The Knickerbocker, Vol. 57, No. 1, January 1861 by Various
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VOL. LVII. JANUARY, 1861. NO. 1.
PARIS: AND LIFE THERE.
BY H. T. TUCKERMAN.
IN TWO PARTS.--PART I.
THERE is a subtle relation between the mere spectacle of Parisian life and French history, like that which exists between physiognomy and character. Careful observation of this sparkling tide on the surface will reveal the hidden currents that direct its play. The success of a man in France has been justly described as achieved _moitié par son savoir_, _moitié par son savoir-faire_. Two characteristics at once impress an American in Paris--the provision for life independent of homes, and the excessive tendency to system and detail: from the one comes a diffusive habit of feeling well adapted to pastime, but most unfavorable to efficient individuality; and from the other, a devotion to routine which secures results brilliant in themselves but limited in their consequences. The bare fact that we of England and America, however wide and intense be the sphere of our activity, instinctively revolve about a permanent centre, hallowed and held by the triple bond of habit, love, and religion, gives a certain dignity and permanence to our interests and aims which nourish political as well as personal consistency. Imagine the case reversed: suppose, like civilized Ishmaelites, we dwelt in a kind of metropolitan encampment, requiring no domicile except a bed-room for seven hours in the twenty-four, and passing the remainder of each day and night as nomadic cosmopolites: going to a café to breakfast, a restaurant to dine, an estaminet to smoke, a national library to study, a _cabinet de lecture_ to read the gazettes, a public bath for ablution, an open church to pray, a free lecture-room to be instructed, a thronged garden to promenade, a theatre to be amused, a museum for science, a royal gallery for art, a municipal ball, literary soirée, or suburban rendezvous for society. Would not the very custom of enacting all the functions of mundane existence, apart from the idea and the retirement of home, generalize our ways of thinking, make us more children of the time, and weaken the tenacity, as well as diminish the scope, whereby the reflective man becomes the practical citizen? And if the regime under which our education was initiated, had for its great principles, skill, knowledge, and aptitude for specialties, would not the natural fruit of such culture be a fragmentary excellence? Herein, at least, some of the causes may be found of that extraordinary union of genius and childhood in the French nation; the ability to declaim like philosophers about freedom, while an immense standing army--the most available resource of tyranny--is recognized as the basis of civil power; an unrivalled taste in the ornamental, and a savage ignorance of the comfortable; a most profound and reliable insight in diagnosis, with a pitiable incapacity for remedial applications; a prompt adaptation to the moment, almost infantile, with a hackneyed insensibility to experience; vivid aspirations, with little sense of what really constitutes glory; making fine arts of cookery, talk, and dress, while a battle-field and a caricature are their most popular limning; deifying their military heroes, and, at the same time, giving vent to their own enthusiasm in the lively figures of a new dance. The social economy of Paris is based on a combination of narrow means, with bright conceptions; we see it in the graceful but frail upholstery, the exquisite fit of a plain muslin robe, the bewitching trim of a cheap bonnet, the variety of a two-franc dinner, the _bon-mot_ which atones for inability to read, the absorption over a game of dominoes, the philosophic air with which a cigarette is smoked, and the artistic ruffle of a chemisette; the prolific fun educed from an anecdote, and the slight impression made by a revolution; the incurious notice of what is comprehensive, and the intense desire to make capital of the frivolous. To cultivate illusions is apparently the science of Parisian life; vanity must have its pabulum and fancy her triumph, though pride is sacrificed and sense violated thereby; hence a coïncidence of thrift and wit, shrewdness and sentimentality, love of excitement and patient endurance, superficial enjoyment and essential deprivation--in the mind, the life, and the development of France, wonderful to behold and perplexing to consider.
The names given to bridge and temple, fount and promenade, arc and avenue, recal saints of the middle ages, kings whose reigns embody memorable eras, brave soldiers, great victories, authors and savans--all reflecting glory on the nation. The guide at the Concierge tells you: 'Le cachot où fût deténu Marie Antoinette a eté converti en chapelle.' If roaming in the Luxembourg, you think of poor Ney's last words, on the spot where he perished, 'I need no priest to teach me how to die'--the honors paid to his memory are cited to atone for the sacrifice; if you descant on the murder of the King in 1793, you are told that the mass, so long discontinued, is now celebrated on the anniversary of his death. All that meets the eye and ear either protests against what in the past of France is disgraceful, or celebrates what is glorious. Whoever rules, the lamp of national fame is thus kept burning. The very cafés and restaurants possess an historical interest. The Frères Provinceaux was frequented by General Bonaparte; the Café Foy was the rendezvous of Italian liberals, the Zemblin that of the officers of the Empire, and the Caveau of the Garde Imperiale; the Regence has witnessed games of chess either shared or overlooked by Voltaire, Rousseau, Franklin, Marmontel, and Saint Pierre. At the Place de la Bastille, the column erected to the memory of those who fell when Charles the Tenth was 'hurled from his forfeit throne,' links that recent event to the site of a prison tragically identified with the Reign of Terror. The gates of St. Denis and St. Martin attest the rendezvous of more than one _emeute_; and from the Champs Elysées to the arch of triumph de l'Etoile, is the scene where some of the most pregnant dramas of modern history were enacted.
The routine of a banker's life would seem antagonistic to romance and dramatic incident; yet the celebrated financiers of France occupy the fore-ground in her civic history: Ouvrard's interview with Napoleon at a memorable crisis; the details of Law's career, including the wonderful vicissitudes to which the famous Mississippi scheme gave birth; and the charlatan adventurer's intrigues with the Duke of Orleans and escape from the Paris mob, are like the most exciting chapters of a modern novel. Lafitte stood at the side of Louis Philippe when the new Constitution was proclaimed, and staid the waves of insurrection at the obsequies of Manuel. If, in the social phenomena elsewhere, we find hints for romance and incongruities the more piquant, here they are more patent. Hospitality is not a national characteristic, as in cities less amply provided with external resources, and the effect is to secure for social aspirants, who have the means and the tact to entertain, advantages they could never realize in other capitals. A wealthy man, with decent manners and average intelligence, ambitious of fame as a host, or the delights of gifted intercourse, puts himself in communication with diplomats, savans and men of letters, who never object to a good dinner, or women endowed with the graces which lend a charm to the _soirée_, and his _salon_ is nightly filled with people of fashion and celebrity. The dramatic star, the popular author, the famous militaire, the brilliant _cantatrice_ will attract those who are insensible to the zest of pâtés and champagne. 'Do you know that man?' asks some aristocrat of the illustrious guest when they encounter the parvenu-Amphytrion. 'He dines me occasionally,' is the cool reply. Foreigners of either sex, even with a damaged reputation, find no obstacles to such partial successes. Let the frail one have preserved somewhat of her youthful vivacity and the bulk of her fortune, and she has only to hunt up a poor Marchesa or Countess of the Faubourg San Germain, and install her as a friend of the house, in a costly hotel, and coronated paste-board will soon fill her vase in the ante-chamber, and wits and beauties, official and distinguished strangers surround her fauteuil. That there is little meaning in these arrangements; that they merely serve as a pastime, like an opera or vaudeville we pay to witness, is true; but, on the other hand, facilities thus easily obtained by cash and policy, afford scope and yield opportunities for the display of character and the drama of social life, which more exclusive circles never know. The art _tenir un salon_ is one peculiar to the French, and there are ladies of that nation, whose fame is as traditionally and even historically established as that of great generals, statesmen, and poets; their rivalry equals the competition of the other sex in war and politics; and, strange as it may appear to an American, the social _prestige_ thus acquired and transmitted is as often based upon sin as sanctity; an equivocal character united to attractions of manner or rare intelligence, makes the popularity of one _Madame_ and a reputation as a devotee that of another. In a word, society in Paris is an arena so free, versatile, necessary--protected by established conventionalities, and moulded by the laws of taste--that it includes infinite possibilities, as the French memoirs and plays annually demonstrate.
A social atmosphere thus concentrated in effect, and diffusive in its nature, brings into contact associations which more intense domestic life and a more formal organization keep apart. The company in an English drawing-room may vary from year to year, but its tone and character remain intact; while in Paris saloons are designated by historical allusions and renowned for special and temporary features. If it is desired to recal a certain epoch and set of people, the whole idea is conveyed by such names as Hotel Rambouillet or the Salons du Restoration; whereas Holland House bears an identical fame as a place consecrated by intellectual hospitality, under successive reigns. Pedantry and artificial consequence belong to the fashionable levees of Louis the Fourteenth's time, while those of the first Napoleon represent an entirely diverse set of ideas and feelings. It is because society is directly exposed to the 'form and pressure' of the hour in Paris that it is thus Protean; religion, politics, and the taste in art and letters instantly stamp the talk and the manners as the coin of the realm bears the image of a new potentate; the life of the family, of the devotee, of artistic genius, of statesmanship and of arms, penetrate and interfuse in the social sphere, and an acute writer, therefore, alludes with literal truth to the period when 'the perfume of the boudoir mingled with the incense of the sacristy.' There phrases of society are bestowed upon art and politics; the favorable commencement of a new regime has been called its honey-moon; and a critic of Watteau's pictures refers to him as 'cet maitre coquet et naif.'
The caprice and tasteful arrangements in the minutiæ of life, noted by Yorick in his sketch of a Sunday in the French metropolis, when La Fleur brought the butter for his master's _dejeuner_, on a fresh currant-leaf, and found the bouquet he presented his own chosen fair had changed hands three times in the course of the day--though not so patent now, are equally characteristic; the valet still knows his master's debts, and the _femme de chambre_ her mistress's love affairs; there is the same familiarity in the relation of master and servant, but the chance is, there is less gossip between them, as both have more ideas and think oftener than before the days of cheap literature, steam, and telegraphs. Comedy still makes sport of husbands; 'the literary mind of France takes a religious turn' occasionally; and 'people laugh at every thing' as they did in the time of the young Duchess of Burgundy, whose remark to this effect was then considered so _naive_. The _mariage de convenance_ is quite as prevalent, children as artificial, and old people as child-like; the _precieuses ridicules_ are, however, on the wane, being fused in the cosmopolitan pressure of a more general intelligence, while the _femme savante_ has given place, in a great degree, to the female authors, who are too alive to the inspiration of the times, and their own ideas to be pedantic.
To such an extent does the tyranny of custom dominate in the social history of France, that duels and gaming have their periods of triumph as well as bonnets and constitutions; at times they have each enjoyed a fashionable _prestige_, so that individuals, without the least taste for either occupation, in order to be _comme il faut_ have sought to lose a notable amount at roulette and to provoke some famous swordsman to combat. An acute observer of Parisian life, prophesies that two growing tastes are now at work destined to modify the French character, one the rage for English horses, and the other the use of cigars. Of the normal traits of the national mind, that which apparently remains most intact is the instinct of military life. The same adaptation for the camp that we recognize in Froissart's Chronicles and Napoleon's campaigns, is obvious at this moment. 'This is worth considering,' says Montaigne, 'that our nation places valor (vaillance) in the highest degree of virtue.'
The same extravagant notion of an Englishman's whims and _sangfroid_ prevail in the French capital as used to supply farce-writers before the age of steam. Veron recently published the anecdote of _un Anglais_, who had been his neighbor at a restaurant for several weeks, bidding him good-by one day, as he was going on a trip round the world; and eighteen months after, the traveller reäppeared at the accustomed hour and table, and found his old companion in the same seat; meantime, the Englishman had circumnavigated the globe. We are told in Paris of every conceivable mania on the part of English collectors; one spent a fortune in bottles of water from all the rivers in the world, one in every kind of pipe, and another in specimens of bird's eggs. On the other hand, the French are better understood across the Channel; it is curious, at the present era of alliance, to read one of the old travellers, who reported France to Londoners, in the heyday of British prejudice. 'What is there,' says the famous Thomas Nashe, 'in France to be learned more than in England, but falsehood in friendship, perfect slovenry, and to love no man for my pleasure? I have known some that have continued there by the space of half-a-dozen years, and when they came home they have had a little, weerish, lean-face, under a broad French hat, kept a terrible coil with the dust in the street in their long cloaks of gray paper, and spoken English strangely. Naught else have they profited by their travel, but to distinguish the true Bordeaux grape and know a cup of neat Gascoigne wine from wine of Orleans; yet peradventure to wear a velvet patch on their face and walk melancholy with their arms folded.'[A]
[A] _The Unfortunate Traveller: or Life of Jack Wilton._ London, 1594.
We recognize the life of Paris by the analytical pictures of the French novelists and the graphic details of the memoirs. No mode of national existence had ever been so candidly revealed; the stranger, if familiar with the authors of the country, is better acquainted with what is peculiar in the habits and tableaux around him, than an unlettered native. Parisian character and the salient qualities which distinguish metropolitan and provincial existence have been daguerreotyped and anatomized by Balzac; each class, economy, and phase he makes the basis of a story, has been not only carefully observed but artistically and psychologically studied; what memories of an old pension haunt the reader of Père Goriot--a kind of prose Lear, as he gazes upon some venerable house of that description; how intensely he realizes the consciousness of the well-endowed yet sated young Parisian, as he recals the opening chapters of La Peau de Chagrin; every aspect and secret of Grisette life has been depicted; the poetry of the career of a gifted French noble, whose first youth witnessed the prologue of the fatal revolutionary drama, is embalmed in tragic or tender lines in the autobiography of Chateaubriand; Saint Beuve's critiques have revived the associations of each epoch of French literature; Lammenais recorded what of faith lingered in the heart of the people; Scribe reflects the most shifting traits of manners and character; and thus each indigenous figure, building, and custom appeals to the imaginative memory as well as to the curious eye.
The _salon_ of a literary clique suggests the extraordinary social history of Paris; and the names of De Staël, Sévigné, Recamier, and others, memorable as female arbiters and queens in conversation, occur to us in connection with each political era and great name in science, art and letters. Delaroche's portrait of Napoleon amid the Alps and at Fontainebleau has stamped that remarkable countenance in all its intensity of expression upon the mind; and thus it ever reäppears on the scene of his power. The new style of pavement attests the triumphs of barricades; and every old lamp-post the horrors of the Reign of Terror. We cannot pass a foundling hospital without thinking of Rousseau; the Jardin des Plants brings back the benign researches of Buffon, Michaux, Cuvier, and the host of French naturalists; old Montaigne's Essays are recalled by many a philosophic hint and maxim of worldly wisdom; and each glimpse of the comedy of French life is eloquent of Moliere. As we pass either palace or prison, the fair vision of Maria Antoinette, as it lives in Burke's description, the heroic devotion of Madame Roland, and the heart-melting voice of Charlotte Corday, appeal to remembrance; and thus the localities of Paris lead the fancy, at every step, from the guillotine to the fête, from massacre to beauty, from blood to flowers; and in early morning rambles we almost expect to see the First Consul roaming _incog._, wrapt in his gray coat. Notre Dame to the admirers of Victor Hugo, seems less a Cathedral than an architectural Romance. Yet, there is no city where the past is so lost sight of in the present, and where local tradition has so slight a hold upon the sympathies. It is fortunate, therefore, that when inclined to detach ourselves from the immediate--here so absorbing--and rehearse the story of the past, with every needful aid to memory and imagination, there is an available and complete resource: we have but to quit Paris for Versailles. The Place de Carousel and the Tuileries are unimpressive in comparison with the stately decadence of that palatial chateau; before which the mob, with ferocious glances, heaved like a raging sea up to the balcony where stood the Queen and Lafayette; the first solemn confronting of regal and popular will, ere the deadly struggle began--whose renewal is ever at hand. Within those walls is gathered the pictorial history of France in one successive and elaborate series; the battles, counsels, domestic life of every reign; the lineaments of heroes, poets and kings; the deeds, and the men and women that are identified with the country from the beginning. To live at Versailles, with a good library at hand, and pass hours of every day in these halls, would make us intimate, not only in a technical but in a picturesque way, with the annals and the celebrities of the kingdom. It would be as if French history was enacted before us and we saw the features of the leading spirits of each generation as we listened to their achievements. 'C'est à la Seine,' says a popular historiographer, 'que Paris doit ses premiers aggrandizement;' but so completely have modern activity and embellishment overlaid the rude defences whereby barbaric hordes indicated the site of a magnificent capital, that few of the artists who linger on the bridges to note the effect of moon-light on arch and islet, or of the scholars that haunt the book-stalls on the _quai_, have the associations of the past awakened by these picturesque and suggestive localities; yet they signalize the enterprise of Philip the Handsome, of Charles the Fifth, of Francis the First, Henry the Second, Henry the Fourth, Philipe Augustus, and Louis the Fourteenth. There Clovis and his Germanic tribes and his converted Clotilde, formed the nucleus of Pepin's inheritance, and Charlemagne established his name; thither came the Scandinavian pirates, and musing on the banks of the dingy stream now associated with science and fêtes, with baths and suicides, with boot-blacks and laundresses, with the romance of student life, artistic, medical and literary, and charming to the eye for elegant bridges and massive quays--the historical dreamer recals a century and a half of wars between French and English kings: the Black Prince and Joan of Arc, Calvin and the Huguenots, Guise and St. Bartholomew, Condé, Montmorency, Maria de Medicis, Anne of Austria, Richelieu, Louis the Sixteenth--the Revolution, Bonaparte, and the Bourbon! Such a panorama, its fore-ground crowded with memorable figures, its perspective dim with the smoke of battle, its groups distinguishable by varied symbols--the oriflamme, the lilies, the cross, the tri-color--blood-stained yet radiant with female beauty and animated by martial prowess, seems to bear no relation to the living scene typical of prosperous order and the age of commerce, of luxury and of science. Yet the analyst detects in the most common-place fact of to-day the influence of a dynasty and the bequest of an era. Madame de Genlis tells us how she taught the boy Louis Philipe after Rousseau's maxims; and made him cosmopolitan in taste by her German system of gardening, dining after the English fashion, and taking supper _en Italien_; and Veron says her pupil, when he became King, introduced the rage for fine horses and clever jockeys; it was, according to the same authority, the _fermiers generaux_ who initiated French cookery as a unique art in their table rivalry with the old noblesse. 'Scarcity of fuel,' says the _Quarterly Review_, 'has not been without its effect in forming the manners of the polished Parisians, and has transferred to the theatre and the café those attractions, which in the British islands belong essentially to the domestic hearth.' The use of tobacco, in the form of cigars, is another modification of the national habits; but a few years ago it was deemed a nuisance, now it prevails among both sexes; and keen observers declare that the French have grown more contemplative and less excitable as the puff has superseded the pinch, and the slowly-evolved cloud--emblem of ruminating quiescence--taken the place of those 'pungent grains of titillating dust' which stimulate a bon-mot rather than lure to reflection.
'You would hardly believe,' said Madame de Maintenon, 'how much a talent for combing hair contributed to my elevation:' tact in the minor economies, the ability to minister to approbativeness and epicurism, no where finds such scope as in Paris. 'Be more amiable,' said an experienced mother to her daughter, an _employé_ of the opera, 'be more tender and _empresse_ to your admirers, if not for your child's sake, or for your mother's, then for your _voiture_!' The triumph of material niceties here reaches its acme: from what an infinite variety of petty resources is French subsistence and enjoyment derived! A journal of our day announces the death of a distinguished _claquer_, at his country-seat, and the event is signalized by an obituary notice, declaring him 'master of the art of expressing feeling according to the subject!' A eulogy nowhere else applicable to any but an author, composer or artist, thus celebrates one whose vocation it was to testify approbation and blame at the theatre! Liquorice-water, the caricature of an abbe, an omelette scientifically fried, a fancy clock; a woman in front of Tortoni's letting off swallows from a basket, at two sous a flight; a bird-cage, a flower-stand, a plaster bust, a lap-dog, a fan, a little glass of Otard, a cake of scented soap, an opera-glass, a pan of charcoal, a wax candle, or a parrot, an elegant coiffure, a geranium leaf, or a bit of sugar--where on earth, but in Paris, do such things weigh so much in the scale of diurnal experience, felicity, and even fate?
How many 'gentle stoics' exhibit frugality and contentment; how many complacent epicureans ingenuity in pleasure-seeking; how many devotees of science isolated self-devotion, in that mart of humanity! We are told of a famous surgeon who questioned the credited idea that a vital gun-shot wound is followed by an involuntary leap, or sudden turning of the body: called to the field, and mortally wounded, he exclaimed, 'It is true; I could not help that movement,' and so died. In no other meridian do the frivolous and the solemn, the fantastic and the philosophic associations of life thus incongruously blend.
An historian quotes a royal letter, the possession of which he accounts for by the statement that he purchased it of a rogue who stole it at the sack of the Tuileries; a philosopher cannot study in peace without a group of tropical plants and two gazelles in sight; the Amazonian market-women, whose savage air would frighten a novice, keep a plaster bust of the Emperor on their stalls, and throw nosegays into Eugenie's carriage; the identical transparency which represented the Goddess of Reason in the bloodiest days of the Revolution, was subsequently used as the festal effigy of Liberty, Josephine, Faith, Hortense, and the present Empress; a painter's model impiously engraves on his card: _Nature de Christ_; an amateur takes down a new dance in short-hand; a female novelist assumes male attire, in order to observe life in Paris with more facility; the best poet of the South is a barber; at the same shop-window the _flaneur_ gazes on a print of Napoleon at St. Helena, contemplating, with folded arms, the declining sun--and a national guard lacing the stays of a grisette; the municipal authorities imprison a refractory opera-singer, and, without their permission, not a bucket of water can be dipped from the Gulf of Lyons; our dinner-companion says good-by, after coffee, and goes deliberately to blow his brains out. The fireman makes loves to the _femme de chambre_, while in the act of extinguishing a conflagration; the people read their fate in placards; Galignani's column of foreign news is arbitrarily cut down, and the suppressed items come to light in Charivari; a deposed king's effects are sold at auction, and Sevres ware bearing his crest thenceforth adorn American tables; the streets swarm with police and spies, and the child of a Dutch admiral and Hortense Beauharnais, having turned the cannon upon the populace, issues a religious bulletin after the massacre: no flower-market in the world is patronized so well as the Parisian, and no urban gardens more frequented than the Tuileries and Luxembourg, while rural life is irksome to the citizen, and only sought as a pretext for love-making, a dance, or dinner al fresco. Catch a few phrases from the leaf of a courtier's memoirs, the mouth of a neighbor at restaurant or theater, or the bourgeois in a crowd, and an epitome of this mingled levity and talent, this comedy of life, and quickness of apprehension, without seriousness of conviction, is hinted at once. 'They are like me, they regret their mud,' said Madame de Maintenon, watching the restless carp in their pellucid vase; 'il y quelqu'un qui fait encore plus d'ennemis qu'un cheval anglais--ce'st la femme de theatre,' was the observation of a Parisian sage; 'my confessor has ordered me to be dull in company,' said Madame Scarron, 'to mortify the passion, he detects in me, of wishing to please by my understanding.' 'Un femme d'esprit ne doit rien à personne,' bluntly remarks an obese traveler, as he shifts his feet to avoid the provision-basket of his vis-a-vis. Opera-girls, we are told by Veron, have a passion to appear in mourning for some distant relative whom they have never seen.
In 1740, Montesquieu, in a letter to a friend, wrote: 'France is nothing but Paris and a few distant provinces.' 'Here,' says a traveller of the last century, 'things are estimated by their _air_; a watch may be a master-piece without exactness, and a woman rule the whole town without beauty, if they have an air. Here life's a dance, and awkwardness of step its greatest disgrace. Character, here, is dissolved into the public, and 'an original' a name of mirth. _Cela se fait_, _et cela ne se fait pas_, are here the supreme umpires of conduct. Their religion is superstition, fashion, sophism. Tyranny may grind the face, but not the countenance of a Frenchman; his feet are made to dance in wooden shoes. The parliament resembles an old toothless mastiff. France was the country of Le Soeur and Racine, and is that of Voltaire.'
And a more generalized and recent portrait is given by our countryman, Henry James: 'Your true Frenchman will sit for any number of consecutive hours glued to the benches of the _Champs Elysees_ in order to see the _monde_ pass by--to see it merely with his eyes, remember--never speaking to a soul, never knowing a soul in all the moving mass, yet perfectly content to see the monotonous waves roll on and repeat their tiresome glare, till darkness comes at last to snatch them from sight, and the beholder (let us hope) from imbecility. To frequent from childhood to manhood, and from manhood to old age, the same unchanging scenes; to sit year in and year out on the same dusty sidewalks, in front of the same crowded and noisy _cafés_, playing the same eternal dominoes, seeing pass the same throng of similar people, each as like the other in his diversity as a big pea is like a little pea, as a double clover is like a single clover, or a wilted cabbage is like a fresh one; everlastingly sipping the same _eau sucre_; everlastingly hearing and repeating the same stupid gossip of Mrs. B. to-day, which was heard and repeated of Mrs. A. yesterday; everlastingly resorting to the same play-house to applaud the same actors; running to the same opera to go into ecstasies over the same fiddle; strolling along the same streets to gaze at the same or similar prints in the same windows at the end of the year which he gazed upon at the beginning; such is your true Frenchman's conception of variety, such is his ideal of life; and he cannot but heartily despise a state of things like that at home, which drops all this imbecile routine out as an infinite dreariness and _ennui_; a full stomach, a faithful wife or mistress, and an honored name, and he will agree to live forever in immortal joy. Life to him is not the commerce or play of an infinite inward ideal, with a responsive outward organization; it is rather the commerce or play of a finite outward organization with what is still more finite and outward than itself, namely, the universe of sense. GOD forbid that I should undervalue a mental constitution so pronounced, and, in its way, so admirable; I only allege it to show that the Frenchman commits suicide only when some tangible possession takes its departure from him; only when poverty, or some other palpable calamity, comes to shake him out of his easy-going routine, and that he can't imagine any profounder source of disgust.'
Garvani's illustrations of Paris life contain a domestic interior which might serve an artist, a political economist, or a dramatic author, so entirely does it suggest the ways and means of the domiciliated Parisian. Like his frugal Caledonian brother, he prefers the nook of a vast and substantial edifice to a small isolated tenement; and is content to occupy a floor, and adjust the height thereof to the length of his purse: both space and cash are saved by the arrangement; while a far more uniform, permanent, and effective architecture is secured. Thus each huge dwelling is a world in itself; the ground-floor may be a shop, but ascend the steps and you find the guardian genius of the place, whom if you are a resident or an habitué of the premises, it is well to propitiate. All the conveniences of a family are found in each of these suites, which vary in extent and costliness as you ascend; survey the neat glass case, wherein sits the porter's wife in her spotless cap, knitting, with an alcove containing a bed, perhaps in the back-ground, and a dainty pendulum or flower near by, and a sleepy cat purring at her side; accept her courteous directions, mount the polished oaken staircase, note the different colored cords hanging at each door, look in upon the prosperous family who hold a _salon_ once a week on the _premiere etage_, or the smaller domestic establishment above; the economical traveller's winter-apartment, full of knick-knacks and sunshine, _au troisieme_; or mount, if you will, to the highest region of all to find the provident musician practising in his cheerful attic; or the light-hearted and hard-working grisette, his neighbor, with her box of mignonette at her side, embroidering a kerchief, or making artificial flowers: while she muses of the next holiday, when her beau is to escort her to a dance at Montmorenci. These, and a thousand similar scenes, have been so graphically described in novels, plays, and memoirs, that such a casual inspection seems like a process of memory rather than observation, so exactly does the still-life and local arrangement correspond with vague images of apartments in the French capital to which biographers, novelists, and playwrights have conducted us. This way of living in colonies, the diversities of condition thus brought under one roof, is another of those special phases of life in Paris, which render it eminently dramatic and scenical. Yet the convenience thus secured is often modified to Anglo-Saxon appreciation, by miserable provision for a fire, scraps of rug instead of an entire carpet, and a want of comfort scarcely atoned for by sundry cheap expedients for elegance; so that we can well believe the assertion of an American envoy, fresh from his snug country-seat, that the charms of the French capital were dispelled for him by a habit his chimney had of smoking, and his waiter of bringing him punch in a tea-pot. The requirements of warmth and ease are secondary in the estimation of the fair Parisian; she says: 'Le salon sera rouge et or, la chambre á coucher en brocatelle jaune et le boudoir en satin de chine blue; ce sera ravissant.' And yet there is not a city in the world where a comfortable retreat, in our sense of the word, is more requisite. Cold humidity is the normal trait of the winter climate; catarrh is almost permanently epidemic; many of the inhabitants can echo the declaration of one their frank fellow-citizens, who says: 'Depuis que je me connais, je suis enrhumée. J'aurai en froid en venant au monde.' Moccasins, snuff, and eau sucre, are the usual remedies; and their universal use confirms and suggests atmospheric causes.
OH! many, many years ago, By hill-sides where the violets grow; Loving the sun in the new spring, And where the robins came to sing; A long, sunshiny, quiet way, To school I led our little MAY.
Day after day, and hand in hand, We pattered o'er the path of sand; I plucking violets here and there, To wreathe in sister's sunny hair; She singing with the birds a song That cheered me all the summer long.
And many, many years ago, Under the first December snow; With white hands folded on her breast, They laid our little MAY to rest; One golden summer, only one, And birds, and flowers, and MAY were gone.
But where the robins came to sing, Loving the sun in the new spring; By hill-sides where the violets grow, A long, sunshiny, quiet way; To school I led our little MAY, Oh! many, many years ago.
THRICE welcome, gentle star Companion of the cheerless, evermore Like pearly bark on blue waves floating far Last from some lovely shore.
The poet loveth thee, And wins from thee those thoughts so pure and high That gem the rosy heaven of poesy, As thou dost gem the sky.
And woman holds thee dear; By trysting tree--in cot, or lordly hall, She knows thou weav'st some spell, at day-light's fall, To bring the loved one near.
The faithful deem thee fair; And when thy white rays down the dusk air fall, On each pure beam ascends a silent prayer To HIM who loveth all.
Yet art thou all my own; And, when the gray and crimson kindly blend, I watch beside the casement, quite alone, The coming of my friend.
Through this small window-pane Such tender glances thou dost give to me, As beamed in eyes I ne'er shall see again; They look from heaven, like thee.
And so I sit and dream: Thine image blends with hers, my long-lost bride, Till thou no more art distant: nay, dost seem An angel at my side.
And thus thou art to each: There is no coldness in thy trembling kiss; Thou com'st with silent love, more sweet than speech, To sorrow, and to bliss.
Beautiful Mystery! My grateful spirit draweth near to ONE Who placed thee smiling in the darkling sky A visible benison.
I see how perfectly Within each soul, the sacred sun may shine; I know the great Heart of Eternity Feels each faint throb of mine.
REVELATIONS OF WALL-STREET:
BEING THE HISTORY OF CHARLES ELIAS PARKINSON.
BY RICHARD B. KIMBALL, AUTHOR OF ST. LEGER.
'MISLIKE me not for my complexion.'--MERCHANT OF VENICE.
ON Saturday afternoon, the sixteenth day of October, 1858, something extraordinary occurred to change the dreadful routine of my life. I cannot now recall it without a sudden quickening of the pulse. Then it rendered me for a time nearly insensible.
On Saturday afternoon, the sixteenth day of October, 1858, the postman brought into my office a letter for me, received two cents, and departed. Before I state the contents of this letter, I will give the reader some account of myself. On the said sixteenth day of October, 1858, I occupied an office--no, I had 'desk room in a basement-office, No. -- Wall-street. I was a note-broker; no, I was not a note-broker, but a sort of Man-Friday to several note-brokers and to several note-shavers, men well to do in the world, whose property consists in cash in hand, and who, spider-like, repose quietly in their dens, and suck the marrow out of hard-working men--industrious, laborious citizens--unfortunate devils who have not much credit at the banks, and who are, in consequence, like other unfortunates of another sex, forced upon the 'street.'
At the date aforesaid, I was a jackal, tender, runner, pilot-fish, satellite, serf, toad-eater, or any other humiliating phrase you choose, reader, to employ, for the respectable class of note-brokers and note-shavers just referred to. Do not suppose I was in love with my situation. Do not suppose I was not keenly alive to the disgusting office from which I could not escape. Day by day, when wearied and worn out with incessant toil, and humiliated by varying but never-ending exhibitions of coarseness and arrogance, I would go to my home, resolving never again to expose myself to these; the sight of two daughters grown into womanhood--two motherless daughters--and a son, also grown to man's estate, and dying gradually of consumption, would send me back the next morning to the 'street,' meek, sorrowful, submissive. How did I come to this? How, gradually, from the enjoyment of wealth and 'fashionable society,' and friends without number, and what are called the 'delights of social intercourse;' from influence and consideration; from all, in short, that is deemed desirable, and highly respectable, and absolutely the thing; how, I say, gradually did I come to pay two dollars a week for 'desk-room' in the basement of No. -- Wall-street?
'T is no new story--'t is the old story, scarcely with variations. I am sixty-one years old--almost sixty-two. In 1837 I was a leading importer of silk goods in this city. I lived in what was then a superb house in Broadway, a little above Bond-street. I visited Europe frequently--on business, it is true; but my tastes were refined, and my education good; for, although destined to a commercial life, my father, who took a wide and liberal view of what was required for an accomplished merchant, had sent me to 'Yale,' where I graduated respectably, and from whence I entered a counting-room. These European trips, therefore, were not thrown away on me. My wife, sometimes, went with me, till the care of young children prevented. The crisis of 1837 swept over the entire country like a tornado, and it carried our firm irretrievably under. I was in the very vigor of manhood, and I laughed at calamity. I only felt the stronger to resist and to conquer. Just as soon as we could discover the extent of the disaster, I set to work to clear the wreck and to prepare a statement, so that I could put a clean sheet before our creditors, offer to them all we had, and request a discharge. But our creditors were not to be found. They, in their turn, had gone down, had made assignments, had no power to give discharges; all was blended in a general insolvency--a universal ruin; and so our firm made an assignment, like the rest. I was not discouraged. I occupied myself, for a time, in aiding the assignee, at our old counting-room. We still had our house, as before--it was the inheritance of my wife--and I felt no shame in living in it, since I had surrendered every dollar's worth of my own property to the assignee. Soon, I discovered that it was a hopeless task to endeavor to make any thing out of our bankrupt estate. What should I do? I could attempt no business in my own name, and I saw no hope of relief from thraldom. A man in the prime of life, full of energy and courage and resolution, to be chained hand and foot, and kept in perpetual bondage! About this time, my friend Russell remarked to me (Russell had, through his wife, come into possession of a large fortune, consisting principally of unincumbered real estate in the city, and did nothing but look carefully to the collection of the rents)--Russell, I say, remarked to me, in his cool, supercilious way: 'I tell you what it is, Parkinson, there is no necessity for a man's failing--none whatever. Just look at me, now!' At that moment, I was in a very bitter mood, and I am afraid I cursed Russell in my heart. I do not know, but I think I have hated him ever since; for, in after-years, when I used to walk wearily past his house, (I saved sixpence by not riding,) I saw him stepping into his carriage for an evening drive, glossy and sleek and full-fed, sometimes--GOD forgive me--yes, sometimes, between my close compressed teeth have escaped, as if spontaneously and not to be repressed, the words, 'damn him!' I mention this, because I do not believe, with some, that poverty tends to improve and subdue the evil in our hearts; if it does, why, looking thus at Russell, in his fine, open landau, did the gall so rise and overflow? Well, two or three years ran away. We had preserved an outward semblance of our old life. Friends had not absolutely dropped off. I had no rent to pay, and my wife knew how to economize. But, every now and then, visions of the wolf began to haunt me. It was only the head which appeared, thrust through the door into the parlor, exhibiting the slightest possible curl in the long, sharp mouth, disclosing two pointed ivory fangs--disclosing, but for an instant, two pointed ivory fangs, and then quickly concealed, and the head as quickly withdrawn. My GOD! reader, do _you_ know by experience any thing of the sensations produced by such an apparition? Do you know what it is to have a wife, who clings to you, quite safe in her protector, and young children, who look to 'papa' as to OMNIPOTENCE?... At last the year of Jubilee was announced. A general Bankrupt Law! Men's faces brightened with hope again. Hurried congratulations passed from lip to lip. Hands were grasped with an almost unnatural fervor. Jubilee! release from bondage! joy--joy over the whole land! Yet Russell, who, with all his care--with all his close, sharp, persisting management--had, now and then, been victimized, as he called it, by an unfortunate debtor, who, his security having failed, was found wanting on the last quarter-day--Russell, who had sometimes foreclosed a mortgage, and, taking advantage of the depressed state of things, had bid in the property for one-half its value, and thus obtained a decree over against the once happy possessor of a comfortable home--Russell was, as a matter of principle--oh! yes, wholly as a matter of principle--opposed to the general bankrupt law! opposed to any relief for the thousands and tens of thousands who, indebted beyond the faintest hope of retrieve, were suffering the torture of despair. But Russell's objection to the law--on principle, mind you--fortunately had but slight effect on the happy applicants for its favor. I was among the first to take advantage of the Act. I met with no opposition, and, in a short time I was free. This was early in the year 1842. I now cast about to decide what I should do. I concluded not to embark in the old business. I thought it would be easier to renew confidence, and make a credit, in some other line of mercantile affairs. This was perhaps an error, because I had been thoroughly educated to that particular branch, and I should have much to learn in commencing on another. Looking back, I think that pride lay at the bottom of this; pride, because I could not at once start on my old footing; pride, that many younger men, who had commenced since I had stopped, were already so much in advance of any thing I could undertake. I did not understand this, then; but now I know myself better. At the same time, let it be understood that, in New-York, five years comprise almost a business generation. I had been laid one side, and shelved for just five years; and now, when I was preparing to start again, I had to compete with a new race of merchants, younger, keener, fresher than the race who had gone under. This did not alarm me. I had confidence in myself, and I preferred to encounter those who exhibited intelligence and activity in affairs, rather than the incompetent and stupid. After considerable reflection, I resolved to commence a wholesale grocery business, which should include, from time to time, legitimate operations, sometimes in cotton, sometimes in produce. I started with a cash capital of twenty-five thousand dollars. Fifteen thousand of this my wife insisted on raising by a mortgage upon the house we lived in. Five thousand more was contributed by my mother: it was about the portion to which I would be entitled on her death, and she urged me strongly to receive it then. She was old, she said, and had no longer the wants nor the wishes of younger folks. I took the fifteen thousand from my wife, and the five thousand from my mother, with some misgivings. It was my only chance, though; what weakness to refuse it! A friend--a tried, thoroughly tried friend--a college mate, who was possessed of large means, lent me other five thousand, without security, and with a declaration that, in event of misfortune, he would not permit me to treat it as 'confidential.' Behold me, then, with twenty-five thousand dollars in cash, with a junior partner, who put in three thousand dollars, and who was brought up to the business, and favorably introduced to me by the old and experienced firm of Powell, Weatherby, Keep and Company--behold me, on the first day of January, 1843, in a fine, spacious store in Front-street, my flag once more to the wind:
Charles E. Parkinson and Company.
There was great joy on that first day of January, 1843, at our house in Broadway, a little above Bond-street; an open house it was, and many were the New-Year's visits my wife received, and many the visits I made. All the gloom, and hope deferred, of the past six years, were forgotten. The three little folks--my two little girls, and my one little boy--partook, without knowing why, in the general hilarity.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I found, on setting seriously to work at my new business, that I had every thing to learn. My partner proved to be an active and intelligent young man. He knew the routine of the trade well, and, although he sometimes assumed more than was becoming a comparative youth, I cannot say he took advantage of his position; nor am I aware that he ever violated the rules of our copartnership. He made two or three pretty large bad debts, the first six months we were together, which had the good effect to lower his self-confidence, and to lead him to me more frequently for advice. With the best possible management, the thirty-first of December, 1843, found me, after deducting family expenses and interest-money, with a small inroad made on the capital. It found me, however, in good health, with strong courage, and a competent knowledge of my business, no longer dependent on my junior for advice or suggestions. There was one drawback quite unexpected. On commencing business, I felt myself fairly entitled to a first-rate commercial credit. Frequently, through the year, I discovered there was some mysterious influence working against me. I would be on the point of closing some advantageous operation, which required the giving of our acceptances for considerable amounts, when the parties would return, after a little, and regret that they could not enter into the arrangement--that they found they could not employ our paper as they anticipated, and so forth. Now, I had reason to know that we stood well at both the banks where we did business, and further, that the officers of both these institutions did not hesitate to speak favorably of our firm, when applied to. What could it mean? Was there a snake in the grass--a secret foe--a disappointed creditor, perhaps, of 1837? After mentioning these facts to an old friend, and after his puzzling a good deal over it, he suddenly exclaimed: 'Parkinson, how do you stand at the Mercantile Agency?' 'At what?' said I, not exactly understanding him. 'At the Mercantile Agency,' he repeated; 'what I call our 'Commercial Intelligence Office.' I don't know what we should do without it, though sometimes they do get a little astray there, but they are always ready to correct mistakes.' My friend's suggestion struck me as a very probable one, and I wondered it had not occurred to me. I requested him, therefore, to obtain a report of the standing of our firm at the agency aforesaid. He procured it the next day. It read as follows:
'CHARLES E. PARKINSON AND COMPANY, (Charles E. Parkinson and Edwin E. Rollins.) Wholesale grocers, respectable house, in fair credit. Established 1st January, 1843. Parkinson was importer of silk goods prior to 1837, and failed. Took the benefit of the Bankrupt Law. Unacquainted with present business; put in twenty-five thousand dollars. _Nearly all borrowed_, ($15,000 from his wife's estate,) _and which will probably be treated as confidential, should he fail_. Keeps house, and lives expensively. Rollins, unmarried man, about twenty-five, brought up to the business in the concern of Powell, Weatherby, Keep and Company. Puts in three thousand dollars. In trade for first time on his own account. Firm doing large business. Mem. (July, 1843:) said to have made some heavy losses. Mem. (August, 1843:) Rollins drives a good deal on the road. Supposed to own a very handsome turn-out.'
I read this _ex-parte_ judgment with mingled surprise and indignation. Scanning it with more scrutiny, a second and third time, I was forced into a train of philosophical reflections. After all, the Mercantile Agency had stated but the truth, that is, mainly. It was the _inferences_ drawn from the facts, which were so damaging. Yet the inferences were natural. One could not accuse the 'Mercantile Agency' of any malicious _intent_. Yes, the inferences were natural, but mind you, reader, they were FALSE. And I had been suffering for a twelve-month from what was really a cruel and a slanderous statement. The fifteen thousand dollars, raised by mortgage on my wife's house, was absolutely given to me for capital. No evidence of indebtedness was taken, no recognition of it on our books, otherwise than as cash belonging to and put in by me. The debt of five thousand dollars to my friend was, as I have before stated, actually placed, by a positive understanding, as an ordinary indebtedness. The statement that I had made some bad debts was true, but it did not add, what was more essential, that the senior partner, myself, was a strictly business man, and had gone through his first year in a new line, with little loss, supporting his family meanwhile, and gaining a thorough insight into affairs. Again, poor Rollins came in for a sharp hit, in the way of driving a fast team. Now, Rollins was really economical. He lived with, and supported his mother and some younger brothers, and his habits were unexceptionable. It so happened that a wealthy cousin of Rollins, who did drive a pair of good horses, went out of town for nearly all the month of August, and told R. he might exercise his team while he was gone, if he liked. Rollins had informed me of this, and I believe he enjoyed his drives for about three weeks, and resigned his 'turn-out,' without regret, on his cousin's return. Here, again, the Mercantile Agency had stated a fact, and, with it, a _false inference_. However, now that I saw where the difficulty existed, it was easy to remedy it. I called at the office of the 'Agency,' with two influential business friends--'undoubted' names--and went into an entire explanation. It was satisfactory. The statement as to my capital, 'Nearly all borrowed,' was erased, or rather, a new statement was prepared and entered on the books, quite clear and to the purpose. Poor Rollin's inexpensive drives were no longer marked against him. In short, our firm stood 'right' on the books, and we were thus well advertised. We had no longer any difficulty about our 'paper;' indeed, we now enjoyed all the facilities to which a good credit entitled us.
And here permit me to digress a little, in order to say a word about 'mercantile agencies' generally. The system has been greatly elaborated since 1844. Complete method has been introduced through all its branches, and a most unique and surprising skill is displayed in the information obtained, and in the general characterizations. The enemies of the system complain that it produces an espionage worse a thousand-fold than that under a European despotism; that no circumstance of private or domestic life is safe from the prying, eager curiosity of these keen investigators, who are paid well for gleaning. In short, that the whole affair is a shame and a scandal to a free country. On the other side, it is retorted, that no honest man fears to have the veil drawn aside which may conceal his minutest acts. That such a man courts investigation, and claims to be judged by it; and that those only are opposed to the plan who suffer from having the truth told of them. Now, my view of the question is not based on either of these hypotheses. It seems to me that the mischief lies in another direction. The agency undertakes to give information by which subscribers can form reliable judgments of a merchant's responsibility, and so forth. This is very desirable, and if the agencies accomplish this they certainly render a service to the commercial community. But the truth is, we do not form an opinion of an individual so much from certain absolute facts we hear of him as from his _general reputation_. Every man, every firm, every incorporated company, does, in some way and by some sure process, after a time acquire a general reputation--good, bad or indifferent--for which one would be puzzled to state any reason or cause whatever, but which is true in ninety-nine cases of a hundred. So well settled is this, that our courts, when a person's character is under investigation, will not permit, in the first instance, questions to be asked except as to _general_ reputation. The 'agencies,' with the best intent, doubtless, busy themselves with picking up circumstances. A merchant rushes in and reads the record; he thus goes to an _ex-parte_ tribunal, where reputation is manufactured out of one set of facts, instead of into the world, where currents of opinion flow free, and where truth and error have a fair field for contest. If any one doubts this, let him look at the 'record' of four merchants out of five who fail, and he will find that these merchants took especial pains to keep that record fair. My opinion frankly is, that these agencies have their growth in our great desire to save ourselves the trouble of forming an opinion, so that we readily welcome one manufactured for us. It is very convenient to be told off-hand what really nobody can ever know; whether a merchant is 'good' or not: and I believe our agencies would come badly off to-day in a series of libel-suits, one-half of which should be commenced by their patrons for too favorable statements, whereby those patrons lost their money; and the other half by the subjects of mercantile criticism, whereby such subjects lost their credit. I refer to what is got together and reported about our city merchants. As to the reports recorded in the city of the standing of people through all the towns and villages of the United States, I reject them as generally the preparation of one man, (in each place,) who is biased one way or the other, so that he returns an opinion either much too severe or much too favorable, and by which the merchant here is quite sure to be misled.
To return: I had no further reason to complain of the 'Agency.' They told the truth about me, and drew no disagreeable inferences. Indeed, after a while they began to exaggerate my position, for on the day I failed my record stood as follows: 'First-rate house. Credit A 1. Thoroughly up in their business. Large capital: said to be at least a quarter of a million. Reported to have cleared over fifty thousand dollars the last season in produce. Very cautious operators.' Not to anticipate. The year 1844 was for us the commencement of a new season of prosperity. With great assiduity and great watchfulness the firm retrieved the losses of the previous year, strengthened its credit, changed some important details in the mode of conducting its business, and gradually settled on a prudent and safe basis of operations. From that time we took position among the 'leading merchants.'...
The years 1845 and 1846 passed very happily: yes, very happily, because prosperously and without drawback of any kind. To become once more a man among men. To encounter an acquaintance, and meet his scrutinizing look with an air of conscious strength and stability. To feel that you are no longer exposed to the humiliating sympathy of 'friends,' or the silent triumph of enemies. To be assured that you form again a part and portion of the activity which supports and moves the world; that you are of consequence in it, and recognized accordingly, recognized by old companions with whom you used to engage in various affairs; many of whom sincerely regretted what befell you, and honestly rejoice in your reäppearance in the business arena; who shake hands with you with a smile, and a look as much as to say: 'I knew you would come out all right. Glad to see you here.' To pass from the dreary stupor of inactivity to fresh, hopeful, energetic action; to plan and form combinations; to feel yourself gradually and surely gaining ground; to enjoy the healthful happiness of an ascending scale; to get on, to prosper, to again grow rich, and find every thing around you cheerful; to witness 'troops of friends' returning to range once more under your banner, with many apologies for absence, and so forth--apologies which you receive amiably, (as if you had never felt bitterness of heart, and gangrene, and hatred on their account;) which you not only receive amiably but excuse, making due allowance for human infirmities. (You forgive, and your misfortunes are forgiven, but see to it that you repeat not the offence, lest a worse evil overtake you.) To pass through all this, rising meanwhile till, like the man of Uz, your possessions greatly exceed their former proportions. Well! life _is_ worth something at that. How agreeable to have money; how pleasant not to be forced to calculate! How charming for us, the favored few, few by comparison, to express a wish for what we desire, and lo! it is supplied; to plan out new pleasures, and enter into their enjoyment; to find all things practicable, all things yielding; to encounter smiles and approbation every where; to find every avenue smoothed for our approach, every path made pleasant. Why not? Why should not these things be desirable and acceptable, and very enjoyable?...
So in the midst of business successes and social delights, was ushered in the notable season of 1847. Some perhaps who read these pages have cause to remember that memorable year. To such the index, '1847,' will not be viewed without emotion. Nay, to those who date from it the beginning of, to them, a period of misery and misfortune, of blight and calamity, of stagnation of soul and withering up of energy--leaving them walking nonentities, collapsed and dwindling gradually away, instead of living, enterprising beings, to such did the figures '1847' appear spectral; and when seen printed here, will cause a shock like that produced by some fancied apparition from the dead.... Thus, as I said, with much joyousness and merry-making, amid Christmas festivities and gayeties and frolics came in the crisis-year. And I will proceed to explain how I happened to be paying two dollars a week for desk-room in the basement No. -- Wall-street.
ON the first day of January, 1847, the financial condition of these United States was 'most satisfactory.' So said leading bank presidents and directors in the coteries to which they severally were attached; so observed the prominent members of the Stock Exchange, conversing daily between the 'boards;' so echoed the principal merchants. Eminent bankers talked soothingly over their sherry of the 'remarkable prosperity of the country.' With the second bottle they demonstrated how we were now beyond the reach of panic. The resources of our land were so great, so various, so extraordinary, and its extent almost illimitable. Such room for development, for the employment of capital which could never fail in returning its legitimate increase. No, thank HEAVEN! we were at last on a sound basis, and none but the most reckless need fail in any lawful enterprise.
Russell, too, was of the same opinion.
There was not even a speck in the commercial horizon giving token of the storm which was so soon to burst. Only it began to be ascertained that the failure of the harvest in Great Britain (which had been for some time known) was even more deplorable than at first reported; and, with the blight of the potato in Ireland, there was threatened for that unfortunate isle the visitation of the Angel of Death in the shape of FAMINE! But to most people this served as an additional argument that _our_ prosperity was founded on a rock. We should find, at high prices and gold for payment, a market for all our surplus breadstuffs. Some, unappalled by the terrible calamity which threatened a friendly nation, chuckled over the news brought by each successive steamer of the great rise in the prices of food; while with all there was an ill-concealed satisfaction at the existing condition of things. But there were others who shook their heads, and said such condition was unnatural; that affairs could not go on ruinously for any length of time in England without reäcting forcibly here, so intimate were the relations between us; beside, they said, an unfortunate state of affairs in one country is _never_ beneficial to another country with which it has a close business connection. These individuals were set down as croakers; people who were behind the age; men with antiquated stage-coach ideas. The great majority of moneyed men declared that the country was in a most prosperous state, and accordingly it was generally so accepted.
To come, however, to my own affairs. The position of the firm of Charles E. Parkinson and Company, on that same first of January, was essentially and absolutely a sound one. The year after I commenced business anew, my mother died. The five thousand dollars I received from her proved, as was anticipated, to be about what I was entitled to from the estate, and thus that was settled. I had within a twelve-month repaid my friend the five thousand dollars borrowed from him. It was indeed so much in reduction of our capital, and the money to us was worth much more than seven per cent; but something whispered to me, 'Pay it!' and I did so. Strange to say, many years later this circumstance proved to be the final turning-point in my earthly career. Since we began, our capital had increased from the sum of twenty-eight thousand dollars, as the reader will recollect, to one hundred and thirty-eight thousand seven hundred and sixty dollars in stocks and assets, after deducting all probable bad debts and what the firm owed. In other words, that was our 'balance-sheet.' This was certainly doing well; at the same time we had acquired the reputation of having made still greater gains, so true is it that 'to him who hath shall be given.'
I was one of the few who were not carried away by the excitement consequent on the great rise in all species of produce. I believed when, stimulated by the high prices, the north of Europe began to pour in its large stores of grain, that a reäction must take place, especially if the coming season in Great Britain promised well. For this reason I did not permit myself to be tempted into a speculative course, in which my neighbors were clearing large sums rapidly. In April and May the financial distress in England, and distress from hunger in Ireland, were very great. An American Government store-ship, loaded with provisions, was sent to the relief of the Irish people, thousands of whom were dying from starvation. Still were we in this side prosperous; still taking in gold for food at high prices; still counting on more gold at higher prices. About the first of June these prices came to a stand-still in Europe. From the ports in the Baltic rich granaries were shipped to the British Isles, the harvests promised well, and the potato appeared to be without blight. We were then carried into the summer in the midst of a great speculation in produce; with falling prices in Europe, and purchases and contracts maturing here; grain shipped to a tremendous extent, bills drawn heavily against it; bankers, ancient and honorable firms, breaking all over the Continent; all through England, Scotland and Ireland, till the panic there reaching its height, the market here became utterly depressed, and bills of our best houses were floating about in all directions, offered at enormous rates without buyers. Then was Wall-street one morning taken suddenly all aback by the refusal of some of the largest bankers in London to honor the bills drawn on them, of an old and leading house here! What confusion, what consternation! It was all a mistake: oh! certainly a mistake! A matter of precaution only, till the arrival of the next steamer, then all the bills would be protected, all accounts arranged, and every thing be put right. Just wait for the next steamer.
The steamer never arrived!
But if the firm of Charles E. Parkinson and Company did not speculate, what had it to fear? Reader, you know little of commercial affairs if you suppose in times of general financial distress it is possible for any house engaged largely in business to escape unscathed. Quite early in the season I attempted to act with great prudence and circumspection. I came to the conclusion that, such were my then business relations with correspondents in the South, we should undoubtedly meet with large losses. I was prepared to accept this as the 'fate of war;' for my gains had been large. During the summer I was applied to by a leading banking-house in Wall-street to make purchases of large quantities of grain for foreign want; these were to be made through the west, and I was to charge a certain commission, and receive in payment bills drawn by this banking-house, on Baring Brothers and Company, in London. Nothing appeared surer or safer. The produce was to be consigned to the Barings, and since that house stood so high, and the drawers themselves were so undoubted, I did not consider it a risk. For all that, I stopped short in this arrangement before the parties had finished buying, and left them to select another agent. This was in consequence of the disheartening news brought by every steamer. Resolving not to make another business transaction, I joined my family, who were at Newport, in order to enjoy some relaxation. I enjoyed but little. Week after week brought intelligence more and more gloomy. I determined not to prolong our stay, but that we would all go to town the first of September, instead of my going in alone. I cannot say I experienced any presentiment of coming evil. I do not know why still I felt as if I must have my wife and children around me. On Wednesday, the first day of September, in the afternoon, we reached our handsome house in Broadway, a little above Bond-street. How pleasant it looked; that dear, happy home! By evening we were comfortably installed. The next day I was early at my counting-rooms. Affairs were threatening, but I maintained a courageous self-reliance. I believed, although I might be considerably damaged, that I should weather the storm. Rollins, who had greatly improved in sagacity, and now become an experienced merchant, was untiring in endeavoring to carry out my suggestions. Things were no worse than I expected to find them. Rollins had anticipated one or two very important steps which I had proposed to take, and with a favorable result. I had occasion to go that morning to Jersey City, with reference to a number of storage receipts, about which some question had been raised, and I told Rollins that I should not return to the counting-room, but would go directly home, having many little matters to look after at the house, and if he had any thing of importance to communicate I requested him to call in the evening. I transacted my business, and reached my house with spirits much improved, and my courage a good deal exalted. The children welcomed me with great glee as I entered. Mamma had invited two or three of their own age to spend the evening with them. Beside, young Havens was coming, (Miss Alice, my eldest, was already sixteen, and did not appear vexed at this last announcement,) and I was expected to contribute toward the entertainment. I smiled with a father's pride and joy as I beheld the glowing countenances around me. There was nothing which whispered to me that the atmosphere was loaded with fatal intelligence. How happy was I in my unconsciousness!
At dinner we were all animated. I partook with a relish of our own cheer, and was gladdened beside by a bottle of generous wine, which the old cellar had held for many a year; my return home; a favorable business-day; the cheerful voices of my wife and children; a good dinner; and the fine old Madeira wine: all combined to produce a comfortable and confident state of mind. 'We will weather it yet,' I exclaimed aloud, with a complacent nod.... There were some young people gathered in the parlor in the evening. They had danced a quadrille; they had talked and laughed. Now Alice was requested to sing. She seated herself at the piano, and began the convivial song from _Traviata_. The music was particularly adapted to her voice, and as the tones floated through the room, I was gradually carried away by the _abandon_ of the air. Insensibly I closed my eyes to enjoy it. Just then I heard the door open: the servant pronounced: 'Mr. Rollins, Sir.' I looked up. Rollins stood before me. He was very pale, but otherwise not excited; betrayed no unusual excitement. 'I want to speak with you a moment,' he said. I rose and walked with him as far as the pillar which separates the parlors, and leaning against it, I waited for him to speak. Alice meantime was continuing the song from _Traviata_.
'Have you heard the news?' he said, in a low tone.
'No; what news?' I replied.
'The 'Caledonia' arrived this morning. We have her advices by telegraph. Barings have refused acceptance of ----'s bills.'
'How many with our indorsement must be still out?'
'At least seventy thousand dollars.'...
Alice was finishing the last strain of the convivial song. With the last strain I beheld fading away like a dissolving view those beautiful velvet carpets; vanishing, the fine sofas, and soft couches, and handsome furniture; gone, the rosewood piano; gone, the choice damask and silver; gone, the luxurious board, with the old wines and delicious _liqueurs_: and the house, our HOME, lost is the house; recorded against it is that mortgage for fifteen thousand dollars and interest; the value of property depressed, and we in the hands of a prompt creditor. Oh! why had I not paid off that mortgage? Oh! why? Wife and children; yes, wife and children remaining; but to suffer what discomfort, what unhappiness, possibly what destitution!
Not one quarter of a minute had elapsed since Rollings answer, 'At least seventy thousand dollars,' yet behold how much had rushed through my heated brain! I turned, for I felt a soft hand on my arm: it was my wife.
'Charles, what is it?'
'At present nothing, only I must step out for a few moments with Rollins.'
'Papa, papa, where are you going? Come back! You are always running away!'
A WINTER SCENE.
BY RICHARD HENRY STODDARD.
IT is a morn in winter, The air is white with snow; And on the chinar branches Jasmins seem to grow.
The furrowed fields and hill-tops With icy treasures shine, Like scales of silver fishes, Or jewels in a mine.
The bitter wind has banished The silent nightingale, And the rose, like some coy maiden, Is muffled in a veil.
Its silver song of summer No more the fountain sings, And frozen are the rivers That fed the bath of kings!
No flower-girls in the market, For flowers are out of date; And the keepers of the roses Have shut the garden-gate.
No happy guests are drinking, Their goblets crowned with vine, For gone are all the merchants That sold the merry wine!
And gone the dancing women, Before the winds and snows; Their summer souls have followed The nightingale and rose!
THE OBSERVATIONS OF MACE SLOPER, ESQ.
FOR THIS NUMBER ONLY, BY PARTICULAR REQUEST, THE OBSERVATIONS OF SLOPE MACER, ESQ.
THEY were all sitting together in the library, round the great walnut table, under the great bronze chandelier.
We're very proud of that chandelier by the way. Amelia designed it herself, and Hiram had it moulded out in Paris. It has spreading tree-branches; in between the forks lie a Turk, an Indian, a German, and a Calmuck, each smoking a long pipe, and out of the pipe-bowl comes the jet of flame. They do look just as natural as life: that's a fact. The Indian was drawn for Sam Batchelder; and the German for me. His is a good likeness; mine isn't. They tell Sam that bronze suits his style of face; I live in mortal fear that some body'll call us both a couple of gas-blowers; and so avail myself of this chance to head them all off, by originalling it myself. Remember, good folks, it has been done.
Well, there were the girls: Amelia, Bertha Sue, Little Sugar, and one or two others, not forgetting the immortal Nella Satanella, all sewing and snipping things with scissors, or knitting and hauling in the runaway worsted balls, every once in a while, with a jerk, as if they were children wandered off. Only Nella lay back in a great arm-chair snapping a little riding-whip she'd picked up, and doing nothing. Nella don't know that I've noticed it, but I _have_; and that's a way she has when other women are stitching and talking away, as all the sisterhood always do, all the world over, after a jolly tea-fight, of counting herself out, lying back on a chair, and eyeing them all round. There is nothing in it aggravating or conceited or insulting. Nothing vain or sarcastic. Nothing at all to take hold of, except once in a while a strange light as of a coming smile about to make daylight, but which never comes. And this smile-light seems to strike within as if she were watching her_self_, and amused at it. Nothing--that's to say, only one thing.
And that One is in its dimness something Awful.
I'm the only one who has seen it. I see that girl always watching human nature in every body, as one watches kittens at play. Children interest her like grown people, and she puts questions to watch the answers, and quietly raises topics to see how her little and great puppets will work. Where she loves and respects people she does this in such a way as to give them pleasant emotions and dignify them. I've seen her make Sam Batchelder say for an hour things just as creditable to his heart and head as any thing could be: and Sam hardly knowing it either. I've seen her draw out of Amelia the most artless indications of kindness and dignity. She's found out, and a strange art it is, through years of thought, just what keys to touch in people to bring out certain sounds. When she doesn't love, she goes in with the same interest, and treats herself to a good jolly monkey-show of miserable follies in red jackets dancing to the organ. Behind it all, even when Nella's with the wisest and best of people, is that mysterious philosophy, or whatever it is, which keeps comparing and comparing it all to other things laid away.... But just speak a word, and up Nella flies, all prompt and ready and spry; full of fun and jollity, ripe for any thing.
'Now,' said Bertha Sue, 'talking of young men--that is to say, _very_ yong men--I don't like them; that is, if they're not _nice_. I have known some real good fellows who'd keep you laughing all the time, and never vex you with a folly; and then there're so many who make such _geese_ of themselves: think if a lady only looks at them----'
'My dear child,' quoth Sugar, 'that would depend a great deal, I should think, on how the lady looked at the young man. Now the other evening at the opera--'twas really _too_ absurd in me, I declare----'
(Now Little Sugar is very conscientious, and always puts a story through, even at her own expense, if she has once begun it, thinking it wrong to disappoint people.)
'Well, I declare I couldn't help it; but there was a young gentleman in the parquette who looked _exactly_ like my brother. And I looked straight at him the _longest_ time; indeed I don't know what I could have been thinking of----I'm sure _you'd_ have looked at him just in that way if he'd been like _your_ brother, wouldn't you?' quoth Sugar innocently, and addressing Nella.
'Oh! immensely,' replied that most unlikely of all young ladies.
'Well, he kept staring at me, in the most annoying way, all the evening, after that. Oh! it was just _too_ provoking. I'd have given _worlds_ to've been home. He didn't know though that he looked like my brother. I do declare, I'd give any thing if he could only have known that it wasn't _him_ that I was looking at.'
'You should have put next morning in the 'Personals' of the _Herald_,' quoth Sam, 'an advertisement, saying that 'The young lady in white satin cloak, white lace bonnet, and crimson roses, a fall of blonde, lavender kid gloves, and lavender silk dress, with little ruffles, pearl and white silk fan, and mother-of-pearl opera-glasses, wishes it to be understood by the young gentleman, at whom she stared for several minutes, during the last 'Martha,' that this was done _solely_ in consequence of his extraordinary resemblance to a relative, and not because she was in the slightest degree attracted by the gentleman himself.''
'Feel better, Sam?' inquired Hiram.
'What wonderful power of extempore composition!' quoth Nella.
'Well,' said Sam, 'I'll print it any how.'
'Oh! please don't!' said Sugar. 'Indeed I'd rather you wouldn't. I know it's very kind of you, but I think I'd prefer not having it printed. I--I--wouldn't like putting you to such trouble and expense, you know.' And here Sugar looked anxiously and wistfully up at Sam, as if he were pronouncing her death-sentence. There was a general burst of indignation from all the ladies present, and Sam caught it severely. It doesn't take long for half-a-dozen women to bring one man to order, and they generally do it in about half-time when the offence is that of setting masculine quizzing against feminine weakness and tenderness. If you have any doubts, my Christian KNICKERBOCKER friend, just try it on in the next tea-battle where you may find yourself. Just a little. Pick out the favorite--and three decent women never get together but what one tacitly becomes the pet--and undertake to quiz her, especially on some point in which the others are conscious of weakness! Don't _say_ any thing, but just _try_ it. That's all. If you happen to find that it pays, just drop a line to me, address KNICKERBOCKER Office, or _Vanity Fair_.
'As regards YOUNG MEN,' said I, (I must have spoken very impressively, for all the girls at once slung up their heads as if I'd fired a revolver;) 'as regards _Young_ Men, I'm certain that there isn't a sect in the whole community whose views, feelings and ideas--above all, whose _sufferings_, are so little thought of or described by writers.
'When a man gets to be old enough to _marry_, then he's immensely interesting. _Then_ he figures every where. He's tenor in the opera, first lover in the play, first fiddle in the whole orchestra of society. _He's_ provided for.
'But as for the youth who hasn't graduated----'
(Here one or two of the young ladies picked up their sewing, and began tumbling the work-basket.)
'As for him whose beard is growing, and who hasn't 'got his set,' one may say that nobody in existence is treated with such inhumanity. Among all, except the most refined and cultivated people, it seems to be perfectly fashionable to establish a raw on him and snap it. If a girl is an angel to all the world beside, she can't resist the temptation of snubbing him like a devil. The poor youths in their earlier frock-coats! They feel the torture so keenly, and generally so foolishly. All they can do is to 'get mad.''
'And _then_,' said Nella, 'how demure and astonished Mademoiselle looks; how perfectly unable to understand _such_ rudeness! Yes, goodness knows, I _was_ guilty of such folly often enough myself, when I was a school-miss. In fact, I've gone to my room and cried after it; but I couldn't resist the temptation. It's delightful to feel and exercise power; particularly when you haven't much. There are two kinds of power developed at a gymnasium: that of nervous activity, (which is partly strength, you know;) and solid strength, which is altogether itself and nothing else. Now we girls come to full exercise of our activity before the poor boys get their strength. The fact holds good mentally, as well as physically; indeed, I wouldn't give much for any fact that hadn't a physical basis. Well, the boys grow up, marry the girls----'
'And take their revenge.'
'Exactly. But I've often thought that something might be done in education to relieve the sensitiveness and suffering of men at that age. Talk about boyhood, and the influences of childhood! bless your soul, the age I speak of has a hundred chances to make or mar where boyhood has one. Then it is, if ever, that the influences of woman should be most felt: those of cultivated women of the world especially. Haven't I seen that a few words of real interest and kindness from such a woman to a youth have changed the whole course of his thoughts for months? All his teachers and professors together couldn't give him in a year the impetus that she can with a few words of flattery and encouragement. He needn't be in love with her to have this miracle effected; and if he _is_, so much the better, for if there is any one thing which induces a youth to leave all that's bad and mean and degrading, it is the being in love. There's nothing that so stimulates the manly mind to become great and noble. Haven't I heard one of the greatest men who ever lived say, that the only times when he had ever been a good man were when he was in love?'
'I declare, Nella,' said Amelia, 'you talk as sympathetically as if you'd been a young man yourself.'
'So I have been,' said Nella, with enthusiasm. 'I've been every thing that _ever_ suffered. An Italian monk told me once that he had been CHRIST again and again; that by intense meditations on HIS sufferings he had felt all the pains of the crucifixion. If there is a human suffering which I haven't known it has not been for want of effort. Ah! only strive with all your might to sink down to sympathy with agony, find out its causes, and you'll begin almost to think there's no such thing as guilt. Folly there _is_----'
'But I don't think it's manly in young men to suffer,' quoth Bertha Sue, very naturally.
'My dear child,' replied Nella, 'my sister's children used to be mortally ashamed of catching cold because a nurse ridiculed their coughing. Yet they caught cold quite the same. What the _world_ thinks of young men, and what it expects of them, causes a vast amount of hypocrisy. The very natural and creditable yearning for enjoyment, which is keenest in life at that age, is unnoticed or sternly repressed. It isn't, as a general rule, before a man becomes half-blasé that he _begins_ to be knowing or free enough to be happy: and then he must drink when no longer thirsty. Bless me, why, didn't Dr. Maybaum tell us yesterday that when he was at college the _only_ provisions made there were to secure study and 'moral demeanor?' 'The boys would find amusement for themselves soon enough,' said the gouty, opium-steeped, old Incapable of a President. And they _did_ find amusement: the amusements of fools and blackguards combined. Ah! for my part I don't see why as much pains shouldn't be given to supplying youth with recreation, as with 'education,' as people call education. Nature craves pleasure as much as food. I am only a woman, consequently I have been barred as in a cage my life long; but I have good strong eyes, and I have seen something through those bars. I tell you that, with all the suffering on earth--bereavements, poverty, hunger, disease and oppression, that which goads man most is the craving for pleasure, for recreation, or 'distraction.' Teachers and parents close their eyes to the existence of this terrible power, and moralists either treat it as an evil or try to feed it on gruel. The Puritans all hold it to be the downright inspiration of the devil: as they do every thing which is beautiful and joyous like it. Ah! if they could feel as I do, what a stupendous flood of joy and of beauty life is capable of taking in! What _might_ be done for the young if the true power of their minds was understood and provided for! What men of genius, what great and _good_ men might spring up by thousands, who now go to destruction, if it were only understood that enjoyment and pleasure, health and beauty, properly cared for, may be made the great stimulants to exertion. Yes, and to nobility of mind and tenderness. Ah! the sufferings of lonely young hearts in silent chambers for want of this.'
Nella's voice quivered with deep emotion as she spoke. I saw that she had touched one of the depths of her religion of humanity. As she went on, her fingers played with, and she unconsciously placed on her head a beautiful long Arab cap--a fez, which Hiram used to wear. Suddenly she sprang up, and as her ocean of black hair rolled down in ripples to one side, she threw up one beautiful white arm, and said: 'The dear boys, if I only had the governing of them all! Ah! I tell you I would captain them gloriously up to manhood! I have heart enough for _all_ who suffer, for _all_ who fail to get their rights; and the greatest of human rights is to attain the fullest development of _every_ capacity. _Heart!!_ If giving a kiss with all my heart and soul to any youth living, would be a memory of joy to him for years, would lead him on like a light, and be a sweet memory in sorrow, I would _give_ it: freely as a cup of water to the parched pilgrim. Freely! Yes, to thousands on thousands. 'I _mean_ it.''
Oh! that you could have seen the tears rise in her great black eyes. Or how beautiful Nella was when she said this. Wild, and strange, and inspired, as though she saw far in advance some beautiful solemn coming promise, too great for words. Then graceful as a cloud she sank down into the chair, and covered her forehead with her hands. And there was not one present who did not regard her with respect and love. She is a wonder, this Nella. One who in stormy times would be one of the women of the Nation and of History.
But it was not long before all the good folks had subsided into the old calm. The girls went on working: there was the old occasional snip of scissors and bump of worsted balls as they run over the floor; and as there is considerable Liberty Hall in our circle, I lit a segar, and rolling back into the big chair, (such a giant old nest of elastic softness you never did,) I began to _think_.
First I turned to what Nella had been saying of the small amount of care the world's genius takes of the growing generation, just at the time when it needs it most.
Then what a raft of things--here I made a short discursion off, trying to recal a story I once heard of a nigger preacher, who was also a boatman, and who exhorted his hearers to flee frum de raft to come--de great big raft all on fiah dat'll smash yer boats and burn 'em up--glory!
Then I came up to time again, remembering what the world didn't care for, and what a wholesale careless, head-over-heels way it has of caring for what it does attend to, and crack up and idolize. There's history for instance. I'm not smart--wish I was--but one thing _don't_ humbug me, and that's the fashion people teach the boys history.
'All the individuals _on our side_, in all great times, were all saints. I don't believe it,' I spoke aloud.
'I wouldn't believe it, Mr. Sloper,' said Nella, smiling. 'Every revolution had some heroes in it and some fools.'
'A great many of every body, I shouldn't wonder,' I replied. 'Some of the cream and a great deal of skim. Lots of notional people, such as turn Mormons; lots of small-pattern folk, who do the loud talk for their corner-grocery; any quantity of owly follows, who've got hold of a Tom Paine or a Volney, and nothing much else--the same sort who get moony over tracts or perpetual motion. We lose sight of them, though. Yet they make up an immense lot of the rank and file in all great carryings-on which have a new idea in the middle.'
'There was a _canaille_ on both sides in the great Protestant Reformation,' said Nella.
('French for tag-rag and bob-tail,' quoth Hiram.)
'And I suppose that even the Christians of the first age had one.'
'Bet your Cashmere on that,' quoth Sam. 'But you mustn't say it.'
'Mustn't say the _truth_?' I replied. 'Was the American Revolution a lie, because it had Arnolds, and Tories, and all sorts of scallawags?'
'Come,' said Nella, 'this puts me in mind of something. I've got in my desk the queerest poem! It's on this subject. It tries to show, if I remember right, that even in a time which we always think of as being without low and vulgar people, there were probably some who went into ignorant extremes and abused every thing. Sam, suppose you read it.'
And in a few minutes she produced the document. It had been given to a friend of hers by the editor of the _Family Pudding_, who couldn't quite make any thing out of it, except that the style was inelegant and the moral obscure, and who had therefore indorsed it as 'rejected.'
And turning himself round, so as to face the great multitude, Sam began:
The Legend of Crispin.
BY MEISTER KARL.
WHEN the Romans, the never-to-be-forgotten Romans-- Romans, Roman citizens, S. P. Q. R.-- Travelled out of Pompeii, Pompeii! When Mount Vesuvius was pouring down her lava, Dust--Ashes--Scoria, Ruin, Desolation, Eternal Misery! Fire-works, Annihilation, And Things.
They left a Sentry standing at the door, They did. Citizens went rushing past him, Rushing like hurlycanes, Like hydrants, Like rifle-bullets on their travels, Carrying baggage-- Some of it marked 'LUCIUS SEMPRONIUS,' Some of it 'DRUSILLA.' Band-boxes, inscribed with the _nomina_ of MARCIA MESSALINA; The trunks of FLAVIUS GRACCHUS, The bronzes of SPURIUS, The Elephantine books of LAUFELLA, Of ÆGLE, LALAGE, CHIONE, DIONE, CLODIA, SULPITIA, LAIS, BASSA, And the traps of all that fast crowd, The jolly, half-Greek Romans of that Blue-Sea town. It was a fast party, and no mistake; Used to cutting up high old didoes, Going in on Falernian, _Nunc pede libero_, Myrrhine cups, Serican mantles, beautiful slaves, Harp and psaltery, kisses and wine, _alma_ VENUS! Live and love, you beauty--Beauty is Divine! Go it, girls--go it while you're young! _Sic vita--hodie nobis. Disce bone clerice virgines amare, Quare sciunt dulcia oscula prestare. Juventutem floridam tuum conservare, Et cetera._ Now they ran, shrieking, bewildered, pale-white, Scared to fits-- Poor, pretty, little unfortunate devils, Having a hard old time of it: While a newly-escaped convict, a fellow named CRISPIN, Who was to have been thrown to the lions in the circus, But who had got out of his cage and _feliciter evasit_ Just escaped martyrdom and canonization, Stood on a dung-hill, preaching Millerism To the unfortunate Pompeians. 'Sarves yer right,' quoth he, In uncommonly bad Latin. He was a Thracian shoe-maker! 'Sarves yer right-- _Dives eritis_--you used to be rich as blazes, Fat and sarcy--every thing but ragged, Dern you! Now things is workin'-- O _Domine Deus_! an't I glad! Now you're all goin to thunder Along with yer blamed old gods and goddesses, JUPITER JOVIS, MARS, APOLLO! Oh! git ëout! DIANA! Talk about _her_ bein' decent! Shaw! Law bless your soul! she an't no better than she should be. JUNO! she _was_ a nice lot, she was I _don't_ think: Didn't marry her brother nor nothin', I spose! HERCULES! There's a pretty character now, to make a god of! Why, he never was nothing better'n a sort of sporting man: Used to go boxin' rëound in a low way, An' killin' things. Worship him! I'd as soon worship an old chaw tobacco: Fact! Just as live's not. MERCURY! Sounds well, don't it, to be prayin' to _him_? Shows yer derned thieves any how, to think of such a thing. Why, he's nothin' but a pick-pocket, A common burgular; a hoss-stealer; A fellow who shoves the queer and buzzes blokes, as they say in their low slang. That's what _he_ is. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! 'Fore I'd be seen in his temple, I'd go worship CLOACINA. Fact! That's what _I'd_ do. Oh! they're a putty set--these divinities of yourn: MINERVY, for instance. _She_ don't know nothin', She an't o' no account. _She's_ a humbug. Why, I know a gal, PAULA INNOCENTIA; lives round by the Forum; sells slop. Kin read the 'Pistle to the Romans right strut through-- Well _she_ can. That's more'n MINERVY ever did. Then, there's NEPTUNE! Now I arsk you as reas'nable men, _Don't_ you consider him as an old blower--a regular gas-bag. Feller citizens: I arsk you to argy this point temperately and soberly, without usin' no aggravatin language. Don't you think a man must be a blarsted old fool to believe in any such narsty stuff as this beastly _my_-thology of yourn? Shaw! There an't no use talkin', It's all a dead cock in the pit, the hull of this Olympus: I don't say nothin agin PLUTO, however, (Only you ought to call him SATAN by rights.) _Some_ of you'll find out mighty soon, _I_ calculate, whether _he's_ a smellin' rëound or not. Rather! Oh! go 'long with you. Sho-o-o-o! Yeu narsty, indecent, leëwd, unproper critters! Yeu miserable coots. Fellers with about half the interlect of a common-sized shad, Yeu goneys. _Ya--ya--yap--yap_--BOO! Yeu don't have an imparticularly hard time on 't. Sa-ay! Layin' off on _triclinia_, drinkin' Falernian out 'er _pocula_, and snake-handled Etruskin _calices_, _Serpens in patera Myronis arte_, To the health of VENUS! _Ea-au-au-a'a'a'h!_ You make me sick! VENUS!! _Bibis venenum_, you drink serpent pison and no mistake under them 'ere circumstances. VENUS! Sh-aw! She 's just the filthiest.... ....dern'dest.... ....ugh--ugh!' (Here he grew black in the face with howling and spitting.) 'Beautiful indeed! I _hate_ beauty. Blarst it! 'Tan't moral. I'd rather see the lousiest old slave a-goin', Than all the clean-washed beauty of all Lesbos, Corinth, Athens, Rhodes, Or any other man. Look-a-here, you goneys! There's a statue of VENUS now: Mighty putty--an't it? _Vide, dico, vobis!_ Here's a big pavin'-stun. I'm a-goin' to smash her nose in. I'll spile some of your pretty for you--_moecha damnata!_ You carn't do nothin' to one of the Chosen, you know! Here goes at her! Rip! snap!--one, two, three!' And it flew from his hands. The multitude, in terror, Paused in their flight, shocked at the sacrilege, Waiting the wrath of the foam-white-limbed Goddess APHRODITE, eternal daughter of sun-shine, Of the blue-sea and beauty infinite. Was it the accursed stone which struck the features Chiselled by PHIDIAS or SCOPAS? Was it the shock of the earthquake? But as the mountain gave a roar tremendous, As though all Orcus had burst loose on earth, And in a flash, as of all JOVE'S lightning, Down fell the marble queen of loveliness, Crushing to kindred dirt, in one foul mass, CRISPIN the Scoffer. Lo! the gods are just!
'That's a rather Remarkable,' quoth Sam, as he wound up.
('How well you read!' exclaimed four voices at once.)
'It's a great pity!' said Amelia, 'that he broke that beautiful statue. How well it would have looked, Mace, on that pedestal in the corner of the library. I do wish you d buy something to put on it. It looks so empty. I saw a lovely bronze Psyche at Haughwout's the other----'
'Well,' said I, 'I 'spose I must hoe out my row and finish the furnishing: so send her up!'
'And the poem, Nella?'
'Lo! the gods are just,' replied Nella, repeating the last line. Ah! I hope so. I hope that _no_ form of beauty which man ever looked at with love, ever did die, or ever will. I should think that something were wrong if I really believed that that statue which Crispin broke will never be seen again in all eternity by me. No; every lovely face and flower and breath of music lives somewhere, as a grain lies in the earth waiting for the spring. Nature has the germ and the secret: all _will_ rise again more beautiful than ever.'
BY HENRY P. LELAND.
SILENT he sat in the forest shade, Silent, but not alone-- He and his hound and the unseen form Of one then dead and gone. Not dead, while she lives in his throbbing heart: Not gone, while her dark eyes make him start: Living alone!
Heartless the trees, soulless the rocks, Nothing but wood and stones? No sympathy here for sorrowful hearts, No voices with gentle tones? Not heartless the forest while joy it yields! Not soulless the rock that a sad heart shields! Living alone!
Silent he walked in the cloudless night, Her eyes the stars above; Her voice in the thrilling wind from the south; His world--her world of love!-- Love, that will live and the loved one gone; Love, that will live and forever live on-- Living alone!
Heart of the forest, and soul of the rock, Star eyes in heaven that gleam, Voice of the wind that thrilled his heart, And are ye all a dream? Dream! then let him through life dream on. Dream! yes, DREAM till life is gone! Living alone!
BY FITZ-HUGH LUDLOW.
I.--THE OLD MAID'S CHAPTER.
----'DIE, if dying I may give Life to one who asks to live, And more nearly, Dying thus, resemble thee!'
'CIEL! Zat is ze true heroique! Zat is ze very far finest ting in all ze literature anglaise! Zere have not been made vun more sublime poesie by your immortel Villiams Shakyspeare! Glorieux! Vat a grandeur moral of ze woman who vill vonce die for her love!'
'_Once?_ I knew a woman who died _thrice_ for _hers_.'
The enthusiastic admirer of Longfellow was a French Professor in one of our American Colleges, by name Gautier Bonenfant. The person who met his panegyric with such a strange response, was Orloff Ruricson, by birth a Swede, by adoption a New-Yorker, and by trade the proprietor of a Natural History Museum. These two, with myself, were sitting on the west piazza of the little inn at Kaaterskill Falls. All of us hard-working men in the hard-working season; but on this tenth day of July, eighteen hundred and fifty-nine, soaking the dust out of our brains in a bath of sunlight and mountain air, forgetting in company that life was not all one sweet vacation.
Bonenfant and I looked at Ruricson with puzzled faces. Though a good fellow and a wisely humorous one, he seldom said any thing whose cleverness lay in a double-entendre.
'Pray, who is that remarkable woman?' said I.
'It is my wife,' replied Orloff Ruricson soberly.
'And she die, von, two, tree time?' asked Bonenfant, with uplifted eye-brows.
'And she died three times for her love,' repeated Orloff Ruricson.
'Perhaps you would have no objection to tell us exactly what you mean?' said I.
'None at all, to _you two_. With this proviso. I know that you, John Tryon, write for the magazines. For aught I know, Bonenfant here, may be a correspondent of the _Constitutionnel_.'
'Mais non! I am ze mose red of Red Republican!'
'Perhaps you are Ledru Rollin, then, travelling in disguise to hunt materials for a book. At any rate, I must exact of both of you a promise, that if a single lineament of the story I am going to relate, ever gets into print through your agency, it shall be represented as fictitious, and under assumed names.'
'It's a bargain!'
'You see, I live by my Museum. And if the public once suspected that I was a visionary man, the press and the pulpit and general opinion would run me down immediately. I should be accused of denying the originality of the human race inferentially, through my orang-outang; of teaching lessons of maternal infidelity through my stuffed ostrich; of seducing youth into a seafaring life by my preserved whale. No more schools, at half-price on Saturday afternoon, accompanied by their principal; no more favorable notices by editors, 'who have been with their families,' for you, Orloff Ruricson!
'And what I am going to tell you will seem visionary. Even to you. Nevertheless, it is as real as any of the hardest facts in my daily life. Take my solemn word for it.
'When I was ten years old, my parents emigrated from Sweden to this country. At the age of twelve, I lost my father. At thirteen, I was apprenticed to a man who stuffed birds in Dutch-street. At fourteen, I was motherless. At twenty, my term was out, and I began to think of setting up as a taxidermist on my own hook. There! The Biographical Dictionary can't beat that summary of ten years, for compactness!
'I made a very liberal offer to my master; in fact, proposed to take him into partnership. He nobly refused to avail himself of my generosity. Bird-stuffing, even in New-York, was not a very lucrative business, and would hardly support two, he suggested. What did I think of one of the river towns? Albany, or Hudson, or Poughkeepsie, for instance? I did not tell him what; but in reality, I thought so little of them, that within ten days after my indenture was cancelled, I had taken a little nook in the Bowery, with window enough to show off three blue-jays, a chameleon, and a very young wild-cat, (whose domesticity I may, at this day, acknowledge to have been slandered by that name,) and sufficient door to display the inscription: 'ORLOFF RURICSON, Taxidermist and Aviarian Professor.' Even at that day, you see, Bonenfant, we impostors had begun to steal your literary title.'
'Sacrebleu! I do very moshe vish zat ze only ting ze plenty humbug professors now-a-days _stuff_ vas ze _birds_!'
'Well, _I_ may have stuffed the public a little, too. At any rate, they patronized me far better than I had any reason to expect. By the time I was of age, I had moved my business one door farther up, to a shop treble the size of the first; and instead of sleeping under and eating on top of my show-case, as I began, I occupied lodgings with a respectable cutler's widow, second-story front of a brick house on Third Avenue, and came down to my store every morning at nine o'clock, like any wholesale grocer.
'I had been installed in my comfortable quarters only six weeks, when a new lodger came to the boarding-house. The first thing that I knew of it, was my beholding, directly opposite me at a Sunday dinner, the most preternaturally homely face I had ever seen. As I took my seat, and opened my napkin, the cutler's widow inclined her head in the direction of the apparition, and uttered the words: 'Miss Brentnall.' I cast a glance and a bow in the same quarter, pronouncing the name after her. 'Mr. Ruricson,' said the landlady laconically, and nodded toward me. 'Mr. Ruricson,' repeated the miracle of plainness, in a voice so sweet that I could not rid myself of the impression that it must be the ventriloquism of some one else. At the same moment she smiled. The smile was as incongruous with the face as the voice; and for that glancing half-minute, Miss Brentnall was a dozen shades more endurable.
'Cruikshank, acting as collaborator with Salvator Rosa, would fall short of any thing more ambitious than a slight sketch of the woman's unearthly homeliness. I dare hardly attempt describing her in words, but for your sake, let me try.
'Her hair was like Bonenfant's Republicanism, 'the most red of red,' but without the usual characteristic of that color, silky fineness. In fact, unless you have been through a New-England corn-field in the dog-days, and noticed the very crispest of all the crisp tassels which a brazen sun has been at work baking for the month previous; unless you have seen some peculiarly unsheltered specimen, to the eye like dried blood, and to the fingers like dust and ashes, you cannot imagine the impression produced by Miss Brentnall's hair. I really trembled lest our awkward waiter's sleeve should touch it, in serving the vegetables, and send it crumbling from her head in the form of a crimson powder. Her forehead was in every respect immense--high, broad, and protuberant enough for the tallest man who ever prided himself on his intellect; still, it might have been pardoned, if it had been fair withal, instead of sallow, wrinkled and freckled. A nose, whose only excuse for its mammoth maturity of size and its Spitzenberg depth of color, lay in the fact that it was exposed to the torrid glare of the tresses, depended, like the nest of the hanging-bird, between a pair of ferrety eyes, which seemed mere pen-knife gashes in a piece of red morocco. At that day, I could not swear to the pupils; but a profane man of sensitive mind, might have sworn at them, for they seemed to be a damp--not a swimming but a soaked damp--pale blue. Flanking the nose, imagine an inch and a half on either side, of dingy parchment, stretched almost to tearing, and you will get the general idea of the sides of Miss Brentnall's face; I will not travesty the word 'cheeks,' by calling them that. Below the nose, a mouth which would have been deformedly small for a child two weeks old; below that, a chin which hardly showed at all in front, and, taking a side view, seemed only an eccentric protraction of the scraggy neck to which it was attached. Now for the figure. High, stooping shoulders; a long, flat, narrow, mannish waist; the lower extremities immoderately short; immense feet: group these in one person, and you have a form to which I know only two parallels out of the world of nightmare, a German wooden doll, and Miss Brentnall.'
'Diable de laideur! You see zat viz your own eyes?'
'And yet you be yourself not vare ugly, after all!'
'So I have heard, Bonenfant. You will be still more surprised to feel that this is the case, when you know that I lodged in the same house with Miss Brentnall a whole year. Indeed, she occupied the very next room to me. I was second-story front, she second-story back, during all that time; and do you know that I became very well acquainted with her?'
'Ah! It is pos-_sible_ for a gentleman to be vare polite to vare ugly woman!'
'Yes, but from preference, I mean. I could shut my eyes, and hear her voice, or open them at the transient moment when she was smiling, and forget that she was homely at all. I discovered that she was the only remnant of a large family: that awakened my pity. In addition, that she was very well-informed, thought and conversed well: that aroused my respect. And when, in spite of a face and figure which by poetic justice should have belonged to Sin itself, I perceived that she had the kindest of hearts, and the most delicate of sensibilities, I am not ashamed to confess that I soon became attached to her.'
'Attach? You have fall in love viz zat e-scary-crow? You have marri-ed her?'
'Hear me through, Bonenfant, and you will find out. In the present instance, I mean, by the word 'attached,' nothing but a pure Platonic friendship. I do not make acquaintances easily. I visited nobody in New-York at that time. There was no one whose cheerful fireside I could make my own for an evening; and my natural tastes, to say nothing of any other feeling, kept me away from drinking-saloons. Moreover, I had an insatiate longing to make something of myself. I wanted the means for buying books, for travelling, for putting myself into what I considered good society. Accordingly, I often brought home, at evening, the specimens I had been working upon all day, and continued my labors long into the night. While I was busily engaged with the knife or the needle, the gentlest little tap would come at the door, so gentle, so unlike any other sound, that, however absorbed I might be, I always heard it, knew it was Miss Brentnall, and said: 'Walk in!' So, in hopped that little eighth world-wonder of ugliness, now with an orange for my supper, now with some pretty ornithological engraving, of which, by the merest chance, she always had a duplicate copy, and whose effect she would like to see on my wall. When she went out, she always forgot to take it with her; and in a few months, my room, through such like little kindnesses, became quite a portrait-gallery of celebrated birds. Sometimes, Miss Brentnall spent the whole evening with me. On such occasions, it was her greatest delight to stand by my table, and see some poor, mussed, shrivelled lark or Canary grow plump and saucy again, through the transformations of my art. She called it 'bird-resurrection.' For an hour at a time, she would stay close at my elbow, perfectly quiet, holding a pair of glass eyes in her hand. When I asked for one of them, she gave it to me with all the happiness of a helpful child; and, when at last both eyes were fixed in the specimen, I have seen her clap her hands, and jump up and down. In process of time, she became of real assistance to me. So apt a mind had she, that from merely witnessing my methods, she learned to stuff birds herself; and one evening, when I called 'come in,' to the well-known tap, I was surprised by seeing a parrot in her hands, prepared and mounted almost as well as I could have done it myself. It was a little present to the Professor, she said: she had been at work upon it for the last two days. From that time, her voluntary services were in my constant employ, whenever I worked of evenings.
'I was not so ungallant, however, as to let Miss Brentnall do all the visiting. Whenever a lazy fit took me, and I could not have worked, or studied, or walked, if I had been offered ten dollars an hour for those exertions, I always forestalled her coming to my room by going to hers. She had a large rocking-chair, which always seemed to run up to the fire-place of its own accord, and hold out its arms for me, the moment I came in. I would drop into that, shut my eyes, and say, 'Please talk to me,' or, 'Please read to me,' with as much abandonment as if I were speaking to my own mother. It never felt like exacting impertinent demands of a stranger, I was so marvellously at my ease in Miss Brentnall's room.'
'Ze man of mose mauvaise honte be not embarrass, I have observe, viz ze vare ugly lady.'
'I don't think it was that, Bonenfant. I used to ask myself if it might not be. But I always came to the conclusion that I should feel the same, were Miss Brentnall the most beautiful person in the world. There was something in her mind, especially as expressed in voice and style of talking, that lulled me when I was most irritable, that lifted the weight of self and pride quite off me for the time being. I knew that we both liked to be together; that was enough: I did not care, indeed I never once thought, how we either of us seemed to any one else.
'I could not help being aware that the other boarders talked about us. Having a pair of tolerably good ears, likewise of eyes, it was difficult not to know that old Mrs. Flitch, my landlady's half-sister, smelt a match in my intimacy with Miss Brentnall; that she considered it ill-advised, on the ground that I was twenty-one, and the lady at least forty; that she could imagine no possible motive in my mind, except a view to Miss Brentnall's snug little property; that, as a consequence of these premises, she regarded one of us a very mean knave, and the other a doting fool. It was difficult not to understand the meaning of Miss Simmons, an acid cotemporary of Miss Brentnall's, possessing all her chances of celibacy, half her homeliness, and one-thousandth of her mind, when, as I took my seat next her at the breakfast-table, she asked me, with a pretty simper, if I had spent the last evening as pleasantly as usual. It was difficult to avoid seeing the gentlemen wink at each other when they passed us talking together in the entry: it was also difficult, as I perceive from Bonenfant's face he would like to suggest, not to pull their noses for it; but reflection suggested the absurdity of such a course. This is one of the few objections I have to your native, and my adopted country, Tryon, that notwithstanding the great benefit which results from that intimacy between a man and a woman, in which each is _mere friend_, and neither present nor expectant _lover_, our society will not hear of such a thing, without making indelicate reference to marriage. Still, I suppose, they would have talked about us, any where.
'Miss Brentnall knew this as well as I, and like me, never gave it a thought after the momentary demonstration which recalled it. We passed one whole delightful year together in the Third Avenue boarding-house. I felt my own mind growing, becoming richer in all sorts of knowledge, freer and clearer in every field of thinking, with each succeeding day. And as for Miss Brentnall, she was so kind as to say, and I knew she sincerely meant it, that to her, all lonely in the world, our friendship was in all respects inestimable. At the end of the year, Miss Brentnall was taken ill. For the first few days, neither she nor I felt any serious alarm with reference to her case. The doctor pronounced it a mild type of typhoid fever. It proceeded, so he said to me in private, more from mental causes than any tangible physical one. Had she been unfortunate in any way? he asked me. I could only reply that, as her intimate friend, I was unaware of the fact. Probably she read late, then, he suggested. I said that might be. At all events, her mind had been very much overtaxed: what she needed was perfect quiet, good nursing, and as little medicine as possible. Upon his giving me this view of the case, I sought out the most faithful, judicious woman within reach, and hired her on Miss Brentnall's behalf, to stay by her bedside night and day. My own income, from the little shop in the Bowery, was now so fair, that I felt able to repay, in some measure, the debt of gratitude I owed my kind friend for her many contributions to the walls of my lonely room. Accordingly, whenever I lighted on any new engraving or book of art, or any embellishment to a sick-chamber, which seemed likely to attract without fatiguing a strained mind, I brought it up to her in the evening. If I had not been in her debt already, I should have been a thousand times repaid for these little evidences of friendship, by the appreciative delight with which the childlike woman talked of them, for their own sake, and the grateful enthusiasm she bestowed upon them for mine.
'The opportunity to be kind and thoughtful was very short. At the end of the third week, the doctor gravely told me that typhus pneumonia was becoming alarmingly prevalent in New-York, and that Miss Brentnall's disease had taken that form. Furthermore, that unless some change for the better occurred in the course of the next twenty-four hours, she would die.
'I heard this piece of news without the least outward sign of sorrow. It did not seem possible to me that I could lose this best, kindest friend I had in the world. You will think the reason whimsical perhaps; but, merely because she was not beautiful, I felt as if she would not be taken away from me. 'Only the beautiful die, only the beautiful,' I kept saying to myself all day, in the shop or at the work-table. In the evening, when I came back to the house, I found that two things had occurred. Miss Brentnall's pulse had become feebler, and she did not seem to me so plain as before. Then, for the first time, I began to be afraid.
'In the morning, the doctor took me into the entry, and told me that his patient might live till mid-night, but not longer. Would I take the painful office of breaking the intelligence to her? 'Yes,' I replied, hardly knowing what I said.
'I entered the sick-room. As I came toward the bed, Miss Brentnall opened her eyes and smiled.
''Martha,' said she, in a feeble voice, 'you may go down-stairs, and get me some arrow-root.'
'As soon as the nurse had shut the door behind her, Miss Brentnall continued:
''I shall be dead in a few hours, Orloff. I have something to say to you alone. I am sorry to go away from you. Very sorry. You have been kind to me, Orloff. More than any body else in the world.'
'I took Miss Brentnall's poor, parched hand, but could not answer. 'Orloff--kind as you are to me--in the bottom of your heart, you know that I have the most repulsive face you ever saw. Say _yes_, Orloff. You _do_ know it. I have been sure of it, since I was a little girl, six years old, thirty-four years ago, yesterday. I was never sorry for it, more than a moment at a time, _until a year ago_. And now you may tell me you see it, without hurting me at all. Pride is past. Say that my face is the most unlovely in the world. _Say it to please me._'
'I saw she was in deep earnest, and I brought myself to answer for her sake:
''Well. But your soul is the most lovely.'
''I thank you for saying it, Orloff. And now, now that pride is past, I may tell you something which life would hide forever, but death wrings out of my very soul. You have been a _friend_ to me, a dear, kind friend, Orloff; but nothing more. _I_ have been something else to _you_. A dying woman may say it. _I have loved you._'
'For a minute we were both silent, and then Miss Brentnall resumed: 'Passionately, passionately. Without once deluding myself; without once dreaming that there was a shadow of hope. Had you been blind; had you been deaf; so that you could never have seen what I am, or heard a word of it from other lips; even had you, under these circumstances, loved me, I would have felt it base to give you, in exchange for yourself, such a thing as I. But you did see, you did hear, and I knew that I loved _impossibly_. You came in, now, to tell me that I would not live till to-morrow, did you not, Orloff?'
''I meant to, if I could,' was my reply.
''I had a dream just before you came in. I thought I saw you, and you told me so. Do you know what a strange thing happened, just as you seemed speaking? But you are not angry with me, for what I have said already?'
''Angry? My dear friend, no!' said I instantly.
''The strange thing was this. As you spoke, my deformed face fell off like a veil, and my body, like a cloak, was lifted from me. At the same moment, I had the power of being outside of myself, of looking down on myself, and I was--_very beautiful_. I was not proud, but I was glad. I drank in a whole fountain of peace at every breath. At that instant, I began to float farther and farther from you; but as I went, I heard, oh! such a sweet voice! saying: 'Again! Again! You shall meet again!' As you came into the room, I awoke. And I have dared to uncover my whole soul to you, Orloff Ruricson, because those words are still in my ears. We _shall_ meet again! And when we meet, I shall be _beautiful_!'
'With all my respect for Miss Brentnall, it was impossible for me not to feel that she was raving. Indeed, from this very belief I took hope. I had seldom heard of cases like hers, in which patients, almost in the very last hour, continued to be delirious. I therefore doubted the doctor's diagnosis, and persuaded myself that, since she had not arrived at the lucid interval preceding death, she was not so near it as he suspected.
'Comforting myself with the assurance that I should see her well again, or at least, that there was no immediate danger, I went down to my shop in the Bowery, leaving orders to send for me immediately, if any change took place in Miss Brentnall.
'After transacting the business of my trade, all day, I came back earlier than usual at evening, greatly depressed in spirits, but without any idea that I had seen my friend for the last time. As I put my latch-key into the door of the boarding-house, it opened. I saw the pale, frightened face of Martha, the nurse. She was just coming out after me. Miss Brentnall was _dead_.
'And again I was alone in the world.'
II.--THE FLICKER'S CHAPTER.
'THERE was a quiet funeral where I was the only mourner. There were days of loneliness succeeding, in which it seemed to me that the small isthmus by which I had been for a year attached to my fellow-men, had been suddenly covered by the rising of a dark, cold tide; that I was an islander again, and the only one.
'There was a will to be proved in the Surrogate's Court. Miss Brentnall's nurse and the landlady had witnessed it. I thought this strange at first, remembering what a friend the dead had been to me; but my surprise at not being a witness was soon supplanted by the greater one of being sole legatee.
'There was a monument to be placed over the dead. To every detail of it I attended personally. I remember how heavy even that simple little shaft seemed to me, how much too heavy for a head that had borne so much of heaviness through life. Then I thought of her expression 'bird-resurrection,' of her perfect faith in the coming of better things; and if the monument had been a pyramid, I would have known that it could not press _her_ down.
'It is one of my eccentricities that I fear good-fortune; not bad-fortune, at all. For I have seen so much of it, that it only looks to me like a grimmer kind of father, coming to wake his over-slept son and tell him that unless he leaps from his feather-bed, and that right suddenly, the time for every thing good in life will have gone by. I fear good-fortune, because I am not sure that I shall use it well. It may carry me till it has dwarfed me; I may lie on its breast till I have lost my legs; then whisk! it may slip away from under me and leave me a lame beggar for the rest of my life.
'I resolved, therefore, that I would not touch a farthing of my new property until I had become quite familiar with the idea of owning it. It was all in stocks when I found it. I converted it into real-estate securities, and as fast as my interest came in, deposited it in the bank. Meanwhile, I supported myself well upon the little shop; bought books, and laid something by.
'I was busy one morning at my stuffing-table in the back-room, when the bell over the street-door rang: and running into the front-shop, I found a new customer. He was a private bird-fancier, he told me, and had brought a specimen, which he wished mounted for his cabinet. As he spoke, he slid back the cover from a box which he carried under his arm; and as I looked in, expecting to see a dead bird, a live one hopped out and sat upon my finger.
''I declare that is very curious!' said the gentleman; 'the creature never did such a thing before! I have had it eight months without being able to domesticate it in the slightest. It will not even eat or drink when any body is in the room; yet there it is sitting on your hand.'
'I had never seen such a bird before. It resembled the northern meadow-lark in size and shape; in hue, its wings were like the quail's, its breast ash-color, its tail mottled above, like the wings, and of a delicate canary yellow beneath. But the greatest beauty it possessed was a bright crimson crescent, covering the whole back of the head. 'What is this bird?' said I.
''It is a Flicker,' answered the gentleman. 'It was sent me by a friend living in Florida.'
''Why don't you keep it alive?'
''For the reason I've told you. It's perfectly impossible to tame it. My children and I have tried every means we can think of without success. If we confine it in a cage, it mopes all day and eats nothing; if we let it fly about the room, it sculks under the furniture as soon as we enter; if we take it in our hands, it screams and fights. There is a specimen of the execution it can do in an emergency with that sharp, long bill!'
'And my customer showed me his finger, out of which a strip of flesh an inch long had been gouged as neatly as it could have been done with a razor.
''It is nothing but botheration, that confounded bird!' he continued. 'It does nothing but make muss and litter about the house from morning till night; and for all our troubles, it never repays us with a single chirp. Indeed, I don't believe it has any voice.'
'Just then the Flicker, still sitting on my finger, turned up its big, brown eye to my face and uttered a soft, sweet gurgle, like a musical-glass.
''Good heavens!' exclaimed the gentleman; 'it never did that before!'
''Suppose you let me take it for a month or so,' said I; 'it seems to be fond of me, and perhaps I can tame it. I never felt so little like killing any bird in my life. We may make something of its social qualities yet.'
''Very well,' answered the new customer. 'Keep it for a month. I'll drop in now and then to see how its education is getting on.'
''You may hold me responsible for it, Sir,' I replied; and the gentleman left my shop.
'All day the Flicker staid by me as I worked. Now it perched upon my shoulder, now on my head. At noon, when I opened my basket, it took lunch with me. When I whistled or sang, it listened until it caught the strain, and then put in some odd kind of an accompaniment. The compass and power of its voice was nothing remarkable, but the tone was as sweet as a wood-robin's. I could not be enough astonished with the curious little creature.
'Still, every kind of animal takes to me naturally. I accounted for the previous wildness of the Flicker on the ground of mistaken management in the gentleman who owned it, and as a matter of professional pride, determined to make something of the bird, were it only to show, like your Sam Patch, Tryon, that some things can be done as well as others. When I went home in the evening I took the Flicker with me, and made it a nest in an old cigar-box on my mantel-piece.
'The next morning, when I awoke, the bird was perched above me on the scroll of the head-board! Again I carried it down-town with me; again I brought it up in the evening. After that it was my companion every where. You will hardly imagine how it could become better friends with me than it did immediately upon our introduction. Yet our acquaintance grew day by day, and with our acquaintance the little being's intelligence. It had not been with me a fortnight before it knew its name. You may think it curious, perhaps unfeeling, but you know it was my only friend in the world, and in memory of the one who had lately held that place, I called it 'Brenta.'
''Brenta!' I would say as I sat before my grate in the evening, and wherever the little creature might be, it would come flying to me with a joyful chirp, light on my finger, dance on the hearth-rug, eat out of my hand, or go through the pantomime of various emotions I had taught it. If I said, 'Be angry, Brenta,' it would scream, flap its wings, and fight the legs of the chair. 'Be sorry, Brenta,' and it would droop its little head, cower against my breast, and utter notes as plaintive as a tired child's.
'By the time the month was up, it could do almost any thing but talk. Its owner, who, to his great delight, had paid it several visits during the progress of its education, now came to take it home.
''I have become very much attached to the little thing,' said I; 'won't you let me buy it of you?'
''You should have asked me that when I first brought it,' was his answer. 'You have made it too valuable for me to part with now. To show you how much I think it is worth, here is a ten-dollar piece for your services.'
'I took the money, feeling very much as if I were receiving the price of treason. 'If you ever change your mind,' said I, 'remember that I am always ready with a generous bid.'
'When we came to look for the Flicker, it was nowhere to be found. I could not believe it possible that it had heard and understood our conversation, but other hypothesis to account for its disappearance was not at hand. After hunting every nook and corner of the shop, I forced myself into the traitorous expedient of luring it by my own voice. 'Brenta!' I called, and the poor creature instantly hopped out of _my coat-pocket_, climbed up to my shoulder, and nestled against my cheek.
''The little rascal!' exclaimed the gentleman.
'I could willingly have knocked him down! It was not until I had undertaken the business with my own hands that we could get the Flicker into the cage which the gentleman had brought with him. Even then, the poor thing continued clinging to my finger with claws which had to be loosened by force, and went out of my shop-door screaming piteously and beating itself against the bars of the cage.
'I had no heart for any thing the rest of the day. At night my room seemed lonelier than a dungeon. The very next morning, the owner of the bird came back with it in a terrible passion.
''You have been teaching the thing tricks!' was his first exclamation.
''To be sure, said I mildly. 'Wasn't that what you wished me to do?'
''_Wished you to do?_' To mope, and wail, and lie on the carpet like a dead chicken? Never to sing a note or eat a morsel? To peck at the hands that brought food, and--and----'
''I am sure I cannot help it, Sir, if the bird has become attached to me, and mourns when away.'
''You've taught the creature to do it! Look at this finger, will you! another piece taken clean out of it! _Piece_, I say!--_steak_, I mean! The bird's a regular butcher! Here, kill the creature directly, and have it stuffed for my cabinet by this day week.'
'And as he set down the cage on the counter, the Flicker, with a joyful cry, jumped to the wicker-door, and tried to pick a way out to me by its beak.
''There! you see what you've done! Why don't the wretch act so to me?'
''I really can't say, Sir. Perhaps because I've had a great deal to do with birds, and naturally know how to manage them.'
''Well, I don't care. Stuff the thing, and I shall be able to manage it then myself.'
''May I make you a repetition of my offer? If you haven't a toucan in your collection, there is a very fine one I'll give you for the Flicker, stuffed only last Saturday. Here's a young pelican--a still rarer bird. Or how would you like a flamingo?'
''Got 'em all,' replied the gentleman curtly. 'And if I hadn't, I count the Flicker. Kill the thing, I say, and stuff it.'
'Just then the bird cast on me a glance as imploring as ever looked out of human eye. For a thousand dollars I could not have done the wrong.
''Really, Sir,' said I, 'I prefer not to take the job. I am very much attached to your bird. I cannot bear to kill it.'
'''Pon my soul!' he exclaimed, 'if that isn't pretty for a taxidermist! I should suppose, to hear you talk, that you would faint at the sight of a dead sparrow! Well, you can get your courage up to stuff the bird, I suppose? As for the killing, I'll do that myself.'
'As the man said this, he thrust his hand into the cage, and caught the Flicker by the wing. With a sharp cry, his victim struck him again on the finger, enraging him more than ever. He opened his pen-knife, pulled the bird out, drew the blade across its throat, and out of the cruel slash there poured, mingling with the blood, a bitter cry, like a woman's. I heard it, and every drop of my own blood returned to my heart. He let the bird drop upon the counter: it gave one hop, tumbled over in my hand, and its eye-lids slid shut.
''This day week, remember,' said the man, and went out of the shop, wiping his knife.
'I took up the bird, laid it in my neck, and, I am not ashamed to say, cried over it.
'There are a good many things which may happen between now and this day week. I am not one of those people who regard every misfortune that occurs to an enemy the judgment of HEAVEN in their behalf. But I must say, that the event which occurred before that man's week was out, always seemed to me a direct blow from Nemesis. He was a very passionate fellow; subject to temporary fits of insanity. One of them came on in the morning while he was shaving, and he cut his own throat as he had the Flicker's.
'When his estate was settled, nobody thought of the bird. I inclosed the ten dollars he had given me for its education in an anonymous note to his executors, simply stating that my conscience demanded it; and having thus quieted that organ, kept the Flicker for myself. With a daguerreotype of Miss Brentnall's, found among a parcel of papers labelled, '_To be burned up_,' and upon which alone, of all the parcel, I could not persuade myself to execute her will, I put the stuffed bird by. When I was too lonely to dare to be utterly alone, I went to the trunk, where they were preserved and looked at them.
III.--THE MARMOSET'S CHAPTER.
AFTER the loss of my second only friend, a painful change came over me. I had risen from the shock of Miss Brentnall's death with an elasticity which surprised even myself. Partly for the reason that my constitution was better by several less months of anxiety, grief, and application to business. Partly because I felt assured that, as she said, we should some time or other meet again.
'When the Flicker died, I felt that this only thing hitherto left to love me, could never reäppear. The kind heart of the woman would beat again; the kind heart of the bird no more forever. And strangely enough, the whole sorrow that I had passed through for Miss Brentnall's loss revived, and I went about my day's work bearing the weight of a two-fold melancholy.
'The first thing that the bird-fancying public knew--indeed almost the first thing I knew myself, so abstracted, so moody was I--a paragraph appeared in the morning papers, to the effect that the celebrated Taxidermist and Aviarian Professor, Orloff Ruricson, was about to close his business, and make a voyage to Europe, Asia and Africa, from which parts he hoped to return in two or three years, with a large and interesting collection of rare animals, to establish a Natural History Museum.
'I had caused the appearance of this notice myself; but when I read it, felt quite as surprised by it as any body. In nerve and mind I was so worn out, that although thoroughly resolved to make the move, the consolidation of the purpose into such a fixed form shocked me.
'When the novelty of the idea passed off, I disposed of all my stock to various amateurs who knew me and had every disposition to help me by paying large prices. I put the thirty thousand dollars I was now worth into such a shape that I could get its increase in regular remittances; packed the bird, the daguerreotype, and a small wardrobe, and took passage by barque for Genoa.
'At sun-rise one Monday morning, the barque's yawl took me out to her anchorage. As I went up the ladder at the side, I heard an opera-air playing on board, and when I reached the deck, the first thing that met my eyes was an Italian grinder, with his organ and monkey.
''Is that man going the voyage with us?' I asked the captain.
''Yes, Sir,' he replied; 'but he shan't play without permission after we get to sea. He's a Genoese, who has made enough in this country to keep a fruit-stall in his own, and so he's going home.'
'Home! He had a home, and was going to it! I would have handed him my bank-book--taken his monkey and organ--to be able to say _that_.
'As the tug hitched fast to us and we began walking down toward the Narrows, I crossed to the other side of the ship, that I might take a look at the fortunate man.
'Certainly, I said to myself, Fortune _is_ blind. He had a home; but he was one of the most ill-favored rascals I ever laid my eyes on. No body would have taken him for a Genoese--the New-Englander of Italy--rather for a Romanesque cut-throat, or a brigand of the mountain, who had found his stiletto or his carbine good for only the slowest kind of shilling and taken to the nimble six-pence of the hand-organ, on the principle that honesty was the best policy. You have seen a thousand pen-and-pencil pictures of the fellow, and need no description of him from me.
'As I stood beside him at the bulwarks, his monkey leapt upon me.
''Pardon, good gentleman,' said the Italian with an abject smirk, and gave a jerk to the chain that brought back the little animal flying.
''Never mind that,' said I; 'let him come to me. I am fond of monkeys: I would like to look at him.'
''As it pleases, then,' replied the Italian, with another smirk, and loosed the chain again. 'Go, Beppo!'
'Beppo needed no command, but jumped instantly upon my arm and laid his cheek upon my bosom. As I patted his head, I examined him curiously, and found him the most beautiful little monkey in the world. A Marmoset, with a great brown, tender eye like a gazelle's; a face which varied its expression constantly without ever degenerating into the brutal leer of the common ape; a winning, confiding mien of head and hand that was human, childlike; and a soft coronal of golden fur around his little skull, that added still more to his baby-like look, giving him the appearance of some mother's favorite, dressed for a walk in a bonnet of down. I don't know how I could have been guilty of the folly of becoming attached to the little fellow, after all the lessons of warning my life had taught me. But I did take a great fancy to him. Never a day passed during the whole voyage, in which he did not get many a tit-bit from my hands. He spent far more of the time with me than with his own master, and before long obeyed me with a hearty good nature, which he never thought of showing toward that musical brigand.
'One sunny afternoon, when we were three weeks out, the captain, the grinder and myself stood upon the forecastle-deck, trying to make out a sail just visible on the horizon ahead of us. As usual, Beppo was cutting his pranks about me. For a moment he would sit demurely on my shoulder and hold his tail to his eye in mimicry of the captain's eye-glass. A second more, and he would be sitting in the fore-top. The next, and he came sliding down a halliard to his old perch. These antics interfered with our look-out, and I put my hand into my pocket to feel for something which might keep him still. Finding neither prune, nor nut, nor string, but only the purse which I always carried there, I drew it out and opened it, to look for a copper. As I committed this incautious act, I saw the eyes of the Italian cast a sidelong, sly glance at the gold that shone there, and I shut the clasp with an uncomfortable sense of having been very silly. At the same moment, he stole away, like a cat, to the fore-stays, and pretended to be more earnestly interested than any of us in the sail.
'The nights grew still warmer and warmer as we sailed on. The cabin became so close, that I ordered the steward to bring my mattress upon deck, and usually slept there under a shawl, unless we had rain.
'I had lain down at about half-past eleven, upon one night in particular, utterly fatigued, sick at heart, despairing. As the tall masts nodded past the stars--the stars rather than the masts seemed moving--and in my heart I believed that even heaven itself was not permanent; that all things flickered and danced, and passed away as earthly hope had passed from my heart; nothing was fixed, certain, and to be striven for. Finally, I only wished to sleep. 'Let me die this temporary death of slumber,' said I; 'there is happiness therein, and therein only.' I was more of a Lord Byron at that instant; more of a moral desperado; less of a Thomas Carlyle, a Goethe, sanguine Yankee, who believes that the best way to get rid of misery is to suffer and _work out_, if you fall, always to fall on your feet and _scramble out_, than I had ever been in my life, Messrs. Tryon and Bonenfant! So, said I, let me go to sleep.
'Would you believe it, that confounded little Beppo would not hear of such a thing! Over my face this minute, over my legs the next; now tumbling down on my breast from a line; now, as the sailors say, working Tom Cox's traverse, up one hatchway and down the other, past my side.
'I could not get a wink of sleep. I tossed and I tumbled; I swore and I grumbled. I called Beppo to me, and for the first time without success.
'I was just about going after Luigi, his master, when I saw that person creeping to me in the shadow of the mizzen-mast. By the high cove of the after-hatch, I was quite hid from the stern, and the only person who happened to be there, the second mate, could see Luigi no more than me.
'At that instant the monkey gave me a tweak of the hair that nearly made me scream out, and then ran away noiselessly forward. Luigi crept on and on. As he drew nearer, I could perceive a stiletto in his hand. Its blade gleamed faintly now and then in the star-light, so indistinctly that at first it seemed like a trailing white ribbon.
'I did not believe his first intention was to kill me. That would have been absurd as well as cruel. So I lay still and let him come close. I feigned myself fast asleep and snored heavily.
'He knelt at my side, and holding the knife over my heart with one hand, felt with the other in my pocket. Still I slept away for dear life. He found the purse: drew it out with a slow, gentle motion, and crept forward again on his hands and knees, thanking his saints in a whisper. I was on his back before he could turn around. He was lithe, but he was feeble, and I had him pinioned, prone upon his face, with the purse in his hand and the thanksgiving in his mouth, while it was yet only half-changed to a curse. Thus I forced from him both the stiletto and the purse, and threw the one over-board at the same time that I returned the other to my pocket. Then I arose, and we stood up face to face.
''Shall I have you hanged at the yard-arm in half-an-hour?' was my first question.
'The Italian looked me full in the face, his olive cheeks were like chalk, his lips quivered, but he did not speak. And then, as if suddenly understanding the cause of his failure, he ran forward to the fore-stay, where the marmoset was clinging and chattering.
'I hurried after him. Catching him by the shoulder, I whispered in his ear: 'If one hair of Beppo's head is hurt, _you_ are a dead man before you can say your prayers. You came after my money. You are a villain, but you shall have it--two gold pieces, ten dollars, at least--if you sell him to me on the spot. Is Beppo mine, on these conditions? If he isn't, I will arouse the crew, and you shall dangle aloft before the next watch is set. Yes or no?'
''You shall have the monkey,' replied the Italian, with another of his infernal smirks. 'You shall have him, but the gentleman will not find him good fortune.'
'The devil take you and your fortune! If he brings me no better fortune than you deserve--and for the same reason--I shall wish, and not wait, to die.' So I brought the monkey aft, and made Luigi acknowledge him mine, while I counted out the ten dollars, in the presence of the second mate.
'After that night, warm as it might be, you will readily believe that I slept in the cabin. Beppo nestled by me, occupying as much of the berth as his little form required; and I declare to you, that had he needed it all I would have given it to him, and stretched myself on the floor, so warm an affection had I for the creature who had saved my money: possibly my life.
'At that time, perhaps you will say because I was young and visionary, I often believed that Beppo knew what he had been the means of doing for me. At this day I shall be still insaner in your eyes, for I hold that he was not only the _means_, but the intentional _agent_. I must stop. I am forerunning my story.
'It was amazing how I improved as soon as I had something to love! I became so strong, so hearty, that I was quite ashamed to think of having abandoned America for my health; and meditated going back with the barque's return voyage. Nothing but the presence on board of that cursed Luigi prevented my spirits from being better than since I could remember.
'We reached Genoa, and anchored in Quarantine. My trunk was on deck, and in all respects I was ready to go ashore. Already the infernal Italian had taken his seat in the health-officer's boat; and, with his elbow resting on his organ, looked up at me over the gunwale. Beppo, for very joy of seeing land again, had climbed clear to the main truck, and was chattering audibly as he whisked his tail.
''All ready, Beppo!' I cried: 'come down, boy!'
'In his haste at hearing my voice, as he tumbled head over heels down the main shrouds, for the first time in my life that I ever saw a monkey do such a thing, he missed his hold on a ratline, and tumbled into the water of the harbor. I sprang to the side, and called to the oarsmen of the boat:
''Save that monkey, and you shall have--whatever you ask!' Fool! I was talking English, and every man of them was an Italian! A language I had some understanding of, but could not speak.
''What says the gentleman?' asked one of the boat-crew, in his own tongue.
'And then I heard that olive-skinned brigand wretch, the organ-grinder, reply to the speaker: 'He says the beast who fell overboard is sick of the small-pox, and you must not touch him.'
'As he made this answer he turned around to me with one of his diabolical smirks, kissed his hand to me, spit at the drowning Beppo, then asked me blandly: 'Did I not tell the good gentleman his buying would be bad fortune? Are we settled of accounts, good gentleman?'
'I to hear this! I to look over the side; hear my last friend screaming his poor wordless agony; see him look up at me with that supplicating child's eye of his; see him fighting the water despairingly with his little unlearned hands, then go down in a bubbling circle out of sight; I who could not swim a stroke!
'The captain, seeing my distress, humanely put his own boat after the poor creature. With the boat-hook a sailor brought him up after he had gone down for the last time. And thus they laid him on the deck at my feet. I lifted him up; his child eyes were closed, and the golden crown of his fur lay matted and dripping over them. I tried to warm him in my bosom. I laid my hand on his heart: it had stopped.
'Beppo was dead. The Marmoset whom nature had given, only of all, to love the man!
'And I went into Quarantine at Genoa, once more alone in the world.'
'Ciel! and vat you do vith zat cursed Italian?'
'I? Nothing. Ten years afterward I saw him rowing in the galleys at Marseilles. He knew me; I knew him. He smirked as of old, but with such very visible teeth that I was glad he was chained; and passed on without even asking the overseer his crime.
IV.--THE YOUNG MAIDEN'S CHAPTER.
'MY wanderings, dating from the day I landed at Genoa, would fill with their narrative a book far larger than 'Livingstone's Travels.' I journeyed over all the traversable regions of Africa; in India I have been wherever the foot of the white man has trodden; I spent a year and a half in China; almost as long in Syria; and I went every where over the continent of Europe. Then I passed six months in Sweden; most of that time living at my native town, Jönpöping, until at last the sound of my mother's tongue spoken by stranger mouths became absolutely unbearable to me, and I left the country never to return. I will see Great Britain, I said. No better place for that purpose, at least to begin with, than London. So I went there; and, with all the curiosities I had collected in my vagabond life, opened a shop as Exhibitor and Taxidermist, in Piccadilly.
'By this time, you will perceive, I had quite abandoned my original idea of returning to America to open a museum. It takes no longer for the world in general; or the world of New-York, to forget its largest man, than for a heaping measure of grain to close up the gap after a hand is withdrawn. And I was a long way from the conceit of fancying myself even a large man. Probably, I said to myself, there are a dozen in my place by this time. I will not go back to revive a name wiped out; it is at least more entertaining to stay here and try chalking out a new one. If I fail, why, the remittances still come regularly.
'So up went the old sign on a fresh board: 'Orloff Ruricson, Taxidermist and Aviarian Professor.' In about three months from the opening of the establishment, the collection was a little more than self-supporting, and the Taxidermy throve at the rate of ten guineas a week. I got some favorable critiques in the _Times_; some body called me the Minor Zoological Gardens; and gradually my aviarianism came into play. Lord Crinkum consulted me about his Chinese pheasants, and Lord Crankum got my general views on fighting-cocks. The Honorable Miss Dingleton, like Mr. Pecksniff, only with more money to bestow on the object, thought she would like to see my ideas of a grotto. I gave it to her, and of course every alderman's wife must have me fussing about her cobble-stones out in what she called a suburban willer. That's the great beauty of art in England, looked at in the paying light; the moment you're so fortunate as to get a lord by the nose, you lead all Cockneydom whithersoever you will. It's a country where every body shuts his eyes, and grabs the next bigger man by the coat-tail. So, on the whole, I got along.'
'That was all very well, looked at in the paying light, as you say,' interrupted John Tryon, 'but you must have been terribly lonely during the long winter evenings. Didn't you have any body to speak to: any body to _love_?'
'Nobody. I had learned the misery of that by lessons enough, I should think. Even in the desert I never made a pet of my camel, and most people do that, to the extent, at least, of complimenting the lovely beast upon his patience. I had nothing to care for and cared for nothing. I was now thirty years old, you see, and had travelled.
'I had kept the shop in Piccadilly for a year. I stood one morning, at the expiration of that period, in a room of the back-shop, where I prepared specimens, and was consulted. My clerks had just taken down the shutters, and were chattering to each other behind the counter. I was pensive that morning, a mighty unusual thing for me, and their gabble disturbed me. I meditated calling out to them to be still, when the shop-door opened, the front-door looking on the street, and some one said:
''Please, Sir, can you give me any work?'
'Good heavens! I started to my feet, and yet seemed in such a dream that I could scarcely move them after I was erect. Who spoke? It was a low, sweet, woman's voice, the like whereof I had not heard for nine years! Not that it was low, or sweet, or a woman's; not that it was all these together, but that it was _the voice_.
''Get out with you, beggar!' answered the chattering clerks, with unanimous fierceness; and I heard the front shop-door shut slowly, as by a tired, feeble hand.
'In a second more and she would be gone; I should never see her again! That thought awakened me, and gave wings to my feet. I dashed through the shop; my clerks looking at me as if they thought I had suddenly gone mad. I jerked the door open, and saw a lithe girl's figure moving wearily away among the hurrying crowd: her back toward me.
''Who asked for work?' I called out aloud.
Among the few that turned to look was this lithe figure. She turned hastily, anxiously, deprecatingly, and again I heard that wonderful voice.
''It was I, Sir.'
''Come into the shop, if you please. Let us talk about it.'
''You are not vexed with me, Sir?'
'As the girl said this she cast her great brown eyes upon me so piteously, so helplessly, seeming so intensely to fear displeasure, yet so wistfully to beg help, that all at once there flashed before me the harbor of Genoa! I saw it for an instant as distinctly as we now see the Kaaterskill Clove; saw the villainous Italian smirking across his organ; saw the glassy, shining waters of the Mediterranean; and the drowning face of Beppo going down therein; _with those same eyes in it_!
''Vexed with you? With _you_? GOD knows I am not!' was my first wild exclamation, as soon as this strange phantasmagoria passed by; and I saw Piccadilly, and its crowd, and the slender girl, again, standing there uncared for, like myself, in the great ocean of London being.
''Come in, I say! Come in! For the love of GOD, come in!' I continued passionately, reckless who heard me.
''Work, food, money, help, any thing, every thing! I will give you all.'
'This I said beseechingly, yet neither this nor the passionate command did the girl, timid as she was, seem to regard as at all strange or out of place. She only came confidingly toward me, put her hand in mine, and I led her into the back-shop, while the chatterers stared.
'I bade her take off her faded bonnet, and sit down. As she obeyed, her golden brown hair caught on a pin in the bonnet behind; its soft, well-grown mass lifted from her neck, and there I beheld, close where the brown joined the white, _a small red crescent mark reaching almost from ear to ear_!
'I seemed to be wandering through a chain of dreams. I tried to speak, but in vain. To think, but as vainly. She disengaged the bonnet, and let it droop upon her shoulders. Her face, thus disclosed, was the most beautiful array of human features, flushed through by the light of the most beautiful human soul, I ever saw, or mused of, or believed in, in my life!
'She sat in the chair opposite me. As for me, I gazed and gazed. Modestly inviting questions, she looked me frankly in the eyes; and then, as in wonder that I did not speak, threw her head backward, and perused my face curiously. This posture elevated her chin. I was about to say something, but just then _I saw under that chin another crimson mark, the slenderest of slender lines, as if the finest knife-point dipped in blood had been drawn clear across the throat by a nervous hand_. I durst not say to myself what I was reminded of by _that_. Not even to think of it at all. I half-feared that I had become insane, rubbed my forehead, and kept repeating: 'Oh! it is only her bonnet-strings tied too tightly, that is all!'
'I would not trust myself with questioning her then. Not a word of any kind did I speak to her, except to say gently, that she might consider herself my apprentice in the art of bird-stuffing; and that all her necessities should be provided for.
'I had a little bed made for her in the room of the old Yorkshire woman, who minded my solitary establishment for me. She was an orphan, so she said afterward; and had walked all the way from the Stafford Potteries, where her only relative, an aunt, was just dead: hoping to find work in London, that might keep her from the street. She was eighteen years of age, and had never known father or mother.
'Once more I had a living creature to feel an interest in, to become attached to. Whatever was mysterious in her arrival, her appearance, or her voice, I dismissed from my mind as mere curious coincidences, at once too frivolous, too perplexing to be followed up. There was the real substantial fact: a girl without home or friends. Now what was to be done with her?
'I settled that question gradually day by day. I taught her, in the daytime, to help me at my specimen-table; in the evening, to read and write. The rapidity with which she caught by the right end, and made her own every new process, either of brain or fingers, was astonishing. She was my constant wonder and delight. So imitative yet so original; so talented but so modest withal; so bright and sportive, so docile and grateful; she soon became my right hand and right eye in all I had to do.
'As soon as I had dressed her presentably, the clerks saw her superiority as they could not through old clothes, and did it unquestioning reverence. But for this _reverence_ I verily believe they would have come in a body, and thrown themselves at her feet, entreating her to take her pick within the first month after she was domesticated with me. For they were all desperately in love with her: devouring her with their eyes as she went in and out among them so modestly and yet so loftily, like a queen in disguise.
'Well, I did not wonder; I could forgive them. For, six months after she had entered my shop-door, the homeless wayfarer, I awoke to the fact that I was in love with her myself. For the first time in all the days of my manhood, did I know what it was to feel a woman wrought into the texture of my life, so that pulling her away seemed an endless pain to look forward to; and before I knew that it had happened. And that combination of circumstances only, as I view it, is adequate to constitute _love_, on which marriage may be honorably founded.
As soon as I knew that I loved Bessie Cartwright--that was her name--I began to torture myself with the question whether I ought to tell her of it _yet_. Whether, if I did so, her simple heart, out of mere gratefulness, would not instantly give itself up as a matter of debt and honor to the man whom she regarded only in the light of a benefactor. And I had rather have any thing happen than this, my own loneliness till I died even, than this, so galling to me if I discovered it when it was too late, so ruinous to every thing that was best in her young growing womanhood.
'As in the old days, it was my custom still to look at the memorials of my lost friends, when times went hard with me, and my spirits fell. So, one evening, after I had been musing painfully in my room for a couple of hours, I took from my battered old trunk Miss Brentnall's portrait, the Flicker, and the Marmoset, which I had embalmed after his death in the harbor of Genoa.
'I ranged them on my table, and with a feeling of mournful pleasure gazed from one to the other, dwelling upon all the past which they recalled.
'As I sat thus employed, I heard Bessie's tap at the door; I called, 'Come in!' and she entered, with her reading-book for the evening's lesson. Seeing the unusual array upon my table, she asked me: 'What! working still?'
''No; not working, Bessie,' I replied; 'thinking.'
''May I see who that is?' said she artlessly, pointing to the daguerreotype.
''Oh! certainly. Though you must not laugh at it. It is a very homely lady, but a very good one; and, while she lived, my dearest friend.' So I handed it to her.
'She bent her brown head down to the shaded drop-light on my table, and held the portrait close to it. I watched her to see the effect of that strange world-wronged face on the beautiful, Heaven-favored one.
'I saw Bessie Cartwright grow pale as death! Her eyes became fixed like a cataleptic person's. But her head moved, from the portrait to the Flicker, from the Flicker to the Marmoset. The portrait fell from her hand, she grasped hurriedly at the table, and then fell to the floor.
''Dead: dead like the rest!' said I, with a fierce coldness; 'and because I have loved her.'
'I pulled the shade from the drop-light, and drew it to the edge of the table, so that the light fell full on the prostrate girl. I called her by name, and got no answer. I loosened her dress, and in doing so pushed the heavy knot of her brown hair away from her neck. That scarlet crescent glowed there in the midst of the marble whiteness, like a flame!
'I turned her upon her back, and beneath her chin saw the slender crimson line, burning also brighter than ever, while all the throat was deadly pale. 'Bessie! Bessie! speak to me once, only once more.' I spoke passionately at her ear.
'Still no answer. I looked in agony at the dead things which had once been mine; saw plainest of all the Flicker; and again that strange suspicion which I had felt the first day I ever saw the girl, awoke in my brain.
'I bent my mouth to her ear, and softly said: 'Brenta!' At that instant her great dark eyes opened, she read my face wistfully, and then her lips murmured:
''Orloff, dear Orloff! I told you I would meet you again; I have kept my word.'
'It was the voice that became silent ten years before in the sick-room next my own!
''Miss Brentnall!' I exclaimed, not knowing what I said.
''Orloff, dear Orloff!' replied _the voice_, once more from the lips of Bessie Cartwright.
'And then the blood came rushing back to the young girl's face. Timidly she sat up, passed her hand across her eyes, and said faintly:
''Oh! I have had _such_ a dream!'
''What was it, dear child?' I asked.
''I thought that picture you showed me was I. Then I felt myself dying. You were by me till all the room grew dark. I hardly remember what came then; but I have had, oh! so many strange thoughts, and been in so many strange places! I thought I was killed with a little knife: I was on the sea; I was close by a great town that rose from the water's side; I was drowning: then I was myself again in the old dress I wore when I came to you; then I seemed to be all things at once, and you called me a name I had heard before, when I lay in the bed dying; and oh! forgive me, Sir, I called you by your Christian name, Orloff, _dear_ Orloff! I said, do forgive me: I will never do it again.'
''You must do something else than that,' said I, no longer awe-stricken and trembling, for in a moment the mystery of my life had parted like a fog, and I saw its meaning beyond in the clearest of heaven's twilight. 'Something else than that, Bessie. You must never call me by any other name than _dear_ Orloff! Can you call me that? For _I love you_: GOD only knows how I love you. Can you?'
'The girl looked at me with parted lips; caught her breath quickly; hid her face in my bosom; and once more after all those years the beloved voice, knowing what it said, replied:
''Orloff, _dear_ Orloff.'
'Bessie Cartwright is my wife. Not until years afterward did I tell her the meaning of her dream; nor how through lives and deaths she had followed me to save and claim her own. She knows it now; we both keep it for the grateful wonder of our prayers; a mystery like all mysteries had we but the key, with its grand, beneficent meaning, unmeaning, contemptible only to those who read it wrong or not at all.'
'And you do mean to tell to me zat ze beautiful lady you have now espouse, be vonce in ze body of ze vare ugly woman, ze red-head bird vat you call him, and ze marmosette; you mean to say to me zat?'
'I'd like to ask that question too,' said John Tryon.
'I mean to tell you both,' answered Orloff Ruricson, 'that you can put _your own interpretation_ on _my facts_. Also, that if you ever break our confidence in telling my history with its proper names, then good-by to your friendship with Orloff Ruricson.'
I have been permitted to state the facts without the names. Let me also be permitted to state them without my interpretation.
THE LITTLE PEASANT.
A STATUE BY PALMER, OF ALBANY.
BY R. S. CHILTON.
UNSTRUNG by her heart's first sorrow, In the dawn of her life she stands, With listless fingers holding A vacant nest in her hands.
The grass at her feet no longer Is bright with the light of the skies, As downward she looks through the tear-drops That stand in her heaven-blue eyes.
For the nest, so cold and forsaken, Has taught her the lesson to-day, That the dearest of earthly treasures Have wings, and can fly away.
Yet she clings to the empty casket, And sighs that no more is left, As a mother clings to the cradle Of its dimpled treasure bereft.
Alas! for the early shadows That fall about our way, When the beautiful light has vanished, And the hill-tops are cold and gray.
FAUNTLEROY VERRIAN'S FATE.
BY HARRIET E. PRESCOTT.
"SWEET music has been heard In many places; some has been upstirred From out its crystal dwelling in a lake, By a swan's ebon bill; from a thick brake, Nested and quiet in a valley mild, Bubbles a pipe; fine sounds are floating wild About the earth."
IN an old sea-board town, once famous from its commerce and fisheries, lived a boy, who, as his mother told her gossip, had a good talent for music. Over his adopted place the salt winds blew; beside it, a river rolled its murmurous, mountain-born waters; behind it, green woods forever rustled. A poet still blows his bugle-notes across the three streams that braid its garment in silver; a painter has left there the shadow of cherubs cleaving the clouds; but till Fauntleroy Verrian came, music had owned there no apostle.
The name that he wore had been his father's, and seemed sufficient, in itself, to prove him of gentle blood--the father, of whom no one knew much, who had married his mother against the wish of her friends, and who one day went out, having kissed his young wife, and never returned. She hoped, at last, that he was dead; but something in her heart assured her that he would one day meet the son whom he had never seen. And later, as that son matured, she remembered strange stories once read by her, where demon or Afrite, in the guise and mask of most dark and fascinating manhood, has espoused such lady as he chose; and she trembled with half a fear lest the father of Fauntleroy might be such an one, and traced with terror the growing likeness there, remembering her brief period of passion and delight. But name and face were not the only gifts that the child inherited from his father.
For a time the mother remained in the town where her husband had left her, lest some day he might come to find her, and fail; but the impression of the past, instead of wearing off, daily cut deeper into her soul, and at length the perpetual remembrance grew too painful. Thus, although in this place she procured sufficiently genial occupation in teaching, exertion being necessary, since part of her little store had been deposited in some unknown quarter, she nevertheless chose to remove to another spot; and now all alone in the world, but for her child, she labored fitfully at her needle. So she lived in the small house by the water-side, owning it herself, and renting the larger half.
All things were auspicious to the youth of this boy, though nothing seemed so. His mother was, it appeared, a widow, and therefore he encountered few but the gentle influences of feminine culture. She was poor, and poverty is a discipline. She had received, of course, an education beyond her present station, and poured it lavishly into his thirsty mind. When he numbered fourteen years, she died, and a loneliness befell him which is the crown of genius, and out of which marvellous jewels may be plucked.--Very early in his life, he had manifested an ardent love of the art to which subsequently he devoted himself. Before he spoke, he sang his own lullabies; when he first went alone, his mother lost him all one summer's day, and he was found only at moon-rise, fast asleep beside a fence, whither, bare-footed, bare-headed, and all day without food, he had followed the band of a street company, still repeating in his pretty sleep parts of the tunes they had lent him. He was scarcely older, when two tickets for a rare concert (in a day when concerts were like rain in the desert) were given to his mother, and the poor seamstress, who could neither leave her child nor resign the pleasure, took him with her as a protector. The gay lights, the brilliant toilettes and bouquets, the chandelier swinging all its waxen flames in the glitter of ormulu and prismatic pendents, the laughing and commotion previous to the opening, these filled the child with strange exhilaration, so that he danced upon the seat, repeatedly embraced his mother, and sung to her once or twice, in a low caressing voice, a few notes of his choicest remembrance. But when the musicians had spread their magical pages before them, and, out of a wilderness of sweet sounds, his childish ear drew the measure and melody of one air, his transport knew no bounds. The music was not of a difficult order, nor did it require a great effort of comprehension; yet, while one child, who had been taken that the effect upon him might be observed, whispered dismally, 'What a yacket!' Fauntleroy stood with his clasped hands hanging before him, his head bent forward, and his little face bathed in tears. The last piece was a fantasia upon several of the exquisite waltzes of Beethoven: during the performance one of the sheets fluttered from the stage to the floor, and lay there unnoticed; at the conclusion, as they stepped into the aisle, it caught the child's eye, and, springing forward, he seized it. The strange characters enchanted him, he followed them along with his finger; of their meaning he was, of course, ignorant; but they had some connection with the passing splendor, they were akin to the music that had brimmed his childish soul, they were precious to those gods upon the stage, and so he made a theft of them; or rather, one should say, bore them off calmly, as if by his own right and possession.
His letters he found it difficult to conquer, but day after day he sat in the sun, poring over the stolen sheet, singing the air as he recalled it, dividing it first into parts, and then into distinct sounds, until, if he had been conscious of the fact, he had almost literally deciphered the meaning of those quaint emblems. Hornbook and catechism retired before them, for to those worthies he had given but an inconsiderable portion of his acquaintance.
At the completion of his sixth year, there came a memorable day to Fauntleroy Verrian. He was no longer to remain with the other lodger during Sabbath mornings of perfect calm, that breathed of woods and brooks and dewy winds, and brought to him vague sensations of distant and unknown delights; but jacket and trowsers lay, one sunrise, by his bedside, and he was promoted, not only to the dignity of breeches, but to that other goal of his desires, to see clouds of music, laden with all gorgeous imaginings, blown from the great golden organ-pipes; to go, morning and afternoon, to church. Through the quiet prime, he discoursed of this anticipation to his mother, and she, with maternal wont, did her best to check it, telling him, not the choir, but the preacher, and the sweet voice of the prayers, should draw him there, where she took him not to delight his ear but to save his soul. Fauntleroy had thought his soul safe enough, if he took it round with him, and did not understand his mother's dogmas. 'I know,' he answered, when she tried to elicit his ideas of immortal things, 'that GOD holds me in my sleep, and makes the ocean cry so in the night, and all the winds whistle and clap their wings when the dark comes, because you told me, and I always thank HIM in my prayers, mother. I wish, sometimes, HE had made a field for me, with flowers in it; but I suppose there is one growing against I am a man.'
'But, in all this,' said his mother, 'you think too much of yourself, and very little of GOD.'
'Mother, I love GOD with all my heart,' he replied; 'but when I say it, somehow I feel like a bird, and sing it.'
His mother's seat at church commanded a view of the choir, and here, regardless of every thing else, Fauntleroy remained, his eyes fixed on the loft, and his ears expectant of the moment when the great crypt of silent sound should open its gates, and send forth its winged worshipping ghosts. At last, through the vestry-door, stole the white-robed priest, and a hush reigned in the assembled congregation. As the first hum stole over their heads, like the breath of a wandering wind, slowly flanking itself with allies of massive chords, and winding into vast volumes of involved harmonies, the boy sat rapt in a seraphic trance. No motion marred the marble-like repose, his shadow never quivered, and, but for the blood that bounded up and down the cheek, one could have dreamed him transmuted into some delicate sculpture. At length, the little statue gave a sigh, the lashes fell and hid the starry eyes, and he covered his face with his hands. In the confession, a slight motion did not disturb his mother, but when, on rising, he was not to be seen in the pew, she knew he had gone to seek an ascent to the idol, where she soon caught sight of the dark little head, as its owner sat perched on a stool beside the organist. The service over, the mother remains in the pew, with a mouthful of reproofs for the truant; but he still lingers in the loft.
'Well, what is it?' asks the organist, amused at the unceremonious freedom of the visitor.
'Would you be so kind,' asks the latter, with much sweetness, but no fear, 'as to let me put my fingers on the music?'
'On the keys? With pleasure.'
The child extends his hands, and lays them on the polished ice, although extracting no murmur.
'Well, what do they say to you, the sirens? What do they tell you?'
'O Sir! all sweet things!'
'Do they, little enthusiast? And, if they say so much without sound, what do they say when their lips move?'
The child lifts his hands from the keys, crosses them behind him, and says imperiously: 'Play!'
The man obeys, and evolves a slow movement from Cherubini. If the composer's soul never mirrored the extremest depths of Nature, or if the present performer has in his own soul no complete expression for the strain, there is yet enough. The child's eyes sparkle over cheeks whiter than snow, his quivering lips part, he shivers at each roll of harmony, he stands with self-forgetful, outstretched hands, and, as it closes, every pulse thrills beneath the surge of the silver thunders. He had found that day a new revelation, and unconsciously to himself had learned that in the organ--'great omnipotence of sound'--was slumbering all the delight and purpose of his life.
His mother had often taken him with her, when calling on an elderly lady who lived a few streets higher than herself, the town sloping up from the river; and during these visits he had amused himself with an old English piano that stood, neglected and forlorn, on very slender legs, in a corner of the room. Round the edges, ivory had once been damaskeened in the notes of an air in vogue at the time of its construction; but they, together with the harp of St. Cecilia, elaborately let into the centre of the lid, had long been yellow as gold. Opened, it displayed the delightful mysteries of the black and white key-board. But alas! what different sounds issued thence; what tormented sprites shrieked in short pain from the shrunken wires, and how many others refused to answer his summons at all. Just over it was a small window, which Fauntleroy incidentally noticed to be destitute of fastening. A few weeks after his first attendance at church, he learned from his mother that this neighbor was dead, and that the house would be closed until her heirs, who were foreign, should send an agent from Europe, preparatory to the settlement of her affairs, and the sale of household stuff. During these weeks, his mother had been greatly harassed by her son's evident propensity to music, for though he now learned and digested whatever was set before him, all his avidity was manifested in the former direction. In despair of his ever becoming a useful member of society, she took from him the precious sheet of Beethoven, forbade him to speak on the subject of his predilection, broke in pieces and consumed the violin left behind by his father, and, above all, commanded him never to approach the piano at the old lady's house, and, finally, since she saw the restless longings of the little face at every visit, ceased to go there at all herself. At last, when Fauntleroy heard the announcement, he resolved to attain the mastery of that valueless old piano, and revolved a thousand schemes by which his object could be effected. Music drew him as a magnet draws a needle; resistance never occurred to him, but concealment was absolutely necessary. The more his mother opposed, the more she pushed him forward: with a pertinacity equal to her own, Fauntleroy followed his bent. On his way home from school, he passed the deserted house, even opened the little gate, and took a quick but satisfactory survey of the premises, and as hasty a resolution.
That night at tea-time, his share was taken away untouched, he went early to bed, but not to sleep, frequently calling on his mother to put by her work. It seemed as if the evening would never end, while he tossed impatiently about, yet entertaining myriad fantastic presences, and marshaling an ever-shifting procession of varied song. At length his mother lay down by his side, and the candle was extinguished. Soon the regular breathing of the tired needle-woman announced her sleep, and her treacherous little boy slipped down the other side, silently donned his clothes, and stole from the house into the mid-night street, leaving the door and his mother at the mercy of the open bolt. Up the long street he ran till out of hearing distance, past the churchyard like a spirit, and over the garden-wall. He stopped at last on the moss-grown flags of the garden-walk to look about him. The softest brilliancy of a June moon, but two hours high, flooded all the nodding boughs with a silver frosting; the althea and flox and narcissi dropped their heads, heavy with dew, and spread their untrained fragrance on the sweet, cool wind--the wind that wandered in and out the darker green glooms of the aromatic alleys, and was the only stirring thing beside himself. How free he was, and how glorious such liberty! He hardly believed that another soul in the world was up and in a garden at this hour. The garden, which had been his admiration all his summers, with its beds of pansies and violets, and its great swinging boughs of juiciest fruit, down whose walks he had timidly stepped with dainty delight, this garden was now his own dominion, as much his as ever it had been any bee's; the people who owned it slept and forgot it, and cancelled their right in oblivion; any one of the flowers he could pluck if he chose. The universal hush and peace waited upon him. Truly he was Lord of the Night. At least, without having been stated in words to himself, this was the sum and meaning of his sensations. But when the first bloom of his midnight experience wore away, he remembered the piano, and sought the window that opened behind it. It was almost higher than he could reach, but by dint of an arbor-seat, which, inch by inch, the little burglar dragged along, he raised himself to a sufficient height. A sweet-brier climbed round this window, and, in feeling for the sash, the thorns tore and scratched his hands. When found, all his strength could not raise it. He hesitated a little while, and then took a big stone, deliberately broke through the space of two panes, inserted his head and arm, and drew himself through. In a moment, the mystic instrument was open and tinkling outrageously beneath his empiric hands. To his horror, this was not the music he wanted, and the connection between each separate key and the characters on his excommunicated sheet suddenly flashed upon him. Solving the riddle with a patience most wonderful, he sat working in the slowly-wheeling moonlight until the clock of the opposite church struck three: still delaying, minute after minute, till the last quarter warned him how near the day might be, he hastily closed the lid, and retreated as he had entered. Passing the graves, this time he was hardly so fearless, but scampered down the gray street at full speed. Nevertheless an unutterable satisfaction filled him, and noiselessly securing the door, he crept up the stair, tore off his clothes, and slipped into bed again, silently giving a little prayer of thanks that he had succeeded in his naughtiness. Having the first time accomplished so much, he on the next night lost no sleep, but woke when his mother retired, and again, when she slept, escaped. A half-dozen nights, while the moon lasted, the child continued his excursions, but at length was obliged to cease for want of the friendly light.
During the intervening space, he employed himself in running errands and gathering sixpences, till he had amassed a sum sufficient for the purchase of strings, which, in his search through the mechanism of the instrument, he had found requisite. One sunset he returned with them in his pocket, carefully secreted among peg-top, white ally, whittlings and ginger-bread, and great was his joy when the thin crescent of the new moon lay above a long orange cloud, but equally great his sorrow to see the slender boat float down the lucid currents of the west, and leave no sign. A few nights more, however, and she was again his leaguer, fortified and reïnforced by certain candles pillaged from his mother's scanty store. Meanwhile he had lost no time for ingratiating himself with the church organist, had not suffered a day to pass without seeing him, had beset him with flocks of questions, had received hints and instructions that seemed to him as comprehensive as a library, and had, as he soon found, acquired, in this interval of rest, real knowledge and satisfactory progress.
The June passed into the harvest moon, October began to array herself in all the beautiful decadence of the year, and still his new pleasure had not palled upon Fauntleroy. He had repaired to the best of his ability the injuries time had wrought on this mine of enjoyment, had tuned it according to his inventive skill, and, when in the latter business strength failed, had resorted to a thousand expedients, had contrived infantile levers and screws, and, at one time, had even secured the refractory subject by a cord to the jambs across the room, thinking that being thoroughly wetted it would contract, as he had seen his mother's clothes-line do, and draw the tone to the required pitch. And although I doubt if by these methods he effected much, still he met with a certain success that sufficed, and they were excellent schemes of instruction. Remembering as he did, every line and mark of his one-paged volume of Beethoven, he had compared with it what every hour over the instrument taught him, and having obtained a book of tunes from the organ-desk at church, together with much more assistance from the friend there, had found his knowledge to be perfectly accurate if small, and that from these notes he could produce, though in how much less degree! the same melodies that enraptured him on Sabbaths. Moreover, so much attained, he now by practice became to a great extent master of difficulties to which most pupils yield, and of a convenient if not always elegant style, in which his little fingers would twinkle over the keys at some prestissimo, or slowly oar along through what seemed to him a sea of solemn harmony.
Such frequent loss of sleep, as might be expected, soon showed its results in the boy. Languid and pale during day-light, with large purple shadows beneath his eyes, thin and without appetite, yet animated by a constant liveliness of mind, joyous and over-flowing with inner happiness, he grew the subject of his mother's tenderest anxieties, and often in her sleep she turned to take the truant into her bosom. Once or twice not touching him in her drowsiness, his absence did not occur to her, but another time she started up filled with keen alarm, as he closed the street-door. Her quick call was smothered in affright. It was the work of an instant to gather a few garments and follow him just as he turned the corner of the street. Never dreaming of looking behind him, Fauntleroy hurried on, scaled the wall, and for the last time entered his sanctuary. His mother, less nimble, toiled up the hill, and, despairing at the wall, ran round to the gate. In the tremor that ruled her, she found it locked, and succeeded only, after several minutes, in remembering a broken part of the inclosure. Here she effected an entrance, but Fauntleroy was no where to be seen. Down one aisle and up another, across grassy plots and weed-choked flower-beds she ran breathlessly, and perhaps had not found him to this day, if a thought of the old piano had not struck her simultaneously with its sound. With suddenly-illumined thoughts she turned to the window whither the thread of music led her, and bending from one side, looked in. There was the dark, old-fashioned book-case, filling one side of the room from floor to ceiling, with a white bust of some irate Apollo in a niche of the arched carving, like a crown; the curtains swept apart for all the light the night could give; the buffet yielding a sidelong gleam, half drowned in shade, of silver and glass and gorgeously-flowered china; the chancel-chairs and velvet-covered table; and the mysterious portrait above the chimney-piece, that gathered all the spare light into itself and leaned from the dingy frame a pale, witch-like face, in a net of golden hair. All this his mother received at a glance, although that glance lighted instantly on her child, where he sat rapt in a softly-improvised welcome to his Egeria. So motionless was he, with uplifted eyes in the clear moon-light that streamed upon and over him into the room, that she half-feared him to be in a somnambulic state. Yet those violet eyes, so dark, so lustrous, wore no fixed stare, nor any trace of sleep; they were rather filled with spirit, brimmed with the wakefulness of life, and the heavenly dream of music alone overshadowed the transfigured face. The mother felt this as she gazed, and hung on the sweetness that his fingers drew into the air. Did ever any one do so beautifully, she thought; and, as if to mock her, a golden robin stirred in his nest and trilled his mid-night song, as full of joy as the whippowil's of sorrow.
As Fauntleroy's fancy lightened from the theme he followed, his eye pursued a cloud across the sky, and falling, lay upon his mother's face. He ceased a moment in terrible dismay, then starting to his feet, looked back at the portrait on the wall, lest she had stolen out of her frame, mastered by all the charm of the old house. But as quietly as ever, in the Greek cap of vivid scarlet and gold zequins falling from her hair, she looked through her prison-door. Again his fascinated eyes sprung back to the white face pressed against the vacant panes. It was all quicker than thought, and hardly a minute had elapsed when he comprehended it. If his mother had been Solomon, he would have expected summary chastisement; as it was, he resumed his seat and played with his best execution the very piece upon which she had laid her ban. He fancied himself to have accomplished a fine revenge, but silly child! his mother no more understood his meaning than did the portrait, for of the identity between what he played and what the sheet contained his unskilled senses were ignorant. Hardly had he struck the closing chord, when the door behind him opened, and a tall gentleman, in flowing robes and with long, dark hair, entered, bearing a light, which the draught at once extinguished.
'What does this mean?' he asked in apparent amazement, first of the child and then of the white face beyond. The mother pushed up the sash.
'Sir,' she cried, 'he is my son; and having been forbidden by me, when Madame Fardeau was living, to touch this piano, has escaped from me in the night! Send him here to me, I implore you.'
'Is this so?' asked the stranger doubtingly, and with that strange manner which, however perfectly one speaks the tongue, always indicates the foreigner.
'Yes, it is so!' answered Fauntleroy stoutly, as his mother's words were impugned. 'Mother never knew of my coming till to-night; and where's the harm?'
'You have been here before, then?'
'Oh! yes,' answered Fauntleroy, into whose nature there had not been instilled sufficient awe of any one to make it seem to him worth while to tell a lie.
'When did you first come?'
'Oh! a great while ago; a great many years, I should think.'
'A great many years, Fauntleroy!' exclaimed his mother, while the gentleman moved uneasily as she spoke. 'Madame Fardeau has not been dead a great many years. You are not a great many years old!'
'Why, mother, the little lilies were in bloom, the first time.'
'And that was in June, Sir,' she said, half-laughingly, and appealing to the stranger.
''Well, well, you make too much noise to be about a bad business. So you like this tinkling cymbal?'
'Who taught you to play?'
'I do not yet play; but I shall.'
'That does not answer my question. Have you had a teacher?'
The gentleman stooped and examined the piano. 'Who keeps your instrument in order?' he asked with a comical shrug.
It was all like a dream to Fauntleroy, and which was real, which false, he could not tell; suddenly two hands seized his waist, swung him through the casement to his mother. 'See, little monkey,' said the great black-bearded face close to his own, while the cheery laugh rung in his terrified ear like a booming bell, 'I shall set a trap here to-morrow. Good night!' and he abruptly closed the sash.
Fauntleroy felt as if he had just fallen out of bed, and expecting that the next minute would reveal the falsehood of so long and so delightful a hallucination, was yet farther surprised when his mother took his hand and led him home without a word. She was trembling in every nerve herself, she did not cease throwing a frightened glance over her shoulder as they walked, and she seemed unable to recal her thoughts from the region to which they had strayed.
'Naughty child,' said she at last with tears, as she sat once more in the little bed-chamber; 'cruel boy, to occasion me such trouble!'
'Mother, didn't you like to hear me play?'
'You played well; but you have stolen it all.'
'No one else has lost it.'
'Fauntleroy, I would rather you had never played a note than to have deceived me so.'
'Did you hear the piece you took away from me?'
'Are you going to increase your disobedience by dishonesty? Have you been at my trunk? Have you unlocked that, and got it?'
'Pooh! no. I remembered that.'
'I wish you would learn your multiplication-table as easily.'
'Sixteen times sixteen are two hundred and fifty-six, and that's as far as the table goes!'
'You are in high glee to-night. Does it make you happy to be wicked?'
'O mother! not to be wicked! but to be up, to have been out, to have seen my beauty, and oh! I never shall see her any more, I never can go there again!' and bursting into tears, he went crying to bed and sobbing to sleep.
The next day, when the mournful Fauntleroy returned at night from school, there stood in his mother's small sitting-room the beloved piano, a roll of old and invaluable musical MSS. upon it, and an envelope containing a sum of money, with directions that it should be employed in paying a teacher for Master Fauntleroy Verrian.
The mother entering soon from an unusual day's work abroad--for she was assisting at a trousseau--first looked about her in amaze, and then hung long above the writing on the envelope, holding it to the light, and trying it by a thousand whims.
'Yes,' she murmured at length, 'with all the false color of hair and beard, with all the disguised tones and hidden pen-strokes, he is unchanged. This is he, and strange it is that my heart does not break. Of what, of what can I be made? How hard that heart must be; for my love is as utterly extinct as his.'
Nevertheless, she hurried on shawl and hood again, and returned to the house from which she had lately issued. She never had occasion to seek it again, for the trousseau upon which she had worked, was from that evening abandoned.
For two or three days the money lay untouched, the music unrolled, the piano unopened. At their close his mother extracted the confession, that if he had been dishonest he was 'making up for it,' and that he would show her how well he could deny himself.
At the end of another week, during which the donor had settled his affairs and departed, as she heard, she engaged a music-teacher, herself displayed the crabbed manuscript, opened the piano, and placed him before it.
'You have my leave, dear,' she said, and with a sigh perhaps, resigned the laudable intention which all American mothers are supposed to entertain, of making him on one day President of the Republic; for the fine arts, as we all know, are not the road to that distinction.
'Mother,' said Fauntleroy, a few days afterward, 'I never shall enjoy my music the way I did when it was, as you say, stolen.'
There was little for his teacher to correct in what he had previously gained, and at every lesson he astonished and outstripped her. Finally she buried him in the intricacies of the science till it became clear and glorious as the firmament, and reflected back to him the features of his own mind like the brazen sea of the Temple crowned at the brim with flowers of lilies. The gradual opening of the child's genius gave his mother a great awe; with that she dared no longer interfere, but in the moral part of his character he was, she saw, fearfully deficient. He met all her arguments with an unconscious sophistry, and was almost incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. The creature of impulse, she declared it providential that all his impulses were good.
As time passed, Fauntleroy's supple fingers gathered strength, and he was pronounced equal to the anticipation of his life. To be a great performer on any instrument, or to create fresh forms for any or all instruments to unfold, did not at that time belong to his visions; he only desired to live for and in music, however humbly, and to serve it entirely. It was not, meantime, so easy a task to obtain an opportunity for this exercise. Wealthy committees of wealthy churches declined affording his genius the assistance; had they willed it, they might have ministered to the heavenly visitant, but unwilling, he was nevertheless not to lose his service. At last the organ of a poorer church, fine and powerful for its size, was placed at his disposal, and he entered with the years of childhood upon the career of a man. Frequently, after becoming accustomed, he played for the usual organist of his place: his performances being so excellent that ungodly crowds flocked to hear them; and on the departure of his first friend from the church which his mother attended, he was invited to fill his place, at a salary which, far too small as it was, was a fabulous amount to the boy and his mother.
Thus he grew. His teacher had no more to impart; if it were possible, he had exhausted the MSS. with which he had been so unexpectedly enriched: he had finished fourteen years, and his mother died. Slowly and imperceptibly, yet with the sureness of fate, she had drooped and wearied from the day, eight years since, in which she had abandoned her son to his determination; and without ever knowing that it was so, Fauntleroy watched his mother fade away before his eyes. Had he been an ordinary person, the reäction would now inevitably have come. But the grief that so suddenly overwhelmed him only goaded to farther effort, and in almost unbroken seclusion he turned himself partially to a more general study, pursued with no less ardor or success. Nothing that he attempted seemed to require an effort, or rather the effort he saw fit to put forth always covered the attempt, and thus in time his learning became more than liberal. Again then he returned to his chosen pursuit, and day after day he sat in the old church alone, except for his single attendant, pouring forth melodies, and teaching the echoes of the place such resonances as they had never breathed before.
* * * * *
There was at no great distance from the church a school, the tumult of whose greetings and recesses reached the young organist in a murmur, as he sat studying black tomes in the sheltered choir. Often through the blush of sunrise he passed its neat grounds, and its bells broke in upon his sweetest reveries. The boy grows as he dreams, and Fauntleroy was already gathering a look into his face that did not belong to the child. Up the gallery-stairs now, unperceived by him, stole every day a little girl--pale, though not from lack of health, and elegantly clad--who sat upon the upper step and listened to his music. When the bell struck she would hasten down, as frequently taking the balustrade for her method of conveyance as any other. Time increasing, she became more daring, and stole on tip-toe round the organ, though never obtaining a view of the performer's face, and never caring to do so. Sometimes now the stroke of the bell was disregarded by her, and until some motion of the organist surprised her, she sat listening through the warm noons to his necromancy; the long roll of the sound made her tremble with a delicious pain, and her face grew paler as the childish soul fed upon such ecstatic sweetness. Pinafore and pantalette vanished by degrees, while a maturer maidenly attire assumed predominance; and the flying hair, swept away in a long satin gloss, was secured in twisted coils. Once she had brought a cluster of the school-girls to partake her feast, but each borrowing courage from the other, their congregated boldness frightened her, and she did not repeat the experiment.
One noon she had stood sheltered by the wing of the organ; so entranced through the music, and so lost in the mazes whither it had led her, that when its last throb died away she was first startled from her abstraction by the clang of the church-door. She ran down, but the organist and his attendant had gone, and she was locked in. Knowing he would return, she entered the body of the church, and, having wandered at her pleasure over the forbidden precincts, ensconced herself finally among the piled hassocks of a square pew, and opened the school-book which to save her conscience she had brought in her hand. Never a very courageous student, the book ere long wearied her, letter chased letter over the page, and the head sinking among the crimson cushions, she was soon fast asleep. In a short time the young organist returned, quietly ascended, and busied himself in fresh problems, combinations and intervals, over the old cabalistic volumes. Rising at length, he leaned over the rail of the gallery, and looked down into the church: his mind full of pleasant dreaming. Thus the girl slumbering in the warm coloring of the old pew below, with a broad pencil of light guarding her presence as it slanted through the chancel window and swum in gorgeous motes, seemed to him like a fay curled in the cups of ruby cacti, or the visible spirit and creation of his music, and so passed along his dream without exciting other emotions than its thousand fantasies and gay processions were wont to do. Turning again to the keys, he was soon lost in the more beautiful ideas of men older and greater than he. Soon there stole through the girl's half-waking mind a gentle murmuring, swelling till all the air about her pulsed with long waves of melody, and she awoke to hear the golden pipes pealing as she had never dreamed they could, while every atom throbbed with conscious sound.
So the music stole along the aisles, shaking from its flowing folds fragments of delicious airs, dim remembrances of meadow-greens, wreaths of palest wood-flowers. Now the quiet ripple of a forest-brook crept down; and now the summer wind, taking the pine-tree tops, shook them in a hurried storm of notes till the wild crescendo broke into a myriad murmurs, each rocking in the breeze. Slowly through this, out of untrodden depths, a grander and more solemn movement rose, and all the mysterious beauty of a fugue of Bach bathed the place in a fairer sanctity. Filled with indescribable awe, she glided from the church at its close, and returned to her vacant seat at school, regardless of reprimand and trifles, and only repeating in her mind the sublime strains she had heard.
For some time Fauntleroy Verrian had been quietly growing in the public favor. Indeed it would have been singular if the chord so powerfully touched by him had never drawn any response; and thus when a musical impulse, apparently unaccountable, seized the town, all his quiet became disturbed, and he was compelled to direct it. Yet so sincerely did he love his art, that he deemed no self-sacrifice too great, and his genial advice and enthusiastic sympathy were never sought in vain. A class of eager students came into his own hands, and soon with their help he had reörganized the ancient order of singing-schools into institutions replete with zeal and science. While the fever, as it was called, was at its height, it was determined to introduce the pursuit of music into the schools, and certain of his class undertaking younger pupils, he reserved to himself the older, and therefore more stupid and refractory. Among these, it chanced, was his unrecognized disciple.
It was a warm afternoon when he first mounted that seminary staircase, in company with the Principal. A class in history sat in the recitation-desks, and the girl who, unknown to him, had so haunted the organ-loft, was standing in the act of answering a question. She was rather taller than the usual height, and wore a dress of some thin purple tissue, out of whose dark shades rose her snowy shoulders like a Naiad from a flag-flower, and short sleeves with little puffs of cloudy lace displayed the round fair arms. The hair, naturally of a soft brown, was transmuted into sunshine by the beams that showering through the dome, illumined the beautiful forehead, and was fastened by a narrow silver comb. The long-cut hazel eyes with darker brows distinctly pencilled; the finely-moulded features and self-repressed lips; and the white colorless skin, all made a piece of rare beauty. The contrast of her complexion and dress first caught the eye of Fauntleroy as the principal would have conducted him to a seat. His glance lingered unconsciously, and he scanned her keenly to discover the soul that animated such loveliness. An ordinary observer might have passed heedlessly, but he read in her the tone that answered to his dimmest dearest thought. Perhaps she had spent more serious study on the present lesson than ever on any before, yet now the answer, ready not a moment since, hung trembling on her lips and slipped away from her treacherous memory, while as earnestly and forgetfully she returned his gaze. Yet in an instant, as I said, Fauntleroy had seen something in her face, neither of feature nor of color; something that comprised a beautiful ideal, that sprung forward and met his own soul. He had felt her presence before he fairly saw her, and now while she stood with those little white hands calmly crossed on the cherry-wood desk beside her, and her eyes fearlessly meeting his own; the gusty maps that swayed upon the wall; the shadow of the maples through the open windows; the form of the teacher and the hum of the scholars all disappeared, and he felt only this girl and himself alone in the world. In a moment more the class was dismissed. Suddenly awakened, the girl fled to her seat, which was at the opposite extremity of the room.
The teacher now briefly explained the affair on hand, assured the scholars that all diffidence should be laid aside, and that each one must sing such a verse as she could remember; that their separate capabilities might be ascertained. A few, the first summoned, declared themselves totally without ear and voice; for the nonce they were left undisturbed, and perhaps the whole number would have confessed to a similar inability had not one whispering little thing struck up an impudent air, and sung it through with spirit. After this, sentimental songs found favor, a faded opera-tune tawdrily rendered, and some drawled out long-metred hymns, or raced through the best of the negro-melodies extant, which at that time numbered but few. Mechanically the young organist noted these, while a new and strange impatience fired him to hear that other voice. As for her, she had never, as you know, seen his face before, yet was sure of his identity as much as he was amazed at finding here the creature of his reverie. At last her turn came.
'Miss Sara,' said the teacher.
She rose calmly, as if thinking what to sing, while he waited longingly; then ran lightly up and down the scale, with liquid, airy, ringing notes as ever sung by any spray-swung bird.
'A tune, Miss Sara,' said the preceptress, according to the letter of her instructions; 'is it not, Mr. Verrian?'
The scales answered far better, but impossible as it was to speak, and in his quick desire to hear more, he bowed. Again the lips parted, and the mournful words of the old Scotch chorus flowed on the bosom of its wild sweet tune in a luxury of pathos and melody:
'LOCHABER na mair May be to return to Lochaber na mair.'
Tears filled his eyes while she sung, and her competitors exhibited their skill to inattentive ears. When all were through, he walked directly to her desk. She rose to meet him.
'Will you come to my house after school?' he asked in his sweetest tones. 'Will you come and sing with me?'
The frank glad consent of her eyes was answer enough; he named his place of residence, and without another word left the school, nor did he ever return.
There was a beautiful calmness about this girl, a natural freedom from anticipation and tumult; impatience never interrupted her quiet, surprises were impossible with her; all things came to her as if by an appointed sequence of events. Thus this new friend did not startle her, and in all the tedious employments of the school that day she was not for an instant restless.
As soon as the recitations closed, Sara obeyed his request, reached the small house by the water-side, and entered the low room. Fauntleroy was standing by the window, looking out upon the river; as she lingered at the handle of the door, he turned, instantly advanced and led her in with the happiest of smiles, but with no words. He seated himself at the piano, and placed certain vocal exercises before her. Not to his astonishment, since he could have believed her capable of all things, she sang them with entire ease, as her music-teacher, who once had been also his, could have prophesied to him. His fingers lingered on the accompaniment when she had finished, as if loth to conclude. She trembled a minute, half in doubt, and then, her lithe figure swaying to the song, warbled an air more familiar to him than day, because it was his own. The expression with which she rendered his song, the interpretation of all its indefinite grace, could not have been more exquisitely given by the most finished cantatrice alive. He turned in a rapture of admiration.
'It is yours, Sir,' she said. He had not presumed that another soul had knowledge of it.
'And yours! You have made it so!' he replied, seeing her as no pupil, but rather on an equality with himself. 'And you--surely you have melodies where your delights are written down.'
'The clouds, Sir, have neither color nor shape till the sun shines on them; and such as I sing only what is made for us.'
The clock tolled nine before he allowed her to rest, and then conducting her to her home, he returned. A new light had been given to his eye that day; a new fire kindled at his hearth. His heart had been like a flower waiting for the dawn, and that now expanded in all the warmth and beauty of its rich growth. There were but three Fates: the first he had met on the Sunday, now so long ago, when he threw himself upon the organ's universe of sound; his second he knew well he had found to-day, and were she hostile or propitious, still how fair and calm and beautiful! When should he find his third Fate?
(END OF PART FIRST.)
THE MAN AT THE DOOR.
BY FITZ-JAMES O'BRIEN.
How joyous to-day is the little old town, With banners and streamers and that sort of thing: They flutter on turrets and battlements brown, And the ancient Cathedral is fine as a king. The sexton a nosegay has put in his breast, And his face is as bright as a Jericho rose That, after a century's withering rest, Unwrinkles its petals and suddenly blows.
The brown-breasted swallows aloft and alow, Swoop faster and farther than ever before, And I'm sure that the cock on the steeple will crow When he hears from the city the jubilant roar. The girls are as gay as a holiday fleet, And ribbons are streaming from bosom and hair, And they laugh in the face of each young man they meet, And the young men reply with an insolent stare.
'Tis not without reason the old town is gay, And banners and ribbons are reddening the air, For beautiful BERTHA will marry to-day With gallant young ALBERT, the son of the Mayor. He is brown as a nut from the hazels of Spain: Her face, like the twilight, is pensive and sweet; As they march hand in hand through the murmuring lane, Low blessings, like flowers, fall unseen at their feet.
While they sweep like twin barks through the waves of the crowd, A story is falling from many a tongue Of the young Gipsy Prince who a year ago bowed At the shrine where a hundred their passion had sung. And how BERTHA heaped scorn on his love and his race, How she flung in the street the rich presents he sent, Until he with the hatred of hell in his face, Went sullenly back to his tribe and his tent.
Soon all stories are hushed in a gathering roar, And the people sway back like the ebb of a tide, And the rosy old sexton stands by the church door, To merrily welcome the bridegroom and bride: But his glee is so great that he does not behold The tall man that stands near the pillar hard by, Nor the flash of the dagger that's hafted with gold, Nor the still keener flash of the lowering eye.
On they come, and the sexton bows low to the ground, The bride smiles a welcome, the bells ring a chime, While a grand acclamation in surges of sound Thrills up through the sky like a sonorous rhyme. They are under the porch--when one dash through the crowd, One flash of a dagger--one shriek of despair, And BERTHA falls dead; while stern-faced and proud, The swarthy-skinned Prince of the Gipsies is there!
How sombre to-day is the little old town, With mourning and sables and funeral display; Long weepers are hanging from battlements brown, And the ancient Cathedral is haggard and gray. The sexton a white rose has put in his breast, While his face is as blank as a snow-laden sky, For BERTHA and ALBERT have gone to their rest, And the Prince of the Gipsies is swinging on high.
THE VAN GELDERS OF MATINECOCK.
BY JOHN T. IRVING, AUTHOR OF 'THE QUOD CORRESPONDENCE.'
MANY years since I had a relative on the mother's side, an elderly gentleman, who prepared to write a history of Long Island. He was a man of great acquirements and thorough research. He was eminently qualified for the task, for there was no fact so astounding that it staggered him, nor any tale so remarkable that it was beyond his belief. He did not confine his investigations to books alone. He visited spots rendered classic by the deeds of departed worthies. He commenced his explorations at Coney Island, and terminated them at Montauk Point. To sum up his character and qualifications: he was a gentleman of great perseverance and extraordinary swallow. Under these circumstances, it is much to be regretted that he did not live to complete his work. The odd scraps of information, and the strange tales which he had gathered in the course of his labors, fell into my hands--for he was my third-cousin, on the mother's side; and after careful examination, I am satisfied that there is much information contained in these blotted manuscripts of a kind that is not often met with; and that I shall be doing a great favor to the public in general, and to historians in particular, by bringing it to light. The following account of Matinecock and the Van Gelder family is from his papers.
The Volkert Van Gelder referred to was a personal friend of my respected relative, and a man very much of the same kidney. The same taste for antiquarian research and for forgotten lore, was a strong feature in the character of each. In the case of Van Gelder, it led to no useful results; in that of my respected relative--had he lived--it would have culminated in the production of a work of research, which would have shed undying light on the history of Long Island, and would have been a blessing to future generations.
About thirty miles from the city of New-York is a headland jutting out into Long Island Sound, fortified against the wash of the sea by huge boulders of rock. The banks of the shore are rough and rugged, and bear marks of the wear and tear of the waves. On the upland are tall trees, twisted into fantastic shapes by the force of the winds which sweep down the Sound. Between this promontory and the mainland is a land-locked bay, from whose borders a dense forest stretches off in various directions. The whole of this region is known by the name of Matinecock.
Matinecock is a place of great antiquity, and derives its name from an Indian tribe, which once held sway there. Like many places on Long Island, it is very much behind the rest of the world in matters of every-day experience; and being situated at the end of several very crooked lanes, and hemmed in by water and sand-beaches, it is no easy matter for the world to get at it. In this neighborhood stands a large rambling house, made up of gables and angles, with low roof, and over-shadowed by lofty trees, which show the growth of centuries. It was originally built of squared logs, and was quadrangular in shape; but each successive owner added a wing or an elbow as it suited his fancy, until it seemed to be made up of odds and ends of architecture.
It had been founded nearly two hundred years by one Teunis Van Gelder, a stalwart warrior, who had followed the Dutch Governor, Peter Stuyvesant, in his various campaigns. His portrait was in one of the rooms of the mansion. It represented a stark warrior with high cheek-bones, a mouth closed like a steel-trap, shaggy eye-brows, and a slash across the nose and part of the cheek as if from a sword-cut. The whole denoted an iron character.
He had been a staunch campaigner, and had stood by his old commander until the city of Manhattan capitulated to the English. But he would not remain to see it under their domination. Bestowing on the invaders his malediction, he turned his back upon it forever, and retired to the fastnesses of Matinecock, where he took possession of a tract of land without inquiring who was the owner, erected a dwelling, and set himself down to brood over his wrongs, and to meditate revenge.
Scarcely, however, had he got warm in his new nest, before he was beset by the myrmidons of Matinecock, led on by one Ebenezer Cock, a tall, hard-fisted pioneer of the New-England breed. He claimed the ground on which the Dutchman had settled, by virtue of a grant from the Indian owners of the soil. He flourished under Van Gelder's nose a parchment signed with the hieroglyphics of four Sachems of the Matinecock tribe, by which, in consideration of three shirts and a shoe, the aforesaid sachems had conveyed to Ebenezer Cock, Eliphalet Frost and Sampson Latting several thousand acres of ground about Matinecock. This was too much for the gunpowder disposition of the warrior. He glanced grimly over the instrument, then handed it back, and swore he would defend his rights against all the 'Cocks' in Christendom, and prepared for battle.
There is no doubt, however, that matters were compromised without recourse to arms. For, among the old records is a memorandum dated some years after in 1676, of his going with 'his man Ryck and his square-nosed dogge to meet one Ebenezer Cock and others on the subject of his difficulties aboute the lands of Matinecock.' Whatever may have been the nature of the compromise, it is certain that Teunis Van Gelder retained his possessions, and transmitted them to his descendants.
Years passed while he yet lived there. He had grown gray, but not one whit less grim. The nature of his first reception rankled in his mind, and he held his neighbors at arm's length. He kept a keen watch on all their movements, ready to show his teeth at any symptom of aggression. He looked upon their assault upon his domain as but a continuation of the wrongs which had driven him from his native city; he was ready to renew at any moment, in his own person, the war between Holland and England, and was equally ready to take to his bosom any one who avowed animosity to the English.
At that time Captain Kidd was buccaneering on the Spanish Main. Rumors were rife of his having been seen in various quarters. At one time he was said to have been seen off Montauk, heading for Gardiner's Bay; at another at Sandy Hook. These reports would die away, and then would be revived by the arrival of some vessel which had been chased by the redoubted 'Rover' in the Carribean Sea, and escaped only by night setting in.
Late one afternoon, a tall, gaunt courier, mounted on a switch-tail mare, galloped through the county in hot haste. He brought news that Kidd had landed at Sag Harbor, and had rifled the town. Teunis Van Gelder rubbed his hands in keen satisfaction, and his eye lighted up with a kind of venomous glow. He longed for a sight of the gallant freebooter, who was in a manner visiting upon the English commerce the wrongs which the nation had committed on his native city.
On that same night he was aroused from his sleep by a sound like the report of a gun booming across the water. He opened his casement and gazed out. In the distance he observed lights dancing on the Sound, and apparently approaching the land. Shortly after there was a loud hail from the shore.
Teunis thrust his head out of the window, and answered by a bellow which might have been heard a mile. Guided by his voice a figure groped its way through the rocks and bushes, and stopped at his door.
The Dutchman was always on the look-out for plots and pitfalls on the part of his foes, and was prepared for emergencies. He seized his gun and sallied out to meet the stranger. At the door stood a square-built, storm-beaten fellow, with a keen watchful eye, a nose like a hawk's, and a mouth like a bull-dog's. He had a cutlass and a pair of pistols in his belt. As the veteran eyed him, and marked his gaunt, hard features, he felt that he was a kindred spirit, and his heart warmed to him. A few words sufficed to explain that he was second in command of Kidd's vessel, which was at anchor a short distance off and in want of supplies.
No news could have been more acceptable, no visitor more welcome. Teunis received the freebooter with open arms. His house and all that he had were placed at his disposal. For several days groups of slashing fellows, armed to the teeth, were seen hanging about the premises, carousing, shooting at marks, swearing hard, and making the neighborhood ring with their revelry. Teunis was in the thick of them, and as they related their encounters on the Spanish Main, their hand-to-hand fights, and described the din and thunder of battle, the martial spirit of the veteran fairly broke out, and he swore to Kidd that he loved him as his own son.
During their sojourn the old house fairly echoed with their carousals; and the fierce indomitable spirit of the Dutchman, and his bitter animosity to the English, so won upon the buccaneer, that under a solemn injunction of secrecy, he took him into his confidence. His want of supplies was but a pretext. His vessel was laden with treasure, and he was in quest of a place to secrete it.
He suggested Matinecock Point, but Van Gelder shook his head, and cautioned him against the marauding spirit of the neighborhood. He declared that no honest man was safe there, that they were a hybrid race, a cross between the Quaker and the steel trap, and that he might better trust the 'Old Boy.'
The freebooter shrugged his shoulders and remarked, 'that they might trust a worse person than the one last mentioned.'
Teunis did not argue the point, but suggested Sand's Point as more remote and safer, and added: 'Ryck can show you the way.'
'Agreed,' replied the freebooter.
That night at midnight several boats, heavily laden, set off. Van Gelder took a warm interest in the whole proceeding, accompanied them to the boats, and swore to watch over the treasure as if it were his own. He gave minute directions to Ryck, and stood by the shore until the boats were hid by the darkness.
Late at night Ryck returned home, grinning with satisfaction at a broad gold piece which had been bestowed on him. He and his master were closeted together for more than an hour, and they parted with a caution to secrecy on the part of the latter, accompanied by a promise to curry his hide in case of his failure. As Teunis was very exemplary in keeping promises of this kind, Ryck remained true to his trust.
After the execution of Kidd, it became known to the English government that he had communicated to Van Gelder the spot where his treasure was buried, and Commissioners were appointed to examine him. They found the veteran in the extreme of age, gaunt, grisly, with dim eyes, like an old hound, and tottering up and down the walk in front of his house, supported by a withered negro, as decrepit and time-battered as his master. He heard their errand in savage silence. For a minute his energies rallied at the idea of an encounter with his old foes. It was but an expiring flash in the socket. He refused to give them any information, and turned his back upon them. Ryck shared all his master's antipathies, was equally taciturn, and they departed with their mission unaccomplished.
In a week from that time Teunis Van Gelder was gathered to his fathers.
Ryck, after languishing about the place for a few weeks, was found dead, sitting on his old master's grave.
The present owner of the house, a lineal descendant of Teunis Van Gelder, is a little dried-up fellow named Volkert, who seemed to have grown up behind a pair of large round rimmed spectacles, through which he views the world on a magnified scale.
The feuds and animosity which had existed between Teunis and his neighbors died with him, and his descendant was regarded by them as a kindly-disposed and well-meaning little man, somewhat peppery in temper and fantastic in his notions.
Much of his time was spent in out-of-the-way research and ferreting in the dust-holes of the past, from which he now and then would fish up some unsavory fact or useless piece of information. Those twilight portions of history in which fable and fact are mingled, were his delight. He would travel a day's journey to visit a spot where a ghost had been seen, or a murder committed. He regarded a superannuated negro as a mine of legendary wealth, and would hold him by the button by the hour to get at the truth of some incident recollected by the negro's great-grandmother, and detailed to him when he was a boy. In fact his foibles were so well known, that every vagabond in the country who could coin a plausible story, half-romance and half-fact, was sure of a welcome and a hearty meal in his kitchen.
He was not a little proud of his Dutch descent, and had small respect for any whose genealogy was not, like his own, lost in the fog which surrounded the Dutch dynasty.
His prime minister and confidential adviser was a gray-headed, wrinkled negro named Zeb. He had been in his youth a sturdy fellow, but had dried up into an old codger who looked like a frosted persimmon. He was tough and leathery, with a head as hard as adamant, an obstinacy of disposition which required the full strength of his skull to keep it in. He had been born and bred on the place, and looked upon it and his master as his own property.
In early life he had been somewhat of a reprobate, so that his name and the gallows had frequently been coupled together in a very familiar manner; but he had disappointed all their prophecies, and in spite of his faults had steered clear of the halter.
As he grew old he became proportionably steady in his habits, and his evil name seemed to peel off. By the time he had become entirely useless and good for nothing, he had acquired quite a good character, and of late years he had never been known to swear when he had his own way, nor get drunk at his own expense. He, however, retained the habit of shooting with a long bow, and the marvellous character of his stories was only exceeded by the pertinacity with which he stuck to them.
His memory was a perfect magazine of mysterious experiences, of encounters with spirits of every denomination. The whole neighborhood of Dosoris, Matinecock and Lattingtown was but so many weird spots, noted in his memory as scenes of ghostly adventure. He could point out the very tree at Flag Brook where Ralph Crafts had a friendly chat with the Devil, who volunteered to whip Ralph's wife for him, and was beaten himself; and he could show the large tulip-tree at Dosoris, under which Parson Woolsey had an encounter of a more hostile character with the same personage, in which he so exorcised the Old Boy in bad Latin, and raised such a din about his ears with hard Scripture texts, that he took to flight, and never dared show his hoof there while the old clergyman lived.
Volkert Van Gelder pretended to turn an incredulous ear to these tales when Zeb happened to speak of them in public, and put his old retainer off with a 'pish;' but he always took occasion when no one was by to glean from him the full particulars. These were committed to writing, and stowed away in an ancient book-case mounted with brass, which is a perfect repository of abstruse history.
Zeb, however, had a crony in his own sphere, though not of his own color, equally versed in legendary lore. This was an old weather-beaten fellow with a red nose and a moist eye, of the name of Nick Wanzer.
Nick was born and bred at Matinecock. Many of his family had gone off to seek their fortunes in other parts of the world. Nick quoted the old saw, 'A rolling stone gathers no moss,' and staid at home. He grew no richer, but in process of time he certainly acquired a kind of moss-grown look, as if he were reaping the reward of his resolution.
He was addicted to strong drink and long stories, and by dint of constant indulgence in both, it became a matter of doubt whether his head or his stories had become toughest. He was usually to be met with either on the borders of the Dosoris mill-pond, with a fishing-rod across his shoulder, or trudging along the sand-bars, carrying a gun as battered as himself, with a slouch-tailed dog at his heels. He however was indigenous to the place, and belonged to that class of worthies, one or two of whom hang about every country village, and who drift through life always in sight, living no one knows how or where, and winding up their career by being found dead under some hedge or in some hay-mow.
In his youth he had been a harum-scarum fellow, a keen sportsman, and a persevering fisherman. Every rock from the Stepping Stones to Lloyd's Neck, was as familiar to him as his own dwelling, and there was not a corner of any swamp, or nook of woodland, which he had not traversed with dog and gun.
He had been terribly harried in the early part of his life, by a termagant wife, but he had at last deposited her in the Lattingtown church-yard, with a heavy stone over her to commemorate her virtues and to keep her quiet.
He had been too much cowed by stringent petticoat government, ever to be the man that he had been before his marriage; but it was a great weight off his mind to know that she was at rest, as well as himself. From that time he had been his own master, loitered about the country, attending to every body's business except his own. When the weather was fine, and the Sound smooth, he and Zeb passed whole mornings in a rickety boat, paddling about in search of fish. When the fish did not bite, the worthies might be descried upon one of the rocks at Martinecock, philosophizing over the past, while Nick's dog slept in the sunshine at their feet.
Of late Volkert had shown a strong yearning toward Nick. There was something in his good-for-nothing character which harmonized with the taste of Volkert, who had a weak spot in his affections for vagabonds. Nick, from a casual loiterer about the place, was gradually become a kind of appendage to it: running of errands, catching a mess of fish, or dropping a few woodcock at Volkert's door; ringing the noses of his pigs, and making himself generally useful. But the great secret of their intimacy was a certain adventure which Nick had met with, many years previously, in which Teunis Van Gelder bore a conspicuous part. It did not speak very well for the old pioneer, but Volkert took a strange pride in the evil odor which hung round the skirts of his ancestor. He forthwith took Nick by the hand, and although the tale was scouted by many as the fabrication of Nick's drunken brain, Volkert cross-examined him faithfully; took the whole down in writing, decided it to be both plausible and true, and forthwith deposited it among the arcana of his historic lore, from which I have drawn it. The adventure was as follows:
NICK WANZER'S ADVENTURE.
NICK had been passing an evening many years since at a husking-frolic. Like most persons who are good for nothing else, he was in his element there. He was a lusty dare-devil fellow then, ready for a fight or a frolic, and full of that rash yet jovial recklessness which makes friends of the men and plays the very deuce among the other sex. The party had been merry, and when the time came for breaking up, their merriment had become boisterous. Nick, overflowing with good cheer, took his leave of his host, shook hands with the mothers, kissed the prettiest of their daughters, and set out on his return to his own quarters.
The road was dark and gloomy, but he knew every inch of it. He was mellow with ale, apple-brandy and hard cider. He knew that he had to pass through a weird neighborhood, and all the tales which he had heard of ghosts and hobgoblins and Kidd and old Teunis Van Gelder were circulating freely through his brain, and, as he afterward acknowledged, what with the spirits within and the spirits without, his head was in somewhat of a turmoil.
He had a small boat drawn up in a creek near Peacock's Point, and as the road became somewhat unsteady as he proceeded, he determined to return home by water. Taking a short-cut across the fields and floundering through a swamp or two, he finally reached the creek, drew out his boat, and pushed out into the Sound.
It was one of those quiet still nights when there was scarcely a ripple on the water; every star was plainly reflected on its surface, and the moon hung in the sky like a huge globe of silver.
Nick pulled lazily along, thinking at one time of a farmer's daughter with whom he had passed a few love-passages behind the door; then of the ale and cider and apple-brandy; then of the tales of Kidd, with which an old black fiddler had regaled them at intervals during the evening: until he had got the apple-brandy and the farmer's daughter and Kidd and his treasure terribly jumbled together. He had been wondering where the freebooter could have put his money: and whether it was in gold-dust, or in bars or coin, and was in deep speculation as to whether it would be possible for him to discover it, dig it up, buy up the whole country round, and marry the girl just spoken of, when his attention was arrested by a loud hail.
'Boat a-hoy! boat a-hoy!'
The sound appeared to come from the Point at Matinecock, which was nearly half a mile distant; and yet the voice seemed to be scarcely fifty feet off. Nick dropped his oars and listened.
'B-o-a-t a-h-o-o-o-y!' again sounded across the water from the same direction, and yet apparently close at hand.
Nick looked about him in every direction, to ascertain if any other craft were in sight. The moon shone brilliantly, and its reflection rested like solid silver on the water: not a thing was to be seen. 'It's very strange,' thought he, 'but it can't cost much to answer.' So he put his hand to his mouth and gave the response: 'Hallo!'
'Come ashore; you're wanted!' was the rejoinder in the same singular tone.
Nick did not altogether relish the summons, but he was a good-natured fellow, so he turned his boat toward the land. As he approached it, he saw a figure seated on a rock at the water's edge. He supposed the hail might come from one of the neighbors who wanted a lift on his way home. But on nearer approach, he saw that the man on the rock was a stranger. By the light of the moon, he appeared to be a tall, gaunt man, black and grim, and dressed in a red shirt. A dark hat was slouched over his face, from beneath which two eyes glowed out like fire, and in his hand he held a club.
Nick eyed him for a moment, waiting for him to speak. But he sat without a word, and with his glowing eyes fixed on him in a way that made Nick's flesh creep. 'Do you want me?' at last inquired he.
'Not I,' replied the other in a gruff voice. 'You want me.'
'You? I never laid eyes on you before,' said Nick.
'I've been at your elbow for the last half-hour; ever since you were thinking of Kidd's money. I have charge of it.'
'Whew-w!' Nick drew a long, low whistle, and laid his finger with a sort of drunken gravity on his nose. 'Then you know what I was thinking of?'
The other nodded.
'You're not Kidd?'
The other shook his head.
'Nor Teunis Van Gelder?'
'Then you must be ----' Nick paused, as he did not like to be disrespectful. 'You must be ----'
The other nodded. 'You've hit it.'
'The old Nick,' added Wanzer.
'Your namesake,' replied the stranger.
'And you have charge of Kidd's money?' inquired Nick.
The stranger nodded again.
'But can you tell me where it is?' asked Nick in an insinuating tone. 'It's of no use to any one now.'
The stranger looked about him, and then said in a cautious tone: I suppose I might, but it would be a breach of trust; I promised never to reveal it.'
'I think you observed that you are the Old Boy,' remarked Nick.
'The Old Boy, Old Nick, Old Harry, Old Scratch, among friends! My enemies are less courteous in their titles,' replied the other.
'Well,' said Nick, in a very insinuating tone, 'that being the case, a trifling breach of trust can't hurt _you_. You know that your character is none of the best; I don't mean to say that you deserve what is said of you,' added he in an apologetic tone, 'but people _will_ talk, and they sometimes make very free with you.'
'I know it,' replied the other. 'I'm used to it; I don't mind it.'
'Well,' said Nick, returning to the subject of the gold, 'if you could put me in the way of getting that money, I would do something for you d--d handsome.'
'I can't venture,' replied the other resolutely; 'I don't mind Kidd so much. He's bad enough, and has some desperate fellows leagued with him; but the worst of all is a hard-headed Dutchman, one Teunis Van Gelder. Since he came into our quarters, he and Kidd have struck up a kind of partnership: I've led a dog's life.'
'But they can't use the money,' urged Nick.
'Can any miser use his money?' inquired the other, 'yet no miser will part with it. They like to know it's there. I tell you, Sir,' said he, striking his club hard on the ground, and speaking with much emphasis, 'if they lost that money, they'd make my quarters too hot to hold me.'
'Well,' said Nick, 'I did not think that they could increase the temperature there; but if they did kick you out, would you mind it?'
'I was brought up there,' answered the other, 'and am somewhat used to the climate. I don't think I would feel at home any where else.'
Nick was unwilling to give up the chance of getting hold of the freebooter's treasure. 'Who is to tell them that you revealed it?' asked he; 'I would not.'
The stranger seemed impressed by this promise. 'Can I rely on you, Mr. Wanzer?'
Nick was vociferous in vindication of his trustworthiness.
'But there must be a consideration,' suggested the stranger. 'I never do any thing without it.'
'Just as you please,' said Nick, who was becoming reckless; 'I agree to any thing.'
'You know what my price is?'
'I've heard,' replied Nick. 'Give me the money, and make your own terms.'
'Enough,' answered the other.
'Jump in your boat, and pull for Sand's Point. I'll meet you there.'
Nick waited for no second bidding. He sprang into his boat, pushed off from the shore, and tugged away lustily at the oar. The exercise had the effect of taking off some of the fumes of the liquor which he had drank, and of bringing him to his senses. He began to think over his promise, and to wonder if he had not got himself into a scrape; but before he had settled the matter to his satisfaction, the boat grounded on the beach, and he found the stranger standing at his side, with a shovel in his hand. He beckoned to Nick, who followed him until they came to where a huge boulder, known as Kidd's Rock, juts out from the Point. Here he paused, threw the shovel to Nick, and told him to dig.
Nick was disposed to parley, but he felt the glowing eyes on him, and his heart failed him. He dug lustily, throwing out the sand in great shovelsfull. At last he struck something solid. He eagerly cleared away the dirt, and discovered a chest, secured with iron bands. He struck it with the shovel, and could hear the jingle of coin. All his scruples vanished at the sound.
'Now then, Nick, you remember your promise--about your soul,' said the stranger, jumping in the hole and planting himself firmly on the chest. 'There's the money.'
'Ay, ay,' said Nick recklessly; 'devil take the soul. I want the money.'
'Give me your hand,' said the other. 'It's no bargain until we have crossed hands.'
Nick had extended his hand, and already was that of the Great Adversary reached to grasp it, when a loud unearthly shout rang through the air.
Nick bounded from the hole at a single leap. The next instant, with a yell, two figures pounced upon the stranger in the pit. There were appalling screams and cries and all the struggle of fierce encounter. They seemed to breathe fire and smoke at each other: at one time the fight raged in the hole, then it seemed to be up the bank near Kidd's Rock, at another time in the air. In the moonlight Nick could see his friend hard beset, and he noticed that he suffered most from a grim old fellow in a cocked hat, with a slash across his nose. The other was square-built, with pistols in his belt, and a hanger at his side.
As Nick began to doubt how the battle would terminate, he quietly slipped into his boat, put off a short distance from the shore, and rested on his oars to watch the result.
In a few minutes he heard his name shouted from the beach. Nick was too wary to be entrapped by any feeling of sympathy. He kept a dead silence. The noise and uproar lasted for a short time longer, and then grew more and more distant, until it died away in the woods of Great Neck.
Nick now plied his oars vigorously, occasionally pausing to listen. At the same time he was not free from an apprehension that on looking round he might find his late visitor stationed in the bow of his boat. But he reached Matinecock in safety.
As he stepped ashore he was not a little dismayed at discovering the stranger seated on a rock, apparently as cool as if nothing had happened; but on closer examination Nick observed that his dress was very much dilapidated, and his face begrimed with smut and dirt.
'I hope you're not hurt,' said he, in a tone which was meant to be sympathizing. 'Those fellows were a little too much for you.'
'I told you how it would be,' said the other in a savage voice. 'They got wind of it somehow.'
'Who were they?'
'No matter. They are the most troublesome of all my boarders.'
'And the money?' inquired Nick.
'It's where you left it,' replied the other. 'You can get it if you like. You know our bargain: you're mine.'
'Not until I finger the cash,' replied Nick. 'And unless you are more lucky than you have been to-night, I don't think you'll put me in the way of doing it in a hurry.'
'Mr. Wanzer,' said the other, 'do you mean to break our bargain?'
'Where's the money?' demanded Nick in reply. 'If you mean that I should take it while those two pleasant gentlemen are mounting guard over it, you are much mistaken. I will see you to the ---- yourself first. And if you mean that I am to get it as I can, and be pestered by them while I live, and by you afterward, I won't do it. Do you think I did not recognize old Teunis Van Gelder: I've seen his picture too often. If he's too much for you, I'd like to know how I would come off in a scuffle with him; and if he and Kidd hunt in couples why damme I'll have nothing to do with it.'
Nick struck his feet resolutely on the side of his boat.
'You're resolved?' said the other sternly.
'I am,' said Nick.
'Then take the consequences.'
He raised his club, but at that moment the same loud unearthly yell which had startled him before broke through the air, and two figures sprang toward them: the one in a cocked hat gray and grim, the other armed to the teeth. Before the club could descend, the stranger bounded from the rock, and disappeared in the direction of Dosoris, the two following in full cry at his heels.
Nick hurried off, and made the best of his way to his cabin, where he was found in the morning in a sleep so sound that some thought it might have been the result of deep potations, but which Nick himself attributed entirely to the excitement of the scene which he had gone through at Sand's Point and Matinecock.
* * * * *
IN a note in the margin of the above manuscript my respected relative remarked, that Mr. Volkert Van Gelder, after full and mature investigation of the matter, had come to the conclusion that the adventure of Nick Wanzer was not a mere fabrication, but an actual occurrence.
He was forced to this conclusion by strong circumstantial evidence; for it was established beyond a doubt that Wanzer was at a husking-frolic on the very night alluded to, that he set out for home late, and somewhat involved in liquor; and also that he did own a boat which usually lay in a creek at Peacock's Point.
Nick Wanzer himself pointed out the rock on which the stranger sat when he first made overtures to him; and the situation of Kidd's Rock at Sand's Point is a matter of public notoriety. Under these circumstances, Mr. Van Gelder felt that to express farther doubt would be to cast an unjust imputation upon the character of a worthy and well-meaning citizen.
In commenting farther my respected relative observed, with his usual discrimination and acuteness, that it was a very nice point to decide. That there certainly was strong corroborative evidence of the truth of the story; and that although it was out of the usual course of things, yet that Matinecock was an unusual kind of place, and events might transpire there which would not happen elsewhere. Under these circumstances, and after fully weighing the evidence, he thought that Wanzer's statement was worthy of full credence from all persons of strong faith.
PATTER, patter comes the rain, Aslant against the window-pane: I can see the large drops fall-- Mystic globules, perfect all: See them speed their downward way, Fall, then weep themselves away. So, against my weary brain Thoughts come tapping like the rain: Radiant thoughts, from far-off spheres, Strike, then spend themselves in tears. O ye rain-drops clear and bright! O ye thoughts on wings of light! Will ye never, never tell Of the regions whence ye fell? Tell us whence ye come, and why When ye reach us then ye die? Are ye voiceless evermore, Only moaning, moaning ever, When your beauteous forms are driven 'Gainst the cold and glassy pane-- 'Gainst this hardened, earth-worn brain, In your fruitless, vain endeavor To convey to mortal ears The language of the far-off spheres?
INSCRIBED TO MY FRIEND FANNY.
BY HENRY W. ROCKWELL.
EVEN as BEATRICE appeared to him Who passed through scenes of unimagined woe, Nor feared hell's gloomy sentry, nor the flow Of dismal Acheron; so I, through dim Uncertain paths like his--albeit my fame Pales 'neath his own, a taper to the sun-- Have here been led, and this my work begun, If ended, must be ended in thy name. No idle faith is this, by whose clear light, And the strong effort of Love's conquering will, From out life's mingling mass of good and ill I have ascended to the Infinite: Beholding thee whose beauty, cold and pale, Beams like the Cherubim within the veil.
O THOU! who dwell'st in memory ever blest, (By whatsoever name in heaven thou'rt known, Thyself on earth, the last and loveliest one, An angel in my bosom art confessed:) If thou inspire my song as thou know'st best, And aid my fond endeavor now begun, No fabled muse need I for guidance own The fair inhabitant of my cold breast. Yet whether this my song may stand the test, Or challenge the full sure advance of time, I little know; but if the hidden force Of Love, and its strong faith, in which I rest, Assist my heart to build the tuneful rhyme, Thou only canst be named the primal source.
GIVE me from out the midnight of thy hair One tress to braid in this my votive song; For time though fleeting, art is nathless long; And I, though skill of workmanship not rare Be mine, in song would make for thee, most fair! A work of such device as shall prolong Thy name, exalted o'er Earth's meaner throng, And lovelier than they all in my compare. No silversmith of Ephesus am I, By such device to bring my craftsmen gain: Nor make I thee the idol of my heart; Though thou, like great 'DIANA,' whom they cry, Dost hold within my breast as chaste a reign, Nor ever shall thy gentle sway depart.
A MINGLED sea of color here is rolled Across the billowy upland filmed with smoke, Whose groves of yellow beech and crimson oak Stand forth, a goodly prospect to behold; Nor with less glory do the mountains fold Their giant forms in Autumn's hazy cloak, While up their sides the distant wood has broke In long receding waves of ruddy gold. Could'st thou whose beauty doth my heart ensnare, Give to this lovely scene an added grace, I should not here perforce enjoy alone These blended hues, which Autumn, in despair At not out-vieing thy enchanting face, From his broad pallet o'er the woods has thrown.
OH! in these colored shades it were too blest To roam with thee the hill-side and the plain, When in each passing moment we retain The moral of the great truth here impressed. See! how the woods in green and gold are dressed, As if apparelled for a conqueror's reign; Nor less yon maple groves, whose blood-red stain Trickles far down the distant mountain's crest. Gorgeous October! in thy golden gleam I see the tender light of loving eyes, Which to thy sweet days give an added beam; Nor would it be to me a vain surprise, If sometimes thy low-whispering winds should seem To be the music of her tender sighs.
THE less of life, the less account is seen: The less account, the less of ill is known: And Beauty, ere its flower be quite full-blown, Is ofttimes nipped by sudden frosts and keen; And thus the course of life with me hath been, For, living among men, I dwell alone: Till now, life's goodly tree well-nigh overthrown, Doth wear the yellow leaf, and not the green. Yet even as Autumn is the proper rest, The sweet and gentlest season of the year; So in the mellow Autumn of thy breast, May my name last, to life and memory dear; Nor less upon my thought be thine impressed, For thou hast ever proved a friend sincere.
LIKE Summer-birds, when Summer-hours are fled: Like Summer-skies when Autumn-clouds are nigh: So from my heart did Hope, the watcher, fly, When in thy arms my darling girl lay dead. O fatal bolt! and all too surely sped: Yet sadder far when in her love-lit eye I saw the smile of recognition die, And felt the death-damp on her fair young head. If Love renewed have ever safe return To its far bourne, what matters it which way Our scarce-fledged hopes and blighted joys have fled? Or why is it that we cannot discern This last great truth, that our best treasures lie Beyond the silent barriers of the dead?
CREAK, ye black forests! and ye mournful forms That flit like hooded monks across the bare And desolate wilderness, urge through the air Your cloudy legions, O ye gloomy storms! Dark ministers of Night! I hear the roll Of rising winds, and in the lonely vale The melancholy Autumn breathes her wail, Yet pleasant is her sadness to my soul. See! where the Old Year bears her in his arms: The pale CORDELIA and the trembling LEAR: Will he not strew with heather her sad bier, And keep her safe from Winter's rude alarms? 'Vex not his ghost!' his life will soon be o'er, The 'sweet, low voice' he loved he hears no more.
OH! when shall love to THEE be my best guide, REDEEMER, SAVIOUR! ever blessed LORD! By all the powers in earth and heaven adored? When flowed the dear blood from THY wounded side-- By heaven forsaken and by man denied-- Why were its crimson streams so freely poured, If man by love was not to be restored? O mighty theme! that doth debase my pride, And pour contempt on all the things of earth: If angels are not faultless in THY sight, How much less we who travail from our birth, Walking apart from Love and its clear light? Yet not for them, but us, was HE once slain, That we, redeemed from sin, might live again.
MOURN, mourn, voice of the wilderness! For HIM who shed HIS precious blood for me: JESU REDEMPTOR! LAMB OF CALVARY! The heir of glory, anguish and distress; Oh! how shall mortal tongue the love express With which THOU didst so love us, as to be Our sacrifice upon the accursed tree, Bearing the burden of our wickedness. O ye wild winds! and wilder blasts that wail Amid the ebon darkness, have ye known Man's dark iniquity that thus ye moan In hollow accents through the lonely vale? Alas! my soul, thy sins slew GOD'S dear SON: _Kyrie eleeson! Christe eleeson!_
'Therefore with angels and arch-angels, laud And magnify HIS great and glorious Name, Who, to redeem the world from ruin, came, Saying: Holy, holy, holy LORD GOD! Heaven and earth made clean by Thy dear blood, Are ever full of THY great majesty: All glory be to THEE, O LORD, Most High!' So sang the angelic choir, the while I stood Listening the far response: 'Not unto us, Not unto us, O LORD! but unto THEE Be all the glory, LAMB OF CALVARY! _Quoniam tu solus Dominius!_' So Love doth rule--the high behest of heaven: And Love is ten-fold Love that waits on sins forgiven.
THE KING OF THE MOUNTAINS. From the French of EDMOND ABOUT, Author of 'The Roman Question,' 'Germaine,' etc. By MARY L. BOOTH. With an Introduction by EPES SARGENT, Esq. In one volume: pp. 300. Boston: J. E. TILTON AND COMPANY, Number 601 Washington-street.
MONSIEUR ABOUT is said to have scared HIS HOLINESS, the POPE, the kind and benevolent PIO NONO, (if we may trust _any_ of all the numerous portraits and drawings which we have encountered of him,) in his book upon '_The Roman Question_.' The author's very name may have had something to do with it. He was 'about'--he was 'areöund': and the 'French' of his cognomen, as pronounced by his countrymen, was in itself suggestive of at least a signal of alarm--'_Ah-booh!_' But this aside: the book is a remarkable one, in many respects: and like its predecessors from the same pen, it will make an 'abiding mark' among the artistically-transferred literature to our own, from a foreign tongue. This narrative of '_The King of the Mountains_' is not at all complicated. Regarded as an artistical picture, we may say with truth that 'the canvas is neither confused nor crowded.' The story is supposed to be told by a young German botanist. He proceeds to Greece with the purpose of herbalizing in the mountains. 'Carried away by a scientific enthusiasm--the most common and the most pardonable--he becomes the prisoner of a remarkable brigand, HADGI-STAVROS, the King of the Mountains. He is not alone in his captivity. An English lady and her daughter--the former a striking portrait of a class of weak and consequential tourists, and the latter a thing to be admired and loved by any German, or any American, for that matter, under the circumstances supposed--are the hero's fellow-prisoners. The greater part of the book is taken up with a description of the character, positions, resources, habits and influence of the brigand chief; the temporary captivity of the party, who are made prisoners for the sake of a large ransom, actually in view of Athens, (such is the state of the government and police of that thriving kingdom!) and their final ransom and escape. But there are other _dramatis personæ_ beside MRS. SIMONS, who is a sort of MRS. NICKLEBY, an _Anglaise pour ire_, and MISS SIMONS, who does not take after her mother. There are down at the Piræus an American named HARRIS, a young Athenian girl, hight PHOTINI, and a Frenchman whose ruling passions are archæology and philanthropy. 'He had been rewarded by some provincial academy for an essay on the price of paper in the time of ORPHEUS. Encouraged by his first success, he had made a journey to Greece to collect materials for a work on the quantity of oil consumed by the lamp of DEMOSTHENES while he was writing the second Philippic.' HARRIS, the American, is evidently a favorite character with M. ABOUT. He invests him with all the best attributes of our countrymen, and makes every adventure in which he is a participator honorable to his gallantry and sagacity: 'The first time I dined with this strange fellow I comprehended America. JOHN was born at Vandalia, Illinois. He inhaled at his birth that air of the New World, so vivacious, so sparkling and so brisk, that it goes to the head like champagne wine, and one gets intoxicated in breathing it. I know not whether the HARRIS family are rich or poor; whether they sent their son to college or left him to get his own education. It is certain that at twenty-seven years he depends only on himself; trusts only to himself, is astonished at nothing, thinks nothing impossible, never flinches, believes all things, hopes all things, tries all things; triumphs in all, rises up again if he falls, never stops, never loses courage.' One of the best of our American critics, Mr. BRYANT, remarks of this book: 'No work of modern times, even in an English dress, serves to convey so capital an idea of the style which made VOLTAIRE famous, as this last agreeable romance of the author of 'The Roman Question.' It is just such a story as TALLEYRAND would have told over his chocolate, and SYDNEY SMITH relished and decorated with impromptu comment.'
THE LITERARY AND PROFESSIONAL WORKS OF FRANCIS BACON, Baron of Verulam, Viscount St. Albans, and Lord High Chancellor of England. Volume II. of the 'Literary and Professional Works': pp. 454. Boston: BROWN AND TAGGARD.
OUR first praise of this series of BACON'S works must be paid to that feature which first appeals to us through the eye--its typographical execution, by HOUGHTON, of the 'River-side Press' at Cambridge, near Boston, which may be pronounced fully equal to that of the first English printing in choice library editions of kindred standard works. The volume before us contains, with translations, BACON'S eulogium upon HENRY Prince of Wales, and the characters of JULIUS and AUGUSTUS CÆSAR--the original Latin, with translation. Also amendments and corrections inserted by BACON in a manuscript copy of CAMDEN'S Annals. Then follow, prefaced by a curious bibliographical note by Mr. SPEDDING, the 'Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral,' published from 1597 to 1625, (the year before his death,) which exhibit 'the earliest and the latest fruits of BACON'S observation in that field in which its value has been most approved by universal and undiminished popularity. These fifty-eight Essays, so wise and so eloquent in their simple yet forcible diction, occupy the greater portion of the volume, and the editor has translated the Latin quotations and added some necessary notes. There is an appendix to the essays, containing a Fragment of an Essay on Fame; reprints of the first edition of 1597, containing only ten, and of the second edition of 1612, with thirty-eight essays, and two essays attributed to BACON without authority; but, notwithstanding some similarity of style, marked by Mr. SPEDDING as spurious. There is, also, BACON'S treatise _De Sapientia Veterum_, itself a curiously learned book, the translation of which will appear in a future volume. 'BACON was one of the most remarkable men the world has ever seen. His character is a remarkable compound of the greatest nobleness and the most contemptible meanness. But of his _intellect_, no two opinions have ever been expressed. If we knew BACON only by his works, we should be bound to esteem him to be as good as he was undeniably a great man.'
GUESSES AT TRUTH. By TWO BROTHERS. From the fifth London edition. Boston: TICKNOR AND FIELDS.
THE PROVERBS and ECCLESIASTES are still without rival or peer, notwithstanding that LACON has given us some good apothegms, and MARTIN FARQUHAR TUPPER, who undertook to render King SOLOMON into polite English, has had an amazing 'run.' A good proverb is always acceptable: a poor one vexes us always, because the maker assumes the position of teacher, and has no right to be either stupid or mediocre. To set one thinking is more difficult, and indeed more laudable, than to furnish one with thoughts; as it is more praiseworthy to put one in the way of earning a living, than merely to bestow a charity. It is easy, however, to assume the air oracular; in fact there is more or less strength, _prima facia_, in a pretentious position; and a platitude let off under cover of high-sounding words may be very imposing. We have in 'Guesses at Truth,' a book of five hundred and fifty-five pages, originally published in England more than thirty years ago by two brothers, clergymen, we believe, and now reprinted by the respectable house of TICKNOR AND FIELDS. We have looked carefully through the volume; and for once are forced to differ with the publishers as to the taste of reproducing the book here. With the exception of some very fair criticisms on SHAKSPEARE, MILTON, and one or two others, borrowed a good deal from GOETHE and SCHLEGEL, and certain extended disquisitions absorbed evidently from WORDSWORTH and COLERIDGE, the book is utterly common-place. A good deal of it we remember to have met with in our various newspaper clippings--a good deal we confess never to have before encountered. In 'Guesses at Truth' the French come in for very severe hits from the 'TWO BROTHERS' whenever opportunity serves: they are full of the English prejudices of the last century. Mark the following sagacious comparison: 'The French rivers partake of the national character. [We should think it would be just the reverse.--ED.] Many of them look broad, grand and imposing, but they have no depth; and the greatest river in the country, the Rhone, loses half its usefulness from the impetuosity of its current!' Hear this precious piece of intelligence: 'France--the only region between Lapland and Morocco where youth is without bloom, and age without dignity!' Here is something new about the 'best talkers in the world:' 'Talk to a dozen Englishmen on any subject: there will be something peculiar and characteristic in the remarks of each. Talk to a dozen Frenchmen: they will all make the very same remark, and almost in the same words.' But let us give the reader a specimen of the more abstract 'Guesses:' 'What a pity it is there are so many words! Whenever one wants to say any thing, three or four ways of saying it run into one's head together; and one can't tell which to choose. It is as troublesome or as puzzling as choosing a ribbon or a husband.' Read the following. It is Blackstonian: 'A use must have preceded an abuse properly so called.' The next strikes us as exceedingly original: 'A little management may often evade resistance which a vast force might vainly strive to overcome.' And this: 'Children always turn toward the light. Oh! that grown-up people in this world would become like little children!' The art-world owes much for what follows: 'A portrait has one advantage over its original: it is unconscious; and so you may admire without insulting it. I have seen portraits which have more.' (_Sic._) Here is something worthy a place in the 'Rules of Etiquette:' 'A compliment is usually accompanied by a bow, as if to beg pardon for paying it.' We have puzzled over the following and 'give it up:' 'What way of circumventing a man can be so easy and suitable as a period? The name should be enough to put us on our guard; the experience of every age is not.' Further on we read: 'Truth endues man's purposes with _somewhat_ of immutability.' This reminds us of the cautious writer who stated that '_most_ men were mortal!'
For further examples of senseless platitudes dictatorially expressed, we refer the reader to the work _passim_. There is nothing more ridiculous than the deliberate sitting-down to write a book of proverbs and reflections. How unlike the genuine flow of the table-talk of some of our best men or the words of wisdom forced, as it were, from the lips of experience. In short, we are sick of pompous mediocrity on stilts: of that placid egotism which complacently assumes the office of guide and teacher, though incapable of aught but the tedious common-place. We do not want the thoughts of great men passed through such alembics--in fact, we much prefer to dilute our own proverbs if they prove too strong for us.
'Guesses at Truth' is beautifully printed on fine paper with clear type; after the newest style of the accomplished publishers. We regret to say the text is marred by the change of spelling of words ending in _ed_. Thus we find: reacht, lookt, discust, toucht, fixt, packt, etc., etc.--instead of reached, looked, discussed, touched, fixed, packed. 'As the body to the soul, so the word to the thought,' and we do not believe in thus mutilating what we are led by habit at least to consider a fair proportion.
PROFESSOR VALENTINE MOTT'S SURGICAL CLINIQUES IN THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW-YORK. Session 1859-60. Reported by SAMUEL W. FRANCIS, M.D.
THIS volume, which is gotten up in the best style of typography, and illustrated with many superior engravings, embraces a report of nearly one hundred surgical cases treated by the eminent surgeon, Professor VALENTINE MOTT, M.D. The treatment of the cases is simple and judicious, and they are narrated clearly and concisely. The work is of great practical value and interest to the medical profession, and reflects credit on its able reporter, Dr. SAMUEL W. FRANCIS. It is embellished with a very accurate portrait of Professor MOTT.
WA-WA-WANDA: A LEGEND OF OLD ORANGE. In one Volume: pp. 280. New-York: RUDD AND CARLETON, Corner of Grand and Crosby-streets.
This is a book seriously written, containing the narrative of an old Indian called WINTER PIPPIN. The author, declining the trouble of giving us a measure of his own, which certainly the originality of his work demands, has modestly employed that of Mr. LONGFELLOW'S HIAWATHA, for which Mr. LONGFELLOW ought to be very grateful.
The book before us--the work, a-hem!--on our table--reader, it's no use; we can't write prose after reading it. We are alone in our sanctum--no friend present to hold us in. We are wound up to a pitch of excitement, the case is desperate, it must come. O shade of WINTER PIPPIN, listen!
HERE'S a poem as is a poem, Poem writ for all the ages; Poem sung by WINTER PIPPIN, 'Winter Pippin--Piping Pippin.' Should you ask us, gentle reader, Is it twaddle, sorry twaddle? Is it bosh and utter nonsense, Nonsense all, not worth the paper, Or the ink with which 'tis printed? We should answer, we should tell you, Buy the book and read it, read it, Pay your last red dollar for it, For this song of 'Wa-wa-wanda.' Say no more, O carping critic! That our time hath borne no poet; Poet born to chant the chorus, Chorus of the mighty Present; Sing the age--its living genius, Sing the age--its grand upheavings, Sleepy nations slow awaking, Crownless kings with ague shaking; Sing the night, chased by the morning, Sing the day that now is dawning. Mourn no more, O wailing critic! For HE's come. His name is PIPPIN, Winter Pippin--not a Greening, Not a Golden, but a Pippin-- And he sings in sweetest measure, Sings this song of 'Wa-wa-wanda.' (How it rhymes with 'goosey gander.') Shades of HOMER, SHAKSPEARE, MILTON! From your graves rise up and greet him, Greet him with your heads uncovered, Beavers doffed, with low obeisance, All your hats off in his presence.
Minstrel! thou who now art singing, Singing through this mighty nation, (Greatest nation in creation,) HENRY WADSWORTH, long-drawn FELLOW, Ye who sang of HIAWATHA, Sang the charming golden legend, Sang the voices of the darkness, Cease your singing, hush your fiddle, Hang your jews-harp on the willows. WHITTIER, too, and tuneful LOWELL, Funny HOLMES, and graceful STODDARD, Ye who soar in upper ether, Feel at home the while you're up there-- Down at once, and fold your pinions, Fold them, for the EAGLE soareth, Soareth where ye cannot follow. All ye poets, Yankee poets, Go to bed and sleep upon it, Ere again ye sound the cymbals, Sound the cymbals, wake the echoes Which have floated o'er the waters, Floated sweetly o'er the waters, Till far-distant climes have heard them. Time and space would surely fail us, Were we now to show the beauties, Show the beauties of this poem, Poem writ for all the ages; How there lived a cider-maker, 'He, the first of cider-makers; How his cunning built a saw-mill, Sawed right through the Western country, Into cask-staves sawed the forests, Threw the slabs in the Pacific, Threw the scrags in the Missouri.' How he squeezed the juicy apples, How he loved the juicy cider, How he thought the world a barrel, Bound together by a cooper, Filled with cider to the bung-hole; How he feared 'twould 'burst its hoops off, Burst its hoops and split asunder;' How it didn't split asunder, But on fire was set one evening, When the careless sun, retiring, 'Went to sleep and left his candle, Slept and left his candle burning; And it caught the chamber-curtains, Caught and set them all a-blazing.' How he thought, in month of August, DRACO the meridian straddles, 'Elongates himself to northward, Nine degrees and twenty northward; And then thirteen more to westward, Takes another twist, and downward Slaps his tail of starry spangles In the face of URSA MAJOR.' How, one day, 'AURORA opened Not as wide as wont her portals; And the day-king, PHÆTON driving, Ran against and brake the gate-posts: Day of dash and dark disaster; And with sun-dogs set, the heavens Frowned affronted, scowled and scolded.' 'Hold! no more! in mercy spare me!' Thus the reader now is pleading. Can it be that taste poetic From the world has fled forever? Can such lofty, moving numbers, Tire the reader in a second, Tire him in a fleeting second? Ere we part, O mighty poet! Poet of the tuneful numbers, Hear, oh! hear, our meek petition: Hear an ancient KNICKERBOCKER! Greatly long we once to see thee, Once to gaze upon thy visage, Once to hear the voice that sung _it_, Once to press the hand that wrote _it_, Once to feel the bumps that thought _it_, Once to clip the hair _it_ came through; (Clip a lock off for a locket.) Once to tell thee all our wonder, All our joy at this thy music, Music sweet as 'Goosey-Gander,' Music sung of 'Wa-Wa-Wanda,' Music sung of apple-cider. Call on us, O mighty Pippin! At our snug and quiet sanctum, Sanctum in the second story, Of the building fifth in number, Fifth in street that men call Beekman, In the city known as Gotham; And--our word is now at stake, Sir, You our beaver hat can take, Sir, Take our hat, our cherished beaver!
LEWIS' NEW GYMNASTICS FOR LADIES, GENTLEMEN AND CHILDREN: AND BOSTON JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CULTURE: a Monthly Journal: pp. 16. Edited by Dr. D. LEWIS of Boston.
WE have seen only one number of this work; but we are so much pleased with the plan and general execution of this first issue, that we give it a cordial welcome and commend it to the American people as worthy of the most liberal patronage. There is no subject upon which the men and women of our country, and even the professed educators of the rising generation, are more profoundly ignorant than that of physical culture; and until the laws of physical health are better understood and observed, we need not expect much increase in intellectual or moral vigor. We wish to see on this continent a race of noble men and women, alike healthy and robust in body and in mind. Therefore we hail joyfully every instrumentality which wisely aims to improve the race. Dr. LEWIS has for many years been devoted to the subject of physical education, and his new and admirable system of gymnastic training has elicited the warmest expressions of approbation from those who have witnessed its beneficent results. We bespeak for his noble enterprise the liberal patronage which it so richly merits. The specimen number of his excellent paper now before us, is alone worth nearly the price of the year's subscription, which is but a single dollar.
CONSIDERATIONS ON SOME OF THE ELEMENTS AND CONDITIONS OF SOCIAL WELFARE AND HUMAN PROGRESS: being Academical and Occasional Discourses and Other Pieces. By C. S. HENRY, D.D. In one Volume: pp. 415. New-York: D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.
THIS volume, the writer admits in the outset, contains some things which are not quite in unison with the tone of popular opinion, particularly in relation to the working of our political institutions, and to our future fortunes as a nation. 'But who is the better lover of his country,' he asks, 'he who lulls the people with soft strains of pleasing adulation, and kindles their fancy with bright pictures of future greatness and glory; or he who tells them of the rocks and dangers which are around them, and of the conditions on which their safety depends?' The author professes to 'love his country as much as any man that breathes;' but he does not think the best way to show it is by perpetual eulogies on our superiority as a nation: he does not think that the best way to make a 'glorious future' of our country sure, is to be forever casting brilliant horoscopes, without a single suggestion of the _possibilities_ of disaster and defeat. 'At all events,' he adds, 'there are enough to flatter our self-love; let one faithful friend be permitted to point out our faults: there are enough to cry peace and safety; let one voice of warning be tolerated.' The discussions of the volume touch upon great problems of human thought, and embrace questions of high scientific and practical interest. Of the themes treated of, there may be mentioned the following: 'The Importance of Elevating the Intellectual Spirit of the Nation;' 'The Position and Duties of the Educated Men of the Country;' 'The True Idea of the University, and its Relation to a Complete System of Public Instruction;' 'California, and the Historical Significance of its Acquisition;' 'The Providence of God the Genius of Human History;' 'Young America: the True Idea of Progress;' together with papers upon 'The Destination of the Human Race,' (a somewhat bold 'subject,' and scarcely capable of safe 'handling,') 'Remarks on Mr. BANCROFT'S Oration on Human Progress;' 'President-Making,' in 'Three Letters to the Hon. JOSIAH QUINCY,' and a dissertation on 'Politics and the Pulpit.' Here, as our readers may perceive, are ample 'fields of thought:' and in the library at 'Greystones' they have been cultivated to much fructification. Let us give a slight taste of our author's quality: thereabout especially where he speaks, in terse, significant, unmistakable language, in respect of '_The University_' proper, with its 'True Idea and Relations.' Observe, please, that he considers 'self-made men' as being deprived, by lack of a truly 'liberal' education, of numerous scholarly 'tools,' by the use of which they might greatly have advanced their 'name and fame.' In these matter-full sentences, reader, you may consider 'Dr. OLDHAM, of Greystones' ('are you there, old TRUEPENNY?') seated in his beautiful library, now rendered famous, and cogitating upon 'self-made men' and their mistaken judgment, sometimes, in regard to the advantages to be derived from a sound and thorough university education. This is the portrait of one QUINTUS QUEERLEIGH, able editor of '_The Daily Trumpet_:'
'HE is politician, philanthropist, social reformer, believer in social progress, in divinity of the people, (except those who differ from him,) believer in every thing more than in the wisdom of the Past. Clever man. Really able. Of manifold abilities. Can write. Can think, too. Says many wise and good things. Honest perhaps. So some think him. Great believer in himself, no doubt; perhaps an honest believer in truth--that which he thinks such. But not a learned man. A self-made man: with the one-sidedness that often belong to such men. He has already in advance opposed you. He bloweth with his trumpet to the people, to warn them against you. He telleth them that Common Schools are for the people: Colleges and Universities are only to pamper the pride of the rich, the grinders of the faces of the people. He bloweth with his Trumpet against the legislators--warning them of the wrath of the people, if they take the people's money to build up or sustain aristocratic institutions, contrary to the Gospel of Progress which the Trumpet proclaimeth: 'Peace on earth; and every man's coat cut the same length with his neighbor's. 'Useless institutions, too,' saith QUEERLEIGH. 'Look at me. Am not I an able editor, politician, social reformer, writer, thinker? No college made me. I made myself. That is the way to make men.'
'Foolish QUEERLEIGH! Foolish able editor! Knowest thou not that there was a stuff in thee, and a spirit that has made thee an exception to the general rule? Few men, perhaps, with thy lack of advantages, would make themselves as able as thou art. But with the advantages thou lackedst, many might. Beside, clever as thou art, able editor, writer, thinker, thou art not a learned man. No disgrace. How shouldst thou be? The thing for thee to be ashamed of is, that thou shouldst decry what thou hast not. For, those who are both as _able_ as thou art, and as learned as thou art _not_, have said and testified in many ways, from age to age, that learning, high learning and science, and the discipline that comes with them, are good things, and minister to the greater ability of the ablest of able men. Hadst thou started in thy career of life possessed of the manifold culture and accomplishment of a thoroughly educated man, thou mightest have beaten thy actual self as much as thou now beatest many a printer's apprentice with whom thou didst begin thy career.'
Hear, also, what our author saith of one PTOLEMY TONGUE-END--patriot, democrat, demagogue, orator; who blows with his noisy breath a blast very much in unison with the 'Daily Trumpet:'
'HE 'stumpeth' at Ward meetings. Unlike editor QUEERLEIGH, he has no faith in the people, except in their gullibleness--no faith in any thing except the wisdom of buttering his bread with the people's money. So he blows any blast that he thinks may help him to the favor of the sovereign people. He getteth into the legislature, and there opposes, with great wrath and noise, all grants to Colleges--calling them anti-democratic; though he knows in his heart all the while that it is, of all things in the world, the most democratic, that the people should be taxed for the endowment of the highest institutions of learning, free to all, as are the Common Schools--that so the children of the people, out of the pockets of the rich, may receive an education that shall enable them to take their share in the great prizes of life. For nothing is more true than that the great prizes of life (other things being equal) are grasped by those who have the highest, most thorough and liberal education; and without a great and perfect system of free Public Instruction, including the University and the Colleges, as well as the Common Schools, the children of the poor are, as a general rule, condemned to a hopeless disadvantage, in competition with the sons of the rich, in all the higher careers of life. There may be exceptional cases: but such must be the rule. This is so patent and palpable, it seems to me, to every man of common-sense and common candor, that I have little patience with the false and stupid twaddle which hollow-hearted demagogues, like TONGUE-END, or hopelessly wrong-headed able editors, like QUEERLEIGH, are perpetually pouring into the ears of the unenlightened masses: putting the Common Schools and Colleges in opposition to each other--as if there was any contradiction between them; as if one was not as necessary as the other, as if every principle of that democracy they prate so about did not require that the State should provide, not only free primary instruction for all the children of the people, but also the highest instruction for all such of the children of the people as desire to go onward and upward into the higher spheres of useful and honorable exertion. Gentlemen, you may boldly join issue with these praters. Expose the foolishness of their hackneyed cant. Keep on doing so: and in due time, if you persevere, you will certainly disabuse the public mind.'
As we have said, there is much matter for thoughtful consideration in the compass of this handsomely-executed book; and we again commend it to the acceptance of our readers.
PAGES AND PICTURES: From the Writings of J. FENIMORE COOPER. With Notes by SUSAN FENIMORE COOPER. In one Volume: pp. 400. New-York: W. A. TOWNSEND AND COMPANY.
IT is with even something _more_ than 'unusual pleasure' that we call the attention of our readers to '_Pages and Pictures_:' the superb work of Miss SUSAN FENIMORE COOPER, just issued by those enterprising and tasteful publishers, Messrs. W. A. TOWNSEND AND COMPANY, at Number 46 Walker-street, a locality where book-men 'most do congregate.' It is but simple justice to say, that no work so profusely and beautifully illustrated, and with such unlimited expenditure for paintings, engravings, paper, printing and binding, has ever been issued in this country. The engravings alone, executed from precious original pictures in the very highest style of the art of celature, we are assured, cost over _ten thousand dollars_! The paper, fine and delicate in tint, is of the firm consistence of 'Bristol-Board,' the _ne plus ultra_ of printing-paper: and of the binding we can only say that it is exceedingly tasteful--exceedingly beautiful. From a carefully-considered and elaborate review of this excellent work, by GEORGE RIPLEY, Esq., we make the annexed brief but interesting extract. As touching _the_ work by which Mr. COOPER first became popularly known to his countrymen as an American novelist, it is well worthy of preservation in these pages:
'THE plan of this volume has the attraction of novelty, and it is executed, not only in the spirit of filial affection, but with sound judgment, evincing the mingled frankness and reserve which were due to the relation between the subject and the editor. It consists of a selection of episodes from the writings of Mr. COOPER, illustrative of the different phases of his mind, and of the characteristics of his respective productions. In connection with these extracts, the editor has added a large amount of original matter, explaining the origin and history of Mr. COOPER'S most important works, and giving a variety of biographical incidents and reminiscences, which serve to throw light on the personal career of the distinguished novelist.
''The Spy' was the first work which bore the unmistakable impress of Mr. COOPER'S genius, and laid the deep foundations of his fame. The scene of this story was laid in Westchester, where he then lived, and it is not difficult to describe the local circumstances by which it was suggested. The incidents of the Revolution had not ceased to be the topics of conversation among the people of the neighborhood. Many who had taken an active part in the great struggle still survived. The gray-haired house-wife, as she sat at the wheel, spinning her thread of flax or wool, would talk of the armies she had seen passing her father's door in her girlhood. There was scarcely a farm-house in the country which had not been ravaged by Cow-boys, Hessians, or Skinners. Homes had been destroyed by fire; good yeoman blood had been shed; life had been taken; husband, father, or brother had fallen in some unrecorded skirmish, the hero of a rustic neighborhood. At the foot of the hill on which stood Mr. COOPER'S cottage, there was the dwelling of a small farmer, who loved to visit his genial neighbor, telling stories of old times, and fighting over his battles with fresh interest, aroused by the spirited questions, the intelligent sympathy of his host. Other yeomen of the vicinity often joined the social circle. As they drank their glass of cider, picked over their hickory-nuts, or pared their Newtown pippin, all had some family tradition to relate of hairbreadth escape, of daring feat, of harried fields, of houses burned.
'But higher sources than these contributed to the leading idea of the new books. Visits to Bedford were very frequent at that period. One pleasant Summer's afternoon, while sitting on the broad piazza of the house, Judge JAY and Mr. COOPER were listening to the conversation of the venerable JOHN JAY, as he related different facts connected with the history of the Revolution. From an incident which he then described, illustrating the services of a class of men who, in their patriotic zeal, were of the greatest importance in obtaining information for the Commander-in-Chief, the character of HARVEY BIRCH was suggested. Strolling peddlers, staff in hand and pack on back, were more common visitors at the country-houses of that day than at present. It was after the visit of one of these men, a Yankee peddler of the old sort, that the lot in life of HARVEY BIRCH was decided: he was to be a spy and a peddler. The novel was completed with great rapidity, and on its publication in September, 1821, immediately attracted general attention, and met with the most brilliant success. It was found on every table, and enjoyed by all classes of readers. In Europe, the 'Spy' was received with great favor, and was soon translated into French. Miss EDGEWORTH expressed herself very warmly in its praise, and sent a complimentary message, through a common friend, to the author, declaring that she liked 'BETTY FLANAGAN' particularly, and that an Irish pen could not have drawn her better. The history of the other principal works of Mr. COOPER is given, interspersed with biographical details, of perpetual interest. We thus have the man and his writings combined in a graphic portraiture, which illustrates the strong individuality of the one and the characteristic boldness and vigor of the other.'
It needs but to add, in respect of the volume which we have been considering, that it is worthy of the name and fame of COOPER, and worthy of the name and fame of his present publishers.
EDITORIAL HISTORICAL NARRATIVE OF THE KNICKERBOCKER MAGAZINE: NUMBER NINETEEN.--Our last number of this 'Narrative-History' was shorter by some eight pages than its predecessors: so that we had no space to finish our consideration of the 'Ollapodiana Papers,' which we now resume, in connection with other early writings for the KNICKERBOCKER. The few brief passages which we quoted, did not afford a fair example of the variety, the change of mood and manner which this short but admirable series displayed. A passage in the remarks of the author of the paper in the last _North-British Review_,' elsewhere noticed in these pages, admirably and truly represents the characteristics of WILLIS GAYLORD CLARK'S mind and pen, in these popular papers: 'The man who can laugh as well as weep is most a man. The greatest humorists have also been the most serious seers, and men of most earnest heart. And all those who have manifested the finest perfection of spiritual health have enjoyed the merry sun-shine of life, and wrought their work with a spirit of blithe bravery.' The very last chapter of 'Ollapodiana,' written when the writer was prostrated by the illness from which he never recovered, was as felicitous and mirth-moving as any of the numbers which preceded it: and yet the pathos which characterized his sadder musings, as he drew near and nearer to the grave, failed not to draw tears from many a sympathetic soul. We pass to a few more brief and characteristic passages.
As WILLIS approached the end of his earthly pilgrimage, his thoughts grew solemn, deep, mournful possibly, but yet not sad. Thus he says, in the last number but one of _Ollapodiana_:
'IT is no long time, respected reader, since we communed together. Yet, how many matters have happened since that period, which should give us pause, and solemn meditation! _We_ are still extant; the beams of our spirit still shine from _our_ eyes; yet there are many who, since last my sentences came to yours, have drooped their lids forever upon things of earth. Numberless ties have been severed; numberless hearts rest from their pantings, and sleep, 'no more to fold the robe o'er secret pain.' All the deceits, the masks of life, are ended with them. _Policy_ no more bids them to kindle the eye with deceitful lustre; no more prompts to _semblance_, which feeling condemns. They are gone!--'ashes to ashes, and dust to dust;' and when I think of the numbers who thus pass away, I am pained within me; for I know from them that our life is not only as a dream which passeth away, but that the garniture, or the carnival of it, is indeed a vapor, sun-gilt for a moment, then colored with the dun hues of death, or stretching its dim folds afar, until their remotest outlines catch the imperishable glory of eternity. Such is life; made up of successful or successless accidents; its movers and actors, from the cradle to three-score-and-ten, pushed about by Fate not their own; aspiring but impotent; impelled as by visions, and rapt in a dream--which who can dispel?'
We cite the following here, to show still farther the solemnity of his musings, and mellifluous perfection of his versification. Mark how the _liquid_ sounds melt into melody in the lines which ensue:
'YOU must know, reader, that there lieth, some three miles or so from Brotherly Love--a city of this continent, a delectable city--a place of burial, 'Laurel Hill' by name. On a sweeter spot the great sun never threw the day-spring of the morning, nor the blush of the evening west. There the odors and colors of nature profusely repose; there, to rest of a spring or summer afternoon, on some rural seat, looking at trees, and dancing waters, and the like, you would wonder at that curious question addressed of DEAN SWIFT, on his death-bed, to a friend at his side: 'Did you ever know of any really _good weather_ in this world?' You would take the affirmative. Well, thus I sang:
'HERE the lamented dead in dust shall lie, Life's lingering languors o'er--its labors done; Where waving boughs, betwixt the earth and sky, Admit the farewell radiance of the sun.
'Here the long concourse from the murmuring town, With funeral pace and slow, shall enter in; To lay the loved in tranquil silence down, No more to suffer, and no more to sin.
'And here the impressive stone, engraved with words Which Grief sententious gives to marble pale, Shall teach the heart, while waters, leaves and birds Make cheerful music in the passing gale.
'Say, wherefore should we weep, and wherefore pour On scented airs the unavailing sigh-- While sun-bright waves are quivering to the shore, And landscapes blooming--that the loved should die?
'There is an emblem in this peaceful scene: Soon, rainbow colors on the woods will fall; And autumn gusts bereave the hills of green, As sinks the year to meet its cloudy pall.
'Then, cold and pale, in distant vistas round, Disrobed and tuneless, all the woods will stand: While the chained streams are silent as the ground, As death had numbed them with his icy hand.
'Yet, when the warm soft winds shall rise in spring, Like struggling day-beams o'er a blasted heath; The bird returned shall poise her golden wing, And liberal nature break the spell of death.
'So, when the tomb's dull silence finds an end, The blessed Dead to endless youth shall rise; And hear the archangel's thrilling summons blend Its tones with anthems from the upper skies.
'There shall the good of earth be found at last, Where dazzling streams and vernal fields expand; Where Love her crown attains--her trials past-- And, filled with rapture, hails the better land!'
'Thus I strummed the old harpsichord, from which I have aforetime, at drowsy hours and midnight intervals, extracted a few accidental numbers, (more pleasant doubtless to beget than read,) 'sleepless myself, to give to others sleep!''
'WELL, that is the only way to write without fatigue, both to author and reader. In all that pertains to the petty businesses which bow us to the routine of this work-day world, I am as it were at home. I am distinctly a mover in the great tide of Action sweeping on around me; yet when I enter into the sanctuary of the Muses, lo! at one wave of the spiritual wand, this 'dim and ignorant present' disappears. I breathe a rarer atmosphere. Visions of childhood throng upon my soul; the blue mountain-tops; the aerial circles of far-off landscapes; the hazy horizon of ocean-waters; the wind-tossed verdure of summer; the hills that burst into singing; and the sweet harmonies of nature--Universal Parent!--all appeal to my spirit. This dismemberment of the ideal from the actual, is a fountain of enjoyment, which whoso knows not, has yet the brightest lessons of life to learn. He has yet to enter that fairy dominion which seems the intermediate territory betwixt the airy realms conceived of in this world, and the more radiant glories of the 'undiscovered country.''
Yet in the succeeding number we find the writer indulging in such whimsical imaginings as the following:
'OBSERVE, my friend, I am not writing _against_ time; so let us slowly on. My impressions of the old gentleman are sometimes extremely fantastic. I was looking the other day at a playful young cat, just emerging from the fairy time of kittenhood; something between the revelry of the fine mewer, and the gravity without the experience of the tabby. Now one would think that no great subject for contemplation. It would be looked upon by the million as inferior to astronomy. But it is the connection of the events having reference to the quadruped which renders her of interest. _Time_ will expand her person, increase her musical powers, and bring her admirers. In her back, on winter evenings, will sleep a tolerable imitation of the lightnings of heaven. She will make great noise o' nights, and lap at interdicted cream. So much for her exterior--her love-passages and obstreperous concerts. But look within! That compact embodiment of ligaments and conduits, now treading gingerly over those fading leaves, and grapes of purple, what may they not be hereafter? Whose hearts may they not thrill, when strung on the sonorous bridge of a cremona, guided to softest utterances by the master hand? How many memories of youth, and hope, and fond thoughts, and sunny evenings, and bowers by moonlight, radiant with the beams of Cynthia, and warm with the sweet reflex of Beauty; the heart, touched by the attempered entrail, rosin-encompassed and bow-bestrid, may bound in age with recollections of departed rapture. And all from what? Smile not at the association, my friend--from Time and cat-gut.'
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
''TWAS a new idea to me, that conveyed of late by the author of 'LESLIE,' surnamed NORMAN, that the only things you see, after crossing the Atlantic, which you have seen before, are the orb of day, sometimes vulgarly called PHOEBUS or the sun, the chaste Regent of the Night or LUNA, that greenhorns sometimes denominate the moon, and those jewels of heaven--'doubloons of the celestial bank,' as a Spanish poet calls them--sometimes named stars, by plain uninitiated persons. These, it seems, are the only old acquaintances a man meets abroad. They are not to be put by. A man may curse his stars, indeed, but he cannot _cut_ them. As well might the great sea essay 'to cast its waters on the burning Bear, and quench the guards of the ever-fixéd pole.' Therefore shall I learn henceforth yet more to love those dazzling planets, fixed or errant, because in no long time I may meet them in Philippi. Precious then to me will be their bright companionship! Milky feelings will come over me, as I scrutinize the _via lactea_, with upturned eyes; conscious will be the moon; inexpressibly dear every glimpse of the lesser lights that rule the night with modest fires. Without the slightest premonitory symptoms of astrology, and being withal no horologe consulter, I yet do love the stars. Rich, rare and lustrous, they win my gaze, and look into my soul.'
In the twenty-sixth number, the last of the series, there is the same combination of the humorous and the pathetic, which constituted the variety and the charm of the Ollapodiana Papers. With these brief passages we close our 'labor of love' and duty to the literary memory of our departed twin-brother.
'How do you bear yourself, my friend and reader, on the subject of _winter_ generally? What are 'your views?' If you are young and sanguine, with no revulsions or tempests of the heart to remember, I will warrant that you like old Hyem, and patronize that most windy individual, Boreas, of that ilk. Well, you have a free right to your opinion, and if you held it two years or less ago, you had the honor to agree with me. But I confess on that point a kind of warped idiosyncrasy; an unaccountable change of opinion. The truth is, reader, between you and me, there is not much dignity in winter, in a city. When, in the country, you can look out upon the far-off landscapes, the cold blue hills rising afar, and where a snow-bank _is_ really what it is cracked up to be; where the blast comes sounding to your dwelling over a sweep of woods, and lakes, and snowy fields, for miles of dim extension, there is some grandeur in the thing. But what is it to hear a blast, half-choked with the smoke and soot of the city, wheezing down a contemptible chimney-pot, or round a corner, where the wind, that glorious emblem of freedom, has no charter at all to 'blow out' as he pleases, but is confined by the statute of brick-and-mortar restrictions?'
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
'I HAVE turned this subject of steam-music extensively over in my mind, of late; and I have married myself to the idea, after a very short courtship, that it is a kind of thing that must _go on_. At the first blush, indeed, it might appear chimerical; but I ask the skeptic why the steam-whistle of a locomotive should not discourse in tones more soft and winning? Why cannot a locomotive ask a cow to leave a railroad track in a politer manner than in that discordant shriek, which excites the animal's indignation, and awakens her every sentiment of quadrupedal independence? I protest against such conduct. We presume a locomotive to buzz, and _vapor_, and deport itself pragmatically; but its conversation by the way ought to be chastened into something like propriety: and please APOLLO, I think it will. I once saw an animal of this stamp killed instantly by the crushing transit of a train; and I thought I saw in the singular turn of her upper lip, as her torn-out heart lay yet palpitating on the rails, a peculiar curl of disdain, in her dying moments, at the treatment she had won. I put this down, because I hope 't will be remembered as a warning to whistlers in especial, and the great generation of calves unborn.'
* * * * *
'ON one of those warm April-like afternoons, with which, in our Philadelphia meridian, the fierce February chose to delight us, as if by contrast, I sat by my open window, which commands, through and over pleasant trees, fine glimpses of the country: and
'As the red round sun descended, Mid clouds of crimson light,'
I began to feel coming upon me the influence of a reverie. For a long time, my good friend whom I 'occupy' at present with this matter, I have had my day-dreams sadly broken in upon; in the few roses I have gathered, I have found the cypress mingling among their faded leaves; and a voice, as from the lowly leafiness of an autumnal wilderness, has spoken of the lost and of the past. Why is it, that though the mind may wander, the _heart_ can never forget? Well could I say with him who sings so well:
'Thou unrelenting Past! Strong are the barriers round thy dark domain; And fetters, sure and fast, Hold all that enter thy unbreathing reign.
'In thy abysses hide Beauty and excellence unknown; to thee Earth's wonder and her pride Are gathered as the waters to the sea!'
And there they rest in dust and cold obstruction! Oh! that those who walk about in the beauty of the morning, with the greenness of earth around them, and the mysterious vitality which makes the elements in their nostrils, would think of this; considering truly their coming end!'
AMONG our frequent and always welcome early contributors, in prose and verse, was LEWIS W. MANSFIELD, Esq. Our old readers will recal the papers which appeared from his pen, under the signature of 'JULIAN.' His prose was more felicitous than his verse; although in the 'Morning Watch,' and other of his poems, there were many noble passages. The subjoined will afford an example of his humorous prose:
'IT would be amusing, if one could laugh at any thing so sad, to observe the humors of the few who think upon the bearings of this solemn time. In the year to be, there are many to come, many to go, and but few to tarry; yet _all_ have their ambitions of a life-time; those even, to whom the stars have grown dim, and life become almost a mockery under Heaven, dashing into the coming day with something of the old zest; while the many, the _oi polloi_, who have not yet made their grand move, are now ready, and think that therefore the earth is to take a new route in creation: forgetting that the old round must be the round forever. Nights sleepless with joy, nights sleepless with pain, nights long with watching, feverish thought; crime that stings like an adder, and nights short, with perfect rest; days long and weary, days bright and dashing, hot and cold, wet and dry, and days and nights with all of these--as hath been in the time that's past, and will be in the time to come.
'There is something very pitiable in these humors; indeed very laughable, if your mouth is shaped to that effect; but as it happens with me to-night, my mouth refuses to twitch except in one direction. Its corners have the 'downward tendencies.' Perhaps it is because this is with me the anniversary of a day upon the events of which are hanging the movements of all after-life; it may be this, and there may be thereto added the coloring of a winter's day. The wind howls about the house-tops, and the air pierces like needles; even the stars, when they look down in thousands, as the rack goes by, seem to shiver in their high places; yet perhaps there is nothing so personal in all that, considering that just so the wind howled last night, and may for a month to come; but oh! as I am a nervous man, and look back upon the circling months, and feel the sting here and the stab there, in that galvanic battery; and as I look forward with eager eye, and ear open to the faintest whisper of the dim to-morrow, it is not as the stars shiver from excess of light, but with a shudder at the heart from the cooler blood of ---- Good night, my kind EDITOR: that sentence is quite too long already, and there are some things too personal to tell.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
'P. S.--Whoop! hurrah! Light is upon the world again! Where are you, my dear friend? I say, Sir, I was an ass--do you hear?--an _ass_, premature, wise before my time, a brute, a blockhead! Did I talk of dust and ashes? O Sir! I lied multitudinously. Every nerve, every muscle that didn't try to strangle me in that utterance, _lied_. No, Sir; let me tell you it's a great world; glorious--magnificent; a world that can't be beat! Talk of the stars and a better world, but don't invite me there yet. Make my regrets, my apology to DEATH, but say that I can't come; 'positive engagement; happy some other time, but not now.' Oh! no; this morning is quite too beautiful to leave; and beside, I would rather stay, if only to thank God a little longer for this glorious light, this pure air that can echo back my loudest hurrah. And then, my boy----But haven't I told you? Why, Sir, I've got a boy!--a _boy_! ha, ha! I shout it out to you--a BOY; a ten-pounder, and the mother a great deal _better_ than could be expected! And, I say, my old friend, it's _mine_! Hurrah and hallelujah forever! O Sir! such legs, and such arms, and such a head!--and _he has his mother's lips_! I can kiss them forever! And then, Sir, look at his feet, his hands, his chin, his eyes, his every thing, in fact--so perfect! Give me joy, Sir: no you needn't either, I am full now; I run over; and they say that I ran over a number of old women, half-killed the mother, pulled the doctor by the nose, and upset a 'pothecary shop in the corner; and then didn't I ring the tea-bell? Didn't I blow the horn? Didn't I dance, shout, laugh, and cry altogether? The women say they had to tie me up. I don't believe _that_; but who is going to shut his mouth up when he has a live baby? You should have heard his lungs, Sir, at the first mouthful of fresh air; such a burst! A little tone in his voice, but not pain; excess of joy, Sir, from too great sensation. The air-bath was so sudden, you know. Think of all his beautiful machinery starting off at once in full motion; all his thousand outside feelers answering to the touch of the cool air; the flutter and crash at the ear; and that curious contrivance the eye, looking out wonderingly and bewildered upon the great world, so glorious and dazzling to his unworn perceptions; his net-work of nerves, his wheels and pulleys, his air-pumps and valves, his engines and reservoirs; and within all, that beautiful fountain, with its jets and running streams dashing and coursing through the whole length and breadth, without either stint or pause--making altogether, Sir, exactly ten pounds avoirdupois!
'Did I ever talk brown to you, Sir, or blue, or any other of the devil's colors? You say I have. Beg your pardon, Sir, but you--are mistaken in the individual. I am this day, Sir, multiplied by two. I am duplicate. I am number one of an indefinite series, and there's my continuation. And you observe, it is not a block, nor a block-head, nor a painting, nor a bust, nor a fragment of any thing, however beautiful; but a combination of _all_ the arts and sciences in one; painting, sculpture, music, (hear him cry,) mineralogy, chemistry, mechanics, (see him kick,) geography, and the use of the globes, (see him nurse;) and withal, he is a perpetual motion--a time-piece that will never run down! And who wound it up? But words, Sir, are but a mouthing and a mockery.
'When a man is nearly crushed under obligations, it is presumed that he is unable to speak; but he may bend over very carefully, for fear of falling, nod in a small way, and say nothing; and then, if he have sufficient presence of mind to lay a hand upon his heart, and look down at an angle of forty-five degrees, with a motion of the lips, unuttered poetry, showing the wish and the inability, it will be (well done) very gracefully expressive. With my boy in his first integuments, I assume that position, make the small nod aforesaid, and leave you the poetry unuttered.'
We hope our readers will soon welcome 'JULIAN' as heartily to our pages as they were wont to do aforetime.
STORY OF 'THE LITTLE BLACK SLIPPER.'--The spirited sketch of '_The Little Black Slipper_,' which ensues--the beautiful manuscript of which is a treasure to our compositors--was accompanied by a characteristic notelet from our esteemed friend and correspondent, 'H. P. L.,' of Philadelphia, to the following purport: 'The accompanying MS., the production of my amiable friend, Mr. JAMES O'FISTIAN, of Castle-Bangeroary, details a little incident in his '_Careerings and Loaferings in Other Lands_,' and--among _other_ ladies. I have copied it and corrected it from his original MS., but can lay no claim to its vitality. Its publication would prove a jubilition to its author:'
'SAID I, 'HARRY, where did you get that slipper?' Said he, 'JAMES, this is the tale:
'If any thing will alleviate the little miseries of a two days' diligence-journey, it is having as pretty, good-natured, and cosmopolitan a little widow for your opposite travelling companion, as I had from Cordova on the Guadalquivir, to Madrid on the Manzanares. Tumbling into the 'interior' of a diligence at two o'clock of a June morning after a few hours spent in a vain attempt to sleep, rendered vain and profane by a legion of those _tirailleurs du diable_, long-horned mosquitoes, one is by no means as serene in temper as one should be. The writer was savage that morning; and not until the _mayoral_ (conductor) had brought a light to see if the passengers were all properly packed in, revealing the cheerful little face of a pretty woman opposite to him, did his good nature shine out as a patent reflector and dissipate the fog of discontent.
''A long journey before us: let us make ourselves comfortable,' said the lady, the departing _mayoral_ with light just enabling me to see that there was a smile on her face. Then there was a shaking of black silk skirts, _Gracias a Dios!_ there were no steel or whalebone petticoats on her blessed form; two little feet sought refuge on my side; two good-sized ones searched for an asylum on her side the diligence; and behold, we were disposed to be friends for life. I don't know whether TUPPER, in his 'Proverbial Philosophy,' mentions under the head of 'Friendship' that it is 'a travelling shawl,' but in his next edition he'd better do it, you know, BECAUSE IT IS! At least that morning, when I spread mine over my legs, and extended the courtesy to the limbs (_Lingua Americana_) of the fair widow, she accepted the woollen with a kind acknowledgment that made me feel blessedly pleased with myself and with her. The bells of the eight mules pulling the diligence were jingling; the postillion on the right leader had settled himself in his saddle; the _arriero_ had hold of the reins; the _mayoral_ jumped into his seat in the Imperial; and the _zugal_, holding his calañes hat tight on his head, sprung out of the door of the diligence-office, uttering fearful yells and cracking his whip with the ferocity of a mad monkey; when--creak, bang, slide, slip! and we were launched on our journey to Madrid.
'I went to sleep and had a pleasant dream of being a cherubim, the kind that flew round NOAH when he was building the Ark, and had no legs! and having a dear little pair of gaiter boots for wings; while I had for a companion, another æronaut with large black eyes, _a propos_ of which--
'I NEVER loved a dear gazelle, And gazed upon its soft, black eyes, But what it turned out a d---- sell-- A damsel heaving gentlest sighs'--
who was all thy's and thou's. In addition to black eyes, she had black hair and a travelling-shawl, and she had feet; and both the tiny little ones were somehow thrust into the pockets of my shooting-coat, and ---- I woke up and found that there were a pair of little, high-heeled, black slippers, with white silk stockings attached, resting on the cushion by my side. You may talk about dream-books, and explanations of dreams, but such bona-fide realizations please me most: and I looked down at them and determined they should be mine if I had to go a hand on them--matrimonially of course, _à la mode de_ 'I'd offer thee this hand of mine,' with piano accompaniment.
'But she woke up, and as the sun was now shining brightly, she saw me regarding those 'leather mice,' whereupon she at once hid them, not by rudely withdrawing them, but by cuddling them up under one end of the travelling-shawl; which end was in close proximity with my pantaloons pocket. Now reader fancy my feelings nursing a pair of twins like those; belonging to a very pretty woman--moreover a widow.
''_Buenas dias, Señor_!' It was so cheerfully, pleasantly spoken, and with such a winning smile, and the dark eyes beamed so softly under the long black eye-lashes, that it elicited all the writer's stock of amiability in return. It came out in conversation that the lady was from Seville, was a widow, and her first name was JUANITA, (_tal y tal_, or So-and-So;) and as I had passed many pleasant days in Seville, and bore away gay souvenirs of 'The Marvel,' we were soon in earnest chat about its wonders and beauties. She was charmingly _naïve_ in conversation, and showed in every remark, what is an exception with Spanish ladies--an intelligent and animated disposition. At Bailen, where we dined, I lost my heart when I handed her from the diligence--beside, she faintly pressed my hand with her gloved hand, and showed me those feet!
'There is no use doing things in a hurry, so I determined, as we were yet thirty-six hours from Madrid, to wait until we were within three hours of the city before I formally proposed for her heart, hand, and high-heeled shoes. _Ay, que gusto, que placer!_
'Again was the old diligence _en route_; again the shades of night were on us, and cool air brought out the travelling-shawl; and again a joint partnership was entered into between JUANITA and me. Somehow, near Las Navas de Tolosa, the diligence gave a fearful lurch, and JUANITA was pitched nearly into my arms; seems to me, she must have assisted the shock, else how, in all the darkness of night, for it must have been nearly ten o'clock, and raining, could I have kissed her and taken charge of her for nearly a minute, while the diligence was coming to time?
That's the way to get over the difficulty in Spain; in Italy with a--
'CHI LO SA!
or to hunt it up to head-quarters in Arabic:
if you want it at home:
That was a rose-colored rainy night--the diligence pitched several times with equal success.
'I made up mind to turn Spaniard, buy one of those velvet tiles, a black lamb-skin jacket, knee-breeches, pounds of silver waistcoat and coat buttons, leather gaiters with long leather fringe; learn to roll _cigarritas_ and become a _cigarrista_. Go twice a week to the _Circo Gallistico_, 'where roosters do combat;' bet my _duros_ on the winning _gallo_, (not gall oh! but on the contrary;) attend every bull-fight, and mass once a week, to keep my hand in; dance the _bolero_; drink _aguardiente_ very cautiously; shoot red-legged partridges all the year round, and, to sum up, come out strong as a full-blooded _majo_! either this or edit a paper in Madrid _progresisto_.
'Again the morning broke and up came the sun illumining our breakfast at Valdepeñas, where the wine comes from, at least the baptismal name to table-wine half over Spain. I determined to edit a paper in Madrid, _progresisto_!
'The day wheeled by until we arrived at Tembléque, where our diligence was wheeled on to a railroad-car, and we were to make the fifteen leagues between there and Madrid with great diligence by steam. _Tembléque_ means a diamond pin; it sticks me with pain when I think of it, for there, yes there! JUANITA was lost to me (as a wife) forever.
'At Tembléque, while taking a hurried lunch, I saw a bill announcing a bull-fight to come off in Madrid next day, and was glad to be able to enjoy this amusement once more; on my return to the diligence, I communicated to the widow the interesting fact.
''_O jala!_' said she, 'how I do love bull-fights! And to see CUCHARES with the _capa_ in one hand and sword in the other, _Hésoos!_ he is a _spada_; but you should have seen JUAN, (pronounce WHAN,) he always killed first blow. _Ay Caramba_! there was a man for you--and such clothes and such legs--poor soul! that last black bull from the mountains was too much for him--too much, too much!' and here the widow paid a tribute of two tears to his memory, and flourished her little hands and white cambric disconsolately.
'This JUAN did not please me, although he had succumbed to the bull, and was gone where good bull-fighters go; the tribute to his memory made me a little-slightly jealous. But concealing my feelings, I asked as unconcernedly as possible: 'Well, who was JUAN?'
''JUAN?' replied the dear widow, 'JUAN? why, he was my husband!'
'Farewell, orange-flower wreaths, white lace veils, and slow on--farewell, ideas matrimonial. I, HARRY BUTTONS DE BUTTONVILLE, marry a bull-fighter's widow! By the shadow of my respectability, never!
''JUANITA, I never can be thine!' said I, in a burst of feeling.
''_Ay Caramba!_ but you will see me home in a carriage, when I arrive at Madrid, won't you?' asked the widow.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
'I did--and she gave me the slipper.'
* * * * *
'WORKING-MEN' AT HOME AND ABROAD.--We encounter the following passage in a recent editorial letter from abroad, in 'WILKES' Spirit of the Times.' He is speaking of the little town of Veviers, a place containing some thirty thousand inhabitants, (with a large suburban population,) on the road thenceward from Paris to Cologne: a city, as Mr. WILKES remarks, that has more _need_ of 'Cologne-water' than any which _he_ has ever visited. That was COLERIDGE'S impression, also; since the multitudinous seas, he thought, could never wash the river clean again, that 'washed' the town of Cologne:
'VEVIERS is devoted mainly to cloth manufacture, in which it employs some fifty thousand hands, who work from twelve to fifteen hours a day, and who are drilled to as close a discipline as the convicts in a prison, or slaves at an oar. A few work in their houses, but the greater number labor in large shops, the various lofts of which are filled with men and women, who seldom look up from their looms, and who never venture to speak, except by permission of the overseer. This silent system is terrible to the mind as well as body; but there is no power on the part of the oppressed to resist, for a discharge from an establishment is a condemnation to starvation, since, according to a convention among the employers, none will hire a man whom another has turned off. This of course reduces the working classes to a state of absolute vassalage, and wherever such a regulation exists, they may be said to breathe only by the sufferance of their employers. Attempts have been made at different times by certain manufacturers, to introduce this system in the United States, but the atrocious project has always been defeated with infamy to the inventors. The working people of Veviers, those at least who labor in the factories, are remarkable for their downcast look, and the first curse seems to be written in heavy lines upon their brows. They go along like men without hope, as if life were a penalty, and the only expiration of their term of condemnation were to arrive with death. Ah! if these poor people could but see an American mechanic, with his bright eye, erect head, and proud and cheerful carriage, they would understand the value of liberty at a glance, and increase their hours of toil till they could earn enough to enable them to escape into an atmosphere where they may breathe and live.'
Such are the thoughts which we love to see entertained by observant Americans travelling abroad.
* * * * *
THE 'NORTH BRITISH' ON AMERICAN HUMOR.--A favorite and popular correspondent of our Magazine once wrote for these pages a paper upon '_Wit and Humor_,' separately considered and artistically contrasted: but he has been out-written and out-argued, by a most admirable and evidently competent critic in the last 'North-British Review,' in an article upon '_American Humor_.' In quoting from it, we really feel '_l'embarras des richesses_'--the embarrassment of riches--for it is full and conclusive upon every point which it touches; while, as to the _manner_ of the reviewer, there cannot possibly be but one opinion. But listen to him, please, in a few segregated passages:
'THE influence of healthy Wit and Humor is a benign one, if it comes to us at times, and kindly makes us forget sad thoughts and cankering cares; makes the oldest feel young and fresh, and turns the wrinkles of our sorrow into ripples of laughter. SHAKSPEARE, who mirrored our whole humanity, did not leave the laugh out of its reflected face. He tells us, 'Your merry heart goes all the day;' and he knew how much the merry heart may have to carry. 'We may well be refreshed,' says JEREMY TAYLOR, 'by a clean and brisk discourse, as by the air of Campanian wines, and our faces and our heads may well be anointed and look pleasant with wit, as with the fat of the Balsam tree.' Humor not only has an earlier beginning than Wit, but it has also a far wider range. It will reach the uneducated as well as the educated; and among the former may often be found very unctuous humorists. In the earlier history of nations and literatures, when life is strong and thought is unperplexed, we get writers full enough in force, and direct enough in expression, to touch nature at most points. Hence the earlier great writers reach the depths of tragedy, and the breadths of humor. In their times they see the full play of the outward actions in which Life expresses itself: all those striking _contrasts_ of life; those broad lights and bold shadows of character which, as they cross and re-cross in the world's web, make rare and splendid patterns for the tragic poet and humorist. It would have been perfectly impossible for the wit of _Punch_ to have been produced in any other time than ours, or in any other place and societary conditions than those of London. No past time could have given us THOMAS HOOD.... Wit deals more with thoughts, and Humor with outward things. Wit only reaches characteristics, and therefore it finds more food in a later time and more complex state of society. Humor deals with character. The more robust and striking the character, the better for humor: hence the earlier times, being more fruitful in peculiar character, are most fruitful in humor. Wit is more artificial, and a thing of culture; Humor lies nearer to nature. Wit is oftenest shown in the quality of the thought; Humor by the nature of the action. With Wit, two opposite and combustible qualities of the thought are brought into contact, and they explode in the ludicrous. Humor shows us two opposite personal characters which mingle, and dissimilitude is dove-tailed in the laughable.... One of Wit's greatest elements of success is surprise. Indeed, sometimes when your surprise is over, you find nothing else; you have been cheated upon false pretences. Not so with Humor. He is in no hurry. He is for 'keeping it up.' He don't move in straight lines but flows in circles. He carries you irresistibly along with him. With Wit you are on the 'qui vive;' with Humor you grow glorious. If brevity be the soul of Wit, the soul of Humor is longevity.
'Humor makes as much of its subject as possible. It revels in exaggeration; it reigns in Brobdignag. Wit is thinner; it has a subtler spark of light in its eye, and a less carnal gush of jollity in its laugh. It is, as we often say, very dry. But Humor rejoices in ample physical health; it has a strong ruddy nature, a glow and glory of sensuous life, a playful overflow of animal spirits. As the word indicates, Humor has more moisture of the bodily temperament. Its words drop fatness, its face oozes with unctuousness, its eyes swim with dews of mirth. As stout people often make the best dancers and swimmers, so Humor relies on size. It must have 'body,' like good old wine. Humor has more common human feeling than Wit; it is wealthiest, wisest, kindliest. Lord DUDLEY, the eccentric, said pleasantly to SYDNEY SMITH: 'You have been laughing at me constantly, Sydney, for the last seven years, and yet in all that time, you have never said a single thing to me that I wished unsaid.'... Humor, like imagination, pours itself out, strong and splendid as flowing gold, with oneness and continuity. Wit twinkles and corruscates, gleams and glances about the subject. Humor lightens right to the heart of the matter at once, without by-play. Wit will show you the live sparks rushing red-rustling from the chimney, and prettily dancing away in the dark, a 'moment bright, then gone forever.' But Humor shall give you a pleasanter peep through the lighted window, and show you the fire glowing and ruddy--the smiling heart of home--shining in the dear faces of those you love, who are waiting to overflow in one warm embracing wave of love the moment the door is opened for your coming. Wit teases, tickles, and titillates. But Humor floods you to the brim with measureful content. Wit sends you a sharp, sudden, electric shock, that leaves you tingling from without. Humor operates from within, with its slow and prolonged excitation of your risible soul. Wit gives you a quick, bright nod, and is off. 'What's, going on?' said a bore to DOUGLAS JERROLD. 'I am,' said he. That is just what Wit does. You must be sharp, too, in taking the hit. The most obvious characteristic of American humor is its power of 'pitching it strong,' and drawing the long bow. It is the humor of exaggeration. This consists of fattening up a joke until it is rotund and rubicund, unctuous and irresistible as FALSTAFF himself, who was created by SHAKSPEARE, and fed fat, so as to become for all time the very impersonation of Humor. There are many differences betwixt the Wit and Humor of different nations. German humor generally goes ponderously upon all fours. French _esprit_ is intangible to the English mind. Irish humor is often so natural that its accidents look intentional. The Scotch have been said not to understand a joke. Undoubtedly they have not the Cockney quickness necessary to catch some kinds of word-wit. But where will you find richer, pawkier humor?'
We commend the entire article, from which these brief passages are taken, to the notice and admiration of our readers. It is one of the most attractive papers in the entire number.
* * * * *
GOSSIP WITH READERS AND CORRESPONDENTS.--A Boston correspondent, '_A Believer in Phrenology_,' must look again, and 'mark, learn, and digest' what it _was_ that OLLAPOD said in our last, as to the 'science' of Phrenology. Its 'general principles' he admitted; it was only its 'infinitesimal detail' which he satirized. Phrenology, let us say to our 'Believer,' has always had a 'fair show' in the pages of the KNICKERBOCKER; 'else wherefore breathe we in a Christian land?' For the '_New-York Observer_,' a religious journal, states that pious probulgences are to 'rule' hereafter as a clerical test in our Church; an exaggerated 'explication,' of course, of the remarks of an able Episcopal contemporary. But as for ourselves, have we not been 'through the mill?' 'Slightuously!' Ask our friends, FOWLER and WELLS, leaders in 'Bumpology,' else. Were we not 'manipulated?' Did we not lie down in a box like a coffin, and were we not then and there covered, from our 'burst' upward, with a Plaster-of-Paris hasty-pudding? Did not the operation 'fix' us? _Rather_! It was solemn at first, and upward to the mouth, such was the expression, in the sudden 'solidarity' of our 'mug;' but when Mr. FOWLER directed his assistant to use a spoon in feeding us with the white pudding, and not to suffocate us by stopping up our nostrils, we began to laugh; but the laughing muscles stopped short off at the junction with the lugubrious fixed plaster. We saw the _result_ next day, in the show-window of Mr. FOWLER, on the Nassau street side of CLINTON-Hall. There we were, large as life, labelled and sandwiched between ROBINSON, the New-Brunswick murderer, and Colonel JAMES WATSON WEBB, of the '_Courier and Enquirer_' daily journal. Haven't we 'suffered' for the 'science' of Phrenology? 'Probably!' 'Phrenology,' says our 'down-east' correspondent, 'can no longer be laughed at.' 'We caänt be laughed at!' is the amusing 'objugatory' of an English Cockney in a modern play; but people _will_ laugh at the marvels which are said to accompany the development of even the smallest and thickest-set organs of the human head. When GALL and SPURZHEIM were in 'Edinboro,' had established the first Phrenological Society in Great-Britain, and were gaining 'converts' only by slow degrees, they and their confrères were 'laughed at' to something _more_ than 'their hearts' content.' On one occasion, we remember, a dry Scottish wag bought from a countyman a vegetable _lusus natura_, in the shape of a big Swedish turnip, which presented in perfection the features and 'developments' of a not very good-looking but remarkably 'intellectual' human head. He had a mould made from it, and sent a plaster image to the new Phrenological Society, as a 'cast from the head of Professor THORNIPSON, a learned Swede of Sockholm!' The bait took; a chart was made at once of the 'cerebral protuberances;' lectures were delivered upon its characteristics; and two or three officers and _savants_ of the Society were overjoyed to find corresponding 'bumps' on their own craniums! Edinburgh, inappreciative of fun though the Scotch are said to be, gave one loud guffaw when the diverting 'trick' was exposed in the '_Courant_' by the shrewd joker who perpetrated it, But _a propos_ of 'Bumpology;' our Cedar-Hill neighbor, 'the COLONEL,' tells a capital story thereanent, which we will essay to jot down: One day, in the weekly newspaper of a small village in 'old Chatauque,' there appeared an advertisement, setting forth that Professor FEELOVER, Practical Phrenologist, had arrived, and stood ready to examine heads, give 'certified charts' of character, lecture, and give lessons upon the 'Science.' He 'put up' at the principal hotel, which he found a 'good '_stand_' for business,' for a week had passed on, since the paper came out, yet not a solitary person had inquired for the PROFESSOR. Tired of this indifference to 'science,' he was broodingly 'fetching a walk' in the outskirts of the village, when a 'slow,' green-looking young countryman entered the hotel, and addressing the landlord, said: 'Be yeöu the Phrenologist that feels of folkses' heads, and gives a receipt for what's inside on 'em?' 'Yes,' answered the fat, good-natured BONIFACE, who loved a joke better than his dinner; 'yes, I 'm the man.' 'What d' yeöu tax?' 'Half a dollar.' 'Wal, go ahead.' The landlord seated his 'patient,' and directed his clerk at the desk to take down, in two columns, the result. He fumbled, and pinched, and pressed the head of his wincing customer, calling out at the same time the subjoined developments:
Gullibility, 16 Verticality, 19 Reverence, 7 Shallowness, 18 Assininity, 24 Ideality, 4 Caution, 3 Exteriority, 1 Noodleity, 10 Quantity, 13 Philoprogenitiveness, 9 Horizontality, 5 Combativeness, 1 Benevolence, 8 Color, 2 Inertness, 11 Sound, 13 Rotundity, 6
'There, that'll do; got 'em all down? Now _add 'em up_!' said the landlord, without moving a muscle. 'Comes out _exactly even_!' said the clerk; 'eighty-five in each column.' 'Why,' exclaimed BONIFACE, looking down contemptuously upon his astonished 'customer,' you haven't _got_ any character at all; _you_ don't want any chart; you'd be ashamed to show it the second time; _I_ should be ashamed even to _keep_ it. I never _saw_ such a case in all my large experience; 'comes out even!'--a perfect blank! Why, you must be the 'DAMPHOOL' that Mr. DOESTICKS describes!' With great shamefacedness the 'customer' arranged his disordered locks, put on his hat, and departed a sadder but a wiser man.' * * * A CORRESPONDENT of _The New-York Observer_, writing from Wales, in regard to the great religious revival which is prevailing among the workmen in the lead-mines of Conroy, says: 'Some of the miners established '_An Underground Prayer-Meeting_,' and assembled at it in large numbers, continuing to praise and pray for several hours. It was followed by extraordinary effects; and the result was 'a wonderful reformation in the morals and character of the miners.' One writing from the 'Gogian Lead-Mines,' says: 'Prayer-meetings are held here far below the surface of the earth. The 'clefts of the rocks,' in which they assemble for prayer and praise, seem to remind them of the 'cleft' in another rock, even CHRIST, in which the sinner is permitted to behold the divine glory:
'ROCK of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in THEE.'
The men work in companies; and there is not a company without its prayer-meeting under ground. It is delightful to hear the voice of melody and praise ascending to heaven from the very bowels of the earth. 'Out of the depths cried I unto THEE,' may literally be said of this subterranean 'Great Awakening.' There was but _one_ person working in the mine who was not a converted subject of the revival, and _his_ conversion was made the subject of daily 'fervent prayer.'' The very _reverse_ of this, was the foundation of a most interesting story which we remember having heard when a boy, some twenty years ago. It was connected with one of the coal-mines of England, and was, if we remember rightly, to the following purport: A young miner, who led a most exemplary life, who was a CHRISTIAN by 'profession,' by 'precept,' and by 'example,' was in the daily habit of retiring from the mouth of the mine with the mid-day meal which his wife had prepared, and which his little son had brought to him in a small tin vessel, together with a worn and dingy copy of the New Testament, from which he always read a chapter before touching his dinner. One of his every-day maxims, whatever might happen, was: '_It is all for the best_: it is well ordered: IT IS ALL FOR THE BEST.' One day, while reading and 'pondering' his customary 'BOOK of Books,' a vagrant dog passed along, seized his 'tin' dinner and ran off with it: his fellow-miners jeering and shouting, '_Is the loss of thy Dinner_, too, JOE, 'for the best?'' After having their laugh out, and while their comrade was racing around after the canine delinquent, the bell rang, and the 'operatives' descended into the mine. Meantime, unable to overhaul the dog-thief, the 'victim' had returned, and was nearing the mine, when a loud explosion and fire and smoke issuing from the wide open fissure in the ground, revealed the ignited '_Fire-Damp_' and its inevitable, awful accessories! Not a man of all his late jeering companions was rescued from that terrible subterranean 'consuming fire!' And how natural was the exclamation--the story, we remember, was in verse--which poured from his over-burthened, grateful heart:
'HOW could it appear to a short-sighted sinner, That my life should be saved by the loss of my dinner.'
The simple '_Working-Man's Lesson_' involved in this anecdote, and the 'fulness of faith' which it embodies, are not unworthy of remembrance and of heed. It impressed _us_ forcibly. * * * 'TOM HOOD' once mentioned, 'in his own way,' his experience in crossing the Great Desert. He 'came to grief in the journey by means of 'getting off the track' of antecedent camelian-caravans. They had nothing to eat and less to drink, on their hot and toilsome journey. They encountered a 'simoom,' which a Yankee sailor described as 'a Boston East Wind _boiled_;' there was a mirage, too, in which they saw, far off on the level rim of the desert, camels and 'men as trees walking.' Long was their journey over the burning sands: and HOOD narrates that the travellers were reduced to the greatest straits. HUNGER and THIRST--terrible tyrants--asserted their prerogatives. 'On the dim, faint line toward Cairo,' says HOOD, 'we _thought_ we saw a well in the desert: for much people were gathered together far beyond us upon the level, sultry plain. We approached; we joined them: but only to be again, for the third time, most grievously disappointed.' 'It is no joke,' he adds, 'to be without food or water in an Egyptian desert. When we were at the worst, we went in ballast with the soles and uppers of the newest shoes in the caravan; and we were enabled to slake our burning thirst by a second-hand 'swig' at the cistern of a freshly-deceased and still warm camel, which had 'given _out_' early in the journey, and had now 'given _in_:'' This was certainly a bad state of affairs; but when we read the hardships of recent African travel, as recorded by the German African explorer, Dr. KRAPF, in his '_Researches in Eastern Africa_,' we could no longer deem the story fabulous. The good DOCTOR had succeeded in making his escape from an attack, which had been made upon himself and his party, by a band of sable 'salvages;' he had wandered far: was 'weary and way-worn,' and had lain down behind a bush, for protection against the keen wind which blew over the plain, from which he had no protection save the dry grass which he spread under and over his body. After a fitful slumber, he awoke unrefreshed, 'and started again.' 'I felt,' he says, 'the pangs of hunger and thirst: the water in my telescope-case ran out, and that in the barrels of my gun, which I had not drunk, had been lost on my way, as the bushes had torn out the grass stoppers, and so I lost a portion of the invaluable fluid, which, in spite of the gunpowder flavor imparted to it by the barrels, thirst had rendered delicious. My hunger was so great that I tried to chew leaves, roots, and elephant's excrement to stay it: and when day broke, to break my fast on ants.' Night came on; and he travelled on until day-light. Soon after day-break, he saw four immense rhinoceroses feeding behind some bushes ahead of him: they 'stared at him, but did not move.' 'Coming presently,' he mentions, to a 'sand-pit,' with a somewhat _moistish_ surface, 'like as a hart panteth for the water-brooks,' I anticipated the precious fluid; I dug into the sand for it, but only to meet with disappointment: so I put some of the _wet sand_ in my mouth, which only increased my thirst.' What ensues could not be better told than in the brave explorer's own words: 'About noon I came upon the dry and sandy bed of the river, which we must have crossed to the south-west only a few days before. Scarcely had I entered its bed when I heard the chattering of monkeys, a most joyful sound, for I knew that there must be water wherever monkeys appear in a low-lying place. I followed the course of the bed, and soon came to a pit dug by the monkeys in the sand, in which I found the priceless water. I thanked GOD for this great gift; and having quenched my thirst, I first filled my powder-horn, tying up the powder in my handkerchief, and then my telescope-case, and the barrels of my gun. To still the pangs of hunger, I took a handful of powder and ate it with some shoots of a young tree which grew near the water; but they were very bitter.' Such 'experiences' as these will serve to show how much the world owes to our indefatigable modern explorers, self-denying, self-abrogating men, like LIVINGSTONE and KRAPF, who scarcely 'set their life at a pin's fee' in pursuing unwearied their laborious and painful researches. * * * OBSERVE now how this old friend of ours _could_ write, if he _would_. In the pauses of his avocation as President of a Bank in 'Old Erie,' he drops us a hasty note, in which he says: 'At times I feel chock-full of unwritten words, and say to myself: 'I only wish I had the use of a stenographic amanuensis for about an hour or so. I would create an article worth an hour's existence.' I wish I could only stop growing older; I don't mind having time 'roll on,' for I shouldn't want to be always living at the same moment; but I don't care about rolling on with it, and finally being rolled off or 'dumped' off. I frequently smile at the consolatory remark of the divine to his hearers, that they had great cause to be thankful that Death was at the end of life instead of the beginning, for this fortunate arrangement of PROVIDENCE gave them time to prepare for the event. Now such reasoning appears at the first glance quite ludicrous; and yet when you analyze it you will find there is a great deal of force in it. I have scratched this off in the midst of my financial correspondence, and you are lucky not to find any 'dollars and cents' in it.' We wish 'E. P.' would come to the 'scratch' often. * * * JAMES SUNNEY, the 'Atmospherical Poet,' in our last, and the 'Blooming Bard' of a 'Blossoming Hotel,' in previous 'issoos,' is a man without envy of his inspired brothers in art. Song, to be sure, is his _specialite;_ but _music_ hath charms also wherewith to soothe his savage breast. We do not jest, on the contrary, we ask especial attention to the following fervent tribute, paid by Mr. SUNNEY to the musical powers of our friend and cosmopolitan correspondent, Colonel PIPES, of Pipesville, otherwise known as STEPHEN C. MASSETT, Esq., the popular vocalist, lecturer, and _raconteur_. Instantaneously the 'COLONEL' dispatches to us the flattering missive, or missile; as like unto a non-resistant catapult it was 'precipitated' from the o'ercharged brain of the appreciative poet. _We_ feel with 'PIPES:' for, as EDITOR of the KNICKERBOCKER, _we_ too have been 'indorsed' by SUNNEY, as a man, take us by and large, 'not likely to be met with by any body in a hurry!' But we keep our readers from the '_Letter from James Sunney, 'Blossoming Bard' of the 'Blooming Hotel,' to Colonel Pipes, the Ripened Reciter and Vocalist_.' Hear him for his cause, and 'hold your yawp,' till he has said what he has _got_ to say. Can't you do _that_ much? 'Sa-a-y?' Try it:
'_New-York, Nov._ 12, 1860.
'DEAR SIR: It affords me great pleasure to acknowledge the delicacy of delight and joy I felt while perusing the many songs composed and sung by you, at the palacious rooms in London and elsewhere. The presses of Great Britain has certainly paid a great tribute to your mental capacity and physical ability, as a vocalist superior to RUSSELL, whose name was entitled to record on the first pages of history. You are certainly a man of high standing and respectability, whose intellectual faculties has added much to the brilliancy of youth, taste, and grandeur. I rejoice at the testimony bore to your character by some of the most eminent and distinguished writers in Ewrop. Melody of the feathered songsters could not warble with more harmony through the refractive powers of the _Atmosphere_, than did your voluble fluency vociferate in the grand '_Adelaide of Australia_.' As an elocutionist, your name is eminently combined with the ablest men of the age; and elevated to a higher degree than my pen is able to expound. At the same time I cannot refrain from any thing that has a tendency to morality without giving it my humble but human approbation.
Where is our sable friend and correspondent of the Louisville Hotel? That colored orator and model letter-writer must look to _his_ sesquipedalian fame. But this aside. The above, Mr. SUNNEY, is fine prose; but you must look to your poetic 'bays:' not a _span_ of spanking 'bays,' Mr. SUNNEY, on the Bloomingdale-Road, but the laurel _greens_ by which 'bards,' although quite unlike yourself, were wont to be crowned. We repeat that you must look to _this_ kind of 'bays,' because there is a fellow-bard, a Yankee, yet a kindred spirit, down in Maine, who can rhyme you 'out o' house and home.' He is the '_Bard of Misery_,' and hence, of course, a most miserable poet. Where Sorrow dwells, there is his country. He revels especially in marine disasters: _there_ he 'expands and bourgeons.' A friendly 'DEVIL,' (no 'Goblin-Damned,' we'll be sworn,) writing to us from a newspaper printing-office in Bangor, Maine, says: 'Will you kindly permit me to approach your Most Excellent Ma'--gazine, of which I am a constant reader, with a little contribution which I have picked up from the many similar 'favors' which we have had the honor of printing for the 'Son of the Muse,' whose effusions, somehow, don't seem to what-they-call 'TAKE:' but I expect these passages _will_.' Our modest, welcome correspondent is right: the 'passages' which he has marked for us _must_ 'take.' For example: only a few 'brief stanzas' from the 'poem' depicting '_Levi P. Willey's Last Voyage to Cubey_.' LEVI had, 'by all accounts,' a hard time. 'A few' of his 'experiences' are recorded in the lines which we annex: EBEN BABBIDGE being the name of the skipper, 'as he sailed, as he sailed:'
'IN eighteen hundred and fifty-nine, It was to me a solemn time: To a port in Cuba I did go; What happened there you shall know.
'As GOD would have it so to be, I was cook on board the open sea; I was at work, the crew did know, And from my lungs fresh blood did flow.
'Unto the captain I did go, He did for me all that he know; He called the mate and all the crew, And for the doctor they did go.
'In due time the doctor came To stop the blood and ease my pain; He said that I must go on shore, And stop a day, or two, or more.
'And the Spanish people there Did use me well, I do declare; Five days on shore I did remain, Then went on board the brig again.
'My captain was so kind and good, He done for me all that he could, He is a kind and generous man, Would always lend a helping hand.
'SCOTT COOKSON was our second mate, As to my friends I will relate; He was loved and honored too, By the captain, mate, and the crew.
'ROSCOE, and GEORGE, and FREDERICK, too, That was the names of all the crew; They were smart and noble boys, To reef topsails it was their joys.
'When our brig was ready for to sail, We was blest with a pleasant gale; As GOD would have it so to be, We came to Boston in America.
'When we arrived in Boston town, We got a bed for to lie down, For I was tired and very weak, I had been three days without sleep.
'The next morning, at seven o'clock, We made bargain with the truck, Across the city for to go, To the Eastern Main Depo.
'From Boston to Camden I came, My lungs were weak and racked with pain, To the doctor I went straightway, He gave me some relief without delay.'
Still more 'terrible' are the '_Verses on the Loss of the Lady Elgin Steamboat_,' 'composed by A. W. HARMON,' the 'gifted' author of the foregoing animated lines. Our extract must be brief: but we can assure our readers that the entire 'lot' is fully equal to the subjoined 'sample:'
'COME old and young, pray now attend To the sad tale that I've now penned, About the _Lady Elgins_ fate, And her disaster on the lake.
'Captain JOHN WILSON, with courage brave, Esteem'd by all on land or wave, Associated in many minds, _And memories of the choisest kinds_.
'At the moment the ships together came, Music and dancing were the game; But in one instant all was still, In thirty minutes the steamer filled!
'Whether they were not aware Of their sad danger and despair, Or whether their appalling fate, Them speachless made, I cannot state.
'A boat was lowered with the design, If possible, the leak to find: To stop the leak was our intent, But in one half-hour down she went.
'The noble Captain firm and brave, Is thus supposed in trying to save That mother and her child he fell And died beneath the foaming swell.'
The 'verses' are too _horrible_ to bear farther quotation: 'The lake with fabrics did abound, and human beings floated round,' is the opening of a most miserable picture. SUNNEY, you have a 'rival near your throne.' * * * A CLEVER correspondent, dating from 'Saline Mines, Illinois,' sends us the following amusing specimen of '_Keeping Score by Double-Entry_.' It will be a 'nut' for book-keepers:
'YOU know ELIJE SCROGGINS, up here in White County? Yes? Well, about six years ago, ELIJE kept a kind of 'one-horse' grocery on the edge of 'Seven-mile Pararie.' I don't think he kept much beside 'bald-faced, thirty-day whiskey,' and may-be some ginger-brandy. Times were 'mighty tight,' and not much money stirring in that settlement; so ELIJE had to credit most of his customers till corn-gathering time, or till fur was good; and, as he had no 'book learning,' he used to make some kind of a mark for his different 'patrons' on a clapboard which he kept for the purpose, and then chalk down 'the drinks' against them as they got them, which in some cases was pretty often. One day there was a 'big meeting' appointed at the 'Possum Ridge school-house,' about five miles from ELIJE'S, and his wife persuaded him to go: so on Sunday morning they gathered up the children and 'toted' off to meeting to 'make a day of it.' Along through the day some of the neighbors getting a 'leetle dry,' went over to ELIJE'S to 'moisten their clay,' and finding the door shut, and nobody about, they were somewhat alarmed, and 'didn't know but some body was either sick or dead;' so they pushed in to see about it, and finding things all right, they concluded that ELIJE and his 'old woman' had gone off on a visit; so they took a drink all around, out of friendly feeling to him, and were about going off, when one of them caught sight of the tally-board stuck under the rafter, and pulled it down: and either out of pure devilment, or thinking it an easy way to pay off a score, gave it a wipe, and stuck it back again. In the evening, when ELIJE got back, he had occasion to look at his accounts for some purpose or other, when to his great amazement and dismay, he found it considerably 'mixed!' He scratched his head over it for some time, evidently trying to make it out, and finally calling his wife in he showed it to her, and said: 'There, that's what a man gets for going off and neglecting his business.' On the whole, however, he got over it pretty quietly for him, for ELIJE use to swear 'mightily' 'when his back was up.' He didn't have much to say now, though, but sat with his chin on his hands, and his elbows on his knees, looking in the fire all the evening: but on Monday morning he got up 'bright and early,' and taking down the clap-board, gave it a good wash, and began very industriously to figure away upon it. Two or three times during the morning his wife looked in, and he was still working away at it; and at dinner-time, when she came to call him, she ventured to ask how he was getting on. 'Well,' said he, holding the tally-board off at arms'-length, and looking at it very earnestly, with his head on one side, 'I don't know as I've got as much charged as I had, _but I've got it on better men_!''
'A new way to make old debts!' * * * HOW suddenly, how unexpectedly, in a _Winterish Day in the Country_, comes up the 'fond remembrance' of days and friends that are no more! As one walks mid-leg deep amidst the damp-rustling leaves, listens to the moaning of the winds, and watches the red sunlight dying into shadow between the folds of the hills over the broad river, the sad hours of memory come up in long review:
'I FELT the leaves were shed, I felt the birds were dead: And on the earth I snowed the winter of my soul!'
Expressive words, and only too true! * * * NOT less than a 'good many' readers of the KNICKERBOCKER can 'place' the parties who figure in this little anecdote, which we are assured is entirely authentic: 'A young lady named TAYLOR, meeting a former acquaintance named MASON, at a party, where the latter was assuming any quantity of importance in consequence of her wealth, and who did not deign to notice her, revenged herself by stepping into the group surrounding the haughty belle, and thus addressing her, with the most winning smile: 'I have been thinking, my dear MISS MASON, that we ought to exchange names.' 'Why, indeed?' 'Because my name is TAYLOR, and my father was a mason; and your name is MASON, and your father was a tailor.' There was a scene then; but there was no help for it. * * * 'I WAS exceedingly amused,' writes a Boston friend, 'by your double-brace of '_The Practical Jokes of the late Colonel E. L. Snow_.' I knew that original 'Joker' well. There was never any _mischief_ in his fun: it was always harmless and always good-natured. I spent a winter four years ago in your 'Great Metropolis,' and saw much of 'THE COLONEL' in the very barber's shop which you designate. One cold blustering morning he came in, and as he took his seat in the 'operator's chair,' he said, with a 'wondering' expression of countenance: 'That is a strange thing about the Fountain: it's frozen over sixty feet high!' 'Is that _so?_' asked three or four gentlemen, seated on a sofa, waiting their 'turn.' 'Yes: it's a fact: I saw it myself before I came in.' Out they rushed, to the Park Fountain, which at _that_ time used to throw up its white column of water into the clear, cold air. Pretty soon they came back 'disgusted,' and looking daggers at SNOW, 'It's all a lie!' they said: 'the Fountain is playing eighty feet high: HUMBUG!' 'No humbug at all,' responded the 'COLONEL:' 'I meant the Fountain in Union-Square! It's a good deal _more_ than sixty feet high from here; and I saw it frozen solid not more than half-an-hour ago!' 'The laugh' was on the other side now: but the victims were good-natured fellows, and laughed as heartily as the rest. On another occasion, upon entering the shop, I found SNOW 'in the chair,' with a very lugubrious countenance 'on him,' as the Irish have it. 'That was a terrible thing,' said he, 'which happened on the Harlem Railroad this morning!' 'What was _that_?' asked several 'voices.' 'Why,' explained SNOW, 'the entire New-Haven train, of eight cars, ran over four men and a young lady.' 'They were instantly killed, of course?' 'No: miraculous as it may seem, not a single life was lost!' 'Why, how was _that_?' 'Well, they were _under the Harlem Bridge_, when the train passed over them, and not a car touched them! Cur'ous, wasn't it?' * * * THANKS to our old _Boyhood's Friend_, 'J. B. B.,' for his notelet, written in our absence at the desk of our town-sanctum. One 'plum' in it we are going to transfer to our own 'pudding:' 'I met an old school-mate in the cars last evening, who gave me an amusing anecdote of a character who lived in Pittsfield, (Mass.;) a man full of hearty humor--his name S---- P----, Jr. He was at Cleveland; and recognizing a nephew across the street, hailed him, as he was walking along in solemn mood: and as he took his hand he said: 'Well, TOM, I understand you have sold out entirely and gone into a new business: taken up the MILLERITE business, eh!' 'Well, Uncle LEM.,' was the reply, 'what would _you _do if you certainly expected the Last Day would come at twelve o'clock to-day?' 'Why, TOM,' said LEM., laughing, 'I'll _tell_ you what I would do: I would just work till five minutes before twelve, and then I'd wash up!'' Not a bad reply to a 'hard question!' * * * CAN any of our readers or correspondents inform us who is the author of the ensuing stanzas? They are certainly very beautiful: and their melody and fervor lead us to think that they may be from the pen of Rev. Mr. BONAR, from whom we have heretofore quoted two or three exquisite effusions. These lines bear this motto, from ISAIAH: '_I will lead thee in the paths they have not known_:'
'HOW few who, from their youthful day, Look on to what their life may be; Painting the visions of the way In colors soft and bright and free; How few who to such paths have brought The hopes and dreams of early thought! For GOD, through ways they have not known, Will lead HIS own.
'The eager hearts, the soul of fire, Who pant to toil for GOD and man; And view with eyes of keen desire The upland way of toil and pain; Almost with scorn they think of rest, Of holy calm, of tranquil breast, But GOD, through ways they have not known, Will lead them home.
'A lowlier task on them is laid-- With love to make the labor light; And there their beauty they must shed On quiet homes and lost to sight. Changed are their visions high and fair, Yet calm and still they labor there; For GOD, through ways they have not known, Will lead HIS own.
'The gentle heart that thinks with pain, It scarce can lowliest tasks fulfil; And if it dared its life to scan, Would ask but pathway low and still; Often such lowly heart is brought To act with power beyond its thought: For GOD, through ways they have not known, Will lead HIS own.
'And they, the bright, who long to prove, In joyous path, in cloudless lot, How fresh from earth their grateful love Can spring without a stain or spot-- Often such youthful heart is given The path of grief, to walk in Heaven: For GOD, through ways they have not known. Will lead HIS own.
'What matter what the path shall be? The end is clear and bright to view; We know that we a strength shall see, Whate'er the day may bring to do. We see the end, the house of GOD, But not the path to that abode; For GOD, through ways they have not known, Will lead HIS own.'
These fervent lines are 'poetry.' * * * Mr. CHARLES L. ELLIOTT, the eminent portrait-painter, was safely delivered of the subjoined remark, at a quarter to four of the clock, on the afternoon of February the twenty-second, while crossing the Hudson River. He commenced as follows: said he: The epitaphs which you quote in a late number of the KNICKERBOCKER, remind me of a _verbal_ one which my father once heard. An old fellow, a coarse, ill-grained Dutchman, died one day. He was a disagreeable man, and a bad neighbor: even the children feared and disliked him. One of his neighbors asked him just before his death, if he was ready to go, to which he answered: 'Yes.' 'Well,' was the rejoinder, 'if you are willing to die yourself, all your neighbors are willing you should.' At the grave, even, there was no one to say a good word for him, except one good-hearted old German, who remarked, as he turned away to go home: '_Well, he vas a goot shmoker!_'' This was the 'shmoker's only epitaph. * * * A FRIEND mentioned to us the other evening an amusing example of '_A Dutchman's Reliance on Providence_.' There had been a great drought in the county of Columbia: no rain had fallen for the space of two or three months; and all the upland fields were parched and dry: insomuch that great fears were entertained that there would be an utter failure of the usual crops. In this extremity, a meeting was called of all devout citizens of that particular 'rural district,' to offer up _Prayers for Rain_ to the 'LORD of the Harvest.' One honest old Dutchman who had a large farm, stated _his_ 'views' to the meeting in this way: 'Dere ish some vields along der hills dere, dat ish pooty dry: I wis you bray for some rain on _dem_: but you needn't bray for any mores vater on der moisht black ground under der hills dere; 'cause corn _moosht_ grow on _dem_ vields any how!' The 'argument' was effective! * * * AMONG the _Public Lecturers of the Season_ we may mention the name of our correspondent, and country neighbor, Mr. WILLIAM WIRT SIKES. His lectures are upon attractive themes, are well written, and he delivers them with entire effect. The subjects of four, which we have seen mentioned, are: '_The Beautiful_,' '_William Wirt_,' '_The Noble Life_,' '_Insanity_.' Mr. SIKES' address is, Nyack on the Hudson. * * * '_A Conundrum by Induction_,' must have cost a good deal of hard work to make:
WHY is a bee-hive like a bad potato? Because a bee-hive is a bee-holder: And a beholder is a spectator, And a speck-tater is a bad potato!
'Apt,' for a metaphysician. * * * WE call attention to the advertisement elsewhere of '_The Cosmopolitan Art-Journal_. It has succeeded in securing the liberal favor of the public, having reached a circulation of nearly forty thousand copies. '_The Falstaff_,' which it furnishes as a premium picture, is an excellent work of art, and cannot fail of a very wide diffusion. * * * _The Editorial Correspondence of The Knickerbocker_,' extending through a period of over twenty years, will be commenced in our next. Having to gain nearly a month's time in the advance preparation of the present number, we have not found the requisite leisure to do justice to the opening paper.
Fifty-Seventh Volume of the Knickerbocker.
WE offer, as will be seen by our Prospectus, to each subscriber to the KNICKERBOCKER for 1861, as a premium, the choice of the two very fine Steel-plate Engravings, 'ROBERT BURNS IN HIS COTTAGE COMPOSING THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT,' and the 'MERRY-MAKING IN THE OLDEN TIME.' The first of these pictures--BURNS--has been engraved by the distinguished American artist, JOHN C. MCRAE, after the celebrated painting by Sir WILLIAM ALLAN: and represents BURNS in his humble home, clad in the homely garb in which he was wont to tread the fields, his dog at his feet and his pen in his hand, musing seriously over those immortal utterances that found vent in the exquisite lyric above named. The portrait is perfect, and the picture executed in the highest style of art. Its size is sixteen by twenty-one inches; and its publication price is two dollars.
The other engraving we offer as a premium, the 'MERRY-MAKING,' is a perfect copy of FRITH'S celebrated picture, and was engraved at an expense of two thousand dollars. It measures twenty-five by nineteen and a half inches in size, contains thirty-nine figures, and is, beyond comparison, the finest work of the kind ever offered as a premium in this country. The following description of it is furnished us by WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, Esq.:
'ALMOST in the centre of the picture and a little in the back-ground, is a country-dance on the green, with a hard-featured fiddler perched on a high seat, and another musician in a tie-wig standing by him, playing with all their might. On the right, two bouncing girls are gaily pulling toward the dance a gray-haired man, who seems vainly to remonstrate that his 'dancing days are over,' while a waggish little chit pushes him forward from behind, greatly to the amusement of his spouse, who is still sitting at the tea-table, from which he has been dragged. On the left, under a magnificent spreading oak, sit the 'Squire and his wife, whom a countryman with his hat off is respectfully inviting to take part in the dance. To the left of the 'Squire is a young couple on the grass, to whom a gipsy, with an infant on her shoulder, is telling their fortune. Over the shoulders of this couple is seen a group engaged in quoit-playing, and back of the whole is a landscape of gentle slopes and copses.'
No similar opportunity will be presented the public for obtaining these very fine engravings.
THE Publisher invites contributions on subjects of immediate National interest, Historical, Biographical, Descriptive, Scientific, etc. Such articles, if written in a lively and attractive manner, and embodying _new and useful information of a practical character_, will always receive early and respectful attention; and if used, will be suitably paid for.
Manuscripts, excepting short poems, if not accepted, will be returned if accompanied by a sufficient number of stamps to pay the postage.
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Minor typographical and punctuation errors have been corrected without note. Irregularities and inconsistencies in the text have been retained as printed.
Mismatched quotes are not fixed if it's not sufficiently clear where the missing quote should be placed.
The cover for the eBook version of this book was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.