A Mortal Antipathy
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)

Part 1 out of 5

This etext was produced by David Widger


By Oliver Wendell Holmes


"A MORTAL ANTIPATHY" was a truly hazardous experiment. A very wise
and very distinguished physician who is as much at home in literature
as he is in science and the practice of medicine, wrote to me in
referring to this story: "I should have been afraid of my subject."
He did not explain himself, but I can easily understand that he felt
the improbability of the, physiological or pathological occurrence on
which the story is founded to be so great that the narrative could
hardly be rendered plausible. I felt the difficulty for myself as
well as for my readers, and it was only by recalling for our
consideration a series of extraordinary but well-authenticated facts
of somewhat similar character that I could hope to gain any serious
attention to so strange a narrative.

I need not recur to these wonderful stories. There is, however, one,
not to be found on record elsewhere, to which I would especially call
the reader's attention. It is that of the middle-aged man, who
assured me that he could never pass a tall hall clock without an
indefinable terror. While an infant in arms the heavy weight of one
of these tall clocks had fallen with aloud crash and produced an
impression on his nervous system which he had never got over.

The lasting effect of a shock received by the sense of sight or that
of hearing is conceivable enough.

But there is another sense, the nerves of which are in close relation
with the higher organs of consciousness. The strength of the
associations connected with the function of the first pair of nerves,
the olfactory, is familiar to most persons in their own experience
and as related by others. Now we know that every human being, as
well as every other living organism, carries its own distinguishing
atmosphere. If a man's friend does not know it, his dog does, and
can track him anywhere by it. This personal peculiarity varies with
the age and conditions of the individual. It may be agreeable or
otherwise, a source of attraction or repulsion, but its influence is
not less real, though far less obvious and less dominant, than in the
lower animals. It was an atmospheric impression of this nature which
associated itself with a terrible shock experienced by the infant
which became the subject of this story. The impression could not be
outgrown, but it might possibly be broken up by some sudden change in
the nervous system effected by a cause as potent as the one which had
produced the disordered condition.

This is the best key that I can furnish to a story which must have
puzzled some, repelled others, and failed to interest many who did
not suspect the true cause of the mysterious antipathy.

BEVERLY FARMS, MASS., August, 1891.

O. W. H.




"And why the New Portfolio, I would ask?"

Pray, do you remember, when there was an accession to the nursery in
which you have a special interest, whether the new-comer was commonly
spoken of as a baby? Was it not, on the contrary, invariably, under
all conditions, in all companies, by the whole household, spoken of
as the baby? And was the small receptacle provided for it commonly
spoken of as a cradle; or was it not always called the cradle, as if
there were no other in existence?

Now this New Portfolio is the cradle in which I am to rock my
new-born thoughts, and from which I am to lift them carefully and
show them to callers, namely, to the whole family of readers
belonging to my list of intimates, and such other friends as may drop
in by accident. And so it shall have the definite article, and not
be lost in the mob of its fellows as a portfolio.

There are a few personal and incidental matters of which I wish to
say something before reaching the contents of the Portfolio, whatever
these may be. I have had other portfolios before this,--two, more
especially, and the first thing I beg leave to introduce relates to

Do not throw this volume down, or turn to another page, when I tell
you that the earliest of them, that of which I now am about to speak,
was opened more than fifty years ago. This is a very dangerous
confession, for fifty years make everything hopelessly old-fashioned,
without giving it the charm of real antiquity. If I could say a
hundred years, now, my readers would accept all I had to tell them
with a curious interest; but fifty years ago,--there are too many
talkative old people who know all about that time, and at best half a
century is a half-baked bit of ware. A coin-fancier would say that
your fifty-year-old facts have just enough of antiquity to spot them
with rust, and not enough to give them--the delicate and durable
patina which is time's exquisite enamel.

When the first Portfolio was opened the coin of the realm bore for
its legend,--or might have borne if the more devout hero-worshippers
could have had their way,--Andreas Jackson, Populi Gratia, Imp.
Caesrzr. Aug. Div., Max., etc., etc. I never happened to see any
gold or silver with that legend, but the truth is I was not very
familiarly acquainted with the precious metals at that period of my
career, and, there might have been a good deal of such coin in
circulation without my handling it, or knowing much about it.

Permit me to indulge in a few reminiscences of that far-off time.

In those days the Athenaeum Picture Gallery was a principal centre of
attraction to young Boston people and their visitors. Many of us got
our first ideas of art, to say nothing of our first lessons in the
comparatively innocent flirtations of our city's primitive period, in
that agreeable resort of amateurs and artists.

How the pictures on those walls in Pearl Street do keep their places
in the mind's gallery! Trumbull's Sortie of Gibraltar, with red
enough in it for one of our sunset after-glows; and Neagle's full-
length portrait of the blacksmith in his shirt-sleeves; and Copley's
long-waistcoated gentlemen and satin-clad ladies,--they looked like
gentlemen and ladies, too; and Stuart's florid merchants and high-
waisted matrons; and Allston's lovely Italian scenery and dreamy,
unimpassioned women, not forgetting Florimel in full flight on her
interminable rocking-horse,--you may still see her at the Art Museum;
and the rival landscapes of Doughty and Fisher, much talked of and
largely praised in those days; and the Murillo,--not from Marshal
Soup's collection; and the portrait of Annibale Caracci by himself,
which cost the Athenaeum a hundred dollars; and Cole's allegorical
pictures, and his immense and dreary canvas, in which the prostrate
shepherds and the angel in Joseph's coat of many colors look as if
they must have been thrown in for nothing; and West's brawny Lear
tearing his clothes to pieces. But why go on with the catalogue,
when most of these pictures can be seen either at the Athenaeum
building in Beacon Street or at the Art Gallery, and admired or
criticised perhaps more justly, certainly not more generously, than
in those earlier years when we looked at them through the japanned

If one happened to pass through Atkinson Street on his way to the
Athenaeum, he would notice a large, square, painted, brick house, in
which lived a leading representative of old-fashioned coleopterous
Calvinism, and from which emerged one of the liveliest of literary
butterflies. The father was editor of the "Boston Recorder," a very
respectable, but very far from amusing paper, most largely patronized
by that class of the community which spoke habitually of the first
day of the week as "the Sahbuth." The son was the editor of several
different periodicals in succession, none of them over severe or
serious, and of many pleasant books, filled with lively descriptions
of society, which be studied on the outside with a quick eye for form
and color, and with a certain amount of sentiment, not very deep, but
real, though somewhat frothed over by his worldly experiences.

Nathaniel Parker Willis was in full bloom when I opened my first
Portfolio. He had made himself known by his religious poetry,
published in his father's paper, I think, and signed "Roy." He had
started the "American Magazine," afterwards merged in the New York
Mirror." He had then left off writing scripture pieces, and taken to
lighter forms of verse. He had just written

"I'm twenty-two, I'm twenty-two,
They idly give me joy,
As if I should be glad to know
That I was less a boy."

He was young, therefore, and already famous. He came very near being
very handsome. He was tall; his hair, of light brown color, waved in
luxuriant abundance; his cheek was as rosy as if it had been painted
to show behind the footlights; he dressed with artistic elegance. He
was something between a remembrance of Count D'Orsay and an
anticipation of Oscar Wilde. There used to be in the gallery of the
Luxembourg a picture of Hippolytus and Phxdra, in which the beautiful
young man, who had kindled a passion in the heart of his wicked step-
mother, always reminded me of Willis, in spite of the shortcomings of
the living face as compared with the ideal. The painted youth is
still blooming on the canvas, but the fresh-cheecked, jaunty young
author of the year 1830 has long faded out of human sight. I took
the leaves which lie before me at this moment, as I write, from his
coffin, as it lay just outside the door of Saint Paul's Church, on a
sad, overclouded winter's day, in the year 1867. At that earlier
time, Willis was by far the most prominent young American author.
Cooper, Irving, Bryant, Dana, Halleck, Drake, had all done their best
work. Longfellow was not yet conspicuous. Lowell was a school-boy.
Emerson was unheard of. Whittier was beginning to make his way
against the writers with better educational advantages whom he was
destined to outdo and to outlive. Not one of the great histories,
which have done honor to our literature, had appeared. Our school-
books depended, so far as American authors were concerned, on
extracts from the orations and speeches of Webster and Everett; on
Bryant's Thanatopsis, his lines To a Waterfowl, and the Death of the
Flowers, Halleck's Marco Bozzaris, Red Jacket, and Burns; on Drake's
American Flag, and Percival's Coral Grove, and his Genius Sleeping
and Genius Waking,--and not getting very wide awake, either. These
could be depended upon. A few other copies of verses might be found,
but Dwight's "Columbia, Columbia," and Pierpont's Airs of Palestine,
were already effaced, as many of the favorites of our own day and
generation must soon be, by the great wave which the near future will
pour over the sands in which they still are legible.

About this time, in the year 1832, came out a small volume entitled
"Truth, a Gift for Scribblers," which made some talk for a while, and
is now chiefly valuable as a kind of literary tombstone on which may
be read the names of many whose renown has been buried with their
bones. The "London Athenaeum" spoke of it as having been described
as a "tomahawk sort of satire." As the author had been a trapper in
Missouri, he was familiarly acquainted with that weapon and the
warfare of its owners. Born in Boston, in 1804, the son of an army
officer, educated at West Point, he came back to his native city
about the year 1830. He wrote an article on Bryant's Poems for the
"North American Review," and another on the famous Indian chief,
Black Hawk. In this last-mentioned article he tells this story as
the great warrior told it himself. It was an incident of a fight
with the Osages.

"Standing by my father's side, I saw him kill his antagonist and tear
the scalp from his head. Fired with valor and ambition, I rushed
furiously upon another, smote him to the earth with my tomahawk, ran
my lance through his body, took off his scalp, and returned in
triumph to my father. He said nothing, but looked pleased."

This little red story describes very well Spelling's style of
literary warfare. His handling of his most conspicuous victim,
Willis, was very much like Black Hawk's way of dealing with the
Osage. He tomahawked him in heroics, ran him through in prose, and
scalped him in barbarous epigrams. Bryant and Halleck were
abundantly praised; hardly any one else escaped.

If the reader wishes to see the bubbles of reputation that were
floating, some of them gay with prismatic colors, half a century ago,
he will find in the pages of "Truth" a long catalogue of celebrities
he never heard of. I recognize only three names, of all which are
mentioned in the little book, as belonging to persons still living;
but as I have not read the obituaries of all the others, some of them
may be still flourishing in spite of Mr. Spelling's exterminating
onslaught. Time dealt as hardly with poor Spelling, who was not
without talent and instruction, as he had dealt with our authors. I
think he found shelter at last under a roof which held numerous
inmates, some of whom had seen better and many of whom had known
worse days than those which they were passing within its friendly and
not exclusive precincts. Such, at least, was the story I heard after
he disappeared from general observation.

That was the day of Souvenirs, Tokens, Forget-me-nots, Bijous, and
all that class of showy annuals. Short stories, slender poems, steel
engravings, on a level with the common fashion-plates of advertising
establishments, gilt edges, resplendent binding,--to manifestations
of this sort our lighter literature had very largely run for some
years. The "Scarlet Letter" was an unhinted possibility. The
"Voices of the Night" had not stirred the brooding silence; the
Concord seer was still in the lonely desert; most of the contributors
to those yearly volumes, which took up such pretentious positions on
the centre table, have shrunk into entire oblivion, or, at best, hold
their place in literature by a scrap or two in some omnivorous

What dreadful work Spelling made among those slight reputations,
floating in swollen tenuity on the surface of the stream, and
mirroring each other in reciprocal reflections! Violent, abusive as
he was, unjust to any against whom he happened to have a prejudice,
his castigation of the small litterateurs of that day was not
harmful, but rather of use. His attack on Willis very probably did
him good; he needed a little discipline, and though he got it too
unsparingly, some cautions came with it which were worth the stripes
he had to smart under. One noble writer Spelling treated with
rudeness, probably from some accidental pique, or equally
insignificant reason. I myself, one of the three survivors before
referred to, escaped with a love-pat, as the youngest son of the
Muse. Longfellow gets a brief nod of acknowledgment. Bailey, an
American writer, "who made long since a happy snatch at fame," which
must have been snatched away from him by envious time, for I cannot
identify him; Thatcher, who died early, leaving one poem, The Last
Request, not wholly unremembered; Miss Hannah F. Gould, a very
bright and agreeable writer of light verse,--all these are commended
to the keeping of that venerable public carrier, who finds his scythe
and hour-glass such a load that he generally drops the burdens
committed to his charge, after making a show of paying every possible
attention to them so long as he is kept in sight.

It was a good time to open a portfolio. But my old one had boyhood
written on every page. A single passionate outcry when the old
warship I had read about in the broadsides that were a part of our
kitchen literature, and in the "Naval Monument," was threatened with
demolition; a few verses suggested by the sight of old Major Melville
in his cocked hat and breeches, were the best scraps that came out of
that first Portfolio, which was soon closed that it should not
interfere with the duties of a profession authorized to claim all the
time and thought which would have been otherwise expended in filling

During a quarter of a century the first Portfolio remained closed for
the greater part of the time. Only now and then it would be taken up
and opened, and something drawn from it for a special occasion, more
particularly for the annual reunions of a certain class of which I
was a member.

In the year 1857, towards its close, the "Atlantic Monthly," which I
had the honor of naming, was started by the enterprising firm of
Phillips & Sampson, under the editorship of Mr. James Russell Lowell.
He thought that I might bring something out of my old Portfolio which
would be not unacceptable in the new magazine. I looked at the poor
old receptacle, which, partly from use and partly from neglect, had
lost its freshness, and seemed hardly presentable to the new company
expected to welcome the new-comer in the literary world of Boston,
the least provincial of American centres of learning and letters.
The gilded covering where the emblems of hope and aspiration had
looked so bright had faded; not wholly, perhaps, but how was the gold
become dim!---how was the most fine gold changed! Long devotion to
other pursuits had left little time for literature, and the waifs and
strays gathered from the old Portfolio had done little more than keep
alive the memory that such a source of supply was still in existence.
I looked at the old Portfolio, and said to myself, "Too late! too
late. This tarnished gold will never brighten, these battered covers
will stand no more wear and tear; close them, and leave them to the
spider and the book-worm."

In the mean time the nebula of the first quarter of the century had
condensed into the constellation of the middle of the same period.
When, a little while after the establishment of the new magazine, the
"Saturday Club" gathered about the long table at "Parker's," such a
representation of all that was best in American literature had never
been collected within so small a compass. Most of the Americans whom
educated foreigners cared to see-leaving out of consideration
official dignitaries, whose temporary importance makes them objects
of curiosity--were seated at that board. But the club did not yet
exist, and the "Atlantic Monthly" was an experiment. There had
already been several monthly periodicals, more or less successful and
permanent, among which "Putnam's Magazine" was conspicuous, owing its
success largely to the contributions of that very accomplished and
delightful writer, Mr. George William Curtis. That magazine, after a
somewhat prolonged and very honorable existence, had gone where all
periodicals go when they die, into the archives of the deaf, dumb,
and blind recording angel whose name is Oblivion. It had so well
deserved to live that its death was a surprise and a source of
regret. Could another monthly take its place and keep it when that,
with all its attractions and excellences, had died out, and left a
blank in our periodical literature which it would be very hard to
fill as well as that had filled it?

This was the experiment which the enterprising publishers ventured
upon, and I, who felt myself outside of the charmed circle drawn
around the scholars and poets of Cambridge and Concord, having given
myself to other studies and duties, wondered somewhat when Mr. Lowell
insisted upon my becoming a contributor. And so, yielding to a
pressure which I could not understand, and yet found myself unable to
resist, I promised to take a part in the new venture, as an
occasional writer in the columns of the new magazine.

That was the way in which the second Portfolio found its way to my
table, and was there opened in the autumn of the year 1857. I was
already at least

'Nel mezzo del cammin di mia, vita,'

when I risked myself, with many misgivings, in little-tried paths of
what looked at first like a wilderness, a selva oscura, where, if I
did not meet the lion or the wolf, I should be sure to find the
critic, the most dangerous of the carnivores, waiting to welcome me
after his own fashion.

The second Portfolio is closed and laid away. Perhaps it was hardly
worth while to provide and open a new one; but here it lies before
me, and I hope I may find something between its covers which will
justify me in coming once more before my old friends. But before I
open it I want to claim a little further indulgence.

There is a subject of profound interest to almost every writer, I
might say to almost every human being. No matter what his culture or
ignorance, no matter what his pursuit, no matter what his character,
the subject I refer to is one of which he rarely ceases to think,
and, if opportunity is offered, to talk. On this he is eloquent, if
on nothing else. The slow of speech becomes fluent; the torpid
listener becomes electric with vivacity, and alive all over with

The sagacious reader knows well what is coming after this prelude.
He is accustomed to the phrases with which the plausible visitor, who
has a subscription book in his pocket, prepares his victim for the
depressing disclosure of his real errand. He is not unacquainted
with the conversational amenities of the cordial and interesting
stranger, who, having had the misfortune of leaving his carpet-bag in
the cars, or of having his pocket picked at the station, finds
himself without the means of reaching that distant home where
affluence waits for him with its luxurious welcome, but to whom for
the moment the loan of some five and twenty dollars would be a
convenience and a favor for which his heart would ache with gratitude
during the brief interval between the loan and its repayment.

I wish to say a few words in my own person relating to some passages
in my own history, and more especially to some of the recent
experiences through which I have been passing.

What can justify one in addressing himself to the general public as
if it were his private correspondent? There are at least three
sufficient reasons: first, if he has a story to tell that everybody
wants to hear,--if be has been shipwrecked, or has been in a battle,
or has witnessed any interesting event, and can tell anything new
about it; secondly, if he can put in fitting words any common
experiences not already well told, so that readers will say, "Why,
yes! I have had that sensation, thought, emotion, a hundred times,
but I never heard it spoken of before, and I never saw any mention of
it in print;" and thirdly, anything one likes, provided he can so
tell it as to make it interesting.

I have no story to tell in this Introduction which can of itself
claim any general attention. My first pages relate the effect of a
certain literary experience upon myself,--a series of partial
metempsychoses of which I have been the subject. Next follows a
brief tribute to the memory of a very dear and renowned friend from
whom I have recently been parted. The rest of the Introduction will
be consecrated to the memory of my birthplace.

I have just finished a Memoir, which will appear soon after this page
is written, and will have been the subject of criticism long before
it is in the reader's hands. The experience of thinking another
man's thoughts continuously for a long time; of living one's self
into another man's life for a month, or a year, or more, is a very
curious one. No matter how much superior to the biographer his
subject may be, the man who writes the life feels himself, in a
certain sense, on the level of the person whose life he is writing.
One cannot fight over the battles of Marengo or Austerlitz with
Napoleon without feeling as if he himself had a fractional claim to
the victory, so real seems the transfer of his personality into that
of the conqueror while he reads. Still more must this identification
of "subject" and "object" take place when one is writing of a person
whose studies or occupations are not unlike his own.

Here are some of my metempsychoses:
Ten years ago I wrote what I called A Memorial Outline of a
remarkable student of nature. He was a born observer, and such are
far from common. He was also a man of great enthusiasm and
unwearying industry. His quick eye detected what others passed by
without notice: the Indian relic, where another would see only
pebbles and fragments; the rare mollusk, or reptile, which his
companion would poke with his cane, never suspecting that there was a
prize at the end of it. Getting his single facts together with
marvellous sagacity and long-breathed patience, he arranged them,
classified them, described them, studied them in their relations, and
before those around him were aware of it the collector was an
accomplished naturalist. When--he died his collections remained, and
they still remain, as his record in the hieratic language of science.
In writing this memoir the spirit of his quiet pursuits, the even
temper they bred in him, gained possession of my own mind, so that I
seemed to look at nature through his gold-bowed spectacles, and to
move about his beautifully ordered museum as if I had myself prepared
and arranged its specimens. I felt wise with his wisdom, fair-minded
with his calm impartiality; it seemed as if for the time his placid,
observant, inquiring, keen-sighted nature "slid into my soul," and if
I had looked at myself in the glass I should almost have expected to
see the image of the Hersey professor whose life and character I was

A few years hater I lived over the life of another friend in writing
a Memoir of which he was the subject. I saw him, the beautiful,
bright-eyed boy, with dark, waving hair; the youthful scholar, first
at Harvard, then at Gottingen and Berlin, the friend and companion of
Bismarck; the young author, making a dash for renown as a novelist,
and showing the elements which made his failures the promise of
success in a larger field of literary labor; the delving historian,
burying his fresh young manhood in the dusty alcoves of silent
libraries, to come forth in the face of Europe and America as one of
the leading historians of the time; the diplomatist, accomplished, of
captivating presence and manners, an ardent American, and in the time
of trial an impassioned and eloquent advocate of the cause of
freedom; reaching at last the summit of his ambition as minister at
the Court of Saint James. All this I seemed to share with him as I
tracked his career from his birthplace in Dorchester, and the house
in Walnut Street where he passed his boyhood, to the palaces of
Vienna and London. And then the cruel blow which struck him from the
place he adorned; the great sorrow that darkened his later years; the
invasion of illness, a threat that warned of danger, and after a
period of invalidism, during a part of which I shared his most
intimate daily life, the sudden, hardly unwelcome, final summons.
Did not my own consciousness migrate, or seem, at least, to transfer
itself into this brilliant life history, as I traced its glowing
record? I, too, seemed to feel the delight of carrying with me, as
if they were my own, the charms of a presence which made its own
welcome everywhere. I shared his heroic toils, I partook of his
literary and social triumphs, I was honored by the marks of
distinction which gathered about him, I was wronged by the indignity
from which he suffered, mourned with him in his sorrow, and thus,
after I had been living for months with his memory, I felt as if I
should carry a part of his being with me so long as my self-
consciousness might remain imprisoned in the ponderable elements.

The years passed away, and the influences derived from the
companionships I have spoken of had blended intimately with my own
current of being. Then there came to me a new experience in my
relations with an eminent member of the medical profession, whom I
met habitually for a long period, and to whose memory I consecrated a
few pages as a prelude to a work of his own, written under very
peculiar circumstances. He was the subject of a slow, torturing,
malignant, and almost necessarily fatal disease. Knowing well that
the mind would feed upon itself if it were not supplied with food
from without, he determined to write a treatise on a subject which
had greatly interested him, and which would oblige him to bestow much
of his time and thought upon it, if indeed he could hold out to
finish the work. During the period while he was engaged in writing
it, his wife, who had seemed in perfect health, died suddenly of
pneumonia. Physical suffering, mental distress, the prospect of
death at a near, if uncertain, time always before him, it was hard to
conceive a more terrible strain than that which he had to endure.
When, in the hour of his greatest need, his faithful companion, the
wife of many years of happy union, whose hand had smoothed his
pillow, whose voice had consoled and cheered him, was torn from him
after a few days of illness, I felt that my, friend's trial was such
that the cry of the man of many afflictions and temptations might
well have escaped from his lips: "I was at ease, but he hath broken
me asunder; he hath also taken me by my neck and shaken me to pieces,
and set me up for his mark. His archers compass me round about, he
cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare; he poureth out my gall
upon the ground."

I had dreaded meeting him for the first time after this crushing
blow. What a lesson he gave me of patience under sufferings which
the fearful description of the Eastern poet does not picture too
vividly! We have been taught to admire the calm philosophy of
Haller, watching his faltering pulse as he lay dying; we have heard
the words of pious resignation said to have been uttered with his
last breath by Addison: but here was a trial, not of hours, or days,
or weeks, but of months, even years, of cruel pain, and in the midst
of its thick darkness the light of love, which had burned steadily at
his bedside, was suddenly extinguished.

There were times in which the thought would force itself upon my
consciousness, How long is the universe to look upon this dreadful
experiment of a malarious planet, with its unmeasurable freight of
suffering, its poisonous atmosphere, so sweet to breathe, so sure to
kill in a few scores of years at farthest, and its heart-breaking
woes which make even that brief space of time an eternity? There can
be but one answer that will meet this terrible question, which must
arise in every thinking nature that would fain "justify the ways of
God to men." So must it be until that

"one far-off divine event
To which the whole creation moves"

has become a reality, and the anthem in which there is no discordant
note shall be joined by a voice from every life made "perfect through

Such was the lesson into which I lived in those sad yet placid years
of companionship with my suffering and sorrowing friend, in retracing
which I seemed to find another existence mingled with my own.

And now for many months I have been living in daily relations of
intimacy with one who seems nearer to me since he has left us than
while he was here in living form and feature. I did not know how
difficult a task I had undertaken in venturing upon a memoir of a man
whom all, or almost all, agree upon as one of the great lights of the
New World, and whom very many regard as an unpredicted Messiah.
Never before was I so forcibly reminded of Carlyle's description of
the work of a newspaper editor,--that threshing of straw already
thrice beaten by the flails of other laborers in the same field.
What could be said that had not been said of "transcendentalism" and
of him who was regarded as its prophet; of the poet whom some admired
without understanding, a few understood, or thought they did, without
admiring, and many both understood and admired,--among these there
being not a small number who went far beyond admiration, and lost
themselves in devout worship? While one exalted him as "the greatest
man that ever lived," another, a friend, famous in the world of
letters, wrote expressly to caution me against the danger of
overrating a writer whom he is content to recognize as an American
Montaigne, and nothing more.

After finishing this Memoir, which has but just left my hands, I
would gladly have let my brain rest for a while. The wide range of
thought which belonged to the subject of the Memoir, the occasional
mysticism and the frequent tendency toward it, the sweep of
imagination and the sparkle of wit which kept his reader's mind on
the stretch, the union of prevailing good sense with exceptional
extravagances, the modest audacity of a nature that showed itself in
its naked truthfulness and was not ashamed, the feeling that I was in
the company of a sibylline intelligence which was discounting the
promises of the remote future long before they were due,--all this
made the task a grave one. But when I found myself amidst the
vortices of uncounted, various, bewildering judgments, Catholic and
Protestant, orthodox and liberal, scholarly from under the tree of
knowledge and instinctive from over the potato-hill; the passionate
enthusiasm of young adorers and the cool, if not cynical, estimate of
hardened critics, all intersecting each other as they whirled, each
around its own centre, I felt that it was indeed very difficult to
keep the faculties clear and the judgment unbiassed.

It is a great privilege to have lived so long in the society of such
a man. "He nothing common" said, "or mean." He was always the same
pure and high-souled companion. After being with him virtue seemed
as natural to man as its opposite did according to the old
theologies. But how to let one's self down from the high level of
such a character to one's own poor standard? I trust that the
influence of this long intellectual and spiritual companionship never
absolutely leaves one who has lived in it. It may come to him in the
form of self-reproach that he falls so far short of the superior
being who has been so long the object of his contemplation. But it
also carries him at times into the other's personality, so that he
finds himself thinking thoughts that are not his own, using phrases
which he has unconsciously borrowed, writing, it may be, as nearly
like his long-studied original as Julio Romano's painting was like
Raphael's; and all this with the unquestioning conviction that he is
talking from his own consciousness in his own natural way. So far as
tones and expressions and habits which belonged to the idiosyncrasy
of the original are borrowed by the student of his life, it is a
misfortune for the borrower. But to share the inmost consciousness
of a noble thinker, to scan one's self in the white light of a pure
and radiant soul,--this is indeed the highest form of teaching and

I have written these few memoirs, and I am grateful for all that they
have taught me. But let me write no more. There are but two
biographers who can tell the story of a man's or a woman's life. One
is the person himself or herself; the other is the Recording Angel.
The autobiographer cannot be trusted to tell the whole truth, though
he may tell nothing but the truth, and the Recording Angel never lets
his book go out of his own hands. As for myself, I would say to my
friends, in the Oriental phrase, "Live forever!" Yes, live forever,
and I, at least, shall not have to wrong your memories by my
imperfect record and unsatisfying commentary.

In connection with these biographies, or memoirs, more properly, in
which I have written of my departed friends, I hope my readers will
indulge me in another personal reminiscence. I have just lost my
dear and honored contemporary of the last century. A hundred years
ago this day, December 13, 1784, died the admirable and ever to be
remembered Dr. Samuel Johnson. The year 1709 was made ponderous and
illustrious in English biography by his birth. My own humble advent
to the world of protoplasm was in the year 1809 of the present
century. Summer was just ending when those four letters, "son b."
were written under the date of my birth, August 29th. Autumn had
just begun when my great pre-contemporary entered this un-Christian
universe and was made a member of the Christian church on the same
day, for he was born and baptized on the 18th of September.

Thus there was established a close bond of relationship between the
great English scholar and writer and myself. Year by year, and
almost month by month, my life has kept pace in this century with his
life in the last century. I had only to open my Boswell at any time,
and I knew just what Johnson at my age, twenty or fifty or seventy,
was thinking and doing; what were his feelings about life; what
changes the years had wrought in his body, his mind, his feelings,
his companionships, his reputation. It was for me a kind of unison
between two instruments, both playing that old familiar air, "Life,"
--one a bassoon, if you will, and the other an oaten pipe, if you
care to find an image for it, but still keeping pace with each other
until the players both grew old and gray. At last the thinner thread
of sound is heard by itself, and its deep accompaniment rolls out its
thunder no more.

I feel lonely now that my great companion and friend of so many years
has left me. I felt more intimately acquainted with him than I do
with many of my living friends. I can hardly remember when I did not
know him. I can see him in his bushy wig, exactly like that of the
Reverend Dr. Samuel Cooper (who died in December, 1783) as Copley
painted him,--he hangs there on my wall, over the revolving bookcase.
His ample coat, too, I see, with its broad flaps and many buttons and
generous cuffs, and beneath it the long, still more copiously
buttoned waistcoat, arching in front of the fine crescentic, almost
semi-lunar Falstaffian prominence, involving no less than a dozen of
the above-mentioned buttons, and the strong legs with their sturdy
calves, fitting columns of support to the massive body and solid,
capacious brain enthroned over it. I can hear him with his heavy
tread as he comes in to the Club, and a gap is widened to make room
for his portly figure. "A fine day," says Sir Joshua. "Sir," he
answers, "it seems propitious, but the atmosphere is humid and the
skies are nebulous," at which the great painter smiles, shifts his
trumpet, and takes a pinch of snuff.

Dear old massive, deep-voiced dogmatist and hypochondriac of the
eighteenth century, how one would like to sit at some ghastly Club,
between you and the bony, "mighty-mouthed," harsh-toned termagant and
dyspeptic of the nineteenth! The growl of the English mastiff and
the snarl of the Scotch terrier would make a duet which would enliven
the shores of Lethe. I wish I could find our "spiritualist's" paper
in the Portfolio, in which the two are brought together, but I hardly
know what I shall find when it is opened.

Yes, my life is a little less precious to me since I have lost that
dear old friend; and when the funeral train moves to Westminster
Abbey next Saturday, for I feel as if this were 1784, and not 1884,--
I seem to find myself following the hearse, one of the silent

Among the events which have rendered the past year memorable to me
has been the demolition of that venerable and interesting old
dwelling-house, precious for its intimate association with the
earliest stages of the war of the Revolution, and sacred to me as my
birthplace and the home of my boyhood.

The "Old Gambrel-roofed House" exists no longer. I remember saying
something, in one of a series of papers published long ago, about the
experience of dying out of a house,--of leaving it forever, as the
soul dies out of the body. We may die out of many houses, but the
house itself can die but once; and so real is the life of a house to
one who has dwelt in it, more especially the life of the house which
held him in dreamy infancy, in restless boyhood, in passionate
youth,--so real, I say, is its life, that it seems as if something
like a soul of it must outlast its perishing frame.

The slaughter of the Old Gambrel-roofed House was, I am ready to
admit, a case of justifiable domicide. Not the less was it to be
deplored by all who love the memories of the past. With its
destruction are obliterated some of the footprints of the heroes and
martyrs who took the first steps in the long and bloody march which
led us through the wilderness to the promised land of independent
nationality. Personally, I have a right to mourn for it as a part of
my life gone from me. My private grief for its loss would be a
matter for my solitary digestion, were it not that the experience
through which I have just passed is one so familiar to my fellow-
countrymen that, in telling my own reflections and feelings, I am
repeating those of great numbers of men and women who have had the
misfortune to outlive their birthplace.

It is a great blessing to be born surrounded by a natural horizon.
The Old Gambrel-roofed House could not boast an unbroken ring of
natural objects encircling it. Northerly it looked upon its own
outbuildings and some unpretending two-story houses which had been
its neighbors for a century and more. To the south of it the square
brick dormitories and the belfried hall of the university helped to
shut out the distant view. But the west windows gave a broad outlook
across the common, beyond which the historical "Washington elm" and
two companions in line with it, spread their leaves in summer and
their networks in winter. And far away rose the hills that bounded
the view, with the glimmer here and there of the white walls or the
illuminated casements of some embowered, half-hidden villa.
Eastwardly also, the prospect was, in my earlier remembrance, widely
open, and I have frequently seen the sunlit sails gliding along as if
through the level fields, for no water was visible. So there were
broad expanses on two sides at least, for my imagination to wander

I cannot help thinking that we carry our childhood's horizon with us
all our days. Among these western wooded hills my day-dreams built
their fairy palaces, and even now, as I look at them from my library
window, across the estuary of the Charles, I find myself in the
familiar home of my early visions. The "clouds of glory" which we
trail with us in after life need not be traced to a pre-natal state.
There is enough to account for them in that unconsciously remembered
period of existence before we have learned the hard limitations of
real life. Those earliest months in which we lived in sensations
without words, and ideas not fettered in sentences, have all the
freshness of proofs of an engraving "before the letter." I am very
thankful that the first part of my life was not passed shut in
between high walls and treading the unimpressible and unsympathetic

Our university town was very much like the real country, in those
days of which I am thinking. There were plenty of huckleberries and
blueberries within half a mile of the house. Blackberries ripened in
the fields, acorns and shagbarks dropped from the trees, squirrels
ran among the branches, and not rarely the hen-hawk might be seen
circling over the barnyard. Still another rural element was not
wanting, in the form of that far-diffused, infragrant effluvium,
which, diluted by a good half mile of pure atmosphere, is no longer
odious, nay is positively agreeable, to many who have long known it,
though its source and centre has an unenviable reputation. I need
not name the animal whose Parthian warfare terrifies and puts to
flight the mightiest hunter that ever roused the tiger from his
jungle or faced the lion of the desert. Strange as it may seem, an
aerial hint of his personality in the far distance always awakens in
my mind pleasant remembrances and tender reflections. A whole
neighborhood rises up before me: the barn, with its haymow, where the
hens laid their eggs to hatch, and we boys hid our apples to ripen,
both occasionally illustrating the sic vos non vobis; the shed, where
the annual Tragedy of the Pig was acted with a realism that made
Salvini's Othello seem but a pale counterfeit; the rickety old
outhouse, with the "corn-chamber" which the mice knew so well; the
paved yard, with its open gutter,--these and how much else come up at
the hint of my far-off friend, who is my very near enemy. Nothing is
more familiar than the power of smell in reviving old memories.
There was that quite different fragrance of the wood-house, the smell
of fresh sawdust. It comes back to me now, and with it the hiss of
the saw; the tumble of the divorced logs which God put together and
man has just put asunder; the coming down of the axe and the hah!
that helped it,--the straight-grained stick opening at the first
appeal of the implement as if it were a pleasure, and the stick with
a knot in the middle of it that mocked the blows and the hahs! until
the beetle and wedge made it listen to reason,--there are just such
straight-grained and just such knotty men and women. All this passes
through my mind while Biddy, whose parlor-name is Angela, contents
herself with exclaiming "egh!*******!"

How different distances were in those young days of which I am
thinking! From the old house to the old yellow meeting-house, where
the head of the family preached and the limbs of the family listened,
was not much more than two or three times the width of Commonwealth
Avenue. But of a hot summer's afternoon, after having already heard
one sermon, which could not in the nature of things have the charm of
novelty of presentation to the members of the home circle, and the
theology of which was not too clear to tender apprehensions; with
three hymns more or less lugubrious, rendered by a village-choir, got
into voice by many preliminary snuffles and other expiratory efforts,
and accompanied by the snort of a huge bassviol which wallowed
through the tune like a hippopotamus, with other exercises of the
customary character,--after all this in the forenoon, the afternoon
walk to the meeting-house in the hot sun counted for as much, in my
childish dead-reckoning, as from old Israel Porter's in Cambridge to
the Exchange Coffeehouse in Boston did in after years. It takes a
good while to measure the radius of the circle that is about us, for
the moon seems at first as near as the watchface. Who knows but
that, after a certain number of ages, the planet we live on may seem
to us no bigger than our neighbor Venus appeared when she passed
before the sun a few months ago, looking as if we could take her
between our thumb and finger, like a bullet or a marble? And time,
too; how long was it from the serious sunrise to the joyous "sun-
down" of an old-fashioned, puritanical, judaical first day of the
week, which a pious fraud christened "the Sabbath"? Was it a
fortnight, as we now reckon duration, or only a week? Curious
entities, or non-entities, space and tithe? When you see a
metaphysician trying to wash his hands of them and get rid of these
accidents, so as to lay his dry, clean palm on the absolute, does
it not remind you of the hopeless task of changing the color of the
blackamoor by a similar proceeding? For space is the fluid in which
he is washing, and time is the soap which he is using up in the
process, and he cannot get free from them until he can wash himself
in a mental vacuum.

In my reference to the old house in a former paper, published years
ago, I said,

"By and by the stony foot of the great University will plant itself
on this whole territory, and the private recollections which clung so
tenaciously to the place and its habitations will have died with
those who cherished them."

What strides the great University has taken since those words were
written! During all my early years our old Harvard Alma Mater sat
still and lifeless as the colossi in the Egyptian desert. Then all
at once, like the statue in Don Giovanni, she moved from her
pedestal. The fall of that "stony foot" has effected a miracle like
the harp that Orpheus played, like the teeth which Cadmus sowed. The
plain where the moose and the bear were wandering while Shakespeare
was writing Hamlet, where a few plain dormitories and other needed
buildings were scattered about in my school-boy days, groans under
the weight of the massive edifices which have sprung up all around
them, crowned by the tower of that noble structure which stands in
full view before me as I lift my eyes from the portfolio on the back
of which I am now writing.

For I must be permitted to remind you that I have not yet opened it.
I have told you that I have just finished a long memoir, and that it
has cost me no little labor to overcome some of its difficulties,--if
I have overcome them, which others must decide. And I feel exactly
as honest Dobbin feels when his harness is slipped off after a long
journey with a good deal of up-hill work. He wants to rest a little,
then to feed a little; then, if you will turn him loose in the
pasture, he wants to roll. I have left my starry and ethereal
companionship,--not for a long time, I hope, for it has lifted me
above my common self, but for a while. And now I want, so to speak,
to roll in the grass and among the dandelions with the other
pachyderms. So I have kept to the outside of the portfolio as yet,
and am disporting myself in reminiscences, and fancies, and vagaries,
and parentheses.

How well I understand the feeling which led the Pisans to load their
vessels with earth from the Holy Land, and fill the area of the Campo
Santo with that sacred soil! The old house stood upon about as
perverse a little patch of the planet as ever harbored a half-starved
earth-worm. It was as sandy as Sahara and as thirsty as Tantalus.
The rustic aid-de-camps of the household used to aver that all
fertilizing matters "leached" through it. I tried to disprove their
assertion by gorging it with the best of terrestrial nourishment,
until I became convinced that I was feeding the tea-plants of China,
and then I gave over the attempt. And yet I did love, and do love,
that arid patch of ground. I wonder if a single flower could not be
made to grow in a pot of earth from that Campo Santo of my childhood!
One noble product of nature did not refuse to flourish there,--the
tall, stately, beautiful, soft-haired, many-jointed, generous maize
or Indian corn, which thrives on sand and defies the blaze of our
shrivelling summer. What child but loves to wander in its forest-
like depths, amidst the rustling leaves and with the lofty tassels
tossing their heads high above him! There are two aspects of the
cornfield which always impress my imagination: the first when it has
reached its full growth, and its ordered ranks look like an army on
the march with its plumed and bannered battalions; the second when,
after the battle of the harvest, the girdled stacks stand on the
field of slaughter like so many ragged Niobes,--say rather like the
crazy widows and daughters of the dead soldiery.

Once more let us come back to the old house. It was far along in its
second century when the edict went forth that it must stand no

The natural death of a house is very much like that of one of its
human tenants. The roof is the first part to show the distinct signs
of age. Slates and tiles loosen and at last slide off, and leave
bald the boards that supported them; shingles darken and decay, and
soon the garret or the attic lets in the rain and the snow; by and by
the beams sag, the floors warp, the walls crack, the paper peels
away, the ceilings scale off and fall, the windows are crusted with
clinging dust, the doors drop from their rusted hinges, the winds
come in without knocking and howl their cruel death-songs through the
empty rooms and passages, and at last there comes a crash, a great
cloud of dust rises, and the home that had been the shelter of
generation after generation finds its grave in its own cellar. Only
the chimney remains as its monument. Slowly, little by little, the
patient solvents that find nothing too hard for their chemistry pick
out the mortar from between the bricks; at last a mighty wind roars
around it and rushes against it, and the monumental relic crashes
down among the wrecks it has long survived. So dies a human
habitation left to natural decay, all that was seen above the surface
of the soil sinking gradually below it,

Till naught remains the saddening tale to tell
Save home's last wrecks, the cellar and the well.

But if this sight is saddening, what is it to see a human dwelling
fall by the hand of violence! The ripping off of the shelter that
has kept out a thousand storms, the tearing off of the once
ornamental woodwork, the wrench of the inexorable crowbar, the
murderous blows of the axe, the progressive ruin, which ends by
rending all the joints asunder and flinging the tenoned and mortised
timbers into heaps that will be sawed and split to warm some new
habitation as firewood,--what a brutal act of destruction it seems!

Why should I go over the old house again, having already described it
more than ten years ago? Alas! how many remember anything they read
but once, and so long ago as that? How many would find it out if one
should say over in the same words that which he said in the last
decade? But there is really no need of telling the story a second
time, for it can be found by those who are curious enough to look it
up in a volume of which it occupies the opening chapter.

In order, however, to save any inquisitive reader that trouble, let
me remind him that the old house was General Ward's headquarters at
the breaking out of the Revolution; that the plan for fortifying
Bunker's Hill was laid, as commonly believed, in the southeast lower
room, the floor of which was covered with dents, made, it was
alleged, by the butts of the soldiers' muskets. In that house, too,
General Warren probably passed the night before the Bunker Hill
battle, and over its threshold must the stately figure of Washington
have often cast its shadow.

But the house in which one drew his first breath, and where he one
day came into the consciousness that he was a personality, an ego, a
little universe with a sky over him all his own, with a persistent
identity, with the terrible responsibility of a separate,
independent, inalienable existence,--that house does not ask for any
historical associations to make it the centre of the earth for him.

If there is any person in the world to be envied, it is the one who
is born to an ancient estate, with a long line of family traditions
and the means in his hands of shaping his mansion and his domain to
his own taste, without losing sight of all the characteristic
features which surrounded his earliest years. The American is, for
the most part, a nomad, who pulls down his house as the Tartar pulls
up his tent-poles. If I had an ideal life to plan for him it would
be something like this:

His grandfather should be a wise, scholarly, large-brained, large-
hearted country minister, from whom he should inherit the temperament
that predisposes to cheerfulness and enjoyment, with the finer
instincts which direct life to noble aims and make it rich with the
gratification of pure and elevated tastes and the carrying out of
plans for the good of his neighbors and his fellow-creatures. He
should, if possible, have been born, at any rate have passed some of
his early years, or a large part of them, under the roof of the good
old minister. His father should be, we will say, a business man in
one of our great cities,--a generous manipulator of millions, some of
which have adhered to his private fortunes, in spite of his liberal
use of his means. His heir, our ideally placed American, shall take
possession of the old house, the home of his earliest memories, and
preserve it sacredly, not exactly like the Santa Casa, but, as nearly
as may be, just as he remembers it. He can add as many acres as he
will to the narrow house-lot. He can build a grand mansion for
himself, if he chooses, in the not distant neighborhood. But the old
house, and all immediately round it, shall be as he recollects it
when be had to stretch his little arm up to reach the door-handles.
Then, having well provided for his own household, himself included,
let him become the providence of the village or the town where be
finds himself during at least a portion of every year. Its schools,
its library, its poor,--and perhaps the new clergyman who has
succeeded his grandfather's successor may be one of them,--all its
interests, he shall make his own. And from this centre his
beneficence shall radiate so far that all who hear of his wealth
shall also hear of him as a friend to his race.

Is not this a pleasing programme? Wealth is a steep hill, which the
father climbs slowly and the son often tumbles down precipitately;
but there is a table-land on a level with it, which may be found by
those who do not lose their head in looking down from its sharply
cloven summit.---Our dangerously rich men can make themselves hated,
held as enemies of the race, or beloved and recognized as its
benefactors. The clouds of discontent are threatening, but if the
gold-pointed lightning-rods are rightly distributed the destructive
element may be drawn off silently and harmlessly. For it cannot be
repeated too often that the safety of great wealth with us lies in
obedience to the new version of the Old World axiom, RICHESS oblige.





It is impossible to begin a story which must of necessity tax the
powers of belief of readers unacquainted with the class of facts to
which its central point of interest belongs without some words in the
nature of preparation. Readers of Charles Lamb remember that Sarah
Battle insisted on a clean-swept hearth before sitting down to her
favorite game of whist.

The narrator wishes to sweep the hearth, as it were, in these opening
pages, before sitting down to tell his story. He does not intend to
frighten the reader away by prolix explanation, but he does mean to
warn him against hasty judgments when facts are related which are not
within the range of every-day experience. Did he ever see the
Siamese twins, or any pair like them? Probably not, yet he feels
sure that Chang and Eng really existed; and if he has taken the
trouble to inquire, he has satisfied himself that similar cases have
been recorded by credible witnesses, though at long intervals and in
countries far apart from each other.

This is the first sweep of the brush, to clear the hearth of the
skepticism and incredulity which must be got out of the way before we
can begin to tell and to listen in peace with ourselves and each

One more stroke of the brush is needed before the stage will be ready
for the chief characters and the leading circumstances to which the
reader's attention is invited. If the principal personages made
their entrance at once, the reader would have to create for himself
the whole scenery of their surrounding conditions. In point of fact,
no matter how a story is begun, many of its readers have already
shaped its chief actors out of any hint the author may have dropped,
and provided from their own resources a locality and a set of outward
conditions to environ these imagined personalities. These are all to
be brushed away, and the actual surroundings of the subject of the
narrative represented as they were, at the risk of detaining the
reader a little while from the events most likely to interest him.
The choicest egg that ever was laid was not so big as the nest that
held it. If a story were so interesting that a maiden would rather
hear it than listen to the praise of her own beauty, or a poet would
rather read it than recite his own verses, still it would have to be
wrapped in some tissue of circumstance, or it would lose half its

It may not be easy to find the exact locality referred to in this
narrative by looking into the first gazetteer that is at hand.
Recent experiences have shown that it is unsafe to be too exact in
designating places and the people who live in them. There are, it
may be added, so many advertisements disguised under the form of
stories and other literary productions that one naturally desires to
avoid the suspicion of being employed by the enterprising proprietors
of this or that celebrated resort to use his gifts for their especial
benefit. There are no doubt many persons who remember the old sign
and the old tavern and its four chief personages presently to be
mentioned. It is to be hoped that they will not furnish the public
with a key to this narrative, and perhaps bring trouble to the writer
of it, as has happened to other authors. If the real names are a
little altered, it need not interfere with the important facts
relating to those who bear them. It might not be safe to tell a
damaging story about John or James Smythe; but if the slight change
is made of spelling the name Smith, the Smythes would never think of
bringing an action, as if the allusion related to any of them. The
same gulf of family distinction separates the Thompsons with a p from
the Thomsons without that letter.

There are few pleasanter places in the Northern States for a summer
residence than that known from the first period of its settlement by
the name of Arrowhead Village. The Indians had found it out, as the
relics they left behind them abundantly testified. The commonest of
these were those chipped stones which are the medals of barbarism,
and from Which the place took its name,--the heads of arrows, of
various sizes, material, and patterns: some small enough for killing
fish and little birds, some large enough for such game as the moose
and the bear, to say nothing of the hostile Indian and the white
settler; some of flint, now and then one of white quartz, and others
of variously colored jasper. The Indians must have lived here for
many generations, and it must have been a kind of factory village of
the stone age,--which lasted up to near the present time, if we may
judge from the fact that many of these relics are met with close to
the surface of the ground.

No wonder they found this a pleasant residence, for it is to-day one
of the most attractive of all summer resorts; so inviting, indeed,
that those who know it do not like to say too much about it, lest the
swarms of tourists should make it unendurable to those who love it
for itself, and not as a centre of fashionable display and extramural

There is the lake, in the first place,--Cedar Lake,--about five miles
long, and from half a mile to a mile and a half wide, stretching from
north to south. Near the northern extremity are the buildings of
Stoughton University, a flourishing young college with an ambitious
name, but well equipped and promising, the grounds of which reach the
water. At the southern end of the lake are the edifices of the
Corinna Institute, a favorite school for young ladies, where large
numbers of the daughters of America are fitted, so far as education
can do it, for all stations in life, from camping out with a husband
at the mines in Nevada to acting the part of chief lady of the land
in the White House at Washington.

Midway between the two extremities, on the eastern shore of the lake,
is a valley between two hills, which come down to the very edge of
the lake, leaving only room enough for a road between their base and
the water. This valley, half a mile in width, has been long settled,
and here for a century or more has stood the old Anchor Tavern. A
famous place it was so long as its sign swung at the side of the
road: famous for its landlord, portly, paternal, whose welcome to a
guest that looked worthy of the attention was like that of a parent
to a returning prodigal, and whose parting words were almost as good
as a marriage benediction; famous for its landlady, ample in person,
motherly, seeing to the whole household with her own eyes, mistress
of all culinary secrets that Northern kitchens are most proud of;
famous also for its ancient servant, as city people would call her,
--help, as she was called in the tavern and would have called
herself,--the unchanging, seemingly immortal Miranda, who cared for
the guests as if she were their nursing mother, and pressed the
specially favorite delicacies on their attention as a connoisseur
calls the wandering eyes of an amateur to the beauties of a picture.
Who that has ever been at the old Anchor Tavern forgets Miranda's

"A little of this fricassee?-it is ver-y nice;"


"Some of these cakes? You will find them ver-y good."

Nor would it be just to memory to forget that other notable and noted
member of the household,--the unsleeping, unresting, omnipresent
Pushee, ready for everybody and everything, everywhere within the
limits of the establishment at all hours of the day and night. He
fed, nobody could say accurately when or where. There were rumors of
a "bunk," in which he lay down with his clothes on, but he seemed to
be always wide awake, and at the service of as many guest, at once as
if there had been half a dozen of him.

So much for old reminiscences.

The landlord of the Anchor Tavern had taken down his sign. He had
had the house thoroughly renovated and furnished it anew, and kept it
open in summer for a few boarders. It happened more than once that
the summer boarders were so much pleased with the place that they
stayed on through the autumn, and some of them through the winter.
The attractions of the village were really remarkable. Boating in
summer, and skating in winter; ice-boats, too, which the wild ducks
could hardly keep up with; fishing, for which the lake was renowned;
varied and beautiful walks through the valley and up the hillsides;
houses sheltered from the north and northeasterly winds, and
refreshed in the hot summer days by the breeze which came over the
water,--all this made the frame for a pleasing picture of rest and
happiness. But there was a great deal more than this. There was a
fine library in the little village, presented and richly endowed by a
wealthy native of the place. There was a small permanent population
of a superior character to that of an everyday country town; there
was a pretty little Episcopal church, with a good-hearted rector,
broad enough for the Bishop of the diocese to be a little afraid of,
and hospitable to all outsiders, of whom, in the summer season, there
were always some who wanted a place of worship to keep their religion
from dying out during the heathen months, while the shepherds of the
flocks to which they belonged were away from their empty folds.

What most helped to keep the place alive all through the year was the
frequent coming together of the members of a certain literary
association. Some time before the tavern took down its sign the
landlord had built a hall, where many a ball had been held, to which
the young folks of all the country round had resorted. It was still
sometimes used for similar occasions, but it was especially notable
as being the place of meeting of the famous PANSOPHIAN SOCIETY.

This association, the name of which might be invidiously interpreted
as signifying that its members knew everything, had no such
pretensions, but, as its Constitution said very plainly and modestly,
held itself open to accept knowledge on any and all subjects from
such as had knowledge to impart. Its President was the rector of the
little chapel, a man who, in spite of the Thirty-Nine Articles, could
stand fire from the widest-mouthed heretical blunderbuss without
flinching or losing his temper. The hall of the old Anchor Tavern
was a convenient place of meeting for the students and instructors of
the University and the Institute. Sometimes in boat-loads, sometimes
in carriage-loads, sometimes in processions of skaters, they came to
the meetings in Pansophian Hall, as it was now commonly called.

These meetings had grown to be occasions of great interest. It was
customary to have papers written by members of the Society, for the
most part, but now and then by friends of the members, sometimes by
the students of the College or the Institute, and in rarer instances
by anonymous personages, whose papers, having been looked over and
discussed by the Committee appointed for that purpose, were thought
worth listening to. The variety of topics considered was very great.
The young ladies of the village and the Institute had their favorite
subjects, the young gentlemen a different set of topics, and the
occasional outside contributors their own; so that one who happened
to be admitted to a meeting never knew whether he was going to hear
an account of recent arctic discoveries, or an essay on the freedom
of the will, or a psychological experience, or a story, or even a

Of late there had been a tendency to discuss the questions relating
to the true status and the legitimate social functions of woman. The
most conflicting views were held on the subject. Many of the young
ladies and some of the University students were strong in defence of
all the "woman's rights" doctrines. Some of these young people were
extreme in their views. They had read about Semiramis and Boadicea
and Queen Elizabeth, until they were ready, if they could get the
chance, to vote for a woman as President of the United States or as
General of the United States Army. They were even disposed to assert
the physical equality of woman to man, on the strength of the rather
questionable history of the Amazons, and especially of the story,
believed to be authentic, of the female body-guard of the King of
Dahomey,--females frightful enough to need no other weapon than their
looks to scare off an army of Cossacks.

Miss Lurida Vincent, gold medallist of her year at the Corinna
Institute, was the leader of these advocates of virile womanhood. It
was rather singular that she should have elected to be the apostle of
this extreme doctrine, for she was herself far better equipped with
brain than muscles. In fact, she was a large-headed, large-eyed,
long-eyelashed, slender-necked, slightly developed young woman;
looking almost like a child at an age when many of the girls had
reached their full stature and proportions. In her studies she was
so far in advance of her different classes that there was always a
wide gap between her and the second scholar. So fatal to all rivalry
had she proved herself that she passed under the school name of The
Terror. She learned so easily that she undervalued her own
extraordinary gifts, and felt the deepest admiration for those of her
friends endowed with faculties of an entirely different and almost
opposite nature. After sitting at her desk until her head was hot
and her feet were like ice, she would go and look at the blooming
young girls exercising in the gymnasium of the school, and feel as if
she would give all her knowledge, all her mathematics and strange
tongues and history, all those accomplishments that made her the
encyclopaedia of every class she belonged to, if she could go through
the series of difficult and graceful exercises in which she saw her
schoolmates delighting.

One among them, especially, was the object of her admiration, as she
was of all who knew her exceptional powers in the line for which
nature had specially organized her. All the physical perfections
which Miss Lurida had missed had been united in Miss Euthymia Tower,
whose school name was The Wonder. Though of full womanly stature,
there were several taller girls of her age. While all her contours
and all her movements betrayed a fine muscular development, there was
no lack of proportion, and her finely shaped hands and feet showed
that her organization was one of those carefully finished
masterpieces of nature which sculptors are always in search of, and
find it hard to detect among the imperfect products of the living

This girl of eighteen was more famous than she cared to be for her
performances in the gymnasium. She commonly contented herself with
the same exercises that her companions were accustomed to. Only her
dumb-bells, with which she exercised easily and gracefully, were too
heavy for most of the girls to do more with than lift them from the
floor. She was fond of daring feats on the trapeze, and had to be
checked in her indulgence in them. The Professor of gymnastics at
the University came over to the Institute now and then, and it was a
source of great excitement to watch some of the athletic exercises in
which the young lady showed her remarkable muscular strength and
skill in managing herself in the accomplishment of feats which looked
impossible at first sight. How often The Terror had thought to
herself that she would gladly give up all her knowledge of Greek and
the differential and integral calculus if she could only perform the
least of those feats which were mere play to The Wonder! Miss
Euthymia was not behind the rest in her attainments in classical or
mathematical knowledge, and she was one of the very best students in
the out-door branches,--botany, mineralogy, sketching from nature,--
to be found among the scholars of the Institute.

There was an eight-oared boat rowed by a crew of the young ladies, of
which Miss Euthymia was the captain and pulled the bow oar. Poor
little Lurida could not pull an oar, but on great occasions, when
there were many boats out, she was wanted as coxswain, being a mere
feather-weight, and quick-witted enough to serve well in the
important office where brains are more needed than muscle.

There was also an eight-oared boat belonging to the University, and
rowed by a picked crew of stalwart young fellows. The bow oar and
captain of the University crew was a powerful young man, who, like
the captain of the girls' boat, was a noted gymnast. He had had one
or two quiet trials with Miss Euthymia, in which, according to the
ultras of the woman's rights party, he had not vindicated the
superiority of his sex in the way which might have been expected.
Indeed, it was claimed that he let a cannon-ball drop when he ought
to have caught it, and it was not disputed that he had been
ingloriously knocked over by a sand-bag projected by the strong arms
of the young maiden. This was of course a story that was widely told
and laughingly listened to, and the captain of the University crew
had become a little sensitive on the subject. When there was a talk,
therefore, about a race between the champion boats of the two
institutions there was immense excitement in both of them, as well as
among the members of the Pansophian Society and all the good people
of the village.

There were many objections to be overcome. Some thought it
unladylike for the young maidens to take part in a competition which
must attract many lookers-on, and which it seemed to them very
hoidenish to venture upon. Some said it was a shame to let a crew of
girls try their strength against an equal number of powerful young
men. These objections were offset by the advocates of the race by
the following arguments. They maintained that it was no more
hoidenish to row a boat than it was to take a part in the calisthenic
exercises, and that the girls had nothing to do with the young men's
boat, except to keep as much ahead of it as possible. As to
strength, the woman's righters believed that, weight for weight,
their crew was as strong as the other, and of course due allowance
would be made for the difference of weight and all other accidental
hindrances. It was time to test the boasted superiority of masculine
muscle. Here was a chance. If the girls beat, the whole country
would know it, and after that female suffrage would be only a
question of time. Such was the conclusion, from rather insufficient
premises, it must be confessed; but if nature does nothing per
saltum,--by jumps,--as the old adage has it, youth is very apt to
take long leaps from a fact to a possible sequel or consequence. So
it had come about that a contest between the two boat-crews was
looked forward to with an interest almost equal to that with which
the combat between the Horatii and Curiatii was regarded.

The terms had been at last arranged between the two crews, after
cautious protocols and many diplomatic discussions. It was so novel
in its character that it naturally took a good deal of time to adjust
it in such a way as to be fair to both parties. The course must not
be too long for the lighter and weaker crew, for the staying power of
the young persons who made it up could not be safely reckoned upon.
A certain advantage must be allowed them at the start, and this was a
delicate matter to settle. The weather was another important
consideration. June would be early enough, in all probability, and
if the lake should be tolerably smooth the grand affair might come
off some time in that month. Any roughness of the water would be
unfavorable to the weaker crew. The rowing-course was on the eastern
side of the lake, the starting-point being opposite the Anchor
Tavern; from that three quarters of a mile to the south, where the
turning-stake was fixed, so that the whole course of one mile and a
half would bring the boats back to their starting-point.

The race was to be between the Algonquin, eight-oared boat with
outriggers, rowed by young men, students of Stoughton University, and
the Atalanta, also eight-oared and outrigger boat, by young ladies
from the Corinna Institute. Their boat was three inches wider than
the other, for various sufficient reasons, one of which was to make
it a little less likely to go over and throw its crew into the water,
which was a sound precaution, though all the girls could swim, and
one at least, the bow oar, was a famous swimmer, who had pulled a
drowning man out of the water after a hard struggle to keep him from
carrying her down with him.

Though the coming trial had not been advertised in the papers, so as
to draw together a rabble of betting men and ill-conditioned lookers-
on, there was a considerable gathering, made up chiefly of the
villagers and the students of the two institutions. Among them were
a few who were disposed to add to their interest in the trial by
small wagers. The bets were rather in favor of the "Quins," as the
University boat was commonly called, except where the natural
sympathy of the young ladies or the gallantry of some of the young
men led them to risk their gloves or cigars, or whatever it might be,
on the Atalantas. The elements of judgment were these: average
weight of the Algonquins one hundred and sixty-five pounds; average
weight of the Atalantas, one hundred and forty-eight pounds; skill in
practice about equal; advantage of the narrow boat equal to three
lengths; whole distance allowed the Atalantas eight lengths,--a long
stretch to be made up in a mile and a half.

And so both crews began practising for the grand trial.



The 10th of June was a delicious summer day, rather warm, but still
and bright. The water was smooth, and the crews were in the best
possible condition. All was expectation, and for some time nothing
but expectation. No boat-race or regatta ever began at the time
appointed for the start. Somebody breaks an oar, or somebody fails
to appear in season, or something is the matter with a seat or an
outrigger; or if there is no such excuse, the crew of one or both or
all the boats to take part in the race must paddle about to get
themselves ready for work, to the infinite weariness of all the
spectators, who naturally ask why all this getting ready is not
attended to beforehand. The Algonquins wore plain gray flannel suits
and white caps. The young ladies were all in dark blue dresses,
touched up with a red ribbon here and there, and wore light straw
hats. The little coxswain of the Atalanta was the last to step on
board. As she took her place she carefully deposited at her feet a
white handkerchief wrapped about something or other, perhaps a
sponge, in case the boat should take in water.

At last the Algonquin shot out from the little nook where she lay,--
long, narrow, shining, swift as a pickerel when he darts from the
reedy shore. It was a beautiful sight to see the eight young fellows
in their close-fitting suits, their brown muscular arms bare, bending
their backs for the stroke and recovering, as if they were parts of a
single machine.

"The gals can't stan' it agin them fellers," said the old blacksmith
from the village.

"You wait till the gals get a-goin'," said the carpenter, who had
often worked in the gymnasium of the Corinna Institute, and knew
something of their muscular accomplishments. "Y' ought to see 'em
climb ropes, and swing dumb-bells, and pull in them rowin'-machines.
Ask Jake there whether they can't row a mild in double-quick time,--
he knows all abaout it."

Jake was by profession a fisherman, and a freshwater fisherman in a
country village is inspector-general of all that goes on out-of-
doors, being a lazy, wandering sort of fellow, whose study of the
habits and habitats of fishes gives him a kind of shrewdness of
observation, just as dealing in horses is an education of certain
faculties, and breeds a race of men peculiarly cunning, suspicious,
wary, and wide awake, with a rhetoric of appreciation and
depreciation all its own.

Jake made his usual preliminary signal, and delivered himself to the
following effect:

"Wahl, I don' know jest what to say. I've seed 'em both often enough
when they was practisin', an' I tell ye the' wa'n't no slouch abaout
neither on 'em. But them bats is all-fired long, 'n' eight on 'em
stretched in a straight line eendways makes a consid'able piece aout
'f a mile 'n' a haaf. I'd bate on them gals if it wa'n't that them
fellers is naterally longer winded, as the gals 'll find aout by the
time they git raound the stake 'n' over agin the big ellum. I'll go
ye a quarter on the pahnts agin the petticoats."

The fresh-water fisherman had expressed the prevailing belief that
the young ladies were overmatched. Still there were not wanting
those who thought the advantage allowed the "Lantas," as they called
the Corinna boatcrew, was too great, and that it would be impossible
for the "Quins" to make it up and go by them.

The Algonquins rowed up and down a few times before the spectators.
They appeared in perfect training, neither too fat nor too fine,
mettlesome as colts, steady as draught-horses, deep-breathed as oxen,
disciplined to work together as symmetrically as a single sculler
pulls his pair of oars. The fisherman offered to make his quarter
fifty cents. No takers.

Five minutes passed, and all eyes were strained to the south, looking
for the Atalanta. A clump of trees hid the edge of the lake along
which the Corinna's boat was stealing towards the starting-point.
Presently the long shell swept into view, with its blooming rowers,
who, with their ample dresses, seemed to fill it almost as full as
Raphael fills his skiff on the edge of the Lake of Galilee. But how
steadily the Atalanta came on!---no rocking, no splashing, no
apparent strain; the bow oar turning to look ahead every now and
then, and watching her course, which seemed to be straight as an
arrow, the beat of the strokes as true and regular as the pulse of
the healthiest rower among them all. And if the sight of the other
boat and its crew was beautiful, how lovely was the look of this!
Eight young girls,--young ladies, for those who prefer that more
dignified and less attractive expression,--all in the flush of youth,
all in vigorous health; every muscle taught its duty; each rower
alert, not to be a tenth of a second out of time, or let her oar
dally with the water so as to lose an ounce of its propelling virtue;
every eye kindling with the hope of victory. Each of the boats was
cheered as it came in sight, but the cheers for the Atalanta were
naturally the loudest, as the gallantry of one sex and the clear,
high voices of the other gave it life and vigor.

"Take your places!" shouted the umpire, five minutes before the half
hour. The two boats felt their way slowly and cautiously to their
positions, which had been determined by careful measurement. After a
little backing and filling they got into line, at the proper distance
from each other, and sat motionless, their bodies bent forward, their
arms outstretched, their oars in the water, waiting for the word.

"Go!" shouted the umpire.

Away sprang the Atalanta, and far behind her leaped the Algonquin,
her oars bending like so many long Indian bows as their blades
flashed through the water.

"A stern chase is a long chase," especially when one craft is a great
distance behind the other. It looked as if it would be impossible
for the rear boat to overcome the odds against it. Of course the
Algonquin kept gaining, but could it possibly gain enough? That was
the question. As the boats got farther and farther away, it became
more and more difficult to determine what change there was in the
interval between them. But when they came to rounding the stake it
was easier to guess at the amount of space which had been gained. It
was clear that something like half the distance, four lengths, as
nearly as could be estimated, had been made up in rowing the first
three quarters of a mile. Could the Algonquins do a little better
than this in the second half of the race-course, they would be sure
of winning.

The boats had turned the stake, and were coming in rapidly. Every
minute the University boat was getting nearer the other.

"Go it, Quins!" shouted the students.

"Pull away, Lantas!" screamed the girls, who were crowding down to
the edge of the water.

Nearer,--nearer,--the rear boat is pressing the other more and more
closely,--a few more strokes, and they will be even, for there is but
one length between them, and thirty rods will carry them to the line.
It looks desperate for the Atalantas. The bow oar of the Algonquin
turns his head. He sees the little coxswain leaning forward at every
stroke, as if her trivial weight were of such mighty consequence,--
but a few ounces might turn the scale of victory. As he turned he
got a glimpse of the stroke oar of the Atalanta. What a flash of
loveliness it was! Her face was like the reddest of June roses, with
the heat and the strain and the passion of expected triumph. The
upper button of her close-fitting flannel suit had strangled her as
her bosom heaved with exertion, and it had given way before the
fierce clutch she made at it. The bow oar was a staunch and steady
rower, but he was human. The blade of his oar lingered in the water;
a little more and he would have caught a crab, and perhaps lost the
race by his momentary bewilderment.

The boat, which seemed as if it had all the life and nervousness of a
Derby three-year-old, felt the slight check, and all her men bent
more vigorously to their oars. The Atalantas saw the movement, and
made a spurt to keep their lead and gain upon it if they could. It
was of no use. The strong arms of the young men were too much for
the young maidens; only a few lengths remained to be rowed, and they
would certainly pass the Atalanta before she could reach the line.

The little coxswain saw that it was all up with the girls' crew if
she could not save them by some strategic device.

"Dolus an virtus quis in hoste requirat?"

she whispered to herself,--for The Terror remembered her Virgil as
she did everything else she ever studied. As she stooped, she lifted
the handkerchief at her feet, and took from it a flaming bouquet.
"Look!" she cried, and flung it just forward of the track of the
Algonquin. The captain of the University boat turned his head, and
there was the lovely vision which had a moment before bewitched him.
The owner of all that loveliness must, he thought, have flung the
bouquet. It was a challenge: how could he be such a coward as to
decline accepting it

He was sure he could win the race now, and he would sweep past the
line in triumph with the great bunch of flowers at the stem of his
boat, proud as Van Tromp in the British channel with the broom at his

He turned the boat's head a little by backing water. He came up with
the floating flowers, and near enough to reach them. He stooped and
snatched them up, with the loss perhaps of a second in all,--no more.
He felt sure of his victory.

How can one tell the story of the finish in cold-blooded preterites?
Are we not there ourselves? Are not our muscles straining with those
of these sixteen young creatures, full of hot, fresh blood, their
nerves all tingling like so many tight-strained harp-strings, all
their life concentrating itself in this passionate moment of supreme
effort? No! We are seeing, not telling about what somebody else
once saw!

--The bow of the Algonquin passes the stern of the Atalanta!

--The bow of the Algonquin is on a level with the middle of the

--Three more lengths' rowing and the college crew will pass the

--"Hurrah for the Quins!" The Algonquin ranges up alongside of the

"Through with her! "shouts the captain of the Algonquin.

"Now, girls!" shrieks the captain of the Atalanta.

They near the line, every rower straining desperately, almost madly.

--Crack goes the oar of the Atalanta's captain, and up flash its
splintered fragments, as the stem of her boat springs past the line,
eighteen inches at least ahead of the Algonquin.

Hooraw for the Lantas! Hooraw for the Girls! Hooraw for the
Institoot! shout a hundred voices.

"Hurrah for woman's rights and female suffrage!" pipes the small
voice of The Terror, and there is loud laughing and cheering all

She had not studied her classical dictionary and her mythology for
nothing. "I have paid off one old score," she said. "Set down my
damask roses against the golden apples of Hippomenes!"

It was that one second lost in snatching up the bouquet which gave
the race to the Atalantas.



While the two boats were racing, other boats with lookers-on in them
were rowing or sailing in the neighborhood of the race-course. The
scene on the water was a gay one, for the young people in the boats
were, many of them, acquainted with each other. There was a good
deal of lively talk until the race became too exciting. Then many
fell silent, until, as the boats neared the line, and still more as
they crossed it, the shouts burst forth which showed how a cramp of
attention finds its natural relief in a fit of convulsive

But far away, on the other side of the lake, a birchbark canoe was to
be seen, in which sat a young man, who paddled it skillfully and
swiftly. It was evident enough that he was watching the race
intently, but the spectators could see little more than that. One of
them, however, who sat upon the stand, had a powerful spy-glass, and
could distinguish his motions very minutely and exactly. It was seen
by this curious observer that the young man had an opera-glass with
him, which he used a good deal at intervals. The spectator thought
he kept it directed to the girls' boat, chiefly, if not exclusively.
He thought also that the opera-glass was more particularly pointed
towards the bow of the boat, and came to the natural conclusion that
the bow oar, Miss Euthymia Tower, captain of the Atalantas, "The
Wonder" of the Corinna Institute, was the attraction which determined
the direction of the instrument.

"Who is that in the canoe over there?" asked the owner of the spy-

"That's just what we should like to know," answered the old
landlord's wife. "He and his man boarded with us when they first
came, but we could never find out anything about him only just his
name and his ways of living. His name is Kirkwood, Maurice Kirkwood,
Esq., it used to come on his letters. As for his ways of living, he
was the solitariest human being that I ever came across. His man
carried his meals up to him. He used to stay in his room pretty much
all day, but at night he would be off, walking, or riding on
horseback, or paddling about in the lake, sometimes till nigh
morning. There's something very strange about that Mr. Kirkwood.
But there don't seem to be any harm in him. Only nobody can guess
what his business is. They got up a story about him at one time.
What do you think? They said he was a counterfeiter! And so they
went one night to his room, when he was out, and that man of his was
away too, and they carried keys, and opened pretty much everything;
and they found--well, they found just nothing at all except writings
and letters,--letters from places in America and in England, and some
with Italian postmarks: that was all. Since that time the sheriff
and his folks have let him alone and minded their own business. He
was a gentleman,--anybody ought to have known that; and anybody that
knew about his nice ways of living and behaving, and knew the kind of
wear he had for his underclothing, might have known it. I could have
told those officers that they had better not bother him. I know the
ways of real gentlemen and real ladies, and I know those fellows in
store clothes that look a little too fine,--outside. Wait till
washing-day comes!"

The good lady had her own standards for testing humanity, and they
were not wholly unworthy of consideration; they were quite as much to
be relied on as the judgments of the travelling phrenologist, who
sent his accomplice on before him to study out the principal
personages in the village, and in the light of these revelations
interpreted the bumps, with very little regard to Gall and Spurzheim,
or any other authorities.

Even with the small amount of information obtained by the search
among his papers and effects, the gossips of the village had
constructed several distinct histories for the mysterious stranger.
He was an agent of a great publishing house; a leading contributor to
several important periodicals; the author of that anonymously
published novel which had made so much talk; the poet of a large
clothing establishment; a spy of the Italian, some said the Russian,
some said the British, Government; a proscribed refugee from some
country where he had been plotting; a school-master without a school,
a minister without a pulpit, an actor without an engagement; in
short, there was no end to the perfectly senseless stories that were
told about him, from that which made him out an escaped convict to
the whispered suggestion that he was the eccentric heir to a great
English title and estate.

The one unquestionable fact was that of his extraordinary seclusion.
Nobody in the village, no student in the University, knew his
history. No young lady in the Corinna Institute had ever had a word
from him. Sometimes, as the boats of the University or the Institute
were returning at dusk, their rowers would see the canoe stealing
into the shadows as they drew near it. Sometimes on a moonlight
night, when a party of the young ladies were out upon the lake, they
would see the white canoe gliding ghost-like in the distance. And it
had happened more than once that when a boat's crew had been out with
singers among them, while they were in the midst of a song, the white
canoe would suddenly appear and rest upon the water,--not very near
them, but within hearing distance,--and so remain until the singing
was over, when it would steal away and be lost sight of in some inlet
or behind some jutting rock.

Naturally enough, there was intense curiosity about this young man.
The landlady had told her story, which explained nothing. There was
nobody to be questioned about him except his servant, an Italian,
whose name was Paolo, but who to the village was known as Mr. Paul.

Mr. Paul would have seemed the easiest person in the world to worm a
secret out of. He was good-natured, child-like as a Heathen Chinee,
talked freely with everybody in such English as he had at command,
knew all the little people of the village, and was followed round by
them partly from his personal attraction for them, and partly because
he was apt to have a stick of candy or a handful of peanuts or other
desirable luxury in his pocket for any of his little friends he met
with. He had that wholesome, happy look, so uncommon in our arid
countrymen,--a look hardly to be found except where figs and oranges
ripen in the open air. A kindly climate to grow up in, a religion
which takes your money and gives you a stamped ticket good at Saint
Peter's box office, a roomy chest and a good pair of lungs in it, an
honest digestive apparatus, a lively temperament, a cheerful
acceptance of the place in life assigned to one by nature and
circumstance,--these are conditions under which life may be quite
comfortable to endure, and certainly is very pleasant to contemplate.
All these conditions were united in Paolo. He was the easiest;
pleasantest creature to talk with that one could ask for a companion.
His southern vivacity, his amusing English, his simplicity and
openness, made him friends everywhere.

It seemed as if it would be a very simple matter to get the history
of his master out of this guileless and unsophisticated being. He
had been tried by all the village experts. The rector had put a
number of well-studied careless questions, which failed of their
purpose. The old librarian of the town library had taken note of all
the books he carried to his master, and asked about his studies and
pursuits. Paolo found it hard to understand his English, apparently,
and answered in the most irrelevant way. The leading gossip of the
village tried her skill in pumping him for information. It was all
in vain.

His master's way of life was peculiar,--in fact, eccentric. He had
hired rooms in an old-fashioned three-story house. He had two rooms
in the second and third stories of this old wooden building: his
study in the second, his sleeping-room in the one above it. Paolo
lived in the basement, where he had all the conveniences for cooking,
and played the part of chef for his master and himself. This was
only a part of his duty, for he was a man-of-all-work, purveyor,
steward, chambermaid,--as universal in his services for one man as
Pushee at the Anchor Tavern used to be for everybody.

It so happened that Paolo took a severe cold one winter's day, and
had such threatening symptoms that he asked the baker, when he
called, to send the village physician to see him. In the course of
his visit the doctor naturally inquired about the health of Paolo's

"Signor Kirkwood well,--molto bene," said Paolo. "Why does he keep
out of sight as he does?" asked the doctor.

"He always so," replied Paolo. "Una antipatia."

Whether Paolo was off his guard with the doctor, whether he revealed
it to him as to a father confessor, or whether he thought it time
that the reason of his master's seclusion should be known, the doctor
did not feel sure. At any rate, Paolo was not disposed to make any
further revelations. Una antipatia,--an antipathy,--that was all the
doctor learned. He thought the matter over, and the more he
reflected the more he was puzzled. What could an antipathy be that
made a young man a recluse! Was it a dread of blue sky and open air,
of the smell of flowers, or some electrical impression to which be
was unnaturally sensitive?

Dr. Butts carried these questions home with him. His wife was a
sensible, discreet woman, whom he could trust with many professional
secrets. He told her of Paolo's revelation, and talked it over with
her in the light of his experience and her own; for she had known
some curious cases of constitutional likes and aversions.

Mrs. Butts buried the information in the grave of her memory, where
it lay for nearly a week. At the end of that time it emerged in a
confidential whisper to her favorite sister-in-law, a perfectly safe
person. Twenty-four hours later the story was all over the village
that Maurice Kirkwood was the subject of a strange, mysterious,
unheard-of antipathy to something, nobody knew what; and the whole
neighborhood naturally resolved itself into an unorganized committee
of investigation.


What is a country village without its mysterious personage? Few are
now living who can remember the advent of the handsome young man who
was the mystery of our great university town "sixty years since,"--
long enough ago for a romance to grow out of a narrative, as Waverley
may remind us. The writer of this narrative remembers him well, and
is not sure that he has not told the strange story in some form or
other to the last generation, or to the one before the last. No
matter: if he has told it they have forgotten it,--that is, if they
have ever read it; and whether they have or have not, the story is
singular enough to justify running the risk of repetition.

This young man, with a curious name of Scandinavian origin, appeared
unheralded in the town, as it was then, of Cantabridge. He wanted
employment, and soon found it in the shape of manual labor, which he
undertook and performed cheerfully. But his whole appearance showed
plainly enough that he was bred to occupations of a very different
nature, if, in deed, he had been accustomed to any kind of toil for
his living. His aspect was that of one of gentle birth. His hands
were not those of a laborer, and his features were delicate and
refined, as well as of remarkable beauty. Who he was, where he came
from, why he had come to Cantabridge, was never clearly explained.
He was alone, without friends, except among the acquaintances he had
made in his new residence. If he had any correspondents, they were
not known to the neighborhood where he was living. But if he had
neither friends nor correspondents, there was some reason for
believing that he had enemies. Strange circumstances occurred which
connected themselves with him in an ominous and unaccountable way. A
threatening letter was slipped under the door of a house where he was
visiting. He had a sudden attack of illness, which was thought to
look very much like the effect of poison. At one time he
disappeared, and was found wandering, bewildered, in a town many
miles from that where he was residing. When questioned how he came
there; he told a coherent story that he had been got, under some
pretext, or in some not incredible way, into a boat, from which, at a
certain landing-place, he had escaped and fled for his life, which he
believed was in danger from his kidnappers.

Whoever his enemies may have been,--if they really existed,--he did
not fall a victim to their plots, so far as known to or remembered by
this witness.

Various interpretations were put upon his story. Conjectures were as
abundant as they were in the case of Kaspar Hauser. That he was of
good family seemed probable; that he was of distinguished birth, not
impossible; that he was the dangerous rival of a candidate for a
greatly coveted position in one of the northern states of Europe was
a favorite speculation of some of the more romantic young persons.
There was no dramatic ending to this story,--at least none is
remembered by the present writer.

"He left a name," like the royal Swede, of whose lineage he may have
been for aught that the village people knew, but not a name at which
anybody "grew pale;" for he had swindled no one, and broken no
woman's heart with false vows. Possibly some withered cheeks may
flush faintly as they recall the handsome young man who came before
the Cantabridge maidens fully equipped for a hero of romance when the
century was in its first quarter.

The writer has been reminded of the handsome Swede by the incidents
attending the advent of the unknown and interesting stranger who had
made his appearance at Arrowhead Village.

It was a very insufficient and unsatisfactory reason to assign for
the young man's solitary habits that he was the subject of an
antipathy. For what do we understand by that word? When a young
lady screams at the sight of a spider, we accept her explanation that
she has a natural antipathy to the creature. When a person expresses
a repugnance to some wholesome article of food, agreeable to most
people, we are satisfied if he gives the same reason. And so of
various odors, which are pleasing to some persons and repulsive to
others. We do not pretend to go behind the fact. It is an
individual, and it may be a family, peculiarity. Even between
different personalities there is an instinctive elective dislike as
well as an elective affinity. We are not bound to give a reason why
Dr. Fell is odious to us any more than the prisoner who peremptorily
challenges a juryman is bound to say why he does it; it is enough
that he "does not like his looks."

There was nothing strange, then, that Maurice Kirkwood should have
his special antipathy; a great many other people have odd likes and
dislikes. But it was a very curious thing that this antipathy should
be alleged as the reason for his singular mode of life. All sorts of
explanations were suggested, not one of them in the least
satisfactory, but serving to keep the curiosity of inquirers active
until they were superseded by a new theory. One story was that
Maurice had a great fear of dogs. It grew at last to a connected
narrative, in which a fright in childhood from a rabid mongrel was
said to have given him such a sensitiveness to the near presence of
dogs that he was liable to convulsions if one came close to him.

This hypothesis had some plausibility. No other creature would be so
likely to trouble a person who had an antipathy to it. Dogs are very
apt to make the acquaintance of strangers, in a free and easy way.
They are met with everywhere,--in one's daily walk, at the thresholds
of the doors one enters, in the gentleman's library, on the rug of my
lady's sitting-room and on the cushion of her carriage. It is true
that there are few persons who have an instinctive repugnance to this
"friend of man." But what if this so-called antipathy were only a
fear, a terror, which borrowed the less unmanly name? It was a fair
question, if, indeed, the curiosity of the public had a right to ask
any questions at all about a harmless individual who gave no offence,
and seemed entitled to the right of choosing his way of living to
suit himself, without being submitted to espionage.

There was no positive evidence bearing on the point as yet. But one
of the village people had a large Newfoundland dog, of a very
sociable disposition, with which he determined to test the question.
He watched for the time when Maurice should leave his house for the
woods or the lake, and started with his dog to meet him. The animal
walked up to the stranger in a very sociable fashion, and began
making his acquaintance, after the usual manner of well-bred dogs;
that is, with the courtesies and blandishments by which the canine
Chesterfield is distinguished from the ill-conditioned cur. Maurice
patted him in a friendly way, and spoke to him as one who was used to
the fellowship of such companions. That idle question and foolish
story were disposed of, therefore, and some other solution must be
found, if possible.

A much more common antipathy is that which is entertained with regard
to cats. This has never been explained. It is not mere aversion to
the look of the creature, or to any sensible quality known to the
common observer. The cat is pleasing in aspect, graceful in
movement, nice in personal habits, and of amiable disposition. No
cause of offence is obvious, and yet there are many persons who
cannot abide the presence of the most innocent little kitten. They
can tell, in some mysterious way, that there is a cat in the room
when they can neither see nor hear the creature. Whether it is an
electrical or quasi-magnetic phenomenon, or whatever it may be, of
the fact of this strange influence there are too many well-
authenticated instances to allow its being questioned. But suppose
Maurice Kirkwood to be the subject of this antipathy in its extremest
degree, it would in no manner account for the isolation to which he
had condemned himself. He might shun the firesides of the old women
whose tabbies were purring by their footstools, but these worthy
dames do not make up the whole population.

These two antipathies having been disposed of, a new suggestion was
started, and was talked over with a curious sort of half belief, very
much as ghost stories are told in a circle of moderately instructed
and inquiring persons. This was that Maurice was endowed with the
unenviable gift of the evil eye. He was in frequent communication
with Italy, as his letters showed, and had recently been residing in
that country, as was learned from Paolo. Now everybody knows that
the evil eye is not rarely met with in Italy. Everybody who has ever
read Mr. Story's "Roba di Roma" knows what a terrible power it is
which the owner of the evil eye exercises. It can blight and destroy
whatever it falls upon. No person's life or limb is safe if the
jettatura, the withering glance of the deadly organ, falls upon him.
It must be observed that this malign effect may follow a look from
the holiest personages, that is, if we may assume that a monk is such
as a matter of course. Certainly we have a right to take it for
granted that the late Pope, Pius Ninth, was an eminently holy man,
and yet he had the name of dispensing the mystic and dreaded
jettatura as well as his blessing. If Maurice Kirkwood carried that
destructive influence, so that his clear blue eyes were more to be
feared than the fascinations of the deadliest serpent, it could
easily be understood why he kept his look away from all around him
whom he feared he might harm.

No sensible person in Arrowhead Village really believed in the evil
eye, but it served the purpose of a temporary hypothesis, as do many
suppositions which we take as a nucleus for our observations without
putting any real confidence in them. It was just suited to the
romantic notions of the more flighty persons in the village, who had
meddled more or less with Spiritualism, and were ready for any new
fancy, if it were only wild enough.

The riddle of the young stranger's peculiarity did not seem likely to
find any very speedy solution. Every new suggestion furnished talk
for the gossips of the village and the babble of the many tongues in
the two educational institutions. Naturally, the discussion was
liveliest among the young ladies. Here is an extract from a letter
of one of these young ladies, who, having received at her birth the
ever-pleasing name of Mary, saw fit to have herself called Mollie in
the catalogue and in her letters. The old postmaster of the town to
which her letter was directed took it up to stamp, and read on the
envelope the direction to "Miss Lulu Pinrow." He brought the stamp
down with a vicious emphasis, coming very near blotting out the
nursery name, instead of cancelling the postage-stamp. "Lulu!" he
exclaimed. "I should like to know if that great strapping girl isn't
out of her cradle yet! I suppose Miss Louisa will think that belongs
to her, but I saw her christened and I heard the name the minister
gave her, and it was n't 'Lulu,' or any such baby nonsense." And so
saying, he gave it a fling to the box marked P, as if it burned his
fingers. Why a grown-up young woman allowed herself to be cheapened
in the way so many of them do by the use of names which become them
as well as the frock of a ten-year-old schoolgirl would become a
graduate of the Corinna Institute, the old postmaster could not
guess. He was a queer old man.

The letter thus scornfully treated runs over with a young girl's
written loquacity:

"Oh, Lulu, there is such a sensation as you never saw or heard of
'in all your born days,' as mamma used to say. He has been at the
village for some time, but lately we have had--oh, the weirdest
stories about him! 'The Mysterious Stranger is the name some give
him, but we girls call him the Sachem, because he paddles about in an
Indian canoe. If I should tell you all the things that are said
about him I should use up all my paper ten times over. He has never
made a visit to the Institute, and none of the girls have ever spoken
to him, but the people at the village say he is very, very handsome.


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