born in Paris in 1655, three years before Molière brought his company from the provinces to the Hôtel de Bourbon, and opened the new theatre with the "Précieuses Ridicules." Regnard's father, a citizen of Paris and a shopkeeper, died when his son was a lad, leaving him one hundred and twenty thousand livres,--a fortune for a man of the middle class at that period. Like most independent young fellows, Regnard made use of his money to travel. He went to Italy, and spent a year in the famous cities of the Peninsula,--but returned home with thirty thousand additional livres in his pocket, won at play. He soon went back to the land of pleasure and of luck. At Bologna he fell in love with a lady from the South of France, whom he calls Elvire. The lady was married, the husband was with her; they were travellers like himself. Regnard joined the party, and sailed with them from Civita Vecchia in an English ship bound for Toulon. The vessel was captured, off Nice, by a Barbary corsair, and brought into Algiers; the crew and passengers were sold to the highest bidder. One Achmet Talem paid fifteen hundred livres for Regnard, and one thousand for the lady. This low price might lead us to imagine that the Moorish taste in beauty differed from that of Regnard; but the Algerine market may have been overstocked with women on the day of sale. Achmet took his new chattels to Constantinople. Perceiving Regnard's talent for _ragoûts_ and sauces, he made a cook of him. What became of Elvire history has omitted, perhaps discreetly, to relate. After two years of toil and ill-treatment, Regnard received money from home to buy his freedom. He paid twelve thousand livres for himself and the fair Provençale. Achmet more than quadrupled his investment, and no doubt thought slavery a divine institution.
In Paris once more, Regnard hung his chains in his library and was preparing to lead a comfortable life with Elvire, when the superfluous husband, whose death had been reported, most unseasonably reappeared. He had been ransomed by the Mathurins, a religious order, who believed it to be the duty of Christians to deliver their fellow-men from bondage,--Abolitionists of the seventeenth century, who, strange as some of us may think it, were honored by their countrymen and the Christian world. Regnard yielded gracefully the right he had acquired by purchase to the prior claim of the husband, and made preparations for another journey. With two compatriots, De Fercourt and De Corberon, he traversed the Low Countries and Denmark and crossed over to Stockholm. The King of Sweden received the travellers graciously and proposed a visit to Lapland. Furnished with the royal letters of recommendation, they sailed up the Gulf of Bothnia to Torneo, and thence pushed north by land until they came to Lake Tornoetrask. Eighteen miles from the lower end of the lake they ascended a high mountain which they named Metavara, "from the Latin word _meta_ and the Finlandic word _vara_, which means rock: that is to say, the rock of limits." "We were four hours in climbing to the top by paths which no mortal had as yet known. When we reached it, we perceived the whole extent of Lapland, and the Icy Ocean as far as the North Cape, on the side it turns to the west. This may, indeed, be called arriving at the end of the world and jostling the axle of the pole (_se frotter à l'essieu du pôle_)." Here they set up a tablet of stone they had brought with their luggage,--_monument éternel_, Regnard says. "It shall make known to posterity that three Frenchmen did not cease to travel northward until the earth failed them; that, in spite of the difficulties they encountered, which would have turned back most others, they reached the end of the world and planted their column; the ground was wanting, but not the courage to press on." These sounding verses were cut upon the eternal monument:--
"Gallia nos genuit; vidit nos Africa; Gangem Hausimus, Europamque oculis lustravimus omnem; Casibus et variis acti terrâque marique, Hic tandem stetimus, nobis ubi defuit orbis. De Fercourt, De Corberon, Regnard. Anno 1681, die 22 Augusti."
"The inscription will never be read, except by the bears," Regnard adds. A melancholy thought to the French mind! If nobody saw it or talked about it, half the pleasure of the exploit was gone. The Frenchmen had foreseen this difficulty, and had taken their precautions. Four days' journey to the southward stood an ancient church, near which the Lapps held their annual fair. In this church, in a conspicuous position, they had already deposited the same verses, carved upon a board. In 1718, thirty-six years after, another French traveller, La Motraye, read the lines upon the stone tablet,--too late to gratify Regnard.
"Travellers' stories,"--"_A beau mentir qui vient de loin_,"--these proverbs date from the seventeenth century. It was not expected of such adventurous gentlemen that they should tell the simple truth, any more than we expect veracity from sportsmen. We listen without surprise and disbelieve without a smile. Some exaggeration, too, was pardonable to help out the verse; but "_nobis ubi defuit orbis_" goes beyond a reasonable license. The mountain _Metavara_ is in Lat. 68° 30'; the North Cape in 71° 10'. There were still one hundred and fifty miles of solid _orbis_ before Regnard and his friends; and they had need of optics sharp to see the Cape from the spot they stood upon.
The 27th of September found the three Arctic explorers back again in Stockholm. Thence they took boat for Dantzic, travelled in Poland, Hungary, and Austria, and left Vienna for Paris a few months before the famous siege, when Sobieski, the "man sent from God whose name was John," routed the Turks and delivered Christendom forever from the fear of the Ottoman arms.
Before this time Regnard must have heard that Duquesne had avenged his African sufferings. In the autumn of 1681 the Huguenot Admiral shelled Algiers from bomb-ketches, then used for the first time. The Dey was forced to surrender. His lively conquerors treated him with the honors of wit as well as of war. They made a _mot_ for him, of the kind they get up so cleverly in Paris. When the Turk is told how much it had cost the great monarch of France to fit out the fleet which had just reduced a part of his city to ashes, he exclaims, amazed at the useless extravagance,--"For half the money I would have burned the whole town."
Cervantes was a slave in Algiers a hundred years before Regnard, and no doubt used his experience in the story of the Captive in "Don Quixote." Regnard also worked his African materials up into a tale,--"La Provençale,"--and varnished them with the sentimentality fashionable in his day. Zelmis (himself) is a conquering hero; women adore him. He is full of courage, resources, and devotion to one only,--Elvire,--who is beautiful as a dream, and dignified as the wife of a Roman Senator. The King of Algiers is on the quay when the captives are brought ashore. He falls in love with Elvire on the spot, and adds her to his collection. But his passion is respectful and pure. Aided by Zelmis, she escapes from the harem. They are retaken and brought back; but instead of the whipping usually bestowed upon returned runaways, the generous king, despairing of winning Elvire's affections, gives her her liberty. In the mean time Zelmis has had his troubles. His master has four wives, beautiful as houris. All four cast eyes of flame upon the well-favored infidel. Faithful to Elvire, Zelmis of course defends himself as heroically as Joseph. The ladies revenge the slight in the same way as the wife of Potiphar. The attractive Frenchman is condemned to impalement, when his consul interferes with a ransom, and he is released just in time to embark for France with Elvire.
Although Regnard often alludes with pride to his travels, the sketch he has left of them is meagre and uninteresting, and written in a harsh and awkward style. Lapland was a _terra incognita_,--Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia not much better known; yet this clever young Parisian has little to relate beyond a few names, which he generally misspells or misplaces. No descriptions of town or country or scenery; no traits of manners, character, or customs, except a dull page on the sorcery and the funeral ceremonies of the Lapps. The only eminent man he notices is Evelius, the astronomer of Dantzic,--one of the foreign _savans_ of distinction on whom Louis XIV. bestowed pensions in his grand manner, omitting to pay them after the second year. Regnard seems to have written to let his countrymen know where he had been,--not to tell them what he had seen. Had he made ever so good a book out of his really remarkable journey, little notice would have been taken of it. Voyages and travels were looked upon as a dull branch of fiction,--not nearly so amusing or improving as cockney excursions from one town of France to another in the neighborhood, described after the manner of Bachaumont and Chapelle: not sentimental journeys, by any means; eating, drinking, and sleeping are the points of interest:--
"Bon vin, bon gîte, bon lit, Belle hôtesse, bon appétit."
Even Regnard, who had seen so much of the world, tried his hand at this kind of travel-writing and failed lamentably.
At thirty, Regnard closed a chapter in his life, and turned over a new leaf. He gave up wandering and gambling, the ruling passions of his youth, and settled himself comfortably for the rest of his days. For occupation and official position, he bought an assistant-treasurership in the _Bureau des Finances_. His house in the Rue Richelieu became famous for good company and good things, intellectual as well as material. In the country his _Terre de Grillon_ was planted with so much taste that the lively persons who liked to visit there called it a _Séjour enchanté_. In laying out his grounds, his intimate, Dufresny, was doubtless of use to him. This spendthrift poet, reputed great-grandson of Henri Quatre and the _belle jardinière_, had great skill in landscape gardening, admitted even by those who found his verses tedious. He it was, probably, who introduced Regnard to the stage. For several years they supplied the Théatre Italien with amusing trifles,--working together in one of those literary partnerships so common among French playwrights. The "Joueur" broke up this business connection. Dufresny accused Regnard of having stolen the plot from him, and brought out a "Joueur" of his own. Regnard insisted that Dufresny was the pirate. The public decided in favor of Regnard. Dufresny's play was hopelessly damned, and no appeal ever taken from the first sentence. The verdict of the _bel-esprits_ was recorded in an epigram, which ended thus:--
"Mais quiconque aujourd'hui voit l'un et l'autre ouvrage Dit que Regnard a l'avantage D'avoir été le 'bon larron.'"[F]
Dufresny had more wit than dramatic talent. He will live in the memories of married men for his famous speech,--
"Comment, Monsieur! Vous n'y étiez pas obligé."
It was in 1696, twelve years after his return to Paris, that Regnard sent the "Joueur," a comedy in five acts, and in verse, to the Théatre Français. It was received with enthusiastic applause. Nothing equal to it had appeared in twenty-four years since the death of the great master; nor did the eighteenth century produce any comedy which can be compared with it for action, wit, and literary finish,--not excepting the "Turcaret" of Le Sage, and Beaumarchais's "Barber of Seville," which are both better known to-day.
Regnard sat to himself for the portrait of Valère. The wild and fascinating excitement of play, the gambler's exultation when he is successful, his furious curses on his bad luck when he loses, his superstitious veneration for his winnings, are drawn from the life. When Fortune smiles, Valère neglects Angélique, his rich _fiancée_; when he is penniless, his love revives, and he is at her feet until his valet devises some new plan of raising money. He swears, if she will forgive him, never again to touch dice or cards, and five minutes afterward pledges for a thousand crowns a miniature set in diamonds she has just given him to bind their reconciliation, and hurries back to the gaming-table. He wins, but thinks his gains too sacred to pay away, even to redeem the portrait of Angélique.
"Rien ne porte malheur comme de payer ses dettes,"
is his answer to the prudent Hector,--a maxim current among many who never play. At last comes a reverse of fortune so sweeping that he cannot conceal it. Angélique might have forgiven him his broken promises, but the pawnbroker enters with her picture and demands the thousand crowns. This is too much. She rejects him and gives her hand to his rival. His indignant father casts him off forever. But no feeling of regret or of repentance arises in the mind of the gambler. He turns coolly upon his heel, and calls to his valet,--
"Va! va! consolons-nous, Hector,--et quelque jour Le Jeu m'acquittera des pertes de l'amour."
Richard is the name of this prince of rascally and quick-witted valets; but he calls himself Hector, after the knave of spades, because he serves a gambler. He has good sense as well as ingenuity; for he gives his master the best advice, while he strains his invention and his impudence to help him on to destruction. Nérine, maid to Angélique, declares open war against Valère, and vows that her mistress shall not throw herself away upon a silly dandy, an insipid puppet, with nothing to recommend him but his fine clothes and his swagger.
"True enough," laughs Hector, "but
"C'est le goút d'à présent; tes cris sont superflus, Mon enfant."
"And Valère is a spendthrift, an inveterate gambler, who will bring her to misery and want."
"What of that?
"Tant que tu voudras, parle, prêche, tempête, Ta maîtresse est coiffée,... Elle est dans nos filets."
"And such an outrageous _roué_ that he cannot live in his father's house."
"We do not deny it," Hector answers. "It is no fault of ours.
"Valère a déserté la maison paternelle, Mais ce n'est point à lui qu'il faut faire querelle; Et si Monsieur son père avait voulu sortir, Nous y serions encore;... Ces pères, bien souvent, sont obstinés en diable."
Nevertheless, the obdurate parent, in the hope of reforming his son, and of providing for him by the excellent match with Angélique, hunts up the prodigal and lectures him after the manner of fathers. Hector joins in, and expresses strongly his disapprobation of games of chance; "_les jeux innocents, où l'esprit se déploie_," are the only safe pastime.
"But will our father pay our debts this time?"
"Not a crown."
"Will he lend us the money at one per cent a month? Once out of this pecuniary strait, we can marry Angélique, and be rich and virtuous. Besides, we have assets as well as debts: here is our schedule."
The elder softens a little and takes the paper. At the head of the list of debts he finds Hector's bill for wages and services rendered, leading off a long file of Aarons and Levys; and the assets consist of a debt of honor owing by an officer killed at the Battle of Fleurus, and the good-will of a match at _tric-trac_ with a poor player who had already lost games enough to make his defeat certain.
The action of the comedy does not lag or limp from the opening scene to Valère's last words. The versification is easy and natural; the dialogue abounds in wit and comic humor; it is short and quick, with none of those tedious declamations which weary and unsettle the attention of an audience. Take it all in all, we may say, that, if Molière had chosen the same subject, he could hardly have handled it better.
Not that Regnard can pretend to rank with Molière in genius, or even near him. The "Gambler" is admirably done; but it is the only comedy in which Regnard attempted character. He drew from his experience. Molière was so skilful a moral anatomist that he required only a whim or a weakness to construct a consistent character. This wonderful man found the French comic stage occupied by a few stock personages, imported from Spain and Italy. The elders were fathers or uncles, rich, miserly, and perverse, instinctively disposed to keep a tight rein on the young people, of whose personal expenses and matrimonial projects they invariably disapproved. The persecuted juniors were all alike, colorless shadows, mere lay figures to hang a plot on: _Léandre, amant de Célimène; Célimène amante de Léandre_: helpless creatures, who would have been quite at the mercy of the old dragons of the story, were it not for the powerful assistance of the rascally soubrettes. These clever sinners abounded in cunning contrivances, disguises, and tricks, which resulted in the signal discomfiture of the parents and guardians. In the last act, they are forced to consent to all the marriages, and are cheated out of most of their property; they are even lucky to escape with their lives. There was no mercy for Age in those plays.
"Pluck the lined crutch from the old limping sire; With it beat out his brains."
The theatre was the temple of youth, of love, and of feasting. Away with the dull old people! Providence created them only to pay the bills.
"Fuyez d'ici, sombre vieillesse,-- Car en amour les vieillards ne sont bons Qu'à payer les violons."
Did gentlemen of a certain age go to the theatre in the seventeenth century? expend their money to see themselves abused and ridiculed? Did they laugh at these indignities and enjoy them? We might wonder, if we did not know that Frenchmen never grow old, so long as they have an eye left for ogling or a leg to caper with.
Molière took these old inhabitants of the stage into his service, and injected new life into their veins. He gave them the foibles, the follies, and the vices he saw about him, and made them speak in a new language of unrivalled wit, humor, and mirth. But his genius was shackled by the artificial conventions of the theatre, which did not allow him time or space to fully develop a character. A grand comic creation like Falstaff was impossible. He introduces a single propensity of mankind, exhibits it in all its relations to society, shows it to us on every side; but it remains only a trait of character, although we see it in half a dozen different lights. Tartuffe is the one exception; in him, hypocrisy hides covetousness and lust; and Tartuffe is Molière's masterpiece. But in most of his comedies he displays rather a knowledge of the world than a knowledge of human nature. In his walk he has no equal at home or abroad; but his walk is not the highest. We feel that something is wanting, and yet we can hardly extol him too highly. He brought comedy into close relation with every-day life; he is the father of the modern French stage, which has gradually cast off the old conventional personages. The French dramatists of to-day are not men of genius like Molière, but, in their airy, sparkling plays, they represent the freaks, follies, and fancies of society so exquisitely that nothing remains to be desired. They furnish the model and the materials for the theatre of all other nations.
When Regnard came before the public, the stage remained as Molière had left it The only new personage was the Marquis, first introduced in the "Mère Coquette," by Quinault, the sweet and smooth writer of operas,--of whom it was said, that he had boned (_désossé_) the French language. The Marquis is the ancestor of our Fop,--
"Loose in morals and in manners vain, In conversation frivolous, in dress extreme,"--
who in turn has become antiquated and tiresome. Regnard's only original character is the Gambler; in his other comedies he made use of the old, familiar masks, and won success by his keen sense of the ridiculous, his wit, and his unceasing jollity and fun. His Crispins and Scapins are perfect. What impudent, worthless, amusing rogues! To keep inside of the law is their only rule of right. "Honesty is a fool, and Trust, his sworn brother, a very simple gentleman." They came of an ancient race, these Crispins and Scapins, that had flourished in Italy and in Spain since Plautus and Terence brought them over from Greece. They found their way to France, and even reached England in their migration, following in the train of Charles II. when he returned from exile, and during a short life on that side of the Channel added drunkenness and brutality to their gayer vices. The character was true to Nature in Athens or in Rome, where men of talent might often be bound to devote their brains to the service of those who owned their bodies, and by their condition as slaves were released from all obligations of honor or of honesty. In the seventeenth century it might pass in France; for the line between gentle and simple was so sharply drawn that ladies of rank saw no greater impropriety in disrobing before their footmen than before their dogs. But the progress of liberty or of _égalité_ blotted out the valets of comedy. Even in Regnard's time the inconsistencies of the character were noticed. Jasmin, in the "Sérénade," utters revolutionary doctrine:--"How can an honorable valet devote himself to the interests of a penniless master? We grow tricky in waiting upon such fellows. They scold us; sometimes they beat us. We have more wit than they. We support them; we are obliged to invent, for their benefit, all sorts of knavery, in which they are always ready to take a share; and, withal, they are the masters, and we the servants. It is not just. Hereafter I mean to scheme for myself, and become a master in my turn."
Scapin has joined his brother pagans beyond the Styx; but Lisette blooms in evergreen youth. This young French person's theory of woman's rights is different from the one which obtains in New England; nor does she trouble herself at all to seek for woman's mission. She found it years ago. It is to deceive a man. She is satisfied with her condition, and with the old mental and moral attributes of her sex. When Crispin disguises himself in her clothes, he exclaims,--
"L'addresse et l'artifice ont passé dans mon coeur; Qu'on a sous cet habit et d'esprit et de ruse-- Rien n'est si trompeur qu'animal porte-jupe."
This animal is as clever and as cunning in Paris to-day as when Crispin felt the inspiration of the petticoats.
In 1708, after another period of twelve years, "Le Légataire Universel" was played at the same theatre. In this piece the author relied entirely upon the _vis comica_ of his plot and dialogue. Géronte, a rich, miserly old bachelor, with as many ailments as years,--
"Vieux et cassé, fiévreux, épileptique, Paralytique, étique, asthmatique, hydropique,"--
has for a nephew Ergaste, with well-grounded hopes of inheriting, and that shortly. These are suddenly dashed by the announcement that his uncle has resolved to marry Isabelle, a girl to whom Ergaste himself is attached. The nephew keeps his own secret, and judiciously commends the choice of his uncle. Géronte is delighted with him; even asks his advice about a present for the damsel,--something pretty, but cheap.
"Je voudrais inventer quelque petit cadeau Qui coutât peu, mais qui parût nouveau."
Meeting with no opposition, the old gentleman gradually loses his relish for matrimony; and Madame Argante, the mother, promises Ergaste to give Isabelle to him, instead of to his uncle, provided Géronte will declare his nephew heir to his estate. Unluckily, there are two other collaterals, country cousins, whom Géronte has never seen, but whom he wishes to remember. Crispin, valet to Ergaste, assisted by Lisette, the old man's housekeeper and nurse, personifies first the male and then the female relative from the rural districts so well that Géronte orders them out of his house in disgust, swears that he will not leave them a sous, and sends for a notary to draw his will in favor of Ergaste. But the excitement of the last interview with Crispin, as a widow, is too much for his strength. He becomes unconscious, and apparently breathes his last just as the notary knocks at the door. In this moment of agonizing disappointment, the indomitable Crispin comes to the rescue. He puts on the dressing-gown and cap of Géronte, reclines in his easy-chair, counterfeits his voice, and dictates a will to the notary. Firstly, he bequeaths to Lisette two thousand crowns, on condition that she marry Crispin; secondly, he leaves to Crispin an annuity of fifteen hundred crowns, to reward his devotion to his master; the rest of the estate, real and personal, to go to Ergaste. The residuary legatee remonstrates warmly with the testator against his foolish generosity to Crispin and Lisette; but the sham Géronte insists, and Ergaste is obliged to submit. The notary withdraws to make the necessary copies of the will, and the plotters are chuckling over the success of their plans, when, to their dismay, Géronte enters, alive. He tells them that he feels his strength departing, and bids them send at once for the notary to settle his worldly affairs. The notary, who is ignorant of any deceit, assures him that he has made his will already, and shows him the document. The conspirators seize the chance of escape, confirm the notary's story, and relate all the circumstances of the conference, Géronte protests that he recollects nothing of it; he feels certain he could not have given more than twenty crowns to Lisette; as to Crispin, he had never heard of him. The answer is always, "_C'est votre léthargie_." While perplexed and hesitating, the old man discovers that a large sum in notes has been abstracted from his hoard. Ergaste had secured them as an alleviation in case of the worst, and had placed them in the hands of Isabelle. She promises to return them, if Géronte will make Ergaste his heir and her husband. In his anxiety for his money, Géronte consents to everything, and allows the will to stand.
Nothing, La Harpe tells us, ever made a French audience laugh so heartily as the scene of the will. Falbaire, one of the _poètes négligés_ of the eighteenth century, says, in a note to his drama, "The Monks of Japan," that the Jesuits furnished Regnard with the idea of this scene. In 1626, the reverend fathers, by precisely the same stratagem employed by Crispin, obtained possession of the estate of a M. d'Ancier of Bésançon, who died suddenly and intestate. It is proper to add that M. Falbaire's drama was written against the Jesuits.
There are two other plays, out of some twenty that Regnard published, which will repay a reader: "Les Menéchmes," imitated from Plautus, like Shakspeare's Dromios, and "Démocrite,"[G] which reminds one a little of Molière's "Amphitryon." Both are distinguished for that perpetual gayety, the most pleasing of all qualities, which is the characteristic of their author. It seems impossible for him to be dull; he never nods; his bow, such as it is, is always strung. It is remarkable that his comic scenes, although crammed with fun, never run down into farce; nor does he find it necessary to eke out his wit with buffoonery. He had an instinctive taste which preserved him from coarseness; although he wrote a century and a half ago, there is less of the low and indelicate than in the plays we see posted at the doors of our theatres. The French of the time of Louis XIV. must have been a much more refined people than the contemporary English. At least, Thalia in Paris was a vestal, compared with her tawdry, indecent, and drunken London sister. One is ashamed to be seen reading the unblushing profligacy of Wycherley, Cibber, Vanbrugh, and Congreve.
We must admit that Regnard's mantle of decorum is not without a rent. In the "Légataire," as in the "Malade Imaginaire," may be found a good deal of pleasantry on the first of the three principal remedies of the physicians of the period, as mentioned by Molière in his burlesque Latin:--
"Clysterium donare, Postea purgare, Ensuita seignare."
It seems to have been a good joke in France then; it is so now,--wonderfully fresh and new,--defying time and endless repetition. American eyes do not see much fun in it; they rather turn away in disgust. But on the risible organs of the French purgative medicines operate violently; and the favorite weapon of their medical service, primitive in shape and exaggerated in dimensions, is a property indispensable to every theatre. Regnard used it as a part of the stage machinery,--worked it in as a stock pleasantry, the effect of which was certain. Were he writing now, he would do the same thing. But in the "Joueur" nobody is ill; it may be read by that typical creature, the "most virtuous female," publicly and without a blush.
Gentlemen and ladies whose morals are not fully fledged are generally advised to beware of attempting to skim over the fiction of modern France. They may take up Regnard without risking a fall; for there is little danger of being led astray by the picaresque knaveries of Scapin and Lisette. In 1700 love for another man's wife had not come to be considered one of the fine arts. Nowadays the victims of this kind of misplaced affection are the heroes of French novels and plays. The husband, odious and tiresome _ex officio_, has succeeded to the miserly father or tyrannical guardian. He is the giant of French romance, who keeps the lovely and uneasy lady locked up in Castle Matrimony. He cannot help himself, poor fellow!--he is compelled to fill that unenviable position, whenever Madame chooses. Sentimental young Arthurs and Ernests stand in the place of Ergaste and Cléante, and are always ready to make war upon the unlucky giant. They overcome him as of old, scale the walls, and carry off the capricious fair one. We have hardly changed for the better. Ergaste and Cléante were not sentimental, but they were marrying men and broke no commandments.
Regnard's life of fifty years covers the whole of the literary age of Louis XIV. Before 1660 the French had no literature worth preserving, except Rabelais, Montaigne, a few odes of Malherbe, a page or two of Marot, and the tragedies of Corneille. Pascal published the "Provincial Letters" in the year of Regnard's birth. La Fontaine had written a few indifferent verses; Molière was almost unknown. In 1686, when Regnard became an author, the Voitures, Balzacs, and Benserades, the men of fantastic conceits, the vanguard of the grand army of French wits, had marched away to Pluto and to Lethe. One or two stragglers, like Ménage and Chapelle, lingered to wonder at the complete change of taste. The age had ripened fast. Not many years before, Barbin the bookseller ordered his hacks to _faire du St. Évremond_. St. Évremond was still living in England, dirty and witty; and Barbin still kept his shop, but gave no more orders for wares of that description. Many of the greatest names of the era were already carved on tombs: La Rochefoucauld, Pascal, Corneille, Molière. Bossuet was a man of sixty; La Fontaine a few years older; Boileau and Racine close upon fifty. When Regnard died, in 1710, the eighteenth century had begun. Fontenelle, Le Sage, Bayle, men of nearly the same age as himself, belong to it.
In 1686 King Louis had reached the full meridian of his _Gloire_, _Grandeur_, _Éclat_. No monarch in Europe was so powerful. He had conquered Flanders, driven the Dutch under water, seized Franche-Comté, annexed Lorraine, ravaged the Palatinate, bombarded Algiers and Genoa, and by a skilful disregard of treaties and of his royal word kept his neighbors at swords' points until he was ready to destroy them. The Emperor was afraid of him, Philip of Spain his most humble servant, Charles II. in his pay. He had bullied the Pope, and brought the Doge of Genoa to Paris to ask pardon for selling powder to the Algerines and ships to Spain. He was _Louis le Grand, le roi vraiment roi, le demi-dieu qui nous gouverne, Deodatus, Sol nec pluribus impar_. Regnard witnessed the cloudy setting of this splendid luminary. After the secret marriage with Mme. de Maintenon, in 1686, Fortune deserted the King. He was everywhere defeated, or his victories were Cadmean, as disastrous as defeats. The fleet that was to replace James II. on his throne was destroyed at La Hogue by Russell. The Camisards defied for years the army sent against them. Rooke took Gibraltar. Peterborough defeated the Bourbon forces in Spain. Blenheim, Oudenarde, Ramillies, Malplaquet, brought ruin upon France before Regnard was withdrawn from the scene.
Meanwhile the Eighteenth Century, with its godlessness and its debauchery, was born. Hypocrisy watched over its infancy. When Louis reformed, and took a pious elderly second wife, it was the fashion to be religious; and whoever wished to stand well at court followed the fashion. "You who live in France have wonderful advantages for saving your souls," wrote St. Évremond from London. "Vice is quite out of date with you. It is in bad taste to sin,--as offensive to good manners as to morality. And those of you who might be forgetful of their hereafter are led to salvation by a becoming deference to the habits and observances of well-bred people." The monarch himself was utterly ignorant in matters of religion; the Duchess of Orleans wrote to her German friends, that he had never even read the Bible. He was shocked to hear that Christ had demeaned himself to speak the language of the poor and the humble. "_Il avait la foi du charbonnier_," Cardinal Fleury said,--the blind, unreasoning faith of the African in his fetich. He considered it due to _gloire_ to assist Divine Providence in its government of the souls of men. Was he not the greatest prince of the earth, the eldest son of the Church, standing nearer to the throne of grace than any insignificant pope? Of course he was responsible for the orthodoxy of his subjects, a _demi-dieu qui nous gouverne_. He came to think religion a part of his royal prerogative, and misbelief treason against his royal person. He was quite capable of going a step beyond Cardinal Wolsey, and of writing, "_Ego et Deus meus_." He said to a prelate whose management of some ecclesiastical business particularly gratified him,--"_J'ignore si Dieu vous tiendra compte de la conduite que vous avez tenue; mais quant à moi, je vous assure que je ne l'oublierai jamais_." The spiritual powers are never backward in taking advantage of favorable circumstances: Huguenots, Jansenists, and Quietists were sternly put down, and the girdle of superstition tightened until it began to crack. The skeptics were quiet,--asked but few questions,--pretended to be satisfied with the time-honored answers Mother Church keeps for her uneasy children,--and seemed to be busy with the "Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes," and the "Dispute sur les Cérémonies Chinoises." It was not yet the time for them to announce pompously their radical theories as new and true. A thin varnish of decorum and orthodoxy overspread everything; but one may see the shadow of the coming _Régence_ in Regnard's works. He and gentlemen like him went to mass in the morning, and to pleasure for the rest of the day and night.
"Ils sont chrétiens à la messe, Ils sont païens à l'opéra."
Regnard was almost as much of a pagan as his favorite Horace,--called for wines, roses, and perfumes, and sang his Lydia and his Lalage almost in the same words. His creed and his philosophy were pagan. He adored three goddesses,--_la Comédie_, _la Musique_, _la bonne Chère_; his solution of the problem of life was enjoyment.
"Fair tout ce qu'on veut, vivre exempt de chagrin, Ne se rien refuser,--Voilà tout mon systême, Et de mes jours ainsi j'attraperai la fin."
Wisdom was given to man to temper pleasure,--to avoid excess, which destroys pleasure. Regnard had agreeable recollections of the past; the present satisfied him; he was as careless of the unknown future as De Retz, whose _épouvantable tranquillité_, appalling ease of mind on that point, so shocked poor Mme. de Sévigné. All other speculations he put quietly aside with a doubt or a _cui bono_. It was a witty and refined selfishness, and nothing beyond. Spiritual light, faith, none; hope that to-morrow might pass as smoothly as to-day; love, only that particular affection which man feels for his female fellow-creature. Such a heathenish frame of mind will find little favor in this era of yearnings, seekings, teachings. It was, indeed, a lamentable condition of moral darkness; but the error, though grievous, has its attractive side.
"On court après la vérité; Ah! croyez moi, l'erreur a son mérite."
It is a relief in these dyspeptic times to turn back to Regnard, the big, rosy, and jolly pagan, enjoying to the utmost the four blessings invoked upon the head of Argan by the chorus of Doctors:--
"Salus, honor et argentum. Arque bonum appetitum."
Comfortable, contented with himself and with the world, he was free from the sadness, the misgivings, and the enervating doubts which overrun so many morbid minds,--symptoms of moral weakness, and of the want of healthy occupation. Hence lady poets, more than all others, love to indulge in these feeble repinings, and take the privilege of their sex to shed tears on paper. In his bachelor establishment, Rue de Richelieu, there was, he tells us,--
"Grande chere, vin délicieux, Belle maison, liberté toute entière, Bals, concerts, enfin tout ce qui peut satisfaire Le goût, les oreilles, les yeux."
The _Société choisie_ was numerous; for a good cook never fails to make friends for his master, and Regnard's cook dealt with fat capons, plover, and ortolans. His lettuce, mushrooms, and artichokes were grown under his own eyes. The choice vintages of France, in casks, lay in his cellar. He gave wine to nourish wit, not to furnish an opportunity for ostentatious gabble about age and price. How he revels in the description of good cheer! There rises from his pages _fumet_ of game and the _bouquet d'un vin exquis_.
"Et des perdrix! Morbleu! d'un fumet admirable Sentez plutôt, Quel baume! Mon Dieu!"
Why are American authors so commonly wan and gaunt, with none of the external marks of healthy gayety? Is it the climate, or the lack of out-door exercise, or hot-air furnaces, or rascally cooks? They look as if, like Burns's man, they "were made to mourn." If they conceive a joke, their sad, sharp voices and angular gesticulations make it miscarry. Now and then they rebel against their constitutions, poor fellows, and try to imitate the jovial ancestors they have read of; babble shrilly of _noctes coenæque Deûm, petits soupers_, and what not. It is mostly idle talk. They know too well that digestion does not wait upon appetite in the evening,--and that they will feel better for the next week, if they restrict their debauch to dandelion coffee and Graham bread. Moreover, the age of conviviality is gone, as much as the age of chivalry. _Petits soupers_ are impossible in this part of the world. Let us manfully confess one reason: they cost too much. And we have not the wit, nor the wicked women, nor the same jolly paganism. Juno Lucina reigns here in the stead of Venus; and Bacchus is two dollars a bottle.
But these and other good things Regnard had in abundance, and so lived smoothly and happily on, defying time,--for he held, with Mme. de Thianges, "_On ne viellit point à table_" until one day he overheated himself in shooting, drank abundantly of cold water, and fell dead,--Euthanasia. He died a bachelor, and, if we may judge from many of his verses, seems, like Thackeray, to have wondered why Frenchmen ever married. But he had a keen eye for "the fair defect of Nature." Strabon's description of young Criseïs before her glass could have been written only by an amateur:--
"Je la voyais tantôt devant une toilette D'une _mouche assasine irriter ses attraits_."
Neither Molière, Regnard, nor Le Sage was a member of the Academy.
Béranger thinks it remarkable that the _improvisations folles et charmantes_ of Regnard should now be neglected in France. We do not recollect to have met with him even in the "Causeries" of Ste. Beuve, who has ransacked the French Temple of Fame from garret to cellar for _feuilleton_ materials; yet the "Légataire" kept a foothold on the stage for a hundred and twenty years. But the Temple of Fame is overcrowded. Every day some worthy fellow is turned out to make room for a new-comer. Our libraries are not large enough to hold the mob of authors who press in. What with newspapers, magazines, and the last new novel, few persons have time to read more than the titles on the backs of their books. They are familiar with the great names, take their excellence on trust, and allow them to stand neglected and dusty on their shelves. But with another generation the great names will become mere shadows of a name; and so on to oblivion. Father Time has a good taste in literature, it is true. He mows down with his critical scythe the tares which spring up in such daily abundance; but, unfortunately, he cannot stop there: after a lapse of years, he sweeps away also the fruit of the good seed to make room for the productions of his younger children.
"For he's their parent and he is their grave."
The doom is universal; it cannot be avoided. There must be an end to all temporal things, and why not to books? The same endless night awaits a Plato and a penny-a-liner. Our Eternities of Fame, like all else appertaining to humanity, will some day pass away. Even Milton and Shakspeare, our great staple international poets, who have been brought out whenever the American ambassador to England dined in public, are travelling the same downward path. How many of us, man or woman, on the sunny side of thirty, have gone through the "Paradise Lost"? And Shakspeare, in spite of new editions and of new commentators, is not half as much read as fifty years since. Perhaps the time will come when English speaking people will not know to whom they owe so many of the proverbs, metaphors, and eloquent words which enrich their daily talk.
Will none escape this inexorable fate? Homer and Robinson Crusoe seem to us to have the most tenacity of life.
[F] The proverbial French expression for the thief who rebuked his reviling comrade at the crucifixion.
[G] Démocrite, in an attack upon a heavy diner-out, says,--
"Il creuse son tombeau sans cesse avec ses dents,"--
and thus anticipates Sir Astley Cooper by many years. It is lucky that these fellows, who took a mean advantage of seniority to get off our good things before us, have perished, or they might give us trouble. At least two Frenchmen could claim "the glorious Epicurean paradox" of one of the seven wise men of Boston, "Give us the luxuries of life, and we will dispense with its necessaries,"--M. de Voltaire, and M. de Coulanges, a generation earlier. These "flashing moments" of the wise in Boston, as in other great places, are often, like heat-lightning, reflections of a previous flash.
JOHN BROWN'S RAID:
HOW I GOT INTO IT, AND HOW I GOT OUT OF IT.
It was a wet Monday in October, on my return from a journey, with a large party of friends and acquaintances, as far north as Chicago and as far south as St. Louis and the Iron Mountain. We were gradually nearing home, and the fun and jollity grew apace as we got closer to the end of our holiday and to the beginning of our every-day work. Our day's ride was intended to be from Cumberland (on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) to Baltimore. The murky drizzle made our comfortable car all the more cozy, and the picturesque glories of that part of Western Virginia, through which we had come very leisurely and enjoyably, were heightened by the contrast of the dull cloud that hung over the valley of the Potomac. At Martinsburg the train was stopped for an unusually long time; and in spite of close questioning, we were obliged to satisfy our curiosity with a confused story of an outbreak and a strike among the workmen at the armory, with a consequent detention of trains, at Harper's Ferry. The train pushed on slowly, and at last came to a dead halt at a station called The Old Furnace. There a squad of half a dozen lazy Virginia farmers--we should call them a picket just now, in our day of military experiences--told us half a dozen stories about the troubles ahead, and finally the people in charge of our train determined to send it back to wait for further news from below. A young engineer who was employed on the railroad was directed to go along the track to examine it, and see what, if any, damage had been done. As I had brushed up an acquaintance with him, I volunteered to accompany him, and then was joined by a young Englishman, a Guardsman on his travels, one of the Welsh Wynns, just returning from a shooting-tour over the Prairies. We started off in the rain and mud, and kept together till we came to a bridle-path crossing the railroad and climbing up the hills. Here we met a country doctor, who offered to guide us to Bolivar, whence we could come down to the Ferry, and as the trains would be detained there for several hours, there would be time enough to see all the armory workshops and wonders. So off we started up the muddy hillside, leaving our engineer to his task on the railroad; for what pedestrian would not prefer the worst dirt road to the best railroad for an hour's walking? Our Englishman was ailing and really unwell, and half-way up the rough hill left us to return to the easy comfort of the train.
My guide--Dr. Marmion was the name he gave in exchange for mine--said that the row at the Ferry was nothing but a riotous demonstration by the workmen. He came from quite a distance, and, hearing these vague reports, had turned off to visit his patients in this quarter, so that he might learn the real facts; and as it was then only a little past nine, he had time to do his morning's work in Bolivar. So there we parted, he agreeing to join me again at the Ferry; and he did so later in the day.
Turning to the left on the main pike, I found little knots of lounging villagers gathered in the rain and mud, spitting, swearing, and discussing the news from the Ferry. Few of them had been there, and none of them agreed in their account of the troubles; so I plodded on over the hill and down the sharp slope that led to the Ferry. Just as I began the descent, a person rode up on horseback, gun in hand, and as we came in sight of the armory, he told me the true story,--that a band of men were gathered together to set the slaves free, and that, after starting the outbreak on the night before, they had taken refuge down below. He pointed with his gun, and we were standing side by side, when a sudden flash and a sharp report and a bullet stopped his story and his life.
The few people above us looked down from behind the shelter of houses and fences;--from below not a soul was visible in the streets and alleys of Harper's Ferry, and only a few persons could be seen moving about the buildings in the armory inclosure. In a minute, some of the townspeople, holding out a white handkerchief, came down to the fallen man, and, quite undisturbed, carried him up the hill and to the nearest house,--all with hardly a question or a word of explanation. Shocked by what was then rare enough to be appalling,--sudden and violent death by fire-arms in the hands of concealed men,--I started off again, meaning to go down to the Ferry, with some vague notion of being a peace-maker, and at least of satisfying my curiosity as to the meaning of all these mysteries: for while I saw that that fatal rifle-shot meant destruction, I had no conception of a plot.
Just as I reached the point where I had joined the poor man who had fallen,--it was a Mr. Turner, formerly a captain in the army, and a person deservedly held in high esteem by all his friends and neighbors,--a knot of two or three armed men stopped me, and after a short parley directed me to some one in authority, who would hear my story. The guard who escorted me to the great man was garrulous and kind enough to tell me more in detail the story, now familiar to all of us, of the capture of Mr. Lewis Washington and other persons of note in the Sunday night raid of a body of unknown men. The dread of something yet to come, with which the people were manifestly possessed, was such as only those can know who have lived in a Slave State; and while there was plenty of talk of the steadiness of the slaves near the Ferry, it was plain that that was the magazine that was momentarily in danger of going off and carrying them all along with it.
The officers of the neighboring militia had gathered together in the main tavern of the place, without waiting for their men, but not unmindful of the impressive effect of full uniform, and half a dozen kinds of military toggery were displayed on the half-dozen persons convened in a sort of drum-head court-martial. I was not the only prisoner, and had an opportunity to hear the recitals of my fellows in luck. First and foremost of all was a huge, swaggering, black-bearded, gold-chain and scarlet-velvet-waistcoated, piratical-looking fellow, who announced himself as a Border Ruffian, of Virginia stock, and now visiting his relations near the Ferry; but he said that he had fought with the Southern Rights party in the Kansas war, and that when he heard of the "raid," as he familiarly called the then unfamiliar feat of the Sunday night just past, he knew who was at the top and bottom of it, and he described in a truthful sort of way the man whose name and features were alike unknown to all his listeners,--"Ossawatomie Brown," "Old John Brown." Garnishing the story of their earlier contests with plentiful oaths, he gave us a lively picture of their personal hand-to-hand rights in the West, and said that he had come to help fight his old friend and enemy, and to fight him fair, just as they did in "M'souri." He wanted ten or a dozen men to arm themselves to the teeth, and he'd lead 'em straight on. His indignation at his arrest and at the evident incredulity of his hearers and judges was not a whit less hearty and genuine than his curses on their cowardice in postponing any attack or risk of fighting until the arrival of militia, or soldiers, or help of some kind, in strength to overpower the little band in the armory, to make resistance useless, and an attack, if that was necessary, safe enough to secure some valiant man to lead it on.
My story was soon told, I was a traveller; my train had been stopped; I had started off on foot, meaning to walk over the hill to the Ferry, and expecting there to meet the train to go on to Baltimore. The interruptions were plentiful, and the talk blatant. I showed a ticket, a memorandum-book giving the dates and distances of my recent journey, and a novel (I think it was one of Balzac's) in French, and on it was written in pencil my name and address. That was the key-note of plenty of suspicion. How could they believe any man from a Northern city innocent of a knowledge of the plot now bursting about their ears? Would not my travelling-companions from the same latitude be ready to help free the slaves? and if I was set at liberty, would it not be only too easy to communicate between the little host already beleaguered in the armory engine-house and the mythical great host that was gathered in the North and ready to pour itself over the South? Of course all this, the staple of their every-day discussions, was strange enough to my ears; and I listened in a sort of silent wonderment that men could talk such balderdash. Any serious project of a great Northern movement on behalf of Southern slaves was then as far from credible and as strange to my ears as it was possible to be. It seemed hardly worth while to answer their suggestions; I therefore spoke of neighbors of theirs who were friends of mine, and of other prominent persons in this and other parts of Virginia who were acquaintances, and for a little time I hoped to be allowed to go free; but after more loud talk and a squabble that marked by its growing violence the growing drunkenness of the whole party, court and guard and spectators all, I was ordered along with the other prisoners to be held in custody for the present. We were marched off, first to one house and then to another, looking for a convenient prison, and finally found one in a shop. Here--it was a country store--we sat and smoked and drank and chatted with our guard and with their friends inside and out. Now and then a volley was fired in the streets of the village below us, and we would all go to a line fence where we could see its effects: generally it was only riotous noise, but occasionally it was directed against the engine-house or on some one moving through the armory-yard.
As the militia in and out of uniform, and the men from far and near, armed in all sorts of ways, began to come into the village in squads, their strength seemed to give them increased confidence, and especially in the perfectly safe place where I sat with half a dozen others under a heavy guard. Now and then an ugly-looking fowling-piece or an awkwardly handled pistol was threateningly pointed at us, with a half-laughing and half-drunken threat of keeping us safe. Toward afternoon we were ordered for the night to Charlestown, and to the jail there that has grown so famous by its hospitality to our successors. The journey across was particularly enlivening. My special guard was a gentlemanly young lawyer, one of the Kennedys of that ilk; and to his cleverness I think I owed my safe arrival at the end of our journey. Every turn in the road brought us face to face with an angry crowd, gathering from far and near, armed and ready to do instant justice on a helpless victim. Kennedy, however, gracefully waived them back to the wagons behind us, where other prisoners, in less skilful hands, were pretty badly used. The houses on the road were utterly deserted; on the first news of an outbreak by the slaves, the women and children were hurried off to the larger towns,--the men coming slowly back in squads and arming as best they could, and the negroes keeping themselves hid out of sight on all sides.
The eight miles' distance to Charlestown was lengthened out by the rain and mud, and the various hindrances of the way, so that the day was closing as we came into the main street of the straggling little town. The first odd sight was a procession of black and white children playing soldiers, led by a chubby black boy, full of a sense of authority, and evidently readily accepted by his white and black comrades in childlike faith. The next was a fine, handsome house, where a large number of ladies from the country round had been gathered together, and as we were greeted in going by, my guide stopped, and introducing me, I explained my position. They were all ready with their sympathy, and all overpowering with their gratitude, when I pooh-poohed their fear of a great Northern invasion, and said that the people of the North were just as innocent of any participation in this business as they themselves were. Our line of march resumed brought us to the prison, and I was not sorry to have the shock of an enforced visit somewhat lessened by a general invitation from mine host of an adjoining tavern to liquor up. Of course I was noways chary of invitations to the crowd, and the bar-room being full, I made the bar my rostrum, and indulged in a piece of autobiography that was intended to gain the general consent to return to my fellow-travellers, who were reported still at Martinsburg. If I cannot boast of great success _at_ the bar, I am as little proud of my eloquence _on_ the bar. One of the Kennedys, brother to my guard, did suggest taking me to his house, half a mile off; but to that Colonel Davenport, a bustling great man of the village, answered, that, as there was sure to be some hanging at night, it would be safer to be in the prison, as well from the mob as from any escape on my own part, and it was better to stay contentedly where I was. Doctor Marmion, my acquaintance of the morning, rode over to find me and to explain his part in my visit to the Ferry, hoping that such a confirmation of my story would secure my immediate release. But by that time I was in the custody of the sheriff, by some military legal process; and while that officer was kind and civil, he refused to do anything, except promise me an early hearing before the court-martial, which was to reassemble the next day. Finally, I was hustled through a gaping, pot-valiant crowd, into the prison, where the mob had violently taken possession; and it was a good while before I could be got up stairs and safely locked into my cell. The bolts were shot pretty sharply, but the sense of relief from the threats and impertinence of the bullying fellows outside quite outweighed my sensation of novelty on finding myself in such strange quarters. My supper was sent up, my friendly guard gave me cigars, and a buxom daughter of the jailer lent me a candle. I lay down on a rough cot and was soon asleep; my last recollection was of my sturdy guard, armed and wakeful, in front of my cell; and I woke after several hours of sound, refreshing slumber, startled by the noise of his angry answers to some still more angry and very drunken men. They had, so I learned partly then and partly afterwards, broken into the jail, and hurried from the cell next to mine a poor black prisoner, who was forthwith hanged; and, whetted by their sport, they had returned to find a fresh victim. Fortunately, in the turmoil of their first attack, the only other prisoner easily got hold of was a white boy, who escaped, while I owed my safety to Kennedy's earnest protestations, and to his ready use of a still more convincing argument, a loaded pistol and a quick hand.
Early morning was very welcome, for it brought the court-martial up to Charlestown, and I was soon ready for a hearing. Fortunately, after a good deal of angry discussion and some threats of a short shrift, a message came up from the Ferry from Governor Wise; and as I boldly claimed acquaintance with him, they granted me leave to send down a note to him, asking for his confirmation of my statements. While this was doing, I was paroled and served my Kansas colleague by advice to hold his tongue; he did so, and was soon released; and my messenger returned with such advices, in the shape of a pretty sharp reprimand to the busy court-martial for their interference with the liberty of the citizen, as speedily got me my freedom. I used it to buy such articles of clothing as could be had in Charlestown, and my prison clothes were gladly thrown aside. Some of my fellow-travellers reached the place in time to find me snugly ensconced in the tavern, waiting for an ancient carriage; with them we drove back to the Ferry in solemn state. The same deserted houses and the same skulking out of sight by the inhabitants showed the fear that outlasted even the arrival of heavy militia reinforcements. We stopped at Mr. Lewis Washington's, and, without let or hindrance, walked through the pretty grounds and the bright rooms and the neat negro huts, all alike lifeless, and yet showing at every turn the suddenness and the recentness of the fright that had carried everybody off. Our ride through Bolivar was cheered by a vigorous greeting from my captor of the day before,--the village shoemaker, a brawny fellow,--who declared that he knew I was all right, that he had taken care of me, that he would not have me hanged or shot, and "wouldn't I give him sum't to have a drink all round, and if I ever came again, please to stop and see him"; and so I did, when I came back with my regiment in war-times; but then no shoemaker was to be found.
I paid my respects to Governor Wise, and thanked him for my release; was introduced to Colonel Lee, (now the Rebel general,) and to the officers of the little squad of marines who had carried the stronghold of the "invaders," as the Governor persistently called them. In company with "Porte Crayon," Mr. Strothers, a native of that part of Virginia, and well known by his sketches of Southern life in "Harper's Magazine," I went to the engine-house, and there saw the marks of the desperate defence and of the desperate bravery of John Brown and his men. I saw, too, John Brown himself. Wounded, bleeding, haggard, and defeated, and expecting death with more or less of agony as it was more or less near, John Brown was the finest specimen of a man that I ever saw. His great, gaunt form, his noble head and face, his iron-gray hair and patriarchal beard, with the patient endurance of his own suffering, and his painful anxiety for the fate of his sons and the welfare of his men, his reticence when jeered at, his readiness to turn away wrath with a kind answer, his whole appearance and manner, what he looked, what he said,--all impressed me with the deepest sense of reverence. If his being likened to anything in history could have made the scene more solemn, I should say that he was likest to the pictured or the ideal representation of a Roundhead Puritan dying for his faith, and silently glorying in the sacrifice not only of life, but of all that made life dearest to him. His wounded men showed in their patient endurance the influence of his example; while the vulgar herd of lookers-on, fair representatives of the cowardly militia-men who had waited for the little force of regulars to achieve the capture of the engine-house and its garrison, were ready to prove their further cowardice by maltreating the prisoners. The marines, who alone had sacrificed life in the attack, were sturdily bent on guarding them from any harsh handling. I turned away sadly from the old man's side, sought and got the information he wanted concerning "his people," as he called them, and was rewarded with his thanks in a few simple words, and in a voice that was as gentle as a woman's. The Governor, as soon as he was told of the condition of the prisoners, had them cared for, and, in all his bitterness at their doings, never spoke of them in terms other than honorable to himself and to them. He persistently praised John Brown for his bravery and his endurance; and he was just as firm in declaring him the victim of shrewd and designing men, whose schemes he would yet fathom.
The day was a busy one; for little squads of regulars were sent out on the Maryland Heights to search for the stores accumulated there; and each foraging party was followed by a tail of stragglers from all the volunteers on the ground, who valiantly kept on to the Maryland side of the bridge that crossed the Potomac, and then, their courage oozing out of their fingers and toes both, stopped there and waited for the return of the regulars. On the instant of their arrival, each time fetching a great hay-wagon full of captured goods, tents, picks, spades, pikes, the tag-rag and bobtail party at once set to work to help themselves to the nearest articles, and were soon seen making off homeward with their contraband of war on their backs. The plunder, however, was not confined to the captured property. A strong force of militia soon invaded the armory, and every man helped himself to a rifle and a brace of pistols, and then, tiring of the load, began to chaffer and bargain for their sale. Governor Wise was called on to interfere and preserve the Government property; he came into the little inclosure of the works, and began an eloquent address, but seeing its uselessness, broke off and put his Richmond Grays on guard; and then the distribution of public property was made through the regular channels,--that is, the men inside brought guns and pistols to the men on guard, and they passed them out to their friends beyond, so that the trade went on almost as free as ever.
Night soon came, and it was made hideous by the drunken noise and turmoil of the crowd in the village; matters were made worse, too, by the Governor's order to impress all the horses; and the decent, sober men trudged home rather out of humor with their patriotic sacrifice; while the tipsy and pot-valiant militia fought and squabbled with each other, and only ceased that sport to pursue and hunt down some fugitive negroes, and one or two half-maddened drunken fellows who in their frenzy proclaimed themselves John Brown's men. Tired out at last, the Governor took refuge in the Wager House;--for an hour or two, he had stood on the porch haranguing an impatient crowd as "Sons of Virginia!" Within doors the scene was stranger still. Huddled together in the worst inn's worst room, the Governor and his staff at a table with tallow candles guttering in the darkness, the Richmond Grays lying around the floor in picturesque and (then) novel pursuit of soft planks, a motley audience was gathered together to hear the papers captured at John Brown's house--the Kennedy farm on Maryland Heights--read out with the Governor's running comments. The purpose of all this was plain enough. It was meant to serve as proof of a knowledge and instigation of the raid by prominent persons and party-leaders in the North. The most innocent notes and letters, commonplace newspaper-paragraphs and printed cuttings, were distorted and twisted by the reading and by the talking into clear instructions and positive plots. However, the main impression was of the picturesqueness of the soldiers resting on their knapsacks, and their arms stacked in the dark corners,--of the Governor and his satellites, some of them in brilliant militia array, seated around the lighted table,--and of the grotesque eloquence with which either the Governor or some of his prominent people would now and then burst out into an oratorical tirade, all thrown away on his sleepy auditors, and lost to the world for want of some clever shorthand writer.
In the morning I was glad to hear that my belated train had spent the last forty-eight hours at Martinsburg, and I did not a bit regret that my two days had been so full of adventure and incident. Waiting for its coming, I walked once more through the village, with one of the watchmen of the armory, who had been captured by John Brown and spent the night with him in the engine-house, and heard in all its freshness the story now so well known. Then I bade Governor Wise good-bye, and was duly thanked for my valiant services to the noble Mother of States, and rewarded by being offered the honorary and honorable title of A.D.C. to the commander-in-chief of Virginia, both for past services and for the future tasks to be met, of beating off invading hosts from the North,--all in the Governor's eye. Luckily for both sides, I declined the handsome offer; for my next visit to Virginia was as an A.D.C. to a general commanding troops, not of the North, but of the United States, invading, not the Virginia of John Brown's time, but the Virginia of a wicked Southern Confederacy.
Not long after, I received a letter of thanks from Governor Wise, written at Richmond and with a good deal of official flattery. His son Jennings, an old acquaintance of mine in pleasant days in Germany, came to see me, too, with civil messages from his father. Poor fellow! he paid the forfeit of his rebellious treason with his life at Roanoke Island. His father pays the heavier penalty of living to see the civil war fomented by him making its dreadful progress, and in its course crushing out all his ancient popularity and power.
In spite of many scenes of noble heroism and devoted bravery in legitimate warfare, and in the glorious campaigns of our own successful armies, I have never seen any life in death so grand as that of John Brown, and to me there is more than an idle refrain in the solemn chorus of our advancing hosts,--
"John Brown's body lies mouldering in the ground, As we go marching on!"
In the summer of 1862, I was brought again to Harper's Ferry, with my regiment, and the old familiar scenes were carefully revisited. The terrible destruction of fine public buildings, the wanton waste of private property, the deserted village instead of the thriving town, the utter ruin and wretchedness of the country all about, and the bleak waste of land from Harper's Ferry to Charlestown, are all set features in every picture of the war in Virginia. At my old head-quarters in Charlestown jail there was less change than I had expected; its sturdy walls had withstood attack and defence better than the newer and more showy structures; the few inhabitants left behind after the ebb and flow of so many army waves, Rebel and Union succeeding each other at pretty regular intervals, were the well-to-do of former days, looking after their household gods, sadly battered and the worse for wear, but still cherished very dearly. Of my old acquaintances, it was a melancholy pleasure to learn that Colonel Baylor, who was mainly anxious to have me hanged, had in this war been reduced to the ranks for cowardice, and then was shot in the act of desertion. Kennedy was still living at home, but his brother was in the Rebel service. The lesser people were all scattered; the better class of workmen had gone to Springfield or to private gun-shops in the North,--the poorer sort, either into the Rebel army or to some other dim distance, and all trace of them was lost.
The thousands who have come and gone through Harper's Ferry and past Bolivar Heights will recall the waste and desolation of what was once a blooming garden-spot, full of thrift and industry and comfort almost unknown elsewhere south of the fatal slave-line; thousands who are yet to pass that way will see in the ruins of the place traces of the avenging spirit that has marked forever the scene of _John Brown's Raid_.
SCHUMANN'S QUINTETTE IN E FLAT MAJOR.
It was near sundown when we reached the sea-side hotel. By the time we were settled in our apartment, and I had my invalid undressed and in bed, the soft, long summer twilight was nearly over. The maid, having cleared away the litter of unpacking, was sitting in the anteroom, near enough to be within call. The poor suffering body that held so lightly the half-escaped spirit lay on the bed, exhausted with the journey, but feeling already soothed by the pleasant sea-breeze which sighed gently in at the open window.
Our rooms were on the ground-floor of a one-story cottage. A little distance off was the large hotel, to which the cottage was attached by a long arcade or covered gallery. We could hear fragments of the music which the band was playing to the gay idlers who were wandering about the balconies or through the hotel grounds; while laughs and little shrieks, uttered by the children as their pursuing nurses caught them up for bed, mingled not unpleasantly with the silvery hum arising from the fashionable crowd and the festal clang of the instruments.
Sleep half hovered over, half winged off from the pillow. I fanned the peacock plumes slowly to and fro in the delicious air, gazed with a suppressed sigh on the darkening West, and repeated with a rhythmical beat the beautiful Hebrew poem in Ecclesiasticus, which I had so often recited through many long years by the side of that sick-bed, to soothe the ear of the sufferer. I had just reached these lines,--
"A present remedy of all Is the speeding coming of a cloud, And a dew that meeteth it, By the heat that cometh, Shall overpower it.
"At His word the wind is still; And with His thought He appeaseth the deep; And the Lord hath plumed islands therein,"--
when I noticed that sleep had settled firmly on the dark eyelids, and the panting breath came through the poor clay in little soughs and sighs, as if body and soul, tired with combat, had each sunk down for a momentary rest on the weary battle-field of life.
The music of the band had ceased; the gay crowd had withdrawn into the hotel to prepare for the entertainments of the evening, and there was a lull of human sounds. Then arose the grand roar of the ocean, which with the regular break of the billows on the beach beneath the cliff made the theme where before it had played the bass.
I crept stealthily out of the bed-room, and, after exchanging my travelling-gown for a cool white robe, stretched my tired body on the lounge in the anteroom.
There I lay with cold finger-tips pressed against burning eyelids, and icy palms holding with a firm grasp throbbing temples, under which flowed the hot, seething tide of mortal anguish, anxiety, and aching love. Some one touched me on the shoulder. I looked up. It was Max who was standing beside me.
"There is a great musical treat for you," he said in a low voice. "The A---- Society is here, and also part of B----'s Opera Troupe, with Madame C----, and D----, the great tenor. The troupe and society united are to give such a concert as rarely falls to the lot of mortals to hear. I never saw a better programme. Look!"
I read over the concert-bill. First there was an overture; then several scenes from "Lucia di Lammermoor,"--that great Shakspearian drama, whose dread catastrophe of Death and Doom leaves in the memory of the hearer a heavenly sorrow unmixed with earthly taint. It was the master-work of two poets, Scott and Donizetti, who had conceived it at the best period of their lives, when they were in all the vigor of manhood, and when mind and fancy had become ripened by experience. It was formed in one of those supreme instants, which come like "angels' visits" to artists, when they were enabled, through a power more like inspiration than art, to throw aside all outward influences, and fashion as deftly as Nature could the sad life of the Master of Ravenswood and his "sweet spirit's mate."
The Lucia scenes were grouped together and occupied the main part of the programme. They were those that told the story of the brief passion, from the sweet birth of love up to the solemn hour when both lovers passed away to that resting-place "where nothing could touch them further."
My eyes lingered over the titles of the scenes, while my memory swiftly recalled their characteristics:--the First Duet between Lucia and Edgardo, a passionate burst of youthful love, as delicious as the tender dialogues between Romeo and his Juliet;--the Sextette, that masterly pyramidal piece of vocal harmony, in which the voices group around those of the two lovers, and all mount up glowingly like a flame on a sacrificial altar;--the heart-rending passage where Lucia's spirit, frantic through woe, rises supreme over native timidity and irresolution, and, with one fierce burst of love and grief, which startles alike tyrant and friend, soars aloft in the terrible, but grand realm of madness;--and the Finale, where the dying Edgardo sighs out that delicious air which has been well styled, "a melody of Plato sung by a Christian soul."
The programme closed fitly with Schumann's Quintette in E flat Major.
This Quintette is one of remarkable power and beauty. It is for 'rano, viola, first and second violin, and 'cello. It is divided into four movements: _Allegro brillante_; _In moda d'una Marcia_; _Scherzo_; and _Allegro ma non troppo_.
As I handed the bill back to Max, he whispered to my maid, who left the room an instant, and returned with a mantle on her arm.
"Come," he said, in a decided tone, "you must go, and quickly, too, for they are already playing the overture. You can surely trust Ernestine with the watching, as you will be such a short distance off; my serving-man shall wait in the arcade, and come for you, if you are needed."
Then, raising me with kind force from the lounge, he wrapped the mantle around me. As we passed out, we stood for an instant at the bed-room-door, looking at the invalid. The breath still came in short pants, but the truce was being kept: sleep had come in between as a transient mediator.
I noticed in the dim light the attenuated frame, the shrunken features, the pinched nostrils, the very shadowy outlining of death. With choking throat and swelling breast I looked at Max, my eyes saying what my voice could not,--
"I cannot go."
Without a word of reply, he lifted me out of the apartment, and in a few moments we were sitting in a dim corner of the concert-room, listening to the charming First Duet.
The scenes followed one another rapidly, and displayed even more powerfully than I had ever noticed before the one pervading theme. Sense and imagination became possessed with it; at each succeeding passage the interest increased continuously, until at the end the passion mounted up as on mighty wings and carried my sad heart aloft and beyond "the ordinary conditions of humanity."
The prima donna, Madame C----, and Signor D----, the tenor, had a sad story of scandal floating about them; it was on every one's lips. Madame C---- was no longer in her first youth, but she was still very beautiful, more attractive than she had been in her younger days,--so those said who had seen and heard her years before.
Her young womanhood had been devoted to patient, honest study, which was rewarded with success, and calm, passionless prosperity. She had married brilliantly, and left the stage, but after an absence of many years had returned to it to aid her husband in some reverse of fortune. Her married life had been tranquilly happy, for she had loved with all the sweet serenity of a cold, unexacting nature.
But now it was whispered that this beautiful, pure woman, who had resisted--indeed, like another Una, had never felt--the temptations which had environed her on the stage, and in the courtly circle to which she had been raised by her husband's rank, was being strangely influenced by a gifted, handsome tenor singer, with whom she had been associated since her return to her professional life.
This person was about her husband's age, a year or two her senior, and unmarried. The infatuation, it was said, existed on both sides, and the two lovers were so blinded by their strange passion as to seem unconscious of any other sight or presence. The husband, report added, behaved with remarkable prudence and good breeding; indeed, some doubted if he noticed the affair,--for he treated not only his wife, but the reputed lover, with familiar and kind friendliness.
The recollection of this scandal flitted over my memory as I listened to the First Duet. Madame C---- was a blonde; she had rich, deep violet eyes, and a lovely skin: her hair, too, was a waving mass of the poet's and painter's golden hue. She was about middle height, and had a full, well-developed person.
"When I saw her in Paris and Vienna, twenty years ago," whispered Max, "she was too pale and slender, and the expression of those brilliant eyes was as cold and still as glacier depths."
Not so now, I thought,--for they fairly blazed with a passionate fire, as the music welled up on her beautiful quivering lips; indeed, the melody appeared to come from them, as much as from her mouth, and I seemed to be listening with my looks as well as my hearing. She was not well, evidently,--for there was a bright red, feverish spot on either cheek, and her movements were feeble and trembling; but her voice was full of the deepest pathos.
"In her best days she never sang so well," said Max, as the room rang with applause at the termination of the duo, "Time may have taken away a little fulness from her lower notes; but the touching tenderness which envelops them, as a purple mist hanging over a forest in autumn, fully compensates for the loss of youthful vigor."
Her voice was, indeed, wonderful,--not simply clear and flexible, but dazzling and glancing, like the lightning that plays around the horizon on a hot midsummer's night; and her execution was as if the Cherub All-Knowledge and the Seraph All-Love had united their divine powers in one human form.
In the Sextette, which followed, the tenor showed to great advantage. His voice, though no longer young, was beautifully managed; it had an exquisite _timbre_, and on this night there was added to it a rare expression and character.
When he asked the poor trembling Lucia if the signature to the marriage contract was hers, there was a concentrated rage in his singing that was fearful; and Madame C---- almost cowered to the floor, as he held her firmly by the wrist,--for the scenes were sung in costume and with action,--and demanded,--
"A me rispondi. Son tue cifre? Rispondi!"
Her affirmative was like the silvery wail of a fallen angel. Then followed the terrible imprecation passage. He darted out the
"Maledetto sia l'istante!"
with such startling fury that the notes and words seemed to be forked, stinging, serpent tongues.
The _Stretta_ ensued, and the music-tide flowed so high and full that the fashionable audience forgot all artificial conventionalities, and yielded themselves freely to the ennobling emotions of human sympathy. Above the whole sublime assemblage of sounds wailed out that fearful note of the fallen cherub; and the fainting of Lucia, at the close of the Sextette, I felt sure was not a feigned one.
As the curtain fell over the temporary stage, several gentlemen hurried out to make inquiries about Madame C----, for there seemed to be an opinion similar to mine pervading the room. The curtain rose, and it was announced that she was too ill to sing again; but the murmur of regret was silenced almost immediately by the appearance of the chorus with Signor D----, the tenor.
They began the Finale. Signor D----looked haggard and wan, but very stern, and there was more of wrath than repentance in his singing. Was it fancy or reality? The heart-rending
"O bell' alma innamorata!"
seemed to be accompanied by distant, half-veiled sobs. No one else appeared to notice them, and I half doubted their reality.
The Finale ended; and for a few moments the gay crowd buzzed, and some stood up and looked about at their neighbors. The interval was short, however,--for the Quintette performers came upon the stage, and took their places.
I leaned back and covered my face with my hand. My memory was still ringing with echoes of the forlorn cry of wrecked love, mingled with the imaginary sobs I had just heard; therefore I hardly listened to the majestic opening of full, harmonious chords, which lead grandly into a sort of cantabile movement.
The curious modulations which followed aroused me, and I soon busied myself in tracing the changes from major to minor, and from one minor key to another, as sorrows chase each other in life. Just at this part of the composition occurs the passage which sounds like a weird, ghostly call or summons: when I heard it, my fancy began working, and, like Heine, I saw spectres in the music sounds.
The air seemed to have grown suddenly "nipping and eager." I unconsciously drew my mantle around my shoulders, as a shiver ran over me, such as nurses tell us in childhood is caused by some one walking over our graves. I fancied I saw before me the ghost scene in "Hamlet." There was the castle platform,--the gloomy battlements,--the sound of distant wassail; and dimly defined by the vague light of my fancy, stood the sad young Danish prince, shivering in the "shrewd, biting" night-air, tortured with those apprehensions and sickening doubts
"That cloud the mind and fire the brain,"
but talking with a feigned and courtly indifference to his dear friend, "the profound scholar and perfect gentleman," Horatio; and in the gloom around them seemed to be arising the questionable shape which was
"So horridly to shake his disposition."
Strangely the music displayed its fine forms, mingling most curiously with, while it created, my fancied pictures,--and though my senses followed the changing visions, which flitted like a phantasmagoria before my eyes, my mind traced clearly the music train; but when the diminished seventh resolved gracefully into the melody which is taken alternately by 'cello and viola,--the close of the first movement,--my vision faded gradually away.
There was a short pause, but the fine artists who were executing the Quintette did not by any undignified movement break the illusion which the music had created; although a violin-string needed raising, it was done with quiet and skilful dexterity, and they proceeded to the second movement.
Smoothly and mournfully the Funeral March opened. The solemn melody which glides softly through it is totally unlike the restless trampings of Fate heard in other great compositions of the kind; yet Fate is unmistakably there, quiet, but relentless, like
"the Pontic sea, Whose icy current and compulsive course Ne'er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on."
The _Scherzo_, with its beautiful octave run for the piano and delicious change of harmony in the next measure,--the weird melody sketched out by the first violin, and then yielded up to the piano,--and the strange, but truly inspired, modulations which follow,--lapped my spirit in a sweet bewilderment. I forgot all the before and after of that "sad and incapable story" of human life and love which my fancy had been weaving from the coarse, vulgar threads of common rumor; and even the pictures vanished which had been evoked of the young prince,
"In his blown youth blasted with ecstasy."
I ceased following the modulations, interesting as they were; for often music fills the thoughts so full that the ear forgets to listen to the sweet harmonies.
But I was again aroused by the fine suspension and sequence which open the last movement of the Quintette,--the _Allegro ma non troppo_. The fugued passage, the reiteration of the opening theme, and the sad close were all as tragic as the last scene in "Hamlet," the
"quarry that cries on, Havoc!"--
but it was also as graceful and touching as the words of the dying prince to his friend,--
"Horatio, I am dead: Thou liv'st. Report me and my cause aright To the unsatisfied."
A thousand rumors flitted about the room as the concert broke up. Madame C---- was so ill, they feared she was dying; and, strange to say, the tenor, on leaving the platform after the Lucia finale, had been seized with violent cramps and vomitings, which could not be checked, and he also was lying in a very critical state. There were dark hints and many improbable imaginings.
"All was not well, they deemed; Some knew perchance, And some besides were too discreetly wise To more than hint their knowledge in surmise."
About an hour after midnight I was lying on the lounge in the anteroom of the cottage. The faithful maid had taken my place by the sick-bed,--for my invalid was still sleeping. It was a long, quiet sleep; and so low and peaceful had grown those suffering, panting breaths, that they almost startled me into a hope of happier days. Could health, long absent, be returning? A state of continuous illness, if free from acute pain, would be a relief.
These half-formed hopes made me restless, and, instead of taking the physical repose I needed, I rose from the lounge, and walked out on the deserted lawn in front of the cottage. The moon was at the full, and shone brighter than day's twilight. The night was warm, but not oppressive,--for there was a gentle air blowing, filled with the invigorating briny odor of the ocean; yet I felt choked and stifled.
"Just for a breath from the beach," I said to myself, as I descended the steps leading down from the cliff.
On reaching the sands, instead of being alone, as I had hoped, I found two persons already there. I drew back quickly, intending to return; but they were passing too swiftly to notice me. As they went by, the bright full moon gleamed over their pale, wan faces, and I recognized in them Madame C----and the tenor!
They were talking earnestly, in low, rapid Italian. She leaned on his arm,--indeed, they seemed to be sustaining each other, for both appeared feeble and faint; but, tottering as they were, they sped rapidly by, and so near to me that the corner of Madame C----'s mantle flapped in my face, and left a strange subtile perfume behind it.
But what struck me most was the expression of their faces,--such wild, sad, longing, entreating love! As they disappeared around a corner of the cliff which jutted out, a dreadful suspicion seized me. Could they be seeking self-destruction? Were they going to bury their unhallowed love, with its shame and sorrow, in one wildering embrace beneath those surging ocean-waves?
As one in a dream, I moved along the beach, hardly knowing whither I went. Mechanically I ascended the flight of steps which led to the part of the cliff directly opposite the hotel entrance. As I walked up the lawn, I noticed a great commotion in the house. There were lights flitting about, people running up and down stairs, and many persons talking confusedly on the gallery and in the hall.
"What is the matter?" I asked of a waiter who was passing near me, looking frightened and bewildered.
He stopped, and answered with all the keen eagerness of an untrained person, to whom the communicating of a startling story to an uninformed superior is a perfect godsend.
"Very strange doings, Ma'am,--very strange!"
"Aha!" I thought; "they have discovered the absence or flight of those unhappy creatures."
"Very strange doings!" he repeated. "The foreign lady who sang to-night, and the gentleman too, is both dead."
"Dead!" I exclaimed. "Why, you are mistaken. I saw them just this instant on the sands below the cliff."
The man looked at me as if he thought me crazy.
"I mean the singers, Ma'am,--them as sang at the concert to-night. They was both taken nigh about the same time, was handled just alike, and died here a little while ago, a'most at once, as you might say. Folks is talking hard about the husband of the Madame."
Then he added, in a lower tone, confidentially, "They do say he poisoned 'em; for, you see, he it was that dressed the lobster salad at dinner, and made 'em both eat hearty of it, though they were unwilling; and now they have him over in the office there, in custody."
"But, my good man," I said, as soon as I could get my breath, "I assure you they are not dead."
"Well, Ma'am, if you don't believe my words, you can see 'em with your own eyes, if you choose"; and he led the way into the hall of the hotel.
I followed him. We entered a side room,--a sort of reception _salon_,--where the two poor creatures were, indeed lying extended on sofas. Several startled persons were gazing at them, but the larger portion of the crowd were drawn off to the other side of the hotel, where the unhappy, stunned husband was listening to the fearful charges of murder,--murder of his wife and his friend!
I stepped up to the dead bodies,--one after the other. Their dresses had not even been changed. The stage finery looked very pitiful. A muslin mantle had been thrown over Madame C----'s bare shoulders and beautiful bosom; from it arose the same curious perfume I had noticed on the beach. It was as if that delicate, rare smell had been kept in a box of some kind of odoriferous resinous wood.
I touched their cold brows, their icy fingers,--noticed the poor features, drawn by acute suffering,--and strange as it was, I could see on both faces, as if behind a gauzy film, the same sad, wild, longing look of love I had observed on the countenances of those two shadowy beings I had met on the sands.
I left the hotel, and walked to the cottage, with my mind in a sad, bewildered state. I entered the open door, and went to the sick-room. There stood Max and Ernestine, and she was weeping.
"It is all over!" he said; "and I am glad she was not here."
I advanced hurriedly forward, pushed them aside, and stood by the bed. Yes, that long, quiet sleep had, indeed, been a forerunner of life,--the true life! All was truly over,--the long years of suffering, the blessed years of loving care, the combat and the struggle; and on the battle-field rested the dread shadows of Night and Death!
And I? I sank on the poor body-shell with one low, long wail, and Nature kindly extended over me her blessed veil of forgetfulness.
On the third day of April last a most impressive and unusual scene was witnessed in the English House of Commons. For some time before the hour for sitting, the members had gathered about the halls and lobbies in whispering groups. One of its leading members had passed away, and there was a consultation as to whether the House should move an adjournment. It is not the custom of the House of Commons to adjourn in case of the death of one of its members, unless that member is an officer of the Government or of extraordinary prominence. The last person for whom it had adjourned was Sir G. Cornwall Lewis. It was considered in the present case that there were some members whose hostility to the departed would not stop at the grave, and that the harmony which alone would make an adjournment graceful as a tribute would be unattainable; so it was decided that the motion should not be made. When the great, deep-toned Westminster clock struck four, the members took their seats. Then slowly entered the ministers, with Lord Palmerston at their head; and for some moments sitting there with their hats on, one might have supposed it a silent meeting of Friends. At this moment all eyes were turned to the door as one entered who is a Friend indeed: heavily, with head bowed under his terrible sorrow, John Bright walked to his place, by the side of which was a vacancy never to be filled. Lord Palmerston, on rising, was received with a cheer which rang through the hall like a wailing cry, and was followed by a deep hush. As the white-haired old man, who had seen the leading men of more than two generations fall at his side, began to speak of the "great loss" which the House and the nation had suffered, his voice quivered, and recovered itself only when it sank to a low tone that was deeply pathetic. And when, having recounted the instances in which Richard Cobden, with his "great ambition to be useful to his country," had been signally useful, each instance followed by the refusal of proffered honors and emoluments, he said, "Mr. Cobden's name will be forever engraved on the most interesting pages of the history of this country," there was a spontaneous burst of applause throughout the House. When Mr. Disraeli arose to speak concerning the man whom for so many years he had met only in uncompromising political combat, it was at once felt how irresistible was the force of a right and true man. No yielding, equivocating, South-by-North politician could ever have brought a lifelong antagonist to stand by his grave and say,--"I believe, that, when the verdict of posterity is recorded on his life and conduct, it will be said of him, that, looking to all he said and did, he was without doubt the greatest political character the pure middle class of this country has yet produced,--an ornament to the House of Commons, and an honor to England." Then arose, as if trying to lift a great burden, noble John Bright. Twice he tried to speak and his voice failed; at length, with broken utterance, but with that eloquent simplicity which characterizes him beyond all speakers whom I have heard,--"I feel that I cannot address the House on this occasion. Every expression of sympathy which I have heard has been most grateful to my heart; but the time which has elapsed, since I was present when the manliest and gentlest spirit that ever actuated or tenanted the human form took its flight, is so short, that I dare not even attempt to give utterance to the feelings by which I am oppressed. I shall leave it to some calmer moment, when I may have an opportunity of speaking to some portion of my countrymen the lesson which I think will be learned from the life and character of my friend. I have only to say, that, after twenty years of most intimate and most brotherly friendship with him, I little knew how much I loved him, until I found that I had lost him." As he spoke the concluding words, which plaintively told his sense of loneliness, the tears that can become a manly man came thick and fast, and all who were in the House wept with him. There have been cases in which the House of Commons has adjourned in honor of deceased members; but perhaps never before has it showed its emotions in generous tears. Did I say that _all_ wept? I must recall it. There actually were two or three who, during the entire scene, had nothing but sneers to give, and sat, as I heard a member remark, "a group fit for the pencil of Retzsch, fresh from its delineations of Mephistopheles." I need not write upon the page which mentions Richard Cobden their names, which, to reverse Palmerston's praise, are engraved only upon the least creditable pages of the history of their own or of others' countries.
When John Bright sat down, some minds were borne back over eight years when Cobden was addressing a large public meeting without the presence of his usual companion. Mr. Bright was then in the far South, in consequence of ill-health of a character to excite grave apprehension among his friends. During his address, Mr. Cobden, having occasion to allude to his absent friend, was so overpowered by his feelings that he could not proceed for several minutes; and rarely has a great audience been so deeply moved as was that by this emotion in one to whose heart, true and ruddy, any sentimentality was unattributable.
To write the history of this friendship between Bright and Cobden, to tell how the sturdy hearts of these strong men became riveted to each other, would be to record the best pages of recent English history. For these men joined hands at the altar of a noble cause; and their souls have been welded in the fires of a fierce and unceasing struggle for humanity.
Richard Cobden was born near Midhurst, Sussex, at his father's farm-house, Dunford, June 3, 1804. His father was one of the class who regarded the repeal of the Corn Laws as identical with their ruin. Young Richard was at an early age placed in a London warehouse, where he so pressed every leisure moment of his time into the acquisition of information that his employer reproved him with a warning that lads so fond of reading were apt to spoil their prospects. (This old gentleman afterwards became unfortunate, and the young man he had thus warned contributed fifty pounds for his comfort every year until his death.) There has been some attempt on the part of certain persons, who have never forgiven Mr. Cobden for their being in the wrong in the matter of the Corn Laws, to sneer at him as an uncultivated man. This was, of course, to be expected by one who made all the old bones in the scholastic coffins at Oxford rattle again and again, by declaring that he regarded "a single copy of the 'Times' newspaper as of more importance than all the works of Thucydides,"--a thing which he has for some years been willing to pledge himself not to repeat,--or illustrating the nature of English education by representing Englishmen's complete knowledge of the Ilissus, which he had once seen dammed up by washerwomen, and their utter ignorance of the Mississippi, flowing its two thousand miles through a magnificent country peopled by their own race. But these partisan sneers could not affect the judgment of any who knew Mr. Cobden, or those who read his works on Russia and the United States and his pamphlets on subjects of current interest, that his classical and historical culture was equal to that of the majority of his critics, whilst his acquaintance with general philosophy and political economy was remarkable.
Mr. Cobden left the ordinary business of the warehouse in which he was employed to become a commercial traveller, in which capacity he gained much knowledge of Continental peoples and their languages. At length he was able to establish himself in the calico business at Manchester, in the firm "Richard Cobden & Co." The "Cobden prints" became celebrated, the business flourished, and Mr. Cobden, at the time when he began his political career, was receiving, as his share of the income, about forty-five thousand dollars per annum. It was probably about the year 1830, when England was feeling the first ground-swells of the great Reform agitation, that Mr. Cobden felt called to give himself entirely to his country's service. He resolved, however, to study for some years with reference to public questions. In 1834-5 he made a tour through many countries, including Egypt, Greece, and Turkey, Canada and the United States. On his return he wrote several pamphlets, in the name of "A Manchester Manufacturer," which excited attention, and one ("England, Ireland, and America") a lively controversy. About this time appeared his first contribution to the Eastern question in a little work entitled "Russia." In all these his fundamental ideas--Retrenchment, Non-Intervention, Free Trade--were set forth in a very spirited and eloquent way. It is now very evident that Mr. Cobden was the product and utterance of his country at that time; and though he was held to be an economical visionary, never was visionary in conservative England blessed with seeing his visions so soon harden into facts. But he was not so absorbed in national politics, and in his proposed "Smithian Society," in which the "Wealth of Nations" was to be discussed, as to forget the more circumscribed duties of a citizen of Manchester. Manchester was not yet a city with municipal representation, when he wrote a pamphlet entitled "Incorporate your Borough," which did as much as anything else to raise it to that dignity; and Manchester showed its gratitude by electing him to be alderman in the first town-council.
It is hard for us at this date to realize the condition of England when that horrible _Sirocco_, as Robert Browning called it, the tax on corn, was blighting the land. The suicidal policy which had prevailed since the Peace of 1815 had brought the country to the verge of ruin; and when, in 1838, those reformers of Manchester repaired to that first meeting of the Anti-Corn-Law League, it was through crowds of pale, haggard, starving men, each with his starving family at home, muttering treason, and prepared for violence at any touch. The banner of Chartism was already lifted. It was then that these resolute men, with Cobden at their head, met and vowed sacredly that their League should never be disbanded until those laws had been repealed. The devotion with which Richard Cobden fought that good fight may be illustrated by the story that once his little daughter said to her mother concerning her father,--"Mother, who is that gentleman that comes here sometimes?" With a similar devotion to humanity did this tenderest of parents inspire his companions; and it is not in the nature of things that such labors so put forth shall fail. One by one the haughty aristocrats yielded; and when at last Cobden had conquered the conqueror of Napoleon, the battle was won. The "Times" pooh-poohed the movement, until one day the news came that a few gentlemen of Manchester had subscribed between forty and fifty thousand pounds for repeal, when it suddenly discovered that "the Anti-Corn-Law movement was a great fact." When, in 1841, the new Whig Ministry, with Sir Robert Peel at their head, came in, elected as Protectionists, gaunt Famine took its stand by the Royal Mace, like a Banquo. Sir Robert driving along Fleet Street might see those whom this new unwelcome commoner represented grimly gazing of "Punch,"--that of the Premier turning his back on a starving man with half-naked wife and child, and buttoning up his coat with the words, "I'm very sorry, my good man, but I can do nothing for you,--nothing!" But though Peel was the Premier apparent, Cobden was the Premier actual. And means were found of softening Sir Robert's heart,--these, namely: it was intimated to him one morning, that, if a division of the House should go against the Ministry, the Queen would feel compelled to call upon Richard Cobden, manufacturer, to make a cabinet for her. So the Ministry yielded, and the League reached its triumph in 1846. It is due to the memory of Peel to say that he joined with the triumphant nation to yield every laurel to the brow to which it belonged, and uttered the memorable prediction that Cobden's name would be forever venerated and loved, whenever "the poor man ate his daily bread, sweeter because no longer leavened with a bitter sense of unwise and unjust taxation."
In the year 1839 Mr. Cobden had heard John Bright speak with great power at a meeting in Rochdale. A little later, when Bright had just lost his wife at Leamington, Cobden visited him there. He found him in great grief. "Think," said Cobden, "think in your sorrow, of the thousands of men, women, and children, who are this moment starving under the infamous laws which it is your task and mine to help remove. Come with me, and we will never rest until we have abolished the Corn Laws." Then and there were those hands clasped in a sacred cause which were never to be unclasped but by death.
Mr. Cobden took his seat in Parliament in 1841, representing Stockport. He had not only before the triumph of 1846 sacrificed his time and impaired his health, but also given up his fortune to the cause, and was a poor man. By a great spontaneous subscription, the nation reimbursed his actual losses, and amongst other things built the house at Midhurst, where he resided on the spot that his father had occupied. Immediately after the repeal Mr. Cobden started on a Continental tour; and in every city he was met with a triumphal reception, so deeply had his great work in England affected the interests of all Europe. During his absence he was elected to represent the great constituency of the West Riding in Yorkshire, which he accepted.
It was perhaps in those furious days which preceded the Crimean War that the noble personal qualities with which Mr. Cobden was endowed shone out most clearly. When all England, from the thunder of the "Times" to the quiet Muse of Tennyson, was enlisted for war, Cobden took his stand, and refused to bow to the tempest. In a moment the nation seemed to forget the services of years, and Cobden, denounced as a "Peace-at-any-price man," lost the ear of the country, as did Bright and others in those days of political anarchy. To the ability and independence with which Cobden and Bright withstood the popular current then, Mr. Kinglake, the opponent of both, has done justice. It was, in fact, not true that Cobden was a "Peace-at-any-price man." Though he maintained earnestly the principle of non-intervention, it was because he thought that England in its present hands could not be trusted to intervene always in the right interest; and never was there a more pointed confirmation of his suspicion than the event of a war which gave the victory won by the blood of the people over to the French Emperor, that he might with it bind back every nation that in Southern Europe was near to its redemption. The strongest chains binding Circassia, Poland, Hungary, and Venetia, were forged in the fires of the Crimean War. This popular wave reached its height and broke, as such waves will, and the people much ashamed returned to their true leaders. So when, immediately after the end of the Crimean War, the disgraceful bombardment of Canton occurred, Cobden was still there in Parliament ready to risk all again. His resolution condemning the action of Sir John Bowring (who, by the way, was Cobden's personal friend) was passed in the House by a vote of 263 to 247. Palmerston appealed to the selfishness of the country on the subject of Chinese trade, and was sustained. These were the days when Gladstone and Disraeli lay down together. Cobden, Bright, Gibson, Cardwell, Layard, Fox, Miall, and others, all lost their seats. To this interval we are indebted that John Bright recovered strength in a foreign land, and that we received in the United States the second visit of Cobden. Whilst they were absent, the reaction set in: Bright was elected by Birmingham, Cobden by Rochdale. Nay, so strong was the feeling in Cobden's case, that Palmerston found it to his purpose to invite him into the Cabinet; and when, returning from America, Cobden sailed up the Mersey, he was met by a deputation from Liverpool who informed him of his appointment among the new Ministry. He at once declined the appointment, for reasons which have not hitherto been given to the public. Since his death a personal friend of his has written, that, on this occasion, "he told Lord Palmerston, in answer to remonstrances against his decision to decline the honor, that he had always regarded his Lordship as one of the most dangerous ministers England could possibly have, and that his views had not undergone the slightest change. He felt that it would be doing violence to his own sense of duty, and injuring his own character for consistency in the eyes of his countrymen, to profess to act with a minister to whom he had all along been opposed on public grounds."
Mr. Cobden's next great service was in bringing about the treaty of free commerce with France, a service which has endeared him to the French beyond all English statesmen, and which brought him from the Queen the offer of a Baronetcy, which he declined, as he also did in January last Mr. Gladstone's offer of the chairmanship of the Board of Audit, at a salary of two thousand pounds. Well might Gladstone say of him, as he did,--"Rare is the privilege of any man who, having fourteen years ago rendered to his country one signal and splendid service, now again, within the same brief span of life, decorated neither by rank nor title, bearing no mark to distinguish him from the people whom he loves, has been permitted to perform a great and memorable service to his sovereign and to his country."
By the death of Mr. Cobden America has lost one of her truest friends, one who in all this conflict, which has been reflected in England in a fierce warfare of parties, has been in the thick or the fight, "the white plume of Navarre." Nothing told more for the American cause in Europe than the celebrated speech of Cobden, made at the time when the busy Southerners were trying to show that the war was not for Slavery, but Free Trade, in which he declared that he had found the Southerners, and Jefferson Davis himself, whom he had visited, utterly indifferent to the Free Trade movement. He was accustomed to speak of American affairs as an American. I well remember his vehement expressions of feeling concerning the McClellan campaign in Virginia,--in connection with which he told me that he was at one time travelling with Jefferson Davis and McClellan together, and that Davis whispered to him, that, in case of war, "That man [McClellan] is one of the first we should put into service." I thought Mr. Cobden inclined to attribute McClellan's failures to something worse than incapacity. But this is only one instance of the way in which he followed our war-steps, and was interested in the subordinate questions which are usually interesting only to Americans. It is with a melancholy pleasure that we now know that his last public utterance was the letter on American affairs to our minister at Copenhagen, which reached England in the American papers the day before his death,--and that one of his last acts was to send from his death-bed a contribution to a poor and paralyzed American sailor who with his family was suffering in London, without any personal appeal having been made to him. These were the last pulses of a heart that beat only for humanity.
Mr. Cobden was one of the finest speakers I have ever heard. There was a play as of summer lightning about his eloquence, which, whilst it did not strike and crash opponents, was purifying the atmosphere of the debate, and lightning up every detail of fact, so that error could not flourish in his presence, nor even well hide itself. There was a terseness and massiveness in his speech, curiously blended with subtilty and fervor. A question of finance would grow pathetic under his touch, and he could create a soul under the ribs of statistics. He might vie with Lowell's ideal Jonathan for "calculating fanaticism" and "cast-iron enthusiasm." But, after all, what more need be said than the epitaph proposed for his grave: "_He gave the people bread_"?
MODERN IMPROVEMENTS AND OUR NATIONAL DEBT.
At the commencement of the Rebellion it was the general opinion of statesmen and financiers in other countries, and the opinion of many among ourselves, that our resources were inadequate to a long continuance of the war, and that it must soon terminate under pecuniary exhaustion, if from no other cause. Our experience has shown that this view was fallacious. After having sustained for several years the largest army known to modern times, our available resources seem to be unimpaired. The country is, indeed, largely in debt; but its powers of production are so great that it can undoubtedly meet all future demands as easily as it has met those of the past.
The ability or inability of a nation engaged in war to sustain heavy public expenses is to be measured not so much by its nominal debt as by the relation which the sum of its _production_ bears to that of its necessary _consumption_. A nation heavily in debt may continue to make large public expenditures and still prosper and increase in wealth, if its powers of production are correspondingly large also. It is a fact of the most encouraging kind, that the power of production exhibited by the United States far exceeds, in proportion to their population, that of any other nation heretofore involved in a long and costly war. The case which most nearly approaches ours, in this regard, is that of England, during her war with Napoleon, from 1803 to 1815. But since the termination of that long contest, the progress of discovery, improvements in the machinery and in the processes of manufacture, more effective implements of agriculture, the general introduction of railways,[H] and other time- and labor-saving agencies, together with the constantly increasing influence of the applied sciences, have so augmented the productive power of humanity, that the experience of the most advanced nations fifty years ago furnishes no adequate criterion of what the United States can do now.
It is not easy to determine the precise ratio in which production has been increased by these instrumentalities. It is unquestionably very large,--not less, probably, than threefold. That is to say, a given population, including all ages and conditions, can produce the articles necessary for its subsistence, such as food, clothing, and shelter, to an extent three times as great, with these agencies, as it could produce without them. Hence it appears, that, if the people of the loyal States could return to the standard of living that prevailed fifty years ago, the amount of their production would be sufficient to subsist not only themselves, but twice as many more in addition. To accomplish this, they would have, indeed, to devote themselves more to the production of articles of prime necessity and less to those of mere ornament and luxury. That they have the productive energy necessary to such a result there can be no doubt.
This encouraging view of our condition is fully sustained by official statements, which show that the industrial products of the country increase in a greater ratio than the population. In 1850 the aggregate value of the products of agriculture, mining, manufactures, and the mechanic arts, in the United States, was $2,345,000.000. In 1860 the aggregate was $3,756,000,000. This is an increase in ten years of sixty per cent, whereas the increase of population during that decade was only thirty-five and a half per cent. Thus we see that during the ten years ending with 1860--the date of the last census--the products of the industry of the country increased almost twice as fast as the population increased. If to this we add the remarkable fact that the value of taxable property increased during the same period _a hundred and twenty-six_ per cent, we have striking proof of the existence of a vast and rapidly increasing productive power,--a power largely due to the influence of those improvements which have been alluded to.
One obvious effect of war is to transfer a portion of labor from the sphere of effective _production_ to that of extraordinary _consumption_. To what extent the relations of production and consumption among us have been changed during the present contest it is impossible to state. That consumption has been largely increased by our military operations is apparent to all. It is equally apparent that production also has been augmented, though not, perhaps, to the same extent. The extraordinary demand for various commodities for war purposes has brought all the producing agencies of the country into a high state of activity and efficiency, giving to the loyal States a larger aggregate production than they had before the war. Of mining and manufactures this is unquestionably true. As regards the products of the soil, the Commissioner of Agriculture, in his Report for 1863, says,--"Although the year just closed has been a year of war on the part of the Republic, over a wider field and on a grander scale than any recorded in history, yet, strange as it may appear, the great interests of agriculture have not materially suffered in the loyal States.... Notwithstanding there have been over a million of men employed in the army and navy, withdrawn chiefly from the producing classes, and liberally fed, clothed, and paid by the Government, yet the yield of most of the great staples of agriculture for 1863 exceeds that of 1862.... This wonderful fact of history--a young republic carrying on a gigantic war on its own territory and coasts, and at the same time not only feeding itself and foreign nations, but furnishing vast quantities of raw materials for commerce and manufactures--proves that we are essentially an agricultural people; that three years of war have not as yet seriously disturbed, but rather increased, industrial pursuits; and that the withdrawal of agricultural labor, and the loss of life by disease and battle, have been more than compensated by _machinery_ and maturing growth at home, and by the increased influx of immigration from abroad."
In illustration of the character of those agencies to which we owe the remarkable and gratifying results thus portrayed by the Commissioner, I give the following official statement in regard to two of the more prominent modern implements of agriculture. Mr. Kennedy, in his Census Report for 1860, informs us "that a threshing-machine in Ohio, worked by three men, with some assistance from the farm hands, did the work of seventy flails, and that thirty steam-threshers only were required to prepare for market the wheat crop of two counties in Ohio, which would have required the labor of forty thousand men." As it took probably less than two hundred men to work the machines, the immense saving in human labor becomes instantly apparent.
Again, in his last Patent-Office Report, Mr. Holloway states "that from reliable returns in his possession it is shown that forty thousand reapers were manufactured and sold in 1863, and that it is estimated by the manufacturers that over ninety thousand will be required to meet the demand for 1864"; and these machines, he says, will save the labor of four hundred and fifty thousand men.
If the aggregate produce of the loyal States, notwithstanding the large amount of labor that has been withdrawn from production by the demands of the war, is actually greater than ever before, and if, as we have already shown, the sum of that produce is three times as great as the people of those States, using proper economy, would _necessarily_ consume, surely no one should feel any anxiety in regard to the ability of the United States to meet all their pecuniary obligations.
I have already said that England, in her war with Napoleon, furnishes the best criterion in history for judging of our own financial situation; and though the two cases are far from running parallel to each other, it may be interesting to compare them in some of their aspects.
At the restoration of peace in 1815, the national debt of England amounted in Federal currency to $4,305,000,000. It is impossible as yet to say what will be the ultimate amount of our national debt. It amounts now to rather more than one half of the debt of Great Britain, and, at its present ratio of increase, it will take nearly four years more to make our debt equal to hers.
Now, for the purposes of this statement, let us assume that it will take four years more to finish the war and to adjust and settle all its contingent claims, and that at the close of that period, say in 1869, we shall be at peace, with a restored Union, and with a national debt as large as that of England when peace returned to her in 1815,--how will the ability of this country to sustain and pay its debt compare with the ability of England to do the same at the time above referred to?
The simple fact that England was able to assume so vast a debt, and to sustain the burden through half a century, during which her prosperity has scarcely known abatement, and her wealth has been constantly and largely increasing, ought to satisfy every American citizen that his own country can at least do as well. But we can do more and better; for a comparison of the two countries in the matter of ability shows that the preponderance is greatly in our favor.
At the respective periods of comparison just named, to wit, 1815 and 1869, the population of the United Kingdom of Great Britain was less than _one half_ of what the population of the United States will be, and its amount of foreign trade was less than _one third_. In 1815 the "factory system" was in its infancy and imperfectly organized, the steam-engine was unperfected and in comparatively limited use. The railway, the steamboat, the telegraph, the reaper, the thresher, and many other important improvements and discoveries which tend to augment the productive power of nations, have all come since that day. So far as relates to the question of ability to sustain heavy financial burdens, England, in 1815, can hardly be compared for a moment with a country like our own, possessing as it does, in abundance and perfection, the potent agencies of productive and distributing power just referred to.
It is true that England is now enjoying, to a large extent, the benefit of these important agencies; but she had to supply the capital to create them, after she had assumed the maximum of her enormous debt,--whereas those agencies were all in active operation among us before any part of our national debt was incurred. I hardly need suggest that it makes a vast difference whether a nation has or has not these material advantages at the time when it is contracting a heavy debt, and that our position in this respect, so far as the question of ability is concerned, is a position of immeasurable superiority.
In regard to the paying of our debt after the return of peace, we possess some decided advantages, to which I will very briefly allude. Of these the most obvious are, a greater ratio in the increase of population, and more extensive natural resources. During the decade which ended in 1861, the population of the United Kingdom of Great Britain increased from 27,495,297 to 29,049,540, or less than _six per cent._ In the ten years which ended in 1860, our increase of population was from 23,191,876 to 31,445,089, or _thirty-five and a half per cent_. Thus it appears that during the last ten years for which we have official returns, the population of the United States increased in a ratio sixfold greater than that of the United Kingdom. This disparity in our favor will undoubtedly increase from year to year.
The home territory of Great Britain is quite inadequate to support even her present population. This circumstance places that country in a position of comparative dependence. While she _must_ draw from other countries a very considerable proportion of her breadstuffs and other provisions, we supply not only ourselves, but others largely also. The money which England pays to other nations for bread alone would equal in thirty years the entire amount of her national debt.
We need but a resolute and united purpose to sustain with comparative ease our national burdens, whatever may be their extent. Those who doubt this under-estimate not only the magnitude of our national resources, but the powerful aid which modern improvements lend to their development.
[H] Some estimate of the influence of railways alone may be formed by reference to the following statement, which occurs in an address of Robert Stephenson before the Institution of Civil Engineers, in 1856:--
"The result, then, is, that, upon the existing traffic of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, railways are affecting a direct saving to the people of not less than forty million pounds per annum; and that sum exceeds by about fifty per cent the entire interest of our national debt. It may be said, therefore, that the railway system neutralizes to the people the bad effects of the debt with which the state is incumbered. It places us in as good position as if the debt did not exist."
LITTLE FOXES.--PART V.
"And what are you going to preach about this month, Mr. Crowfield?"
"I am going to give a sermon on _Intolerance_, Mrs. Crowfield."
"No,--domestic and family and educational intolerance,--one of the seven deadly sins on which I am preaching,--one of 'the foxes.'"
* * * * *
People are apt to talk as if all the intolerance in life were got up and expended in the religious world; whereas religious intolerance is only a small branch of the radical, strong, all-pervading intolerance of human nature.
Physicians are quite as intolerant as theologians. They never have had the power of burning at the stake for medical opinions, but they certainly have shown the will. Politicians are intolerant. Philosophers are intolerant, especially those who pique themselves on liberal opinions. Painters and sculptors are intolerant. And housekeepers are intolerant, virulently denunciatory concerning any departures from their particular domestic creed.
Mrs. Alexander Exact, seated at her domestic altar, gives homilies on the degeneracy of modern housekeeping equal to the lamentations of Dr. Holdfast as to the falling off from the good old faith.
"Don't tell me about pillow-cases made without felling," says Mrs. Alexander; "it's slovenly and shiftless. I wouldn't have such a pillow-case in my house any more than I'd have vermin."
"But," says a trembling young housekeeper, conscious of unfelled pillow-cases at home, "don't you think, Mrs. Alexander, that some of these old traditions might be dispensed with? It really is not necessary to do all the work that has been done so thoroughly and exactly,--to double-stitch every wristband, fell every seam, count all the threads of gathers, and take a stitch to every gather. It makes beautiful sewing, to be sure; but when a woman has a family of little children and a small income, if all her sewing is to be kept up in this perfect style, she wears her life out in stitching. Had she not better slight a little, and get air and exercise?"
"Don't tell me about air and exercise! What did my grandmother do? Why, she did all her own work, and made grandfather's ruffled shirts besides, with the finest stitching and gathers; and she found exercise enough, I warrant you. Women of this day are miserable, sickly, degenerate creatures."
"But, my dear Madam, look at poor Mrs. Evans, over the way, with her pale face and her eight little ones."
"Miserable manager," said Mrs. Alexander. "If she'd get up at five o'clock the year round, as I do, she'd find time enough to do things properly, and be the better for it."
"But, my dear Madam, Mrs. Evans is a very delicately organized, nervous woman."
"Nervous! Don't tell me! Every woman nowadays is nervous. She can't get up in the morning, because she's nervous. She can't do her sewing decently, because she's nervous. Why, I might have been as nervous as she is, if I'd have petted and coddled myself as she does. But I get up early, take a walk in the fresh air of a mile or so before breakfast, and come home feeling the better for it. I do all my own sewing,--never put out a stitch; and I flatter myself my things are made as they ought to be. I always make my boys' shirts and Mr. Exact's, and they are made as shirts ought to be,--and yet I find plenty of time for calling, shopping, business, and company. It only requires management and resolution."
"It is perfectly wonderful, to be sure, Mrs. Exact, to see all that you do; but don't you get very tired sometimes?"
"No, not often. I remember, though, the week before last Christmas, I made and baked eighteen pies and ten loaves of cake in one day, and I was really quite worn out; but I didn't give way to it. I told Mr. Exact I thought it would rest me to take a drive into New York and attend the Sanitary Fair, and so we did. I suppose Mrs. Evans would have thought she must go to bed and coddle herself for a month."
"But, dear Mrs. Exact, when a woman is kept awake nights by crying babies"--
"There's no need of having crying babies; my babies never cried; it's just as you begin with children. I might have had to be up and down every hour of the night with mine, just as Mrs. Evans does; but I knew better. I used to take 'em up about ten o'clock, and feed and make 'em all comfortable; and that was the last of 'em, till I was ready to get up in the morning. I never lost a night's sleep with any of mine."
"Not when they were teething?"
"No. I knew how to manage that. I used to lance their gums myself, and I never had any trouble: it's all in management. I weaned 'em all myself, too: there's no use in having any fuss in weaning children."
"Mrs. Exact, you are a wonderful manager; but it would be impossible to bring up all babies so."
"You'll never make me believe that: people only need to begin right. I'm sure I've had a trial of eight."
"But there's that one baby of Mrs. Evans's makes more trouble than all your eight. It cries every night so that somebody has to be up walking with it; it wears out all the nurses, and keeps poor Mrs. Evans sick all the time."
"Not the least need of it; nothing but shiftless management. Suppose I had allowed my children to be walked with; I might have had terrible times, too; but I began right. I set down my foot that they should lie still, and they did; and if they cried, I never lighted a candle, or took 'em up, or took any kind of notice of it; and so, after a little, they went off to sleep. Babies very soon find out where they can take advantage, and where they can't. It's nothing but temper makes babies cry; and if I couldn't hush 'em any other way, I should give 'em a few good smart slaps, and they would soon learn to behave themselves."
"But, dear Mrs. Exact, you were a strong, healthy woman, and had strong, healthy children."
"Well, isn't that baby of Mrs. Evans's healthy, I want to know? I'm sure it is a great creature, and thrives and grows fat as fast as ever I saw a child. You needn't tell me anything is the matter with that child but temper, and its mother's coddling management."
Now, in the neighborhood where she lives, Mrs. Alexander Exact is the wonderful woman, the Lady Bountiful, the pattern female. Her cake never rises on one side, or has a heavy streak in it. Her furs never get a moth in them; her carpets never fade; her sweetmeats never ferment; her servants never neglect their work; her children never get things out of order; her babies never cry, never keep one awake o' nights; and her husband never in his life said, "My dear, there's a button off my shirt." Flies never infest her kitchen, cockroaches and red ants never invade her premises, a spider never had time to spin a web on one of her walls. Everything in her establishment is shining with neatness, crisp and bristling with absolute perfection,--and it is she, the ever-up-and-dressed, unsleeping, wide-awake, omnipresent, never-tiring Mrs. Exact, that does it all.
Besides keeping her household ways thus immaculate, Mrs. Exact is on all sorts of charitable committees, does all sorts of fancy-work for fairs; and whatever she does is done perfectly. She is a most available, most helpful, most benevolent woman, and general society has reason to rejoice in her existence.
But, for all this, Mrs. Exact is as intolerant as Torquemada or a locomotive-engine. She has her own track, straight and inevitable; her judgments and opinions cut through society in right lines, with all the force of her example and all the steam of her energy, turning out neither for the old nor the young, the weak nor the weary. She cannot, and she will not, conceive the possibility that there may be other sorts of natures than her own, and that other kinds of natures must have other ways of living and doing.
Good and useful as she is, she is terrible as an army with banners to her poor, harassed, delicate, struggling neighbor across the way, who, in addition to an aching, confused head, an aching back, sleepless, harassed nights, and weary, sinking days, is burdened everywhere and every hour with the thought that Mrs. Exact thinks all her troubles are nothing but poor management, and that she might do just like her, if she would. With very little self-confidence or self-assertion, she is withered and paralyzed by this discouraging thought. _Is_ it, then, her fault that this never-sleeping baby cries all night, and that all her children never could and never would be brought up by those exact rules which she hears of as so efficacious in the household over the way? The thought of Mrs. Alexander Exact stands over her like a constable; the remembrance of her is grievous; the burden of her opinion is heavier than all her other burdens.
Now the fact is, that Mrs. Exact comes of a long-lived, strong-backed, strong-stomached race, with "limbs of British oak and nerves of wire." The shadow of a sensation of nervous pain or uneasiness never has been known in her family for generations, and her judgments of poor little Mrs. Evans are about as intelligent as those of a good stout Shanghai hen on a humming-bird. Most useful and comfortable, these Shanghai hens,--and very ornamental, and in a small way useful, these humming-birds; but let them not regulate each other's diet, or lay down schemes for each other's housekeeping. Has not one as much right to its nature as the other?
This intolerance of other people's natures is one of the greatest causes of domestic unhappiness. The perfect householders are they who make their household rule so flexible that all sorts of differing natures may find room to grow and expand and express themselves without infringing upon others.
Some women are endowed with a tact for understanding human nature and guiding it. They give a sense of largeness and freedom; they find a place for every one, see at once what every one is good for, and are inspired by Nature with the happy wisdom of not wishing or asking of any human being more than that human being was made to give. They have the portion in due season for all: a bone for the dog; catnip for the cat; cuttle-fish and hemp-seed for the bird; a book or review for their bashful literary visitor; lively gossip for thoughtless Miss Seventeen; knitting for Grandmamma; fishing-rods, boats, and gunpowder for Young Restless, whose beard is just beginning to grow;--and they never fall into pets, because the canary-bird won't relish the dog's bone, or the dog eat canary-seed, or young Miss Seventeen read old Mr. Sixty's review, or young Master Restless take delight in knitting-work, or old Grandmamma feel complacency in guns and gunpowder.
Again, there are others who lay the foundations of family life so narrow, straight, and strict, that there is room in them only for themselves and people exactly like themselves; and hence comes much misery.
A man and woman come together out of different families and races, often united by only one or two sympathies, with many differences. Their first wisdom would be to find out each other's nature, and accommodate to it as a fixed fact; instead of which, how many spend their lives in a blind fight with an opposite nature, as good as their own in its way, but not capable of meeting their requirements!
A woman trained in an exact, thriving, business family, where her father and brothers bore everything along with true worldly skill and energy, falls in love with a literary man, who knows nothing of affairs, whose life is in his library and his pen. Shall she vex and torment herself and him because he is not a business man? Shall she constantly hold up to him the example of her father and brothers, and how they would manage in this and that case? or shall she say cheerily and once for all to herself,--"My husband has no talent for business; that is not his forte; but then he has talents far more interesting: I cannot have everything; let him go on undisturbed, and do what he can do well, and let me try to make up for what he cannot do; and if there be disabilities come on us in consequence of what we neither of us can do, let us both take them cheerfully"?
In the same manner a man takes out of the bosom of an adoring family one of those delicate, petted singing-birds that seem to be created simply to adorn life and make it charming. Is it fair, after he has got her, to compare her housekeeping, and her efficiency and capability in the material part of life, with those of his mother and sisters, who are strong-limbed, practical women, that have never thought about anything but housekeeping from their cradle? Shall he all the while vex himself and her with the remembrance of how his mother used to get up at five o'clock and arrange all the business of the day,--how she kept all the accounts,--how she saw to everything and settled everything,--how there never were break-downs or irregularities in her system?
This would be unfair. If a man wanted such a housekeeper, why did he not get one? There were plenty of single women, who understood washing, ironing, clear-starching, cooking, and general housekeeping, better than the little canary-bird which he fell in love with, and wanted for her plumage and her song, for her merry tricks, for her bright eyes and pretty ways. Now he has got his bird, let him keep it as something fine and precious, to be cared for and watched over, and treated according to the laws of its frail and delicate nature; and so treating it, he may many years keep the charms which first won his heart. He may find, too, if he watches and is careful, that a humming-bird can, in its own small, dainty way, build a nest as efficiently as a turkey-gobbler, and hatch her eggs and bring up her young in humming-bird fashion; but to do it, she must be left unfrightened and undisturbed.
But the evils of domestic intolerance increase with the birth of children. As parents come together out of different families with ill-assorted peculiarities, so children are born to them with natures differing from their own and from each other.
The parents seize on their first new child as a piece of special property which they are forthwith to turn to their own account. The poor little waif, just drifted on the shores of Time, has perhaps folded up in it a character as positive as that of either parent; but, for all that, its future course is marked out for it, all arranged and predetermined.
John has a perfect mania for literary distinction. His own education was somewhat imperfect, but he is determined his children shall be prodigies. His first-born turns out a girl, who is to write like Madame de Staël,--to be an able, accomplished woman. He bores her with literature from her earliest years, reads extracts from Milton to her when she is only eight years old and is secretly longing to be playing with her doll's wardrobe. He multiplies governesses, spares no expense, and when, after all, his daughter turns out to be only a very pretty, sensible, domestic girl, fond of cross-stitching embroidery, and with a more decided vocation for sponge-cake and pickles than for poetry and composition, he is disappointed and treats her coldly; and she is unhappy and feels that she has vexed her parents, because she cannot be what Nature never meant her to be. If John had taken meekly the present that Mother Nature gave him, and humbly set himself to inquire what it was and what it was good for, he might have had years of happiness with a modest, amiable, and domestic daughter, to whom had been given the instinct to study household good.
But, again, a bustling, pickling, preserving, stocking-knitting, universal-housekeeping woman has a daughter who dreams over her knitting-work and hides a book under her sampler,--whose thoughts are straying in Greece, Rome, Germany,--who is reading, studying, thinking, writing, without knowing why; and the mother sets herself to fight this nature, and to make the dreamy scholar into a driving, thorough-going, exact woman-of-business. How many tears are shed, how much temper wasted, how much time lost, in such encounters!
Each of these natures, under judicious training, might be made to complete itself by cultivation of that which it lacked. The born housekeeper can never be made a genius, but she may add to her household virtues some reasonable share of literary culture and appreciation,--and the born scholar may learn to come down out of her clouds, and see enough of this earth to walk its practical ways without stumbling; but this must be done by tolerance of their nature,--by giving it play and room,--first recognizing its existence and its rights, and then seeking to add to it the properties it wants.
A driving Yankee housekeeper, fruitful of resources, can work with any tools or with no tools at all. If she absolutely cannot get a tack-hammer with a claw on one end, she can take up carpet-nails with an iron spoon, and drive them down with a flat-iron; and she has sense enough not to scold, though she does her work with them at considerable disadvantage. She knows that she is working with tools made to do something else, and never thinks of being angry at their unhandiness. She might have equal patience with a daughter unhandy in physical things, but acute and skilful in mental ones, if she once had the idea suggested to her.
An ambitious man has a son whom he destines to a learned profession. He is to be the Daniel Webster of the family. The boy has a robust, muscular frame, great physical vigor and enterprise, a brain bright and active in all that may be acquired through the bodily senses, but which is dull and confused and wandering when put to abstract book-knowledge. He knows every ship at the wharf, her build, tonnage, and sailing qualities; he knows every railroad-engine, its power, speed, and hours of coming and going; he is always busy, sawing, hammering, planing, digging, driving, making bargains, with his head full of plans, all relating to something outward and physical. In all these matters his mind works strongly, his ideas are clear, his observation acute, his conversation sensible and worth listening to. But as to the distinction between common nouns and proper nouns, between the subject and the predicate of a sentence, between the relative pronoun and the demonstrative adjective pronoun, between the perfect and the preter-perfect tense, he is extremely dull and hazy. The region of abstract ideas is to him a region of ghosts and shadows. Yet his youth is mainly a dreary wilderness of uncomprehended, incomprehensible studies, of privations, tasks, punishments, with a sense of continual failure, disappointment, and disgrace, because his father is trying to make a scholar and a literary man out of a boy whom Nature made to till the soil or manage the material forces of the world. He might be a farmer, an engineer, a pioneer of a new settlement, a sailor, a soldier, a thriving man of business; but he grows up feeling that his nature is a crime, and that he is good for nothing, because he is not good for what he had been blindly predestined to before he was born.
Another boy is a born mechanic; he understands machinery at a glance; he is all the while pondering and studying and experimenting. But his wheels and his axles and his pulleys are all swept away, as so much irrelevant lumber; he is doomed to go into the Latin School, and spend three or four years in trying to learn what he never can learn well,--disheartened by always being at the tail of his class, and seeing many a boy inferior to himself in general culture who is rising to brilliant distinction simply because he can remember those hopeless, bewildering Greek quantities and accents which he is constantly forgetting,--as, for example, how properispomena become paroxytones when the ultimate becomes long, and proparoxytones become paroxytones when the ultimate becomes long, while paroxytones with a short penult remain paroxytones. Each of this class of rules, however, having about sixteen exceptions, which hold good except in three or four other exceptional cases under them, the labyrinth becomes delightfully wilder and wilder; and the crowning beauty of the whole is, that, when the bewildered boy has swallowed the whole,--tail, scales, fins, and bones,--he then is allowed to read the classics in peace, without the slightest occasion to refer to them again during his college course.
The great trouble with the so-called classical course of education is, that it is made strictly for but one class of minds, which it drills in respects for which they have by nature an aptitude, and to which it presents scarcely enough of difficulty to make it a mental discipline, while to another and equally valuable class of minds it presents difficulties so great as actually to crush and discourage. There are, we will venture to say, in every ten boys in Boston four, and those not the dullest or poorest in quality, who could never go through the discipline of the Boston Latin School without such a strain on the brain and nervous system as would leave them no power for anything else.
A bright, intelligent boy, whose talents lay in the line of natural philosophy and mechanics, passed with brilliant success through the Boston English High School. He won the first medals, and felt all that pride and enthusiasm which belong to a successful student. He entered the Latin Classical School. With a large philosophic and reasoning brain, he had a very poor verbal and textual memory; and here he began to see himself distanced by boys who had hitherto looked up to him. They could rattle off catalogues of names; they could do so all the better from the habit of not thinking of what they studied. They could commit the Latin Grammar, coarse print and fine, and run through the interminable mazes of Greek accents and Greek inflections. This boy of large mind and brain, always behindhand, always incapable, utterly discouraged, no amount of study could place on an equality with his former inferiors. His health failed, and he dropped from school. Many a fine fellow has been lost to himself, and lost to an educated life, by just such a failure. The collegiate system is like a great coal-screen: every piece not of a certain size must fall through. This may do well enough for screening coal; but what if it were used indiscriminately for a mixture of coal and diamonds?
"Poor boy!" said Ole Bull, compassionately, when one sought to push a schoolboy from the steps of an omnibus, where he was getting a surreptitious ride. "Poor boy! let him stay. Who knows his trials? Perhaps he studies Latin."
The witty Heinrich Heine says, in bitter remembrance of his early sufferings,--"The Romans would never have conquered the world, if they had had to learn their own language. They had leisure, because they were born with the knowledge of what nouns form their accusatives in _im_."
Now we are not among those who decry the Greek and Latin classics. We think it a glorious privilege to read both those grand old tongues, and that an intelligent, cultivated man who is shut out from the converse of the splendid minds of those olden times loses a part of his birthright; and therefore it is that we mourn that but one dry, hard, technical path, one sharp, straight, narrow way, is allowed into so goodly a land of knowledge. We think there is no need that the study of Greek and Latin should be made such a horror. There is many a man without a verbal memory, who could neither recite in order the paradigms of the Greek verbs, nor repeat the lists of nouns that form their accusative in one termination or another, who, nevertheless, by the exercise of his faculties of comparison and reasoning, could learn to read the Greek and Latin classics so as to take their sense and enjoy their spirit; and that is all that they are worth caring for. We have known one young scholar, who could not by any possibility repeat the lists of exceptions to the rules in the Latin Grammar, who yet delightedly filled his private note-book with quotations from the "Æneid," and was making extracts of literary gems from his Greek Reader, at the same time that he was every day "screwed" by his tutor upon some technical point of the language.
Is there not many a master of English, many a writer and orator, who could not repeat from memory the list of nouns ending in _y_ that form their plural in _ies_, with the exceptions under it? How many of us could do this? Would it help a good writer and fluent speaker to know the whole of Murray's Grammar by heart, or does real knowledge of a language ever come in this way?
At present the rich stores of ancient literature are kept like the savory stew which poor Dominie Sampson heard simmering in the witch's kettle. One may have much appetite, but there is but one way of getting it. The Meg Merrilies of our educational system, with her harsh voice, and her "Gape, sinner, and swallow," is the only introduction,--and so, many a one turns and runs frightened from the feast.
This intolerant mode of teaching the classical languages is peculiar to them alone. Multitudes of girls and boys are learning to read and to speak German, French, and Italian, and to feel all the delights of expatiating in the literature of a new language, purely because of a simpler, more natural, less pedantic mode of teaching these languages.
Intolerance in the established system of education works misery in families, because family pride decrees that every boy of good status in society, will he, nill he, shall go through college, or he almost forfeits his position as a gentleman.
"Not go to Cambridge!" says Scholasticus to his first-born. "Why, I went there,--and my father, and his father, and his father before him. Look at the Cambridge Catalogue and you will see the names of our family ever since the College was founded!"
"But I can't learn Latin and Greek," says young Scholasticus. "I can't remember all those rules and exceptions. I've tried, and I can't. If you could only know how my head feels when I try! And I won't be at the foot of the class all the time, if I have to get my living by digging."
Suppose, now, the boy is pushed on at the point of the bayonet to a kind of knowledge in which he has no interest, communicated in a way that requires faculties which Nature has not given him,--what occurs?
He goes through his course, either shamming, shirking, parrying, all the while consciously discredited and dishonored,--or else putting forth an effort that is a draft on all his nervous energy, he makes merely a decent scholar, and loses his health for life.
Now, if the principle of toleration were once admitted into classical education,--if it were admitted that the great object is to read and enjoy a language, and the stress of the teaching were placed on the few things absolutely essential to this result,--if the tortoise were allowed time to creep, and the bird permitted to fly, and the fish to swim, towards the enchanted and divine sources of Helicon,--all might in their own way arrive there, and rejoice in its flowers, its beauty, and its coolness.
"But," say the advocates of the present system, "it is good mental discipline."
I doubt it. It is mere waste of time.
When a boy has learned that in the genitive plural of the first declension of Greek nouns the final syllable is circumflexed, but to this there are the following exceptions: 1. That feminine adjectives and participles in [Greek: -os, -ê, -on] are accented like the genitive masculine, but other feminine adjectives and participles are perispomena in the genitive plural; 2. That the substantives _chrestes_, _aphue_, _etesiai_, and _chlounes_ in the genitive plural remain paroxytones, (Kühner's _Elementary Greek Grammar_, page 22,)--I say, when a boy has learned this and twenty other things just like it, his mind has not been one whit more disciplined than if he had learned the list of the old thirteen States, the number and names of the newly adopted ones, the times of their adoption, and the population, commerce, mineral and agricultural wealth of each. These, too, are merely exercises of memory, but they are exercises in what is of some interest and some use.
The particulars above cited are of so little use in understanding the Greek classics that I will venture to say that there are intelligent English scholars, who have never read anything but Bohn's translations, who have more genuine knowledge of the spirit of the Greek mind, and the peculiar idioms of the language, and more enthusiasm for it, than many a poor fellow who has stumbled blindly through the originals with the bayonet of the tutor at his heels, and his eyes and ears full of the Scotch snuff of the Greek Grammar.
What then? Shall we not learn these ancient tongues? By all means. "So many times as I learn a language, so many times I become a man," said Charles V.; and he said rightly. Latin and Greek are foully belied by the prejudices created by this technical, pedantic mode of teaching them, which makes one ragged, prickly bundle of all the dry facts of the language, and insists upon it that the boy shall not see one glimpse of its beauty, glory, or interest, till he has swallowed and digested the whole mass. Many die in this wilderness with their shoes worn out before reaching the Promised Land of Plato and the Tragedians.
"But," say our college authorities, "look at England. An English schoolboy learns three times the Latin and Greek that our boys learn, and has them well drubbed in."
And English boys have three times more beef and pudding in their constitution than American boys have, and three times less of nerves. The difference of nature must be considered here; and the constant influence flowing from English schools and universities must be tempered by considering who we are, what sort of boys we have to deal with, what treatment they can bear, and what are the needs of our growing American society.
The demands of actual life, the living, visible facts of practical science, in so large and new a country as ours, require that the ideas of the ancients should be given us in the shortest and most economical way possible, and that scholastic technicalities should be reserved to those whom Nature made with especial reference to their preservation.
On no subject is there more intolerant judgment, and more suffering from such intolerance, than on the much mooted one of the education of children.
Treatises on education require altogether too much of parents, and impose burdens of responsibility on tender spirits which crush the life and strength out of them. Parents have been talked to as if each child came to them a soft, pulpy mass, which they were to pinch and pull and pat and stroke into shape quite at their leisure,--and a good pattern being placed before them, they were to proceed immediately to set up and construct a good human being in conformity therewith.
It is strange that believers in the divine inspiration of the Bible should have entertained this idea, overlooking the constant and affecting declaration of the great Heavenly Father that _He_ has nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against Him, together with His constant appeals,--"What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" If even God, wiser, better, purer, more loving, admits Himself baffled in this great work, is it expedient to say to human beings that the forming power, the deciding force, of a child's character is in their hands?
Many a poor feeble woman's health has been strained to breaking, and her life darkened, by the laying on her shoulders of a burden of responsibility that never ought to have been placed there; and many a mother has been hindered from using such powers as God has given her, because some preconceived mode of operation has been set up before her which she could no more make effectual than David could wear the armor of Saul.
A gentle, loving, fragile creature marries a strong-willed, energetic man, and by the laws of natural descent has a boy given to her of twice her amount of will and energy. She is just as helpless, in the mere struggle of will and authority with such a child, as she would be in a physical wrestle with a six-foot man.
What then? Has Nature left her helpless for her duties? Not if she understands her nature, and acts in the line of it. She has no power of command, but she has power of persuasion. She can neither bend nor break the boy's iron will, but she can melt it. She has tact to avoid the conflict in which she would be worsted. She can charm, amuse, please, and make willing; and her fine and subtile influences, weaving themselves about him day after day, become more and more powerful. Let her alone, and she will have her boy yet.
But now some bustling mother-in-law or other privileged expounder says to her,--
"My dear, it's your solemn duty to break that boy's will. I broke my boy's will short off. Keep your whip in sight, meet him at every turn, fight him whenever he crosses you, never let him get one victory, and finally his will will be wholly subdued."
Such advice is mischievous, because what it proposes is as utter an impossibility to the woman's nature as for a cow to scratch up worms for her calf, or a hen to suckle her chickens.
There are men and women of strong, resolute will who are gifted with the power of governing the wills of others. Such persons can govern in this way,--and their government, being in the line of their nature, acting strongly, consistently, naturally, makes everything move harmoniously. Let them be content with their own success, but let them not set up as general education-doctors, or apply their experience to all possible cases.
Again, there are others, and among some of the loveliest and purest natures, who have no power of command. They have sufficient tenacity of will as respects their own course, but have no compulsory power over the wills of others. Many such women have been most successful mothers, when they followed the line of their own natures, and did not undertake what they never could do.
_Influence_ is a slower acting force than authority. It seems weaker, but in the long run it often effects more. It always does better than mere force and authority without its gentle modifying power.
If a mother is high-principled, religious, affectionate, if she never uses craft or deception, if she governs her temper and sets a good example, let her hold on in good hope, though she cannot produce the discipline of a man-of-war in her noisy little flock, or make all move as smoothly as some other women to whom God has given another and different talent; and let her not be discouraged, if she seem often to accomplish but little in that great work of forming human character wherein the great Creator of the world has declared Himself at times baffled.
Family tolerance must take great account of the stages and periods of development and growth in children.
The passage of a human being from one stage of development to another, like the sun's passage across the equator, frequently has its storms and tempests. The change to manhood and womanhood often involves brain, nerves, body, and soul in confusion; the child sometimes seems lost to himself and his parents,--his very nature changing. In this sensitive state come restless desires, unreasonable longings, unsettled purposes; and the fatal habit of indulgence in deadly stimulants, ruining all the life, often springs form the cravings of this transition period.
Here must come in the patience of the saints. The restlessness must be soothed, the family hearth must be tolerant enough to keep there the boy, whom Satan will receive and cherish, them if his mother does not. The male element sometimes pours into a boy, like the tides in the Bay of Fundy, with tumult and tossing. He is noisy, vociferous, uproarious, and seems bent only on disturbance; he despises conventionalities, he hates parlors, he longs for the woods, the sea, the converse of rough men, and kicks at constraint of all kinds. Have patience now, let love have its perfect work, and in a year or two, if no deadly physical habits set in, a quiet, well-mannered gentleman will be evolved. Meanwhile, if he does not wipe his shoes, and if he will fling his hat upon the floor, and tear his clothes, and bang and hammer and shout, and cause general confusion in his belongings, do not despair; if you only get your son, the hat and clothes and shoes and noise and confusion do not matter. Any amount of toleration that keeps a boy contented at home is treasure well expended at this time of life.
One thing not enough reflected on is, that in this transition period between childhood and maturity the heaviest draft and strain of school education occurs. The boy is fitting for the university, the girl going through the studies of the college senior year, and the brain-power, which is working almost to the breaking-point to perfect the physical change, has the additional labor of all the drill and discipline of school.
The girl is growing into a tall and shapely woman, and the poor brain is put to it to find enough phosphate of lime, carbon, and other what not, to build her fair edifice. The bills flow in upon her thick and fast; she pays out hand over hand: if she had only her woman to build, she might get along, but now come in demands for algebra, geometry, music, language, and the poor brain-bank stops payment; some part of the work is shabbily done, and a crooked spine or weakened lungs are the result.
Boarding-schools, both for boys and girls, are for the most part composed of young people in this most delicate, critical portion of their physical, mental, and moral development, whose teachers are expected to put them through one straight, severe course of drill, without the slightest allowance for the great physical facts of their being. No wonder they are difficult to manage, and that so many of them drop, physically, mentally, and morally halt and maimed. It is not the teacher's fault; he but fulfils the parent's requisition, which dooms his child without appeal to a certain course, simply because others have gone through it.
Finally, as my sermon is too long already, let me end with a single reflection. Every human being has some handle by which he may be lifted, some groove in which he was meant to run; and the great work of life, as far as our relations with each other are concerned, is to lift each one by his own proper handle, and run each one in his own proper groove.
THE JAGUAR HUNT.
The dark jaguar was abroad in the land; His strength and his fierceness what foe could withstand? The breath of his anger was hot on the air, And the white lamb of Peace he had dragged to his lair.
Then up rose the Farmer; he summoned his sons: "Now saddle your horses, now look to your guns!" And he called to his hound, as he sprang from the ground To the back of his black pawing steed with a bound.
Oh, their hearts, at the word, how they tingled and stirred! They followed, all belted and booted and spurred. "Buckle tight, boys!" said he, "for who gallops with me, Such a hunt as was never before he shall see!
"This traitor, we know him! for when he was younger, We flattered him, patted him, fed his fierce hunger: But now far too long we have borne with the wrong, For each morsel we tossed makes him savage and strong."
Then said one, "He must die!" And they took up the cry, "For this last crime of his he must die! he must die!" But the slow eldest-born sauntered sad and forlorn, For his heart was at home on that fair hunting-morn.
"I remember," he said, "how this fine cub we track Has carried me many a time on his back!" And he called to his brothers, "Fight gently! be kind!" And he kept the dread hound, Retribution, behind.
The dark jaguar on a bough in the brake Crouched, silent and wily, and lithe as a snake: They spied not their game, but, as onward they came, Through the dense leafage gleamed two red eyeballs of flame.
Black-spotted, and mottled, and whiskered, and grim, White-bellied, and yellow, he lay on the limb, All so still that you saw but just one tawny paw Lightly reach through the leaves and as softly withdraw.
Then shrilled his fierce cry, as the riders drew nigh, And he shot from the bough like a bolt from the sky: In the foremost he fastened his fangs as he fell, While all the black jungle reëchoed his yell.
Oh, then there was carnage by field and by flood! The green sod was crimsoned, the rivers ran blood, The cornfields were trampled, and all in their track The beautiful valley lay blasted and black.
Now the din of the conflict swells deadly and loud, And the dust of the tumult rolls up like a cloud: Then afar down the slope of the Southland recedes The wild rapid clatter of galloping steeds.
With wide nostrils smoking, and flanks dripping gore, The black stallion bore his bold rider before, As onward they thundered through forest and glen, A-hunting the dark jaguar to his den.
In April, sweet April, the chase was begun; It was April again, when the hunting was done: The snows of four winters and four summers green Lay red-streaked and trodden and blighted between.
Then the monster stretched all his grim length on the ground; His life-blood was wasting from many a wound; Ferocious and gory and snarling he lay, Amid heaps of the whitening bones of his prey.
Then up spoke the slow eldest son, and he said, "All he needs now is just to be fostered and fed! Give over the strife! Brothers, put up the knife! We will tame him, reclaim him, but take not his life!"
But the Farmer flung back the false words in his face: "He is none of my race, who gives counsel so base! Now let loose the hound!" And the hound was unbound, And like lightning the heart of the traitor he found.
"So rapine and treason forever shall cease!" And they wash the stained fleece of the pale lamb of Peace; When, lo! a strong angel stands wingèd and white In a wonderful raiment of ravishing light!
Peace is raised from the dead! In the radiance shed By the halo of glory that shines round her head, Fair gardens shall bloom where the black jungle grew, And all the glad valley shall blossom anew!
LATE SCENES IN RICHMOND.
In the July (1864) number of this magazine there is an article entitled "The May Campaign in Virginia," which gives an outline of the operations of the Army of the Potomac in its march from its encampment on the Rapidan, through the tangled thickets of the Wilderness, to the bloody fields of Spottsylvania, across the North Anna, to the old battle-ground of Cold Harbor. The closing paragraph of that article is an appropriate introduction to the present. It is as follows:--
"The line of advance taken by General Grant turned the Rebels from Washington. The country over which the two armies marched is a desolation. There is no subsistence remaining. The railroads are destroyed. Lee has no longer the power to invade the North. On the other hand, General Grant can swing upon the James, and isolate the Rebel army from direct communication with the South. That accomplished, and, sooner or later, with Hunter in the Shenandoah, with Union cavalry sweeping down to Wilmington, Weldon, and Danville, and up to the Blue Ridge, cutting railroads, burning bridges, destroying supplies of ammunition and provisions, the question with Lee must be, not one of earthworks and cannon and powder and ball, but of subsistence. Plainly, the day is approaching when the Army of the Potomac, unfortunate at times in the past, derided, ridiculed, but now triumphant through unparalleled hardship, endurance, courage, persistency, will plant its banners on the defences of Richmond, crumble the Rebel army beyond the possibility of future cohesion, and, in conjunction with the forces in other departments, crush out the last vestige of the Rebellion."
So it has proved. The railroads are destroyed, the bridges burned, the supplies of ammunition and provision exhausted; the flag of the Union floats over the city which the Rebels have called their capital; the troops of the Union patrol the streets of Richmond, and occupy all the principal towns of Virginia; Lee's army has melted away, and the power of the Rebellion is broken.
Before entering upon a narration of the campaign of a week which gave us Richmond and the Rebel army at the same time, it will widen our scope of vision to inquire
HOW RICHMOND BECAME THE CAPITAL OF THE CONFEDERACY.
On the 17th of April, 1861, Virginia in Convention passed an Ordinance of Secession. The Convention, when elected on the 4th of February preceding, was largely Anti-Secession; but the events which had taken place,--the firing on Sumter, its surrender, with the machinations of the leaders of Secession,--their misrepresentations of the North, of what Mr. Lincoln would do,--their promises that there would be no war, that the Yankees would not fight,--their bullyings when they could not cajole, their threatenings when they could not intimidate,--their rejoicings at the bloodless victory won by South Carolina, single-handed, over a starved garrison,--their bonfires and illuminations, their baskets of Champagne and bottles of whiskey,--all of these forces combined were sufficient to carry the Ordinance of Secession through the Convention. But it was hampered by a proviso submitting it to the people for ratification on the Fourth Thursday of May following.
John Letcher was Governor of Virginia. Weak in intellect, grovelling in his tastes, often drunk, rarely sober, at times making such beastly exhibition of himself that the Richmond press pronounced him a public nuisance, he was a fit tool of the Secession conspirators. Ready to do what he could to commit the State to overt acts against the United States Government, on the evening after the passage of the Ordinance he issued orders to the State militia around Winchester to seize the Arsenal at Harper's Ferry,--on his own sole responsibility, and without a shadow of authority from the people of the State, inaugurating civil war, a proceeding which he followed up directly afterwards by proclaiming Virginia a member of the Confederacy, and thus carrying the State at once out of the Union, without awaiting the formality of a popular vote.
Already the intentions of the Confederate Government were manifest.
"I prophesy that the flag which now flaunts the breeze here will float over the old Capitol in Washington before the first of May," said Mr. L.P. Walker, Secretary of War, the evening after the fall of Sumter, to a crazy crowd in Montgomery, then the Rebel capital.
"From the mountain-tops and valleys to the shores of the sea, there is one wild shout of fierce resolve to capture Washington City at all and every human hazard. That filthy cage of unclean birds must and will assuredly be purified by fire," shouted John Mitchell, through the "Richmond Examiner," on the 23d of April.
"Washington City will soon be too hot to hold Abraham Lincoln and his Government," wrote the editor of the "Raleigh Standard" on the 24th.
"We are in lively hope, that, before three months roll by, the Government, Congress, Departments and all, will have been removed to the present Federal capital," wrote the Montgomery correspondent of the "Charleston Courier" on the 28th of the same month.
"We are not in the secrets of our authorities enough to specify the day on which Jeff Davis will dine at the White House, and Ben McCullough take his siesta in General Sickles's gilded tent. We should not like to produce any disappointment by naming too soon or too early a day; but it will save trouble, if the gentlemen will keep themselves in readiness to dislodge at a moment's notice," said the "Richmond Whig" on the 22d of May.
The Rebel Congress had already adjourned, and was on its way to Richmond. Not only Congress, but all the Departments, were on the move, intending to tarry at Richmond but a day or two, till General Scott, and Abraham Lincoln, and the Yankees, who were swarming into Washington, were driven out. Thus Richmond became, though only temporarily, as all hands in the South supposed, the capital of the Confederacy.
A week later Jeff Davis was welcomed to Richmond by the people, says Pollard, the author of the "Southern History of the War," an implacable hater of the North, "with a burst of genuine joy and enthusiasm to which none of the military pageants of the North could furnish a parallel." President Davis, in response to the call of the populace, made a speech, in which he said,--
"When the time and occasion serve, we shall smite the smiter with manly arms, as did our fathers before us, and as becomes their sons. To the enemy we leave the base _acts of the assassin and incendiary_; to them we leave it to insult helpless women: to us belongs vengeance upon men. We will make the battle-fields in Virginia another Buena Vista, drenched with more precious blood than flowed there."
But Colonel Robert E. Lee, who was in command of the Rebel forces in Virginia, was not quite ready to take Washington; and so the Rebel Congress commenced its sessions in the State capital. Mr. Memminger set up his printing-presses, and issued his promises to pay the debts of the Confederacy two years after the treaty of peace with the United States; Mr. Mallory began to consider how to construct rams; while Mr. Toombs, and his successor, Mr. Benjamin, wrote letters of instruction from the State Department to Rebel agents in Europe, and looked longingly and expectantly for immediate recognition of the Confederacy as an independent power among the nations.
The sleepy city awoke to a new life. Regiments of infantry came pouring in, not only from the hills and valleys of the Old Dominion, but from every nook and corner of the Confederate States,--the Palmetto Guards, Marion Rifles, Jeff-Davis Grays, Whippy-Swamp Grenadiers, Chickasaw Braves, Tigers, Dare-Devils, and Yankee-Butchers,--fired with patriotism and whiskey, proud to be in Richmond, to march through its streets, beneath the flags wrought by the fair ladies of the sunny South, for whom each man had sworn to kill a Yankee! Lieutenants, captains, majors, colonels, and generals, glittering with golden stars, with clanking sabres, and twinkling spurs, thronged the hotels in all the pomp of modern chivalry. With the marching of troops, and the gathering of men from every precinct of the Confederacy in search of official position in the bureaus or to obtain contracts from Government,--with the rush and whirl of business, and the inflation of prices of all commodities,--with the stream of gayety and fashion attendant upon the Confederate court, where Mrs. Jefferson Davis was queen-regnant,--with its gilded drinking-saloons and gambling-hells,--Richmond became a Babylon.
"ON TO RICHMOND!"
It was a natural cry, that slogan of the North in the early months of the war; for, in ordinary warfare, to capture an enemy's capital is equivalent to conquering a peace. It was thought that the taking of Richmond would be the end of the Rebellion. Time has disabused us of this idea. To have taken Richmond in 1861 would only have been the repacking of the Department trunks for Montgomery or some other convenient Southern city. The vitality of the Rebellion existed not in cities, towns, or capitals, but in that which could die only by annihilation,--Human Slavery. That was and is the "original sin" of the Rebellion,--the total depravity and innate heinousness, to use theological terminology, without which there could not have been treason, secession, and rebellion.
But forgetting all this,--looking constantly at effect, without searching for cause,--hearing only the drum-beat of the armed legions of the South mustering for the overthrow of the nation,--wilfully shutting our ears to the clanking of the chains of the slave-coffle,--deaf to the prayer, "How long, O Lord?" uttered morning, noon, and night by men and women who were turned back to bondage from our lines,--forgetting that Justice and Right are the foundations of the throne of God,--the army of General McDowell marched confidently out to Bull Run on its way to Richmond, and returned to Washington defeated, routed, disorganized, humiliated. And yet we now see that to the South the victory which set the whole Confederacy on flame was a defeat, and to the North that which seemed an overwhelming disaster was a triumph; for so God changes the warp and woof of human events. The Southern leaders became over-confident. They could have taken Washington, but did not make the attempt to do so till the golden moment had passed, never to return. "We have let Washington slip through our fingers," was the bitter lamentation of the "Richmond Examiner," a few days after the Battle of Bull Run,--after the second uprising of the people to save the Union.
When God takes a proud and wayward nation in hand, and instructs it by the hard lessons of adversity,--by plans overthrown, ambition checked, pride humiliated, and hopes disappointed, which wring tears from the eyes of widows and orphans, and by which men in the prime of life are bowed down to the grave with grief for sons slain in battle,--He does it for a great purpose. But the nation was blind to the moral of the terrible lesson. We are slow to receive and accept eternal truths. And so, instead of aiming at Slavery as the life of the Rebellion, McClellan marched up the Peninsula through the mud to capture Richmond, and conquer a peace simply by taking the Rebel capital. He was learned in military lore, had visited Europe, and made war after the European pattern. But in a war of ideas and principles, the mere taking of an enemy's capital cannot end the contest. In such a strife there is the war of invisible forces,--the marshalling of Cherubim and Seraphim against rebellious hosts,--the old contest of the heavenly fields renewed on earth.
The nation was long in awaking to the consciousness that driving Lee out of Richmond would not end the Rebellion. It was more than this: it was a casting-out of prejudice, a discarding of political chicanery and a time-serving policy, and a recognition of Justice, Right, and Freedom as the true elements of political economy. There was an increasing desire on the part of the people to root out Slavery from American soil.
It will be for the future historian to trace the providential dealings of God with the nation, and to show how far and in what degree the failure of Burnside at Fredericksburg and of Hooker at Chancellorsville was affected by the want of moral perceptions on the part of the army and of the people at that stage of the war: for there were thousands of officers and soldiers at that time who were not willing to fight by the side of a negro. We have not advanced far enough even now to allow the colored man full privileges of citizenship. We are willing that he should be a soldier, carry a gun, and fire a bullet at the enemy; but are we willing that he should march up to the ballot-box, and fire a peaceful ballot against the same enemy? Strange incongruity!
The colored men of Richmond, of Charleston, of Savannah, of all the South, have been and are now the true Union men of the seceded States. When or where have they raised their hands against the Union? They have fought for the flag of the Union, and have earned by their patriotism and valor a name and a place in history. Citizenship is theirs by natural right; besides, they have earned it. Make the freedman a voter, a land-owner, a tax-payer, permit him to sue and be sued, give him in every respect free franchise, and the recompense will be security, peace, and prosperity. Anything less than absolute right will sooner or later bring trouble in its train. Now, in this day of settlement, this reconstruction of the nation, this renewal of life, it is the privilege of America to become the world's great teacher and benefactor.
After the disaster at Chancellorsville, there came a season of sober reflection, and men began to understand that this is God's war. Then there came a commander who believed that the power of the Rebellion lay not in Richmond, but in the Rebel army, and that the taking of Richmond was altogether a secondary consideration,--that the only way of subduing the Rebellion was to fight it down. He was ready to employ soldiers of every hue. This brings us to consider
HOW RICHMOND WAS TAKEN.
General Grant, fresh from his great success at Vicksburg and Chattanooga, having shown that he had military genius of a high order, was created Lieutenant-General, and appointed to the command of all the armies of the Union in the field. It was the beginning of a new _régime_. Up to that time there had been little concert of action between commanders. The armies lacked a head. The President, General Halleck, Secretary Stanton, had ideas of their own upon the best methods and plans for conducting the war. Department commanders worked at cross purposes. Each officer in the field naturally looked upon his sphere of action as the most important of all, and each had his own plan of operations to lay before the Secretary of War. A million men were tugging manfully at the Car of Freedom, which was at a stand-still, or moved only by inches, because they had no head. But when the President appointed General Grant to the command, he gave up his own plans, while General Halleck became a subordinate. The department commanders found all their plans set aside. There was not merely concert of action, but unity of action, under the controlling force of an imperial will.
In the article entitled "The May Campaign in Virginia," the movements of the Army of the Potomac, from the Rapidan to Cold Harbor, are given. It is not intended in the present article to dwell in detail upon all the subsequent movements of that army and its allies, the Armies of the James and the Shenandoah. Volumes are needed to narrate the operations around Petersburg,--the battles fought on the 18th and 19th of June east of that city,--the struggles for the Weldon Railroad,--the movements between the James and the Appomattox, and north of the James,--the failure in the springing of the mine,--the march of the Fifth Corps to Stony Creek,--the battles between the Weldon Road and Hatcher's Run,--the many contests, sharp, fierce, and bloody, between the opposing lines, whenever an attempt was made by either army to erect new works,--the fights on Hatcher's Run,--the attack upon Fort Harrison, north of the James,--the successive attempts of each commander to break the lines of the other, ending with the Fort Stedman affair, the last offensive effort of General Lee. The new campaign which was inaugurated the next day after the attack on Fort Stedman compelled the Rebel chief to stand wholly on the defensive.
The appointment of General Grant to the command of all the armies was not only the beginning of a new _régime_, but the adoption of a new idea,--that Lee's army was the objective point, rather than the city of Richmond.
"The power of the Rebellion lies in the Rebel army," said General Grant to the writer one evening in June last. We had been conversing upon Fort Donelson and Pittsburg Landing. One by one his staff officers dropped off to their own tents, and we were alone. It was a quiet, starlit night. The Lieutenant-General was enjoying his fragrant Havana cigar, and was in a mood for conversation, not upon what he was going to do, but upon what had been done. He is always wisely reticent upon the present and future, but agreeably communicative upon what has passed into history.
"I have lost a good many men since the army left the Rapidan, but there was no help for it. The Rebel army must be destroyed before we can put down the Rebellion," he continued.[I]
There was a disposition at that time on the part of the disloyal press of the North to bring General Grant into bad odor. He was called "The Butcher." Even some Republican Congressmen were ready to demand his removal. General Grant alluded to it and said,--
"God knows I don't want to see men slaughtered; but we have appealed to arms, and we have got to fight it out."
He had already given public utterance to the expression,--"I intend to fight it out on this line, if it takes all summer."
Referring to the successive flank movements which had been made, from the Rapidan to the Wilderness, to Spottsylvania, to the North Anna, to the Chickahominy, to Petersburg, he said,--
"My object has been to get between Lee and his southern communications."
At that time the Weldon Road was in the hands of the enemy, and Early was on a march down the Valley, towards Washington. This movement was designed to frighten Grant and send him back by steamboat to defend the capital; but the Sixth Corps only was sent, while the troops remaining still kept pressing on in a series of flank movements, which resulted in the seizure of the Weldon Road. That was the most damaging blow which Lee had received. He made desperate efforts to recover what had been lost, but in vain. It was the beginning of the end. Then the public generally could see the meaning of General Grant's strategy,--that the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, and all the terrible battles which had been fought, were according to a plan, which, if carried out, must end in victory. The Richmond newspapers, which had ridiculed the campaign, and had found an echo in the disloyal press of the North, began to discuss the question of supplies; and to keep their courage up, they indulged in boastful declarations that the Southside Railroad never could be taken.
The march of Sherman from Atlanta to Savannah and through South Carolina, destroying railroads and supplies,--the taking of Wilmington,--Sheridan's movement from Winchester up the Valley of the Shenandoah, striking the James River Canal and the Central Railroad, and then the transfer of his whole force from the White House to the left flank of the Army of the Potomac,--were parts of a well matured design to weaken Lee's army.
Everything was ready for the final blow. The forces of General Grant were disposed as follows. The Army of the James, composed of the Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth Corps, and commanded by General Ord, was north of the James River, its right flank resting near the old battle-field of Glendale, and its left flank on the Appomattox. The Ninth Army Corps--the right wing of the Army of the Potomac--was next in line, then the Sixth, and then the Second, its left resting on Hatcher's Run. The Fifth was in rear of the Second. The line thus held was nearly forty miles in length, defended on the front and rear by strong earthworks and abatis.
General Grant's entire force could not have been much less than a hundred and thirty thousand, including Sheridan's cavalry, the force at City Point, and the provisional brigade at Fort Powhatan. Lee's whole force was not far from seventy thousand,--or seventy-five thousand, including the militia of Richmond and Petersburg; but he was upon the defensive, and held an interior and shorter line.
The work which General Grant had in hand was the seizure of the Southside Railroad by an extension of his left flank. He had attempted it once with the Fifth Corps, at Dabney's Mill, and had failed; but that attempt had been of value: he had gained a knowledge of the country. His engineers had mapped it, the roads, the streams, the houses. The fight at Dabney's Mill was a random stroke,--a "feeling of the position," to use a term common in camp,--which enabled him to detect the weak point of Lee's lines. To comprehend the movement, it is necessary to understand the geographical and topographical features of the country, which are somewhat peculiar. Hatcher's Run is a branch of the Nottoway River, which has its rise in a swamp about four miles from the Appomattox and twenty southwest of Petersburg. The Southside Railroad runs southwest from Petersburg, along the ridge of land between the Appomattox and the head-waters of the Nottoway, protected by the swamp of Hatcher's Run and by the swamp of Stony Creek, another tributary of the Nottoway.
The point aimed at by General Grant is known as the "Five Forks," a place where five roads meet, on the table-land between the head-waters of Hatcher's Run and Stony Creek. It was the most accessible gateway leading to the railroad. If he could break through at that point, he would turn Lee's flank, deprive him of the protection of the swamps, use them for his own cover, and seize the railroad. To take the Five Forks was to take all; for the long and terrible conflict had become so shorn of its outside proportions, so reduced to simple elements, that, if Lee lost that position, all was lost,--Petersburg, Richmond, his army, and the Confederacy.
Surprise is expressed that the Rebellion went down so suddenly, in a night, at one blow, toppling over like a child's house of cards, imposing to look upon, yet of very little substance; but the calculations of General Grant were to give a finishing stroke.
If, by massing the main body of his troops upon the extreme left of his line, he succeeded in carrying the position of the Five Forks, it would compel Lee to evacuate Richmond. Lee's line of retreat must necessarily be towards Danville; but Grant, at the Five Forks, would be nearer Danville by several miles than Lee; and he would thus, instead of the exterior line, have the interior, with the power to push Lee at every step farther from his direct line of retreat. That Grant saw all this, and executed his plan, is evidence of great military ability. The plan involved not merely the carrying of the Five Forks, but great activity afterwards. The capture of Lee was a forethought, not an afterthought.
"Commissaries will prepare twelve days' rations," was his order, which meant a long march, and the annihilation of Lee's army. An ordinary commander might have been satisfied with merely breaking down the door, and seizing the railroad, knowing that it would be the beginning of dissolution to the Rebel army; but Grant's plan went farther,--the routing of the burglar from his house, and dispatching him on the spot. Perhaps Lee saw what the end would be, and did the best he could with his troops; but inasmuch as he did not issue the order for the transfer of a division from Richmond to the south side till Saturday night, after the Five Forks were lost, it may be presumed that he did not fully comprehend the importance of holding that gateway. If he had seen that Richmond must be eventually evacuated, he might have saved his army by a sudden withdrawal from both Richmond and Petersburg on Friday night, pushing down the Southside Road, and throwing his whole force on Sheridan and the Fifth Corps, which would have enabled him to reach Danville. Not doing that, he lost all.
It is not intended in this article to give the details of the attack at the Five Forks and along the line, but merely to show how the forces were wielded in that last magnificent, annihilating blow.
On the 25th of March, the Twenty-Fourth Corps was transferred from the north side of the James to Hatcher's Run, taking the position of the Second Corps.
The force designed for the attack upon the Five Forks was composed of the Fifth Corps and Sheridan's Cavalry,--the whole under command of Sheridan. The Second Corps was massed across Hatcher's Run, and kept in position to frustrate any attempt which might be made to cut Sheridan off from the support of the main army.
Sheridan found a large force in front of him, along Chamberlain's Creek, three miles west of Dinwiddie Court-House. He had hard fighting, and was repulsed. There was want of cooperation on the part of Warren, commanding the Fifth Corps, who was relieved of his command the next morning, General Griffin succeeding him. A heavy rain-storm came on. Wagons went hub-deep in the mud. The swamps were overflowed. The army came to a stand-still. The soldiers were without tents. Thousands had thrown away their blankets. There was gloom and discouragement throughout the camp. But all the axes and shovels were brought into requisition, and the men went to work building corduroy roads. It was much better for the _morale_ of the army than to sit by bivouac-fires waiting for sunny skies. The week passed away. The Richmond papers were confident and boastful of final success.
"We are very hopeful of the campaign which is opening, and trust that we are to reap a large advantage from the operations evidently near at hand.... We have only to resolve that we will never surrender, and it will be impossible that we shall ever be taken," said the "Sentinel," in its issue of Saturday morning, April 1st, the last paper ever issued from that office. The editor was not aware of the fact, that on Friday evening, while he was penning this paragraph, Sheridan was bursting open the door at the Five Forks and had the Rebellion by the throat. Lee attempted to retrieve the disaster on Saturday by depleting his left and centre to reinforce his right. Then came the order from Grant, "Attack vigorously all along the line." How splendidly it was executed! The Ninth, the Sixth, the Second, the Twenty-Fourth Corps, all went tumbling in upon the enemy's works, like breakers upon the beach, tearing away _chevaux-de-frise_, rushing into the ditches, sweeping over the embankments, and dashing through the embrasures of the forts. In an hour the C. S. A.,--the Confederate Slave Argosy,--the Ship of State launched but four years ago, which went proudly sailing, with the death's-head and cross-bones at her truck, on a cruise against Civilization and Christianity, hailed as a rightful belligerent, furnished with guns, ammunition, provisions, and all needful supplies, by England and France, was thrown a helpless wreck upon the shores of Time!
It would be interesting to follow the troops in their victorious advance upon Petersburg, their closing in upon Lee, the magnificent tactics of the pursuit, and the scenes of the surrender; but in this article we have space only to glance at
SCENES IN RICHMOND.
"My line is broken in three places, and Richmond must be evacuated," was Lee's despatch to Davis, received by the arch-traitor at eleven and a half o'clock in St. Paul's Church. He read it with blanched cheeks, and left the church in haste.
Davis had robbed the banks of Virginia a few days before, seizing the bullion in the name of the Confederacy; and his first thought was how to secure the treasure.
He hurried to the executive mansion, passed up the winding stairway to his business apartment, seated himself at a small table, wrote an order for the removal of the coin to Danville, and for the evacuation of the city.
There was no evening service in the churches on that Sunday. Ministers and congregations were otherwise employed. The Reverend Mr. Hoge, ablest of the Presbyterian pastors, fiercest advocate of them all for Slavery as a divine missionary institution, bitterest hater of the North, packed his carpet-bag and took a long Sabbath-day's journey towards the South. The Reverend Mr. Duncan, of the Methodist Church, did the same work of necessity. Lumpkin, who for many years has kept a slave-trader's jail, also had a work of necessity on hand,--fifty men, women, and children, who must be saved to the missionary institution for the future enlightenment of Africa. Although it was the Lord's day, (perhaps he was comforted by the thought, that, the better the day, the better the deed,) the coffle-gang was made up in the jail-yard, within pistol-shot of Davis's parlor-window, within a stone's throw of the Monumental Church, and a sad and weeping throng, chained two and two, the last slave-coffle that shall ever tread the streets of Richmond, were hurried to the Danville Depot. Slavery being the corner-stone of the Confederacy, it was fitting that this gang, keeping step to the music of their clanking chains, should accompany Jeff Davis's secretaries, Benjamin and Trenholm, and the Reverend Messrs. Hoge and Duncan, in their flight. The whole Rebel Government was on the move, and all Richmond desired to be. No thoughts of taking Washington now, or of the flag of the Confederacy flaunting in the breeze over the old Capitol! Hundreds of officials were at the depot, to get away from the doomed city. Public documents, the archives of the Confederacy, were hastily gathered up, tumbled into boxes and barrels, and taken to the trains, or carried into the streets and set on fire. Coaches, carriages, wagons, carts, wheelbarrows, everything in the shape of a vehicle was brought into use. There was a jumble of boxes, chests, trunks, valises, carpet-bags,--a crowd of excited men sweating as they never sweat before,--women with dishevelled hair, unmindful of their wardrobes, wringing their hands,--children crying in the crowd,--sentinels guarding each entrance to the train, pushing back at the point of the bayonet the panic-stricken multitude, giving precedence to Davis and the high officials, and informing Mr. Lumpkin that his niggers could not be taken. Oh, what a loss was there! It would have been fifty thousand dollars out of somebody's pocket in 1861, but millions now of Confederate promises to pay, which the hurrying multitude and that coffled gang were treading under foot,--literally trampling the bonds of the Confederate States of America in the mire, as they marched to the station; for the streets were as thickly strown with four per cents, six per cents, eight per cents as the forest with last year's leaves.
"The faith of the Confederate States is pledged to provide and establish sufficient revenues for the regular payment of the interest, and for the redemption of the principal," read the bonds; but there was a sudden eclipse of faith, and not merely an eclipse, but a collapse, a shrivelling up, like a parched scroll, of the entire Confederacy, which, like its bonds, notes, and certificates of indebtedness, was old rags!
In the Sabbath evening twilight, the trains, with the fugitive Government, its stolen bullion, and its Doctors of Divinity on board, moved out from the city.
At the same hour, the Governor of Virginia, William Smith, and the Assembly, were embarked in a canal-boat, on the James River and Kanawha Canal, moving for Lynchburg. On all the roads were men, women, and children, in carriages of every description, with multitudes on horseback and on foot, fleeing from the Rebel capital. Men who could not get away were secretly at work, during those night-hours, burying plate and money in gardens; ladies secreted their jewels, barred and bolted their doors, and passed a sleepless night, fearful of the morrow, which would bring the hated, despised, Vandal horde of Yankee ruffians: for such were the epithets which they had persistently applied to the soldiers of the Union throughout the war.
But before the entrance of the Union army they had an experience from their friends. Following the example of the Government, which had robbed the banks, the soldiers pillaged the city, breaking open stores, and helping themselves to whatever suited their convenience and taste, of clothing, fancy goods, eatables, and drinkables.
But the Government itself was not quite through with its operations in Richmond. The Secretary of War, John C. Breckinridge, with General Ewell, remained till daylight on Monday morning to clear up things,--not to burn public archives in order to destroy evidence of Confederate villany, but to commit more crime, so deep, damning, that the stanchest friends of the Confederacy recoil with horror from the act.
To prevent the United States from obtaining possession of a few thousand hogsheads of tobacco, a thousand houses were destroyed by fire, the heart of the city was eaten out,--all of the business portions, all the banks and insurance-offices, half of the newspapers, mills, depots, bridges, foundries, workshops, dwellings, churches, thirty squares in all, swept clean by the devouring flames. It was the work of the Confederate Government. And not only this, but human life was remorselessly sacrificed.
In the outskirts of the city, on the Mechanicsville road, was the almshouse, filled with the lame, the blind, the halt, the bedridden, the sick, and the poor. Ten rods distant was a magazine containing fifteen or twenty kegs of powder, of little value to a victorious army with full supplies of ammunition. They could have been rolled into the creek near at hand; but the order of Jeff Davis was to blow up the magazines, and the order must be executed.
"We give you fifteen minutes to get out of the way," was the sole notice to that crowd of helpless creatures lying in their cots, at three o'clock in the morning. Men and women begged for mercy. In vain their cries. The officer in charge of the matter was inexorable. Clotheless and shoeless, the inmates of the almshouse ran in terror from the spot to seek shelter in the ravines. But there were those who could not run, who, while the train was laying, rent the air with shrieks of terror. The train was fired at the expiration of the allotted time. The whole side of the house went in with a crash, as if it were no more than pasteboard. Windows flew into minutest particles. Bricks, stones, timbers, beams, and boards went whirling through the air. Trees were wrenched off as though a giant had twisted them into withes. The city rocked as if upheaved by an earthquake. The dozen poor wretches remaining in the almshouse were torn to pieces. Their bodies were but blackened masses of flesh, when the fugitives who had sought shelter in the fields returned to the shattered ruins.
How stirring the events of that morning! Lee retreating, Grant pursuing; Davis a fugitive; the Governor and Legislature of Virginia seeking safety in a canal-boat; Doctors of Divinity fleeing from the wrath to come; the troops of the Union marching up the streets; the old flag waving over the Capitol; Rebel iron-clads blowing up; Richmond in flames; the fiery billows rolling on from house to house, from block to block, from square to square, unopposed in their progress by the panic-stricken, stupefied, bewildered crowd; and the Northern Vandals laying aside their arms, manning the engines, putting out the fire, and saving the city from total destruction! Through the terrible day, all through the succeeding night, the smoke of its torment went up to heaven. Strange, weird, the scenes of that Monday night,--the glimmering flames, the clouds of smoke hanging like a funeral pall above the ruins, the crowd of woe-begone, houseless, homeless creatures wandering through the streets:--
"Such resting found the soles of unblest feet!"
VISIT OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN.
Among the memorable events of the week was the visit of President Lincoln to the city of Richmond. He had been tarrying at City Point, holding daily consultations with General Grant, visiting the army and the iron-clads at Aiken's Landing,--thus avoiding the swarm of place-hunters that darkened the doors of the executive mansion.
On Tuesday noon a tug-boat belonging to the navy was seen steaming up the James, regardless of torpedoes and obstructions. A mile below the city, where the water becomes shoal, President Lincoln, accompanied by Admiral Porter, Captain Adams of the navy, Captain Penrose of the army, and Lieutenant Clemmens of the Signal Corps, put off from the tug in a launch manned by twelve sailors, whose long, steady oar-strokes quickly carried the party to the landing-place,--a square above Libby Prison.
There was no committee of reception, no guard of honor, no grand display of troops, no assembling of an eager multitude to welcome him.
He entered the city unheralded; six sailors, armed with carbines, stepped upon the shore, followed by the President, who held his little son by the hand, and Admiral Porter; the officers followed, and six more sailors brought up the rear. The writer of this article was there upon the spot, and, joining the party, became an observer of the memorable event.
There were forty or fifty freedmen, who had been sole possessors of themselves for twenty-four hours, at work on the bank of the canal, securing some floating timber, under the direction of a Lieutenant. Somehow they obtained the information that the man who was head and shoulders taller than all others around him, with features large and irregular, with a mild eye and pleasant countenance, was President Lincoln.
"God bless you, Sah!" said one, taking off his cap and bowing very low.
"Hurrah! hurrah! President Linkum hab come!" was the shout which rang through the street.
The Lieutenant found himself without a command. What cared those freedmen, fresh from the house of bondage, for floating timber or military commands? Their deliverer had come,--he who, next to the Lord Jesus, was their best friend! It was not an hurrah that they gave, but a wild, jubilant cry of inexpressible joy.
They gathered round the President, ran ahead, hovered upon the flanks of the little company, and hung like a dark cloud upon the rear. Men, women, and children joined the constantly increasing throng. They came from all the by-streets, running in breathless haste, shouting and hallooing and dancing with delight. The men threw up their hats, the women waved their bonnets and handkerchiefs, clapped their hands, and sang, "Glory to God! glory! glory! glory!"--rendering all the praise to God, who had heard their wailings in the past, their meanings for wives, husbands, children, and friends sold out of their sight, had given them freedom, and, after long years of waiting, had permitted them thus unexpectedly to behold the face of their great benefactor.
"I thank you, dear Jesus, that I behold President Linkum!" was the exclamation of a woman who stood upon the threshold of her humble home, and with streaming eyes and clasped hands gave thanks aloud to the Saviour of men.
Another, more demonstrative in her joy, was jumping and striking her hands with all her might, crying,--"Bless de Lord! Bless de Lord! Bless de Lord!" as if there could be no end of her thanksgiving.
The air rang with a tumultuous chorus of voices. The street became almost impassable on account of the increasing multitude. Soldiers were summoned to clear the way. How strange the event! The President of the United States--he who had been hated, despised, maligned above all other men living, to whom the vilest epithets had been applied by the people of Richmond--was walking their streets, receiving thanksgivings, blessings, and praises from thousands who hailed him as the ally of the Messiah! How bitter the reflections of that moment to some who beheld him!--memory running back, perhaps, to that day in May, 1861, when Jefferson Davis, their President, entered the city,--the pageant of that hour, his speech, his promise to smite the smiter, to drench the fields of Virginia with richer blood than that shed at Buena Vista! How that part of the promise had been kept!--how their sons, brothers, and friends had fallen!--how all else predicted had failed!--how the land had been filled with mourning!--how the State had become a desolation!--how their property, their hoarded wealth, had disappeared! They had been invited to a gorgeous banquet; the fruit was fair to the eye, of golden hue and beautiful; but it had turned to ashes. They had been promised a place among the nations, a position of commanding influence and fame. Cotton was the king of kings, and England, France, and the whole civilized world would bow in humble submission to his Majesty. That was the promise; but now their king was dethroned, their government overthrown, their President and his cabinet vagrants, driven from house and home to be wanderers upon the earth. They had been promised affluence, Richmond was to be the metropolis of the Confederacy, and Virginia the all-powerful State of the new nation. How terrible the cheat! Their thousand-dollar bonds were not worth a penny. A million dollars would not purchase a dinner. Their money was valueless, their slaves were freemen, the heart of their city was eaten out. They had been cheated in everything. Those whom they had trusted had given the unkindest cut of all,--adding arson and robbery to their other crimes. Thus had they fallen from highest anticipation of bliss to deepest actual woe. The language of the Arch-Rebel of the universe, in "Paradise Lost," was most appropriate to them:--
"'Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,' Said then the lost Archangel, 'this the seat, That we must change for heaven, this mournful gloom For that celestial light?'"
Abraham Lincoln was walking their streets; and, worst of all, that plain, honest-hearted man was recognizing the "niggers" as human beings by returning their salutations! The walk was long, and the President halted a moment to rest. "May de good Lord bless you, President Linkum!" said an old negro, removing his hat, and bowing with tears of joy rolling down his cheeks. The President removed his own hat, and bowed in silence; but it was a bow which upset the forms, laws, customs, and ceremonies of centuries. It was a death-shock to chivalry, and a mortal wound to caste. Recognize a nigger! Faugh! A woman in an adjoining house beheld it, and turned from the scene in unspeakable disgust. There were men in the crowd who had daggers in their eyes; but the chosen assassin was not there, the hour for the damning work had not come, and that great-hearted man passed on to the executive mansion of the late Confederacy.
Want of space compels us to pass over other scenes,--the visit of the President to the State-House,--the jubilant shouts of the crowd,--the rush of freedmen into the Capitol grounds, where, till the appearance of their deliverer, they had never been permitted to enter,--the ride of the President through the streets,--his visit to Libby Prison,--the distribution of bread to the destitute,--the groups of heartbroken men amid the ruins, who beheld nought but ruins,--a ruined city, a ruined State, a ruined Confederacy, a ruined people,--ruined in hopes and expectations,--ruined for the past, the present, and the future,--without power, influence, or means of beginning life anew,--deceived, subjugated, humiliated,--poverty-stricken in everything. All that they had possessed was irretrievably lost, and they had nothing to show for it. All their heroism, valor, courage, hardship, suffering, expenditure of treasure, and sacrifice of blood had availed them nothing. There could be no comfort in their mourning, no alleviation to their sorrow.
Forgetting that Justice is the mightiest power of the universe, that Righteousness is eternal, and that anything short of it is transitory, they planned a gorgeous edifice with Slavery for its corner-stone; but suddenly, and in an hour, their superstructure and foundation, crumbled. They grasped at dominion, and sank in perdition.
[I] I write from memory, not pretending to give the exact words uttered during the conversation.
Yard-Arm to yard-arm we lie Alongside the Ship of Hell; And still, through the sulphury sky, The terrible clang goes high,-- Broadside and battle-cry, And the pirates' maddened yell!
Our Captain's cold on the deck; Our brave Lieutenant's a wreck,-- He lies in the hold there, hearing The storm of fight going on overhead, Tramp and thunder to wake the dead, The great guns jumping overhead, And the whole ship's company cheering!
Four hours the Death-Fight has roared, (Gun-deck and berth-deck blood-wet!) Her mainmast's gone by the board, Down come topsail and jib! We're smashing her, rib by rib, And the pirate yells grow weak,-- But the Black Flag flies there yet, The Death's Head grinning apeak!
Long has she haunted the seas, Terror of sun and breeze; Her deck has echoed with groans; Her hold is a horrid den, Piled to the orlop with bones Of starved and of murdered men! They swarm 'mid her shrouds in hosts, The smoke is murky with ghosts!
But to-day her cruise shall be short! She's bound to the Port she cleared from, She's nearing the Light she steered from,-- Ah, the Horror sees her fate! Heeling heavy to port, She strikes, but all too late! Down with her cursed crew, Down with her damned freight, To the bottom of the Blue, Ten thousand fathom deep! With God's glad sun o'erhead,-- That is the way to weep, So will we mourn our dead!
THE PLACE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN HISTORY.
The funeral procession of the late President of the United States has passed through the land from Washington to his final resting-place in the heart of the Prairies. Along the line of more than fifteen hundred miles his remains were borne, as it were, through continued lines of the people; and the number of mourners and the sincerity and unanimity of grief were such as never before attended the obsequies of a human being; so that the terrible catastrophe of his end hardly struck more awe than the majestic sorrow of the people. The thought of the individual was effaced; and men's minds were drawn to the station which he filled, to his public career, to the principles he represented, to his martyrdom. There was at first impatience at the escape of his murderer, mixed with contempt for the wretch who was guilty of the crime; and there was relief in the consideration, that one whose personal insignificance was in such a contrast with the greatness of his crime had met with a sudden and ignoble death. No one stopped to remark on the personal qualities of Abraham Lincoln, except to wonder that his gentleness of nature had not saved him from the designs of assassins. It was thought then, and the event is still so recent it is thought now, that the analysis and graphic portraiture of his personal character and habits should be deferred to less excited times; as yet the attempt would wear the aspect of cruel indifference or levity, inconsistent with the sanctity of the occasion. Men ask one another only, Why has the President been struck down, and why do the people mourn? We think we pay the best tribute to his memory and the most fitting respect to his name, if we ask after the relation in which he stands to the history of his country and his fellow-man.
Before the end of 1865, it will have been two hundred and forty-six years since the first negro slaves were landed in Virginia from a Dutch trading-vessel, two hundred and twenty-eight since a Massachusetts vessel returned from the Bahamas with negro slaves for a part of its cargo, two hundred and twenty years since men of Boston introduced them directly from Guinea. Slavery in the United States had not its origin in British policy: it sprung up among Americans themselves, who in that respect acquiesced in the customs and morals of the age. But at a later day the importation of slaves was insisted upon by the government of the mother country, under the influence of mercantile avarice, with the further purpose of weakening the rising Colonies, and impeding the establishment among them of branches of industry that might compete with the productions of England. Climate and the logical consequences of the principles of the Puritans checked the increase of slaves in Massachusetts, from which it gradually disappeared without the necessity of any special act of manumission; in Virginia, the country within the reach of tide-water was crowded with negroes, and the marts were supplied by continuous importations, which the Colony was not suffered to prohibit or restrain.
The middle of the eighteenth century was marked by a rising of opinion in favor of freedom. The statesmen of Massachusetts read the great work of Montesquieu on the Spirit of Laws; and in bearing their first very remarkable testimony against slavery, they simply adopted his words, repeated without passion,--for they had no dread of the increase of slavery within their own borders, and never doubted of its speedy and natural decay. The great men of Virginia, on the contrary, were struck with terror as they contemplated its social condition; they drew their lessons, not from France, not from abroad, but from themselves and the scenes around them; and half in the hope of rescuing that ancient Commonwealth from the corrupting element of slavery, and half in the agony of despair, they went in advance of all the world in their reprobation of the slave-trade and of slavery, and of the dangerous condition of the white man as the master of bondmen. In the years preceding the war of the Revolution, the Ancient Dominion rocked with the strife of contending parties: the King with all his officers and many great slaveholders on the one side, against a hardy people in the back country and the best of the slaveholders themselves. On the side of liberty many were conspicuous,--among them Richard Henry Lee, George Wythe, Jefferson, who from his youth was the pride of Virginia; but all were feeble in comparison with the enthusiastic fervor and prophetic instincts of George Mason. They reasoned, that slavery was inconsistent with Christianity, was in conflict with the rights of man; that it was a slow poison, daily contaminating the minds and morals of their people; that, by reducing a part of their own species to abject inferiority, they lost the idea of the dignity of man, which the hand of Nature had implanted within them for great and useful purposes; that, by the habit from infancy of trampling on the rights of human nature, every liberal sentiment was extinguished or enfeebled; that every gentleman was born a petty tyrant, and by the practice of cruelty and despotism became callous to the finer dictates of the soul; that in such an infernal school were to be educated the future legislators and rulers of Virginia. And before the war broke out, the House of Burgesses of Virginia was warned of the choice that lay before them: either the Constitution must by degrees work itself clear by its own innate strength and the virtue and resolution of the community, or the laws of impartial Providence would avenge on their posterity the injury done to a class of unhappy men debased by their injustice.
At the opening of the war of the Revolution, the Narragansett country of Rhode Island, the Southern part of Long Island, New York City and the counties on the Hudson, and East New Jersey had in their population about as large a proportion of slaves as Missouri four years ago. In all the Colonies collectively the black men were to the white men as five to twenty-one. The British authorities unanimously held that the master lost his claim to his slave by the act of rebellion. In Virginia a system of emancipation was inaugurated; and the emancipation of slaves by success in arms Jefferson pronounced to be right. But the system of emancipation took no large proportions: partly because the invaders in the beginning of the war were driven from the Chesapeake; partly because the large slaveholders of South Carolina, on the subjugation of the low country in that State, renewed their allegiance to the Crown; and partly because British officers chose to ship slaves of rebels to the markets of the West Indies. Yet the continued occupation of Rhode Island, Long Island, and New York City, and the exodus of slaves with other refugees at the time of peace, facilitated the movements in Rhode Island and New York for the abrogation of slavery. At the end of the war the proportion of free people to slaves was greatly increased; and, whatever wilful blindness may assert, the free black had the privileges of a citizen.
Here, then, was an opening for relieving the body politic from the great anomaly of bondage in the midst of freedom. But though divine justice never slumbers, the opportunity was but partially seized. The diminution of the number of laborers at the South revived the importation of slaves. The first Congress had agreed not to tolerate that traffic; the Confederacy left its encouragement or prohibition to the pleasure of each State; and the Constitution continued that liberty for twenty years. At the same time slavery was excluded from the whole of the territory of the United States. The vote of New Jersey only was wanting to have sustained the proposition of Jefferson, by which it would have been excluded not only from all the territory then in their possession, but from all that they might gain.
The jealousy of the Southern States of the power of the North may be traced through the annals of Congress from the first, which assembled in 1774. The old notions of the independence and sovereignty of each separate State, though the Constitution was framed for the express purpose of modifying them, clung to life with tenacity. When John Adams was elected President, before any overt act, before any other cause of alarm than his election, the Legislature of Virginia took steps for an armed organization of the State, and old and long-cherished sentiments adverse to Union were renewed. The continuance of the Union was in peril. It was then that the great Virginia statesman, now perfectly satisfied with the amended Constitution, came to the rescue. By the simple force of ideas, embodying in one system all the conquests of the eighteenth century in behalf of human rights, the freedom of conscience, speech, and the press, he ruled the willing minds of the people. The South, where his great strength lay with the poor whites, and where he was known as the champion of human freedom, trusted in his zeal for individual liberty and for the adjusted liberty of the States; the North heard from him sincere and consistent denunciations of slavery, such as had never been surpassed, except by George Mason. The thought never crossed the mind of Jefferson that the General Government had not proper powers of coercion. On taking the office of President, his watchword was, "We are all Federalists, we are all Republicans"; and the two principles of universal freedom and equality, and the right of each State to regulate its own internal domestic affairs, became not so much the doctrine of a party as the accepted creed of the nation. In his administration of affairs, Jefferson did not suffer one power of the General Government to be weakened. No one man did so much as he towards consolidating the Union.
But the question of Slavery was not solved. The purchase of Louisiana increased the States in which slaves were tolerated; the settlement of the Northwest strengthened the power of freedom; but as yet there had been no fracture in public opinion. Missouri asked to be admitted to the Union, and it was found, that, without any party organization, without formal preparation, a majority of the House of Representatives desired to couple its admission with the condition that it should emancipate its slaves. That slavery was evil was still the undivided opinion of the nation; but it was perceived that the friends of freedom had missed the proper moment for action,--that Congress had tolerated slavery in Missouri as a Territory, and were thus inconsistent in claiming to suppress slavery in the State; and they escaped from the difficulty by what was called a Compromise. It was agreed that for the future slavery should never be carried to the north of the southern boundary of Missouri; and this was interpreted by the South as the devoting of all the territory south of that line to the owners of slaves.
From that day Slavery became the foundation of a political party, under the guise of a zeal for the rights of States. It began to be perceptible at the next Presidential election; but Calhoun, who was willing to be considered a candidate for the Presidency, was still as decidedly for the Union as John Quincy Adams or Webster. Walking one day with Seaton of the "Intelligencer" on the banks of the Potomac, Seaton dissuaded him from being at that day a candidate for the Presidency, giving as a reason, that, in case of success and reelection, he would go out of the public service in the vigor of life. "I will, at the end of my second term, go into retirement and write my memoirs," was Calhoun's answer: a proof that at that time Disunion had not crossed his mind.
The younger Adams had been undoubtedly at the South the candidate of the Union party. The incipient opposition to Union threw itself with the intensest heat into the opposition to Adams; and Jackson, who was victorious through his own popularity, was elected by a vast majority. Jackson was honest, patriotic, and brave: he refused his confidence to the oligarchical party, represented by Calhoun and Macduffie; and after passionate struggles, which convulsed the country, he defied their hostility, and told them to their faces, "The Union must be preserved."
The bitterness of disappointed ambition led to the formation and gradual enunciation of new political opinions. In the strife about the practical effects of Nullification, the question was raised by the Nullifiers, whether obedience to the laws of a State was a good plea for resistance to the laws of the United States; and so, for the first time in our history, a political party came to the principle, that primary allegiance was due to the State, a secondary one only to the United States; and this view was taught in schools and colleges and popular meetings. The second theory, that grew up with the first, was, that slavery was a divine institution, best for the black man and best for the white.
At the election which followed the retirement of Jackson, the Democratic party stood by its old tradition of the evil of slavery, and the hope that by the innate vigor of the respective States it would gradually be thrown off; the opposite party likewise held to the same tradition, in the belief that the progress of commerce and domestic industry would in due time quietly remove what all sound political economy condemned. The new party, the party of State Sovereignty and Slavery,--for the two heads sprung from one root,--had not power enough to prevent the election of one who represented the policy of Jackson. But they were full of passionate ardor and of restless activity; and in the next Presidential election they threw themselves upon the Whig party, with which they joined hands. The Whig party was at that day strong enough to have done without them; but the uncontrollable wish for success, which had been long delayed, led to the cry of "Tippecanoe and Tyler too," and this meant a union of the interests of the North with the interest of Slavery. Harrison had votes enough to elect him without one vote from the Southern oligarchy; but the compact was made; Harrison was elected and died, and the representative of the oligarchy, a man at heart false to the national flag, became President for nearly four years.
His administration is marked by the annexation of Texas to the United States: a measure sure, in the belief of Calhoun, to confirm the empire of Slavery,--sure, as others believed, to prevent the foundation of an adventurous government, that, if left to independence, would have reopened the slave-trade and subdued by force of arms all California and Mexico to the sway of Slavery. The faith of the last proved the true one. Under the administration of Polk, California was annexed, not to independent, slaveholding Texas, but to the Union. This constitutes the turning-point in the series of events; the first emigrants to her borders formed a constitution excluding slavery.
At the next election a change took place, profoundly affecting the Democratic party, and, as a consequence, the country. Hitherto the position of the Northern Democracy had been that of Jefferson, that slavery was altogether evil; and Cass, the Democratic candidate, still expressed his prayer for the final doom of slavery. Against his election a third party was formed; and Van Buren, a former Democratic President, who had been sustained by the South as well as by the North, taking with him one half the Democracy of New York, consented to be the candidate of that party. We judge not his act; but the consequences were sad. To the South his appearance as a candidate on that basis had the aspect of treachery; at the North the Democratic party lost its power to resist the arrogance of the South: for, in the first place, large numbers of its best men had left its ranks; and next, those who remained behind were eager to clear themselves of the charge of sectional narrowness; and those who had gone out and come back, in their zeal to recover the favor of the South, went beyond all bounds in their professions of repentance. The old compromise of Jefferson fell into disrepute; the Democratic party itself was thrown into confusion; the power of any one of its distinguished men to resist the increasing arrogance of the slaveholders was taken away; a word in public for what twenty years before had been the creed of every one was followed by the ban of the majority of the party. So fell one bulwark against slavery.
Still another bulwark against it was destined to fall away. The annexation of California brought with it the question of the admission of California as a State of freemen. The only way to have avoided convulsing the country was to have confined the discussion to the one question of the admission of California. Unhappily, Clay, truly representing a State which halted in its choice between freedom and slavery, proposed a combination of measures. Further, the representation of the Free States had steadily increased from the origin of the Government; the admission of California threatened, at last, to open the way for a corresponding disproportion in the Senate. The country, remembering how Webster, on a great occasion, had greatly resisted the heresy of Nullification, looked to him now to clear away the mists of artful misrepresentations of the Constitution, and show that neither in that Constitution nor in the history of the country at the time of its formation had there been any justification of the demand for such equality of representation. But this time the great orator failed; the passionate desire for being President led him to make a speech intended to conciliate the support of the South. In that he failed miserably at the moment; a few days later, Calhoun, on his death-bed, avowed himself the adviser of a secession of the whole body of the slaveholding States. Still blinded by ambition, Webster, on a tour through New York, as a candidate, formally proposed the establishment of a party representing the property of the country, crystallizing round the slaveholders, and including the commercial and corporate industrial wealth of the North. The effect on his own advancement was absolutely nothing. In due time, as a candidate, he fell stone dead; and it is to his credit that he did so. The South knew that he was a Union man, and would not answer their purpose. As he heard of the slight given by those whom he had courted, his large head fell on his breast, his voice faltered, and big tears trickled down his cheeks. His cheerfulness never returned; he languished and died; but the evil that lived after him was, that the great party to which he had belonged was no more able to stem the rising fury of the South, and broke to pieces.
Thus, by untoward circumstances, the truth that could alone confirm the Union, and which heretofore had been substantially supported by both the great traditional parties of the country, no longer had a clear and commanding exponent in either of them. The result of the next election showed that the old Whig party had lost all power over the public mind. The strife went on, and hope centred in the supreme judicial tribunal of the land, to whose members a secure tenure of office had been given, that they might be above all temptation of serving the time. The politicians of the North were becoming alarmed by the issues which were forced upon them by those of the South with whom they still wished to be friends; they longed to shift the responsibility of the decision upon the Supreme Court. The Court was slow to be swerved. The case of Dred Scott was before them; and the decision of the Court was embodied in an opinion which would have produced no excitement. But the Court was entreated to give their decision another form. They long resisted, and were long divided; but perseverance overcame them; and at last a most reluctant majority, a bare majority, was won to enter the arena of politics, and attempt the suppression of differences of opinion: for, said one of the judges, "the peace and harmony of the country require the settlement of Constitutional principles of the highest importance,"--not knowing that injustice overturns peace and harmony, and that a depraved judiciary portends civil war.
The man who took the Presidential chair in 1857 had no traditional party against him; he owed his nomination to confidence in his moderation and supposed love of Union. He might have united the whole North and secured a good part of the South. Constitutionally timid, on taking the oath of office, he betrayed his own weakness, and foreshadowed the forthcoming decision of the Supreme Court. Under the wing of the Executive, Chief-Justice Taney gave his famed disquisition. The delivery of that opinion was an act of revolution. The truth of history was scorned; the voice of passion was put forward as the rule of law; doctrines were laid down which, if they are just, give a full sanction to the rebellion which ensued. The country was stung to the quick by the reckless conduct of a body which it needed to trust, and which now was leading the way to the overthrow of the Constitution and the dismemberment of the Republic. At the same time, the President, in selecting the members of his cabinet, chose four of the seven from among those who were prepared to sacrifice the country to the interests of Slavery. In time of peace the finances were wilfully ill-administered, and in the midst of wealth and credit the country was saved from bankruptcy only by the patriotism of the city of New York, against the treacherous intention of the Secretary of the Treasury. Cannon and muskets and military stores were sent in numbers where they could most surely fall into the hands of the coming rebellion; troops of the United States were placed under disloyal officers and put out of the way; the navy was scattered abroad. And then, that nothing might be wanting to increase the agony of the country, an attempt to force the institution of Slavery on the people of Kansas, that refused it, received the encouragement and aid of the President. The conspirators resolved at the next Presidential election to compel the choice of a candidate of their own, or of one against whom they could unite the South; and all the influence of the Administration, through its patronage, was used to confine the election to that issue.
Virginia statesmen, more than ninety years ago, had foretold that each State Constitution must work itself clear of the evil of slavery by its own innate vigor, or await the doom of impartial Providence. Judgment slumbered no longer,--though wise men after the flesh were not chosen as its messengers and avengers.
The position of Abraham Lincoln, on the day of his inauguration, was apparently one of helpless debility. A bark canoe in a tempest on mid-ocean seemed hardly less safe. The vital tradition of the country on Slavery no longer had its adequate expression in either of the two great political parties, and the Supreme Court had uprooted the old landmarks and guides. The men who had chosen him President did not constitute a consolidated party, and did not profess to represent either of the historic parties which had been engaged in the struggles of three quarters of a century. They were a heterogeneous body of men, of the most various political attachments in former years, and on many questions of economy of the most discordant opinions. Scarcely knowing each other, they did not form a numerical majority of the whole country, were in a minority in each branch of Congress except from the wilful absence of members, and they could not be sure of their own continuance as an organized body. They did not know their own position, and were startled by the consequences of their success. The new President himself was, according to his own description, a man of defective education, a lawyer by profession, knowing nothing of administration beyond having been master of a very small post-office, knowing nothing of war but as a captain of volunteers in a raid against an Indian chief, repeatedly a member of the Illinois Legislature, once a member of Congress. He spoke with ease and clearness, but not with eloquence. He wrote concisely and to the point, but was unskilled in the use of the pen. He had no accurate knowledge of the public defences of the country, no exact conception of its foreign relations, no comprehensive perception of his duties. The qualities of his nature were not suited to hardy action. His temper was soft and gentle and yielding; reluctant to refuse anything that presented itself to him as an act of kindness; loving to please and willing to confide; not trained to confine acts of good-will within the stern limits of duty. He was of the temperament called melancholic, scarcely concealed by an exterior of lightness of humor,--having a deep and fixed seriousness, jesting lips, and wanness of heart. And this man was summoned to stand up directly against a power with which Henry Clay had never directly grappled, before which Webster at last had quailed, which no President had offended and yet successfully administered the Government, to which each great political party had made concessions, to which in various measures of compromise the country had repeatedly capitulated, and with which he must now venture a struggle for the life or death of the nation.
The credit of the country had not fully recovered from the shock it had treacherously received in the former administration. A part of the navy-yards were intrusted to incompetent agents or enemies. The social spirit of the city of Washington was against him, and spies and enemies abounded in the circles of fashion. Every executive department swarmed with men of treasonable inclinations, so that it was uncertain where to rest for support. The army officers had been trained in unsound political principles. The chief of staff of the highest of the general officers, wearing the mask of loyalty, was a traitor at heart. The country was ungenerous towards the negro, who in truth was not in the least to blame,--was impatient that such a strife should have grown out of his condition, and wished that he were far away. On the side of prompt decision the advantage was with the Rebels; the President sought how to avoid war without compromising his duty; and the Rebels, who knew their own purpose, won incalculable advantages by the start which they thus gained. The country stood aghast, and would not believe in the full extent of the conspiracy to shatter it in pieces; men were uncertain if there would be a great uprising of the people. The President and his cabinet were in the midst of an enemy's country and in personal danger, and at one time their connections with the North and West were cut off; and that very moment was chosen by the trusted chief of staff of the Lieutenant-General to go over to the enemy.
Every one remembers how this state of suspense was terminated by the uprising of a people who now showed strength and virtues which they were hardly conscious of possessing.
In some respects Abraham Lincoln was peculiarly fitted for his task, in connection with the movement of his countrymen. He was of the Northwest; and this time it was the Mississippi River, the needed outlet for the wealth of the Northwest, that did its part in asserting the necessity of Union. He was one of the mass of the people; he represented them, because he was of them; and the mass of the people, the class that lives and thrives by self-imposed labor, felt that the work which was to be done was a work of their own: the assertion of equality against the pride of oligarchy; of free labor against the lordship over slaves; of the great industrial people against all the expiring aristocracies of which any remnants had tided down from the Middle Age. He was of a religious turn of mind, without superstition; and the unbroken faith of the mass was like his own. As he went along through his difficult journey, sounding his way, he held fast by the hand of the people, and "tracked its footsteps with even feet." "His pulse's beat twinned with their pulses." He committed faults; but the people were resolutely generous, magnanimous, and forgiving; and he in his turn was willing to take instructions from their wisdom.
The measure by which Abraham Lincoln takes his place, not in American history only, but in universal history, is his Proclamation of January 1, 1863, emancipating all slaves within the insurgent States. It was, indeed, a military necessity, and it decided the result of the war. It took from the public enemy one or two millions of bondmen, and placed between one and two hundred thousand brave and gallant troops in arms on the side of the Union. A great deal has been said in time past of the wonderful results of the toil of the enslaved negro in the creation of wealth by the culture of cotton; and now it is in part to the aid of the negro in freedom that the country owes its success in its movement of regeneration,--that the world of mankind owes the continuance of the United States as the example of a Republic. The death of President Lincoln sets the seal to that Proclamation, which must be maintained. It cannot but be maintained. It is the only rod that can safely carry off the thunderbolt. He came to it perhaps reluctantly; he was brought to adopt it, as it were, against his will, but compelled by inevitable necessity. He disclaimed all praise for the act, saying reverently, after it had succeeded, "The nation's condition God alone can claim."
And what a futurity is opened before the country when its institutions become homogeneous! From all the civilized world the nations will send hosts to share the wealth and glory of this people. It will receive all good ideas from abroad; and its great principles of personal equality and freedom--freedom of conscience and mind,--freedom of speech and action,--freedom of government through ever-renewed common consent--will undulate through the world like the rays of light and heat from the sun. With one wing touching the waters of the Atlantic and the other on the Pacific, it will grow into a greatness of which the past has no parallel; and there can be no spot in Europe or in Asia so remote or so secluded as to shut out its influence.
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