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Title: Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. 15, No. 87, March, 1875
Release Date: July 31, 2004 [eBook #13061]
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***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK LIPPINCOTT'S MAGAZINE OF POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE, VOL. 15, NO. 87, MARCH, 1875***
AUSTRALIAN SCENES AND ADVENTURES.
THE MATCHLESS ONE:
A Tale of American Society, In Four Chapters by ITA ANIOL PROKOP.
THREE FEATHERS by WILLIAM BLACK
LA MADONNA DELLA SEDIA.
RECOLLECTIONS OF THE TUSCAN COURT UNDER THE GRAND DUKE LEOPOLD
OUR MONTHLY GOSSIP.
Crossing the Courtyard of the Prison.
Outstaring the Guard.
Charity to the Exile.
A Russian Othello.
Vain Attempt to Escape.
A Samaritan of the Steppes.
The Benediction With Two Fingers.
Crossing the Frontier.
Aborigines of the Eastern Coast.
Daughter of King Tatambo.
Negro War-Dance, or Corrobori.
Companions of the Hunt.
Fern Trees Near Hobart Town.
Forest of Ferns.
Library of Melbourne.
The Environs of Melbourne.
All the languages of continental Europe have some phrase by which a parting people express the hope of meeting again. The French au revoir, the [pg 266] Italian à rivederla, the Spanish hasta mañana, the German Auf Wiedersehen,—these and similar forms, varied with the occasion, have grown from the need of the heart to cheat separation of its pain. The Poles have an expression of infinitely deeper meaning, which embodies all that human nature can utter of grief and despair—"To meet nevermore." This is the heart-rending farewell with which the patriot exiled to Siberia takes leave of family and friends.
There is indeed little chance that he will ever again return to his country and his home. Since Beniowski the Pole made his famous romantic flight from the coal-mines of Kamschatka in the last century, there has been but a single instance of a Siberian exile making good his escape. In our day, M. Rufin Piotrowski, also a Polish patriot, has had the marvelous good-fortune to succeed in the all but impossible attempt; and he has given his story to his countrymen in a simple, unpretending narrative, which, even in an abridged form, will, we think, be found one of thrilling interest.
In January, 1843, we find Piotrowski in Paris, a refugee for already twelve years, and on the eve of a secret mission into Poland of which he gives no explanation. By means of an American acquaintance he procured a passport from the British embassy describing him as Joseph Catharo of Malta: he spoke Italian perfectly, English indifferently, and was thus well suited to support the character of an Italian-born subject of Queen Victoria. Having crossed France, Germany, Austria and Hungary in safety, he reached his destination, the town of Kamenitz in Podolia, on the Turkish frontier. His ostensible object was to settle there as a teacher of languages, and on the strength of his British passport he obtained the necessary permission from the police before their suspicions had been roused. He also gained admission at once into the society of the place, where, notwithstanding his pretended origin, he was generally known as "the Frenchman," the common nickname for a foreigner in the Polish provinces. He had soon a number of pupils, some of them Poles—others, members of the families of Russian resident officials. He frequented the houses of the latter most, in order not to attract attention to his intercourse with his compatriots. He spoke Russian fluently, but feigned total ignorance both of that and his own language, and even affected an incapacity for learning them when urged to do so by his scholars. Among the risks to which this exposed him was the temptation of cutting short a difficult explanation in his lessons by a single word, which would have made the whole matter clear. But this, although the most frequent and vexatious, was not the severest trial of his incognito. One day, while giving a lesson to two beautiful Polish girls, daughters of a lady who had shown him great kindness, the conversation turned upon Poland: he spoke with an indifference which roused the younger to a vehement outburst on behalf of her country. The elder interrupted her sharply in their native language with, "How can you speak of holy things to a hare-brained Frenchman?" At another Polish house, a visitor, hearing that M. Catharo was from Paris, was eager to ask news of his brother, who was living there in exile: their host dissuaded him, saying, "You know that inquiries about relations in exile are strictly forbidden. Take care! one is never safe with a stranger." Their unfortunate fellow-countryman, who knew the visitor's brother very well, was forced to bend over a book to hide the blood which rushed to his face in the conflict of feeling. He kept so close a guard upon himself that he would never sleep in the room with another person—which it was sometimes difficult to avoid on visits to neighboring country-seats—lest a word spoken in his troubled slumbers should betray him. He passed nine months in familiar relations with all the principal people of the place, his nationality and his designs being known to but very few of his countrymen, who kept the secret with rigid fidelity. At length, however, he became aware that he was watched; the manner of some of his Russian friends grew inquiring and constrained; he received private warnings, [pg 267] and perceived that he was dogged by the police. It was not too late for flight, but he knew that such a course would involve all who were in his secret, and perhaps thousands of others, in tribulation, and that for their sakes it behooved him to await the terrible day of reckoning which was inevitably approaching. The only use to which he could turn this time of horrible suspense was in concerting a plan of action with his colleagues. His final interview with the chief of them took place in a church at the close of the short winter twilight on the last day of the year. After agreeing on all the points which they could foresee, they solemnly took leave of each other, and Piotrowski was left alone in the church, where he lingered to pray fervently for strength for the hour that was at hand.
The next morning at daybreak he was suddenly shaken by the arm: he composed himself for the part he was to play, and slowly opened his eyes. His room was filled with Russian officials: he was arrested. He protested against the outrage to a British subject, but his papers were seized, he was carried before the governor of the place, and after a brief examination given into the custody of the police.
He was examined on several successive days, but persisted in his first story, although aware that his identity was known, and that the information had come from St. Petersburg. His object was to force the authorities to confront him with those who had been accused on his account, that they might hear his confession and regulate their own accordingly. One day a number of them were brought together—some his real accomplices, others mere acquaintance. [pg 268] After the usual routine of questions and denials, Piotrowski suddenly exclaimed in Polish, as one who can hold out no longer, "Well, then, yes! I am no British subject, but a Pole of the Ukraine. I emigrated after the revolution of 1831: I came back because I could bear a life of exile no longer, and I only wished to breathe my native air. I came under a false name, for I could not have come in my own. I confided my secret to a few of my countrymen, and asked their aid and advice: I had nothing else to ask or tell them."
The preliminary interrogatories concluded, he was sent for a more rigid examination to the fortress of Kiow. He left Kamenitz early in January at midnight, under an escort of soldiers and police. The town was dark and silent as they passed through the deserted streets, but he saw lights in the upper windows of several houses whose inmates had been implicated in his accusation. Was it a mute farewell or the sign of vigils of anguish? They traveled all night and part of the next day: their first halt was at a great state prison, where Piotrowski was for the first time shut up in a cell. He was suffering from the excitement through which he had been passing, from the furious speed of the journey, which had been also very rough, and from a slight concussion of the brain occasioned by one of the terrible jolts of the rude vehicle: a physician saw him and ordered repose. The long, dark, still hours of the night were gradually calming his nerves when he was disturbed by a distant sound, which he soon guessed to be the clanking of chains, followed by a chant in which many voices mingled. It was Christmas Eve, old style, as still [pg 269] observed in some of the provinces, and the midnight chorus was singing an ancient Christmas hymn which every Polish child knows from the cradle. For twelve years the dear familiar melody had not greeted his ears, and now he heard it sung by his captive fellow-countrymen in a Russian dungeon.
Two days later they set out again, and now he was chained hand and foot with heavy irons, rusty, and too small for his limbs. The sleigh hurried on day and night with headlong haste: it was upset, everybody was thrown out, the prisoner's chain caught and he was dragged until he lost consciousness. In this state he arrived at Kiow. Here he was thrown into a cell six feet by five, almost dark and disgustingly dirty. The wretched man was soon covered from head to foot with vermin, of which his handcuffs prevented his ridding himself. However, in a day or two, after a visit from the commandant, his cell was cleaned. His manacles prevented his walking, or even standing, and the moral effect of being unable to use his hands was a strange apathy such as might precede imbecility. He was interrogated several times, but always adhered to his confession at Kamenitz; menaces of harsher treatment, even of torture, were tried—means which he knew too well had been resorted to before; his guards were forbidden to exchange a word with him, so that his time was passed in solitude, silence and absolute inoccupation. Since Levitoux, another political prisoner, fearful that the tortures to which he was subjected might wring from him confessions which would criminate his friends, had set fire to his straw bed with his night-lamp and burned himself alive, no lights were allowed in the cells, so that a great portion of the twenty-four hours went by in darkness. After some time he was visited by Prince Bibikoff, the governor-general of that section of the country, one of the men whose names are most associated with the sufferings of Poland: he tried by intimidation and persuasion to induce the prisoner to reveal his projects and the names of his associates. Piotrowski held firm, but the prince on withdrawing ordered his chains to be struck off. The relief was ineffable: he could do nothing but stretch his arms to enjoy the sense of their free possession, and he felt his natural energy and independence of thought return. He had not been able to take off his boots since leaving Kamenitz, and his legs were bruised and sore, but he walked to and fro in his cell all day, enjoying the very pain this gave him as a proof that they were unchained. Several weeks passed without any other incident, when late one night he was surprised by a light in his cell: an aide-de-camp and four soldiers entered and ordered him to rise and follow them. He thought that he was summoned to his execution. He crossed the great courtyard of the prison supported by the soldiers; the snow creaked under foot; the night was very dark, and the sharp fresh air almost took away his breath, yet it was infinitely welcome to him after the heavy atmosphere of his cell, and he inhaled it with keen pleasure, thinking that each whiff was almost the last. He was led into a large, faintly-lighted room, where officers of various grades were smoking around a large table. It was only the committee of investigation, for hitherto his examinations had not been strictly in order.
This was but the first of a series of sittings which were prolonged through nearly half a year. During this time his treatment improved; his cell was kept clean; he had no cause to complain of his food; he was allowed to walk for an hour daily in the corridor, which, though cold and damp, in some degree satisfied his need of exercise. He was always guarded by two sentinels, to whom he was forbidden to speak. He learned in some way, however, that several of his co-accused were his fellow-prisoners: they were confined in another part of the fortress, and he but once caught a glimpse of one of them—so changed that he hardly recognized him. His neighbors on the corridor were common criminals. The president of the committee offered him the use of a library, but he only asked for a Bible, "with which," he says, "I was no longer [pg 270] alone." His greatest suffering arose from the nervous irritability caused by the unremitting watch of the sentinel at his door, which drove him almost frantic. The sensation of being spied at every instant, in every action, of meeting this relentless, irresponsive gaze on waking, of encountering it at each minute of the day, was maddening. From daybreak he longed for the night, which should deliver him from the sight. Sometimes, beside himself, he would suddenly put his own face close to the grating and stare into the tormenting eyes to force them to divert their gaze for a moment, laughing like a savage when he succeeded. He was in this feverish condition when called to his last examination. He perceived at once, from the solemnity of all present, that the crisis had come. His sentence was pronounced: death, commuted by Prince Bibikoff's intercession to hard labor for life in Siberia. He was degraded from the nobility, to which order, like half the inhabitants of Poland, he belonged, and condemned to make the journey in chains. Without being taken back to his cell, he was at once put into irons, the same rusty, galling ones he had worn already, and placed in a kibitka, or traveling-carriage, between two armed guards. The gates of the fortress closed behind him, and before him opened the road to Siberia.
His destination was about two thousand miles distant. The incidents of the journey were few and much of the same character. Charity and sympathy were shown him by people of every class. Travelers of distinction, especially ladies, pursued him with offers of assistance and money, which he would not accept. The only gifts which he did not refuse were the food and drink brought him by the peasants where they stopped to change horses: wherever there was a [pg 271] halt the good people plied him with tea, brandy and simple dainties, which he gratefully accepted. At one station a man in the uniform of the Russian civil service timidly offered him a parcel wrapped in a silk handkerchief, saying, "Accept this from my saint." Piotrowski, repelled by the sight of the uniform, shook his head. The other flushed: "You are a Pole, and do not understand our customs. This is my birthday, and on this day, above all others, I should share what I have with the unfortunate. Pray accept it in the name of my patron saint." He could not resist so Christian an appeal. The parcel contained bread, salt and some money: the last he handed over to the guards, who in any case would not have let him keep it: he broke the bread with its donor. His guards were almost the only persons with whom he had to do who showed themselves insensible to his pain and sorrow. They were divided between their fears of not arriving on the day fixed, in which case they would be flogged, and of his dying of fatigue on the route, when they would fare still worse. The apprehension of his suicide beset them: at the ferries or fords which they crossed each of them held him by an arm lest he should drown himself, and all his meat was given to him minced, to be eaten with a spoon, as he was not to be trusted for an instant with a knife. Thus they traveled night and day for three weeks, only stopping to change horses and take their meals; yet he esteemed himself lucky not to have been sent with a gang of convicts, chained to some atrocious malefactor, or to have been ordered to make the journey on foot, like his countryman, Prince Sanguzsko. At last they reached Omsk, the head-quarters of Prince Gortchakoff, then governor-general of Western Siberia. By some informality in the mode of his transportation, the interpretation of Piotrowski's sentence depended solely on this man: he might be sent to work in one of the government manufactories, or to the mines, the last, worst dread of a Siberian exile. While awaiting the decision he was in charge of a gay, handsome young officer, who treated him with great friendliness, and in the course of their conversation, which turned chiefly on Siberia, showed him a map of the country. The prisoner devoured it with his eyes, tried to engrave it on his memory, asked innumerable questions about roads and water-courses, and betrayed so much agitation that the young fellow noticed it, and exclaimed, "Ah! don't think of escape. Too many of your countrymen have tried it, and those are fortunate who, tracked on every side, famished, desperate, have been able to put an end to themselves before being retaken, for if they are, then comes the knout and a life of misery beyond words. In Heaven's name, give up that thought!" The commandant of the fortress paid him a short official visit, and exclaimed repeatedly, "How sad! how sad! to come back when you were free-in a foreign country!" The chief of police, a hard, dry, vulture-like man, asked why he had dared to return without the czar's permission. "I could not bear my homesickness," replied the prisoner. "O native country!" said the Russian in a softened voice, "how dear thou art!" After various official interviews he was taken to the governor-general's ante-chamber, where he found a number of clerks, most of whom were his exiled compatriots and received him warmly. While he was talking with them a door opened, and Gortchakoff stood on the threshold: he fixed his eyes on the prisoner for some moments, and withdrew without a word. An hour of intense anxiety followed, and then an officer appeared, who announced that he was consigned to the distilleries of Ekaterininski-Zavod, some two hundred miles farther north.
Ekaterininski-Zavod is a miserable village of a couple of hundred small houses on the river Irtish, in the midst of a wide plain. Its inhabitants are all in some way connected with the government distillery: they are the descendants of criminals formerly transported. Piotrowski, after a short interview with the inspector of the works, was entered on the list of convicts and sent to the guard-house. "He is to work with his [pg 272] feet in irons," added the inspector. This unusual severity was in consequence of a memorandum in Prince Gortchakoff's own writing appended to the prisoner's papers: "Piotrowski must be watched with especial care." The injunction was unprecedented, and impressed the director with the prisoner's importance. Before being taken to his work he was surrounded by his fellow-countrymen, young men of talent and promise, who were there, like himself, for political reasons. Their emotion was extreme: they talked rapidly and eagerly, exhorting him to patience and silence, and to do nothing to incur corporal punishment, which was the mode of keeping the workmen in order, so that in time he might be promoted, like themselves, from hard labor to office-work. At the guard-house he found a crowd of soldiers, among whom were many Poles, incorporated into the standing army of Siberia for having taken up arms for their country. This is one of the mildest punishments for that offence. They seized every pretext for speaking to him, to ask what was going on in Poland, and whether there were any hopes for her. Overcome by fatigue and misery, he sat down upon a bench, where he remained sunk in the gloomiest thoughts until accosted by a man of repulsive aspect, branded on the face—the Russian practice with criminals of the worst sort—who said abruptly, "Get up and go to work." It was the overseer, himself a former convict. "O my God!" exclaims Piotrowski, "Thou alone didst hear the bitter cry of my soul when this outcast first spoke to me as my master."
Before going to work his irons were struck off, thanks to the instant entreaties of his compatriots: he was then given a broom and shovel and set to clear [pg 273] rubbish and filth off the roof of a large unfinished building. On one side was a convict of the lowest order, with whom he worked—on the other, the soldier who mounted guard over them. To avoid the indignity of chastisement or reproof—indeed, to escape notice altogether—he bent his whole force to his task, without raising his head, or even his eyes, but the iron entered into his soul and he wept.
The order of his days knew no variation. Rising at sunrise, the convicts worked until eight o'clock, when they breakfasted, then until their dinner at noon, and again from one o'clock until dark. His tasks were fetching wood and water, splitting and piling logs, and scavenger-work of all sorts: it was all out of doors and in every extreme of the Siberian climate. His companions were all ruffians of a desperate caste: burglary, highway robbery, rape, murder in every degree, were common cases. One instance will suffice, and it is not the worst: it was that of a young man, clerk of a wine-merchant in St. Petersburg. He had a mistress whom he loved, but suspected of infidelity; he took her and another girl into the country for a holiday, and as they walked together in the fields fired a pistol at his sweetheart's head: it only wounded her; the friend rushed away shrieking for help; the victim fell on her knees and cried, "Forgive me!" but he plunged a knife up to the hilt in her breast, and she fell dead at his feet. He gave himself up to justice, received the knout and was transported for life.
The daily contact with ignorant, brutish men, made worse than brutes by a life of hideous crime, was the worst feature in his wretched existence. He had determined never to submit to blows, should the forfeit be his own life or another's, and the incessant apprehension kept his [pg 274] mind in a state of frightful tension: it also nerved him to physical exertions beyond his strength, and to a moral restraint of which he had not deemed himself capable in the way of endurance and self-command. But in the end he was the gainer. After the first year he was taken into the office of the establishment, and received a salary of ten francs a month. He was also allowed to leave the barracks where he had been herded with the convicts, and to lodge with two fellow-countrymen in a little house which they built for themselves, and which they shared with the soldiers who guarded them. It was a privilege granted to the most exemplary of the convicts to lodge with one or other of the private inhabitants of the village; but besides their own expenses they had to pay those of the soldier detailed to watch them. In the course of the winter they were comforted by the visit of a Polish priest. A certain number are permitted, to travel through Siberia yearly, stopping wherever there are Polish prisoners to administer the sacraments and consolations of their Church to them: there is no hardship which these heroic men will not encounter in performing their thrice holy mission. Piotrowski, who, like all Poles, was an ingrained Roman Catholic, after passing through phases of doubt and disbelief had returned to a fervent orthodoxy: this spiritual succor was most precious to himself and his brother-exiles.
One idea, however, was never absent from his mind—that of escape. At the moment of receiving his sentence at Kiow he had resolved to be free, and his resolution had not faltered. He had neglected no means of acquiring information about Siberia and the adjacent countries. For this he had listened to the revolting confidences of the malefactors at the barracks—for this he heard with unflagging attention, yet with no sign of interest, the long stories of the traders who came to the distillery from all parts of the empire to sell grain or buy spirits. The office in which he passed his time from eight in the morning until ten or eleven at night was their rendezvous, and by a concentration of his mental powers he acquired a thorough and accurate knowledge of the country from the Frozen Ocean to the frontiers of Persia and China, and of all its manners and customs. The prisoner who meditates escape, he says, is absorbed in an infinitude of details and calculations, of which it is only possible to give the final result. Slowly and painfully, little by little, he accumulated the indispensable articles—disguise, money, food, a weapon, passports. The last were the most essential and the most difficult: two were required, both upon paper with the government stamp—one a simple pass for short distances and absences, useless beyond a certain limit and date; the other, the plakatny, or real passport, a document of vital importance. He was able to abstract the paper from the office, and a counterfeiter in the community forged the formula and signatures. His appearance he had gradually changed by allowing his hair and beard to grow, and he had studied the tone of thought and peculiar phraseology of the born Siberian, that he might the better pass for a native. More than six months went by in preparations: then he made two false starts. He had placed much hope on a little boat, which was often forgotten at evening, moored in the Irtish. One dark night he quietly loosed it and began to row away: suddenly the moon broke through the clouds, and at the same instant the voices of the inspector and some of his subordinates were heard on the banks. Piotrowski was fortunate enough to get back unperceived. On the second attempt a dense fog rose and shut him in: he could not see a yard before him. All night long he pushed the boat hither and thither, trying at least to regain the shore; at daybreak the vapor began to disperse, but it was too late to go on; he again had the good luck to land undiscovered. Five routes were open to him—all long, and each beset with its own perils. He decided to go northward, recross the Uralian Mountains, and make his way to Archangel, nearly a thousand miles off, where, among the hundreds of foreign ships constantly in the docks, he trusted [pg 275] to find one which would bring him to America. Nobody knew his secret: he had vowed to perish rather than ever again involve others in his fate. He reckoned on getting over the first danger of pursuit by mingling with the crowds of people then traveling from every quarter to the annual fair at Irbite at the foot of the Urals.
Finally, in February, 1846, he set out on foot. His costume consisted of three shirts—a colored one uppermost, worn, Russian fashion, outside his trousers, which were of heavy cloth, like his waistcoat—and a small sheepskin burnous, heavy high boots, a bright woolen sash, a red cap with a fur border—the dress of a well-to-do peasant or commercial traveler. In a small bag he carried a change of clothing and his provisions: his money and passports were hidden about his person; he was armed with a dagger and a bludgeon. He had scarcely crossed the frozen Irtish when the sound of a sleigh behind him brought his heart to his mouth: he held his ground and was hailed by a peasant, who wanted to drive a bargain with him for a lift. After a little politic chaffering he got in, and was carried to a village about eight miles off at a gallop. There the peasant set him down, and, knocking at the first house, he asked for horses to the fair at Irbite. More bargaining, but they were soon on the road. Erelong, however, it began to snow; the track disappeared, the driver lost his way; they wandered about for some time, and were forced to stop all night in a forest—a night of agony. They were not twelve miles from Ekaterininski-Zavod: every minute the fugitive fancied he heard the bells of the pursuing kibitkas; he had a horrible [pg 276] suspicion, too, that his driver was delaying purposely to betray him, as had befallen a fellow-countryman in similar circumstances. But at daybreak they found the road, and by nightfall, having changed horses once or twice and traveled like the wind, he was well on his way. At a fresh relay he was forced to go into a tavern to make change to pay his driver: as he stood among the tipsy crowd he was hustled and his pocket-book snatched from his hand. He could not discover the thief nor recover the purse: he durst not appeal to the police, and had to let it go. In it, besides a quarter of his little hoard of money, there was a memorandum of every town and village on his way to Archangel, and his plakatny. In this desperate strait—for the last loss seemed to cut off hope—he had one paramount motive for going on: return was impossible. Once having left Ekaterininski-Zavod, his fate was sealed if retaken: he must go forward. Forward he went, falling in with troops of travelers bound to the fair. On the third evening of his flight, notwithstanding the time lost, he was at the gates of Irbite, over six hundred miles from his prison. "Halt and show your passport!" cried the sentinel. He was fumbling for the local pass with a sinking heart when the soldier whispered, "Twenty kopecks and go ahead." He passed in. The loss of his money and the unavoidable expenses had reduced his resources so much that he found it necessary to continue the journey on foot. He slept at Irbite, but was up early, and passed out of an opposite gate unchallenged.
Now began a long and weary tramp. The winter of 1846 was one of unparalleled rigor in Siberia. The snow fell in enormous masses, which buried the roads deep out of sight and crushed solidly-built houses under its weight. Every difficulty of an ordinary journey on foot was increased tenfold. Piotrowski's clothes encumbered him excessively, yet he dared not take any of them off. His habit was to avoid passing through villages as much as possible, but, if forced to do so to inquire his way, only to stop at the last house. When he was hungry he drew a bit of frozen bread from his wallet and ate it as he went along: to quench his thirst he often had no resource but melting the snow in his mouth, which rather tends to increase the desire for water. At night he went into the depths of the forest, dug a hole under the snow, and creeping in slept there as best he might. At the first experiment his feet were frozen: he succeeded in curing them, though not without great pain. Sometimes he plunged up to the waist or neck in the drifts, and expected at the next step to be buried alive. One night, having tasted to the full those two tortures, cold and hunger—of which, as he says, we complain so frequently without knowing what they mean—he ventured to ask for shelter at a little hut near a hamlet where there were only two women. They gave him warm food: he dried his drenched clothes, and stretched himself out to sleep on the bench near the kitchen stove. He was roused by voices, then shaken roughly and asked for his passport: there were three men in the room. With amazing presence of mind he demanded by what right they asked for his passport: were any of them officials? No, but they insisted on knowing who he was and where he was going, and seeing his pass. He told them the same story that he had told the women, and finally exhibited the local pass, which was now quite worthless, and would not have deceived a government functionary for a moment: they were satisfied with the sight of the stamp. They excused themselves, saying that the women had taken fright and given the alarm, thinking that, as sometimes happened, they were housing an escaped convict. This adventure taught him a severe lesson of prudence. He often passed fifteen or twenty nights under the snow in the forest, without seeking food or shelter, hearing the wolves howl at a distance. In this savage mode of life he lost the count of time: he was already far in the Ural Mountains before he again ventured to sleep beneath a roof. As he was starting the next morning his hosts said, in answer to his inquiries as to the road, "A little farther on you will find a guard-house, [pg 277] where they will look at your papers and give you precise directions." Again how narrow an escape! He turned from the road and crossed hills and gorges, often up to the chin in snow, and made an immense curve before taking up his march again.
One moonlight night, in the dead silence of the ice-bound winter, he stood on the ridge of the mountain-chain and began to descend its eastern slope. Still on and on, the way more dangerous than before, for now there were large towns upon his route, which he could only avoid by going greatly out of his way. One night in the woods he completely lost his bearings; a tempest of wind and snow literally whirled him around; his stock of bread was exhausted, and he fell upon the earth powerless; there was a buzzing in his ears, a confusion in his ideas; his senses forsook him, and but for spasms of cramp in his stomach he had no consciousness left. Torpor was settling upon him when a loud voice recalled him to himself: it was a trapper, who lived hard by, going home with his booty. He poured some brandy down the dying man's throat, and when this had somewhat revived him gave him food from his store. After some delay the stranger urged Piotrowski to get up and walk, which he did with the utmost difficulty: leaning upon this Samaritan of the steppes, he contrived to reach the highway, where a small roadside inn was in sight. There his companion left him, and he staggered forward with unspeakable joy toward the warmth and shelter. He would have gone in if he had known the guards were there on the lookout for him, for his case was now desperate. He only got as far as the threshold, and there fell forward and rolled under a bench. He asked for hot soup, but could not [pg 278] swallow, and after a few minutes fell into a swoon-like sleep which lasted twenty-four hours. Restored by nourishment, rest and dry clothes, he set forth again at once.
During the first part of his journey he had passed as a commercial traveler; after leaving Irbite he was a workman seeking employment in the government establishments; but now he assumed the character of a pilgrim to the convent of Solovetsk on a holy island in the White Sea, near Archangel. For each change of part he had to change his manners, mode of speech, his whole personality, and always be probable and consistent in his account of himself. It was mid-April: he had been journeying on foot for two months. Easter was approaching, when these pious journeys were frequent, and not far from Veliki-Oustiog he fell in with several bands of men and women—bohomolets, as they are called—on their way to Solovetsk. There were more than two thousand in the town waiting for the frozen Dwina to open, that they might proceed by water to Archangel. It being Holy Week, Piotrowski was forced to conform to the innumerable observances of the Greek ritual—prayers, canticles, genuflexions, prostrations, crossings and bowings, as manifold as in his own, but different. His inner consciousness suffered from this hypocrisy, but it was necessary to his part. They were detained at Veliki-Oustiog a mortal month, during which these acts of devotion went on with almost unabated zeal among the boholomets. At length the river was free, and they set out. Their vessel was a huge hulk which looked like a floating barn: it was manned by twenty or thirty rowers, and to replenish his purse a little the fugitive took an oar. The agent who had charge of the expedition required their passports: among the number the irregularity of Piotrowski's escaped notice. The prayers and prostrations went on during the voyage, which lasted a fort-night. One morning the early sunshine glittered on the gilded domes of Archangel: the vessel soon touched the shore, and his passport was returned to him uninspected, with the small sum he had earned by rowing.
He had reached his goal; a thousand miles of deadly suffering and danger lay behind him; he was on the shores of the White Sea, with vessels of every nation lying at anchor ready to bear him away to freedom. Yet he was careful not to commit himself by any imprudence or inconsistency. He went with the pilgrims to their vast crowded lodging-house, and for several days joined in their visits to the different churches of Archangel; but when they embarked again for the holy island he stayed behind under the pretext of fatigue, but really to go unobserved to the harbor. There lay the ships from every part of the world, with their flags floating from the masts. Alas! alas! on every wharf a Russian sentinel mounted guard day and night, challenging every one who passed, and on the deck of each ship there was another. In vain he risked the consequences of dropping his character of an ignorant Siberian peasant so far as to speak to a group of sailors, first in French and then in German; they understood neither: the idlers on the quays began to gather round in idle curiosity, and he had to desist. In vain, despite the icy coldness of the water, he tried swimming in the bay to approach some vessel for the chance of getting speech of the captain or crew unseen by the sentinel. In vain he resorted to every device which desperation could suggest. After three days he was forced to look the terrible truth in the face: there was no escape possible from Archangel.
Baffled and hopeless, he turned his back on the town, not knowing where to go. To retrace his steps would be madness. He followed the shore of the White Sea to Onega, a natural direction for pilgrims returning from Solovetsk to take. His lonely way lay through a land of swamp and sand, with a sparse growth of stunted pines; the midnight sun streamed across the silent stretches; the huge waves of the White Sea, lashed by a long storm, plunged foaming upon the desolate beach. Days and nights of walking brought him to Onega: there [pg 279] was no way of getting to sea from there, and after a short halt he resumed his journey southward along the banks of the river Onega, hardly knowing whither or wherefore he went. The hardships of his existence at midsummer were fewer than at midwinter, but the dangers were greater: the absence of a definite goal, of a distinct hope which had supported him before, unnerved him physically. He had reached the point when he dreaded fatigue more than risk. In spite of his familiarity with the minutiae of Russian customs, he was nearly betrayed one day by his ignorance of tolokno, a national dish. On another occasion he stopped at the cabin of a poor old man to ask his way: the gray-beard made him come in, and after some conversation began to confide his religious grievances to him, which turned upon the persecutions to which a sect of religionists is exposed in Russia for adhering to certain peculiarities in the forms of worship. Happily, Piorowski was well versed in these subjects. The poor old man, after dwelling long and tearfully on the woes of his fellow-believers, looked cautiously in every direction, locked the door, and after exacting an oath of secresy drew from a hiding-place a little antique brass figure of Byzantine origin, representing our Saviour in the act of benediction with two fingers only raised, according to the form cherished by the dissenters.
Following his purposeless march for hundreds of miles, the fugitive reached Vytegra, where the river issues from the Lake of Onega. There, on the wharf, a peasant asked him whither he was bound: he replied that he was a pilgrim on his way from Solovetsk to the shrines of Novgorod and Kiow. The peasant [pg 280] said he was going to St. Petersburg, and would give him a passage for his service if he would take an oar. The bargain was struck, and that night they started on their voyage to the capital of Poland's arch-enemy, the head-quarters of politics, the source whence his own arrest had emanated. He had no design: he was going at hazard. The voyage was long: they followed the Lake of Onega, the Lake of Ladoga and the river Neva. Sometimes poor people got a lift in the boat: toward the end of the voyage they took aboard a number of women-servants returning to their situations in town from a visit to their country homes. Among them was an elderly woman going to see her daughter, who was a washerwoman at St. Petersburg. Piotrowski showed her some small kindnesses, which won her fervent gratitude. As they landed in the great capital, which seemed the very focus of his dangers, and he stood on the wharf wholly at a loss what should be his next step, the poor woman came up with her daughter and offered to show him cheap lodgings. He followed them, carrying his protectress's trunk. The lodgings were cheap and miserable, and the woman of the house demanded his passport. He handed it to her with a thrill of anxiety, and carelessly announced his intention of reporting himself at the police-office according to rule. She glanced at the paper, which she could not read, and saw the official stamp: she was satisfied, and began to dissuade him from going to the police. It then appeared that the law required her to accompany him as her lodger; that a great deal of her time would be lost in the delays and formalities of the office, [pg 281] which, being a working-woman, she could ill afford; and as he was merely passing through the city and had his passport, there could be no harm in staying away. The next day, while wandering about the streets seeking a mode of escape, the pilot of a steam-packet to Riga asked him if he would like to sail with them the next day, and named a very moderate fare. His heart leapt up, but the next instant the man asked to see his passport: he took it out trembling, but the sailor, without scrutiny, cried, "Good! Be off with you, and come back to-morrow morning at seven o'clock." The next morning at seven he was on board, and the boat was under way.
From Riga he had to make his way on foot across Courland and Lithuania to the Prussian frontier. He now made a change in his disguise, and gave himself out as a dealer in hogs' bristles. In Lithuania he found himself once more on his beloved native soil, and the longing to speak his own language, to make himself known to a fellow-countryman, was almost irresistible; but he sternly quelled such a yearning. As he neared the frontier he had the utmost difficulty in ascertaining where and how it was guarded, and what he should have to encounter in passing. At length he learned enough for his purpose: there were no guards on the Prussian side. Reaching a rampart of the fortifications, he waited until the moment when the two sentinels on duty were back to back on their beats, and jumped down into the first of the three ditches which protected the boundary. Clambering and jumping, he reached the edge of the third: shots were fired in several directions; he had been seen. He slid into the third ditch, scrambled up the opposite side, sprang down once more, rushed on until out of sight of the soldiers, and fell panting in a little wood. There he lay for hours without stirring, as he knew the Russian guards sometimes violated the boundary in pursuit of fugitives. But there was no pursuit, and he at last took heart. Then he began a final transformation. He had lately bought a razor, a pocket-mirror and some soap, and with these, by the aid of a slight rain which was falling, he succeeded with much difficulty in shaving himself and changing his clothes to a costume he had provided expressly for Prussia. When night had closed he set forth once more, lighter of heart than for many long years, though well aware that by international agreement he was not yet out of danger. He pushed on toward the grand duchy of Posen, where he hoped to find assistance from his fellow-countrymen, who, being under Prussian rule, would not be compromised by aiding him. He passed through Memel and Tilsit, and reached Königsberg without let or hindrance—over two hundred miles on Prussian soil in addition to all the rest. There he found a steamboat to sail the next day in the direction which he wished to follow. He had slept only in the open fields, and meant to do so on this night and re-enter the town betimes in the morning. Meanwhile he sat down on a heap of stones in the street, and, overcome by fatigue, fell into a profound sleep. He was awakened by the patrol: his first confused words excited suspicion, and he was arrested and carried to the station-house. After all his perils, his escapes, his adventures, his disguises, to be taken by a Prussian watchman! The next morning he was examined by the police: he declared himself a French artisan on his way home from Russia, but as having lost his passport. The story imposed upon nobody, and he perceived that he was supposed to be a malefactor of some dangerous sort: his real case was not suspected. A month's incarceration followed, and then a new interrogation, in which he was informed that all his statements had been found to be false, and that he was an object of the gravest suspicion. He demanded a private interview with one of the higher functionaries and a M. Fleury, a naturalized Frenchman in some way connected with the police-courts. To them he told his whole story. After the first moment's stupefaction the Prussian cried, "But, unhappy man, we must send you back: the treaty compels it. My God! my God! [pg 282] why did you come here?"—"There is no help for us," said M. Fleury, "but in Heaven's name write to Count Eulenberg, on whom all depends: he is a man whom everybody loves. What a misfortune!"
He was taken back to prison. He wrote; he received a kind but vague reply; delays followed, and investigations into the truth of his story; his anguish of mind was reaching a climax in which he felt that his dagger would be his best friend after all. A citizen of the place, a M. Kamke, a total stranger, offered to go bail for him: his story had got abroad and excited the deepest sympathy. The bail was not effected without difficulty: ultimately, he was declared free, however, but the chief of police intimated that he had better remain in Königsberg for the present. Anxious to show his gratitude to his benefactors, fearful, too, of being suspected, he tarried for a week, which he passed in the family of the generous M. Kamke. At the end of that time he was again summoned to the police-court, where two officials whom he already knew told him sadly that the order to send him back to Russia had come from Berlin: they could but give him time to escape at his own risk, and pray God for his safety. He went back to his friend M. Kamke: a plan was organized at once, and by the morrow he was on the way to Dantzic. Well provided with money and letters by the good souls at Königsberg, he crossed Germany safely, and on the 22d of September, 1846, found himself safe in Paris.
Australia is still the world's latest wonder—a land whose very existence was but a few years ago ignored by geographers, but which they now acknowledge as a fifth continent; a land of marvels that courts and repays the investigation of the curious by its wild scenery, its strange aboriginal inhabitants, its birds and beasts unlike all others, its rich floral treasures, its mines of inexhaustible wealth, its meadows and plains of dimensions so vast as to defy for centuries to come a general cultivation; a land that has in less than half a century experienced a growth and expansion unprecedented in the history of nations. Yet is the civilization an imported one, not indigenous, and to be traced only here and there in the colonies, having as yet scarcely touched the interior of the island or its aboriginal inhabitants. These are, in our own day, hardly less untamed and untamable than when visited by the great adventurer William Dampier in the latter part of the seventeenth century, now almost two hundred years ago. So little regard was paid to the reports of Dampier that nearly another century elapsed without further efforts at the exploration of Australia, till in 1770 Cook, in his first voyage around the world, visited this great island, furnishing to his country the first accurate information of its climate, soil and productions. Yet his marvelous accounts, though exciting at first a sort of nine days' wonder, failed to awaken any permanent interest, and soon Australia was again forgotten. But when England, in consequence of the loss of her valuable American colonies, to which she had been accustomed to transport her worst offenders, began to look around for a substitute, the eyes of the government were for the first time turned toward Australia. In May, 1787, the first shipload [pg 283] of convicts was sent out, and in the following January the foundation of Sydney, the future capital of the penal settlement, was laid. Little, however, was done in the way of exploring the country until the discovery of gold within its borders. Then, indeed, the world woke up, and long-forgotten, neglected Australia came to be reckoned a point of interest, at least to fortune-hunters.
Seen in the distance, the view of this great island is scarcely attractive. Its abrupt shores wear a sombre hue, and the traveler, ere he sets foot on the soil, detects a sort of savage air that seems to reign triumphant over the demi-civilization that has been the growth of only a score or two of years. Tiny native huts, looking as though the architect had studied how small, uncouth and inconvenient a human dwelling could possibly be made, contrast strangely with the tasteful white cottages surrounded by flower-gardens and wreathed with vines, or the elegant mansions of stone and slate, that form the homes of foreign residents; natives in filthy garb, or no garb at all, prowl about the dwellings or worm their devious way among the costly equipages of Europeans; orchards and vineyards are planted under the very shadow of forests where roam in all their savage freedom herds of wild cattle and their wilder masters; and out from the rocks and boulders of the most rugged spots rise clusters of the graceful umbrella palm, with a foliage, fern-like and feathery, of the loveliest emerald, and a cone expanding like a lady's fan. The odor of English cowslips mingles with the spicy aroma of tropical fruits, and the perpetual snow of-lofty peaks is reflected on fields of golden maize and on meadows that gleam and glitter in the bright sunlight as if paved with emeralds. It is contrast, not similitude, that attracts the eye, novelty more than beauty, and quaintness rather than such gorgeous sights as one meets everywhere within the tropics.
The harbors are very marvels of commodiousness, that of Port Jackson, the entrance to Sydney, being fifteen miles long. It is landlocked on both sides, without a shoal or rock to mar its perfectness, and broad enough to afford safe anchorage to all the navies of the world. Here ride at anchor vessels of almost every nation, their gay pennons flaunting [pg 284] in the breeze, while worming their way in and out among the shipping may be seen multitudes of native boats made of bark, quaint as frail, and looking for all the world like a shoal of soldiers' cocked hats. A man on land carries his tiny craft on his shoulders with less difficulty, apparently, than the boat carries him on the water. Rowing one seems about as difficult an operation as balancing one's self on a straw would, be; but it has an especial point of merit—it never sink, only purls, and an Australian takes a good ducking as nonchalantly as he smokes his pipe. The natives usually paddle in companies of three, and when one of the triad is purled the other two come to the rescue. One on each side taking a hand of their unlucky comrade, and reseating him, they move on rapidly as before, cutting the blue water with their slender paddles and enlivening the scene by occasional songs. The presence of numerous sharks in these waters is the chief drawback to the pleasures of boating, and many an ill-fated oarsman pays the forfeit of life or limb for his temerity in venturing out too far. The nose of the shark is his most vulnerable part; and the natives, who eat this sea-monster as willingly as he eats them, often inflict a fatal wound by slinging a huge stone at his nose and battering it to a jelly as he rises out of the water. The flesh is eaten raw by the aborigines in their wild state, but the more civilized "burn it," as they say, "like white men;" that is, they cut off huge lumps of the flesh, lay them before a fire to roast, gnaw off the surface as fast as it burns, and put down the remainder to toast again until the appetite is glutted.
These islanders were all cannibals when first discovered by Europeans, intellectually inferior to other savages, ignorant of agricultural and mechanical arts, going entirely naked, and living more like brutes than human beings. Slowly and mutinously have their barbarous customs been relinquished, even by those brought into occasional contact with foreigners, while those in the interior are savage as the monsters that prowl about them in dens and holes of the earth. Even such as mingle most freely with the colonists can seldom be prevailed on to practice permanently the arts of civilized life, usually preferring their original habits and pursuits to the restraints of society. They readily admit the superiority of foreigners, but cling tenaciously to their forest homes and rude lives of unfettered freedom. In character they are cruel and vindictive, improvident and thievish; and they [pg 285] seem almost devoid of gallantry in the treatment of their women, wooing their wives with blows, and often inflicting death upon women and children for the slightest offences. Yet they have some ideas of a Supreme Being and a future state, they practice a sort of religious worship, and they bury or burn their dead. They call their chiefs be-à-na, or "father," but unless compelled by fear to obedience they treat them with little respect or affection. Their language has a musical sound, but the vocabulary is scanty; and thus far the origin of these people and their language remains a matter of doubt, though in many particulars they bear a decided resemblance to the negroes of Guinea. In regard to dress their habits are certainly primitive. A single ratskin often forms the entire wardrobe of a native chief, and a tomahawk with a brace of spears pointed with iron-wood or flint his adornments. Opossum-skins tied together form a sort of cloak used as a protection against the cold, but if on the chase the wearer finds his upper garment oppressively warm, he tosses it away, and trusts to finding or stealing another when he needs it. Their dwellings are wretched little huts, or rather sheds, composed of bark or dried leaves, and so low-pitched that one must crawl on his knees to enter them. They are ill-ventilated and filthy in the extreme, utterly devoid of furniture and household implements, and without any means of securing either privacy or warmth—places where we should deem it impossible to dwell content. Yet the native Australian seems always merry, and he would not exchange his filthy hovel for the palace of a prince. Unpretending as that of his subjects was the royal abode of the venerable King Tatambo, an old man, whom the count de Beauvoir describes as having a "skin black and shiny as liquorice, with snow-white hair and beard," his only garment being a fur cloak that was cast aside during the dance at which the count was present. He gives, in connection with the king's portrait, that of "the youngest and most beautiful of His Majesty's daughters," which may serve as a type of the female beauty of Australia.
The Australians are extremely fond of dancing, especially their corrobori or war-dance, performed always with bodies perfectly nude, while they brandish a spear in one hand and a flaming brand in the other. The night is invariably selected for the performance of the corrobori, and the effect upon unaccustomed eyes is startling in the extreme. The agile movements of the lean forms, black as night, reflected by the radiance of their gleaming torches, the yells and frantic gestures, together with the fierce [pg 286] onsets of the combatants with spear and tomahawk, present a spectacle of weird interest, quite in keeping with the wild scenery of the defiles and ravines where the corrobori is usually celebrated.
The complexion of the Australians is black or very dark brown, their hair straight, and their features of the negro type. They are of medium stature, but generally thin, though well-formed, athletic and agile. They are eager in the pursuit of gain, and this characteristic, combined with their wonderful powers of endurance both of hunger and fatigue, renders them patient and successful miners, while all other causes combined have tended less to the development and improvement of the Australian than has the discovery of gold within his borders. This discovery, that has so changed the aspect of everything in Australia, was the result of a mere accident that a thinking mind knew how to turn to advantage. An adventurer from California, whose dreams by day and by night were all of the land of gold he had so recently left, while searching in company with another for a new pasturage-ground for their sheep, came one day upon a range of low hills so like the "Golden Range" of California as to bring back all his old prepossessions in favor of mining. Stopping to examine, he found the hills composed of granite, mica and quartz, the natural home of gold, and his experience as a miner led to the conviction that though the main body of the gold might have been already washed out among the surrounding clay, yet enough remained to repay a careful search and to indicate the existence, somewhere in the immediate vicinity, of a mine of untold wealth. Several days were spent in unprofitable search: then more favorable indications led the shepherds to dispose of their flocks and set out in good earnest to dig for gold. A couple of spades, a trowel and a calabash were their only tools, but our adventurer was [pg 287] a knowing man, and "knowledge is power." His practiced eye knew just where the precious metals would be most likely to exist if at all in that locality—that in the old beds of rivers now dried up gold would more naturally be found than in younger streams, and especially that where round pebbles indicated a strong eddy ten times as much gold might be expected as in the level parts. Gravel and shingle were cleared away without examination, then a bed of gray clay, as too porous to hold gold; but when a stratum of pipeclay was reached the diggers knew that not an ounce of gold would be found beneath, and their search was confined to a little streak of brownish clay, about an inch in thickness, just above the pipeclay. Every particle of this was carefully washed, and after hours of patient labor the toilers were rewarded by about a thimbleful of the shining dust they were so eagerly seeking. From this small beginning on the 10th of June, 1851, have grown the wonderful mining operations of Australia; and in less than [pg 288] a month after the little incident related above twenty thousand diggers—in a year increased to one hundred and fifty thousand—were busy in the inexhaustible mines of that far-off land; and so came those rugged, barren lands, hitherto scarcely broken even by savages, to be peopled by men from every civilized land.
Ballarat, the centre of one of the chief mining districts, is connected now by railway with Melbourne, so that in the interval of only four hours one passes from the commercial metropolis to the "City of Gold." Over the fertile belt of cultivated lands that surrounds Melbourne, through rugged rocks and barren sands, runs this road, on which one meets crowds of pedestrians, many of them barefoot, the sole capital of each a tent and a pickaxe. Nearing the mines, the aspect of everything is changed: whole forests of trees demolished as if by a thunderbolt; rivers turned out of their natural bed; fertile meadows laid waste; gaping chasms and frightful depths here and there, in which are men toiling half naked, begrimed with mud, and fierce, reckless, cadaverous faces that tell of hardships and strife and sin in the eager pursuit of riches. Ballarat was at first only a mining-camp of immense size, and its environs are still occupied by tents, where transient visitors find very passable accommodations. But the city proper, now some sixteen years old, with a population already of thirty thousand, is an exact transcript of Melbourne, with beautiful dwellings, and broad streets thronged with carriages by day and lighted with gas by night. It boasts already its clubs and theatres, its banks and libraries and reading—rooms, where the successful miner may invest his earnings, cultivate his intellect and seek recreation for his leisure hours.
There are over two thousand mining districts in Australia, of which one of the [pg 289] richest is "Black Hill Mine," but why called "Black Hill" it would be difficult to say, as its beautiful glistening sands are far nearer white than black. Next to gold, the most valuable ore is mercury, immense quantities of which are shipped annually to England from these mines. Iron-ore is found in nearly every part of the island, much of it so rich as to produce nearly three-fourths of its weight of metal. Topazes of rare beauty are frequently obtained, and coal is both good and abundant. In addition to these the island possesses an almost inexhaustible store of granite, slate and freestone, well adapted to building purposes. Sometimes gold is found diffused with wonderful regularity within a few inches of the surface, and so abundant that a single cradleful will yield an ounce of pure gold-dust, the miners readily realizing two or three thousand dollars per diem. As the grass is torn up, flecks of bright gold are found clinging to the roots, and the clay as it is turned over glitters with the precious dust. Again, the digger has to search for his treasure deep in the bowels of the earth, or among flinty rocks, or far down beneath a river's bed, and, it may be, spend weeks [pg 290] or months without realizing a bawbee. Nothing else is so uncertain as to results as the search for gold, and few vocations are at once so fascinating and so cruelly exacting in regard to health, ease, and even life.
Among the mines, and amid barren, rugged scenery in Australia, one is often surprised by glimpses of rare beauty—flowers of wondrous brilliancy, odorless though they be; a gigantic tree twined about by a delicate creeper of exquisite loveliness; or one of those magnificent Australian lakes that show nothing at first but the greenest grass, tall and luxuriant as under the equator; then, as he attempts to ride through the grass, he suddenly finds his horse's feet growing moist and the spongy vegetation getting fuller and fuller of water, till he discovers that he has entered a lake so wide and deep that his only safety lies in a quick retreat. This phenomenon is repeated on a small scale all through the jungle-lands, little tufts of grass here and there, known readily by their brighter green, furnishing water enough to meet the wants of a thirsty animal. A calabash full of pure, sweet water may be expressed from one of these tiny clumps of grassy sponge, as many a weary traveler has attested while roaming over sterile regions destitute alike of wells and springs.
But of surprises there is no end in Australia. Flowers fascinating to the eye have no smell, but uncouth—looking shrubs and bushes often fill the air with their delicate aroma; crows look like magpies, and dogs like jackals; four-footed animals hop about on two feet; rivers seem to turn their backs on the sea and run inland; swans are black, and eagles white; some of the parrots have webbed feet; and birds laugh and chatter like human beings, while never a song, or even a chirrup, can be heard from their nests and perches. So an English lark or nightingale is at a premium; and many a rough miner, with his shaggy beard and uncouth ways, his oaths and lawlessness and crimes, has been known to walk on Sunday evenings to a little English cottage twelve miles out of the settlement just to hear the sweet song of a pet lark.
The variety of vegetable productions is so great that above five thousand species, more than half of which are peculiar to the country, have been described and classed. Among the most remarkable is the species of Eucalyptus, or gum tree, that forms some of the largest timber yet discovered, having been seen of the height of one hundred and fifty feet, and thirty to forty in girth near the root. The leafless acacias are also found here, as well as the Nepenthes distillatoria and the Cephalotus follicularis, two remarkable varieties of the monkey-cup or pitcher-plant; while many very beautiful ferns and flowering vines adorn the coasts and lave their graceful fringes in the blue ocean waves. The timber of the country is of gigantic size, and with other varieties may be found cedar, rosewood, tulip and mahogany.
But the most wonderful products of Australia belong to the animal kingdom, among them the kangaroo, the wombat, and that strange anomaly of the animal creation, the Ornithorynchus, or "duck-billed quadruped." Emus, eagles, parrots, white swans and overgrown pelicans of many varieties, enrich the ornithological kingdom, while among insects and reptiles are found some less desirable specimens, such as tarantulas. The natives of the island hold the old tradition of the ancients, that one bitten by a tarantula will dance himself to death. The plumage of Australian birds is varied and brilliant, and the natives make pretty fans by arranging the feathers in assorted colors; while a sort of head-dress worn by both men and women on the occasion of their marriage, and composed entirely of feathers made into many-tinted flowers, is a very gorgeous affair. Among the varieties of birds peculiar to the island are the "lyre-bird" and that known as the "satin-bower," so called from its glossy plumage, which is green while the bird is young and jet black at maturity. Before building their nests these birds gather a large quantity of twigs, weaving them into a sort of bower, which they tastefully decorate with bones, [pg 291] feathers, leaves and such other adornments as they are able to collect. Here in this arena the courting is done, the male bird chasing his mate up and down, bowing his pretty head and playing the agreeable generally, while she indulges in all manner of airs and graces, pretends to be very coy, and acts the coquette to perfection. But her lover's devotion conquers at last, and in due time the fair flirt surrenders, yields up her liberty and settles down as a dutiful wife and loving mother, bringing up a family of sons and daughters, and no doubt duly instructing them in the part they in their turn are to take in life's drama. The black swans are not prettier than white ones, but they are rarer, and when both are floating together over the smooth surface of those lovely Australian lakes they present a picture of which one never wearies, see it as often as one may.
The count de Beauvoir, in describing a hunt of several days, speaks with enthusiasm of the flocks of wild-turkeys and blue cranes, but bewails his ill-success in running down the huge emus that stalked before the hunters faster than their horses could gallop. He describes also a kangaroo-hunt, and a single [pg 292] combat with an old kangaroo, grizzled and gray, that in a hand-to-hand fight for a long time parried all the hunter's efforts to take him, either living or dead. He was brought down at last by a revolver, and his skin was carried off as a trophy of victory. The cattle-hunt was even more exciting, in the wild flight of four or five thousand terrified beeves, rushing pell-mell through the tall grass or over sandy plains, stopping occasionally to hide their terrified faces from the dangers that beset them, but one occasionally succumbing to the trusty weapons of the count and his comrades. The hunters were certainly not encumbered with superfluous garments, several of the boys being clothed only in a pair of boots, and none with more than a single garment. The immense droves of cattle and sheep herded together in Australia cannot fail to awaken the surprise of the visitor on his first arrival in the country, an Australian herdsman reckoning his flocks by hundreds, and even a thousand or two heads of cattle owned by one man being no unusual occurrence. Indeed, everything seems on a mammoth scale in Australia—forests of timber trees that outlive generation after generation of men, and yet have no thought of dying; ferns like those near Hobart Town, that lift their graceful fringes high over men's heads or serve as shade trees to their dwellings; gigantic emus flying like the fabled Mazeppa over plains the extent of which the eye cannot measure; and those fathomless mines of inexhaustible wealth that seem to promise gold enough for all the world for the centuries yet unborn.
Aristocracy is a queer thing in Australia. Many of those now claiming "respectability" and holding themselves aloof from the members of the settlements did not have their expenses paid out by government, because they were born on the island—not convicts, but only the offspring of those who were. In the race for wealth educated and refined gentlemen are generally outstripped by those who with less mind have greater physical strength, more practical knowledge of the world and more tact in overcoming difficulties; so that one meets wealthy miners who cannot write their own names, and learned bootblacks and cooks who have taken their degrees in mathematics and the languages. One millionaire who had a fancy to be thought literary sent regular contributions to the English magazines, every line of which was written by his footman, to whom he paid an enormous salary, not so much for writing as for keeping his secret, and it was years before it leaked out. In the struggle for position the man of gold gains the day, and not unfrequently brute force or unscrupulous trickery is called in to keep that which wealth has purchased.
Melbourne is the commercial metropolis of Australia, as Sydney is the capital of the penal colony, and though both are large, well-built and thriving cities, they are strikingly in contrast with each [pg 293] other. One is the scion of a lordly house, "to the manner born"—the other, the parvenu of yesterday, whose gold makes his position. Melbourne is to all intents a European city, with its boulevards and regular streets, whole blocks of costly stores and princely dwellings, and environed by elegant villas and country-seats adorned with gardens, vineyards and choice shrubbery. It has its English and Chinese quarters, the latter as essentially Chinese as if built in the Celestials' own land, and brought over, mandarin buttons, tiny teapots, opium-pipes and all, in one of their own junks. The English quarter contains, besides the government buildings, several schools, hospitals, churches and benevolent institutions, the public library, a polytechnic hall, a national museum, theatres and opera-houses, all built in a style alike elegant and substantial. The library only ten years after it was opened numbered 41,000 volumes, and has since been largely increased. Science rather than literature, and practical utility more than entertainment, have been kept in the ascendency in the management of this institution. The hall is open for daily lectures, and some valuable telescopes [pg 294] and other apparatus belong to the institution. The cabinet of natural history contains many rare specimens that serve to elucidate the ancient and modern history of the country, especially in regard to some of the animals and vegetables indigenous to the island. The museum is built on a commanding eminence, and from its spacious windows one sees clearly to the opposite side of Hobson's Bay.
The city is not built on the sea-coast, but two or three miles from the shore, its port being Sandridge, with which it is connected by railway. Vessels of all nations crowd the harbor, and the streets are as full of busy life and gay frivolity as those of Havre or Marseilles. The drives in the environs of the city are replete with picturesque beauty—meadows dotted with many—tinted flowers and magnificent forest trees, about which are festooned flowering vines and creepers. Their thick branches are the resort of cockatoos, parrots and paroquets in brilliant plumage, and perhaps most beautiful of all, because most rare, sparrows, not clothed, like ours, in sombre gray, but rejoicing in vestments of green and gold. But brilliancy of plumage is the solitary charm of these feathered beauties, for their voices are harsh and their song a very burlesque on the name of music.
When I, for ever out of human sight,
Shall seem beyond the wish for anything,
Oh then believe at morning and at night
My soul shall listen for thy whispering.
The work of life may so fill up the day
That not a thought of me shall venture there;
And after labor Love may charm away
What could not enter for the press of care.
But when thou'st bidden all this world good-night,
And enterest that which lies so close to mine,
Call me by name—-it is my angel's right—
And I shall hear thee, though I give no sign.
When morn undoes the high, white gates of sleep,
Pause, as thou comest forth, to speak to me:
It may seem vain, for silence will be deep,
But uttered wishes wait on prophecy.
And when some day far distant thou dost feel
That night and morrow will no longer come,
The pitying heart will let me then reveal
My presence to thee on the passage home.
CHARLOTTE F. BATES.
I was nearly asleep, though my thoughts were entertaining enough, when again footsteps entered the arbor below. This time the intruder did not pause. A woman's voice humming an air seemed to approach, and in a moment more a swift hand parted the bushes behind me, and Blanche Furnaval appeared. I was very much surprised, but stood up to make way for her, at the same time throwing aside my cigar.
"I beg your pardon," she exclaimed immediately, clearly as much astonished as I: "I did not know any one had found this pretty spot but myself."
"I think I know how to look for pretty things," I replied, gazing at her face, which was glowing from quick walking, though her breath came evenly through her parted lips.
"Do you never tire of making those silly speeches?" she asked, lifting her gray eyes candidly to my face. "Excuse me, you need not answer: I am very brusque. You see I did not expect to find any one here, and consequently left my company manners at home. I am sorry to have disturbed you," she continued, turning to go.
"Let us compare notes, Miss Blanche, and see to whom the rock belongs by right of discovery. Won't you be seated?" I said, making a place for her.
"I came to see the sunset," she replied after a moment's hesitation, "and if it won't incommode you I will stay. Should you not care to talk, please read on: I shall not mind. And won't you light another cigar? I have no objection to cigars in the open air, though I think them disgusting in the house."
"Thank you," I said as she sat down and I took another Havana for the one I had thrown away at her arrival. "Will you relate to me the manner of your discovery? I would rather not read."
"About two weeks ago," she began, looking over the landscape, and not at me, "I was sitting in the arbor below, and I heard Mrs.—well, a lady coming whom, to be sincere with you, I dislike. If I stayed, I knew she would have a long talk with me: if I walked on, she might call me back. I looked about in haste for a hiding-place. The bushes near me appeared as if I might get behind them: I pushed through, saw a little path, which I followed, turned round the base of a hillock, and found two rocks, upon which I raised myself with the help of a sapling. Then, carefully parting the branches, I saw this," waving her small hand that I might see it, but still not looking at me. "The sun was just setting; away down in yonder field the sorrel was as fire in its rays; a catbird was reciting a merry pastoral in the thicket beyond; two goats stood high on a bank, like satyrs guarding the place. You see why I come again."
"I have the right of discovery," I cried gayly: "I made the path and placed the rocks. I claim it, that I may lay it at your feet."
"Do you like it?" she asked, turning to me and laying a slight stress on "you."
"I told you I admired pretty things, and you know, Miss Blanche, I am a bit of a poet."
She smiled: "Ah yes; but do you really admire this?"
"Of course I do—think it dem foine."
She laughed outright—a laugh so gay that I joined her, though I could not tell why. "As for sorrel," I added, "you ought to see The Beauties: the fields are full of it, though the farmers don't seem to admire it much."
"Well, I am very fond of the sorrel," she replied, "with the clover-tops, the seed-globes of dandelion and the daisies by the water: it makes quite a bouquet in yonder field."
I looked at her to see if she was chaffing [pg 296] me: not at all—she was sober as a judge.
"Dem foine! I beg pardon, very nice indeed. How would you like to carry it to the ball this evening?"
"I never take anything to a ball that I care to have appreciated," she answered dryly.
"Aw! That is the reason you won't sing down there: isn't it, now? But, really, they thought it fine the other night—quite clever, I heard some of them say."
"Oh yes," with a weary smile that had a little contempt in it.
"Did that ugly little Italian know very much about singing? You seemed pleased with his admiration."
"That ugly Italian, as you call him, has heard some of the best prima donnas in Europe. He is poor, he is seedy—for his voice left him just as he was on the eve of success—but he was the only person in the room who could tell me that I sang as well as the greatest of them." Her voice quivered as she spoke.
"You are mistaken indeed, Miss Blanche," I said. "Any fellow there would have paid you the same compliment if you had given him a chance; but you were so confoundedly wrapped up in that Italian chap that you would not look at the rest of us."
"I don't care for the compliment," she said, cooling down directly: "I care for the truth. They don't know if I sing well or not."
"Then you only sing to be admired, Miss Furnaval?"
"I don't sing at all," she said, coloring.
"But you should sing."
"Why?" she asked.
"To please—to give pleasure to others."
"I don't care to please any one but myself."
"But that is not right, you know. Now, I try to please everybody."
"Do you always succeed, Mr. Highrank?"
"Yes, always; and though it's tiresome at times, I bear it. Last autumn you never saw anything to compare to it—in the country, you know. But it's my vocation, and I try to live up to it. People do wrong who have talents and do not use them. That is why I blame you, Miss Blanche."
"It is not worth the trouble. I have withdrawn my hand from market, and intend to please myself the remainder of my life."
"From what market? What do you mean?"
"I mean the matrimonial market, of course."
"Why won't you marry? if I may ask."
"It is too much trouble. I won't be a slave to the caprices of the world so that I may be called amiable. Now, if I don't wish to appear in the parlor, I stay in my room; if I don't wish to receive callers, I refuse; if I don't wish to attend a party, I stay at home. I need not visit to keep myself 'before, the public.' I can be as eccentric as I like. When I disagree with a gentleman, I can contradict him; if I do not feel like smiling, I frown; and when I want to walk alone, I go. I can please myself from morning till night, and I enjoy it."
"You like clever fellows, don't you?" I asked, remembering the conversation I had just overheard.
"Yes," she answered, and then speaking decidedly, added, "and I like 'poor devils,' as you call them: they are not so dreadfully conceited as some men are."
"I tell you what," I said—just for the purpose of getting her opinion of myself, you know—"I am a clever fellow: I hope you like me."
She glanced round—I suppose to see if I was in earnest—then turning away said, "Y-e-s, pretty well."
It was rough on a chap, but she looked so sweet as she said it, and sat so very unconscious that I was looking at her, that I thought I would give her a little advice. I could not get it out of my head how Mrs. Stunner said she would end badly, and it seemed a pity for a charming girl such as she was. So I said, persuasively, "Now, don't you go and marry one of those poor chaps, Miss Blanche. You see, you will be regularly unhappy, and all that sort of thing, if you do."
"How do you know?" she asked.[pg 297]
"Oh," I replied, not knowing what to to say for an instant, "I heard it."
"Heard what?" she said, looking at me curiously.
"That you would do it, and would be unhappy."
"A report made to order by those good people whom you want me to take pains to please. 'Tis a method to make a harmless rival of me. Rumor that I am engaged, and to a man beneath me, and of course other gentlemen will not pay me attention. Mean! mean! But no matter," she continued after a moment: "it won't hurt me. I am not engaged, and don't intend to be; and it is nothing new for me to know that the world is not particularly truthful."
"But why not marry? You had better change your mind—indeed you had: I advise you for your good."
"You say I must not select a poor man, and the rich require too much devotion from the ladies. You gentlemen let us take all the trouble to please: you present yourselves, and expect us to fall at your feet.I am waiting for a chevalier who will go the world over to win me—who will consider it an honor if I finally accept him, instead of fancying, that I am honored by his choice."
"I used to have ideas of that kind, but found them false. It is an honor to receive a proposal, you know. Every one thinks so, else they would not tell of it and brag as they do. By being so unlike the rest of the world you will end badly—indeed you will, Miss Blanche."
"Look for a moment at the case as I put it. A man asks me to marry him: he likes me—thinks I shall make him a good wife. He woos me to please himself, not to please me, and you think I should be grateful because his vanity prompts him to believe that I am highly honored. But this is only one of the many fallacies which people adopt without question. It is good for a man to be refused several times: it takes some little conceit out of him, and makes him more humble and nice for the poor woman who is ultimately to be his wife. I am convinced that there is no gentleman who makes his first proposal that has a doubt of his being accepted. Now, is there?" she asked, appealing to me.
"Well, you are about right. Women are not so particular about making a choice, you know. It isn't so hard for them to find, somebody that suits. I suppose I should be accepted by any girl I might ask. Frankly, now," I said, wishing to give her a poser, "wouldn't you accept me?"
"Frankly," she replied, taking my own tone, "I would not."
"And why not?" I asked.
"There would be too many young ladies made unhappy through losing you," she answered banteringly.
"But you know I should not care for that: I can't marry them all."
"You told me you thought it your duty to please everybody."
"Come, now, think of it, and tell the real truth: you know if I marry it would have to be but one girl."
"You might go to Utah."
"You won't answer. Silence gives consent, don't it?" I said in a tone of triumph.
"Do you really want me to answer your question?" she asked, looking at me queerly.
"By Jove!" I thought, "it's coming now. I've pushed it too far—never thought what I was doing: she will certainly accept me, and I cannot retract." It took me but a moment to see my danger and to make up my mind. A gentleman will always sustain his word. My voice was shaking a little from the greatness of the resolution I had made, but I managed to say pretty steadily, "Of course I do." It was so very sudden, you know. I felt I should be an engaged man in five minutes more.
"You are awfully funny," she exclaimed after quite a pause.
"I believe I am considered witty," I replied, hardly knowing what I said: I tell you, that sort of thing makes a man confoundedly nervous.
Then she began laughing, and I thought she, would never stop. I did not feel like laughing, so I just sat and looked at her.
"Oh my! oh my!" she gasped, trying [pg 298] to control herself, "why didn't you say No? You never intended to ask me at all. It is the funniest thing I ever heard of. Oh my! I shall die of laughing. I think you will 'end badly' if you go on so," she said, quoting what I had repeated. "What induced you to act in this manner?"
I saw that she had found me out and thought I was a fool. This provoked me, and I replied, rather warmly, pretending I did not know what she meant, "It appears to me an odd manner you have of receiving an offer, Miss Blanche. I think you should at least treat me with politeness."
She became serious in a moment when she saw I was hurt, and did not lose her good-temper at my rude speech, but said pleasantly, "You are not fond of being teased, Mr. Highrank. Never mind: I don't intend to take advantage of your blunder, nor keep you long in suspense. Go "—and she smiled as if she really could not help it—"go, and be sensible in future."
"You mean that you won't marry me?" I asked.
"Don't talk of that: let us pretend we were in fun—as of course we were—and let me thank you for a very agreeable afternoon."
I declare she looked so bewitching as she spoke that I wished she had thought me in earnest and accepted me. It was real good in her, giving a fellow a second chance when she might have snapped him up directly. I think girls ought to give a man two chances, but they seldom do. Many a poor soul repents the moment the words are spoken, but he can't help himself. Generally, when 'tis done 'tis done.
She made a motion to rise: I could not permit her to go without an explanation. She had been so generous, and she was so beautiful, that I began to desire quite earnestly that she would be my wife, and that we could settle down at The Beauties together: she would like the sorrel at any rate. Perhaps Fortune had sent her to me this very afternoon, and I ought not to let the opportunity slip, but ask her seriously before she left. Of course she would accept me if she knew I was in earnest. She was too delicate to take advantage of a mistake—mighty few girls so particular. The more I entertained the idea, the more I liked it, so I resolved to speak. I fancied that she was a little cool in her manner: possibly she thought I ought not have jested on such a subject, but I would make it all right now. I was sitting on a stone a little lower than she. I leaned forward and placed my arm on the rock and round her—just near enough to keep her there, you know. Then I spoke: "I want to beg your pardon, Miss Blanche. You are offended, but I did not mean to annoy you: I esteem you too highly for that."
"I am not at all offended, not at all," she said heartily, at the same time trying to rise, but as I was leaning on her dress she could not. "I must beg you to move: I am going home," she added, looking round: then seeing where my arm was, her tone became slightly angry: "Will you allow me to rise?"
"Not until you listen to me. Do not be displeased when I tell you the truth. I was jesting, or at least did not think what I was asking, a moment ago, but now I am in real earnest. I want you to marry me—truly I do. I love you, and am willing to do everything you can desire. See, I will kneel if you like devotion;" and I fell on my knees before her, catching her little white hands and kissing them. "Won't you love me?" I felt as I looked into her sweet face that I could do anything in the world for her.
"A little less devotion and more respect would suit me better, Mr. Highrank. Will you stop this farce and release my dress? I shall certainly be offended if you do not rise instantly."
"I will obey you if you will give me one kind word."
"I have none for you," she said frigidly.
"You think I have been too hasty—that I am not really in love with you; but I am, I assure you. I fall, in love very quickly—indeed I do. I have often been in love with a girl the first time I saw her, and I have known you ever so long. Won't you believe me, Blanche?"[pg 299]
"I believe you are treating me in a most ungentlemanly manner in keeping me here when I don't wish to stay."
"I can't let you go," I said as I rose, but standing so that she could not pass, "till you are convinced that I love you, for I do, and shall always. Surely I have a right to an answer."
"I thought you were good-natured"—now she spoke reproachfully—"and you are teasing me in the most disagreeable way. Please let me pass."
"Do you think me so base as to tease you on such a subject? What shall I do to persuade you that I am sincere."
"Let me go home."
"May I go with you?"
"I would rather you did not come, please."
"Why are you so unkind?" I asked, taking her hand. "Tell me you love me, and let us be happy."
"But I don't love you," she said, trying to withdraw her hand, and the tears coming into her eyes. "I don't love you, and I want to go home." She turned from me to hide her face, looking about at the same time for some way of escape.
"But you will love me by to-morrow," I replied soothingly. "I may ask you again, may I not?" and then she looked so pitiful, with the tears rolling from her frightened eyes and her hand trembling in mine, that I thought I would put my arm around her—to comfort her, you know. "Poor child!" I said, drawing her to me as they do in the theatre, "you don't know your own heart: rest here."
I wish you had seen her!—I wish you had seen her! She drew herself from me quivering with indignation, her eyes% sparkled, and she was in such a rage that she could hardly speak, but after an effort she broke forth in a torrent of words: "I have an utter contempt for you, and I will bear this no longer. You think you are irresistible—that all the girls are in love with you—that your wealth buys you impunity—that your position will excuse your rudeness—and that you can dispense with politeness because your name is Highrank! I would like to box your ears. I despise you and your behavior so thoroughly that were you a hundred times in earnest in asking me to marry you, I would refuse you a hundred times!" Then she rushed past me, and I was so astonished that I did not try to prevent her.
The idea of her refusing me, and in such a manner! No wonder if she should end badly. Mrs. Stunner was right. However, I am glad she did refuse me, for she must certainly be a little wrong in her head. Wonder if her ancestors were insane or anything. She was deuced handsome when she got angry. Never saw a woman angry at me before: something very queer about her. Had a contempt for me, too! Why should she have that? I don't understand it. Said I was conceited—that I thought all the girls would marry me. And so they would, all but herself; and that shows there is something odd about her—not at all like any other woman. Deuced glad she did not take me at my word. Queerest thing! She cried when I put my arm around her: never knew a woman would cry at that before. Little Eva wouldn't. I believe I like tender women best—at one time I thought they were not nice. What a fool I was! What should I do with a wife I could not kiss? I wonder if Blanche will speak to me again? Maybe all this was a dodge, women have so many; but she looked in earnest. I might have frightened her by being so sudden, but why the deuce should women be frightened at proposals, when they pass their lives in trying to get them? So Mrs. Stunner said. Poor birdie!, what a soft hand she has! Maybe some women are modest: I will ask Hardcash about it. She may not have known what she was saying—agitated, and all that sort of thing. I will see how she acts to-night—need not ask her again if she is not civil. Eva will comfort me if I need it. What a sweet voice she had till she got angry! but she was very odd.
I strolled home to the hotel, musing over the adventure of the afternoon. Blanche was a girl who might be included in the star type that I had once sought [pg 300] for: wanted to be worshiped and play the superior. Now that I had found her I was surprised how little I liked that style. Just as if a good-looking fellow like me was a bear or a wild Indian, to be afraid of! I don't see that she would have been any the worse for it if I had kissed her; and wasn't I as respectful as her nearest relation? 'Pon honor I was. A very odd girl. I shall ask Ned Hardcash about it.
I never saw Eva looking better than she did that night. I lounged around the room until I came to her crowd, attached myself there, and did some heavy flirting. I asked her to take a moonlight stroll, but her aunt overheard me and gave her a look, upon which she said the air outside was too cool. I saw the play was to be above-board. Aunt Stunner had taken matters into her own hands, and the game had commenced in earnest. Mr. David Todd, Jr., was there, and Eva paid him a good deal of attention: I did not like it.
Presently she went off to dance with him, and Aunt Stunner sat down by me. Fanning herself energetically, she said in a confidential tone, "Eva is looking sweetly to-night: don't you think so, Mr. Highrank?"
"Miss Eva always looks jolly," I said shortly. I did not want to talk to the old lady.
"Mr. Todd appears to think so too," she went on with a nod and a knowing look at me. Evidently she was playing Todd against Highrank.
"Mr. David Todd, Jr.?" I asked languidly: "he has thirty thousand a year, hasn't he?"
She looked at me sharply for an instant, then smiled and said, "How should I know, dear Mr. Highrank? It is his rare personal merit that pleases me. I own I am happy to see him so attentive to the child for her sake. She is so impulsive and innocent, so likely to fancy a younger, more dashing kind of man"—here she glanced at me—"that I acknowledge I do feel anxious to have her settled happily. Not but that some young men are exceptions," she continued amiably, "and make excellent husbands."
"There are two classes of men," I remarked quietly. "They can be divided into those who make good husbands and those who don't. Wealthy men are the most superior, and are best fitted to fill the situation."
"I agree with you entirely: you are a very sensible young man," enthusiastically replied the old lady, not recognizing the quotation.
We talked on until Eva came back: then I claimed the next waltz, and decided I would carry her off from Todd. I pressed her hand, but she would not respond: it was plain she was obeying orders.
"Won't you walk with me?" I whispered as we were near an open window in a pause of the dance.
"I can't, Charley—indeed I can't," as I tried to draw her outside: "I will explain another time."
"You are very cruel," I continued in the same undertone.
"You don't care if I am," she said a little bitterly.
"As if I do not care when you use me badly! Won't you tell me what is the matter?" I asked tenderly.
"Oh, Mr. Highrank, I am so unhappy!" she whispered.
"Why so, my dear?" No one could help calling Eva "my dear"; besides, we were hidden by the heavy window curtain and no one overheard us.
"I—I—am going to be married," she said.
"It appears to me that ought to make you particularly merry, oughtn't it?"
"But it don't," she answered, sighing.
"Why not, you foolish girl?"
"Oh, everything is so different from what I expected."
"In what way?"
"W-h-y," she answered slowly, "I thought it would be romantic, and that he would ask me in the moonlight."
"Like to-night, for instance?" I said, taking her hand and drawing her through the low window on to the piazza.[pg 301]
"Yes," she replied, "and instead of that—"
Well, instead of that?" I repeated, seeing she paused.
"Instead of that, it was in that old parlor of ours. I have never had a nice time since we took it two weeks ago, odious green place! I detest green furniture; it is so unbecoming," she said pathetically.
"And who is the happy dog—I mean gentleman'—Eva? I may call you Eva, just for this evening yet, mayn't I?"
"I don't care if—if—Oh my! what a name! Charley, did you ever hear such a dreadful name as David?"
"What! old Todd? It isn't old Todd?" I asked, laughing.
"It is very unkind of you to laugh when you know I must marry him."
"I won't laugh," I said, putting her arm in mine and walking down the verandah. "Come, sit on this sofa and tell me all about it."
"Well," she said, half pouting and half crying, "I must marry some one this season—both mamma and auntie say so—and I can't marry Ned."
"Ned Hardcash? You don't mean to say he was spooney on you?"
"Yes he was, but I told him he was too poor."
"You are very reasonable, Eva."
"You need not talk that way. Mamma would not hear of it. I could not let him ask her, for she would have been so angry, and she and auntie would have scolded me; and you don't know how fearfully auntie can abuse one when she begins."
"How did Ned take your answer?"
"Oh, he just went away, and did not care a bit, and I have not seen him since."
"He did not care?" thinking I now had the clew to Ned's savage manner for the week past. "When did it happen?"
"I can't exactly remember: it was soon after we took the parlor. Auntie would not let me invite him there, and he got angry and jealous of Mr. Todd, who was with me all the time, and—"
"But that showed he loved you, don't you think so?"
"Well, perhaps he did a little: he told me if I Would trust him he would not let mamma or auntie scold; but you know that was nonsense. I would like to see any one prevent them if they want to do it. And he hadn't any money, and we should have starved: I told him so. Then he said there was no danger of that: he could manage to keep the wolf from the door. I knew of course that be could easily keep wolves away, for there are none here, and I would not live in that horrid West; but that would not prevent us starving: auntie said we would starve."
"Poor Ned!" I murmured.
"You pity poor Ned," said she, now sobbing, "but you don't pity poor me at all, and I am the most wretched."
"Come, don't cry, Eva," I said, putting my arm around her: it was very dark in that corner, and I knew Eva would not fuss about it, as a certain other person did not long ago. "What shall I do for you, my dear? Do you want Ned back? I'll tell him and make it up between you: shall I?"
"No, no! He is so cross and fierce that I should be afraid of him: he was dreadfully ill-tempered when he left me that night."
"But that was because he loved you, Eva."
"When people love me I don't want them to be disagreeable: I should not want to vex any one if I loved him."
"You will make a dear, kind, amiable little wife, I know."
"But I don't want to marry Mr. Todd," she said, still sobbing on my shoulder. "Oh, Charley, what shall I do?"
Could I find a lovelier, more tender, sweeter wife than the girl now in my arms? My ideas of affectionate women had changed, dating from about two weeks back, and the conduct of Miss Blanche, who would neither see me nor speak to me since that afternoon, strengthened me in the opinion that a woman is best with some heart. Was it any wonder, then, that I decided on the spot to answer Eva's question of "Charley, what shall I do?" by saying "Marry me, my dear: 'tis the only way I see for you to [pg 302] get out of the scrape"? Just as my resolve became fixed I heard footsteps near. In another moment, scarcely giving Eva time to wipe her eyes, those three sisters, the Greys, came trooping by, and stopped in front of us.
"Spooning as usual?" remarked one of them to me.
"Miss Eva, won't you ask Mr. Todd to give him a lesson in proposing? I don't believe he knows how to do it. A deplorable state of ignorance!" said another.
A merry group soon joined them, and I did not get another chance that evening. However, I went to my room happy, for I knew I should be successful on the morrow. Eva loved me: her mother had said as much when I overheard her in the arbor on the mountain-side, and I knew Aunt Stunner would have no objection, as my income exceeded Todd's. In an easy-chair by the open window I thought over my resolution, and counted myself a fortunate man. In the midst of this reverie the door burst open, shut with a bang, and Ned Hardcash threw himself on a fauteuil opposite me.
"What's up now?" I cried. "Has Harry Basset lost?" Ned was always deep on the turf, and I could think of nothing else that would cut him up so much.
"D—n Harry Basset! I say, Charley, haven't you some brandy?"
"Too hot for brandy to-night," I said: "take some of this," pushing him a bottle.
"Stuff!" and he looked at it contemptuously. "If you can't treat a poor devil more like a man when he comes, he will go;" and he rose with a jerk.
"Sit down, old fellow! or rather go to that closet and get what you want—enough there for a night or two."
He looked the worse for hard drink already, but of course I could not refuse him if he wanted it. It is true politeness, if your friend wants to commit suicide, to sharpen the razor for him and ask no questions. I leaned back while he mixed a glass with seltzer and drank it greedily. Finally, when he looked more composed, I said, "I want to ask you a question, Ned." I thought of Blanche Furnaval's strange conduct on seeing Ned before me, and resolved to ask him if he could explain it. "I believe you know something about the queer ways of women. Can you tell—"
"Look here, Charley," he broke out savagely: "I want one thing understood. You are always teasing and bothering about the women; and as you have not got a piece of flesh as big as a pea for a heart, you will never understand anything about them; so, if you don't want to set me crazy, just let that subject down while I am here."
"It's a woman, then," I said, forgetting in my surprise to be angry. "Cheer up, old boy! You will soon get over it: no woman's worth it."
"Not to you, perhaps, but it may be the contrary with me," he answered moodily.
There was a long silence. I smoked, he drank: at last I broke it by saying unconsciously, "She is a dear little thing." My thoughts had reverted to Eva.
"Ah, you saw it?" cried Ned eagerly. "Then I can talk to you about it. You may well say she is a dear little thing. She is an angel—too good for a fellow like me. But the poor child dotes on me: that is the hardest part of the cursed thing. How she laid her head on my shoulder and cried, and said she did not want to marry that other fellow, d—n him! It almost broke my heart," he continued dejectedly, "and it is not of the stuff that breaks easily. I told her I would take her off and we would run for it, though Heaven knows what we should do afterward. Sometimes it seems as if I could not bear it. I wish I could strangle Todd: that would be some comfort."
"What makes you so savage against old Todd?"
"Don't you know he and Eva are engaged? All owing to the interference of that old Stunner. What business was it of hers, I wonder? And poor Eva disliking him as she does, and so unhappy about it, and I can't help her! My cursed luck, always;" and Ned heaved a brandy-and-seltzer sigh.
Yes, it was Eva. I had forgotten all [pg 303] she had told me about Ned, or rather she had not told me as much as he did. She sobbed on his shoulder, did she? His shoulder! disgusting! She dote on him! he comfort her! It was horrible! A sudden idea struck me. "Did you kiss her, Ned?" I asked gruffly.
"You are asking a d——d impertinent question, old fellow, and of course I sha'n't answer you;" and he tried to make his drunken face look grave.
I should have liked to throw him out of the window, but the question was, as he said, hardly one to be asked; and then, if she allowed it, what right had I—It was enough. It might be pleasant to have an affectionate wife, but no drinking gambler like Ned Hardcash should ever be able to say or remember that he had kissed the mistress of The Beauties.
I was sad at heart: hope now failed me. Poor little Eva! I must bury her image with the "wild rose," with "my star," with the "sympathizing friend." All, all are emptiness—are names, are dreams. The poets were old-fogy chaps: they never saw the women of to-day, and well for them they did not.
I am still unmated: I bear the loneliness that awaits all great excellence. The sun has no companion in glory; the moon shines alone; there was but one phoenix; the white elephant is solitary. So it must be with me. I am not misanthropic: I have learned to bear my superiority with philosophy. I was groomsman at Eva's wedding the other day, and gave her a handsome present, as it was expected I should. I still like my fellow-beings, and fulfill the duties of life to the best of my abilities. I flirt, I dance, walk, drive, pursue my usual occupations, give bachelor-parties at The Beauties, and have grown contented from habit, but I am a confirmed old—or shall I say young?—bachelor.
From a time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, Munich has had the reputation of being an exceptionally unhealthy place. All ancient towns have their legends of desolating plagues, the record of an ignorant defiance of sanitary laws, but such stories are especially numerous in the traditions of Munich, and are connected with circumstances which show that epidemic diseases were formerly extremely frequent and virulent in that City.
The absurd festival of the "Metzger-Sprung" (Butchers' Leap), which takes place annually on the Monday before Ash-Wednesday, when butcher-boys attain to the second grade of their apprenticeship by dressing themselves in long robes trimmed with calves' tails, and springing into the old fountain in the Marien-Platz in the face of an admiring crowd, is held in commemoration of a similar frolic contrived several hundred years ago by lads of the same trade during the prevalence of a horrible epidemic, for the purpose of tempting the frightened citizens out of their gloomy houses into fresh air and merriment, which these sensible youths had concluded to be the best safeguards against disease. The grotesque procession of the "Schäffler-Tanz" (Coopers' Dance), which occurs once in every seven years, just before the Carnival, has a similar origin. One of the favorite myths of Munich is that of an enormous dragon which lived in the ground beneath the city and poisoned all the wells with his venomous breath, until, being at last lured to the surface by seeing his reflection in a mirror held above a certain spring, a brave knight slew him and saved the [pg 304] people from further destruction. The former imminence of danger from pestilence is shown also in the songs of the night-watchmen, who every hour exhorted to prayer for exemption from the plague, as well as from the terrors of fire, sword and famine.
And this evil fame still clings to Munich, in spite of all that has been done to improve its condition, and of all that has been written to purge it of its contempt. Efforts of the latter kind have indeed been prodigious, increasing with the growing importance of the place as a centre of education in science and art. Local medical authorities issue from time to time ingenious pamphlets on hygienic investigations, with particular application to the suspicion under which their city labors in this regard; the newspapers keep up the whitewashing process with diligence, not forgetting to hold up frequently before their readers the sanitary shortcomings of Vienna and Berlin; nay, the traveler is met at the very threshold of his hotel by a tiny tract containing not only a list of the principal sights, but also a comforting assurance that the climate is not so bad as has been represented, and that by wearing sufficient wrappings and avoiding the ordinary drinking water, strangers may hope to accomplish their visit and escape unharmed. Surely no other city takes such benevolent pains to reassure its inhabitants and instruct and warn its stranger-guests: perhaps it is because deeds have not kept pace with words that assertion and argument have hitherto failed of the desired effect. The protracted, repeated cholera epidemic of 1873-74 may well challenge a close observation of the situation, surroundings and sanitary condition of Munich as a means of ascertaining the causes of this exceptional visitation, as well as of the continual existence of an indigenous disease which, more than almost any other, is dependent upon circumstances within the power of man to control.
Instead, therefore, of constructing the cholera and the typhus out of our "inner consciousness," as certain of the physicians and hygienists of Munich, in true German fashion, appear disposed to do, let us look at some of the facts of the case—facts sufficiently obvious to be perceptible to any person of intelligence, and the nature of which is so well understood as to be accepted at once as bearing closely upon the subject in question.
And first, as to climate. Considering that the cholera, from which Munich suffers more at every visitation than almost any other European city, and typhus, which is always at home within its limits, are not, properly speaking, climatal diseases, it would seem at first sight unnecessary to consider the situation of Munich in this respect. But while the principal object of the present paper is to indicate the causes of the above-mentioned plagues, the fact should not be lost sight of that nearly all known diseases flourish in this unfortunate city, many of them owing to its exceptionally bad climate, while the sudden and extreme changes of temperature which occur in every season of the year have a tendency to aggravate those ills which find their sources in more preventable conditions.
Munich stands upon a high, barren plain, sixteen hundred feet above the level of the sea, exposed to the full power of the sun in summer, brooded over by chilly fogs in spring and autumn, and swept the whole year through by all the storms that accumulate upon the mountains filling the horizon to the south and east. The air is mountain-air, minus the aroma and stimulus of evergreen forests, and plus the miasma of miles of marsh and peat-land and the foulnesses of the city exhalations. It is the thin air of a high elevation, pleasantly bracing to persons so fortunate as to possess nerves of iron and lungs of leather, but extremely irritating to sensitive brains and delicate chests, and too exhausting, after a time, in its demands upon the most abundant vitality. It is the boast of certain physicians in Munich that consumption is rare in that city, but the weekly report of deaths would seem to contradict this assertion. Certain it is that diseases of the throat and lungs are very common, [pg 305] especially during the spring, and that all the rest of the year the whole population suffers more or less from catarrh. Perhaps if there be less of consumption than one would expect to find in such a climate, it is because those who would otherwise be its victims are carried off early by acute inflammation of the implicated organs. "Of course, if these die in the beginning, they cannot die at a later period," as a recent medical writer has wisely and wittily pointed out to certain amateur statisticians who would fain reduce the mortality of Munich by leaving out of view the immense percentage of infant deaths.
The evil effects of the harsh air are increased by the clouds of dust which the wind is continually raising in the broad graveled streets—dust the more irritating to eyes, nose and lungs because largely composed of lime, and which dries with marvelous rapidity after the frequent heavy showers and protracted rains for which this region is also remarkable. It is the last resort of the citizens of Munich, when driven out of every other defence of their climate, to say, "But it is a good climate for the nerves." One would like to know for what nerves and whose nerves, since strangers who reside here for any length of time generally find that any constitutional tendency to ailments in which the nerves are principally involved is increased, instead of lessened; and among the natives themselves brain diseases, strokes of all kinds, fits and cramps, are frequent and fatal, while the enemy which they fear the most, and which presses them the hardest, is known by them as "nervous fever," The air is too stimulating for any but the most robust constitutions; and the sudden blasts of fierce wind that continually interrupt the enjoyment of even the few days of otherwise pleasant weather, and the intolerable glare of the sun upon the dusty streets and squares and monotonous rows, of light-colored houses, unrelieved, for the most part, by trees or vines or any green thing, are perpetual irritants which must react unfavorably upon the general health. Indeed, one begins at last to find in the harshness of the climate some explanation, if not excuse, for the roughness of disposition and manner which have made the people of Munich a proverb among their countrymen and a terror to foreign residents.
Another cause of the unhealthiness of Munich is the nature of the soil. The ground upon which the city is built, as also the land for a considerable distance round about, was formerly the bed of a lake, and consists of a loose gravel to the depth of many feet, there being scarcely enough earth upon the top to furnish subsistence for the commonest grass and weeds, while trees, esculent vegetables and flowers can only be raised by preparing a new soil, which must be continually enriched by artificial means. A proverb says, "Scratch a Russian and the Tartar shows through;" so one has only to stir the soil of Munich to find just below the surface the coarse gravel, defying cultivation. Of course, all the fluid matter deposited upon the surface that does not exhale in the atmosphere percolates through this loose stratum until it reaches the rock, where it stagnates and corrupts, returning into the air in the form of poisonous gases, instead of undergoing the healthy transformation which is effected in all soils capable of sustaining vegetable life. If the fluid thus held in solution were only the rain from heaven, the result would not be so disastrous; but, unfortunately, there is scarcely any kind of filth that is not allowed to contribute constantly to the subterranean supply of moisture. It has been estimated that of the seventy-five thousand tons of refuse matter which Munich furnishes within a year, scarcely one-third is carried out of the city: the rest is suffered to go into the ground upon the spot. Nor can that third which is gathered up be considered as taken out of harm's way, since all of it that can be regarded as manure is spread at once upon the neighboring fields, whence it sends back its stenches upon every wind that blows.
The people of Munich, according to one of their most famous chroniclers, have always been noted for their piety [pg 306] ("Fromm waren die Münchner zu jeder Zeit"), but they have never been celebrated for that virtue of cleanliness which is said to be akin to godliness: indeed, they are known amongst other Bavarians as die dreckigen Münchner ("the filthy Munichers"); and certain it is that their city is far behind the times in all sanitary matters. The introduction of sewers is a very recent improvement. It will scarcely be believed that many of the broad, showy streets which came into existence under the patronage of Ludwig I. were laid out and built up without any reference to this first necessity of all thoroughfares. Even the Theresien Strasse has not long rejoiced in a "canal;" and the sewer was laid in that finest part of the Gabelsberger Strasse which runs past the Pinakothek and the Polytechnic School as late as the summer of 1873, while the upper end of the same street, which is notoriously unhealthy, is still unpaved and undrained. The Munich sewers, however, are not so great a boon as one might suppose: indeed, they may be considered as mere receptacles and condensers of the evil substances and odors that would be promiscuously diffused. Owing to a want of knowledge or of skill in their construction there is not sufficient fall to carry away their contents, nor is there any system of flushing to drive out the sediment and cleanse the pipes. Consequently, there is a horrible odor ascending at all times from the open gratings, and frequently the pipes become choked, so as to necessitate the uncovering of the receptacle at a junction, and the taking out and carting away of the hideous slime—an operation which, of course, adds temporary intensity to the usual stench.
Another source of polluted air is the cellars of a great proportion of the houses. Of course the families living in the several flats of each building are all dependent upon one cellar, which is divided off into compartments according to the number of stories in the house. These compartments, however, are in many instances separated from each other by a mere partition of laths or rough boards, so that any want of cleanliness on the part of an individual house-keeper is sure to disturb all her neighbors. Owing to the custom of allowing small shops to be kept in the ground-floor of dwelling-houses there is apt to be a mingling of articles for storage in the cellar such as is neither agreeable nor wholesome. Thus, for instance, a dairywoman will fill the shelves of her compartment with pans of milk: her next neighbor is perhaps a small dealer in wood, coal and turf, and raises a dust accordingly; the greengrocer opposite makes the air damp and bitter with his heaps of neglected vegetables; while the butcher not only has a right to hang up his newly-slaughtered animals and chop his sausage-meat inside of his particular compartment, but may allow a living pig or calf, whose death-hour has not yet arrived, to roam up and down the dark passages, to the increase of the general dirt and discomfort. In this connection it may be well to enter a protest against the Munich regulation, or absence of regulation, which allows every butcher to slaughter pigs, calves and sheep upon his own premises. To say nothing of the shocking sights and sounds which are thereby forced upon the attention of the dwellers in the neighborhood of such shops, it is impossible, considering the defective drainage and insufficient water supply, that the practice should not be of serious injury to the public health. There are also many cellars which are rented out entirely to fruiterers and green-grocers not living in the buildings as a place to store their goods for the winter. In such cases the cellars are apt to remain in a filthy condition, and the smells that pour from the windows are at once a nuisance to passers-by and a source of danger to the inhabitants of the houses. But it is not only the living inhabitants of Munich that are corrupting the heavens above, the earth beneath and the waters under the earth: the dead in their graves are busy at the same work. It is a pity that all thinking persons who still object to the practice of cremation as unnecessary and impious could not be compelled to take up their residence for [pg 307] a while in the neighborhood of the two great cemeteries of Munich: they would not be long in crying out for the adoption of purifying flames and the innoxious columbarium.
The Old (or Southern) Cemetery at the time of its first enclosure was a short distance outside of the city, though not so far as it ought to have been; but by degrees the streets have been extended to its very walls, and property-owners build without hesitation handsome dwelling houses whose windows look directly down upon that field of corruption, piously denominated "God's Acre." The New Cemetery, on the north side of the town, has been in use only five or six years, and was from the beginning but a block or two removed from the nearest houses. The air in the vicinity of the Old Cemetery is so laden with the smell of death that even the natives are aware of it, while strangers generally avoid a second visit. It is a rule that every seven years a portion of the ground occupied by rented graves shall be dug over for new tenants, the partially decayed remains found therein being brought together and buried again in an indiscriminate heap. This method is about as bad as it could be, but the graves that are left undisturbed are not much less harmful to the living. These can be leased for a period of seventy years, the lease to be renewed if desired, but never for a longer term than seventy years without renewal. Whole generations of families are thus buried together, each grave being dug deep enough to hold several coffins one above another, the last one coming to within a few feet of the surface. Now, when one considers the nature of the soil, the closeness of the cemetery to the abodes of the living, the frequency with which the earth is turned over, and the great number of corpses which in a city of the size of Munich must be interred every year, an idea can be formed of the disagreeableness and unhealthiness of the cemeteries. Moreover, bodies are not brought there to be buried at once, but are placed within twelve hours after death in the dead-house, where they are allowed to remain forty-eight hours before burial. This provision, which is in force in most of the cities of Germany, is a wise one in view of the number of families inhabiting a single house: it would seem also to offer additional securities against the horrible fate of being buried alive, though the time allowed is not sufficient to ensure certainty in suspicious cases, and is apt to be infringed upon in seasons of epidemic. But, be that as it may, the continual presence of scores of corpses lying in open coffins, and separated only by glass doors from the hundreds of spectators who come daily to gaze upon the ghastly sight, cannot be otherwise than injurious to the general health. Also, the practice of the citizens using the cemeteries as a favorite promenade, and of spending hours in wandering amongst the graves, is highly pernicious: it would seem as though the people of Munich had fed upon stenches so long that they could not be satisfied with the ordinary smells of the houses and streets, but must seek the fountain-head of corruption to still their morbid craving for the odors of decay. During the height of the cholera epidemic of the winter of 1873-74 an article appeared in one of the newspapers, written by a citizen who signed himself "A Constant Visitor of the Dead-houses;" and the article was answered by an opponent who signed himself "Another Constant Visitor of the Dead-houses;" as though no more worthy occupation could be imagined than this of prowling like ghouls among the victims of the pestilence!
It is now time to speak of another principal cause of the unhealthiness of Munich, perhaps the most important one of all—the water. As before stated, Munich is situated on what was formerly the bed of a lake: the ground, therefore, is full of springs, and from these the water-supply of the inhabitants has always been obtained. There is a well in the court of almost every house, in close proximity to the vault, the refuse-pit and the drain, and well impregnated also, doubtless, with that bugbear of Munich hygienists, "the ground-water." The most ignorant citizen knows that the well-water is not [pg 308] fit to drink, and avoids it as a beverage; still, its use necessarily enters largely into all domestic arrangements. Children are frequently thirsty, and cannot be kept from the pumps and fountains; the poor are not able to afford a constant supply of beer (and, for that matter, the beer itself is made with the same material); it is used in cooking and for washing and bathing; and though its impurities are lessened through boiling, it is so corrupt that nothing short of complete distillation could make it wholesome for either outward or inward application. Strangers are warned against drinking it, and in numerous instances among the citizens bowel complaints and typhus have been traced directly to its poison. It is true that a small portion of the inhabitants are more favored in respect to their water-supply. Within a few years the water of two springs rising a little way out of the city, at Brunnthal and Thalkirchen, has been introduced into a few streets and houses, and, though by no means pure, it is vastly better than that of the wells. But the whole yield from these sources is not sufficient for more than a third of the inhabitants; and the Thalkirchner water has recently been corrupted by the breaking in of the Isar, in consequence of an attempt to enlarge the spring.
But besides the unfavorable nature of the climate and soil of Munich—which cannot be helped—and the shameful condition of its sewerage and water-supply—for which the city government is mainly responsible—there are many accessory causes of disease to be found in the habits and customs of the people. The open-air gatherings of the Germans are, in many respects, a pleasant-and praiseworthy trait of their social life, but the practice needs to be held in judicious restraint to make it safe for the citizens of Munich. The changes of temperature in that region are so frequent and so severe, and the atmosphere at night is so heavily charged with moisture and malaria, that the mere tarrying late in public gardens is dangerous; but when to this source of danger are added the imbibing of copious draughts of ice-cold beer and the eating of suppers of heavy food, such as sausages, roast pork, radishes, etc., it is easy to see how a sudden check of perspiration might react upon a gorged stomach and produce the fevers and inflammation which abound.
Attention has been called to the peculiar soil of Munich as a disadvantageous characteristic of the locality. There is, however, a strip of land following the course of the Isar and bordering the city on the north-eastern side, which is an exception to the general barrenness, it having been gradually formed out of the soil and vegetation brought down the river from more fruitful regions during periods of inundation. It is a low, marshy, heavily-timbered tract, which has been partially drained and laid out as a public park, the so-called English Garden—spot beloved of the people for its welcome shades, where artificial waterfalls, from the "Isar rolling rapidly," add chill to the natural dampness; where unwilling streamlets creep slowly through tortuous channels toward a stagnant pond, and pestiferous miasma, rising like incense at the going down of the sun, broods over the meadows until his rising again. It was in one of the streets bordering this park that the cholera broke out in 1873, and there too, Kaulbach, one of its last victims, had his home. So notorious is the spot as a breeding-place of typhus that it is generally abandoned at sunset; but the same crowd that hurry out of its dripping shades at twilight return in the early summer mornings before the dew has dried on the grass or the poisonous damps have exhaled from the glens and thickets.
So long as the sun is in the sky it is fine weather to a Municher, no matter what wind may blow or what evil the earth may be bringing forth. Thus, on Christmas Day of 1873, when the weather, though unusually mild for the season, was still windy and chilly, and utterly unfit for any open-air enjoyment other than a brisk walk, every beer-garden in the city was filled with an eating and drinking multitude; and this, too, when a cold was especially to be deprecated, as the cholera was increasing every hour. [pg 309] And so on all Sundays and feast-days and fast-days and fairs there is a general pouring out of the population into places of amusement near and remote, no matter what may be the state of the weather or what the condition of the public health.
But, though the people of Munich are extremely fond of staying out of doors, they are by no means lovers of fresh air in their houses. With the dread of fever always before their eyes, they make all close when they go to bed, forgetting that "the only air at night is night air;" and, hardened by habit, they spend long winter evenings in concert-rooms and tavern beer-halls, made stifling with tobacco smoke and foul with accumulated breaths; while at home, especially among the poorer classes, the air is purposely unchanged in order to economize heat. Even the Odeon Music-Hail, the place where aristocratic concerts are given, is so badly constructed with respect to ventilation that when crowded, as it generally is, women frequently faint away, while many persons avoid going there entirely through dread of the discomfort and fear of its effects. So, too, the theatres show a shameful negligence of the health and comfort of the audiences as to this particular, the Royal Theatre especially becoming almost a "Black Hole of Calcutta" by the end of a six hours' Wagner opera. The close air of the crowded lecture-rooms of the Polytechnic School is a source of positive injury to the students, and the same may be said of the halls appropriated to pupils in the Academy of Art.
With respect to bathing, there is no danger of the people of Munich being mistaken for an amphibious race. The tiny bowls and pitchers that furnish an ordinary German washstand, and the absence of slop-pail and foot-bath, are sufficient proof that only partial ablutions are expected to be performed in the bed-chamber; while the lack of a bath-room in even genteel houses, and the smallness and rarity of bathing establishments, show that the practice is by no means frequent or general among the better classes. The fiercest radical who should find himself for a time in the midst of a crowd of the populace would scarcely hesitate (supposing him to be possessed of delicate olfactories) to bestow upon them the epithet of "The Great Unwashed." Indeed, it would be hardly reasonable to expect that people should indulge often in a full bath at home in a city where the water must be drawn from wells, and carried up long flights of stairs in pitchers and pails by women and children.
The notions of the lower classes with regard to dress have doubtless a good deal to do with their health. The same notions prevail in most parts of Germany, but are especially hurtful in a climate so severe and variable as that of Munich. Thus, it is considered improper for a servant-girl to wear a hat or a bonnet in the street when she is about the business of her calling. On Sundays and holidays, indeed, or when she has an outing in the afternoon, she may adorn herself with such an appendage; but to go to market or to the grocer's with her head covered would be a piece of presumption which would at once expose her to ridicule from all the members of her class. Hence, all day and every day women and girls may be seen in the streets without any covering on the head, though, by way of compensation, most of them are obliged to go about a good share of the time with their faces bound up on account of swelled jaws and tonsils, the natural result of such unnatural exposure. Occasionally, in the coldest weather some few, more prudent than the others, wear a hood or a small shawl over the head, but these cases are rare, and excepting in the depth of winter such a precaution is not thought of, although the gusty, chilly weather of spring and autumn and the frequent cold blasts that occur in summer are quite as dangerous, if not prepared for, as are the winter storms. As a general thing, a servant goes out on errands in precisely the same clothes that she wears in the kitchen, and paddles about in rain and snow in the thin, low house-shoes which, on account of their cheapness, are the favorite foot-gear of the ordinary Munich women.[pg 310]
Children, too, are sent to school in the same unprotected manner: one may meet them any day trooping through the streets, their bare heads shining in the sun or glistening in the rain, according as the fickle sky may smile or weep; and babies are drawn about in the open air, two, and sometimes three of them, crowded into a small carriage and sweltering under a feather bed which covers them to their chins, and yet with their bald pates exposed to all the winds that blow. The ignorant recklessness with which the changes of temperature are met is well exemplified in the attire of little girls and young maidens who participate in the religious processions which take place so frequently in Munich, especially during the spring and early summer. On such occasions, although the weather may be so chilly that the bystanders are wrapped up to their eyes in shawls and cloaks, these young creatures appear clad in thin white muslin dresses, with necks and arms bare, and with no covering upon the head more substantial than a wreath of flowers or a gauze veil: and in this condition they march through the wet and windy streets, and settle down finally to a prolonged service in a church as cold and damp as a cellar.
Another source of harm is the ordinary diet of the citizens. There is probably no large city of the Old World where the lower classes are able to obtain so much substantial food as in Munich. Indeed, there is, properly speaking, no abject poverty in that city, although the population, as a whole, possesses less wealth than is usually found in capitals; one reason of this being the fact that many families who are rich enough to choose their place of residence avoid Munich on account of its notorious sickliness, while their places are filled by tradesmen and artisans of all kinds, who must make a living at whatever risk of life. But, at any rate, no one dies there of starvation, and the great majority of the citizens are able to have meat for dinner every day. Unfortunately, veal—and very young veal at that—is the favorite dish of all classes, so that the benefit derived from animal juices is not so great as it might be. During the recent Franco-German war it was remarked that the Bavarian soldiers were able neither to resist nor to endure so well as the troops of North Germany; and by many this difference was ascribed to the habitual use by the former of veal as the chief article of diet. There is no doubt, too, that the immoderate drinking of beer tends to weaken instead of strengthen the inhabitants, especially as so many of them drink when they ought to eat, even beginning a day's work by chilling their stomachs with this cold beverage, and necessitating thereby a supplementary draught of "schnapps," thus creating excitement instead of nourishment, and superinducing a second bad habit upon a first. Pure Bavarian beer, taken in moderation, would be an excellent thing, for its stimulating and nutritive properties are a good counterpoise to the exhausting effects of the harsh climate; but, alas! this renowned specialty of Munich is losing its ancient fame: the beer is no longer under governmental inspection, and bitter is the general complaint against the brewers on account of its alleged adulteration through the use of foreign drugs and poisonous indigenous plants, to say nothing of its dilution by the retailers with Munich water, itself a poison sufficiently strong. For the rest, the amount of pork and sausages consumed is enormous: the favorite vegetable is the indigestible sauerkraut, and the bread in general use is uniformly bad. Nor can tobacco be considered as otherwise than an article of diet, since the men and boys are hardly ever seen without a pipe or cigar in their mouths, while the women and girls spend the greater part of their lives in an atmosphere blue and heavy with tobacco smoke.
Having now given many reasons why the citizens of Munich ought to be sick, it is time to see to what degree effects correspond to causes in the sanitary condition of the city. Munich is known all over the world as a nest for typhus fever; nor will it soon be forgotten that within a year it has suffered from two distinct outbreaks of cholera, besides [pg 311] being the only city in Europe where that epidemic continued to rage during the winter. The population is estimated at one hundred and eighty-eight thousand, but this number is generally considered as greater than the truth. Statistics show that between two and three thousand sicken annually of typhus, and that of these between two and three hundred die. Some idea of the special tendency to this disease may be obtained by comparing the statistics of Munich with those of Berlin, which is also an unfavorably situated and very unhealthy city. In Berlin, the regiment most exposed to fever loses annually three men: in Munich, the first regiment of artillery loses annually thirteen men. In Berlin, of the whole body of the soldiery—over eighteen thousand men—sixteen men die annually of typhus; in Munich, where the number of the soldiers is only twelve thousand, fifty men die annually of typhus. The disease, too, has been on the increase for the last three years. In 1872 four hundred and seven persons died of it, and during the first four months of 1873 one hundred and twenty-two died. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that many persons visiting Munich contract the fever there, but return home to sicken with it, and that this number has greatly increased since the recent facilities for travel have been extended in all directions from the capital. If all these cases were to be added to the list of victims—and they properly belong to it—the number would be appalling indeed. Even that small body, the Bavarian Parliament, loses one or more of its members every year from the same disease and yet these men are more favorably situated than almost any others as regards protective circumstances. So patent is the danger, and so many are the instances of disease contracted during a short stay in the capital and carried away to spread contagion in remote places, that frequently persons chosen to honorable and lucrative official positions refuse to accept because, in order to hold such situations, they must reside temporarily or entirely in Munich. Finally, the general unhealthiness of Munich cannot be questioned, since statistics show that nearly fifty per cent, of the children born there die in infancy, and that the death-rate for the whole population is nearly forty in a thousand.
But is there no help for this state of things? The foregoing account of the principal causes of disease suggests naturally the means of at least partial cure for the accumulated evils under which the benighted city is suffering. It is true that the climate must always be unfavorable to persons of a certain constitution, but its bracing air is a tonic to those who are able to bear it, and its fierce winds serve to sweep away many an impurity. It is true, also, that the soil must always be in some degree a manufactory of injurious effluvia, and that the vicinity of that long strip of marshy bottom known as the English Garden must continue to be a source of mischief; but if the dead had never been buried in the neighborhood of the town, and if the excreta of the living had not from the beginning until how been allowed to corrupt the air and the water, the occasional prevalence of vegetable miasma would give comparatively little trouble. In fact, the extreme backwardness of the people with regard to knowledge of, and obedience to, the simplest sanitary laws is a great aggravation of both their necessary and unnecessary ills. During the recent cholera epidemic the physicians complained that all rational means of abating the plague were continually thwarted by the ignorance and obstinacy of the lower classes. Very few families kept remedies in their houses, and yet in many cases medical aid was not applied for, lest the regulations concerning the disinfection of furniture and the burning of bedding, and other clothing should be enforced. There was the greatest dissatisfaction with the prohibition against the holding of public balls and other amusements wherein health would be particularly exposed; and the foolish citizens crowded all the more into the unventilated, tobacco-poisoned beer-cellars and concert-halls, and persisted in supping on heavy food and cold beer in the open air, as though on purpose to spite the over-anxious [pg 312] magistrates and doctors. Nor was the stupidity confined entirely to the lower classes. People who ought to have known better defied the cholera in excess of rioting, while those of another turn of mind gave way to superstitious fears, and as soon as they felt the first symptoms of the disease fled to the cold, damp churches and wasted in prayer upon their knees the few precious hours which, spent in a warm bed and under the influence of proper remedies, might have ensured them the salvation of at least their temporal life.
To go still higher. Although Munich had warning of the approach of the epidemic months before it broke out, no sufficient means were adopted by the authorities to fortify the city against its attack. All summer long the street-drains sent up their concentrated stenches and the undrained streets spread far and wide their promiscuous abominations. The general daily disinfection ordered by the city government was never thoroughly enforcedly the police, and as often as a lull occurred in the virulence of the pestilence it was almost totally neglected by the citizens. When the plague ceased for a few days in the autumn, the chief medical authorities announced that it was at an end; and when it broke out again, these wise ones comforted the public by assuring them that it was only a "Nach-epidemie"—an after epidemic—that is, a final effort of the mysterious poison, like the last flashing up of an expiring flame. And yet this "after epidemic" lasted more than five months, and was more virulent in its workings than had been the three months' visitation in the previous summer! The official reports and scientific discussions of the subject were unsatisfactory to the last degree. The principal object seemed to be, not to cleanse Munich and get rid of the pestilence, but to substantiate the proposition that the variations in the sanitary condition of the city are intimately connected with the rising and falling of the ground-water (grund-wasser)—a theory which, whether true or not, is of small practical value under existing circumstances, since the ground-water, so far as quality is concerned, is entirely beyond human control, while the drinking-water and the sewers are capable of improvement.
It is but justice to say that a few physicians—who, having recently come to Munich, are properly impressed with its sanitary deficiencies, and one, at least, who, long a resident, has a thorough knowledge of what is wanted, and sufficient common sense and courage to speak out—do not hesitate to declare that the bad water and bad drainage of that city are the principal causes of its everlasting typhus and its frequent epidemics. But these men are in bad odor with their colleagues, and are denounced on all sides as enemies of the fair fame and prosperity of Munich. Certain physicians of high standing there laugh at the fuss made about the water, and tell their patients, even foreigners, to drink all the water they want; while it may be doubted whether any, excepting the few referred to above, have any adequate idea of the injury constantly accruing from the unwashed drains and the crowded cemeteries.
And Munich will be visited with a succession of "after epidemics," and physicians will continue to talk nonsense and make blunders and be at their wits' end, so long as they persist in ignoring the true causes of these plagues and in delaying to apply the only remedy. Water is what Munich needs—pure water for the people to drink and to cook with; plenty of water for them to bathe in; water to wash out the vaults and drains; water for a daily flushing of the sewers. As long ago as 1822 a competent authority pointed out an inexhaustible source from which water might be obtained, with a fall sufficient to obviate the necessity of any hydraulic works for its elevation. There is in the Bavarian Mountains, not far away, a lake of remarkably pure water, situated at such a height that the level would be above the loftiest houses in Munich. The estimated cost of bringing the water into the city is only five millions of gulden (about two millions of dollars). It seems surprising that with this excellent opportunity [pg 313] at hand there should be any hesitation about accepting it. And yet, after having been possessed of the knowledge for more than fifty years, there was only one vote in favor of the enterprise when the subject was discussed in a meeting of the municipal and medical authorities a short time ago. The proverbial thriftiness of the German is apt to degenerate into stinginess when the object to be attained is of general rather than individual benefit; and though Munich claims a high place as an art-centre, it would take a long time to convince its citizens that three hundred millions of kreuzers are but as dust in the balance when weighed against the value to the world of Kaulbach.
One step, however, has been gained. The urgent need of an abundant supply of good water, which is so patent a fact to all strangers visiting Munich, is beginning to dawn upon the intelligence of the community. The connection between cause and effect was so evident during the cholera epidemic of last year that even Ignorance recognized the Law, while Superstition dared only whisper of "judgments," and refrained from attempting to propitiate the destroying angel by religious mummeries until it was certain that his wrath was nearly spent. But it is to be feared that, taking counsel of penuriousness, an attempt will be made to utilize certain sources which have recently been discovered near the city, and which are not only insufficient, but impure, instead of bringing, once for all, a full supply for every purpose from the neighboring mountain lake.
The dragon that haunted the soil of Munich in the old days is still poisoning the springs and the atmosphere with his pestilent breath, nor can he be tempted forth to his destruction until he shall see his reflection mirrored in fountains of pure water.
When the misèrables of the horrible and fascinating old Paris that people used to read about in the works of Eugène Sue and the elder Dumas were drawn into the streets of modern Paris by the ragings of the last revolution, people asked, "Where did these dreadful creatures come from?" Not only did the well-to-do citizen of Paris, who has his habitudes, and never departs from them, and knows nothing outside of them, ask this question, but the American or English tourist who was caught in Paris at the moment asked it. These frightful creatures were not Parisians, surely? Parisians! Why the very word is redolent of ess. bouquet! The well-to-do citizen, sipping his black coffee after dinner in his favorite corner on the Boulevard, explained that they came from the provinces—"Oui, they were provincials, these misèrables" And the tourist knew no better than the citizen where the Communist demon came from, with his flaring torch, his red eyes, his flying hair, his hoarse howl, his sturdy tramp, which trampled civilization in the dust, and his reckless spirit, which let loose all the devils of incarnate vice for a mad riot. There are no such creatures as this under the shadow of the Madeleine! We never meet them on the Boulevard des Italiens! They don't live in the Faubourg St. Germain! There are none such in the Champs Élysées, even on Sunday, when, as everybody knows, the lower orders invade the haunts of the better classes—to wit, ourselves, the tourists.
Nevertheless, these very creatures are still in Paris in great numbers. The most elegant tourist who has walked the streets of the French capital this year, [pg 314] though he kept strictly to the choicer quarters, has touched elbows with these creatures unconsciously; and if he has ventured into the Belleville quarter, into the regions beyond the Place of the Bastile, into the neighborhood of the Panthéon or the Gobelins tapestry-mill, he has been jostled against, on the narrow sidewalks of narrow streets, by thousands of them. They are not such a conspicuous feature of the city's daily life now as they were when the volcano of revolution was belching its lava torrent through the streets; but they are there. They are not now occupied in the way they were then; they make less noise; they dress more quietly; they attend, in one way or other, to the business of getting a living. Some are working at trades; some are playing at soldiers; some are keeping cabarets; some are driving fiacres. I am morally certain the rascal who drove me home from the Gymnase one night was a petroleum-flinger at the most active period of his existence. "Give me your ticket, cocher," I said to him; for the law requires the cabman to give to his fare, without solicitation, a, ticket with his number, and the legal rates of fare printed on it. He cracked his whip at the left ear of his steed, and drove on without paying any attention. "Give me your ticket," I repeated. This time he shrugged his shoulders—it requires a really superhuman effort on the part of a Frenchman to refrain from letting his shoulders fly up to his ears, whatever his determination to control himself—but drove on in silence. Then I brandished my umbrella, and punching him with that weapon in the back in an energetic manner, repeated, "Cocher, oblige me with your ticket, tout de suite." He turned round on his seat in a fury. "Ah, ça!" he roared, thee-thou-ing me as an expression of his direst rage and power of insult, "where hast thou come out of, then, that thou hast no sense left thee at the last?" Yes, I am morally certain he helped burn the Tuileries, that fellow!
Others of the former demons who howled in the Commune mobs are now doing the congenial work of thievery which they did before the Commune days, and especially during them. They are not the worst-looking of the demons. A thief is generally a rather sleek-looking person in his station. Rich thieves treat themselves to the best of broadcloth and the shiniest of tall hats. Poor thieves usually at least shave their faces, and try to look unforbidding. If they wear a blouse, it is because they belong on a social scale which does not dream of wearing a coat. The blousard of Paris may be either a thief or a working-man: he is always the one or the other, and sometimes he is both.
The great mass of those who rioted in the Commune—the rank and file of that turbulent army—may be found wherever there are blouses in Paris. Occasionally, arrests are made, even now, of men who were prominently active, unduly noisy, in that terrible time: the French police has got a list of such, and will go on tracking them down and bringing them to punishment for years to come, or until the next revolution arrives. In a most respectable street in the Faubourg St. Germain, where I lived, a quiet wine-seller next door to me was arrested and his business broken up nearly two years after the war was over, his only offence being that he had been too active a Communist. Later, an industrious blousard of my acquaintance was arrested at his work, and sent to prison for the same offence: he was a carriage-maker. In the Rue de Provence an old woman who begged very assiduously with a drugged baby, and whom I used to watch from my window by the half hour, fascinated by her practical methods of doing business, was hauled up one day on the same charge, and went her way with the gendarme, to be seen no more. A meeker-looking old creature I never saw as she leaned against the wall over the way, and collected sous industriously from the passers-by, and hid them in a pocket in the small of the poor baby's back; but I was told she displayed tremendous energy as a pétroleuse in those other days when robbery was a better trade than even beggary.
You may have observed, when you have been returning home from the [pg 315] opera some night in Paris, in the gloom succeeding midnight, a dusky figure moving along by the paved gutter in the shadow of a large square lantern which he carries. The lantern has a light only in front, and catches your eye as it glides along two or three inches above the paving-stones, so that you see the figure in the shadow behind it but dimly. Close down to the stones it throws its glare for two or three feet about, and into that glare-emerges a hook—an iron hook—which pokes and prods at>out in the gutters, and now and then fastens like a finger on a wisp of paper and disappears behind the lamp. Following the hook with your eye, you see that it deposits the wisps of paper in a deep basket fastened on the back of a man. The is shaggy, dirty and begrimed. He wears a hat which he has at some fished out of a gutter, a ragged blue blouse, a raggeder apron, which was in its brighter days a coffee-sack, and wooden shoes upon his feet. A short pipe, sometimes alight, but more often empty, is in a corner of his mouth. No one needs to be told who he is or what his calling. In the argot of the blousards he is known as the Chevalier of the Hook.
The ragpicker of Paris has been often written of, but what I have read of him has never shown him to me in quite the colors I have found him in by personal observation and inquiry concerning his ways of life. He has been somewhat idealized in print, I find. Victor Hugo has presented him in a light not unlike that of Cooper's noble savage—with large difference of color and pose, of course. The average Frenchman knows Cooper's noble savage as well as we know Hugo's romantic ragpicker, and he knows nothing of the American Indian besides. (It is a curious fact, which I may note in passing, that the only American author whose writings appear to be really well known in Paris to-day is Fenimore Cooper. Next to him stands Edgar Poe—Poaye, as the French call him, pronouncing both the vowels.) There is a street in the crowded quarter of Paris back of the Panthéon which has the, reputation of being the especial haunt of the ragpickers. It is called the Rue Mouffetard, and includes many of this class of blousards among its population; but as there are over twenty thousand ragpickers in Paris, it needs little argument to show that they are not all hived in the Rue Mouffetard. Great numbers live in the Brise Miche quarter, behind the church of St. Méry; at Montmartre, along the Canal de Bièvre; in the purlieus of Belleville; out beyond the Bastile; in fact, wherever there is dirt enough to suit their tastes. For if the truth is to be written here, it must be said that the ragpicker of Paris is the most degraded creature ever met in the guise of a human being. I have met Digger Indians, too, in California. There is something to be said in defence of the bestiality of a Digger: he has not been exposed to the refining influences of surrounding civilization; he was reared in darkness and ignorance; so were his fathers before him for many generations; the white man and his ways have just dawned upon the poor Digger's consciousness; and so on. These things cannot be said for the ragpicker of Paris. He is almost equally dirty with the Digger, and he lives in the gayest capital of the world. He is also almost equally ignorant with the Digger: neither can read or write; neither has any idea whether the world is round or flat; neither is aware, save dimly, that there are other lands and other peoples than his own; but the ragpicker is in a city full of books and newspapers (and, oddly enough, is a principal purveyor for the mills that make paper for printing); and the Digger has the advantage in the comparison. The Digger lives in vicious sexual relations, but in this particular point the comparison leaves the Indian far in advance of his rival, for the ragpicker's customs in this regard are worse by far than those of even the most degraded Indians of America. There is nothing in any savage country more horrible, more astounding and incredible than the practices of the ragpickers of Paris in respect of the relations between the sexes. They are so atrociously vile that it is difficult to state the truth in cleanly words.[pg 316]
You may have heard that a ragpicker who has risen to the rank of a boss in his trade, and so remains at home in a shop and goes out with his hook no more, is called an ogre. A woman attaining this dignity is called an ogress. The terms are not idle ones. Like many of the words and phrases of slang they are based on the clearest conception of the merits of the case. An ogre or ogress without a daughter, real or adopted, lacks the first requisite for doing a successful business. The ogre or ogress has his or her especial workmen, who go out and scour the streets, bringing home their load, and being paid in board and lodging simply. When there is a daughter in the business the workmen are her husbands. The process of divorce is easy, and consists simply in the ragpicker's returning with his hotte (la hotte is the basket which hangs on the back) to some other ogre or ogress after his daily or nightly tour of the streets. Marriage among the ragpickers of Paris is so rare an incident as to be virtually no part of their plan of life.
The Paris ragpicker is seldom seen in the streets by day: his most profitable season is the night. And what meagre pickings are his at the best! what despicable bits of paper, of twine, of coal-refuse, of rejected food, bones, potato-skins, he gathers carefully in his hoard! A bit of paper no larger than a postage-stamp he saves. A crust of bread no bigger than a walnut is a prize, for rare are the households in Paris in which a crust that is large enough to be visible to the naked eye is allowed to be thrown into the street. Standing and watching this poor wretch prodding in a gutter after hopeless infinitesimals, I have pictured to myself what emotions would surge through his breast if a New York garbage-barrel were to be set down before him. I am not sure he would be able to refrain from fainting away at sight of such a mine of wealth. Happy ragpicker of New York who takes his morning stroll and his lordly pick from the contents of the teeming barrels our servants set out on the pavement for him! He does not have to work at night: he is a sort of prince, compared to his Paris fellow. If a Paris ragpicker could have the monopoly of the barrels in a single block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, I am convinced he would retire from business at the end of ten years with an independent fortune—that is, if with the New York barrels he could have the Paris market and live on Paris fare. It is an old story that in Paris nothing is wasted. The very mud in the streets is gathered up and sold. There is a market for everything.
An important division of the army of blousards is that composed of the street-sweepers of Paris. They share the Rue Mouffetard and the Place Maubert with the ragpickers, and, like them, are scattered about in various poorer quarters of the city. Ever-picturesque argot has given them a name of ridicule, and calls them les peintres and their brooms their inspired brushes. Every tourist has seen those unhappy wretches at work, sometimes alone, sometimes in gangs of three or four, men and women together. There is no distinction of sex in this branch of industry, as indeed there is in none of the lowest fields of labor in Paris. Women and girls are quite often ragpickers; among the street-sweepers they form a good half of the force; they are also street—peddlers, dragging cartloads of vegetables about and crying aloud their wares; they are porters, lugging bundles on their backs; they are oyster-openers, hacking away with iron knife at coarse shells; they even drive drays and big market-wagons; they split wood and shovel coal, and in a hundred ways confound and confuse those theorizers who pretend that male bone and muscle is by nature brawnier than female. The female scavengers are quite as strong, quite as coarse, quite as dirty, and can smoke their pipes with quite as much gusto as their male compeers.
The scavengers are six thousand in number, and are employed by contractors, who pay them at the rate of four to eight sous per hour. They use up seventy thousand brooms a year, and the filth they gather is rotted in pits and sold for manure, yielding about seven [pg 317] hundred thousand dollars a year. Until the rubbish of New York streets is made to yield a profit in a similar manner our streets will never be cleaned as they should be. But I fear it is hopeless to expect that New York streets will ever be cleaned as they are in Paris, from lack of the human element that does the work in the French capital. A hard ten hours' work would yield the Paris scavenger forty to eighty sous, and on this sum he would be rich, for he can clothe and feed himself on a sum which would scarcely buy a New York laborer what drink he needs alone, to say nothing about food and clothing. But the Paris scavenger is rarely privileged to work ten hours a day, and his earnings the year round will barely exceed on an average twenty-five cents a day. For this sum he can have sufficient food, and as for clothing, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that he never buys any. At various stages in his career he becomes possessed by a stroke of fortune of some article of cast-off clothing, which he wears, as it were, for life. Ordinarily, the poorest blousard has a new blouse once in five or ten years, and a new pair of wooden shoes in the same time; but the scavenger's apparel is for ever old, and he never lays it off. I have seen thousands of men and women in Paris of whom it would be mere idle dreaming to suppose that they undressed themselves at night. Their clothing was practically as much a part of them as their skins. It is only in the matter of lodging that the lowest classes of Paris are hard pressed. Rents in Paris are high. Few families, even of the better sort of blousards, have a home attractive enough to compete with the fascinations of the street or the café. Even in the Rue Mouffetard there are cafés where wine is sold at two sous the glass, and even cheaper, which would put to the blush some of the most frequented "saloons" of Broadway in point of elegance and comfort for the lounger. Stuccoed walls, frescoed ceilings, huge mirrors, velvet sofas, marble-topped tables, gleaming chandeliers, gilt and glitter that would be called "palatial" in New York, make the place attractive. Yet a man could hardly be too ragged to be welcome therein if he had a few sous in his pocket.
The scavenger and the ragpicker, being the lowest grade of blousards, do not always rise to the dignity even of a blouse. They wear a coat sometimes, but it is a marvel of a coat, and was in the last stages of tottering old age before it fell to the blousard. They wear leather boots too sometimes, instead of the wooden shoes belonging to their station, but they are boots which are but a mockery and a delusion, and yield the wearer no comfort. A respectable blousard—a carpenter or a shoemaker or a member of any honest trade—would scorn to be seen in any other dress but his neat blouse, unless on some great day, a fete, his wedding or at church, when he wears his only coat, or his father's or a friend's. The blouse is in its sphere a badge of respectability to the wearer, and honest blousards look upon the assumption of a blouse by a thief as a gross imposition upon the public at large and an outrage upon honest workingmen. There is a wide range of quality in blouses, too. I bought one in the Rue Mouffetard, to wear as a protection in some of my night-wanderings, for the sum of forty cents: it was a plain frock of coarse stuff, with a string at the neck. But there were blouses of several degrees of fineness in the shop—some of very fine linen, tied with a white silk ribbon, and neatly embroidered. The usual color of blouses is white, blue or black. The material is often a coarse, warm cloth, such as one might make a very respectable overcoat of, I should think. In cold weather it is common to see men wearing two or even three blouses, one over the other. Caps are sold at from twenty to sixty cents each in the same street. It will be seen that clothing is inexpensive to the blousard, and as the fashions never change with him, he never lays aside a garment till it is quite worn out.
One of the peculiar features of low Paris is the shop for the sale of articles at the uniform price of one son. One before which I paused in the Rue Mouffetard was presided over, by two women—evidently [pg 318] grandmother and granddaughter. The former was as grotesque a type of the jolly old vendeuse of Paris as it would be possible to find. A low, winey humor twinkled in her little black eyes, hidden in wrinkly wads of fat; her nose glowed with good feeling; her toothless mouth smirked good-naturedly. A worn shawl covered her chunky shoulders, and a cap like a muslin and flannel extinguisher protected her bald old head from the weather. The granddaughter, being young and rather pretty, was less interesting as a picture of a curious type. The shop occupied a corner, and seemed to literally overflow upon the sidewalks of the two streets, so that care was needful in moving about to avoid stumbling over the profuse array of objects which littered the way. A group of old women were standing near, laughing and chattering in toothless merriment over some mysterious cause of amusement, which I grievously suspected to be myself, the apparition of a foreigner being no doubt an uncommon one in that quarter. But the women of the shop, having an eye to sales, were obsequiously polite to the stranger. I engaged in conversation with the old woman, who proved quite communicative, and set me off on a path of inquiry which yielded information of curious interest.
"Voyez!" cried out the younger woman from behind the broad counter open to the street, and spread with a literally innumerable variety of articles—"Voyez! All one sou! your choice in the sale!"
To study the shop was to find many suggestions of the types of people living in the surrounding buildings—alphabets and whistles for children; playing-cards for gamesters; camphor cigarettes for invalids; sewing-cases for work-girls; mirrors for coquettes; and toys innumerable, "all one sou." In the grand shops on the fashionable boulevards you may see the last new mode in toys—for no season goes by in Paris without bringing some especial toy or toys to become "the rage"—but in the Rue Mouffetard the toys are all classics. They have been handed down from generation to generation precisely in the forms you see them here. Babies who are now tottering grandfathers and grandmothers played with the toys of the "boutique à un sou" in their day, as the babies of the present do, and paid the same price for them, in spite of the changes of time and the decreased purchasing value of the son in most respects. I bought a large collection of these toys purely as objects of curiosity, and it was really amazing to see, when spread out on a table, what a collection I had gathered for the incredible price of sixteen cents. Many of the toys would be readily recognized as old acquaintances in America, but others, common here for a hundred years past, I never saw at home. The articulated monkey chasing his nose over the end of a stick; the wooden snake undulating in a surprisingly life-like manner; the noisy "watchman's rattle," which in our village was popularly supposed to be the constant companion of the New York policeman on his beat; the jumping-jack, the wooden sword, the whip and the doll,—all these are household friends in the humblest American homes. But not so the frog which jumps with a spring, the wooden hammers which fall alternately on their wooden anvil by the simplest of contrivances, and the horseman without legs, whose horse has a whistle instead of a tail. How any one of these articles could be sold for a sou passed my comprehension until I learned details so surprising as to throw this one quite into the shade.
There are blousards whose whole lives are passed in carving these toys from the wood of the linden tree, and daubing them with the most flaming reds, the most glittering yellows, the most dazzling blues, that ever colorist beheld. The toy whips with handles decorated with gilt paper wrapped about them spirally are said to be exclusively made by Israelites, but the ingenuity of the human mind has not devised an explanation of this curious fact. The papier-mâché sheep is one of the most elaborately fashioned toys sold for a sou, and [pg 319] the mode of making it is this: The workman takes old scraps of paper and mashes them in water to a pulp: this he sticks around the inside of a rude mould, which is in two parts, one for each side of the sheep. When the two sides are moulded, he sticks them together and dips the whole in a pot of white mucilaginous paint. When this coating is dry, he tattoos the sheep according to his fancy, covers its back with a bit of sheepskin, and ties a red string around its neck. And all this work for a sou? is one's incredulous question. Why, our blousard would think his fortune was made if he could get a sou for it. The retailer in the Rue Mouffetard sells it for a sou: the man who made it would be happy if he could sell it at the rate of eight sous the dozen, but, like most other workers, he must deal with a middleman. No retailer could take his stock off his hands in sufficient quantities: he must sell to a wholesale dealer in the first place, and the wholesale dealer sells to the little shopkeeper at eight sous the dozen. All this work for half a sou, then! And when it is added that the workman has to furnish the materials for his work besides, it really entitles the toy to a niche in the realms of the marvelous. I have found my eyes growing moist in New York as I listened to the tales of sewing-girls who made coarse shirts at six cents apiece, and found the thread, but such cases were exceptional, and could only be viewed in the light of intolerable hardships; while the poor wretches who make these toys at these prices are following the trade to which they were bred, and which their fathers followed before them, and their only fear is that they may be unable to get enough of this work to do. Each of the other toys in my collection is made at the same or a smaller price. The little lead candlestick is sold by the wholesale dealer at four sous the dozen. Whistles are sold at two sous the dozen. There are little watches of stamped brass with a crystal, movable hands, and a cord of yellow cotton with an occasional gold thread running through it, which are sold wholesale at seven sous the dozen.
"Voyez! Make your choice, brave parents! If the little one pulls in pieces the object of his affection, no matter: it will not derange your resources to replace it."
Courier, in the preface to his translation of Herodotus, tells us that Malherbe, the courtier, used to say, "I learn all my French at the Place Maubert," and that Plato, who was a poet and did not like the lower orders, nevertheless called them his "masters of language." The gamin of Paris, who is the father of argot, long ago gave to the quarter of the city through which the Rue Mouffetard runs a name which clings to it tenaciously. He called it the "quartier souffrant"—the suffering quarter. A designation like this, given by a magazinist, would be fitting enough, certainly, but received into the current slang of Paris, it becomes a really striking phrase. It is nothing to read of a suffering quarter, but it is almost startling to hear an omnibus conductor call out, "Place Maubert! Rue St. Victor! Panthéon! Quartier Souffrant! Anybody for the Suffering Quarter?" and to see a rheumatic old woman, tottering with years and clad in dirty rags, get down and go clattering off into the quarter to which she so palpably belongs.
The Rue Mouffetard, which in old times was a continuation of the Place Maubert from the river Seine, then extended in an unbroken line to the Barrière d'Italie, at the remote southern limit of the city of Paris. The Haussmannizing reform which set in under the Empire went at the horrible neighborhood with a sort of sublime fury of destruction. Whole blocks of dark, forbidding buildings were obliterated by the pickaxes of the blousards, who thus assisted at their own regeneration. The result is, that there is a long and wide avenue now stretching its lines of lamps into the distance from the point where the Rue Mouffetard stops and the Avenue Gobelins begins. The old street—the portion of it which remains—looks with a dazed and dirty sorrowfulness up the broad, clean avenue which once was dirty and narrow like itself. The work of transformation ceased with the breaking out [pg 320] of the war with Germany. So did the like work in numerous other quarters of the town which needed it quite as badly as the Rue Mouffetard. But under the government of the Septennat the work has been resumed in some degree. The double purpose is hereby served of letting in light on the dark spots of the town, and of giving employment to the needy blousards, who might get into obstreperous moods again if crowded too hard by poverty and want. It seems at first sight an awful destruction of property, this work of demolition, but I believe it has been proved that the rise in value of the real estate thus regenerated more than compensates for the losses sustained, in the long run. All the blousard cares about the matter, however, is that it gives him work, and that is what he craves.
To see gangs of brawny fellows tearing down walls, ripping off doors, carrying away timbers on their shoulders when a street is in its decaying stage, is to see a most interesting sight. At the entrance of the street a sign is put up: "RUE BARRÉE." The front walls of buildings torn away, winding staircases are seen climbing up with all their burden of years upon them and all their secret weaknesses exposed. Sometimes these stairways are of stone, sometimes of wood: when the latter, if in a fair state of preservation, they are taken away bodily, to be put up again in some remote quarter of the town. Shop-windows are offered for sale for like purposes. At night the scene is made lurid by the glare of triangular lanterns, which throw out their warning red light, and the entrance to the street is carefully guarded. Gradually the old buildings are taken to pieces and removed, bit by bit. New walls of creamy stone, with modern windows, handsomely carved cornices, stone piazzas, and the like, are built up. The street has become widened where it was narrow, and straightened where it was crooked. The very sidewalks on either side of the new boulevard or avenue are as wide as was the whole of the old street which has now disappeared. And with the old street the old tenants have disappeared too. Handsome shops occupy the ground-floors, wealthy citizens live in the richly adorned apartments on the upper floors. The blousards who hived in the old street have found a nook in some other old street, or they have fled to the suburbs—the best place for them, as it is for all people of limited resources in all large towns.
If thou didst love me for imagined fame,
Or for some reason bred within thy mind
By teeming Fancy, till thy sense grew blind,
And wish and its possession seemed the same,
Was it my fault that I was not endowed
With all the virtues of thy paragon—
That clearer light did shine my flaws upon,
And showed the actual presence free from cloud?
Ah, no! the fault, if blame there be, was thine.
If thou hadst loved me for myself alone,
Thy love had lent its graces unto mine,
Until my frailties had to merits grown—
Till light, reflected from thy soul divine,
Had so transfused me that I too had shone.
>F.A. HILLARD.[pg 321]
The very stars in their courses seemed to fight for this young man.
No sooner had Wenna Rosewarne fled to her own room, there to think over in a wild and bewildered way all that had just happened, than her heart smote her sorely. She had not acted prudently; she had forgotten her self-respect; she ought to have forbidden him to come near her again—at least until such time as this foolish fancy of his should have passed away and been forgotten.
How could she have parted with him so calmly, and led him to suppose that their former relations were unaltered? She looked back on the forced quietude of her manner, and was herself astonished. Now her heart was beating rapidly; her trembling fingers were unconsciously twisting and untwisting a bit of ribbon; her head seemed giddy with the recollection of that brief and strange interview, Then, somehow, she thought of the look on his face when she told him that henceforth they must be strangers to each other. It seemed hard that he should be badly used for what was perhaps no intentional fault. If anybody had been in fault, it was herself in being blind to a possibility to which even her own sister had drawn her attention; and so the punishment ought to fall on her.
She would humble herself before Mr. Roscorla. She would force herself to be affectionate toward him in her letters. She would even write to Mabyn, and beg of her to take no notice of that angry remonstrance.
Then Wenna thought of her mother, and how she ought to tell her of all these things. But how could she? During the past day or two Mrs. Rosewarne had been at times singularly fretful and anxious. No letter had come from her husband. In vain did Wenna remind her that men were more careless of such small matters than women, and that it was too soon to expect her father to sit down and write. Mrs. Rosewarne sat brooding over her husband's silence; then she would get up in an excited fashion and declare her intention of going straight back to Eglosilyan; and these fitful moods prayed on the health of the invalid. Ought Wenna to risk increasing her anxiety by telling her this strange tale? She would doubtless misunderstand it. She might be angry with Harry Trelyon. She would certainly be surprised that Wenna had given him permission to see her again—not knowing that the girl, in her forced composure, had been talking to him as if this avowal of his were of no great moment.
All the same, Wenna had a secret fear that she had been imprudent in giving him this permission; and the most she could do now was to make his visits as few, short and ceremonious as possible. She would avoid him by every means in her power; and the first thing was to make sure that he should not call on them again while they remained in Penzance.
So she went down to the small parlor in a much more equable frame of mind, though her heart was still throbbing in an unusual way. The moment she entered the room she saw that something had occurred to disturb her mother. Mrs. Rosewarne turned from the window, and there was an excited look in her eyes. "Wenna," she said hurriedly, "did you see that carriage? Did you see that woman? Who was with her? Did you see who was with her? I know it was she: not if I live a hundred years could I forget that—that devil in human shape!"
"Mother, I don't know what you mean," Wenna said, wholly aghast.
Her mother had gone to the window again, and she was saying to herself, hurriedly and in a low voice, "No, you don't know—you don't know: why [pg 322] should you know? That shameless creature! And to drive by here! She must have known I was here. Oh, the shamelessness of the woman!"
She turned to Wenna again: "Wenna, I thought Mr. Trelyon was here. How long has he gone? I want to see him most particularly—most particularly, and only for a moment. He is sure to know all the strangers at his hotel, is he not? I want to ask him some questions. Wenna, will you go at once and bid him come to see me for a moment?"
"Mother!" Wenna said. How could she go to the hotel with such a message?
"Well, send a note to him, Wenna—send him a note by the girl down stairs. What harm is there in that?"
"Lie down, then, mother," said the girl calmly, "and I will send a message to Mr. Trelyon."
She drew her chair to the table, and her cheeks crimsoned to think of what he might imagine this letter to mean when he got the envelope in his hands. Her fingers trembled as she wrote the date at the head of the note. Then she came to the word "Dear," and it seemed to her that if shame were a punishment, she was doing sufficient penance for her indiscretion of that morning. Yet the note was not a compromising one. It merely said—
"DEAR MR. TRELYON: If you have a moment to spare, my mother would be most obliged to you if you would call on her. I hope you will forgive the trouble.
When the young man got that note—he was just entering the hotel when the servant arrived—he stared with surprise. He told the girl he would call on Mrs. Rosewarne directly. Then he followed her.
He never for a moment doubted that this note had reference to his own affairs. Wenna had told her mother what had happened. The mother wished to see him to ask him to cease visiting them. Well, he was prepared for that. He would ask Wenna to leave the room. He would attack the mother boldly, and tell her what he thought of Mr. Roscorla. He would appeal to her to save her daughter from the impending marriage. He would win her over to be his secret ally and friend; and while nothing should be done precipitately to alarm Wenna or arouse her suspicions, might not these two carry the citadel of her heart in time, and hand over the keys to the rightful lord? It was a pleasant speculation: it was at least marked by that audacity that never wholly forsook Master Harry Trelyon. Of course he was the rightful lord, ready to bid all false claimants, rivals and pretenders Beware!
And yet, as he walked up to the house, some little tremor of anxiety crept into his heart. It was no mere game of brag in which he was engaged. As he went into the parlor Wenna stepped quietly by him, her eyes downcast, and he knew that all he cared to look forward to in the world depended on the decision of that quiet little person with the sensitive mouth and the earnest eyes. Fighting was not of much use there.
"Well, Mrs. Rosewarne," said he, rather shamefacedly, "I suppose you mean to scold me?"
Her answer surprised him. She took no heed of his remark, but in a vehement, excited way began to ask him questions about a woman whom she described.
He stared at her. "I hope you don't know anything about that elegant creature?" he said.
She did not wholly tell him the story, but left him to guess at some portions of it; and then she demanded to know all about the woman and her companion, and how long they had been in Penzance, and where they were going. Master Harry was by chance able to reply to certain of her questions. The answers comforted her greatly. Was he quite sure that she was married? What was her husband's name? She was no longer Mrs. Shirley? Would he find out all he could? Would he forgive her asking him to take all this trouble? and would he promise to say no word about it to Wenna?
When all this had been said and done the young man felt himself considerably [pg 323] embarrassed. Was there to be no mention of his own affairs? So far from remonstrating with him and forbidding him the house, Mrs. Rosewarne was almost effusively grateful to him, and could only beg him a thousand times not to mention the subject to her daughter.
"Oh, of course not," said he, rather bewildered. "But—but I thought from the way in which she left the room that—that perhaps I had offended her."
"Oh no, I am sure that is not the case," said Mrs. Rosewarne; and she immediately went and called Wenna, who came into the room with rather an anxious look on her face. She immediately perceived the change in her mother's mood. The demon of suspicion and jealousy had been as suddenly exorcised as it had been summoned. Mrs. Rosewarne's fine eyes were lit by quite a new brightness and gayety of spirits. She bade Wenna declare what fearful cause of offence Mr. Trelyon had given, and laughed when the young man, blushing somewhat, hastily assured both of them that it was all a stupid mistake of his own.
"Oh yes," Wenna said rather nervously, "it is a mistake. I am sure you have given me no offence at all, Mr. Trelyon."
It was an embarrassing moment for two, at least, out of these three persons; and Mrs. Rosewarne, in her abundant good-nature, could not understand their awkward silence. Wenna was apparently looking out of the window at the bright blue bay and the boats, and yet the girl was not ordinarily so occupied when Mr. Trelyon was present. As for him, he had got his hat in his hands; he seemed to be much concerned about it or about his boots; one did not often find Master Harry actually showing shyness.
At last he said, desperately, "Mrs. Rosewarne, perhaps you would go out for a sail in the afternoon? I could get you a nice little yacht and some rods and lines. Won't you?"
Mrs. Rosewarne was in a kindly humor. She said she would be very glad to go, for Wenna was growing tired of always sitting by the window. This would be some little variety for her.
"I hope you won't consider me, mother," said the young lady quickly lady and with some asperity. "I am quite pleased to sit by the window: I could do so always. And it is very wrong of us to take up so much of Mr. Trelyon's time."
"Because Mr. Trelyon's time is of so much use to him!" said that young man with a laugh; and then he told them when to expect him in the afternoon, and went his way.
He was in much better spirits when he went out. He whistled as he went. The plash of the blue sea all along the shingle seemed to have a sort of laugh in it: he was in love with Penzance and all its beautiful neighborhood. Once again, he was saying to himself, he would spend a quiet and delightful afternoon with Wenna Rosewarne, even if that were to be the last. He would surrender himself to the gentle intoxication of her presence. He would get a glimpse, from time to time, of her dark eyes when she was looking wistfully and absently over the sea. It was no breach of the implied contract with her that he should have seized this occasion. He had been sent for. And if it was necessary that he should abstain from seeing her for any great length of time, why this single afternoon would not make much difference. Afterward he would obey her wishes in any manner she pleased.
He walked into the hotel. There was a gentleman standing in the hall whose acquaintance Master Harry had condescended to make. He was a person of much money, uncertain grammar and oppressive generosity: he wore a frilled shirt and diamond studs, and he had such a vast admiration for this handsome, careless and somewhat rude young man that he would have been very glad had Mr. Trelyon dined with him every evening, and taken the trouble to win any reasonable amount of money of him at billiards afterward. Mr. Trelyon had not as yet graced his table.
"Oh, Grainger," said the young man, "I want to speak to you. Will you dine with me to-night at eight?"
"No, no, no," said Mr. Grainger, shaking his head in humble protest, "that isn't fair. You dine with me. It [pg 324] ain't the first or the second time of asking, either."
"But look here," said Trelyon, "I've got lots more to ask of you. I want you to lend me that little cutter of yours for the afternoon: will you? You send your man on board to see she's all right, and I'll pull out to her in about half an hour's time. You'll do that, won't you, like a good fellow?"
Mr. Grainger was not only willing to lend the yacht, but also his own services to see that she properly received so distinguished a guest; whereupon Trelyon had to explain that he wanted the small craft merely to give a couple of ladies a sail for an hour or so. Then Mr. Grainger would have his man instructed to let the ladies have some tea on board; and he would give Master Harry the key of certain receptacles in which he would find cans of preserved meat, fancy biscuits, jam, and even a few bottles of dry sillery; finally, he would immediately hurry off to see about fishing-rods. Trelyon had to acknowledge to himself that this worthy person deserved the best dinner that the hotel could produce.
In the afternoon he walked along to fetch Mrs. Rosewarne and her daughter, his face bright with expectation. Mrs. Rosewarne was dressed and ready when he went in, but she said, "I am afraid I can't go, Mr. Trelyon. Wenna says she is a little tired, and would rather stay at home."
"Wenna, that isn't fair," he said, obviously hurt. "You ought to make some little effort when you know it will do your mother good. And it will do you good too, if only you make up your mind to go."
She hesitated for a moment: she saw that her mother was disappointed. Then, without a word, she went and put on her hat and shawl.
"Well," he said approvingly, "you are very reasonable and very obedient. But we can't have you go with us with such a face as that. People would say we were going to a funeral."
A shy smile came over the gentle features, and she turned aside.
"And we can't have you pretend that we forced you to go. If we go at all, you must lead the way."
"You would tease the life out of a saint," she said with a vexed and embarrassed laugh; and then she marched out before them, very glad to be able to conceal her heightened color.
But much of her reserve vanished when they had set sail; and when the small cutter was beginning to make way through the light and plashing waves Wenna's face brightened. She no longer let her two companions talk exclusively to each other. She began to show a great curiosity about the little yacht; she grew anxious to have the lines flung out; no words of hers could express her admiration for the beauty of the afternoon and of the scene around her.
"Now, are you glad you came out?" he said to her.
"Yes," she answered shyly. "And you'll take my advice another time?"
"Do you ever take any one's advice?" she said, venturing to look up.
"Yes, certainly," he answered, "when it agrees with my own inclination. Who ever does any more than that?"
They had now got a good bit away from land.
"Skipper," said Trelyon to Mr. Grainger's man, "we'll put her about now and let her drift. Here is a cigar for you: you can take it up to the bow and smoke it, and keep a good lookout for the sea-serpent."
By this arrangement they obtained, as they sat and idly talked, an excellent view of all the land around the bay, and of the pale, clear sunset shining in the western skies. They lay almost motionless in the lapping water: the light breeze scarcely stirred the loose canvas. From time to time they could hear a sound of calling or laughing from the distant fishing-boats; and that only seemed to increase the silence around them.
It was an evening that invited to repose and reverie: there were not even the usual fiery colors of the sunset to arouse and fix attention by their rapidly-changing and glowing hues. The town itself, lying darkly all around the sweep [pg 325] of the bay, was dusky and distant: elsewhere all the world seemed to be flooded with the silver light coming over from behind the western hills. The sky was of the palest blue; the long mackerel clouds that stretched across were of the faintest yellow and lightest gray; and into that shining gray rose the black stems of the trees that were just over the outline of these low heights. St. Michael's-Mount had its summit touched by the pale glow: the rest of the giant rock and the far stretches of sea around it were gray with mist. But close by the boat there was a sharper light on the lapping waves and on the tall spars, while it was warm enough to heighten the color on Wenna's face as she sat and looked silently at the great and open world around her.
They were drifting in more ways than one. Wenna almost forgot what had occurred in the morning. She was so pleased to see her mother pleased that she conversed quite unreservedly with the young man who had wrought the change, was ready to believe all that Mrs. Rosewarne said in private about his being so delightful and cheerful a companion. As for him, he was determined to profit by this last opportunity. If the Strict rules of honor demanded that Mr. Roscorla should have fair play, or if Wenna wished him to absent himself—which was of more consequence than Mr. Roscorla's interest—he would make his visits few and formal, but in the mean time, at least, they would have this one pleasant afternoon together. Sometimes, it is true, he rebelled against the uncertain pledge he had given her. Why should he not seek to win her? What had the strict rules of honor to do with the prospect of a young girl allowing herself to be sacrificed, while here he was, able and willing to snatch her away from her fate?
"How fond you are of the sea and of boats!" he said to her. "Sometimes I think I shall have a big schooner yacht built for myself, and take her to the Mediterranean, going from place to place just as I have the fancy. But it would be very dull by one's self, wouldn't it, even if one had a dozen men on What one wants is to have a small party all very friendly with each other, and at night they would sit up on deck and sing songs. And I think they would admire those old-fashioned songs that you sing, Miss Wenna, all the better for hearing them so far away from home—at least, I should, but then I'm an outer barbarian. I think you, now, would be delighted with the grand music abroad—with the operas, you know, and all that. I have had to knock about these places with people, but I don't care about it. I would rather hear 'Norah, the Pride of Kildare,' or 'The Maid of Llangollen,' because, I suppose, those young women are more in my line. You see, I shouldn't care to make the acquaintance of a gorgeous creature with black hair and a train of yellow satin half a mile long, who tosses up a gilt goblet when she sings a drinking-song, and then gets into a frightful passion about what one doesn't understand. Wouldn't you rather meet the 'Maid of Llangollen' coming along a country road—coming in by Marazion over there, for example—with a bright print dress all smelling of lavender, and a basket of fresh eggs over her arm? Well—What was I saying? Oh yes!, Don't you think if you were away in the Adriatic, and sitting up on deck at night, you would make the people have a quiet cry when you sang 'Home, Sweet Home'? The words are rather silly, aren't they? But they make you think such a lot if you hear them abroad."
"And when are you going away?—this year, Mr. Trelyon?" Wenna said, looking down.
"Oh, I don't know," he said cheerfully: he would have no question of his going away interfere with the happiness of the present moment.
At length, however, they had to bethink themselves of getting back, for the western skies were deepening in color and the evening air was growing chill. They ran the small cutter back to her moorings: then they put off in the small boat for the shore. It was a beautiful, quiet evening. Wenna, who had taken off her glove and was allowing her bare hand [pg 326] to drag through the rippling water, seemed to be lost in distant and idle fancies not altogether of a melancholy nature.
"Wenna," her mother said, "you will get your hand perfectly chilled."
The girl drew back her hand and shook the water off her dripping fingers. Then she uttered a slight cry. "My ring!" she said, looking with absolute fright at her hand and then at the sea.
Of course they stopped the boat instantly, but all they could do was to stare at the clear, dark water. The distress of the girl was beyond expression. This was no ordinary trinket that had been lost: it was a gage of plighted affection given her by one now far away, and in his absence she had carelessly flung it into the sea. She had no fear of omens, as her sister had, but surely, of all things in the world, she ought to have treasured up this ring. In spite of herself, tears sprang to her eyes. Her mother in vain attempted to make light of the loss.
And then at last Harry Trelyon, driven almost beside himself by seeing the girl so plunged in grief, hit upon a wild fashion of consoling her. "Wenna," he said, "don't disturb yourself. Why, we can easily get you the ring. Look at the rocks there: a long bank of smooth sand slopes out from them, and your ring is quietly lying on the sand. There is nothing easier than to get it up with a dredging machine: I will undertake to let you have it by to-morrow afternoon."
Mrs. Rosewarne thought he was joking, but he effectually persuaded Wenna, at all events, that she should have her ring next day. Then he discovered that he would be just in time to catch the half-past six train to Plymouth, where he would get the proper apparatus, and return in the morning.
"It was a pretty ring," said he. "There were six stones in it, weren't there?"
"Five," she said. So much she knew, though it must be confessed she had not studied that token of Mr. Roscorla's affection with the earnest solicitude which most young ladies bestow on the first gift of their lovers.
Trelyon jumped into a fly and drove off to the station, where he sent back an apology to Mr. Grainger. Wenna went home more perturbed than she had been for many a day, and that not solely on account of the lost ring.
Everything seemed to conspire against her and keep her from carrying out her honorable resolutions. That sail in the afternoon she could not well have avoided, but she had determined to take some; opportunity of begging Mr. Trelyon not to visit them again while they remained in Penzance. Now, however, he was coming next day, and whether or not he was successful in his quest after the missing ring, would she not have to show herself abundantly grateful for all his kindness?
In putting away her gloves she came upon the letter of Mr. Roscorla, which she had not yet answered. She shivered slightly: the handwriting on the envelope seemed to reproach her. And yet something of a rebellious spirit rose in her against this imaginary accusation; and she grew angry that she was called upon to serve this harsh and inconsiderate task-master, and give him explanations which humiliated her. He had no right to ask questions about Mr. Trelyon. He ought not to have listened to idle gossip. He should have had sufficient faith in her promised word; and if he only knew the torture of doubt and anxiety she was suffering on his behalf—She did not pursue these speculations farther, but it was well with Mr. Roscorla that she did not at that moment sit down and answer his letter.
"Mother," said Wenna that night, "what vexed you so this morning? Who was the woman who went by?"
"Don't ask me, Wenna," the mother said rather uneasily. "It would do you no good to know. And you must not speak of that woman: she is too horrid a creature to be mentioned by a young girl, ever."
Wenna looked surprised, and then she said warmly, "And if she is so, mother, [pg 327] how could you ask Mr. Trelyon to have anything to do with her? Why should you send, for him? Why should he be spoken to about her?"
"Mr. Trelyon!" her mother said impatiently. "You seem to have no thought now for anybody but Mr. Trelyon. Surely the young man can take care of himself."
The reproof was just: the justice of it was its sting. She was indeed thinking too much about the young man, and her mother was right in saying so; but who was to understand the extreme anxiety that possessed her to bring these dangerous relations to an end?
On the, following afternoon Wenna, sitting alone at the window, heard Trelyon enter below. The young person who had charge of such matters allowed him to go up stairs and announce himself as a matter of course. He tapped at the door and came into the room. "Where's your mother, Wenna? The girl said she was here. However, never mind: I've brought you something that will astonish you. What do you think of that?"
She scarcely looked at the ring, so great was her embarrassment. That the present of one lover should be brought back to her by another was an awkward, almost humiliating circumstance, Yet she was glad as well as ashamed. "Oh, Mr. Trelyon, how can I thank you?" she said in a low earnest voice. "All you seem to care for is to make other people happy. And the trouble you have taken, too!"
She forgot to look at the ring, even when he pointed out how the washing in the sea had made it bright. She never asked about the dredging. Indeed, she was evidently disinclined to speak of this matter in any way, and kept the finger with the ring on it out of sight.
"Mr. Trelyon," she said then with equal steadiness of voice, "I am going to ask something more from you; and I am sure you will not refuse it."
"I know," said he hastily; "and let me have the first word. I have been thinking over our position during this trip to Plymouth and back. Well, I think I have become a nuisance to you—Wait a bit, let me say my say in my own way. I can see that I only embarrass you when I call on you, and that the permission you gave me is only leading to awkwardness and discomfort. Mind, I don't think you are acting fairly to yourself or to me in forbidding me to mention again what I told you. I know you're wrong. You should let me show you what sort of a life lies before you—But there! I promised to keep clear of that. Well, I will do what you like; and if you'd rather have me stay away altogether, I will do that. I don't want to be a nuisance to you. But mind this, Wenna, I do it because you wish it: I don't do it because I think any man is bound to respect an engagement which—which—which, in fact, he doesn't respect."
His eloquence broke down, but his meaning was clear. He stood there before her, ready to accept her decision with all meekness and obedience, but giving her frankly to understand that he did not any the more countenance or consider as a binding thing her engagement to Mr. Roscorla.
"Mind you," he said, "I am not quite as indifferent about all this as I look. It isn't the way of our family to put their hands in their pockets and wait for orders. But I can't fight with you. Many a time I wish there was a man in the case—then he and I might have it out—but as it is, I suppose I have got to do what they say, Wenna, and that's the long and short of it."
She did not hesitate. She went forward and offered him her hand, and with her frank eyes looking him in the face she said, "You have said what I wished to say, and I feared I had not the courage to say it. Now you are acting bravely. Perhaps at some future time we may become friends again—oh yes, and I do hope that—but in the mean time you will treat me as if I were a stranger to you."
"That is quite impossible," said he decisively. "You ask too much of me, Wenna."
"Would not that be the simpler way?" she said, looking at him again with the [pg 328] frank and earnest eyes; and he knew she was right.
"And the length of time?" he said.
"Until Mr. Roscorla comes home again, at all events," she said.
She had touched an angry chord. "What has he to do with us?" the young man said almost fiercely. "I refuse to have him come in as arbiter or in any way whatever. Let him mind his own business; and I can tell you, when he and I come to talk over this engagement of yours—"
"You promised not to speak of that," she said quietly, and he instantly ceased.
"Well, Wenna," he said after a minute or two, "I think you ask too much, but you must have it your own way. I won't annoy you and drive you into a corner: you may depend on that, to be perfect strangers for an indefinite time—Then you won't speak to me when I see you passing to church?"
"Oh yes," she said, looking down: "I did not mean strangers like that."
"And I thought," said he, with something more than disappointment in his face, "that when I proposed to—to relieve you from my visits, you would at least let us have one more afternoon together—only one—for a drive, you know. It would be nothing to you: it would be 'something for me to remember."
She would not recognize the fact, but for a brief moment his under lip quivered; and somehow she seemed to know it, though she dared not look up to his face.
"One afternoon, only one—to-morrow—next day, Wenna? Surely you cannot refuse me that?" Then, looking at her with a great compassion in his eyes, he suddenly altered his tone. "I think I ought to be hanged," he said in a vexed way. "You are the only person in the world I care for, and every time I see you I plunge you into trouble. Well, this is the last time. Good-bye, Wenna." Almost involuntarily she put out her hand, but it was with the least perceptible gesture, to bid him remain. Then she went past him, and there were tears running down her face. "If—if you will wait a moment," she said, "I will see if mamma and I can go with you to-morrow afternoon."
She went out, and he was left alone. Each word that she had uttered had pierced his heart; but which did he feel the more deeply—remorse that he should have insisted on this slight and useless concession, or bitter rage against the circumstances that environed them, and against the man who was altogether responsible for these? There was now at least one person in the world who greatly longed for the return of Mr. Roscorla.
"Yes, it is true," the young man said next morning to his cousin: "this is the last time I shall see her for many a day." He was standing with his back to her, moodily staring out of the window.
"Well, Harry," his cousin said, gently enough, "you won't be hurt if I say it is a very good thing? I am glad to see you have so much patience and reasonableness. Indeed, I think Miss Rosewarne has very much improved you in that respect; and it is very good advice she has given you now."
"Oh yes, it is all very well to talk!" he said, impatiently. "Common sense is precious easy when you are quite indifferent. Of course she is quite indifferent, and she says, 'Don't trouble me,' What can one do but go? But if she was not so indifferent—" He turned suddenly: "Jue, you can't tell what trouble I am in. Do you know that sometimes I have fancied she was not quite as indifferent—- I have had the cheek to think so from one or two things she said—and then, if that were so, it is enough to drive one mad to think of leaving her. How could I leave her, Jue? If any one cared for you, would you quietly sneak off in order to consult your own comfort and convenience? Would you be patient and reasonable then?"
"Harry, don't talk in that excited way. Listen! She does not ask you to go away for your sake, but for hers."[pg 329]
"For her sake?" he repeated, staring. "If she is indifferent how can that matter to her? Well, I suppose I am a nuisance to her—as much as I am to myself. There it is: I am an interloper."
"My poor boy," his cousin said with a kindly smile, "you don't know your own mind two minutes running. During this past week you have been blown about by all sorts of contrary winds of opinion and fancy. Sometimes you thought she cared for you—sometimes no. Sometimes you thought it a shame to interfere with Mr. Roscorla; then again you grew indignant and would have slaughtered him. Now you don't know whether you ought to go away or stop to persecute her. Don't you think she is the best judge?"
"No, I don't," he said. "I think she is no judge of what is best for her, because she never thinks of that. She wants somebody by her to insist on her being properly selfish."
"That would be a pretty lesson."
"A necessary one, anyhow, with some women, I can tell you. But I suppose I must go, as she says. I couldn't bear meeting her about Eglosilyan and be scarcely allowed to speak to her. Then when that hideous little beast comes back from Jamaica, fancy seeing them walk about together! I must cut the whole place. I shall go into the army: it's the only profession open to a fool like me; and they say it won't be long open, either. When I come back, Jue, I suppose you'll be Mrs. Tressider."
"I am very sorry," his cousin said, not heeding the reference to herself: "I never expected to see you so deep in trouble, Harry. But you have youth and good spirits on your side: you will get over it."
"I suppose so," he said, not very cheerfully; and then he went off to see about the carriage which was to take Wenna and himself for their last drive together.
At the same time that he was talking to his cousin, Wenna was seated at her writing-desk answering Mr. Roscorla's letter. Her brows were knit together: she was evidently laboring at some difficult and disagreeable task.
Her mother, lying on the sofa, was regarding her with an amused look: "What is the matter, Wenna? That letter seems to give you a deal of trouble."
The girl put down her pen with some trace of vexation in her face: "Yes indeed, mother. How is one to explain delicate matters in a letter? Every phrase seems capable of misconstruction. And then the mischief it may cause!"
"But surely you don't need to write with such care to Mr. Roscorla?"
Wenna colored slightly, and hesitated as she answered, "Well, mother, it is something peculiar. I did not wish to trouble you, but, after all, I don't think you will vex yourself about so small a thing. Mr. Roscorla has been told stories about me. He is angry that Mr. Trelyon should visit us so often. And—and—I am trying to explain. That is all, mother."
"It is quite enough, Wenna; but I am not surprised. Of course, if foolish persons liked to misconstrue Mr. Trelyon's visits, they might make mischief. I see no harm in them myself. I suppose the young man found an evening at the inn amusing; and I can see that he likes you very well, as many other people do. But you know how you are situated, Wenna. If Mr. Roscorla objects to your continuing an acquaintance with Mr. Trelyon, your duty is clear."
"I do not think it is, mother," Wenna said, an indignant flush of color appearing in her face. "I should not be justified in throwing over any friend or acquaintance merely because Mr. Roscorla had heard rumors: I would not do it. He ought not to listen to such things: he ought to have greater faith in me. But at the same time I have asked Mr. Trelyon not to come here so often—I have done so already; and after to-day, mother, the gossips will have nothing to report."
"That is better, Wenna," the mother said. "I shall be sorry myself to miss the young man, for I like him, but it is better you should attend to Mr. Roscorla's wishes. And don't answer his letter in a vexed or angry way, Wenna."
She was certainly not doing so. Whatever [pg 330] she might be thinking, a deliberate and even anxious courtesy was visible in the answer she was sending him. Her pride would not allow her to apologize for what had been done—in which she had seen no wrong—but as to the future she was earnest in her promises. And yet she could not help saying a good word for Trelyon.
"You have known him longer than I," she wrote, "and you know what his character is. I could see nothing wrong in his coming to see my family and myself; nor did you say anything against him while you saw him with us. I am sure you believe he is straightforward, honest and frank; and if his frankness sometimes verges upon rudeness, he is of late greatly improved in that respect, as in many others, and he is most respectful and gentle in his manners. As for his kindness to my mother and myself, we could not shut our eyes to it. Here is the latest instance of it, although I feel deeply ashamed to tell you the story. We were returning in a small boat, and I was carelessly letting my hand drag through the water, when somehow the ring you gave me dropped off. Of course, we all considered it lost—all except Mr. Trelyon, who took the trouble to go at once all the way to Plymouth for a dredging-machine, and the following afternoon I was overjoyed to find him return with the lost ring, which I had scarcely dared hope to see again. How many gentlemen would have done so much for a mere acquaintance? I am sure if you had been here you would have been ashamed of me if I had not been grateful to him. Now, however, since you appear to attach importance to these idle rumors, I have asked Mr. Trelyon—"
So the letter went on. She would not have written so calmly if she had foreseen the passion which her ingenuous story about the dredging-machine was destined to arouse. When Mr. Roscorla read that simple narrative, he first stared with astonishment as though she were making some foolish joke. Directly he saw she was serious, however, his rage and mortification were indescribable. Here was this young man, not content with hanging about the girl so that neighbors talked, but actually imposing on her credulity, and making a jest of that engaged ring which ought to have been sacred to her. Mr. Roscorla at once saw through the whole affair—the trip to Plymouth, the purchasing of a gypsy-ring that could have been matched a dozen times over anywhere, the return to Penzance with a cock-and-bull story about a dredging-machine. So hot was his anger that it overcame his prudence. He would start for England at once. He had taken no such resolution when he heard from the friendly and communicative Mr. Barnes that Mr. Trelyon's conduct with regard to Wenna was causing scandal, but this making a fool of him in his absence he could not bear. At any cost he would set out for England, arrange matters more to his satisfaction by recalling Wenna to a sense of her position; and then he would return to Jamaica. His affairs there were already promising so well that he could afford the trip.
Meanwhile, Wenna had just finished her letter when Mr. Trelyon drove up with the carriage, and shortly afterward came into the room. He seemed rather grave, and yet not at all sentimentally sad. He addressed himself mostly to Mrs. Rosewarne, and talked to her about the Port Isaac fishing, the emigration of the miners and other matters. Then Wenna slipped away to get ready.
"Mrs. Rosewarne," he said, "you asked me to find out what I could about that red-faced person, you know. Well, here is an advertisement which may interest you. I came on it quite accidentally last night in the smoking-room of the hotel."
It was a marriage advertisement, cut from a paper about a week old. The name of the lady was "Katherine Ann, widow of the late J.T. Shirley, Esq., of Barrackpore."
"Yes, I was sure it was that woman," Mrs. Rosewarne said eagerly. "And so she is married again?"
"I fancied the gay young things were here on their wedding-trip," Trelyon said carelessly. "They amused me. I like [pg 331] to see turtle-doves of fifty billing and cooing on the promenade, especially when one of them wears a brown wig, has an Irish accent and drinks brandy-and-water at breakfast. But he is a good billiard-player—yes, he is an uncommonly good billiard-player. He told me last night he had beaten the Irish secretary the other day in the billiard-room of the House of Commons. I humbly suspect that was a lie. At least, I can't remember anything about a billiard-table in the House of Commons, and I was two or three times through every bit of it when I was a little chap with an uncle of mine, who was a member then; but perhaps they've got a billiard-table now. Who knows? He told me he had stood for an Irish borough, spent three thousand pounds on a population of two hundred and eighty-four, and all he got was a black eye and a broken head. I should say all that was a fabrication too; indeed, I think he rather amuses himself with lies—and brandy-and-water. But you don't want to know anything more about him, Mrs. Rosewarne?"
She did not. All that she cared to know was in that little strip of printed paper; and as she left the room to get ready for the drive she expressed herself grateful to him in such warm tones that he was rather astonished. After all, as he said to himself, he had had nothing to do in bringing about the marriage of that somewhat gorgeous person in whom Mrs. Rosewarne was so strangely interested.
They were silent as they drove away. There was one happy face amongst them, that of Mrs. Rosewarne, but she was thinking of her own affairs in a sort of pleased reverie. Wenna was timid and a trifle sad: she said little beyond "Yes, Mr. Trelyon," and "No, Mr. Trelyon," and even that was said in low voice. As for him, he spoke to her gravely and respectfully: it was already as if she were a mere stranger.
Had some of his old friends and acquaintances seen him now, they would have been something more than astonished. Was this young man, talking in a gentle and courteous fashion to his companion, and endeavoring to interest her in the various things around her, the same daredevil lad who used to clatter down the main street of Eglosilyan, who knew no control other than his own unruly wishes, and who had no answer but a mocking jest for any remonstrance?
"And how long do you remain in Penzance, Mr. Trelyon?" Mrs. Rosewarne said at length.
"Until to-morrow, I expect," he answered.
"Yes: I am going back to Eglosilyan. You know my mother means to give some party or other on my coming of age, and there is so little of that amusement going on at our house that it needs all possible encouragement. After that I mean to leave Eglosilyan for a time."
Wenna said nothing, but her downcast face grew a little paler: it was she who was banishing him.
"By the way," he continued with a smile, "my mother is very anxious about Miss Wenna's return. I fancy she has been trying to go into that business of the sewing club on her own account; and in that case she would be sure to get into a mess. I know her first impulse would be to pay any money to smooth matters over, but that would be a bad beginning, wouldn't it?"
"Yes, it would," Wenna said, but somehow, at this moment, she was less inclined to be hopeful about the future.
"And as for you, Mrs. Rosewarne," he said, "I suppose you will be going home soon, now that the change seems to have done you so much good?"
"Yes, I hope so," she said, "but Wenna must go first. My husband writes to me that he cannot do without her, and offers to send Mabyn instead. Nobody seems to be able to get on without our Wenna."
"And yet she has the most curious fancy that she is of no account to anybody. Why, some day I expect to hear of the people in Eglosilyan holding a public meeting to present her with a service of plate and an address written on parchment with blue and gold letters."[pg 332]
"Perhaps they will do that when she gets married," the mother said, ignorant of the stab she was dealing.
It was a picturesque and pleasant bit of country through which they were driving, yet to two of them at least the afternoon sun seemed to shine over it with a certain sadness. It was as if they were bidding good-bye to some beautiful scene they could scarcely expect to revisit. For many a day thereafter, indeed, Wenna seemed to recollect that drive as though it had happened in a dream. She remembered the rough and lonely road leading up sharp hills and getting down into valleys again, the masses of ferns and wild-flowers by the stone walls, the wild and undulating country, with its stretches of yellow furze, its clumps of trees and its huge blocks of gray granite. She remembered their passing into a curious little valley, densely wooded, the winding path of which was not well fitted for a broad carriage and a pair of horses. They had to watch the boughs and branches as they jolted by. The sun was warm among the foliage: there was a resinous scent of ferns about. By and by the valley abruptly opened on a wide and beautiful picture. Lamorna Cove lay before them, and a cold fresh breeze came in from the sea. Here the world seemed to cease suddenly. All around them were huge rocks and wild-flowers and trees; and far up there on their left rose a hill of granite, burning red with the sunset; but down below them the strange little harbor was in shadow, and the sea beyond, catching nothing of the glow in the west, was gray and mystic and silent. Not a ship was visible on that pale plain; no human being could be seen about the stone quays and the cottages; it seemed as if they had come to the end of the world, and were its last inhabitants. All these things Wenna thought of in after days, until the odd and plain little harbor of Lamorna, and its rocks and bushes and slopes of granite, seemed to be some bit of Fairyland, steeped in the rich hues of the sunset, and yet ethereal, distant and unrecoverable.
Mrs. Rosewarne did not at all understand the silence of these young people, and made many attempts to break it up. Was the mere fact of Mr. Trelyon returning to Eglosilyan next day anything to be sad about? He was not a school-boy going back to school. As for Wenna, she had got back her engaged ring, and ought to have been grateful and happy.
"Come now," she said: "if you propose to drive back by the Mouse Hole, we must waste no more time here. Wenna, have you gone to sleep?"
The girl started as if she really had been asleep: then she walked back to the carriage and got in. They drove away again without saying a word.
"What is the matter with you, Wenna? Why are you so downcast?" her mother said.
"Oh, nothing," the girl said hastily. "But—but one does not care to talk much on so beautiful an evening."
"Yes, that is quite true," said Mr. Trelyon, quite as eagerly, and with something of a blush: "one only cares to sit and look at things."
"Oh, indeed!" said Mrs. Rosewarne with a smile: she had never before heard Mr. Trelyon give expression to his views upon scenery.
They drove round by the Mouse Hole, and when they came in sight of Penzance again, the bay and the semicircle of houses and St. Michael's Mount were all a pale gray in the twilight. As they drove quietly along they heard the voices of people from time to time: the occupants of the cottages had come out for their evening stroll and chat. Suddenly, as they were passing certain huge masses of rock that sloped suddenly down to the sea, they heard another sound—that of two or three boys calling out for help. The briefest glance showed what was going on. These boys were standing on the rocks, staring fixedly at one of their companions, who had fallen into the water and was wildly splashing about, while all they could do to help him was to call for aid at the pitch of their voices.
"That chap's drowning," Trelyon said, jumping out of the carriage.
The next minute he was out on the [pg 333] rocks, hastily pulling of his coat. What was it he heard just as he plunged into the sea?—the agonized voice of a girl calling him back?
Mrs. Rosewarne was at this moment staring at her daughter with almost a horror-stricken look on her face. Was it really Wenna Rosewarne who had been so mean? and what madness possessed her to make her so? The girl had hold of her mother's arm with both her hands, and held it with the grip of a vice, while her white face was turned to the rocks and the sea. "Oh, mother!" she cried, "it is only a boy, and he is a man; and there is not another in all the world like him!"
"Wenna, is it you who are speaking, or a devil? The boy is drowning."
But he was drowning no longer. He was laid hold of by a strong arm, dragged in to the rocks, and there fished out by his companions. Then Trelyon got up on the rocks and calmly looked at his dripping clothes. "You are a nice little beast, you are!" he said to the small boy, who had swallowed a good deal of salt water, but was otherwise quite unhurt. "How do you expect I am going home in these trousers? Perhaps your mother'll pay me for a new pair, eh? And give you a jolly good thrashing for tumbling in? Here's half a crown for you, you young ruffian! and if I catch you on these rocks again, I'll throw you in and let you swim for it: see if I don't."
He walked up to the carriage, shaking himself, and putting on his coat as he went with great difficulty: "Mrs. Rosewarne, I must walk back: I can't think of—"
He uttered a short cry. Wenna was lying as one dead in her mother's arms, Mrs. Rosewarne vainly endeavoring to revive her. He rushed down the rocks again to a pool and soaked his handkerchief in the water: then he went hurriedly back to the carriage and put the cold handkerchief on her temples and on her face.
"Oh, Mr. Trelyon, do go away or you will get your death of cold," Mrs. Rosewarne said. "Leave Wenna to me. See, there is a gentleman who will lend you his horse, and you will get to your hotel directly."
He did not even answer her. His own face was about as pale as that of the girl before him, and hers was that of a corpse. But by and by strange tremors passed through her frame: her hands tightened their grip of her mother's arm, and with a sort of shudder she opened her eyes and fearfully looked around. She caught sight of the young man standing there: she scarcely seemed to recognize him for a moment. And then, with a quick nervous action, she caught at his hand and kissed it twice, hurriedly and wildly: then she turned to her mother, hid her face in her bosom and burst into a flood of tears. Probably the girl scarcely knew all that had taken place, but her two companions, in silence and with a great apprehension filling their hearts, saw and recognized the story she had told.
"Mr. Trelyon," said Mrs. Rosewarne, "you must not remain here."
Mechanically he obeyed her. The gentleman who had been riding along the road had dismounted, and, fearing some accident had occurred, had come forward to offer his assistance. When he was told how matters stood, he at once gave Trelyon his horse to ride in to Penzance; and then the carriage was driven off also at a considerably less rapid pace.
That evening, Trelyon, having got into warm clothes and dined, went along to ask how Wenna was. His heart beat hurriedly as he knocked at the door. He had intended merely making the inquiry and coming away again, but the servant said that Mrs. Rosewarne wished to see him.
He went up stairs and found Mrs. Rosewarne alone. These two looked at each other: that single glance told everything. They were both aware of the secret that had been revealed.
For an instant there was dead silence between them, and then Mrs. Rosewarne, with a great sadness in her voice, despite its studied calmness, said, "Mr. Trelyon, we need say nothing of what has occurred. There are some things that are best not spoken of. But I can trust to you not to seek to see Wenna before you[pg 334] leave here. She is quite recovered—only a little nervous, you know, and frightened. To-morrow she will be quite well again."
"You will bid her good-bye for me?" he said.
But for the tight clasp of the hand between these two, it was an ordinary parting. He put on his hat and went out. Perhaps it was the cold sea-air that made his face so pale.
[TO BE CONTINUED.]
Raphael. Still in this free, clear air that vision floats
Before my brain. I may nor banish it
Nor grasp it. 'Tis too fine, too spirit-like,
To offer as the type of motherhood.
Color and blood and life and truth it lacks.
Gods! can it be that our imaginings
Excel your handiwork? Must life seem dull,
Must earth seem barren and unbeautiful,
For ever unto him who can create
This rarer world of delicate phantasy?
I lift mine eyes, and nothing real responds
To those ideal forms. God pardon me!
There in the everlasting sunshine sits
The Mother with the Infant at her breast.
Hence, ghostly shadows! let me learn to draw
Mine inspiration from the common air.
A peasant-woman auburn-haired, large-eyed,
Within the shade of overhanging boughs
Suckles her babe, and sees her eldest born
Gambol upon the grass: the elf has wrought
With two snapt boughs the semblance of a cross,
And proudly holds the sacred symbol high
Above his head to win his mother's praise.
Mine art may haply reproduce that wealth
Of brilliant hues—the dusk hair's glimmering gold,
The auroral blush, the bare breasts shining white
Where the babe's warm rose-face is pressed against
That fount of generous life; but ah! what craft
May paint the unearthly peace upon her brow,
The holy love that from her dark moist orbs
Beams with no lesser glory than the eyes
Of the Maid-Mother toward her heaven-born Child.
Little Boy with the Cross.
Oh, mother, such a stranger comes this way!
I saw him as I climbed the olive tree
To break the branches for my crucifix—
tall, fair youth with floating yellow curls.
Is he an angel?
Raphael. Madonna mia, hail!
God bless thee and thy cherubim!
God bless thee also for the pious wish!
No cherubim are these, but, Heaven be thanked,
Two healthy boys. Pray, sit and rest with us:
The heat has been too fierce for wayfarers,
And 'neath these shady vines the afternoon
Is doubly fresh.
Raphael. Thanks, 'tis a grateful air:
The weariness of travel it uplifts
From heavy brow and body with its breath,
Delicious as cool water to the touch.
Maria. Bernardo, climb yon trunk again and pluck
Some ripened clusters for this gentleman.
Raphael. Ah, 'tis a radiant child: what full, lithe limbs!
What cream-white dimpling flesh! what golden lights
Glance through the foliage on his crisp-curled head!
What rosy shadows on the naked form
Against gray olive leaves and blue-green vine!
And see, where now the bright, round face peers down,
And smiles and nods, and beckons us as one
Who leaneth out of heaven.
Maria. A wanton imp,
And full of freaks. I marvel much thereat,
Since I have named him from a holy saint,
Who bode among us many years, and gave
His dying blessing unto me and mine.
Raphael. The child could be no other than he is
Without some loss, mother. But what saint
Had here his hermitage?
Maria. Nay, pardon me,
'Twas but my reverent love that sainted him;
Yet was he one most worthy of the crown,
If austere life of white simplicity,
Large charity and strict self-sacrifice
Can sanctify a mortal.
Raphael. Yet I see
No convent nigh.
Maria. Nay, sir, no convent his.
Beyond our comfortable homes he dwelt,
Not lonely though alone: 'neath yonder hill
His hut was reared; a tall full-foliaged oak
O'ershadowed it. 'Tis not so long agone
Since he was here to comfort, help and heal,
Yet now no earthly trace of him remains.
Spring freshets from the hills have washed away
The last wrecked fragments of his hermitage,
And though I pleaded hard, I could not save
The oak, his dear dumb daughter, from the axe,
Albeit 'twas she preserved him unto us.
Forgive me, sir, my chatter wearies you,[pg 336]
Here be the grapes my boy has plucked: they sate
Both thirst and hunger, pray refresh yourself.
Raphael. Dear mother, it is rest to hear thee speak.
'Tis not my hale young limbs that are forespent,
But an outwearied spirit, seeking peace,
Hath found it in thy voice. Speak on, speak on.
What of this holy saint? how chanced the tree
To save his life?
Maria. Ah, 'twas a miracle.
Through summer's withering heats and blighting droughts
His own hands gave the thirsty roots to drink.
In spring the first pale growth of tender green
Thrilled him with scarcely less delight than mine
At my babe's earliest glance of answering love.
Daily he fed the tame free birds that went
Singing among its boughs; he tended it,
He watched, he cherished, yea he talked to it,
As though it had a soul. God gave to him
Two daughters, he was wont to say—one mute,
And one who spake, the oak tree and myself.
A child, scarce older than my Bernard now,
I nestled to the quaint, kind hermit's heart,
And grew to girlhood with my hand in his.
I loved to prank his wretched cell with flowers.
Twisting bright weeds around his crucifix,
Or trailing ivy wreaths about his door.
One winter came when half my father's vines
Were killed with frost; the valley was as white
As yonder boldest mountain-top; the air
Cut like a knife; the brooks were still and stiff;
The high drifts choked the hollows of the hills.
When spring approached and swollen brooks ran free.
And in the ponds the blue ice cracked and brake,
The hard snows melted and the bladed green
Put forth again, then from the mountain-slopes,
The avalanches rolled; the streams o'erflowed;
The fields were flooded; flocks were swept away,
And folk fared o'er the pasture-ground in boats.
Two days and nights the sun and stars seemed drowned,
The air was thick with water, and the world
Lay ruined under rain and sliding snows.
Then day and night my thoughts were with the saint
Whose poor hut clung to yonder treacherous slope:
My dreams, my tears, my prayers were all for him.
Not till the flood subsided, and again
A watery sun shone forth, my prayers prevailed
Upon my father, and he went with me
To seek the holy man. "Just God!" he cried,
And I, with both hands pressed against mine eyes,
Burst into sobs. No hermitage was there:
Naught save one broken, tottering wall remained
Beneath the unshaken, firmly-rooted oak.
Then from the branches came a faint, thin voice,
"My children, I am saved!" and looking up,[pg 337]
We found him clinging with what strength was left
Unto the boughs. We led him home with us,
Starving and sick, and chilled through blood and bone.
Our tenderest care was needed to revive
The life half spent, and soon we learned the tale
Of his salvation. He had climbed at first
Unto his roof, but saw ere long small chance
For that frail hut to stand against the storm.
It rocked beneath him as a bark at sea,
The hard wind beat upon him, and the rain
Drenched him and seemed to scourge him as with flails.
He gave himself to God; composed with prayer
His spirit to meet death; when overhead
The swaying oak-limbs seemed to beckon him
To seek the branches' shelter and support.
His prayer till death was that the Lord would bless
His daughters, and distinguish them above
All children of the earth. For me his suit
Hath well prevailed, thank God! A happy wife,
A happy mother, I have naught to ask:
My blessings overflow.
Raphael. Thanks for thy tale,
Most gracious mother. See thy babe is lulled
To smiling sleep.
Maria. Yea, and the silence now
Awakens him. Ah, darling rogue, art flushed
With too much comfort? So! let the cool air
Play with thy curls and fan the plump, hot cheek.
Raphael. Hold, as the child uplifts his cherub face,
Opens his soft small arms to stroke thy cheek,
Crowing with glee, while the slant sunbeams light
A halo of gold fire about thy hair,
I see again a canvas that is hung
Over the altar in our church at home.
"Mater amabilis," yet here be traits,
Colors and tones the artist never dreamed.
Sweet mother, let me sketch thee with thy babe:
So rare a picture should not pass away
With the brief moment which it illustrates.
Maria. Art thou a painter too, Sir Traveler?
Where be thy brush and colors?
Raphael. Ah, 'tis true,
Naught have I with me. What is this? 'twill serve
Maria. 'Tis the cover of a cask,
Made of the very oak whereof I spake:
My father for his wine-casks felled the tree.
Raphael. A miracle! the hermit's daughters thus
Will be remembered in the years to come.
My pencil will suffice to scratch the lines
Upon the wood: my memory will hold
The lights, the tints, the golden atmosphere,
The genius of the scene—the mother-love.
EMMA LAZARUS.[pg 338]
In August, 1849, when I had been living at Calcutta nearly three years, I was warned by my doctor that I must go on a sea-voyage or else to the Himalaya Mountains, if life was an object with me. Such it was, and very keenly. The four-and-twenty years of it which I had divided between study and rollicking had approved themselves, like this poor old world when it was new, "very good," and I had a strong objection to parting with it on so short an acquaintance. True, my hepatic apparatus, as the doctors grandly call the liver, had got miserably out of gear, though I was a water-drinker, and though I had a wholesome horror of tropical sunshine. But I had a good constitution, and I had the word of the medical faculty for it that many a man with not half so good a one as mine had pulled through a much worse condition than I was in. To go away somewhere, however, was proposed as my only alternative to migrating down to the hideous cemetery among the bogs and jackals of Chowringhee. But where should I go? After having been shot once and drowned twice when a boy, I had been ship-wrecked at the mouth of the sacred and accursed Ganges, and had just escaped with my life and Greek lexicon. Shooting—and I may throw in hanging—I felt proof against, and as for drowning, I had no fear of that. Nevertheless, I had been very near five months in coming out from Boston under the blundering seamanship of Captain Coffin (ominous cognomen!), and salt water, hard junk and weevilly biscuit were as unattractive to me in possible prospect as they were in retrospect. The sea I had weighed in the balance and had found it much wanting. I would, then, go to the Himalayas.
So I prepared to make for Simla, which, however, I never saw, nor had occasion to see, my liver complaint seeming to have been left behind, with my good wishes, in the City of Palaces. In the early days of Indian civilization to which I refer the most convenient way of journeying on high-roads was by palanquin. One of the black packing-cases so called was purchased, and an arrangement entered into, after the custom of the country, with the post-office to have relays of bearers provided on the road at stated times and places. Thus, I was to go as far as Ghazeepore, where I had a friend living, and there I was to give due notice if I wished to proceed farther. Traveling in India has so frequently been a subject of description that I shall not describe it anew. I allow myself, however, to say that if, before venturing on it, you lay in a stock of boiled tongues, sardines, marmalade, and tea and sugar, you could not do better by way of forestalling starvation and repentance. Every day I stopped once or twice at a travelers' bungalow, or rest-house; and I managed, notwithstanding that my stock of Urdú was scanty, to make my wants understood. That a great part of the copious monologue which my purveyors expended, as we settled the details of breakfast or dinner, was lost on me, did not seem, in the final result, to matter in the least. What I needed I asked for, and then listened attentively for the barbaric representative of "yes" or "no" in the Babel of sounds that followed, neglecting the flux of verbiage that engulfed it with the same lofty indifference which a mathematician professes toward infinitely small quantities. With a view to avoiding cross-purposes there is nothing like economy of speech. But how my tawny hosts could contrive to realize such a fortune of talk out of their very meagre capital of subject-matter excited my never-ending wonder. They could provide forlorn pullets, certainly from the same farmyard with the lean kine of Egypt, and to these they could add, what was much better left unadded, a villainous species of unleavened [pg 339] bread, a sort of hoecake, not at all improved—precisely like the run of travelers—by leaving home and wandering in the Orient. And this was about all they could provide. But, I repeat, how could expatiate on them! And how bespattered one with compound epithets of adulation!
A friend of mine, a lady, when fresh in the country once compromised herself rather astonishingly by lending an ear to their multiloquence, instead of resolutely refusing her attention to all communication but that consisting of "yea, yea," and "nay, nay." She had noted down, in her tablets, the Urdú wherewith to ask whether a thing is procurable, and to order it, if procurable, to be forthcoming, with the appropriate outlandish words for "pullet" and "hoecake," and also those for straightforward answers, affirmative and negative. She was certain that with this lingual accoutrement she could not possibly be taken at a disadvantage. The experience of a few hours, however, unsettled her self-confidence very considerably. She alights at a wayside hostelry. Khudâbakhsh, the chief servant in attendance, arrayed in more or less fine linen, without the purple, surmounted by a turban after the likeness of Saturn and his rings in a pictorial astronomy-book, presents himself, and worships her with lowly salutations. "Is a fowl to be had?"—"Gharîb-parwar," is the prompt reply.—"Is hoecake to be had?"—"Dharm-antâr," officiously cuts in Khudâbakhsh's mate, a low-caste Hindoo; and the principal thinks it unnecessary to respond to the question a second time. Now, what is to be done? What do they mean? Have they fowl and hoecake? Have they not fowl and hoecake? Here, to be sure, is a very bivium of perplexities. The lady at last, with quiet nonchalance, demands the production of a gharîb-parwar and a dharm-antâr, thus unconsciously ordering a "cherisher of the poor" and an "incarnation of justice," the pretty appellations used to designate herself. "Queer things for breakfast!" Khudâbakhsh and his mate mentally reflect, exchanging glances, but without moving a muscle. Breakfast is served, and my friend sees before her just what she meant to order. On one dish reeks the bony contour of a chicken, grinning thankfulness for extinction at every joint, and on a second dish towers a pile of things like small wooden trenchers pressed flat. Of course she has been puzzled, she self-flatteringly concludes, by some less common names of the very common viands which lie displayed before her. By and by, however, she discovers that gharîb-parwar and dharm-antâr are not articles of gastronomic indulgence, at least beyond the borders of those islands of the blest where slices of cold missionary come on with the dessert. When fully aware of her little blunder she marvels, and not unreasonably, that any one should address a lady as "cherisher of the poor" or as "incarnation of justice," rather than as plain "madam;" and she thinks it equally strange that any one should so beat about the bush as to substitute polysyllables of compliment for hân, the much more expeditious equivalent of "yes."
Everything went on smoothly and monotonously enough till I was within twenty miles, roughly computed, of Ghazeepore. At this point, on reaching the end of a stage, my bearers woke me to say there was no relay waiting for them. It may have been midnight. I told them to set me down, to make up a fire and to go to sleep around it, but keeping watch, turn and turn about, each for an hour. Matters being thus disposed, I shut and hooked the palanquin doors, readjusting my blankets, and was soon dreaming of another hemisphere. At sunrise no new bearers had yet shown themselves. My men belonged to the region we were in, and I learned from them that the nearest European dwelt only eight miles distant. I bargained with them to take me to his bungalow. The unexpected wages which they were promised being liberal, they trotted off with unwonted briskness. In due course the bungalow loomed in sight, and as I approached it a burly figure, in shirt-sleeves and with arms akimbo, appeared in the verandah, his eyes turned in the direction of his unlooked-for visitor. "God bless you, Hugh Maxwell! [pg 340] I'm devilish glad to see you," shouted the burly figure, benedictory, but even in benediction not oblivious of the Old Teaser. "I wish to Goodness I was Hugh Maxwell!" I returned, stepping to the ground. "Oh, never mind," rejoined the hearty indigo-planter, perceiving his mistake and offering me his hand. "There is just time for a bath before breakfast," he added; and a good tubbing, in sufficient light to see and evade creeping things by, was far from unacceptable. I stayed with my good-natured host two days and nights, picking up, in the mean while, much curious information touching the cultivation and manufacture in which he was occupied. Like most persons of his calling, he was an ardent sportsman. The early hours of the morning he gave almost daily to a stroll with his gun; and the first evening I passed with him he invited me, in startlingly piebald phraseology, to accompany him on the morrow. "Be up by top dage," said he: "we will have chhotî hâzirî, and then a chal over the khets for some shikâr" Why he did not prefer to say "gun-fire," "tea and toast," "run," "fields," and "game," probably he could not have told himself. His way of peppering his English with Urdú was characteristic of his class, and till I got accustomed to it I found it somewhat perplexing. If he had known me all his life he could not have been more friendly. Yet his kindness and hospitality were not exceptional things in the India of a quarter of a century ago. All is changed there now—whether much for the better I am skeptical. Twenty-two hours after they were due my missing bearers made their appearance. Arrived at Ghazeepore, I addressed a complaint to the postmaster-general. Thereupon two sides of a large sheet of paper were spread for me with base official circumlocution, through the darkness of which I groped out, after some labor, the audacious libel that the blame, if there were any, rested entirely with myself. This stuff, signed by the functionary aforesaid, but doubtless concocted without his privity by one of his graceless subordinates, I knew to be the only satisfaction I was to look for. A request for revision of judgment would have been received with silent scorn, and appeal there was none. Digesting my disgust as best I could, I lighted my cheroot with the mendacious foolscap and blushed for my species.
Let us pass on to the beginning of 1851. Having then been stationary at Benares for a whole year, I was longing for a little variety. Oude, deservedly called the Garden of India, was, by all accounts, well worth visiting. I resolved to visit it. But not merely was independent exploration in that kingdom attended with risk: in strict propriety, one had no business there except by royal authority, which royal authority, as concerned a traveler, strongly recommended itself to respectful consideration from including a guard, and that free of expense. An acquaintance of mine wrote a letter for me to the Resident at Lucknow, Sir Henry Sleeman. The royal authority was obtained, and the guard inclusive was to meet me on the Oude frontier. Tents were borrowed; servants and camels were hired; long consultations were held with old stagers in the marching line. The canvas which was to shelter me for six weeks was built up in front of my house, and already I felt myself half a nomad. The last evening was spent with veterans in the ways of camping out, and at three o'clock the next morning I mounted my horse and began my journey. My road lay through Jaunpoor, and here I encountered a violent thunderstorm in the middle of the night, with floods of rain. At the cost of being almost drowned out and blown away, I learned the expediency of trenching one's tabernacle, and the wisdom of putting one's confidence in none but brand-new cordage. In the city of Jaunpoor there is not much to arrest notice, saving its very durable bridge, dating from the time of Akbar, and the Atâlâ Masjid, a mosque deformed from a rather ancient Hindoo temple; and the rest of the district of Jaunpoor which my route lay through was altogether uninteresting.
The borders of the district crossed, after traversing a narrow strip of Oude [pg 341] I came again to British territory. This fragment formed a perfect island, so to speak, the domains of the nawab hemming it in on every side. The one European inhabitant of this isolated but fertile spot was an indigo-planter, near whose bungalow and factory I encamped for a night. His establishment was of long standing, but he had no neighbor within many miles, and there was that about the place which filled me with a sense of utter dreariness and depression. Hard by the house was a burial-ground, and wholly by that house it had been peopled with all its many tenants. Saddening were the brief and almost unvaried histories recorded on its unpretending monuments. There was a name, and then a date, and then that word at the bare mention of which there are few old Indians who, as it calls up memories of bygone shocks and griefs, can refrain from a sickening shudder—"cholera." Among all who rested there in peace, so far away from every reminder of childhood and of home, not one had passed the prime of life. It was easy to picture to one's self the last gloomy hours of those hapless exiles, stricken down by the fell scourge in the pride of their strength, and perhaps at the full tide of their prosperity, with none to succor, and with no hope from the first but that they must perish. Nor was this quite all. How could their sole companions, their servants, people of the country, and bound to their masters by none but the mercenary tie of a hireling, soothe their dying moments with any genuine sympathy, or supply in the dread travail of mortality the room of a friend, or even of a fellow-countryman? This is no baseless sketch of fancy. Familiar facts dispense with all need to draw on the imagination in outlining the end of one who meets a destiny like theirs. The planter suddenly finds himself ill; he rapidly grows worse; a few hours of agony in his solitude, and all is over. Tidings of the event are carried to the nearest factory, and then to another and another. Two or three of his former acquaintances ride over to his bungalow, knock up a rude coffin, mumble a few sentences about "the resurrection and the life," "our dear brother here departed," and "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," bury him out of sight, and set up a decent stone over his grave. His place is filled again in a few weeks or months, and his successor, regardless of warnings, toils on in the old routine, possibly to share his miserable fate.
As I have said above, a guard was directed to await me on the Oude borders. Various, conflicting, and all of them wide of the mark, were my speculations on its outward and visible form, and the martial equipment by which it was to strike terror in all beholders. Was it to consist of horse or of foot? and of how many men? and so forth. The mystery was resolved at the time and place appointed. A camel—a picked sample, seemingly, for general ugliness and the vicious way it writhed its mouth—shambled up to my tent. Its rider, who in all specialties of repulsiveness tallied with the beast to a hair, impaled a letter on the tip of his spear and handed it down. It was from the Resident at Lucknow. In its unpromising bearer I beheld my guard. If the look of a thorough ruffian, much unwashed, with the spear just mentioned, a matchlock, and an assortment round his waist of what resembled carving-knives and skewers, was to be my sufficient defence in time of trouble, I was well provided for. However it was to be explained, no harm came to me anywhere on my march. But my guard, if he looked zealously after my interests, looked full as zealously after his own. For what I knew he was licensed, as a servant of the state, to billet himself at free quarters on his royal master's subjects: at any rate, so he did. But, greatly to his vexation, I would not hear of his compelling the shopkeepers with whom my butler had daily dealings in buying necessaries for me to provision my camp at their own charge. The man was for carrying things with a high hand; and at the period of which I am writing to do so was in Oude wellnigh the universal rule. Justice was fast dying out in the land, and violence already reigned prevalent in its stead. [pg 342] The taxes, exorbitant as apportioned at the court, were farmed by merciless wretches who made them more exorbitant still, and who collected them, for the most part, at the point of the sword. Open robbery, deadly brawls and private assassination had become matters of perpetual occurrence. There was scarcely a day during my tour that I was not in the close vicinity of fatal skirmishes, and that I did not fall in with parties carrying away from them the dead or wounded. Obviously, this state of affairs could not exist for any very long duration. The nawab was advised, warned, and then menaced with deposal, provided things were not righted in his dominions, radically and speedily, to the satisfaction of the East India Company. Harsh measures, equally with mild, were, however, altogether wasted on him. Personally, he was a groveling debauchee, exhausted alike in mind and in body to sheer imbecility; and his courtiers and counselors were little better than himself. To anarchy, insurrection seemed inevitably imminent. It was precluded by annexation, and the kingdom of Oude, not an hour in advance of its deserts, took its place in finished history.
Game of a humbler description I met with in abundance everywhere in Oude, but I had hunted the tiger with the rajah of Benares, and since then had conceived a disdain of feathered things, bustards excepted. Moreover, I had lately bought a superb double-barreled Swiss rifle, as yet untested in real work. With inviting jungles constantly within easy reach, not to experiment with this lordly implement on something bigger than a wild pig demanded abnegation beyond my philosophy. I had no companion, but then I would control my impetuosity, do nothing rash, and, if I could, keep out of the way of temptation. One day, therefore, breakfast despatched, I shouldered my lovely Switzer, and struck off at random across the open. Woodland was not far to seek, and before I had been away an hour I was in the heart of a dense jungle. Ordinary deer and "such-like" I might have shot at will, but I happened to be in an exclusive mood of mind, and was determined to drop a blue-cow, if anything. But let not my Occidental reader reproach me with having meditated such an atrocity as bovicide. I have literally translated the Hindoo nîl gâe, the misleading name given in India to the white-footed antelope, sometimes called also rojh. At last my slaughterous appetite was gratified, and a blue-cow bore witness to the merit of my rifle, if not to my marksmanship. It had cost me a tiresome search, and, being a shy animal, much stealthy tracking. Yet when the beautiful creature lay stretched at my feet it seemed as if I had been guilty of wanton cruelty, and I wished my aim had miscarried, proud as I had just before been of having done execution at what looked to be an impracticably long range. Not improbably I tried to extenuate my inhumanity by the argument that if I had not killed it somebody else would have done so. Be this how it may, I could never bring myself to shoot another, though I had many a fair chance. All things considered, then, I am disposed to strike a balance in my favor.
However, a little while previously I had done a bit of bloodshed which could not have lain on the very tenderest of consciences. The circumstances were these: Near my camp was a patch of sugar-cane, which I noticed bore marks of visitation by some creature with a taste for sweets. The neighborhood, I ascertained, was infested with wild hogs. In the afternoon I surveyed the fields adjoining the sugar-cane, and made my dispositions against night. The moon was at the full. As soon as it rose I took my rifle and repaired to a position selected with reference to a certain tree. This tree had a low—but not too low—horizontal branch, strong enough, as proved by experiment, to bear my weight. Presently, an unmistakable concert of snorting and grunting announced the approach of swine. I picked out their fugleman, a well-grown boar, and fired. He was only wounded, and immediately gave chase after me. I might discharge my second barrel at him, but suppose I should miss? Perched out of his reach, I might miss him with impunity, and [pg 343] load again. All this I had pondered beforehand. So I started for my tree, which I reached some ten seconds sooner than the boar, swung myself up on its low branch, and there took my seat. The boar rushed furiously to and fro, raging like the heathen of the Psalmist, and also, like the Psalmist's people—not a well-ordered democracy like ours, of course—imagining a vain thing. Again and again he quixotically charged the bole of the tree, no doubt thinking it to be myself in a new shape. A fine classical boar he must have been, with his poetic faith in instantaneous metamorphosis. His classicality, however, what with his unmannerly savageness and my own suspension between heaven and earth, I did not feel bound to respect. So, without the slightest emotion of sentimentality, I put a ball through his head.
Let us now hark back to the blue-cow, beautiful and breathless. Satisfied, for the nonce, with my prowess in laying it low, I plunged into the forest, just to explore. I must have rambled several miles, when I suddenly came upon an impervious barrier of quickset. Following its course a little way, I found that it curved, and at one point I espied through it a broad ditch filled with water, and a wall beyond. By and by I reached a gap in the barrier, and a drawbridge leading up to a large gate. I crossed the bridge, knocked at the gate, parleyed with an invisible porter, and was admitted. My visit was evidently viewed with a mixture of dislike and suspicion, but with no sign of alarm when it was seen that I was really unaccompanied, as, while still outside, I had said I was. Looking around, I perceived that I was in a substantial fortress. Eight or ten ruffianly fellows came about me and wished to know what I wanted. I asked who lived there, and they informed me, adding an expression of surprise at my putting such a question. Was their master at home? He was. And could I see him? They would let me know directly. On this I was conducted to a small room, and left there, The roughs paced backward and forward before the door, casting glances at me which I fancied to be sinister. In a few minutes their chief, a stalwart, brawny biped, swaggered in, twirling his moustaches, clanking his sword, and studying to seem truculent. He, no less than his men, was at a loss to know what I could have come there for. So I told him the unvarnished facts of the case, and paused for his reply. He had none to make. The latest news from Lucknow he inquired for, indeed, but as I had come from the opposite direction, and withal did not know the latest news of the capital from the stalest, I could contribute nothing to his enlightenment. Besides my rifle, I had in my belt a pair of loaded pistols. He desired to look at them, but took in good part enough my objection that I never trusted them in any hands but my own. We went on talking for a little while, when he called for betel and pan. This meant that I might go. I helped myself, took leave and recrossed the drawbridge. It was a notorious freebooter, a Hindoo Robin Hood, that I had dropped upon. But why did he not tumble me into his ditch and enrich his armory with my rifle and pistols? It may be that prudence operated, in his letting me go free, as a check on his lust for a very small gain. Despite the then disordered condition of the country—or, in some instances, by very reason of it—people of his stamp were every here and there called to a summary reckoning. A bandit would know the haunts of other bandits, and either to conciliate the government or in the hope of reward occasionally betrayed or slew a fellow-outlaw. While in Oude, one morning just after breakfast I was told there was something to show me in a basket. The cover was removed, and there I saw sixteen human heads. Their late proprietors were a famous brigand and his merry men, only looking quite the reverse of merry in the grim ghastliness of decapitation. I scarcely recovered my appetite before tiffin.
By an odd concurrence of circumstances, when near Fyzabad I was for three days thrown on the hospitality of a wealthy Mohammedan. Nothing could have exceeded his kindness, but the [pg 344] peculiar nature of the entertainment he gave me may be conjectured when I mention that he had not such a thing as a chair, table, knife, fork or spoon to his name. Perforce, I had to dine sitting on the floor and with the sole aid of my fingers. However, I accepted my fate without a murmur, and soon learned to feed after the fashion of Eden as deftly as if I had been bred to it. Hindoo cookery I could rarely screw up my courage so heroically as to venture upon. Even the odor of my Calcutta washerman, redolent with the fragrance of castor oil, was too much for my unchastised squeamishness; and as to assafoetida, the favorite condiment of our Aryan cousins, I was so uncatholic as to bring away from India the same aversion to it that I had carried out there. But a Mohammedan has, with some unimportant reservations, highly rational notions as concerns the eatable and the drinkable. His endless variety of kabobs and pilaus is worthy of all commendation; and his sherbets, which refresh without a sting or a resipiscent headache next morning, are no doubt the style of phlegm-cutters and gum-ticklers which one had better patronize pretty exclusively while between the tropics. The gentleman of the circumcision whom I had for host was, I suspect, something of an epicure, and his cooking was such as I found eminently toothsome. My dinner was on the floor at the polite hour of eight, after which he would come to me for a short talk and to chant a little Persian poetry. At nine he was due in his harem, which, he gave me to understand, was a populous establishment.
For my special service he detailed, to my surprise, not a man, but a young woman, who, I take it, was in bonds. Under considerate Hindoo and Mohammedan masters slavery is, however, the lightest of hardships, and the damsel appropriated to wait on me, if she were not a slave, could not have been lighter-hearted. A student of all the natural products of the East, I did not neglect while there to bestow a proper share of study on Indian womankind; and as my Fyzabad abigail was a noteworthy specimen of her species, I may as well gratify the curiosity of the untraveled to know what she was like. Such as she was the queen of Sheba would perhaps have been if scoured very bright and pared shapely. Her name was Dilrubâ, which signifies, being interpreted, "Heart-ravisher." She may have been seventeen or eighteen; she was of a good height and elegantly proportioned, with a well-set neck, sloping shoulders, and fine bust; and her carriage had that stately and sylph-like grace which no words can depict, and which is found nowhere on earth but among the Orientals. Her hands and feet were exquisitely small and symmetrical. Her arms, which were bare to the shoulder, displayed everything of fullness, rotundity and lines of beauty that could be desired. Their hue and delicacy of texture would have reminded a connoisseur of brownish satin. Her waist, tight-cinctured, was—which is the highest praise—not ultra-fashionable, and the undulations of her gauzy drapery disclosed, as she receded, enough of ankle and crural adjacency to furnish hints of improvement to most classical sculptors. Her lips, I regret to say, were too liny, and not of the true ruby tint, but with the exception of her mouth all her features were, not to say more, good. As to her eyes, I should do injustice by any attempt to describe them. An object must be susceptible of calm and dispassionate contemplation if one would analyze it afterward without complete disaster. A very irresistible little piece of orientality she must indeed have been, perchance the reader will conclude. And yet, if the reader is a man and a brother—that is to say, a brother white man—I answer him he is altogether in too great a hurry. He has forgotten her color; and color is a matter which we narrow—minded dwellers in the North find it impossible to be liberal about. Not by five-and-twenty shades, at the least, did the trim creature resemble any lily of the valley but a very dark one; and of the rose she was totally unsuggestive. If I had been so cosmopolitan as to make love to her, she could not have called up a blush to save her [pg 345] pretty little soul and body. She might have turned green or yellow, for aught I know, but by no possibility could she have done what she ought to have done.
At Fyzabad there is but little to see, and that little is rather uninteresting. What impressed me there, more than anything else, was a particular private dwelling, and especially a certain room in it. The edifice to which I refer belonged to an opulent Mohammedan, and had been erected by an English architect. Being constructed pretty closely on the model of a mansion in Belgravia, it was wholly unsuited in a hot climate to any purpose except that of torture. In all probability, its constructor, as he roasted over his work, omitted of set intention to fit it up with fireplaces. In this omission, however, there was a breach of contract, for in all its details the building was to be thoroughly English. The defect was pointed out at the last moment, and strict injunctions were given to repair it. Fireplaces there must be, and a full complement of them. The matter was finally compromised by providing a single small square room at the top of the house with one in each of its side walls. In the same spirit of determination not to come short of the mark, a rich Bengalee baboo whom I once knew furnished his drawing-room, a large apartment, with thirty-two round tables and an equal number of musical boxes.
A great deal more might be said of Oude as I saw it, but the region, since it became English territory, has been so often and so fully described that I forbear to dwell on it. At Lucknow, its capital, I spent a week as guest of Sir Henry Sleeman, with whom, from that time to the end of his life, I was in constant correspondence. That Sir Henry was a man altogether out of the common must be evident from his various publications. I came to know his mind on most subjects very intimately. In every respect he was original and peculiar, and but for a rooted aversion to anything like Boswellism I might here depict a character such as one seldom meets with in these days. To his personal influence it was largely owing that for many a long year the annexation of Oude to the Indian empire was suspended in disastrous balance.
Once and again I have nestled in the lap of a small village and wondered at the necessity of any world beyond my peaceful horizon. Once and again, after long years, I have entered the old school-room with the fearful and impatient heart of a boy: I have paced the play-ground and gone to and fro in the village streets singing, but the song I once sang came not again to my lips, for it no longer suited the time or the occasion.
I thought to take up the thread of life where I had dropped it near a score of years before, and complete the web which fancy had embroidered with many a flower of memory and hope and love. I had forgotten that the loom weaves steadily and persistently whether my hand be on it or not, and that I can never mend the rent in the fabric I so long neglected.
My record elsewhere is replete with numerous accidents by flood and field—with the epochs of meetings and marryings, of births and deaths. Meanwhile, the friends who had held fast to me through all these changes wrote ever in the selfsame vein, and plotted for my return with such even and sturdy faith that I had grown to look upon them as having drunk at the fountain of immortal youth.
Of course the delectable spring gushed [pg 346] out of the heart of one of those dear old hills that walled in the village, for how else could they have quaffed it? The bones of more than two centuries pave the highway between New England and California. As jubilant as young Lochinvar, I came out of the West one summer dawn, and took train for Heartsease. I had resolved to compass in a single week the innumerable landmarks that dot mountain and desert and prairie—to leap as it were from sea to sea, from the present to the past, from manhood to early youth.
Is it any wonder that I forestalled the time, and was a day and a night distant before inquiring friends discovered my flight? Is it any wonder that the shrieking and swaying train seemed slow to me, for already my spirit had folded its swift wings in the nest-like village of Heartsease? I had, moreover, by this brilliant manoeuvre, left the bitter cup of parting untasted—but nothing more serious than this—and seemed to have won a whole day from the clutches of Time, who deals them out so stingily to the expectant and impatient watcher.
San Francisco faces the sunrise, but there is a broad glittering bay and a coast range with brawny bare shoulders between them: I sailed over the flashing water, rode under the mountains and threaded three tunnels before I began to realize that I was a fugitive from home. It was midsummer; the car-windows were half open; whiffs of warm wind blew in upon me scented with bay-leaves and sage. For a moment I forgot Heartsease and the home of my youth, and turned tenderly to take a last farewell of the beloved land of my adoption. The corn was cut and stacked in long dusty rows: it looked like a deserted camp; the grain was down; small squirrels skipped lightly over the shining stubble, whisking their bushy tails like puffs of smoke. It seemed to me that no fairer land ever baked in summer's sunshine. Even the parched earth, with its broken and powdered crust, was lovely in my eyes. Small day-owls sat in the corners of the fences, when there were any fences to sit in, and nodded to me from behind their feather masks: all the birds of the air taunted me with heads on one side and drooping wings. I might escape trusting humanity and steal away betimes, but these airy messengers waylaid me and chirped a sarcastic adieu from every field we crossed.
In the compulsory solitude of travel a man is thrown back upon himself: at any rate, I am, and with waning courage and a growing regret I sank into a corner of my seat by the window, and glowered at the interminable slices of landscape that slid past me on both sides of the rocking train. Have you ever noted the refrain of the flying wheels as they hurry from town to town? There is a sharp shriek from the locomotive, and a groan from one end of the train to the other, as if every screw were rheumatic and nothing but a miracle held it in its place. Then the song begins, very slowly at first, and in the old familiar strain: "Ko—ka—chi—lunk, ko—ka—chilunk, koka—chilunk, kokachilunk," repeated again and again, varied only when the short rails are crossed, where it adds a few extra syllables in this style: "Kokachilunk—chilunk, chilunk," growing faster and faster every moment until the utmost speed is attained: it then soars into this impressive refrain: "Lickity-cut, lickity-cut, lickity-cut, lickity-cut," repeated as often and as rapidly as possible. All the world goes by in two dizzy landscapes, yet the song is unvaried until you approach a town with a straggling and unfinished edge, where the houses are waltzing about as if they had not yet decided upon any permanent location. Here you slacken speed and drop into a third movement, as monotonous as the others and far more drowsy, for it suggests all that is soothing and nerve-relaxing and sleep-begetting. It is "Killi-kinick, killi—kinick, killi—kin—nick; eh! ah! bang!" A long groan from the wheels, a deep sigh from the locomotive, and you are stockstill at some inland hamlet that knows no emotion greater than that occasioned by your arrival.
To this dull accompaniment I climbed out of the golden lowlands, the basins of the San Joaquin and the Sacramento, [pg 347] into the silver mountains where the full moon was just rising. The train seemed to soar through space; we passed from cliff to cliff, above dark ravines, on bridges like spider-webs; we whirled around sharp corners as if we had started for some planet, but thought better of it and clung to earth, with our hair on end and half the breath out of our bodies. We were continually ascending; the locomotive panted hideously; every throb of the powerful machine sent a shudder through the whole length of the train.
Again and again we paused: it seemed that we could not go farther without rest. Sometimes we hung on the edge of a chasm in whose fathomless shadow were buried a forest and a stream, both of which sent upward to us a fragrant and melodious greeting; sometimes we rested under a mighty mountain, whose adamantine brow scowled upon us, and we were glad when we once more resumed the toilsome ascent of the Sierras and escaped unharmed from that giant's lair.
Once we tarried on the brink of a wild cañon. Midnight and silence seemed to slumber there: the moon flooded one half the mysterious gulf with light, revealing a slender waterfall whose plash was faintly heard: it served only to make the silence more profound. Near at hand the torn and ragged earth, robbed of its treasure, looked painful even in that softening light. On the dark side of the cañon, in among the trees, a flame danced. I saw the gaunt forms of rough-clad men gathered about the camp-fire, and beyond them a rude cabin of un-barked logs, looking cheerful enough in the rosy light.
There was nothing lovelier than this or more characteristic in the glorious ride over the Sierras—not even the lake, above whose green shores we rushed with half a mountain between us; nor the ice-gorges, nor the black forests, nor the chaos of rock and ravine that has defied the humanizing touch of time. I felt the burden of the mountains then, and it is for ever associated with a memory of the high Sierras, caught and fixed as we swept onward into the wild, wide snow-lands.
The burden of the mountains: There shall come a day when the ravine for the silver is drained and the gold-seekers turn from thee disconsolate, but thy years are unnumbered and thy strength unfailing: the grass shall cover thy nakedness and the pine-boughs brood over thee for ever and ever; the clouds shall visit thee and the springs increase; the snows shall gather in the clefts of thy bosom; thy breasts shall give nourishment, thy breath life to the fainting, and the sight of thy face joy. The people shall go up to thee and build in thy shadow; their flocks shall feed in peace: out of thy days shall come fatness, and out of thy nights rest, for thou hast that within thee more precious than silver, yea, better than much fine gold.
When the burden was past I looked out into the night. A soft wind was stirring; I scented the balsam of the piny woods; the moon had descended beyond the crest of the mountain, and above me the sky was flooded with pale and palpitating stars. We slid out of the mountains into the broad Humboldt desert one cloudless day: it was like getting on the roof of the world—the great domed roof with its eaves sloping away under the edges of heaven, and whereon there is nothing but a matting of sagebrush, looking like grayish moss, and a deep alkali dust as white and as fine as flour.
There were but two features in the landscape on which to fix the eye, and these were infrequent—the dusty beds of the dead rivers and the wind-sculptured rocks. It was the abomination of desolation: the air was thin, but spicy; the sky was bare. When we had followed with eager glance the shadow-like gazelle in his bounding flight, and brought the heavy-headed buffalo to a momentary stand, with his small evil eye fixed upon us, he wheeled suddenly and disappeared in a cloud of dust; and we were alone in the desert.
Those mellow hours by the inland sea, where sits the Garden City, with its wide grass-grown streets and its vine-veiled cottages basking in summer sunshine, were precious indeed! We had ample [pg 348] opportunity for developing philosophy, sentiment and politics at one sitting. Coming out of the fair and foul refuge of the fleshly saints, I thought of the wisdom of the French poet who once said to me, "Oui, monsieur: life is an oasis in which there is many a desert." In the unfruitful shoots of those thorn-bearing vines and withered fig trees I learned the burden of the desert: Though it blossom as the rose, if it yield not honey it shall be laid waste; though it deck itself with beauty, though it sing with the voice of the charmer, its fairness is a mock and its song is the song of the harlot. Harbor it not in your hearts. Let it be purged of uncleanness, let the stain be washed from it. Though the builders build cunningly, they have builded in vain. There is blood on their lintels, and their hearts are full of lust. He that sits in the seat of the scornful and is girded about with pride, let him fall as the tree falls, even the king of the forest, for there is rottenness at the core.
Like pilgrims in the earthly paradise we ploughed the long grass of the prairies; like a fiery snake our train trailed over the flowering land; its long undulations were no impediment; the grassy billows parted before us; we cleft the young forests that have here and there sprung up at the call of patient husbandry; myriads of wild-fowl wheeled over the fragrant and boundless fields; every flower in the floral calendar seemed at home in those meadow-lands of the world: the sunset was not more glorious than the gentle slopes that swept to our feet like a long wave of the sea, and then broke in a foam of flowers. Not only was the delicious day promise-crammed, but the night, loud with the chirp of the cricket and the cry of the sentinel owl, seemed the realization of some splendid dream.
Out of the redundant and prophetic life of that land I heard a prophecy, and the prophecy was the burden of the prairies. It is the chant of the future, full of life and hope. I see now rows of men and women, the toilers of the earth; they have planted forests and the strong wind is stayed; they have broken the soil and the grain is breast-high; they are merry, for they are free, and their stores increase with the years. Wine and oil are their portion, and fat kine and all manner of cunning workmanship; their cities are greater and better than the old cities, for they are builded on virgin soil; and the day shall come when the jubilee of the prairies will assemble the hosts from the borders of the two seas, and they will hear their praises sung and receive tribute, for the strength of the land is theirs.
And we came into other countries that were full of people, and of cities great and small. A thousand strange faces were turned upon us as we shot past the open doors of houses wherein the table was spread for the domestic meal. We hailed the field-laborers and the town-artisans at their toil, and every hour plunged deeper and deeper into the old civilization of the East, which in some respects differs greatly from that of our breezy West. It was time to be thinking on my journey's end and its probable results. I seemed to read it all beforehand: Ellen would greet me at the gate of the parsonage on the edge of Heartsease, looking just as she looked when I parted with her long, long years before. Ellen had not changed with time: she had written me the same sweet, placid, sympathetic letters from the beginning, and the beginning was when, a mere child, I had worn out my heart with longing for home, and had at last been welcomed back over the two seas and across the slender chain of flowers that binds the two Americas together—back to the land I love, California. Ellen would lead me in all the old paths; we would see the garden in which, as a beautiful boy, I more than once sought her to confess some grief, knowing there was no ear so willing as hers, no heart tenderer, no counsel more comforting. We would row up the stream that runs under the hill by the willows, and strand in the same shallow nook, in honor of the festal Saturdays dead and gone. We would gather the old friends about us, and eat very large apples by the study-window; we would hunt nests in the hayloft and acorns in the wood; the [pg 349] school-room would take us back again, and all the half-obliterated memories of the past would glow with fresher color. A hundred hands would be stretched out to me, and I would recognize the clasp of each. Ah, happy day when I again returned to Heartsease and found the lost thread of my youth unbroken, and I had only to weave on and complete the fabric so long neglected!
There were a dozen trains to enter and get out of before I could be whirled across the country to Heartsease. Now that Heartsease was easily attainable, all the restless world would be fleeing thither, and it would no longer be worthy of its name. I felt my way from town to town, pausing an hour here, another hour there, in an impatient mood, for the last train was behind time, and I feared I should not arrive in the village at the moment of all others I most desired to. Why should I not come at sunset to the parsonage—one from the land of the sunset wearing, as it were, his colors on his heart? The hour is so mysterious and pathetic—the very hour to step in upon the village, for so you can gloat over it all night, before the sun has laid the whole truth bare to you on the following morning. And moreover I had not written Ellen of my intended visit: why should I, when she had been looking for me these ten years at least? Why should I say, "At last I am coming," when a thousand things might have prevented me? Was it not better to walk up the long road from the station at twilight, pass silently through the quiet, familiar streets, and then, as I approached the gate of the parsonage, discover a form waiting there as if expecting some one, but whom it was hard to say? Drawing nearer, I would recognize the form, slender and graceful, and then the face, placid and pale, with the soft hair drawn smoothly over the temples and the thin hands folded in peace. Oh yes, it was much better thus.
At the last change of trains, ten miles from Heartsease, a heavy summer shower was drenching the town; the very rain was hot, and the earth steamed lustily. I feared, my plan was spoiled, my meeting at the gate after long years of patient and hopeful waiting. But the rain passed over, and I was again under way. Now every inch of the land was familiar: I recognized old houses and barns and strips of fence and streams that had not been in my mind once in all these years. I knew every block of forest that had been left on the border of the upland fields, and all the meadows, marshy or dry: the very faces of the people seemed to recall some one I had known before. The hills were like lessons learned by heart; and now I came upon the actual haunts of my school-boy days—the wood where we gave our picnics; the red house, a little out of the village, where one of the boys lived—strangely enough, the house I remembered, but the boy's looks and name had gone from me—and then the train stopped. I felt a tingling sensation, as if the blood were coming to the surface all over me.
A switchman, and a stranger, waved us welcome with a yard of flaming bunting. I hurried out of the car and alighted within half a mile of Heartsease. On the platform, where I had parted with my schoolmates fifteen years before, I waited till the train had passed onward and out of sight. I was alone: the switchman asked no odds of me, but furled his bunting and immediately withdrew. For a moment I looked about me in bewilderment. I think I could have turned back had I been encouraged to do so, for I felt half guilty in thus surprising my friends. A moment later I plucked up heart and struck into the road that leads up to the village.
The road has a margin of grass and weeds, and there are meadows on both sides. I walked in the very middle of it, with my portmanteau in my hand, and looked straight ahead. Before me lay the village, a cluster of white houses embowered in trees. It was sunset; the rain had washed the leaves and laid the dust in the road; the air was exquisitely fragrant and of uncommon softness; the white spire of the village church, flanked by a long line of poplars, was gilded with a sunbeam, but the lowly roofs of the villagers were bathed in the radiant twilight that had deepened under the [pg 350] western hills. Cattle were lowing in the meadows; the crickets chirped everywhere; a barbed swallow clove the air like an arrow whose force is nigh spent; and a child's voice rang out on the edge of the village as clear as a clarion. I paused and laughed aloud. I was mad with joy; an exquisite thrill ran through me; it seemed to me that the most delicious moment of my life had come.
I entered the village a boy again, with all the wild ambition of a boy and with a boy's roguish spirit. I resolved to play upon them at the parsonage. If Ellen were not at the gate waiting for me, I would enter as a stranger and remain a season before throwing off disguise. I would cunningly lead the conversation from topic to topic until we came naturally to the past, and there in the past my shadow would appear, and then at the right moment I would throw myself at Ellen's feet and bury my head in her lap and weep for very joy.
These dreams beguiled me as I drew near the village. My step was buoyant; I scarcely felt the weight of my portmanteau; I was drunk with expectation and delight. In the village I found the streets and houses and signs for the most part unchanged, but I looked in vain for a familiar face. A few lads were playing about "the corners," and when I saw them it suddenly occurred to me that all those youngsters under fifteen were not born when I was a schoolboy in Heartsease. I turned away from them with a feeling of unutterable disappointment. Why should not all my playmates be married or dead or have moved out of the village if changes had come to it? I had not thought much of change in this connection, and it was a hard blow.
A faint flush was in the evening sky: it was the afterglow, and in its light I pressed onward toward the parsonage. A hollow in the road, through which a stream rippled, lay between me and the grove that sheltered Ellen's home: I hastened down it, and began climbing the easy ascent on the other side of the stream. I seemed to grow years older with every step I took, for I knew that the change which comes to all must have come to me in like measure, though I was a boy again when I came up the road laughing and heard the first sweet village voice.
There was no form at the gate awaiting me, but the house was quite unaltered, and I knew every leaf in the garden. The flush in the sky had turned to gold and the air throbbed with light as I hid my portmanteau under the rosebush by the gate and stole up to the study-door. I would not give so palpable a clew to my identity as that: I wished to appear like one who had dropped in for a moment to ask the hour or the loan of a late journal. I rapped at the shutters that enclosed the outer door, and waited in a tremor of expectation: there was no response. Again I rapped, and again waited in vain for a reply.
The shadows deepened in the grove; a thin light sifted down through the leaves and fell upon the doorstep in pale disks that seemed to tremble with agitation and suspense. I grew uneasy, and feared it was not wise of me to have come without announcement, and my heart beat heavily. I walked nervously to the side of the house and glanced in at the deep bow-window; a shadow crossed the room: it was Ellen's shadow, and unchanged, thank God! I knew she would not change, for she was one whom time wearied not and fear fretted not, but to whom all things were alike welcome, inasmuch as they came from the Hand that can work no ill.
I returned to the study-door and rapped again, and then grew suddenly much excited: I almost wished I had not summoned her so soon, but already I heard her step upon the carpet, her hand on the latch and the shutters swung apart. I strove to calm myself and ask carelessly if she were at home, when I thought I saw a difference in the form and face before me: they were so like Ellen's, but not hers. Had it been in my power to do so, I would have turned at that moment and gone out into the world without questioning any one: I would gladly have avoided any revelation of ill that might have befallen that household, and gone on as before, thinking it [pg 351] was well with them. But it was too late: at the same instant we recognized one another.
"Is it Emma?" I asked fearfully.
"You are not—"
Ah, yes, it was he who had promised all these years to come, and had come at last!
Then she added, "You have come too late: Ellen left us one week ago."
I knew what that meant: it was the leaving that takes all along with it, and there remains nothing but a memory instead. It was the leaving that lays bare the heart of hearts, and strikes blind and dumb the agonized soul—the leaving and the leave-taking that is all bitterness, call it by what name you will—that makes weak, the strong and confounds the wise, and strikes terror to the breast of stone—the leaving which is the leaving off of everything that is near and dear and familiar, and the taking on of all that is new and strange—Death! Death! at the thought of which even the Son of God faltered and cried, "If it be possible let this cup pass from Me," alone in that wild night in the garden, with watching and prayers and tears.
I had dreamed out my dream: it was glorious while it lasted, but I wakened to a reality that was as cruel as it was unexpected.
Emma was a mere child when I left Heartsease: she had grown into the living image of her sister. Whenever Emma spoke I seemed to hear the voice and feel the presence of the one who had been gone a whole week when I came in search of her. I entered the stricken home: father, mother and maiden aunt—that good angel of all homes—were to me as if I had parted with them but yesterday. We sat in silence for a time: it seemed to me that if any one spoke there the very walls of the house would distill sorrowful drops. Our hearts were brimming, our lips were quivering, with inexpressible grief. It was a solemn and a holy hour; the night closed in about us with unutterable tenderness; the summer stars shed down their radiant beams.
The vesper-song of some invisible bird called me into the garden, and I walked there alone. Did I walk utterly alone? A spirit was with me. I wandered out to the gate and drew my portmanteau from its hiding-place: I placed my hand upon the latch; the gate swung easily, but I paused a moment. Shall I go or shall I stay? asked my heart: "Stay," said the spirit that was with me. I returned to the house and joined in the evening meal: sorrow sat at the board with us, but not a hopeless sorrow. The magnetism of her touch had not yet left that home: it never need, it never will leave it, for it is treasured there. Her piano was closed, and I would not open it: any harmony would have been too harsh for the hallowed silence of the place. Her books, her pictures, her dainty needlework, her words—all that had been a part of her life—still lived, though she had left us.
Those were sweet days to me. Emma and I went side by side to the old haunts—to most of them, but not all, for there were some I cared no longer to revisit. Before we had compassed the narrow limits of Heartsease I began to wonder if there was a stone left that would give back to me the impression of my early days: they all told another story now, and most of them a sad one. Even the school-room was as a dead thing, though I sat on the old benches and mounted the rostrum whereon I was wont to "speak my piece" with much trepidation of spirit and an inexplicable weakness of the knees. I wrote my name on the wall in an obscure corner, simply because I didn't want it to be stricken off from the roll entirely, and then turned back into the street with less regret than I had reckoned on.
Of all the old friends I had known in boyhood, I saw but two besides Emma—two sisters whose histories were strange and wonderful. They greeted me as of yore, and we talked of the past with pity mingled with delight. Dick, my old chum, Emma's soldier-brother, was miles and miles away: not a boy of all our tribe was left in Heartsease to tell me the story of the past. I began to be glad that it was so, for the great gulf that lay between me and the boy I had been [pg 352] seemed to render up no ghosts but were shrouded in sorrow.
There was one spot I might have visited, but did not: it seemed to me better to wander to and fro about the dear old parsonage with the living spirit near me, and to go out again into the world with the softened influences of that lessened but unbroken circle consoling me, than to seek the new grave that had not yet had time to clothe itself with violets, and the sight of which could have given me nothing but pain. By and by, I thought, let me return, and when it has healed over and is sweet with summer flowers I will sprinkle rue upon it and breathe her name. I went back from Heartsease like the bearer of strange news. We had all sat together and thought, rather than uttered, the memories of the past: they weighed me down, but they were precious freights. When I looked once more, and for the last time, upon the darling village drowsing in the sunshine, I felt that I had learned the burden of the hearth: Not length of days is given, but the sweetness and strength thereof: their memory shall live even though the dead be dust. Out of the loam of this corrupting body springs heavenward the invisible blossom of the soul. You have watered it with tears: let the performance thereof comfort you. Though ye die, yet shall ye live: thus saith the Lord. But shall the old days delight us and the past live? Yea, verily, saith the Spirit—once, but never again!
It has been my good fortune to be thrown much with men of science, and to find among them companions made agreeable by the best of social qualities and by many larger capacities. Perhaps it is their life apart, their consciousness of belonging to a distinct class, that has made them, as I have found them, so strikingly individual, and partly for this very reason so interesting. Indeed, it is curious to observe how varied and how utterly different maybe the non-essentials, moral and mental, of the beings to whom God has given the rare gift of power to look into the secrets He has scattered around us in plant and earth and animal life. Consistently with various grades of competence for investigation, the man may be social, or may flee his fellows; may be witty, or incapable of seeing the broadest fun; a poet, or almost devoid of creative imagination; full of refinement and rife with multiple forms of culture, or neither scholarly nor well-informed outside of his especial line of work. According as he is endowed with mental graces and forms of culture, apart from his science, will be his charm as a companion; but while the absence of these means of pleasing is sometimes met with, and while their lack in no wise lessens his power of investigation, I have found most men of science to possess in a high degree qualities which rendered them delightful as comrades at the camp-fire or as guests at the dinner-table. Indeed, the best talkers I know are men of science—not the mere students of a knowledge already garnered, but those who discover new facts or who spend their lives in original research. The most mirthful, cheery, happy and liberal-minded of men are to be found in the limited ring of those who are known in this country as investigators. On the European continent the same remark holds true, but in Europe this class is very often less refined than with us. In England the same class is undoubtedly notable for a curious absence of the wide range of general information constantly found in America, so that English men of science often amaze us in social life by their lack not so much of culture, as [pg 353] of wide knowledge of matters outside of their own studies, as well as by their inaptitude to share the lighter chat of the dinner-table.
Even in Great Britain—and yet more in Germany and France—the habits of life make it less of a sacrifice than here for men to abandon all that money gives and to devote themselves to the quiet life of the closet and the laboratory. Once set in a groove, the average man abroad is less apt, to seek to rise out of it or depart from it; while with us the constant flow of a too intensely active life is for ever luring men with baits of greed to take the easy step aside from pure science into the golden ways of gain. Honored be they in this land of eager money-getting who withstand the temptation, and in quiet and peace, undisturbed by the turmoil about them, pursue those noble quests which give to humanity its highest training! What these men lose we know: to them are neither great houses nor the hoards of successful commerce. Their lives are often vexed by the trouble and worry of wretchedly incompetent incomes, and what trials they endure those they love must also share. Their incomes, in fact, are usually such as a well-paid bank-clerk or dry-goods salesman would despise. Officers of the navy or army are, as a rule, as well paid as men of science who hold the chairs of teachers; but while the former class are the most signal and steady grumblers, the latter are, of all the men I know, the most tranquilly content. What they miss in life we can well imagine; what they gain the general public little comprehends; but those who know them best will readily understand why it is that their lives are seemingly so happy.
And here, again, I would remind the reader that the class I speak of are not the mere college professors, useful as they are, but those men, in or out of that class, whose lives are devoted to the acquisition of facts fresh from Nature—to the original study of bird and beast and stone and flower—and those who, on a yet higher plane of work, are busy with the patient investigation of physics and physiology. Such men do not rely for success in their pursuits on their knowledge of human nature, or the passions and foibles and lower wants of their fellows, but, for ever turning toward a more quiet life, are living among those strange problems which haunt the naturalist, or among those awful forces which rule the stars and pervade the dead and living world of matter. There must be something quieting and ennobling in this steady contemplation of vast machineries, which have all the force and terror of human passions, and yet the serene steadiness and certainty of unchanging law. It is "a purer ether, a diviner air," from whence its citizens can afford to look down in peace, perhaps in scorn, upon the ignoble strifes beneath them.
I suppose, too, that other men can hardly dream of the one vast pleasure which comes to these searchers when ever so little a new truth or a fresh analogy reaches them as the result of their work. The pursuit itself is all absorbing, all exacting, and when at last the purpose is attained, and out of darkness flashes the light of some novel law, the knowledge of some new connecting link, some simple explanation of a range of facts or phenomena, or even the discovery of a fresh analogy or homology, or of an undescribed fossil being, the purity of the pleasure which they win is something which to be understood must have been felt. "I think," said Jeffries Wyman once to the writer, "that the most happy and heartfilling thing in the world is to come face to face with something which no one but God ever saw before." How transcendent must have been this form of joy when it rewarded the first who saw the spectrum analysis of starlight in its fullness of meaning, or to him who first knew where and how the blood runs its wonderful courses!
Then, too, the life of other men, of the merchant and the lawyer, palls as age advances and its rewards are paid in dollars or in honor. Their experiences are limited and work out, but the naturalist or investigator only gathers day by day new interests about his life of duties. His work is as pleasant as play, and his play is usually only some new [pg 354] form of work. Nature is his—a mistress whose charms are unfading, and who is his for life. Go to some meeting of men of science and see how this is. The oldest has as keen a zest as the youngest, and while life becomes to others a weariness, to these men the pleasure in their steady work is absolutely unfailing. I heard the other day a half-jesting remark at a dinner-table of men of science to the effect that life might become a tiresome thing as we grew older. "Not for me," said one of them, whose name is known wherever science is held in honor: "there must be no end of Rhizopods I have never studied." Thus it is that men who live ever gazing at the surely widening horizon of truth, who know that they at least need never sigh for new worlds to conquer, who day by day are coming into closer company with the yet unwhispered thoughts of the great Maker, are happy and contented in the tasks to which their lives are given, and serenely patient of what their duties deny them of luxury and wealth and freedom to wander or to rest.
It might well be thought that men living so far apart from the general paths, and pursuing purposes so remote from those of the trader, would become obnoxious to that bitterest of American reproaches, the charge of being unpractical. The directness of aim of scientific training and the lofty code of honor among students of science, with their fair share of cis-Atlantic pliability, makes them, however, most useful and trustworthy people whenever it becomes requisite to entrust to them the mixture of commercial and scientific labor which is needed by heads of boards of weights and measures, of lighthouses, of coast surveys, and for the affairs and mere business conduct of societies and colleges or museums. Indeed, as regards this kind of work, they have too much of it—too much of that sort of labor which in England is well and wisely done by wealthy aristocrats who are amateurs in science or eager to find work of some kind. The popular opinion certainly conceives of the man of true science as being almost unfit for the practical every-day duties which bring him into working contact with his fellow-men. This is, as it were, a reversed form of the prejudice which believes that a physician or a lawyer will be a worse doctor or advocate because he writes verses or amuses an hour of leisure by penning a magazine article. As regards medicine, this popular decree is swiftly fading, though it still has some mischievous power. It was once believed, at least in this country, that a doctor should be all his life a doctor, and nothing else: the notion still lingers, so that young medical men who at the outset of their career seek to become known as investigators in any of the sciences related to medicine are, I fear, liable to be looked upon by many older physicians, and by a part of the lay public, as less likely than others to attain eminence in the purely practical part of medical life. It is time that this phantom of vulgar prejudice faded out. "Whatever you do," said a late teacher of physiology in my presence to a young doctor, "do not venture to become an experimental physiologist—that is, if you wish afterward to succeed as a doctor. It is fatal to that. It is sure to ruin you with the public." Yet Brodie, Cooper, Erichson and many others so employed their earlier years of leisure, and I might point in this country to some noble instances of like success in practice following upon careers which at first were purely scientific. But, in truth, every physician is more or less an investigator, and those who have been early trained to the sternly accurate demands of work in the laboratory of the experimental physiologist are only the better fitted for study at the bedside.
There is, however, a long list of physicians who have begun life in the pursuit of science, and have found its charms too potent to allow them to depart thence into the more lucrative ways of medical practice. One of this class was Jeffries Wyman, whose character and career well illustrate all that I have said of the scientific life, its trials and rewards. There are some graves on which we cannot lay too many flowers; and if, therefore, after those who knew him best, I venture to [pg 355] add my words of honor and affection, and to state the impressions derived from my intercourse with the very remarkable student of science whose loss we have all lamented, I trust that the strong feeling which prompts me may be held a sufficient excuse.
I had three or four sets of associations with Wyman, no one of which fails to come back to my remembrance filled with the charm of a man whose whole nature was simple, wholesome, pure and generous. Others have said all that need be said of what he did for his much-loved science: it is less easy to convey to those who knew him not an impression of the influence he exerted upon younger workers, and a sense of the social pleasure which came of his remarkable combination of vast knowledge and general culture, combined with a certain loveliness of character and an almost childlike simplicity. I once heard our greatest preacher nobly illustrate, with Samson's riddle as his text, the delightfulness of that form of human character in which sweetness and strength are blended. As I listened, somehow I began to recall Wyman, for it was just here that his social charm resided. He was intellectually stronger even than any of his completed work showed, but he was also the most lovable of men. His mind was very active and remarkably suggestive—so much so that in social chat, even the most careless, he was constantly saying things which made you think or left you thoughtful. For many years he wrote to me frequently, and his letters are filled with the most lucid and happy suggestions, explanations or comments. After the failure on the part of one of his friends to attain a deserved object of just ambition, he wrote to me to state his own extreme regret; and this not once, but thrice, as if he was haunted by the sorrow of another's disappointment. At times he was full of the most boyish spirit of jesting, as when in 1862 he wrote to me grieving over the secession of Virginia, because we had both of us thus lost our easiest supply of rattlesnakes. Then he rejoiced over the fact that we still had the bull-frog; and in an another note regrets that the rattlesnakes had not been allowed to vote on the question of seceding.
As I write I pause to turn over these records of a dearly-valued friendship. They begin years ago with words of encouragement as to certain investigations in which both of us felt interest. Here and there they touch on matters of social or personal value, but for the most part they deal only with science. I used to wonder in those days, and still am surprised anew as again I turn over these letters, at the amount of what I might call suggestiveness in Wyman. He replies, for example, in one letter to the gift of a scientific essay, and then in a postscript runs off over eight pages of comment, explanation and novel suggestions which put the subject in a new light; while every here and there, amidst the wealth of scientific illustration and useful hints given to aid another's work, there is some pause to express a courteous doubt of his own opinions. Everywhere, indeed, his letters, which made the most of our intercourse, were full of the broadest sympathy in pursuits which often were—but often were not—in the same direction as his own lifelong studies. At times, too, the sympathy broke out into the extreme of generosity. Thus, having learned from me that certain very important and hitherto undescribed anatomical structures would probably be found in serpents and frogs, he tells me soon after that he has found them; also, that he has discovered them in birds, and that he has been led finally to a series of unlooked-for discoveries in the anatomy of the nerves of the frog; and he wishes experiments made on living frogs to learn the physiological use of the structures thus found. Then not long after he proposes that as the first discovery came from this writer, he should take and use the notes and drawings which recorded his own researches, and should use them in a second paper. It is needless to say that this was declined, and the results appeared under Wyman's name. It was characteristic of the man, and was not the only time when I had to thank him for the kindest offers of aid.
To see Dr. Wyman in his museum [pg 356] was one of the most pleasant exhibitions of the man at his best. I well remember one Sunday afternoon in May three years ago, when, walking in Cambridge with H——, one of the most prominent of our great railway presidents—and, better than this, a man notable for genial social qualities, high culture and a broad range of the readiest sympathies—I proposed to him to call on Wyman and ask him to show us the Archaeological Museum. We found Wyman at home, and if you had asked a bright little girl to show you her baby-house she could have been no better pleased than he. At first, as we went from case to case, he was quiet and said little, but as we showed the interest and admiration we so warmly felt, he also grew eager and vivid in description, until as he went on his talk became a marvel of illustrative learning—so wide, so varied, so complete, that we were carried along the current of his thoughts in wonder at this strange combination of intense interest, of almost childlike satisfaction, of a concentration on his subject of vast antiquarian knowledge and of absolutely perfect anatomical skill. Mr. H—— called his attention to the curious distortions and odd enlargements of the protruded tongue in some of the Alaskan wooden masks, and on this little text he was away in a moment from case to case in the museum, and from century to century, pointing out the use of the tongue as an organ of facial expression in various ages. Here were Roman or Greek examples, here Sioux or Alaskan types of the same usages, and here was a new thought he had never had before, and we were thanked for awakening it; and so in his talk over this little point he showed us how barbarian natures had like thoughts everywhere, and, as much amused as we, he quoted and laughed and talked, still always pleased and easy under the vast weight of learning which, coming from his lips, was so utterly free from the least appearance of being ponderous or tiresome. I think I never knew any other man whose learning sat upon him as lightly or was given to others as gracefully.
I had once a like pleasure in raking over an Indian shell-heap with Wyman. The quiet, amused amazement of the native who plied the spade for us was an odd contrast to Wyman's mood of deep interest and serious occupation. He had a boy's pleasure in the quest, and again displayed for me the most ready learning as to everything involved in the search. Bits of bones were named as I would name the letters of the alphabet: bone needles, fragments of pottery and odds and ends of nameless use went with a laugh or some ingenious comment into his little basket. In truth, a walk with Wyman at Mount Desert was something to remember.
The acquaintances of the merchant or lawyer grow fewer as age comes on, but the naturalist is always enlarging his circle of living or dead things in which he takes interest, and none more profited thus by the years as they came than Wyman. The bird, the tree, the flower, the rock, tiny worlds beneath damp stones, little dramas of minute life within mouldy tree-trunks, the quaint menageries in the sea-caves, shifted with every tide, whatever the waves brought or the winds carried or the earth bore were one and all acquaintances of this delightful and delighted companion. Not without a manly interest in the world of men and politics, he lived for the most part serenely above its ferment and passions. Without the large means which, had they been his, had been in the truest sense and for the best purposes means, he lived a life of quiet, studious content, made somewhat hard by ill-health, but, so far as I know, undisturbed by envy of easier lots than his. Whatever were his crosses in this world—and they must have been many—no man who knew Wyman could now wish them to have been changed, if, as no doubt was the case, they helped to build up a character so filled with honest labor, so pure, so lofty and so generous—
Nor could Humanity resign
A life which bade her heart beat high,
And blazoned Duty's stainless shield,
And set a star in Honor's sky.
Apple-blossoms and the pale wild roses that grow in the shadow of woody lanes were things of which she always reminded you, she was so slight and so fair, with just a suggestion of bloom about her—the bloom of youth. Hardly beautiful, but then seventeen summers have a beauty of their own—a beauty of firm round curves and velvety color, whose absence a dozen years later works utter transformation. When Lilian should approach thirty, and the blush that shifted now with every word she spoke, almost with every thought, should have paled—when time and tears should perhaps have dimmed the soft eyes—then she might be, to those who love fleshly magnificence alone, of sufficiently commonplace appearance, but just now there was something about her so unique and so attractive that every one when she passed by turned to discover what it was. For the clear blue of her eye and the lofty purity of her brow seemed to tell of a spirit whose beauty far exceeded that of its temple, and the brightness of the glance and the sweetness of the smile warmed the heart in her behalf as regular outline and perfect contour are seldom known to do. Happiness, too, is a crowning charm to any woman, and Lilian was deeply and contentedly happy: a smile perpetually played in the little, half-guessed dimples at the corners of her mouth, and her wide clear eyes were full of peace. No; though years should rob Lilian of bloom, it was plain that they could but add fresh charms to her soul; and Lilian's lover must needs love her soul.
She was to be married in a couple of years—her mother would not hear of it at present—to one who had been her lover from her cradle, and who loved her with a tender and devoted passion, who thought her embodied loveliness, and who would have made any sacrifice, even to death, for her welfare. She had seemed to him from the hour when he first saw her—a blue-eyed, rosy child with an aureole of palest yellow hair—a being not made of clay—something remote and different as the angels are; and when he first discovered that he loved her he had felt momentarily as if he committed a sacrilege, and though he lost that sensation soon enough, she always, seemed to him a holy and perfect thing. The only cloud that crossed her sky now was sometimes when this passion of Sterling's oppressed her or constrained her, and made her feel that her love was less than his.
Sterling was in the first flush of manhood, some half dozen years her senior—a hazel-eyed, bright-haired Saxon, and a noble, upright fellow: he was as prosperous in his fortunes as he had a right to expect, for his father had established him in a good business, and with suitable thrift and care there was no reason why he should not succeed. His father was a man of such strict adherence to theory that he allowed the boy, as he still called him, only the same chance that he himself had had: he lent him his capital and exacted a rigid payment of the interest. "John shall share my fortune equally with Helen and his mother," Mr. Sterling used to say, "when he has shown me that he deserves it and can double it." And John, sure that any theory of his father's was as right as a law of the universe, was only anxious to keep the warm affection that he knew lay behind the stern principle.
He lived with Lilian's mother, whom he had persuaded, when she found it necessary to make exertion, to come to the city and rent a house there for himself and two or three of his friends. He meant to take the house off her hands as soon as he was able to afford so large an expenditure, and meantime he did all he could to help her render it attractive and homelike. If it was not yet all they wished, or all he intended it should be, he knew that they were young, and felt [pg 358] that they could wait; and he said as much to Lilian when he saw her stand on tiptoe before a picture or look longingly at a bit of bronze; conscious the while that there was an artistic and luxurious side to the child's nature that he did not gratify—with which, indeed, he had little sympathy—and evidence of which it often vexed him to observe, as if it were a barrier between them, when her rapt face revealed feelings unknown to him as she looked into the sunset; as she stood at the door on summer nights while bell-notes and flower-scents went by on the wind; as she listened to orchestral music which in his ears was a noisy snarl. But, for all that, he said to himself that this ideal intelligence, so to call it, of Lilian's, was something higher than his own rude senses; he had no wish to place her on a lower level; he must do away the barrier by surmounting it himself; and he used his leisure time to study pictures and music, to discover the entrance to this world of art whose atmosphere he fancied to be Lilian's native air; and already he began to be able to translate into ideas the strange and awful thrill he felt before some great white marble where genius and inspiration had wrought together, and to find the thread by which he might one day follow the vast windings of those symphonies which Lilian always grew so pale to hear. But he was a person of singular reserves, and Lilian learned nothing of such effort or accomplishment as yet. "You think I am so perfect!" she would say. "You have built up a great hollow idol around me, and it is like living in a vacuum. Don't you know it is very tiresome to be chained up to such a standard?" And John only adored her all the more for her candor, did not believe it, and hastened home from business the sooner.
In fact, if this home, in which they all shared, was not exactly as they would have liked it to be, it was nevertheless a delightful place to John Sterling. He already had a sense of proprietorship in it. He lined its walls with books as he grew able, with prints, with now and then a painting, with plaster till he could get marble; Lilian's ivies clambered everywhere, and her azaleas and great lilies seemed to have a secret of perpetual flowering; a bright fire cast rosy lights and shadows over it all; and John would declare, as he sank into his easy-chair in the half twilight and surveyed the warm place, which seemed only a ruddy background for Lilian's fairness, that he never wanted anything better than this as long as he lived. It hurt him sometimes, though, to remember that Lilian never made any response to such words. "Well, well," he would say to himself in a way he had, "why should she? and why should I expect it of her? If people are born with wings, they do not want to creep. She beautifies everything she touches, and she is only in her right place when all the flower of the world's beauty is about her. But some day that shall be; and meantime there is nothing to hinder my liking this." He had almost an ideal home with Lilian's mother, as he wrote to his own mother, and every time he went out of it in the morning he felt himself a better man than he was when he went into it at night. His mother and father journeyed a thousand miles to see it, and felt as John did himself—thanked Heaven for the promise of a child like Lilian—one so forgetful of herself, so thoughtful for every one else, so candid, so generous, so gentle, so good. "She is nothing but a child," said Mrs. Sterling for the thousandth time, "and yet how lofty she is!—so lofty and so sweet! What will she be at thirty if she is this at seventeen? It makes me tremble to think of John's being blest so, as if it were too much, as if some fate must overtake him."
"He must become a very superior man under the influence of such a wife as Lilian will be," said Mr. Sterling. "Helen shall go on and spend the winter with John: they teach canaries to sing," said he, stroking Helen's black hair, "by hanging up their cages in the same room with a nightingale's."
And so Helen was despatched on the journey, and made another member in the little family, for John's friends merely had rooms, and enjoyed no more sufferance than other guests in the penetralia [pg 359] of the house. She was a gaunt and big-eyed child, with a certain promise of magnificence that, as Reyburn said, might be fulfilled in a year or two in a sumptuous sort of beauty. But now she was a morbid and retiring creature, fourteen or fifteen years old, looking out askance and half suspiciously on the world from under the shadow of her immense eyelashes, and singing from room to room with a strange voice that a year or two would ripen into tones fit for a siren. There was just the difference in age between her and Lilian that, while it allowed them companionship, gave Lilian, together with the fact of her engagement to John, a glorious dignity in Helen's eyes that she would not have her abate a jot. Her gowns, her shawls, her simple laces and few jewels seemed the appanage of a superior state of existence; they brought close to her the possibilities of that charmed time when she too would be a woman grown. She could not tire of gazing at the blush flitting over Lilian's face as she spoke, at the way her steady eyelid slanted toward her cheek as she read: the sound of her voice had an intimate music that acted like a charm; and when this wonderful being entertained her in her well hours and cosseted her in her ill ones, listened to her, waited on her and caressed her, Helen rewarded her by worshiping her. It was Lilian who constantly procured Helen pleasures, who shielded her little faults, who sympathized with her joys and her griefs and her sentimentalities, making merry with her to-day, crying with her to-morrow, and who shone upon her with unvarying sunshine; it was Lilian who did all this in another way for John; it was Lilian who made every one's happiness that came near her; and Helen's affection for her became something romantic and ideal. As for her brother John, Helen had always held him in a place apart: she loved him far better than she loved her strict, stern father; he was a portion of herself; her universe revolved around him; she had never formed a fancy of what life and the world would be without him; and much as she worshiped Lilian, she had more than once doubted if she were altogether worthy of John—not because she was Lilian, but because he was John. She used to watch Lilian sometimes when John's friends came in in the evening—used to watch her and admire her flushing face, her perfect toilette, her gracious manner; but used to wonder if all betrothed women treated their lovers' friends so exactly as they did their lovers, with that same unchanging courtesy and gentle sweetness. Once she saw the manner vary: it was while she herself was singing to them all, facing down the room, and John held his pawn suspended in the crisis of a game of chess, while Mr. Reyburn walked familiarly up and down, now turning the music for her, now bending with a word in Lilian's ear, now joining in the burden of the song:
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry—
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun.
"What a being Burns was!" interrupted John, without looking up. "How precisely he knew my feelings toward any one who would show me how to escape this checkmate!" And Lilian sprang to her feet, upsetting her workbasket, and ran to him and commenced talking hurriedly, while Mr. Reyburn, whose eyes had been resting on her face for some time, kept on singing after Helen ceased—
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun.
And Helen, child as she was, looking at him and listening to him, recognized a veiled meaning in the tone of the singing, and thought she hated the singer.
That night, when all the others had gone, and Lilian's mother was folding her work, and John was locking a window, and Helen closing the piano, she saw Mr. Reyburn stoop over Lilian's hand as he said good-night—stoop low, and press his lips upon its dimpled back. In after years Helen might recall his manner of that moment and understand it, half reverence, half passion, as it was, but now she only saw Lilian turn white and tremble, and clasp her hand over her eyes in a bewildered way when he [pg 360] had gone to his rooms on the other side of the hall, and walk up stairs as though she feared to rouse an echo.
"Oh, Lilian," said Helen, following her into her mother's room, "how dared he kiss your hand? How dared he look at you so while he sang? I hate him!"
"Hush, child," said Lilian gently, almost solemnly. And Helen, remembering who Lilian was, and the deep friendship between her brother and the other, felt as if she had committed an unpardonable sin, and crept away to bed, and did not see the man again during the short remainder of her stay.
But Lilian saw him often. Perhaps she never went out without seeing him, perhaps she never remained at home that he did not come in: going by the parlor-door half a dozen times a day, nothing was easier. In fact, few men have friends who think it worth their while to pay such attentions to another's chosen wife as this friend of John's did. To-day he gave flowers and helped her heap them in the vases; on the morrow he brought in for inspection a borrowed portfolio of the wonderful water—colors that some mad artist had dashed off among the painted canons, or brought perhaps the artist himself; when he was absent he wrote her letters, sent to John's care indeed, and conveying messages to John—letters full of what John called Reyburn's transcendental twaddle, but which were meat and drink to Lilian, living half alone in her world of fancy; when he was in town again he took her through galleries of pictures and statues where John had not an entree; he placed his opera-box at her disposal; and when John, who insisted on her acceptance of Reyburn's courtesies, heard them talk together about the mysteries of the music or the ballet there, he could have found it possible to question the justice of Fate that had mated such spirit with such clod in giving Lilian to himself—for he felt that she was already given, and they were mated by their long affection beyond all divorce but death's—could have found it possible to question the justice of Fate if he had not remembered, with a sort of pain, that, charming and brilliant as Reyburn was, having a sweet and reckless gayety and generosity, winning friends who loved him almost as men love women, he was nevertheless as inconstant as the breeze that rifles a rose.
"Yes," said he one day, in speaking of Reyburn to Lilian as they looked at him through the open door of the drawing-room—"yes, we men may love Reyburn safely enough, as we ask for no devotion in return, but woe be to the woman who builds her house on that sand!"
"Will it slide away?" asked Lilian, not glancing from her needle.
"Well—Look at him now. Possession palls on him, they say. Half an hour ago he plucked that bud. If it had hung as high as heaven, he would have climbed for it, having once set his heart on it, and have been tireless till he got it. On the whole, the thing is lucky that he did not tear it to pieces in his dissecting love of laying bare its heart. He has been inhaling its delicious soul this half hour: let us see what he does with it." And as they looked they saw Reyburn lift the half-forgotten flower, whose pale bloom had begun to tarnish ever so little, glance at it lightly and give it a careless fillip to the marble floor of the hall where he was walking up and down, and where, as he came back, he set his heel upon it without knowing that he did so.
It was just after Helen went home that Lilian's health began to fail—to fail gently and slowly, but surely. She shut herself up at first, and lay all day listless and melancholy. She did not come down in the morning before John went out, but he usually found her on the sofa when he came in. And there she stayed, either on the sofa or half lost among the cushions of an arm-chair, during the evenings when John's friends came. But by and by the house-friends one by one ceased to drop in as they passed down the hall; other friends ceased to ring the bell: the old lively evenings were impossible with one so frail and delicate to be cared for.
Reyburn, to be sure, came every day, [pg 361] and no message could shut him out. If Lilian was not in the parlors, he ran up stairs into the little sitting-room: if he could not see Lilian, he would walk in and see her mother. Sometimes John took her out to drive—to give her a color, as he said—but he was unable to do it often, and then Reyburn took his place till she declared she would ride no more. It was not so easy to discover what ailed Lilian as it was to see she failed. One doctor said she had merely functional derangement of the heart; another talked about complicated depression of the nerves; and a third said she was whimsical, and nothing at all was the matter with her, and she had better marry and taste the hard realities of life, and she would soon be cured of her follies. But Lilian firmly and quietly refused to be married yet: possibly she knew that her emotions were not what they should be for marriage with the man to whom she was plighted; possibly hoped that time might make it right; possibly wanted nothing more definite than delay. Once John impressed Reyburn into his service in the matter: they were so thoroughly intimate, so like brothers of one family, that he appealed to him without a second thought. What Reyburn meant by urging her to fix the day for her wedding with John, Lilian might have marveled had he not kept his eyes on the floor while he spoke the few curt sentences, and held her hand with the grip of death. It was no marriage with John that Reyburn wanted for her, she knew too well: he also looked forward to delay. But she told John that when she was herself again it would be time enough to talk of marriage: she should not bind him to a dead woman. And somehow, though the relation between her and John remained the same, the usual evidences of it, one by one, had disappeared. If he took her in his arms, she slipped away; if he bent to kiss her lips, she held her cheek. Still, though caresses ceased, the tender word and the kindly glance remained. John fancied the rest to be but a part of the nervous whims of her illness, from which she was to recover in time; and he waited with all the old love in his soul. And as for Lilian, the old affection was with her too—the affection of childhood and girlhood, the deep and grateful feeling associated with all her life—but it struggled and wrestled with a novel power that while it promised pleasure gave only pain. It made her suffer to see John suffer: she hurt him as little as she could, but for the life of her she was able to do no differently. She thought it would be better for him if she should die; and when she found his great sad eyes fastened on her, with their longing for her return to him, she wished to disappear out of the world and his memory together. She grew whiter and thinner, more tired and sore at heart, all the time, till the two years that had been fixed as the period of their engagement had passed—grew so transparent and spiritual that sometimes, as John hung over her in despair, he felt as if, instead of being bound to a dead woman, he were already bound to an angel.
One evening, after an absence, Reyburn came in as John sat reading by Lilian's side: he brushed away the book and insisted on their playing an odd new game of cards, and Lilian unaccountably brightened and sparkled and laughed, as in the old time, for more than an hour; and as he left them at last he came back to declare his belief that a change was all Lilian needed—other climates, other scenes. "Come, Sterling," said he, "my little yacht, the Beachbird, sails on a cruise next week. I will have a cabin fitted up for Miss Lilian if you will take her and her mother and come along. The house can keep itself; your clerks can keep your books; we shall all escape the east winds. It will be a certain cure for her, and do you good yourself."
And talking of it lightly at first, presently it grew feasible—all the more so that Helen and her father were spending their second winter down there in one of those "summer isles of Eden," and word could be sent to them in advance to be in readiness to join the Beachbird. And the end of all the talk was that at the close of the next week John's business had been left in the hands of others, and [pg 362] John and Lilian and her mother were on the Beachbird's deck as she slipped down the harbor.
Mr. Reyburn's prophecy proved true: whether the sea-breeze fanned Lilian into fresh life, whether there were healing balms in the perpetual summer through which they sailed, or whether she abandoned herself to the pleasures of the flying hours, she began to regain strength and color, her languor disappeared, she spent the day in the soft blissful air with her books or work, her mother knitting and nodding near by; while John, if not sick himself, yet feeling very miserable, lay on a mattress on the deck, sometimes dozing, sometimes following with his eye the graceful lines and snowy dazzle of the perfect little yacht as mast and sheet and shroud made their relief upon the sky; sometimes listening to Lilian and Reyburn; sometimes watching them as they walked up and down in the twilight, her dress fluttering round her and her fair hair blowing in the wind. John wondered at her as he watched her: she seemed to be possessed with an unnatural life; a flickering, dancing sort of fire burned in her eye, on her cheek and lip, in her restless manner: she was like one who after long slumber felt herself alive and receiving happiness at every pore, but a strange, treacherous sort of happiness that might slip away and leave her at any moment, and which she was ever on the alert to keep.
One night Lilian's mother had gone below, John had followed, and they were long since folded in their quiet dreams; and Lilian, unable to sleep, had at last arisen and thrown on some garments, and wrapping a great cloak about her, had stolen on deck. The person still pacing the deck, who saw her ascend and flit along with her fair hair streaming over her white cloak and her face shining white in the starlight, might have taken her for a spirit. But he was not the kind of man that believes in spirits. He went and leaned with her as she leaned over the vessel's edge, and watched the glittering rent they made in the water. They were side by side: now and then the wind blew the silken ends of her hair across his cheek, and his hand lay over hers as it rested on the rail; now and then they looked at one another; now and then they spoke.
"Are you happy, Lilian?" he said.
"Oh, perfectly!" she answered him.
As she said it there was an outcry, a sudden lurch of the vessel, a flapping of the sails and ropes, and a vast shadow swept by them, the hull of a huge steamer, so near that they could almost have touched it with an outstretched hand. But as it ploughed its way on and left them unharmed and rocking on its great waves, Reyburn released her from the arm he had flung about her in the moment's dismay—the arm that had never folded her before, that never did again.
"Oh no! no!" sighed Lilian with a shiver as she quickly drew away—"not perfectly, oh not perfectly! That is impossible here, where that black death can at any moment extinguish all our light."
"Be still! be still!" said Reyburn. "Why do you speak of it?" he cried roughly. "Isn't it enough to know that some day it must come?—
"The iron hand that breaks our band,
It breaks my bliss—it breaks my heart!"
He left her side in a sudden agitation a moment, and walked the deck again; and before he turned about Lilian had slipped below.
The next afternoon the Beachbird anchored within sight of shore and outside a long low reef where they saw a palm-plume tossing, and a boat came off, bringing Helen and her father.
John, who had begun at last to find his sea-legs, stood as eager and impatient to welcome the new-comers, while every dip of the shining oars lessened the distance between them, as if the cruise were just beginning; but Lilian, in the evening shadow behind him, knew that her share in the cruise was over.
"Is it the fierce and farouche duenna who wanted to annihilate me so when I bade you adieu one night?" asked Reyburn, taking Lilian upon his arm for a promenade upon the deck while they waited. "Let me see: she was very young, was she not, and tall, and ugly? [pg 363] Is it her destiny to watch over you? If she proves herself disagreeable, I will rig a buoy and drop her overboard. After all, she is only a child. Ah no," he said, half under his breath, "the end is not yet."
"She is no longer a child," said Lilian, "Her father writes that he hardly dares call her the same name, she is so changed. While I have been withering up in the North, two equatorial years down here have wrought upon her as they do upon the flowers. He says no Spanish woman rivals her. Well, it will please—"
Just then Reyburn handed her the glass he had been using, and pointed it for her.
"Can it be possible?" said Lilian. "Has Helen been transfigured to that?" and something, she knew not what, sent a quiver through her and made the image in the glass tremble—the image of a tall and shapely girl whose round and perfect figure swayed to the boat's motion, lithe as a reed to the wind, while she stood erect looking at something that had been pointed out, and the boatmen paused with their oars in the air; the image of a face on whose dark cheek the rose was burning, in whose dark eye a veiled lustre was shining, around whose creamy brow the raven hair escaped in countless tendril-like ringlets, and whose smile, as she seemed to speak to some one while she stood in the low sunset light, had a radiance of its own. As Lilian looked upon this dazzling picture, backed by the golden and rosy sky, the golden and rosy waters, the palm-plumes tossing in the purpling distance, the silver flashing of the oars, the quiver came again, and she gave the glass to Reyburn, who held it steadily till the boat was within hailing distance, and who himself at last handed the shining creature on board and led her to Lilian and her mother. And then the Beachbird slowly spread her wings, and with her new burden softly floated away into the dusk, and the great colors faded, and the stars one after another seemed to drop low and hang from the heavens like lamps, and rich odors floated off from the receding land, and they moved along folded in the dark splendor of the tropical night. But in some vague way every soul on board the little yacht felt the presence of another influence, and that, though they sailed in the same waters as yesterday, it was in another atmosphere; for an element had come among them that should produce a transformation as powerful as though it wrought a chemic change of their atoms.
Lilian and Reyburn still paced the deck, after their custom, when the first greetings were over, leaving Helen and her father with John for the present. But as the conversation dropped more personal subjects, and John and his father were discussing political matters, Helen began to look about, and chiefly she surveyed Lilian. And as she saw the transparent skin, the vivid flush, the restless air—saw the way Reyburn had, as he walked with her, as he bent to her, as he folded her shawl about her—the way he had of absorbing her, a hasty remembrance of the night when he stooped over Lilian's hand came to her, and she remembered also how she herself had hated him. "The man has bewitched her," said Helen an hour afterward—an hour of watching and puzzling. "She is fond of John still: she cannot bear to break his heart—she would rather break her own—and she is dying of her attraction to the other." As she sat there, still observing them, wondering what could be done, she turned and laid her arm on her brother's shoulder, and rested her head beside it with her eyes full of tears. And at the movement John bent and kissed her forehead, and she saw that he himself was at last awake; and Reyburn, looking at them, saw it too. Perhaps the tears dimmed her sight a little, and gave Lilian a sort of glorified look to her, standing still a moment with the light of the late rising moon on her face; but then as her gaze fell again on Reyburn, on his lofty form and kingly manner, his proud face, his bold bright eye, it seemed to her as if it were Lucifer tempting an angel; and all at once she had resolved what she would do to save Lilian, to save her brother. She could do it well, she said, well and safely—she [pg 364] who already hated the man. Courage came with the resolution, courage and strength: she began to laugh and scatter jests across the grave conversation of John and her father; presently she was humming a gay Spanish air.
"That is right, Helen," said her brother. "Sing something to us. My father says your voice would fill the Tacon theatre."
And at that she sang—not the air of the little bolero again, but a low, melancholy song that began with a sigh, but swelled ever clearer and higher, till, like the bursting of a flower, it opened and deepened into one breath of passionate sweetness and triumph. The rich voice rose to all the meaning of the music, and, though they could not understand the words, they thrilled before the singer, Late into the midnight she sang—the bunch of blossoms that was in her hand as she came on board still shedding its pungent odors round her as the blossoms died—strange wild songs that she had learned in the two years of her tropic life; ancient and plaintive Spanish airs; Moorish songs whose savage tunes were sweet as the honey of the rocks; wild and mournful Indian airs that the Spaniards might have heard in those Caribbean islands when first they burst upon their peaceful seas; and by and by a sleepy nocturne that seemed to lull the wind, to charm the ship, and hold the great moon hovering overhead; and as they rocked from wave to wave of the glimmering water, and that pure voice rose and poured out its melody, the soft vast southern night itself seemed to pause and listen.
Helen did not appear on the deck next day till the sunset came again, for Lilian was ill, and she remained with her; nor did Reyburn see her. But as the heat of the day passed, and the sails, that had been hanging idle ever since the night-breeze fell, began to fill again, Helen ascended.
"You come with the stars," said Reyburn, giving her his hand at the last step; but she merely put out her own hand with the gesture of receiving aid, and passed on, her dark gauzy drapery floating behind her, and the lace of her Spanish mantilla falling round her from her Spanish comb. She went to her brother's side, and sat there and talked, or rose with him and walked: there was everything to say and hear after their two years' separation. As for Reyburn, perhaps her manner was courteous enough to him, but certainly she hardly seemed to see him. Nor could he claim acquaintanceship with her: the gaunt and big-eyed child whom he had known two years ago had a different individuality from this dark girl with the rosy stain on the oval cheek and the immense eyelashes. He heard her gay laugh as John complimented her—a laugh as sweet as her singing; he saw the smile that kindled all her beauty into vivid life; he saw the still face listening to what was said; but he scarcely learned anything further than was thus declared. When at length she sang one parting strain, he wondered if the singing and the beauty were all there was: it occurred to him to find out. He remembered that moment of the evening before when John had betrayed distrust. "I will mislead him," said Reyburn, "and Lilian will understand it all." He stood before Helen as she rose with her father to go down.
"Ask me no more whither doth haste
The nightingale when May is past;
For in your sweet dividing throat
She winters, and keeps warm her note!"
he said, and stepped aside.
"We've taken a mermaid aboard, sir," said the sailing-master. "Nothing else, they say, sings after that fashion, and the men are on the lookout for foul weather."
"Never mind what the men say," said Reyburn, "while your barometer says nothing."
When Mr. Reyburn went on deck at sunrise he found Helen standing there with Lilian—with Lilian, who, after her day's illness, looked strangely wan and worn, looked like the feeble shadow of the other with her rich carnations, her glowing eyes, her picturesque outlines. Reyburn went aft and took Lilian's hand. "You have been so ill!" he said; and then he looked up and saw again this splendid creature, loosely clad in white, [pg 365] her black hair, unbraided and unbound, flowing in wave and ripple far down her back, her sleeve falling from the uplifted arm and perfect hand, that held a fan of the rose-colored spoonbill's feathers above her head, so beautiful and brilliant that she seemed only a projection of that beautiful and brilliant hour, with all its radiant dyes, before the sun was up; and he forgot that Lilian had been ill, forgot for a moment that Lilian existed. "I will find out what she is made of," thought Reyburn. "Are you made of clay?" he said boldly.
"He shall find that there is fire in my clay," said Helen to herself as she appeared not to heed his look or his words.
And there it began. And swift and sudden it went on to the end. She had come on board the yacht that first night to startle it with her beauty and her voice; last night, silent and stately, she had slipped through the evening like a dream; now she stood before him a dazzling creature of the morning: yesterday she was Penseroso; to-day she was Allegro; what would she be to-morrow? How sparkling, as one day followed another, her gayety was! and yet with no shallow sparkle: there was always the shadow of still depths just beyond—seasons of silence, moments of half sadness, times when he had to wonder whither her thoughts had led her. She sang a little song of the muleteers on the mountains, that he admired; then she must teach it to him, she said; they sang the song together, their voices lingering on the same note, rising in the same breath, falling in the same cadence. He had a sonorous tenor of his own: more than once she caught herself pausing in her part to hear it. How soft, and yet how strong, was the language of the song! he said; he must learn Spanish, she replied; and they hung together over the same book, and he repeated the phrase that fell from her lips—an apt pupil, it may be, for more than once the phrase, as he uttered it, deepened the color on her cheek. More than once she was conscious of gazing at him to find the charm that Lilian had found; more than once he caught her glance and held it there suspended; more than once you might have thought, by the quick, impatient manner in which she tore her eyes away, that she had found the charm herself. Perhaps he made some ostentation of his attraction before the others; perhaps the simulation of warmth was close enough to melt a colder heart than hers; perhaps it was not wholly simulation. It may be that her hand lay in his a moment longer than need was, her glance fell before his a moment sooner: it may be that as she fled all her manner beckoned him to follow. She was confiding to him her thoughts, her aspirations, her emotions, as if she wished that he, and he alone, should know them: he was listening as though there were no other knowledge in the world. If presently he thought of her as a creature of romance, if presently she felt the need of that keen interest, what wonder? They were playing with fire, and those that play with fire must needs be burned. And meantime, whether he looked at her languid in the burning noon, gay with the reviving freshness of the dusk, leaning over the bulwarks in the night and gazing up into the great spaces of the stars, he was always fascinated to look again. There was the profile exquisite as sculpture, there was the color as velvet soft as rose-petals, there was the droop of the long silken lashes half belying with its melancholy the rapture of the smile. Whether she spoke or whether she sang, her voice was music's self, and he was longing for the next tone; and presently—presently Lilian had faded like a phantom before this aurora who was fresh and rosy and dewy, with song and color and light—a sad pale phantom wan in a mist of tears.
And as for Lilian in this approaching trouble—in this trouble that was already here—was it to her mother that she turned as the good lady dozed and knitted there? Ah no, but to John himself; and perhaps John comprehended it, and, if he loved her all the more tenderly, suffered the more sharply. Possibly, as she saw Reyburn follow Helen as an entranced man follows a vision, as she saw Helen lead, Lilian knew that she [pg 366] deserved her punishment—knew that she had had her warning. Possibly she realized that the passion which had usurped the place of the love of years with her was but a selfish idealism—possibly saw at last, and with an agony, of what thin stuff the hero of her dream was made—possibly knew that it must be, and knew that it was best; but none the less she must have felt for a little while that there was no place left for her in the world, and she seemed to fade nearer and nearer the verge of it. Her old languor overcame her, her old pallor returned, her eyes were dull with their silent weeping: not yet twenty, she looked twice her years. Reyburn himself saw the change in her with trouble. "The voyage is doing you no good," he said.
"It is killing me!" she cried.
But he did not perceive the meaning of her unguarded cry: he did not know how it was with her, for he had not yet dreamed how it was with himself. But he was soon to discover.
Three weeks they had been wafted about from key to key, from bay to bay; they landed and explored the quaint old towns; they made trips into the tropical forests; great boatloads of juicy mangoes and guavas and bananas came off to them; they scattered coins on the clear bottom for the brown babies tumbling about the shores to dive after. Now at noon they lay anchored in still lagoons under the shadow of an overhanging orange-grove; now at night they were flying across the broad seas. But Lilian felt she could endure no more of it: her life was exhausted; she longed for the yacht's head to be turned northward, that she might die in peace on shore. John also was impatient to be gone. If he could have Lilian once more at home, he thought, he would marry her in spite of her protest, and take her where forgetfulness must needs soothe her, and strange faces make her cling to him in the old way. The way in which she clung to him now was too bitter to be borne. Her mother also began to think of home, and Mr. Sterling had wearied long ago; and at length, further pretences failing, they had been freshly provisioned and had started on their homeward way.
Reyburn had, indeed, been loath to make any change in their luxurious summering, but he was one of those who slide along with the days.
Take the goods the gods provide thee:
The lovely Thais sits beside thee—
was a couplet that he was fond of humming, and he always waited for some unnatural wrench to make the effort he should have made himself. But he had consented at last to the return, because while he was still floating in Southern waters, under Southern skies, with this delicious voice in his ears, this delicious beauty by his side, he could not think that a week's sailing must bring him under other conditions.
Perhaps, though, it would be more than a week's sailing, some one said, for the fair wind that had taken them hither and yon so long, and had waited on their fancies, was apparently on the point of deserting them at last, and the yacht was merely drifting before a fitful breeze that lightly moved a scud of low clouds which the sunset had kindled into a blaze of glory hanging just above them, and whose ragged shreds only now and then displayed a star.
"We are going to have nasty weather," the sailing-master said to his mate. "The barometer is going down with a rush."
"Yes, sir," had come the answer: "we shall catch it in the mid-watch."
"Then stow the light sails, Mr. Mason," the captain said, "and get everything secure for a heavy blow. Keep a sharp lookout, and call me as soon as the weather changes."
"All right, sir."
"I am going down for forty winks," said the captain. Then as he passed Mr. Reyburn: "I don't much like the appearance of things, sir."
"Appearance?" said Reyburn. "Why the sea is as smooth as glass!"
"Too smooth by half, sir, with the barometer falling. I've sailed with that glass a long time, and she's never told me a lie yet. We've already shortened sail."[pg 367]
"So I see. But why in the world did you do it, when you want every stitch of it out to catch what wind there is? However, I am in no hurry," said Reyburn laughing. "Do as you please, skipper: you're sailing the ship."
"I am sailing her, sir," said the captain, a little nettled, "and sailing her on the edge of a hurricane. You had better take the lady below, sir: when it comes it will come with a crack." But Reyburn laughed at him again, and passed over to Helen's side.
They sat together on the deck, Helen and Reyburn, long after all the others had gone to rest; for Mr. Sterling left the arrangement of etiquette and decorum to Lilian's mother; and whether she were a purblind soul, looking delightedly at a new love-match, or whether, with any surmise of the state of things, she felt pleased that Reyburn, led by whatever inducement, should step aside from Lilian's path, she gave no other sign than that when her early withdrawal from the scene left the deck clear for action. As each in turn they fell away into their dreams, those below could still hear Helen singing; and if one there lay sleepless in the pauses of the singing, no one guessed it. All the ship was in shadow save where a lantern shone, but Helen lingered, still irresolute. Now and then she touched the Spanish guitar in the measure of some tune that flitted across her thoughts, now and then she sang the tune, now and then was silent. She was half aware of what the approaching moments held—was half afraid. Was she to avenge herself upon the man who had destroyed her brother's peace? Faithful to Lilian should she go, or faithless stay? He took the guitar himself and fingered the strings, making fewer chords than discords; her own fingers wandered to correct him; their hands met; the guitar slipped down unheeded; the grasp grew closer, grew warmer—ah, Helen, was it Lilian of whom you thought, whom you would save?—and then an arm was around her; shining eyes, only half guessed in the glimmer that the phosphorescent swells sent through the darkness, hung over her rosy upturned beauty; she was drawn forward unresisting, her head was on his breast, she, heard the heavy throbbing of his heart, and his lips lay on hers and seemed to draw her soul away. And so they sat there in the deepening shadow, whispering in faint low whispers, thrilling with a great rapture, their lips meeting in long kisses. Why should he think of Lilian? Never once had he touched her mouth like this, had his arms closed round her so, had he felt the sighing of her breath. As a pale white rushlight burns in the sun, that love seemed now, compared with this great sweet flame. He bowed his face over Helen's as she sat trembling in his embrace, and neither of them remembered past or future in the passion of the present; neither of them felt the yacht swing idly up and down with scarcely a movement forward; neither of them heard the listless flapping of the sails against the masts, or noticed that no dew lay on the rail, or once looked up to see how black and close the air had gathered round them, how deadly hot and sulphurous—till suddenly, and as if by one accord, men were running and voices were crying all about them. They sprang to their feet to hear the sailing-master's shout as one beholds lightning fall out of a blue sky: "See your halyards all clear for running."
"Ay, ay, sir!" came the ringing answer.
"Stand by your halyards and down-hauls."
"Ay, ay, sir!"
"Haul down the flying jib: take the bonnet off the jib, and put a reef in her," came the strong swift sentences. "Brail up the foresail, and double reef the mainsail."
There was a sound far, far off, like a mighty rush of waters, coming nearer and swelling to a roar—an awful roar of winds and waves. And Helen was wildly clasping Reyburn, who was plunging with her down the companion-way.
"Here she comes!" cried the captain. "Hold on all!" And then there was a shock that threw them prostrate, a writhing and twisting of every plank beneath them, and the tornado had struck the [pg 368] yacht and knocked her on her beam-ends.
"Cut away the weather rigging!" they heard the captain thunder through all the rout before they had once tried to regain themselves. The quick, sharp blows resounded across the beating of the billow and the shrieking of the wind and cloud. "Stand clear, all!" and with a crash as if the heavens were coming together the masts had gone by the board, and what there was left of the Beachbird had righted and now rolled a wreck in the trough of the sea.
A half hour's work, but it had done more than wreck a ship: it had wrecked a passion. For as Helen still clung round Reyburn, sobbing and screaming, he had seen the opposite door open, and Lilian landing there, white-robed, white-shawled, with her bright hair about her face as white as a spirit's. "John," she said, "we are in a hurricane."
"Yes, Lilian," he had answered from where he was stationed close beside her door. "But the worst must be over. The wind already abates, and as soon as the sea goes down—"
As he spoke there came the terrible cry, loud above all other clamor, "A leak! a leak!" and then followed the renewed trampling of feet overhead, and the hoarse wheeze of the pumps.
"We are going down," Lilian said, and turned that white face away. "Oh, John!, before we go forgive me," she cried; and John held his outstretched arms toward her and folded her within them.
Reyburn saw it, and even in that supreme moment, when life and death swung in the balance, an awful revulsion seized him. He beheld now with a sickening shudder the woman cowering at his feet whose beauty an hour ago had melted his soul: she was flesh to him only—her beauty was of the earth, and flesh and the earth were passing, and it was other things on which such moments as these were opening—things such as shone in the transfigured face of Lilian—of Lilian whom, if this marsh-light had not dazzled him from his way, he might now be holding to his heart triumphant; for here disguises would have fallen and he could have claimed his own. For, whether it were the terror of the time, or the trancelike and spiritual look of Lilian, or whether it were the jealous pang of seeing her in another's arms, the love on which he had been waiting for two years and more, to which he had sacrificed time and endeavor, which had brought him here to this danger and this death, returned now and overwhelmed him, and the passion of a day and night fell apart and left him in its ruins. This woman at his feet filled him with a strange disgust: that other woman—If this were the last hour of time, he would have risked his chances in eternity to have held her as John did. He threw himself, face down, on the divan, and he cursed God and called upon the drowning wave to come.
The captain leaped down the companion-way, and caught his pistols from a drawer. "Mr. Reyburn, we need you and the other gentlemen," he cried. "We are throwing out our ballast. All hands must take spells at the pumps, for the leak gains, and I shall have all I can do to keep the men at work and the yacht afloat."
"Let her sink!" yelled Reyburn into the cushions where he lay. "Damn her! let her sink!" And he did not stir. But John had gently released Lilian and placed her in a chair near the sofa where her mother lay gasping, and had sprung on deck with his father and the captain.
A horrid hour crept by—a bitter blank below, hard and fierce work above—and then the pumps were choked. Lilian and her mother had crept on deck, holding by whatever they could find, and surveying the amazing scene around them. For the great black storm-cloud was flying up and away, flying into the north-east, and through the torn vapors that followed in its rack a waning moon arose. A tremendous sea was running, monstrous wave breaking on monstrous wave in a mad white frolic far as the eye could see; as one billow bounded along, curling and feathering and swelling on its path, a score leaped round it to powder themselves in a common cloud of spray; and [pg 369] every cloud of spray as it shot upward caught the long ray of the half-risen moon, that but darkly lighted and revealed an immensity of heaven, till all the weltering tumult of gloom and foam was sown with a myriad lunar rainbows.
The beauty of it almost overcame the terror with Lilian as she grasped her mother's hand.
"It is a fit gate to enter heaven by," said John, coming to her side. "We have done all we can," he added.
At the moment the bows dipped with a prodigious sea. Somebody forward sang out, "She's settling, sir! she's settling, sir!" The cry ran along the deck like fire: there was one panicstricken shriek that followed, and the men had jumped for the boats, into which water and provision had been already thrown. Reyburn came staggering up the companion-way with Helen. The dingy and one of the quarter-boats were already swamped in the wild haste: the men were crowding into the other, which had been safely lowered.
"You brutes!" the captain shouted, "are you going to leave the women?"
"Let them come, then," answered a voice, "and make haste about it;" and Lilian found herself drawn forward and looking over the side into the shadow below.
"Are you going, John?" she said hurriedly.
"No, darling: it is impossible, you see, but—"
"Nor I, either," she answered quickly.
"No," she said, "no! We were to be together in life, and we shall be in death. Oh, John, do you think I can leave you now?"
"Make haste about it," was repeated harshly from the boat.
"I am going to stay," repeated Lilian firmly.
"Here," cried Reyburn, as he drew up the ropes to bind them round Helen's waist. "Take her." But the boat was already clear of the ship and away; and he flung the ropes down again with a motion of abhorrence, and stood leaning against the stump of the mast, where he could hear the murmurs of John and Lilian, straining his ears to listen, as if he must needs torment himself—to listen to those few low, fervent whispers, with one eager to pour out the love so long restrained, the other to receive it—both in the face of death making the life so lately found too sweet a thing to leave.
Soon the little company remaining on the wreck had clustered around that portion of it; the captain and Mr. Mason were near by, and Lilian's mother sat beside her and kept her hand; Mr. Sterling, not far off, held Helen, who lay faint with fright—faint too with many a pang, snatched as she had been from a dream of warmth and joy to a nightmare of horror; one moment ruling in a heart that in the next moment had cast her forth to be trampled on; bewildered by the repugnance she had too plainly seen in the face of her passionate lover of two hours ago; half heartbroken with the remembrance of the tone in which he had called to the crew of the quarter-boat to take her, and cold with the awful expectancy of the moment. The moon swam slowly up, and the sky cleared about her; the sea rose and fell less violently, its dark expanse everywhere running fire; but the broken yacht still rolled like a log, and they clung to each other as she rolled. She settled slowly, and another hour had passed and left her still afloat.
"We are safe," cried the captain, coming back to their side after a brief absence with the mate. "Mr. Reyburn, do you see?" But Mr. Reyburn did not even hear. A soft lustre began to blanch the violet depths of the lofty sky; a rosy flare welled up from the horizon and half drowned the shriveled moon; a star that was steady in the east was shaking a countless host of stars in the shaking waters round them. And then the rosy flare was a yellow flame that filled the heavens; the long swells that ran up to break against them were like sheets of molten jewels—rubies and beryls and sapphires and chrysolites, changing and flashing as they broke into a thousand splendors; strange mild-eyed birds were hovering about them and alighting on the wreck; the moon was gone; the [pg 370] vaporous gold that overflowed the east was burned away in the increasing glory, and the sunshine fell about them.
"We are not going down," cried Lilian, her face aglow and lovely in the light. "That smoke in the horizon is a steamer's, and she will take us off. Oh, John, we have our lives before us yet!"
The captain and Mr. Mason had already signaled the steamer, and before very long the wreck was quite abandoned, and those whom it had carried were on their northward way again.
It was a singular wedding that I saw one day about two months after the wreck of the Beachbird. I was going by the church of St. Saviour, and being of an inquiring mind in the matter of weddings, I went in. There were two brides there: the husband of the first, the fair one, was just turning away with her. So calm, so pure, so peaceful, so content, were the faces of that new husband and wife, that I could long have looked upon them, as on some picture of strong spirits in the presence of God, had not the beauty of the second bride arrested me. But that was a beauty one hardly sees twice in a lifetime—so perfect in outline, under snowy veils and blossoms, the dark eyes so softly, dewily dark, the white brow whiter for its tendril-like rings of raven hair; and where had I ever seen groom so stately, so lofty, so proud? But what did the pantomime mean? a stranger might well have asked. Was that the man's natural demeanor? or had he brought his mind to the task of taking her by an effort that had destroyed every sentiment of his soul but scorn? And for her? Had the rose forsaken her cheek and the smile her lip because she looked on life as on a desert? Was that utter sadness and dejection a thing that should one day fade away and leave a sparkle of hope behind it? Or was it the scar of one who had played with fire, who had not the strength to release a pledge, and was marrying a man who she knew loathed her and her beauty together?
When the wretched, worthless and worn-out debauchee Gian Gaston dei Medici, grand duke of Tuscany, died on the 9th of July, 1737, the dynasty of that famous family became extinct. For some years before his death the prospect of a throne without any heir by right divine to claim it had set the cupidity of sundry of the European crowned heads in motion. Various schemes and arrangements had been proposed in the interest of different potentates. But the "vulpine cunning," as an Italian historian calls it, of Cardinal Fleury, the minister of Louis XV., at length succeeded in inducing the European powers to accede to an arrangement which secured the greater part of the advantage to France. It was finally settled that the duke of Lorraine should cede to France his ancestral states, which the latter had long coveted, and that he should be married to Maria Teresa, the heiress of the Austrian dominions, carrying in his hand Tuscany, the throne of which was secured to him at the death of Gian Gaston. It was further promised to the Tuscans, discontented at the prospect of having an absentee sovereign, that on the death of the emperor Francis, Tuscany should have a ruler of its own in the person of his second son. This Francis, who gave up the duchy of Lorraine to become the husband of Maria Teresa, reigned over Tuscany till his sudden death by apoplexy on the 18th of August, 1765. His second son, Leopold, reigned in Tuscany till, on the death of [pg 371] his elder brother on the 24th of December, 1789, he was in his turn also called to ascend the imperial throne. Thereupon the second son of Leopold became grand-duke in 1789, and reigned as Ferdinand III. till 1824, when, on the 18th of June, his son succeeded him as Leopold II. Now, though the sovereignty of Tuscany was thus entirely and definitively separated from that of Austria, all these princes were of the blood-royal of Austria, and might in the course of Nature have succeeded to the imperial throne. For this reason they were held, though only dukes of Tuscany, to be entitled to the style and title "imperial and royal," according to the custom of the House of Austria; and thus every grimy little tobacco-shop and lottery-office in Tuscany, in the days when I first knew it, in 1841, styled itself "imperial and royal."
The Tuscans had been greatly discontented when the arrangements of the great powers of Europe, entered into without a moment's thought as to the wishes of the population of the grand duchy on the subject, had decided that they were to be ruled over by a German prince of whom they knew absolutely nothing. It was not that the later Medici had been popular, or either respected or beloved. The misgovernment of especially the last two of the Medicean line had reduced the country to the lowest possible social, moral and economical condition. But yet the change from the known to the utterly unknown was unwelcome to the people. They feared they knew not what changes and innovations in their old easy-going if downward-tending ways. But Providence, in the shape of the ambitions and intrigues of the great powers, had better things in store for them than they dreamed of. The princes of the Lorraine dynasty so ruled as not only quickly to gain the respect and affection of their subjects, but gradually to render Tuscany by far the most civilized and prosperous portion of Italy. The first three princes of the Lorraine line were enlightened men, far in advance not only of the generality of their own subjects, but of their contemporaries in general. They were conscientious rulers, earnestly desirous of ameliorating the condition of the people they were called on to govern. Of the last of the line the same cannot in its entirety be said. A portion of the eulogy deserved by his predecessors may be awarded to him unquestionably. He was, I fully believe, a good and conscientious man, anxious to do his duty, and desirous of the happiness and well being of his people. But he was by no means a wise or enlightened man. It could hardly be said that he was popular or beloved by his subjects at the time when I first knew Florence. The Tuscans were very far better off than any other Italians at that time, and they were fully conscious that they were so. But this superiority was justly credited to the wise rule of the grand duke's father and grandfather, rather than to any merit of his own. Yet he was liked in a sort of way—I am afraid I must say in a contemptuous sort of way. The general notion was that he was what is generally described by the expressive term "a poor creature." He probably was so, in truth, from his birth upward. It was said—and I believe with truth—that he had been in his childish years reared with the greatest difficulty; and strange as it may seem, it is, I believe, a fact that a wet-nurse made an important part of the establishment of the prince at the Pitti Palace till he was about twenty years old. How far physiologists may deem that such an abnormal circumstance may have been influential in producing a diathesis of mind and body deficient in vigor, energy and "hard grit" of any kind, I do not know. But if that is what such a bringing-up may be expected to produce, then the expectation was in the case in question certainly justified. Nevertheless, Italians had been for so many generations and centuries taught by bitter experience to consider kings and princes of all sorts as malevolent and maleficent scourges of humanity that a sovereign who really did no harm to any one was, after a fashion, as I have said, popular. Accessibility is always one sure means of making a sovereign acceptable to large [pg 372] classes of his subjects; and nothing could be easier than to gain access to the presence of Leopold II., grand duke of Tuscany. A little anecdote of an occurrence that took place at the time when Lord Holland, to the regret of everybody in Florence, English or Italian, ceased to be the representative of England at the grand ducal court, will show the sort of thing that used to prevail in the matter of the admission of foreigners to the Pitti Palace.
English travelers on the continent of Europe are, and have been for many years, as it is hardly necessary to state, a very motley and heterogeneous crowd. The same thing may be said of American travelers now, but it was not so much the case at the time of which I am writing. It is not so with the people of any other nation; and foreigners are apt to sneer on occasion at the unkempt and queer specimens of humanity which often come to them from the two English-speaking nations. We can well afford to let them stare and smile, well knowing that if a similar amount of prosperity permitted the people of other countries to travel for their pleasure in similar numbers, the result would be at the very least an equally—shall I say undrawing-room-like contribution to cosmopolitan society? When Sir George Hamilton assumed the duties of British representative at Florence, the yearly throng of English visitors was becoming more numerous and more heterogeneous, and all wanted to be invited to the balls at the Pitti Palace. Those were the most urgent in their applications, as will be easily understood, whose claims to such distinction were the most problematic. The practice was for the minister to present to the grand duke whom he thought fit, and those so presented went to the balls as a matter of course. The position of the minister, it will be seen, was an invidious one. Under the pressure of these circumstances, Sir George Hamilton declared that he would in no case take upon himself to decide on the fitness or unfitness of any person, but would act invariably upon the old recognized rule of etiquette observed at other courts in such matters—i.e., he would present anybody who had been presented at the court of St. James, and none who had not been so presented. The result was soon apparent in a singular thinning of the magnificent suites of rooms of the Pitti on ball-nights. The general appearance of the rooms might be something more like what the receiving-rooms of princes are wont to look like, but all that was gained in quality was attained by a very marked sacrifice of quantity. In a week or two Sir George received a hint to the effect that the grand duke would be pleased if the minister would be less strict in the matter of presenting such English as might desire to come to the Pitti. "Oh!" said Sir George, "if that is what is desired, there can be no difficulty about it. I am sure I won't stand in the way of filling the Pitti ball-room. Let them all come." And accordingly everybody who asked to be presented was presented without any pretence of an attempt at discrimination.
This was the manner in which the thing was done: All new-comers were told that if they wished to go to the Pitti balls they must notify to the English minister their desire to be presented to the grand duke. In return, they received an intimation that they must be in the ante-room of the suite of receiving-rooms at eight o'clock on such an evening—ladies in ball-dress; gentlemen in evening-dress with white neckcloths. It may be observed here that this matter of the white neckcloth was the only point insisted on. Both ladies and gentlemen were allowed to exercise the utmost latitude of private judgment as to what constituted "ball-dress" and "evening-dress." I have seen a black stuff gown fitting closely round the throat pass muster for the first, and a gray frockcoat for the second. But the officials at the door would refuse to admit a man with a black neckerchief; and I once saw a man thus rejected retire a few steps into a corridor, whip off the offending black silk and put it in his pocket, obtain a fragment of white tape from some portion of a lady's dress, put that round his shirt-collar, and then again presenting himself be recognized by the officials as complying with [pg 373] the exigencies of etiquette. The aspirants to "court society" having assembled, from twenty to fifty, perhaps, in number, according as it was earlier or later in the season, presently the minister bustled in, and with a hurried "Now then!" led his motley flock into the presence-chamber, where they were formed into line. Much about the same moment (for the grand duke had "the royal civility" of punctuality, and rarely kept people waiting) His Serene Imperial and Royal Highness came shambling into the room in the white-and-gold uniform of an Austrian general officer, and looking very much as if he had just been roused out of profound slumber, and had not yet quite collected his senses. Walking as if he had two odd legs, which had never been put to work together before, he came to a standstill in front of the row of presentees. If there was any person of any sort of distinction among them, the minister whispered a word or two in the grand ducal ear, and motioned the lion to come forward. His Imperial and Royal Highness, after one glance of helpless suffering at the stranger, fixed his gaze on his own boots. A long pause ensued, during which courtly etiquette forbade the stranger to utter a word. At last His Highness shifted his weight on to his left foot, hung his head down on his shoulder on the same side, and said "Ha!" Another pause, the presentee hardly considering himself justified in replying to this observation. The duke finding he had made a false start and accomplished nothing, shifted his weight to the right foot, simultaneously hanging his head on his shoulder on that side, and said "Hum!" It would often occur that when he had reached that point he would make a duck forward with his head to signify that the audience was at an end.
If there was anything that the presenting official thought might be appropriately remarked to the distinguished presentee, he would whisper a hint to that effect in the grand ducal ear, of which His Highness was usually glad to avail himself. I remember one amusing instance in point, when it needed all the sense of the majesty of the sovereign presence to preserve in the bystanders the gravity due to the occasion. It was in the case of an American presentation. The United States had at that time no recognized representative at the grand ducal court, and Americans, much fewer in number then than of late years, were generally presented by a banker who had almost all the American business. This gentleman, having to present some one—I forget the name—who was connected by blood or in some other special manner with Washington, whispered to the grand duke that such was the case. His Serene Highness bowed his appreciation of the fact. Then, after going through the usual foot-exercise, and after a longer pause than usual, he looked up at the expectant visitor standing in front of him, and said, but with evident effort, "Ah-h-h! Le grand Vaash!" There was nothing more forthcoming. Having thus delivered himself, he made his visitor a low bow, and the latter retired. It was evident that the grand duke of Tuscany heard of "Le grand Vaash" then for the first time in his life.
After any specialty of this sort had been disposed of, the ruck of presentees, standing like a lot of school-boys in a long row, were "presented," which ceremony was deemed to have been effectually accomplished by one duck of the grand ducal head, to be divided among all the recipients, and an answering duck from each of them in return. They were then as free to amuse themselves in any manner it seemed good to them as if they had been at a public place of entertainment and had paid for their tickets. And not only that, but they were free to return and do the same, without any fresh presentation ceremony, every time there was a ball at the palace, which was at least once a week from the beginning of the year to the end of Carnival.
Nor were the amusements thus liberally provided by any means to be despised. There was a magnificent suite of rooms, with a really grand ball-room, all magnificently lighted; there was a large and very excellent band; there was a great abundance of card-tables, [pg 374] with all needed appurtenances, in several of the rooms; ices and sherbets and bonbons and tea and pastry were served in immense profusion during the whole evening. At one o'clock the supper-rooms were opened, and there was a really magnificent supper, with "all the delicacies of the season," and wine in abundance of every sort. And the old hands, who would appear knowing, used to say to new-comers, "Never mind the champagne—you can get that anywhere—but stick to the Rhine wine: it comes from the old boy's own vineyards." To tell the truth, the scene at that supper used to be a somewhat discreditable one. The spreading of such a banquet before such an assemblage of animals as had gone up into that ark was a leading them into unwonted temptation which was hardly judicious. Not that the foreigners were by any means the worst offenders against decent behavior there. If they carried away bushels of bonbons in their loaded pockets, the Italians would consign to the same receptacles whole fowls, vast blocks of galantine, and even platefuls of mayonnaise, packed up in paper brought thither for the purpose. They were like troops plundering a taken town. Despite the enormous quantity of loot thus carried off, inexhaustible fresh supplies refurnished the board again and again till all were satisfied. I never saw English or Americans pocket aught save bonbons, which seemed to be considered fair game on all sides, but the quantity of these that I have seen made prizes of was something prodigious.
The grand duchess had hardly more to say for herself than the grand duke, and her manner was less calculated to please her visitors. That which in the grand duke was evidently shyness and want of ready wit, took in the grand duchess the appearance of hauteur and the distant manner due to pride. She was a sister of the king of Naples, and was liked by no one. The one truly affable member of the court circle, whose manner and bearing really had something of royal grace and graciousness, was the dowager grand duchess, the widow of the late grand duke, who to all outward appearance was as young as, and a far more elegant-looking woman than, the reigning grand duchess. She had been a princess of the royal family of Saxony, and was no doubt in all respects, intellectual and moral as well as social, a far more highly cultivated woman than the scion of the Bourbon House of Naples. She was the late grand duke's second wife, and not the mother of the reigning duke.
Why were all these balls given—at no small cost of money and trouble—by the grand duke and duchess? Why did his Serene Imperial and Royal Highness intimate to the English minister his wish that every traveling Briton from Capel Court or Bloomsbury should be brought to share his hospitality and the pleasures of his society? The matter was simply this: His Serene Highness was venturing a small fish to catch a large one. As a good and provident ruler, anxious for the prosperity and well-being of his subjects, he was making a bid for the valuable patronage of the British Cockney. He was acting the part of land-lord of a gratuitous "free-and-easy," in the hope of making Florence an attractive place of residence to that large class of nomad English to whom gratuitous court-balls once a week appeared to be a near approach to those "Saturnia regna" when the rivers ran champagne and plum-puddings grew on all the bushes. And it cannot be doubted that the grand duke's patriotic endeavors were crowned with success, and that his expenditure in wax-lights, music, ices and suppers was returned tenfold to the shopkeepers and hotel and lodging-house keepers of his capital.
One other point may be mentioned with reference to these balls, as a small contribution to the history of a system of social manners and usages which has now passed away. The utmost latitudinarianism, as has been mentioned, was allowed in the matter of costume, but this rule was subject to one exception. On the night of New Year's Day, on which there was always a ball at the Pitti, all those who attended it were [pg 375] expected to appear in proper court-dress. Those who were entitled to any official costume, military or other, donned that. I have seen a clergyman of the Church of England make his academical robes do duty as a court-dress, as indeed they properly do at St. James. But in the rooms at the Pitti His Reverence became the observed of all observers to a remarkable degree. Those who could lay claim to no official costume of any sort had to fall back on the old court-dress of the period of George I., still worn, oddly enough, at the English court. It is a sufficiently handsome dress in itself, and had at all events the advantage of looking extremely unlike the ordinary costume of nineteenth-century mortals, It was often a question with American civilians what dress they should wear on these occasions, and I used to endeavor to persuade my American friends to insist upon their republican right to ignore in Europe court-tailor mummeries of which they knew nothing at home; being perfectly sure that they would have carried the point victoriously, and not unmindful of Talleyrand's remark when Castlereagh at Vienna appeared in a plain black coat, without any decoration, among the crowd of continental diplomatists bedizened with ribbons of every color and stars and crosses of every form and kind: "Ma foi! c'est fort distingué!" But I never could prevail, having, as I take it, the female influence against me on the subject; and Americans used to adopt generally a blue cloth coat and trousers well trimmed with gold lace, and a white waistcoat.
In later days, when popular discontent and the agitation arising from it were gradually boiling up to a dangerous height in every part of Italy, and the hatred felt toward the different sovereigns was reflected in many an audacious squib and satire, the grand duke of Tuscany never shared to any great degree the odium which pursued his fellow-monarchs. It was with a scathing vigor of satire that Giuseppe Giusti characterized each of the Italian crowned heads of that period in burning verses, which were circulated with cautious secresy in manuscript from hand to hand, long before a surreptitious edition, which it was dangerous (anywhere in Italy save in Tuscany) to possess, appeared, to be followed in after years by many an avowed one. These have given the name of Giusti a high and peculiar place on the roll of Italian poets. But the satirist's serpent scourge is changed for a somewhat contemptuously used foolscap when the Tuscan ruler is introduced in the following lines:
Il Toscano Morfeo vien' lemme, lemme,
Di pavavero cinto e di lattuga.
Then comes the Tuscan Morpheus, creepy, crawly,
With poppies and with lettuce crowned.
These lines, however, represent pretty accurately about the worst that his subjects had to say of poor old "Ciuco," as the last of the grand dukes was irreverently and popularly called: "Ciuco," I am sorry to state, means "donkey." And it must be owned that the two lines I have quoted from Giusti's verses, with their untranslatable "lemme, lemme"—of which I have endeavored, with imperfect success, to give the meaning—present a very graphic picture of the man and the nature and characteristics of his government. Everything went "lemme, lemme," in the Sleepy Hollow of Tuscany in those days.
Used as he was to be laughed at, Leopold could occasionally be made sleepily half angry by impertinences which had something of a sting in them. Here is an amusing instance of that fact, and of the way in which things used to be done in Tuscany. Most of the Italian provinces—or larger cities, rather—- have been from time immemorial personated in the popular fancy by certain comic types, supposed to represent with more or less accuracy the special characteristics of each district. Venice, as all the world knows, has, and still more had, her "Pantaloon," Naples her "Pulcinello," etc. The specialties of the Florentine character are popularly supposed to be embodied in "Stenterello," who comes on the Florentine stage, in pieces written for the purpose, every Carnival, to the never-failing delight of the populace. Stenterello is an absurd figure with a [pg 376] curling pigtail, large cocked hat, and habiliments meant to represent those of a Tuscan citizen of some hundred years or so ago. He is a sort of shrewd fool, doing the most absurd things, lying through thick and thin with a sort of simple, self-confuting mendacity, yet contriving to cheat everybody, and always having, amid all his follies, a shrewd eye to his own interest. He talks with the broadest possible Florentine accent and idiom, and despite his cunning is continually getting more kicks than halfpence. Well, there was in those days a famous Stenterello, really a very clever fellow in his way, who for many years had been the delight of the Florentines every Carnival. But one year a rival theatre produced a new and rival Stenterello. Of course the old and established Stenterello could not stand this without using the license of the popular stage to overwhelm his rival with ridicule. "This sort of thing," said he, "will never do! How many Stenterelli are we to have? Two is the regular established number in Florence. There are I and my brother over there at the great house on the other side of the Arno: we are the Florentine Stenterelli by right divine, as is well known. Who is this pretender who comes to interfere with us?" etc. Now, this was a little too much, even for Florence. And a day or two afterward the old original Stenterello was ordered to go to prison. Nobody was ever arrested, as we should call it, or taken to prison. A man who for any cause was to suffer imprisonment used to be told to go to prison. Stenterello told the officer who announced his doom that it was out of the question that he should go just then: he had to appear on the boards that night. This was deemed to be a just impediment, and he was told to go next day. The next day was a "festa:" of course a sufficient reason for putting off everything. The day after, on presenting himself at the prison-door, the actor was told that the governor of the prison was out of Florence, and he must "call again" in a few days. When the governor returned, Stenterello was indisposed for a few days. When he got well the governor was indisposed, and when he got well there was another "festa;" and when at last the offending actor did apply to the prison official to be imprisoned, he was told there was no room for him. Long before that the higher authorities had totally forgotten all about the matter. That was the way things were done in Tuscany in the good old time.
The more serious faults with which Leopold II. was chargeable were due to the narrowness of his religious bigotry, and, in the difficult and trying circumstances of the latter years of his reign, the lack of the courage needed to enable him to be truthful and to keep faith with his people. When the frightened and fickle pope ran away from Rome, strong influences were brought to bear on the grand duke of Tuscany to induce him to refrain from following the example and to ally himself with Piedmont. His confessor of course took the opposite side, and strove with every weapon he could bring to bear on his Serene penitent to induce him to throw in his lot with the pope. At last the invisible world had to be appealed to. Saint Philomena, who had been a special object of the devotion of the grand ducal family, took to appearing to the confessor, and expressing her earnest hope that her devotee would not risk the salvation of a soul in which she took so tender an interest by refusing to follow the path marked out for him by the Holy Father. The saint became very importunate upon the subject, and each one of her celestial visitations was duly reported to the grand duke, and made the occasion of fresh exhortations on the part of the holy man who had been favored by them. The upshot is well known: Ciuco followed the advice of Saint Philomena and lost his dukedom.
Sometimes, however, this submission of his mind to his clergy was not altogether proof against a certain simple shrewdness, aided perhaps by an inclination to save money, to which he was said not to be insensible. Of course his grandfather, the enlightened and reforming Duke Leopold I., had not been at all in the good graces of the Church, [pg 377] and for a series of years Leopold II. had been in the habit of giving a sum of money for masses for the repose of the soul of his grandfather. But upon one occasion it happened that the archbishop of Lucca (a very special hierarchical big-wig, and the greatest ecclesiastical authority in those parts, being, by reason of some ancient and peculiar privileges, a greater man than even the archbishop of Florence), in the course of an argument with the grand duke, the object of which was to induce the latter to modify in some respects some of those anti-ecclesiastical measures by which the elder Leopold had made the prosperity of Tuscany, was so far carried away by his zeal as to declare that the author of the obnoxious constitutions which he wished altered had incurred eternal damnation by the enactment of them. The grand duke bent his head humbly before the archiepiscopal denunciation, and said nothing in reply. But when the time came round for the disbursement of the annual sum for masses for Leopold I., his pious grandson declared that it was useless to spend any more money for that purpose, for that the archbishop of Lucca had informed him that his unhappy predecessor's soul was in hell, and accordingly past help and past being prayed—or paid—for.
I remember an amusing instance of the same sort of simple shrewdness on the lookout for the main chance which was exemplified in the above anecdote showing itself in quite a different sphere. There was in those days living in Florence an Englishman bearing the name of Sloane. He had made a large fortune by the intelligent and well-ordered management of some copper-mines in the neighborhood of Volterra, which in his hands had turned out to be of exceptional and unexpected richness. He was a man who did much good with his money, and was considered a very valuable and important citizen of his adopted country. He was a Roman Catholic too, which made him all the more acceptable to the Florentines, and especially to the grand duke, with whom he was a great favorite. This Mr. Sloane had bought some years before the date of my anecdote the ancient Medicean villa of Careggi, with a considerable extent of land surrounding it. One day the grand duke paid him a visit at his villa of Careggi, and in the course of it proposed a walk up the slope of the Apennines through some fine woods that made a part of Mr. Sloane's property. They went together, enjoying the delightful walk through the woods over a dry and excellently well-made road, where everything betokened care and good tending, till all of a sudden, near the top of the hill they were climbing, they came to a place where the good road suddenly ended, and the path beyond was all bog and the wood utterly uncared for, so that their walk evidently had to come to an end there, and they would have to retrace their steps.
"Why, Sloane, how is this? This is not like your way of doing things. Why did you stop short in your good work?" said the grand duke, as they stood at the limit of the good road, looking out at the slough beyond them.
"In truth, Your Highness, I was sorry that the good road should break off here, but the circumstance is easily explained. Here ends the property of your humble servant, and there begins the property of Your Royal Highness," said Sloane with a low bow.
"Ha! Is it so? Well, then, I'll tell you what you shall do. You shall buy it, Sloane, and then you can finish your job," returned the grand duke.
It is very doubtful whether the Tuscans would have approved of the liberality of the grand duke's expenditure if he had manifested it, as his neighbor-sovereigns did, by expending his revenues on multitudes of show-soldiers. The Tuscan forces of those days were not exactly calculated for brilliant military display. They were about as likely to be called on to fight as the scullions in the grand ducal kitchen, and neither in number, appearance nor tenue were they such as would have obtained the approval of the lowest officer in the service of a more military-minded sovereign. However, such as they were, the [pg 378] grand duke used occasionally—generally on the recurrence of some great Church festival—to review his troops. On such occasions he was expected to say something to the men. Poor Ciuco's efforts in that line often produced effects more amusing to bystanders than impressive to the objects of his oratory. He was one day reviewing the troops who occupied barracks in the well-known "Fortezza di S. Giovanni," popularly called by the Florentines "Fortezza da basso"—the same in which the celebrated Filippo Strozzi, then the prisoner of the vindictive Cosmo de' Medici, was found dead one morning, leaving to the world the still unsolved historical problem whether he died by his own hand or by that of his jailer hired to do the murder. The scene in the gloomy old fortress with which we are at present concerned was of a less tragic nature. His Serene Highness began by exhorting his "brave army"—which, unlike that of Bombastes in the burlesque, certainly never "kicked up a row" of any kind—to be attentive to their religious duties. "It is particularly desirable that you should show an example to the citizens by your regular observance of the festivals of the Church; and—and—" (here His Highness shuffled his feet, and, hanging his head down, chanced to cast his eyes on the line of feet of the men drawn up before him) "and—and—always keep your shoes clean." And with that doubtless much-needed exhortation His Highness concluded his address.
The fact that Leopold was not regarded by his subjects with any bitterness of hatred—nay, that there was au fond a considerable feeling of affection for him—is shown by the circumstances of his deposition from the throne. A little timely concession would have saved Charles I.: a still less amount of concession would have preserved his throne to Leopold II. As regarded his own power, he had no objection to agree to all that was asked of him, but he could not make up his mind to go against the head of his house and the head of his religion. The last proposal made to him was to abdicate in favor of his son, whom, if allied with Piedmont, the Tuscans would have consented to accept as their sovereign. But the grand duke felt that this would in fact be doing in an indirect manner that which he had fully determined not to do; and he refused. And then came the end, and that memorable April morning (the 27th) when the present writer witnessed a revolution such as the world had not seen before, and such as, it may be feared, it is not likely soon to see again. Revolutions, we have over and over again been told, "cannot be made with rose-water." The Tuscan revolution may have "proved the rule by the exception," but it assuredly proved it in no other way. The revolution by which poor old Ciuco lost this throne was essentially a rose-water revolution. The history of that day, of the negotiations respecting the proposed abdication of the duke, of the conduct and bearing of the people, has already been told by the present writer, when he was fresh from witnessing the events, in a little volume published in 1859. He will not therefore repeat them now, but will conclude this paper with an account of the manner of the last grand duke's farewell to Florence which is not given in the volume spoken of.
It was at six o'clock in the evening that the carriages containing the grand duke and his family passed through the Porta San Gallo, from which proceeds the road to Bologna, and thence to Vienna. The main preoccupation of the people at that moment was to assure themselves by the evidence of their own senses that the duke and dukelings were really gone. An immense crowd of people assembled round the gate and lined the road immediately outside it. Along the living line thus formed the cortége of carriages proceeded at a slow pace. There was no fear of violence. The Tuscan revolution had cost no drop of blood—not so much as a bloody nose—to any human being thus far, and there was no danger whatever that any violence would be shown to the departing and totally unprotected prince. But there might have been danger that the populace would tarnish their hitherto blameless [pg 379] conduct by some manifestation of insult or exultation. There was not one word of the sort spoken in all the crowd, or indeed a word of any sort. The carriages, carrying away those who were never to see the banks of the Arno and fair Florence again, passed on in perfect—one might almost say in mournful—silence. Of course the masses of the crowd were soon passed, and the grand ducal heart, if it had beat a little quickly while his unguarded carriage was passing between the lines of those who declined to be any longer his subjects, resumed that "serenity" supposed to be the especial property of royal highnesses. But some half dozen carriages, containing a score or so of those whose positions had brought them into personal acquaintance with the sovereign, accompanied the royal cortége as far as the Tuscan frontier between the grand ducal state and the dominions of the Church. Arrived at that spot—it is on the top of a high, bleak ridge among the Apennines—there was a general alighting from the carriages for the mutual saying of the last words of farewell. Of course an immense amount of bowing, with backward steps according to true courtly fashion, went to the due uttering of these adieux on that spot of the high-road over the Apennines. Unfortunately, there chanced to be a heap of broken stones for the mending of the road which encroached a little on the roadway. And it so happened that His Imperial and Royal Highness, never very dexterous in the use of his limbs or an adept in the performance of such courtly gymnastics, backed in bowing on this unlucky heap of stones, and was tripped by it in such sort that the imperial and royal heels went into the air, and the grand duke made his last exit from Tuscany in a manner more original than dignified.
The local charities connected with the family history of great landowners in England form one of the most interesting classes of public relief. They date chiefly from ante-Reformation times, and often embody a hidden symbolism into which none save the antiquary now cares to inquire. It is a mistake to suppose that all the dying bequests of pious folk in the Middle Ages were devoted to the "Church" proper: the larger part certainly were, although the spirit that prompted even the making of such bequests was symbolical of the belief in the dispensing (rather than the appropriating) powers of churchmen: but many were also the sums left to be yearly spent in the relief of the poor and starving. Thus originated the alms-(or bede-) houses so frequently met with in the retired villages of England. Bede (from the German beten, to "pray") meant prayer, hinting at the pious duty of those benefiting by the founder's legacy to pray for his eternal welfare. When the Reformation, among many abuses, also obliterated many beautiful and poetical customs, the meaning of these "houses of prayer" was forgotten, and their chapels were often ruthlessly whitewashed. The material part of the foundation, however, still remained, and the bedesmen, twelve or thirteen (in commemoration of the number of the apostles, or the apostles and their Master), continued to be chosen by the clergyman of the parish and the lord of the manor. In other places, instead of this more costly mode of relief, a custom prevailed of distributing a "dole" at stated times to a large number of poor people, the [pg 380] number corresponding to the age of the giver: if alive, of course the number increased every year; if dead, it was fixed at the age at which he or she had died. Many of these local customs continue to this day: some have even been instituted lately, since the revived taste for medievalism has beautified and refined English homesteads and village churches. The queen, a faithful upholder of ancient national manners, has given the example by adhering to the time-honored custom called the Royal Maundy. This word is from mandatum, or commandment, and refers to the "new commandment" given by Christ to his apostles at the Last Supper. In Catholic countries it is still the custom for the sovereign to wash the feet of twelve poor men (his wife performing the same office for twelve poor and aged women) in public on the Thursday before Easter, and to serve them at table afterward: in Vienna this is done in a very solemn and public manner. The chosen ones are brought to the palace in court-coaches, and after the ceremony is over are carried home in the same way, loaded with presents of clothing, money, and all the dishes, spoons, forks, etc., used at their dinner. In England the same charity, or its equivalent, is dispensed, not by the sovereign in person, but by her chaplains and almoners, in the midst of beautiful formalities. The dignity with which the ceremony is performed is a striking evidence of the national character, and a contrast to the sometimes slovenly manner in which great public religious functions are got through abroad. The charities are distributed in the chapel of Whitehall, the palace made tragically famous by the disgrace of Wolsey and the death of King Charles I. Fifty-five old men, and as many women, the number corresponding to the age of the sovereign, were thus relieved last year. On an earlier occasion witnessed by the writer a procession consisting of a detachment of the yeomen of the guard, under the command of a sergeant-major (one of the yeomen carrying the royal alms on a gold salver of the reign of William and Mary), several chaplains, almoners, secretaries and a few national schoolchildren (allowed to take part in the ceremony as a signal reward for good behavior), left the Royal Almonry Office for the chapel of Whitehall. It was met at the door by the lord high almoner and the subdeans of the Chapel Royal, who joined the ranks and passed up to the altar. The surpliced boys of the Chapel Royal, and the clergy and gentlemen belonging officially to it, took their appointed places right and left, and the gold salver was deposited in front of the royal pew, generally tenanted by one or more members of the royal family. Evening prayer, slightly varied and adapted for the occasion, as custom has decreed for several centuries, was then gone through; the forty-first Psalm was chanted; and after the First Lesson an anthem by Goss was sung. Then followed the distribution of £1 15s. to each woman, and a pair of shoes and stockings to each man. The two next anthems were by Mendelssohn, and in the intervals woolen and linen clothes were first distributed to each man, and money-purses to each man and woman. The Second Lesson was then read, and the fourth and concluding anthem, by Greene, chanted, after which the usual Thanksgiving and Prayer of St. Chrysostom were read. The musical part of the service, being especially prominent, was correctly and artistically performed by skillful musicians (some of them composers), styled officially "gentlemen of the Chapel Royal:" the solo in the first anthem was sung by one of the boys.
In addition to this special ceremony, other Easter bounties, styled "Minor Bounty," "Discretionary Bounty," and the "Royal Gate Alms," were, according to old custom, distributed at the Almonry Office on Good Friday and Saturday, while Easter Monday and Tuesday were devoted to the distribution of other supplementary relief to old and infirm people previously chosen by the clergy of the various London parishes. The recipients included over a thousand persons.
Among the private local charities none is on so large a scale as the [pg 381] famous "Tichborne Dole." The idea we now attach to the word dole is ludicrously inappropriate in this case, where the gift is in the proportion of one gallon of the best wheaten flour to each adult and half a gallon to each child, and where the number of the recipients is generally between five and six hundred, including the inhabitants of two parishes. This custom is seven hundred years old, and was first instituted on the Tichborne estate by Dame Mabel, the wife of Sir Roger de Tichborne, knight, in the beginning of the twelfth century. The foundress was renowned for her piety and charity, and by her own people was looked upon as a saint. The family record says that she was so charitable to the poor that, not content to exercise that virtue all her lifetime, she instituted the "dole" as a perpetual memorial of her goodness, and entailed it to her posterity. It is distributed yearly on the 25th of March. A large oil-painting, now hanging in the dining-room of Tichborne House, and representing the distribution of the "dole," was painted in 1670, and is considered as one of the most valuable family relics. The costumes of the period are faithfully represented, most of the prominent figures are portraits, and the scene is laid within the courtyard of the old manor, with its sculptured gables and picturesque mullioned windows. The present house, roomy and comfortable as it is, is a plain, unpretending building, with no architectural features to recommend it, but the park and grounds are very beautiful, the old trees disposed in deep glades and avenues, and the situation altogether very picturesque. Since the famous trial has made everything bearing the name of Tichborne a target for curiosity, the occupants have been sadly annoyed, and access to the house was at last, in self-defence, denied to strangers who came simply as gaping sight-seers. The "dole" distribution, as we have said, takes place every year. Last spring it was attended with less show than usual, owing to the illness of the little boy who now represents the old name (the nephew of the lost Roger Tichborne), in consequence of which none of the ladies of the family were present. But despite the absence of the festal arrangements by which it is usually accompanied, the main business was the same as it has always been since Dame Mabel's time. About nine o'clock the fine old park became thronged with men, women and children, all carrying bags and baskets in which to stow away the "bounty." The distribution was made at the back of the house. The people gathered in groups, dressed in all sorts of plain, dilapidated country garments—old men in worn-out smock-frocks (a sight seldom seen even in conservative England), gaiters such as they wear at work in the fields, and slouched, unrecognizable hats that had evidently seen better times; others stood in their "Sunday clothes," stiff and uncomfortable as a laborer looks in that unusual and unartistic guise; some were old and toothless, yet upright and almost martial-looking; while some, again, had that pathetic look—sunken eyes, bent limbs and general air of having given in to the attacks of time and sorrow—which invariably speaks the same language and stirs the same sympathy all over the world. The women were in the majority, most of them hale and hearty, the wives and daughters of laborers who were too busy to come in person. Nine sacks, each containing fifty gallons of flour, were emptied by two sturdy miller's men into an immense tub. The family being an old Roman Catholic one, a religious ceremony was the prelude of the distribution. The domestic chaplain offered up a short prayer, and after invoking the blessing of Heaven on the gift, sprinkled the flour with holy water in the form of a cross. It was no uncommon thing for one person to carry away three or four gallons of flour: the largest award was in the case of a family consisting of man, wife and seven children, the wife carrying away with her five and a half gallons. Many of those whose names appeared as witnesses for the defence during the memorable trial were present—John Etheridge, the blacksmith, and Kennett, coachman to the dowager Lady Tichborne, [pg 382] among the number. The latter lives in a small freehold cottage, his own property, at Cheriton, the next parish to Tichborne. Persons of all denominations were relieved—Church people, Dissenters and Roman Catholics alike—without the slightest favoritism being shown to any.
The same kind of charity, though on a smaller scale, and by the custom of living patrons instead of the will of deceased ones, is dispensed at various times in the year through the whole country by both large and small landed proprietors.
The 11th of November (St. Martin's Day) is the one generally chosen for the distribution of winter clothing to the poor of the parish, and this in commemoration of the mediaeval legend of the holy Bishop Martin, who gave half his ample cloak to a shivering leper who begged of him in the street. Next night, says the legend, he saw in a dream Christ himself clothed in that cloak, and remembered the promise that "inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these, ye have done it unto Me." The writer has often assisted at such distribution of warm clothing, both made and unmade. In every county squire's house there is a bi-or tri-weekly distribution of soup to the village poor, and in most two or three sets of fine bed-linen and soft baby-clothes, to be lent out on occasions requiring greater comforts than the poor and too often thriftless women of agricultural villages can afford. Private charity is all-reaching: the "hall" is the dispensary and the general ark of refuge for all county ills, moral, physical and pecuniary, and its help is never thought degrading, like that of the "parish." Most families pay a doctor and a nurse by the year to attend the poor free of expense, and an order from the doctor for jellies, soup or wine, as well as for the ordinary sorts of medicine, is always sure of being filled from the ample stores of the "housekeeper's room." If the city poor were half as well provided for as are the agricultural poor by their "lords of the manor," there would be far less destitution. Some affect to sneer at a system which savors of what they call "feudalism," and which, they wisely suggest, encourages pauperism, but warm-hearted and charitable people will probably disagree with these searchers after new methods, and will be glad to find in the ready sympathy of English landowners for their poor neighbors a ray of the old-fashioned unquestioning charity which distinguished biblical times.
I wish to supplement the "Recollections of Landor," published in a former number of the Magazine, by an anecdote and two or three characteristic letters which by accident escaped me when I was writing on the subject before. Here is the story: Schlegel and Niebuhr had been for some time on unpleasant terms. The historical skepticism of the latter was altogether distasteful to Schlegel; and he was wont to deny Niebuhr's claim to the title of historian. Well, Landor was dining at Bonn, and among the company immediately opposite to him at table was Schlegel. Hardly had the soup been despatched before Landor, with that stentorian voice of his which always filled every corner of every room he spoke in, began: "Are not you the man, Mr. Schlegel, who has recently discovered, at the end of two hundred and fifty years, that Shakespeare is a poet? Well, perhaps if you live two hundred and fifty years longer, you may discover that Niebuhr is an historian." "Schlegel did not like it," added Landor when telling the story himself—very much as who should say, "I knocked him down with an unexpected blow of my fist, and he did not like it!"
And now for my letters. Here is one dated "Florence, June, 1861," written to my wife when he was past eighty and within a year or two of his death. The latter portion of the letter is especially interesting, and will be none the less so to those who may be disposed to dispute the correctness of the judgments expressed in it.
"Do not be alarmed," he writes, "at a letter which 'like a wounded snake drags its slow length along.' Such, I [pg 383] suspect, mine will be, though it ought to contain only thanks for the admirable ones you have sent to me on the late affairs of Tuscany. Yesterday Mr. Trollope gave them to me as your present. I then exprest a hope that he or you would undertake a history of Italian affairs from the Treaty of Campo Formio down to the present day. Indeed, I hope and trust that it may be continued a year or two farther, until the recovery of Rome from the most perfidious enemy she and Italy were ever opprest by. And this under the title of deliverer! Lay your two heads together, and let me have to boast that the best and truest of our historians were my personal friends. Southey and Napier were most intimately so. Hallam is a dull proser—no discovery or illustration, no profound thought, no vivid description, not even a harmonious period. Macaulay is a smart reviewer, indifferent to truth, a hanger-on of party. Lingard is more honest, and writes better. He does not tag together loose epigrams with a crooked pin. Now put the empty chairs of these people against the wall, and sit down to your table with a long piece of work before you. And now you must be tired, as I foretold you would be. So hail the farewell of your affectionate old friend,
Here is another, undated, but shown by the Bath postmark to have been written in 1857. The whole letter is strongly characteristic of the writer, as indeed was everything that Landor wrote, said or did, so thoroughly and in every sense of the word was he original; but, as in the preceding letter, the most interesting portion is that toward the end, where he gives some amusing indications of his peculiar political opinions and feelings. This letter also was written to the same correspondent:
"My dear friend: It is now three years since I have been in London, except in passing through it to the Crystal Palace, without dismounting." [How curiously the phrase indicates the habits of the writer's youth, when gentlemen's journeys were for the most part performed on horseback!] "At Sydenham I remained three weeks, almost; but the air of London always disagreed with me, added to which, the necessity of visiting was always intolerable to me, and I have lost many friends by refusing to undergo it. If Mr. Trollope should find a few days' leisure for Bath, I can promise him a hearty reception and a comfortable bedroom. Is it not singular that on your letter being brought to me I laid down for it Town and Country [a novel by Frances Trollope], which interests me as much on a second reading as on the first? To-morrow I must run—imagine a man of eighty-one running!—for the Athenaeum. I myself have not thrown away the pen, which sadly wants mending. They have published Scenes from the Shades, and Alfieri and Metastasio, and Codrus and Polio. These last three are in Fraser. If they bring a few pounds or shillings, the money will be given to Capera, a laboring man who has written some noble poetry." [The writer in question produced some very tolerable verses, remarkable as coming from a man in his position, but in our friend's enthusiastic language they become "noble poetry" directly he makes the man his protegé—a truly Landorian touch!] "I could have collected three hundred pounds for Kossuth from friends who wrote to me about it, and probably ten or a dozen times as much from others, for no man ever had so few friends or acquaintances as I have. Nearly all are dead, and I have no leisure or inclination for new ones. It gave me much pleasure to hear that the fine and pleasant Lord Normanby is in part recovered from his paralysis. I parted from him at Bath with few hopes. Never have I spent a winter in England so free from every kind of malady as this last. A disastrous war ends with a disgraceful peace. We are to have an illumination and ringing of bells. Sir Claude Scott and myself will not illuminate, but I have promised the ringers twenty shillings if they will muffle the bells. Rejoice! The best generals and best soldiers in the Crymea [sic] were Italians.
Landor had many queer crotchets about spelling, and always absolutely declined to follow any rule but his own. It seems to have been one of these crotchets to spell Crimea as he spells it in the above-quoted letter—on what grounds I do not pretend to be able to guess: With regard to the seemingly unpatriotic sentiment contained in the last lines, it must be remembered that the writer was addressing a person long resident in Italy, and eagerly anxious for the well-doing of the Italian troops in their struggle with the different despotisms which oppressed the Peninsula. The bribing the ringers to muffle the bells is a highly characteristic trait.
Of a third letter I will print only a part, because the remainder concerns the unfortunate affair which compelled the writer finally to leave England—the result, as is well known, of a trial for libel in which Landor was cast in heavy damages which were far beyond his diminished means to pay. He acted very wrongly, and still more imprudently, in attempting to expose what he honestly deemed misconduct of a nature that outraged all the generous feelings of his nature, by the publication of a very gross libel. The passages in the letter in question which refer to this business, then in the stage preceding his conviction, abundantly testify to the fact that the sentiments which had impelled him to act as he did were wholly and solely those of generous indignation at wrong done, in no-wise against himself, but against another, whom he deemed to be oppressed and unprotected. But I think, on the whole, that no good purpose would be served by raking up the matter afresh. And (for Landor in his wrath was at no time a Chrysostom) the letter bristles with assertions and accusations couched in language which might, for aught I know, make the publication of it a repetition of the offence for which he suffered. The other matters touched on are not uninteresting manifestations of opinion:
"My DEAR FRIEND," he writes: "Whether I am ill or well it is always with equal pleasure that I see the trace of your hand. Surely, I must have written to you since I sent the scenes of Anthony and Octavius. But I am too apt to believe that what I ought to have done I have done. You ask me what I think of the Neapolitan abominations." [The allusion is to some one or other of the many acts of grievous tyranny which were at that time perpetrated by the Neapolitan Bourbon government in its terrified attempts to protect itself against the rising indignation of the people.] "We countenance them. The despots are in Holy Alliance against constitutions." [Surely, Landor's old antagonism to former English governments led him into error and injustice when he accuses England of "countenancing" the tyrannies of the Neapolitan government. How much Gladstone's celebrated letter and English sentiment in all quarters contributed toward the overthrow of that tyranny was not then known as well as it is now.] "On the other side of this," he continues, "you will find a few verses I wrote on Agesiloa Milano, the finest and bravest patriot on record." [Agesilao Milano, whose name was just then in every mouth in Italy, was one of the numerous victims of Austrian severity, who had met his fate with admirable courage, and who willingly gave his life for his country. But there was nothing to distinguish him specially from hundreds of other Italians who in those evil days did as much, and nothing save chance to distinguish him from the tens of hundreds who were ready to do as much had the lot fallen to them. But the mention of this poor fellow in the letter is very specially Landorian. No superlatives were with him strong enough to express his sentiments on aught that immediately moved his feelings either of admiration or indignation.] "The concessions in Lombardy," he goes on, "are fabulous. Thieves and assassins are turned out of prison with quiet literary men and brave patriots.... With kindest regards to your circle, ever your affec.
The verses on Agesilao Milano announced as being "on the other side" are [pg 385] there preceded by two epigrams on the object of his indignation above alluded to, which I suppress for the same reason that I have suppressed that portion of the letter referring to the same subject. The verses on the young Italian patriot and martyr run as follows:
Sometimes the brave have bent the head
To lick the dust that despots tread.
Not so Milano; he alone
Would bow to Justice on the throne.
To win a crown of thorns he trod
A flinty path, and rests with God.
On the 20th of last October a venerable London institution changed its quarters. Doctors' Commons may almost be said to be no more. Its heart is gone. The Principal Registry of the Court of Probate—the successor to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury—is no longer to be found there, and those who seek their fortunes in wills have now to prosecute their researches in that hub of British departmental records, Somerset House. The knell of "the Commons" was rung about twenty years ago, when a campaign against the abuses prevailing in the ecclesiastical courts was begun in the London Times. It unquestionably had been the home par excellence of sinecures and monopolies, which culminated in the office of registrar of the Prerogative Court of the archbishop of Canterbury. This office was in the gift of the archbishop, and was at the time these attacks began held by the Rev. Mr. Moore. Mr. Moore was a member of a family which had certainly good cause to stand steadfast in the faith of the Church of England, and not to waver one inch in attachment thereto. It may be doubted whether since its foundation any family—we except, of course, those to whom grants were made from abbey-lands—during the whole history of the Church has drawn such vast sums from it. His father, a singularly fortunate man, set the ball rolling. Having gone up to Christ Church, Oxford, as a sizar, or poor scholar, he happened about the time of taking his degree to cross the quadrangle at the moment when a nobleman of great position was asking the dean to recommend a tutor for his son. Young Moore at that moment caught the very reverend functionary's eye. There is the very man, thought he. He called him up, presented him to the peer, and an engagement was made. In those days the patronage of a powerful peer was a ready road to preferment. Young Moore gave satisfaction to his noble patron, and was pushed up the ecclesiastical tree until he reached its topmost branch, being created in 1783 archbishop of Canterbury. In 1770 he formed a very judicious marriage with Miss Eden. This lady was sister of Sir Robert Eden, governor of Maryland in 1776 (who married the sister and co-heir of the last Lord Baltimore), and of the first Lord Auckland, whom George III. very justly stigmatized as "that eternal intriguer." To the "eternal intriguer" the elevation of Moore to the archbishopric was probably mainly due. Lord Auckland was for many years as intimate a friend as Pitt ever had, and his daughter (afterward countess of Buckinghamshire) is the great minister's only recorded love. For twenty-three years Dr. Moore filled the archbishopric, and in those days it was a far better thing pecuniarily than it is now. He made hay whilst the sun shone, and then and for long after did his relatives bask in the sun. Registrarships, canonries and livings fell upon them in rich profusion, and the great prize of all, the registrarship of the Prerogative Court of the archbishop of Canterbury, fell to the luckiest of the lot.
Of course the registrar never came near his registry: his duties were discharged by three deputies. Not one penny, moreover, beyond what was absolutely necessary did he expend on the registry itself. Such a hole as it was! Cribbed, cabined and confined were the clerks who ran the reverend sinecurist's business in one of the most extraordinary rabbit-warrens, to use the epithet Bethell, Lord (Chancellor) Westbury, applied to it in the writer's hearing. In Great Knight Rider street—a name derived from the days of the Knights Templar—was a dingy passage-way leading into a [pg 386] yet dingier little court. Passing up a short flight of steps, you found yourself in a large room, with deep alcoves furnished with shelves, on which, above and on all sides, were ranged huge volumes with massive clasps. "What are all these books?" inquired a youthful visitor—"old Bibles?" "No, sir; they're testaments," was a waggish official's reply. They are, in fact, copies of wills. The originals are deemed too precious for exhibition except on special application, and the stranger who pays his shilling only sees a copy. Formerly, unless a searcher knew exactly when a will was proved, the process of finding it was very troublesome, because he had to search down indexes in Old English character arranged in order of date only; but now the registers have been put into alphabetical form.
The great change in Doctors' Commons took place in 1858, when the Probate Act came into operation. This was a very sweeping measure, which at a blow superseded the whole system of ecclesiastical courts, so far at least as wills were concerned. For them it substituted a Court of Probate, with jurisdiction over the whole of England. Attached to this court are about forty registries for wills. That in London is called the Principal Registry. A will must either be proved in the district in which a man dies or in the Principal Registry. The Principal Registry is a very large office, at the head of which are four registrars, who are also registrars of the Divorce Court, over which the judge of the Court of Probate presides, being styled "judge ordinary" of this latter. There are about forty registries scattered about the country, in most cases in places where formerly ecclesiastical courts existed for the proving of wills. The value of these registrarships ranges from three hundred to fifteen hundred pounds. They are all in the gift of the judge of the court, whose patronage is worth about sixty thousand pounds a year, and may be reckoned the best in England, inasmuch as he holds it continuously, whilst the lord chancellor and other political officers merely hold their patronage for the few years they may chance to continue in office. Moreover, the judge of the Court of Probate, not being a political officer, has no political pressure brought to bear upon him in the distribution of his patronage, and can dispense it precisely as he pleases. The registrars must, by the terms of the act of Parliament, be barristers, solicitors, or clerks who have served five years in the Principal Registry.
Doctors' Commons twenty years ago was a unique corner of the world. It lay so hid away that you might live for years in London, and be within a stone's throw of it, and yet never have its existence brought to your mind; and it had a life all its own. The ecclesiastical lawyers were called doctors and proctors, instead of barristers and attorneys; and although the former did not arrogate to themselves a higher rank socially and professionally than that of barrister, a proctor considered himself a great many cuts above an attorney, and indeed was, for the most part, the equal of the best class of attorneys. Proctors, it will be borne in mind, are sketched by Charles Dickens in the opening pages of David Copperfield, for Dora's papa, Mr. Spenlow, was in proctorial partnership with the reputably inexorable Jawkins. When the Probate Act came into force it was a frightful blow to the tribe of Spenlows. Not so much on account of the pecuniary loss. In that respect the blow was considerably tempered to the shorn lambs by a compensation all too liberal—for John Bull is unsurpassed as a respecter of vested interests—and the proctors were compensated on the basis of their incomes for the last five years, their returns proving in some instances curiously at variance with the amounts on which they had paid income-tax. But they regarded themselves as terrible losers in prestige and position by this rude invasion of the classic and aristocratic ground of the Doctores Commensales, and above all by being leveled down to the rank of attorneys. The clerks in the Prerogative Court—of which the registrars and head-clerks were all proctors, who, taking the cue from Chief Registrar Moore, executed their work by deputy, the deputies being clerks working [pg 387] long hours for small salaries—had kotooed to them with the most servile subserviency; but the Probate Office clerk was a government official, who could not be removed, even by the judge of the court, without the consent of the lord chancellor. What cared he, then, for Spenlow and Jawkins? "I am astonished, Mr. Spenlow," said a young clerk of the new régime, "that you should have made such a mistake!" Mr. Spenlow, in turn, was too much astonished to utter a word. Speechless with amazement and indignation, he left the "seat," as the different departments were called, to weep bitter tears in regret for the past in the solitude of his dingy sanctum in Bell Yard, leaving an emancipated clerk, who had served under the thraldom of the old régime, exclaiming, "Good Heavens! Only imagine any of us daring to use such language to a proctor two years ago!"
Among the less known writings of Francis Quarles, author of the once famous Emblems, is a volume, now become very scarce, entitled The Shepheards Oracles, delivered in certain Eglogues. The copy of it to which I have access was published in 1646, or two years after Quarles's death. This spirited poem must have been perused with intense interest by Quarles's contemporaries. But history is constantly repeating itself with more or less of modification, and The Shepheards Oracles, at least here and there, and with reference to England, reads, but for its quaintness of manner and idiom, like a production of the nineteenth century. In the course of it there occur some verses, put into the mouth of Anarchus, which are well worth resuscitating. These verses, to which I have supplied a title as above, are, in a sufficiently exact transcription, as follows:
Know, then, my brethren, heav'n is cleare,
And all the Clouds are gone;
The Righteous now shall flourish, and
Good dais are coming on.
Come, then, my Brethren, and be glad,
And eke rejoyce with me:
Lawn Sleeves and Rochets shall goe down:
And, hey! then up goe we.
Wee'l break the windows which the Whore
Of Babylon hath painted;
And, when the Popish Saints are down,
Then Barow shall be Sainted.
There's neither Crosse nor Crucifixe
Shall stand for man to see:
Romes trash and trump'ries shall goe downe;
And, hey! then up goe we.
What ere [sic] the Popish hands have built,
Our Hammers shall undoe;
Wee'l breake their Pipes, and burn their Copes,
And pull downe Churches, too:
Wee'l exercise within the Groves,
And teach beneath a Tree;
Wee'l make a Pulpit of a Cart;
And, hey! then up goe we.
Wee'l down with all the Varsities,
Where Learning is profest,
Because they practise and maintain
The language of the Beast:
Wee'l drive the Doctors out of doores,
And Arts, what ere [sic] they be;
Wee'l cry both Arts and Learning down;
And, hey! then up goe we.
Wee'l down with Deans and Prebends, too;
But I rejoyce to tell ye
How then we will eat Pig our fill,
And Capon by the belly:
Wee'l burn the Fathers witty Tomes,
And make the Schoolmen flee;
Wee'l down with all that smels of wit;
And, hey! then up goe we.
If once that Antichristian crew
Be crusht and overthrown,
Wee'l teach the Nobles how to crouch,
And keep the Gentry down:
Good manners have an evil report,
And turn to pride we see:
Wee'l, therefore, cry good manners down;
And, hey! then up goe we.
The name of Lord shall be abhor'd;
For every man's a brother:
No reason why, in Church or State,
One man should rule another.
But, when the change of Government
Shall set our fingers free,
Wee'l make the wanton Sisters stoop:
And, hey! then up goe we.
Our Coblers shall translate their soules
From Caves obscure and shady;
Wee' make Tom T—— as good as my Lord,
And Joan as good as my Lady.
Wee'l crush and fling the marriage Ring
Into the Romane See;
Wee'l ask no bans, but even clap hands;
And, hey! then up goe we.
By "Barow," named in the second stanza, is intended, no doubt, Henry Barrow, the Nonconformist enthusiast who was executed at Tyburn in 1592. A follower of Robert Browne, founder of the Brownists, whence sprang the sect of Independents, he brought upon himself, by his zeal and imprudence, a vengeance which his wary leader contrived [pg 388] to evade. Browne himself is alluded to punningly in The Shepheards Oracles, where Philorthus, at sight of Anarchus approaching, asks whether he is "in a Browne study." Anarchus replies:
"Man, if thou be'st a Babe of Grace,
And of an holy Seed,
I will reply incontinent,
And in my words proceed;
But, if thou art a child of wrath,
And lewd in conversation,
I will not, then, converse with thee,
Nor hold communication."
Philorthus rejoins, referring by his "we all three" to Philarchus, with whom he had just been conversing:
"I trust, Anarchus, we all three inherit
The selfe same gifts, and share the selfe same Spirit."
Then follow the stanzas which I have first quoted. There is certainly ground to surmise that Lord Macaulay had in mind what I have called "The Lay of the Leveler" when in 1820 he wrote "A Radical War-song." In support of this opinion, I subjoin, for comparison, its last stanza but one:
Down with your sheriffs and your mayors,
Your registrars and proctors!
We'll live without the lawyer's cares,
And die without the doctor's.
No discontented fair shall pout
To see her spouse so stupid:
We'll tread the torch of Hymen out,
And live content with Cupid.
The writer of a sketch in a late number of a Leipsic journal presents the famous author of the Life of Jesus, David Friederich Strauss, in a new character. He mentions, first, that in the Unterhaltungen am häuslichen Heerde ("Conversations around the Homehearth"), published by Strauss in 1856, the latter makes, in the introduction, the following graceful reference to the deceased friend of his youth, E.F. Kauffmann: "If I were a philosophical emperor and wrote self-confessions, I would thank the gods for giving me, among other blessings, a poet and musician for an early friend. He is dead now, alas! the noble man whom alone I have to thank that my ear, though still unskillful, has been opened to the world of harmony. He was not a professional musician, but he had a thoroughly musical nature. The laws of composition he had studied theoretically, and he followed them practically. His position, in reality, was that of a professor of mathematics. But music was his secret love. He not only knew the great masters, but he lived in them. He thought little of playing on the piano the whole of one of Mozart's operas, note for note, without any written music before him. I have often seen him do this. How much I have owed to those hours! How he could draw his hearers into the right mood! How he could illuminate the groping mind with the lightning flash of thought!"
To this friend Strauss sent from Munich in 1851 ten sonnets. They were accompanied by a versified dedication to Kauffmann himself, and they constitute his claim to be considered a poet as well as a philosophic theologian. The sonnets are all on musical subjects, and may be taken as the natural outgrowth of that cultivation of his musical taste which he owed to his intimate association with Professor Kauffmann. The metrical dedication and the first five sonnets are given in the sketch before referred to. The writer of that article looks upon the tendency, thus displayed by Strauss, to "drop into poetry," as Mr. Wegg was accustomed to say, as another strong proof of the affinity—elsewhere noticed—between the genius of Strauss and that of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing; who, it will be remembered, sometimes diverted himself with the composition of light poetical pieces, such as his famous song, beginning "Gestern, Brüder, könnt ihr's glauben?"
The first sonnet is on Händel, the second on Glück, the third on Haydn, the fourth on Don Juan, and the fifth on Figaro.
The following attempt at a translation of the fourth sonnet may serve to give some idea of how far the world-renowned philosopher and skeptic has succeeded in his effort to assume the anomalous rôle of a sonneteer:[pg 389]
How joyously life's fountains here are flowing!
In crystal cups the purple flood is foaming;
Through dusky myrtle-groves are lovers roaming,
The dance begins in halls all bright and glowing.
Be watchful, though! Here treachery is hiding.
Wild passion naught for truth or ruth is caring:
As hawks do doves, mild innocence 'tis tearing,
And human vengeance lightly is deriding.
But now, once more alive, the slain appear!
They speak, with awful voice, the words of doom:
Death his cold hand is silently extending.
Now sinks the daring mood in ghastly fear.
The golden dream of life dissolves in gloom;
The silent grave brings on the bright joy's ending.
It is very hard, if not impossible, to render into any other language the true spirit of a German poem. But in the original this sonnet is far above mediocrity. It idealizes the opera of Don Juan very artistically, and displays a combination of force with harmony and grace which gives the impression, in connection with the other sonnets, that if Strauss had devoted his mental energy to poetry alone, he would not have taken a low rank among the poets of Germany.
The Life of Thomas Fuller, D.D., with Notices of his Books, his Kinsmen and his Friends. By John Eglinton Bailey. London: Pickering.
By no means to the credit of the nineteenth century, it is hardly prudent, as yet, to speak to the general public about Thomas Fuller without formally introducing him. Coleridge and Southey and Lamb were, to be sure, familiar with his writings, and prized them extremely. But they did the same by the writings of many another old worthy now undeservedly slighted; and, for all their eulogies on him, the great bulk of readers were still content to continue in ignorance of the treasures he has bequeathed to us. The neglect of him which at present prevails is, however, in large measure, a delinquency of long standing. His chief work is undoubtedly his Church History; and Heylin's elaborate impugnment of its accuracy appears to have had great weight, as with Fuller's contemporaries, so with the generation which immediately followed, and onward almost to our own time. To Heylin succeeded Bishop Nicolson in exerting himself to discredit that valuable work, and it is only within a few years that its character has been substantially rehabilitated. Together with the reputation of Fuller as an historian, his reputation in other respects for a long while underwent eclipse; for, as it is reviving again, we may not say that it passed away. His matter quite apart—and it is always interesting—and abstractedly from his pervasive pleasantry, which is always original, it is a wonder that he is not more esteemed than he is in an age which professes to set store by style. Mr. John Nichols, an editor of his Worthies, timidly hazarded the observation that, as against the strictures of Bishop Nicolson, there might be much said in "vindication of the language of Dr. Fuller"—a comment which excited Coleridge to a high pitch of exasperation. "Fuller's language!" he ejaculates. "Grant me patience, Heaven! A tithe of his beauties would be sold cheap for a whole library of our classical writers, from Addison to Johnson and Junius inclusive. And Bishop Nicolson!—a painstaking old charwoman of the Antiquarian and Rubbish Concern! The venerable rust and dust of the whole firm are not worth an ounce of Fuller's earth."
Of Fuller's ancestry nothing is known, on the paternal side, beyond his father, a college-bred clergyman, who died in 1632. His mother was a Davenant, of an ancient and respectable family. Fuller was born in June, 1608, at Aldwinkle, in Northamptonshire, at his father's rectory. When only about twelve years of age he was entered at Queen's College, Cambridge, his progress in his studies having been such as to authorize this unusually early transfer from school to the university. In 1628 he exchanged Queen's College for Sydney-Sussex College, and in the following year he was presented by the master and fellows of Corpus Christi College to the curacy of St. Benet's, Cambridge. Within a twelvemonth after—namely, in 1631—HE [pg 222] made his first appearance as an author. His Davia's Heinous Sin, Hearty Repentance, Heavy Punishment, which came out in that year, was his sole adventure of noteworthy compass as a versifier; and he certainly testified his discretion in choosing thenceforward to be satisfied with writing prose. A valuable prebend attached to the Salisbury Cathedral was bestowed on him at this time, near about which he is supposed to have delivered, in discourses, his so-called Comment on Ruth. Next we hear of him as rector of Broadwindsor, where, probably, he composed his History of the Holy War, published in 1639. His Holy State was given to the world in 1642. Having just before this removed to London under circumstances which are involved in some obscurity, he was there appointed lecturer to the Inns of Court and to the Savoy Chapel. But trouble awaited him, as it then awaited all other loyalists whom it had not overtaken already, and 1643 found him a refugee at Oxford. There he was warmly welcomed by the king and his adherents, but on his imprudently daring to urge lenient counsels, his moderation gave as much dissatisfaction to the court party as it had previously given to the Parliamentarians, and he fell into temporary disgrace. Nevertheless, he suffered, at the hands of the anti-royalists, the same spoliation which would have been visited on a malignant of the extremest stamp. To fill up the measure of his misfortune—as if it were not enough that he should be deprived of his stated means of livelihood—he was despoiled of his library. For a while, also, his loyalty was held, though without the slightest grounds, in considerable suspicion. On coming to be better known, however, he was restored to favor, and was enrolled among the royal chaplains. If the doubts as to the sincerity of his adhesion to Charles were ever actually thought to have good foundation, they must have been dissipated by his voluntarily exposing himself to danger, as he did at one of the sieges of Basing House. Like Isaac Barrow, he would at need have done duty militant just as effectually with carnal weapons as with spiritual. No longer required at Basing House, he repaired to Oxford again, and then to Exeter, where he was nominated chaplain to the princess Henrietta Anne. But he held his new post for only a short period. Leaving Exeter, he once more sought Oxford, and thence went to London. Forbidden to preach there, he retired to Northamptonshire, and then reappeared at the metropolis, where he was sojourning in the memorable year 1649. Becoming in that year curate of Waltham Abbey, he enjoyed an interval of quietude while all around him was turbulence. Yet he was soon in London afresh, lecturer at various churches from 1651 till near the end of his life. In 1658 he was appointed rector of St. Dunstan's, Cranford, but we read of him as subsequently journeying to The Hague and to Salisbury, and as preaching at the Savoy Chapel. It must have solaced his latter days to reflect that he had survived to welcome the Restoration. He died, from what is reasonably surmised to have been typhus fever, on the 16th of August, 1661, and lies buried in the chancel of the church to which he last ministered, at Cranford, Surrey.
Considering the unsettled and wandering life which Fuller led for many years, it may seem almost a marvel that in those very years he should have accomplished such laborious—nay, all but gigantic—enterprises as are to be referred to them; for it was then that he composed his voluminous Pisgah-sight of Palestine, Church History and Worthies, not to speak of many minor writings. But the secret of his prolificness amidst surroundings which would have paralyzed most men into stark sterility admits of ready elucidation. Besides being endowed with great physical vigor and enjoying uninterrupted health. Fuller never wasted a moment, was an unweariable student at odd hours, and moreover supplemented the advantage of a matchless memory by the strictest observance of method. Taken for all in all, he was without question one of the most remarkable of Englishmen—not of his own age merely, but of all bygone ages. "Next to Shakespeare," says Coleridge, "I am not certain whether Thomas Fuller, beyond all other writers, does not excite in me the sense and emotion of the marvelous.... Fuller was incomparably the most sensible, the least prejudiced, great man of an age that boasted a galaxy of great men." Others among his countrymen have been more learned, and others have surpassed him in this or that special faculty, but the whole that we have in him it would be hard to find a parallel to. Culeridge emphasizes the equity of his judgment; and this point is one regarding which there can be no diversity of opinion. As to his wit, granting that its quality may here and there be somewhat inferior, still, it [pg 391] has probably never been surpassed in quantity by any one man. It has the laudable character, too, of being nearly always impersonal, and while it amuses it almost in equal measure instructs. Had Fuller, with his mental agility and his mastery of incisive diction, been poisoned with the bile of Swift, it is terrible to think what a repertory of biting sarcasms and envenomed repartees he might have transmitted for the study and imitation of cynics and sneerers. Bitterer enemies no man ever had to contend against; and unenviable indeed must have been their disappointment at finding themselves wholly impotent to discompose his sage and large-hearted serenity. So impressive, withal, is his spirit of toleration and benevolence that a diligent reader of his pages is, as it were, perforce imbued by it. Indeed, we know of few writers whom we can point to with more confidence as calculated, in antidote to the fret and chafe inseparable from existence in our day, to induce a tone of repose and resignation in ourselves, and a disposition to take charity as our watchword in our dealings with others.
From Fuller we pass to Fuller's new biographer, the only biographer he has hitherto had that at all deserves the appellation. A completer life-history than that which Mr. Bailey has produced is of rare occurrence in English literature. There was no motive for his keeping back anything that is known of Fuller; and he has really enabled us to form wellnigh as distinct an idea of the portly and cheery old divine as if we had known him in the flesh. Faithful to rigid justice while reproducing the warmly eulogistic judgments which have been passed on Fuller, especially in this century, he has given us a circumstantial account of the censures which were denounced on him by microscopic and malevolent criticasters and Dryasdusts among his contemporaries. Some of the censures referred to were grounded on the multitudinous dedications in which Fuller indulged; and, in truth, it strikes one as rather singular to find, as in his Church History, not only every book, but every section of a book, prefaced by a long string of compliments addressed to a separate dedicatee. But these dedications meant money, and Fuller was poor. Furthermore, if in his necessity he flattered, his flattery was, for the most part, of a kind not irreconcilable with due self-respect on the part of the flatterer. It is a very different thing from the nauseous adulation to which Dryden—to name but one out of numerous kindred offenders—consented to abase himself. As auxiliary to a full understanding of Fuller in his social relations, his dedications are now of prime value. Though many of them are inscribed to persons else quite unknown to fame, with a good number of them it is otherwise; and they serve, by the information which they embody, to show that Fuller was on terms of familiar intimacy with a whole host of notabilities in Church and State. Of these personages, and so of many others with whom Fuller associated, Mr. Bailey, heedful of the adage noscitur a sociis, has compiled very satisfactory sketches, derived in all cases from the most trustworthy authorities. In addition to a Life of Fuller, he has thus gone far to give us a sort of biographical dictionary of the leading men, political and ecclesiastical, who rallied round the unfortunate First Charles, and who used their most strenuous diligence to save his desperate cause from shipwreck.
One who has already made acquaintance with Fuller's writings must feel animated, under the guidance of the new light now thrown upon them, to renew that acquaintance; and he to whom the wise and witty old worthy is as yet a stranger must, unless obdurately insensible, be moved to a suspicion that he ought to remain a stranger no longer. To Mr. Bailey we are beholden alike for a biography of the first excellence, and for a sterling contribution to the history of an era which possesses undying interest for every Englishman, be he conservative, liberal or republican; and for every intelligent American as well. We are given to understand that the author has now in contemplation the publishing of Fuller's sermons, of which there has never been a collective edition, and of which several are among the rarest books in our language. The design is one which challenges the furtherance of every lover of good literature; and the Life, which, in parting, we emphatically commend to our readers, should avail to secure for it the encouragement it unquestionably merits.
The Greville Memoirs: A Journal of the Reigns of King George IV. and King William IV. By Charles C.F. Greville. Bric-à-Brac Series. New York: Scribner, Armstrong & Co.
The distillation from Mr. Greville's copious memoirs which Mr. R.H. Stoddard has made [pg 392] for his interesting series is perhaps quite enough of a good but not very noble thing. Our gossip-loving part is not the proudest part of our nature, and Mr. Greville has but two crowned kings of gossip to celebrate, so far. It is amusing enough to see the disgusted clerk of council coming out of the audience in a fret, and hear him saying, as he does in good set terms, that the Fourth George is a spoiled, selfish, odious beast. What must inevitably strike the republican mind is that, after all, this sceptered beast was allowed to govern the country and defend the faith through a long, peaceful and stupid reign, and that his company was, on the whole, thought preferable to his room by a free people. As for the next monarch, William, never was there such a Roi Carotte, and Offenbach seems to have been born to immortalize him in one of his peculiar versions of history. He was not exactly a king in a pantomime, for he talked incessantly, but he was such a vulgar, malapert, meddling, fatuous squireen of a king that etiquette lost its raison d'être in his presence, and government ministers and foreign ambassadors laughed almost openly at his folly—all except Talleyrand, who sat with composed face through his dinner-speeches, and said softly that they were "bien remarquable." We cannot but think, however, that in this delineation of two nursery-rhyme kings the artist has put a bit of himself. If Mr. Greville had been really in the current of the social and political questions of the day, which included some wonderful reforms, instead of the born bureaucrat that he obviously was, he would perhaps have got a little more rational human nature into his portraits, or at least have given more importance to their background and surroundings. He writes himself down very clearly as a watcher of scandals and lover of backstairs history; a man of elegance and gentlemanly instincts in a rather small way; a person very easily shocked at social maladdress; a reading man intensely fond of literary company; and a racing man who periodically laments that he cannot cure himself of his love of the turf. Amiable, frank, and of that graceful mental bearing that bespeaks good blood rather than good marrow, he is keen but superficial in what he notices, and tries his tooth constantly on the really great figures of the day, Brougham and Wellington, who are objects of his dislike. It is harsh to say so, but, in fact, Mr. Greville completes a triad with his pair of vicious and narrow monarchs as he sails down the same stream, snarlingly protesting, but quite unconscious of the currents that are modifying the age. At present, as we know, nous avons changé tout cela. British Virtue in person is on the throne, and she disarms satire by handing her memoirs in person for revision to the Greville of the day, who happens to be Sir Arthur Helps; and this secretary is no turfman, never in his voluminous writings betraying the least acquaintance with a horse; but he is what is a great deal better, a sort of burgher Lord Bacon, a philosopher replete with the wisdom of the nineteenth century, and able to give it out in genial chapters for the use of schools. From Greville to Helps—both attached to one single monarchy—we see what a step has been made, and how short a time now-a-days will change types completely: Greville, padded, full of deportment, devoted to the great, with simple faith in the institutions of family, and criticising royalty with that petulant ease of a valet which, in its way, is adhesion and adoration; and Helps, a pamphleteer in six easy lessons, a pedagogue in guise of an essayist, a man in the current of all our reforms—above all, the meek editor of the queen's diaries.
The Bhagavad Gitá. Translated from the Sanskrit by J. Cockburn Thompson. Chicago: Religio—Philosophical Publishing House. S.S. Jones.
A Practical and Critical Grammar of the English Language. By Noble Butler. Louisville, Ky.: J.P. Morton & Co.
The Puddleford Papers; or, Humors of the West. By H.H. Riley. Boston: Lee & Shepard.
Critical and Historical Essays. Contributed by Lord Macaulay. New York: Albert Mason.
For Better or Worse. By Jennie Cunningham Croley. Boston: Lee & Shepard.
Three Essays on Religion. By John Stuart Mill. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
The Babes in the Wood. By James De Mille. Boston: W.F. Gill & Co.
School of Singing. By F.W. Root. Chicago: George F. Root & Sons.
Treasure-Trove. Central Falls, R.I.: E.L. Freeman & Co.
Our Helen. By Sophie May. Boston; Lee & Shepard.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK LIPPINCOTT'S MAGAZINE OF POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE, VOL. 15, NO. 87, MARCH, 1875***
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