Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 5, March, 1858
Part 2 out of 5
entered the other's windpipe just as he was stammering out an excuse.
The air, rushing through the poultice-like mixture, caused a spluttering
and gurgling, which, blending with the half-formed words, became that
language ever since known as Welsh.--I think it my duty to advise the
reader never to tell this anecdote to any descendants of Cadwallader,
who are peculiarly sensitive on the subject, and so hot-blooded, that it
is not at all unlikely the injudicious story-teller might be deprived of
any future opportunity of insulting the Ap-Shenkins, the Ap-Joneses, and
the race of very irascible Taffys in general.
I had, however, little time to study either language or character; so,
after a plain dinner at the Merlin's Head, the chief inn of the place, I
set out for the purpose of seeing the newspaper proprietor. Fortified by
a letter of introduction and some testimonials, I entered his shop,--he
was a bookseller and stationer,--and inquired for Mr. F----.
"That's my name," said a red-faced man behind the counter. I handed him
the introductory note, he glanced at it and then at me, thrust it into
his waistcoat pocket, and, as soon as he had served the customer with
whom he was engaged, led the way into a little room adjoining the place
Mr. F--- owned the newspaper; but, as he never ventured in a literary
way beyond reading proofs of advertisements, he was compelled to employ
an editor to do the leaders, select from the exchanges, prepare the
local news, and get up the reporting. He was, however, a practical
printer, and, in the main, a good fellow. After looking at my
testimonials and asking a few questions, my services were accepted,
and I was duly installed as editor of the "M---- Beacon," a small,
but rather influential county sheet. I ought to observe, that, as it
circulated chiefly in places where English was generally spoken, my
ignorance of Welsh was of but little importance, especially as the
foreman of the printing-office was a Cambrian, who could correct any
errors I might make in Taffy's orthography, which, prodigal as it is of
consonants and penurious of vowels, and, as it regards pronunciation,
embarrassing to the last degree, might drive Elihu Burritt back to his
smithy in an agony of despair.
Thus assisted, I got on tolerably well, though at first I made some
awful mistakes in the names of places mentioned by witnesses in courts
of justice and elsewhere. For instance, at the assizes, a man swore that
he resided at a place which he pronounced Monothosluin, and so I spelt
it in my report. "Cot pless me, Sur!--sure inteed, and you have
not spelt hur right," remarked Mr. Morgan, the foreman; and for my
edification he set it up thus,--_Mynyddysllwyn_. I almost turned my
tongue into a corkscrew, trying to speak the word as he did, and I
fairly gave up in despair. After that, I made it a rule, when I did
not know how to spell some unpronounceable word, to huddle a number of
consonants together in most admired disorder, and I was then usually
nearer correctness than if I had orthographized by ear.
I had been installed in the editorial chair some six months when Mr.
F---- informed me it was necessary I should visit Abergavenny, a town
some twenty-five miles distant, for the purpose of reporting the
proceedings at the CYMREIGGDDYON.
"And what the deuse is that?" I inquired.
I learned that it was a Triennial Musical Festival, so called,--at which
all the musical talent of Wales would be present; in short, that it was
a very grand occasion indeed, would be patronized by the aristocracy
of the Principality, and full reports of each of the three days'
proceedings were absolutely necessary.
Here again the Welsh difficulty started up; but as the Cymreiggddyon
would be quite a novelty, I determined to trust to Chance and
Circumstance,--two allies of mine who have gallantly aided me in many a
tough battle of literary life.
Remembering the words of Goldsmith,--"The young noble who is whirled
through Europe in his chariot sees society at a peculiar elevation, and
draws conclusions widely different from him who makes the grand tour on
foot," I determined to make my way to Abergavenny either by means of my
own legs or through the chance aid of those of a Welsh pony. So,
one bright morning, with stick in hand, knapsack on shoulder, and a
wandering artist for a companion, I started for the iron district,
as that part of Wales is termed. Wildly romantic were the roads we
traversed; and after having threaded many a glen, leaped frequent
torrents, ascended and descended mountains with impossible names, and
plodded wearily across dreary moors, glad enough were we to observe, in
the less thinly scattered cottages, indications of a town.
The clouds had been gathering ominously during the latter half of our
long day of travel,--and as the sun set blood-red behind a heavy bank of
vapor, it cast lurid reflections on large bodies of dense mist, which
sailed heavily athwart the crests of the mountains, with low, ragged,
trailing edges, that were too surely the precursors of a storm. Just
before the orb finally disappeared, its slant rays streamed through some
dark purple bars on the horizon's verge, and for an instant tinged the
opposite distant mountains with strange supernatural hues. The Blorenge
and the Sugar Loaf glowed like huge carbuncles, while the pale green
light which bathed their bases gleamed faintly like a setting of
aqua-marina. My artist companion incontinently fell into professional
raptures, and raved of "effect," and "Turner," and "Ruskin," heedless of
my advice that he had better hasten onward, lest night should overtake
us in that wild region, where sheep-tracks, scarcely visible even by
daylight, were our sole guides. At length, however, I managed to
start him, and on we stalked, the decreasing twilight and the distant
reverberations of thunder among the mountains hastening our steps, until
they became almost a trot.
But soon the trot declined once more into a walk, and a slow one
too,--for we entered a gloomy pass or gorge, whose rocky walls on either
side effectually excluded what little light yet lingered in the sky.
Cautiously picking our way, we slowly travelled on, until at length
we became sensible of a faint red flush in the narrow strip of sky
overhead. It seemed as though the sun had just wheeled back to give a
forgotten message to some starry-night-watcher,--or so my companion
intimated. But, unfortunately for his theory, the dull red glare
above us, which every moment deepened in intensity, was evidently
the reflection of earthly, not heavenly fire. I had seen too many
conflagrations to doubt that for an instant. Presently a dull, confused
sound fell on our ears, and at a sudden turn round an angle of our
mountain road we stood speechless as we gazed on a spectacle which
Milton might have conceived and Martin painted.
"Far other light than that of day there shone
Upon the wanderers entering Padalon,"
murmured the artist, as he gazed on the strange scene. And strange
indeed was it to our startled eyes. We stood on the end and summit of a
mountain spur, some two thousand feet above the valley, or rather basin,
below, from the centre of which burst forth a thousand fires, whose
dull roar--dulled by distance--was like "the noise of the sea on an
iron-bound shore." The extent of space covered by those strange, fierce
fires must have amounted to many acres,--in fact, did so, as we
afterwards ascertained,--and the effect produced by them may be
partially imagined when it is remembered that these flames were of all
hues, from rich ruby-red, to the pale lurid light of burning sulphur.
Fancy all the gems of Aladdin's Palace or Sinbad's Valley in fierce
flashing combustion, immensely magnified, and you may form some faint
idea of the scene in that Welsh valley.
Stretching out, like spokes of a gigantic wheel, from their fiery
centre, were huge embankments, like those of Titanic railways, whose
summits and sides, especially towards their extremities, glowed in
patches with all the hues of the rainbow. As I gazed wonderingly on one
of these,--a real mountain of light, far surpassing the Koh-i-Noor,--I
observed a dark figure gliding along its summit, pushing something
before it, like a black imp conveying an unfortunate soul from one part
of Tophet to another. At the extremity of the ridge the imp stopped, and
suddenly there shot down the steep, not a tortured ghost, but a shower
of radiant gems even more brilliant than those to which I have already
"What, in the name of all that's wonderful, is _that_?" said my friend,
Mr. Vandyke Brown; and I was also trying to account for the phenomena,
when a voice close to my ear--a voice which I was certain belonged
neither to Mr. B. nor myself--uttered the mysterious word,--
I looked round, and, sure enough, there stood a being who might very
easily be mistaken for a new arrival from the bottomless pit. Such,
however, it was evident he was not. Though he was black enough, in all
conscience, he had neither horns, hoof, nor tail, and he was redolent
rather of 'bacco than brimstone; a queer old hat, in the band of which
was stuck an unlighted candle, covered a mass of matted red hair; his
eyes were glaring and rimmed with red; and there was a gash in his face
where his mouth should have been. A loose flannel shirt, which had once
been red, a pair of indescribable trowsers, and thick-soled shoes,
completed his dress,--an attire which I at once recognized as that
common among the coal-miners of the district.
"'Deed and truth, Sur, they is cinder-heaps and slag from the
iron-works, Sur; and yon is Merthyr-Tydvil, sure."
Piloted by our dusky guide,--not exactly, though, like Campbell's
"_Morning_ brought by Night,"--we soon reached the town,--which is named
after a young lady of legendary times named Tydfil, a Christian martyr,
of which Merthyr-Tydvil is a corruption,--and made the best of our
way to the Bush Inn, where we treated our sable friend to some _cwrw
dach,--Anglice_, strong ale; and after a hearty supper of Welsh rabbit,
which Tom Ingoldsby calls a "bunny without any bones," and "custard with
mustard,"--which, as made in the Principality, it much resembles,--I
took a stroll through the town. It was a dull-looking place enough, and
as dirty as dull; every house was built with dingy gray stones, without
any reference whatever to cleanliness or ventilation; and as to the
civilization of the inhabitants, I saw enough to convince me, that, to
see real barbarism, an Englishman need only visit that part of Great
Britain called Wales. It was eight in the evening, and the day-laborers
at the furnaces had just left work. The doors of all the cottages were
open, and, as I passed them, in almost every one was to be seen a
perfectly naked stalwart man rubbing himself down with a dirty rough
towel, while his wife and grown-up daughters or sisters, almost as nude
and filthy as himself, stood listlessly by, or prepared his supper.
Glad to escape from such disgusting objects, I hurried back to the Bush
and to bed. But not to rest, though; for during that long, miserable
night, the eternal rattle of machinery, clattering of hammers, whirling
of huge wheels, and roaring of blast-furnaces completely murdered sleep.
Never, for one instant, did these sounds cease,--nor do they, it is
said, the long year through; for if any accident happens at one of the
five great iron-works, there are four others which rest not day nor
night. Little, however, is this heeded by the people of Merthyr; _they_
are lulled to repose by the clatter of iron bars and the thumping of
trip-hammers, but are instantaneously awakened by the briefest intervals
Glad enough was I, the next morning early, to cross an ink-black stream
and leave the town, and pleasant was it to breathe the free, fresh
mountain air, after inhaling the foul smoke of the iron-works. Towards
the close of the afternoon, after a delightful walk, a great portion
of it on the banks of the picturesque river Usk, we came in sight of
Abergavenny, where the Cymreiggddyon was to be held.
The first of the glorious three days was duly ushered in with the firing
of cannon, ringing of bells, and all kinds of extravagant jubilation.
It wasn't quite as noisy as a Fourth of July, but much more discordant.
Strings of flags were suspended across the streets,--flags with harps
of all sorts and sizes displayed thereon,--flags with Welsh mottoes,
English mottoes, Scotch mottoes, and no mottoes at all. In front of the
Town Hall was almost an acre of transparent painting,--meant, that is,
to be so after dark, but mournfully opaque and pictorially mysterious in
the full glare of sunshine. As far as I could make it out, it was the
full-length portrait--taken from, life, no doubt--of an Ancient Welsh
Bard. He was depicted as a baldheaded, elderly gentleman, with upturned
eyes, apparently regarding with reverence a hole in an Indian-ink cloud
through which slanted a gamboge sunbeam, and having a white beard,
which streamed like a (horse-hair) "meteor on the troubled air." This
venerable minstrel was seated on a cairn of rude stones, his white robe
clasped at his throat and round his waist by golden brooches, and with a
harp, shaped like that of David in old Bible illustrations, resting on
the sward before him. In the background were some Druidical remains, by
way of audience; and the whole was surrounded by a botanical border,
consisting of leeks, oak-leaves, laurel, and mistletoe, which had a very
rare and agreeable effect. Nor were these hieroglyphical decorations
without a deep meaning to a Cambrian; for while the oak-leaf typified
the durability of Welsh minstrelsy, the mistletoe its mysterious origin,
and the laurel its reward, the national leek was pleasantly suggestive
of its usual culinary companions, Welsh mutton and toasted cheese.
As in America, so in Wales, almost every public matter is provocative of
a procession, and the proceedings of the Festival commenced with one. No
doubt, it was to the eyes of the many, who from scores of miles round
had travelled to witness it, a very imposing and serious demonstration;
but anything more ridiculously amusing it was never my good fortune to
see. I had, however, to keep all my fun to myself, for Welshmen are not
to be trifled with. Any one who wishes to be convinced of this need only
walk into a Welsh village, singing the old child-doggerel of
"Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief,
Taffy came to my house and stole a piece
of beef," etc.,
and, my life on it, he will not leave it without striking proofs of
Welsh sensitiveness, and voluble illustrations of some Jenny Jones's
displeasure. By no means inclined to subject myself to such inconvenient
experiences, I prudently kept my eyes wide open and my mouth shut,--or
if I spoke, I merely asked questions, by which means I acquired
necessary information and passed off for a gratified stranger and an
All the resources of the town and its neighborhood, and indeed of the
county itself, had been exhausted to give due effect to the parade,
of which I regret to say that I cannot hope to give any adequate
description. All the usual elements of processions were to be seen.
Bands of music,--there were at least a dozen of them, all playing
different pieces at one and the same moment, which had a somewhat
distracting effect on those sensitively-eared people who weakly prefer
one air at a time and do not appreciate tuneful tornadoes. As the
procession went by at a brisk pace, it was curious enough to notice how
the last wailing notes of "A noble race was Shenkin," played by a band
in advance, blended with the brisk music of "My name's David Price, and
I'm come from Llangollen," performed by a company in the rear. In fact,
it was a genuine Welsh musical medley, and the daring genius who would
have occupied himself in "untwisting all the links which tied its hidden
soul of harmony," would have had about as difficult and distressing a
task as he who tried to make ropes out of sea-sand.
Of course, these bands were made up of divers instruments, but the
national harp was head and chief of them all, as might naturally have
been expected in such a place and at such a time. There were harps of
all sorts and shapes; some of the Welsh urchins had even Jews-harps
between their teeth. There were Irish harps, English harps, and Welsh
harps. There was no Caledonian harp, though; but a remarkably dirty
fellow in the procession seemed to be making up for the lack of one
stringed instrument by bringing another,--the Scotch fiddle!--on which
he perpetually played the tune of "God bless the gude Duke of Argyle!"
There were harps with one, two, and three sets of strings,--harps with
gold strings, silver strings, brass strings,--strings of cat-gut and
brass,--strings red, and brown, and white. I looked sharp for the "harp
of a thousand strings," but it was nowhere to be seen; and surmising
that such is only played on by the spirits of just men made perfect, I
ceased to search further for it in _that_ procession,--for though the
men composing it might be just enough, they were evidently a long way
from perfection. And when it is remembered that all these harps were
twang-twanging away furiously, and that their strings were being
swept over with no Bochsa fingers, few will wonder that I longed for
cotton-wool, and blessed the memory of Paganini, who had only one string
to his bow.
Harps, however, would be of little value, were there no bards to sing
and no minstrels to play. "Walter Scott was decidedly wrong, when,
speaking of his minstrel, he says,--
"The _last_ of all the bards was he."
Nonsense! I saw at least fifty in that procession,--regular, legitimate
bards,--each one having a bardic bald pate, a long white bardic beard,
flowing bardic robes, bardic sandals, a bardic harp in his hand, and an
ancient bardic name. There was Bard Alaw, Bard Llewellyn, Bard Ap-Tudor,
Bard Llyyddmunnddggynn, (pronounce it, if you can, Reader,--I can't,)
and I am afraid to say how many more, in face of the high poetical
authority I have just cited and refuted. Talk of the age of poetry
having passed away, when three-score and ten bards can be seen at one
time in a little Welsh town! These men of genius were headed by Bard
Alaw, whose unpoetical name, I almost hesitate to write it, was
Williams,--Taliesin Williams,--the Welsh given name alone redeeming it
from obscurity. I found, too, to my disenchantment, that all the other
bards were Joneses and Morgans, Pryces and Robertses, when they were met
in everyday life, before and after these festivals; and that they kept
shops, and carried on mechanical trades. Only fancy Bard Ap-Tudor
shaving you, or Bard Llyynnssllumpllyynn measuring you for a new pair of
After the bards and minstrels came the gentry of the county, the clergy,
and distinguished strangers, before and behind whom banners floated and
flags streamed. On many of these banners were fancy portraits of Saint
David, the Patron Saint of Wales, always with a harp in his hand. But
the Saint must have had a singularly varied expression of countenance,
or else his portrait-painters must have been mere block-heads, for no
two of their productions were alike. I saw smiling Davids, frowning
Davids, mild Davids, and ferocious Davids,--Davids with oblique eyes,
red noses, and cavernous mouths,--and Davids as blind as bats, or with
great goggle-orbs, aquiline nasal organs, blue at the tips, and lips
made for a lisp. One David had a brown Welsh wig on his head, and was
anachronistically attired in a snuff-colored coat, black small-clothes,
gray, coarse, worsted stockings, high-low boots, with buckles, and he
wore on his head a three-cornered hat, and used spectacles as big as
tea-saucers. On my remarking to a bystander, that I was not aware
knee-breeches were worn in the time of the ancient kings, I was
condescendingly informed that _this_ David was not the celebrated
Monarch-Minstrel, but a Mr. Pryce David, the founder of the
Cymreiggddyon Society. But the most amusing David was one depicted on a
banner carried in front of a company of barbers belonging to the order
of Odd Fellows. In that magnificent work of art David was represented
bewailing the death of Absalom, that unhappy young man being seen
hanging by his hair from a tree. Out of the mouth of David issued a
scroll, on which was inscribed the following touching verse:--
"Oh, Absalom! Oh, Absalom!
Oh, Absalom, my son!
If thou hadst worn a good Welsh wig,
Thou hadst not been undone!"
It was with no little trouble that I elbowed my way into the great
temporary hall where the exercises were to be held: but by dint of much
pressing forward, I at length reached the reporters' bench. Directly in
front was a raised platform, and on two sides of the tent galleries
had been erected for the bards and orators. On the platform table
were arranged prizes to be given for the best playing, singing, and
speaking,--and also for articles of domestic Welsh manufacture, such
as plaids, flannels, and the like. A large velvet and gilded chair was
placed on a dais for the president, and on either side of this, seats
for ladies and visitors. In a very short time every corner of the
spacious area was crammed.
And a pretty and a cheerful spectacle was presented wherever the eye
turned. As in almost all other gatherings of the kind, the fair sex were
greatly in the majority; and during the interval which elapsed between
the opening of the doors and the beginning of business, the clatter of
female tongues was prodigious. The sex generally are voluble when in
crowds; but as for Welsh women, their loquacity was far beyond anything
of the kind I had ever conceived of. And there were some wonderfully
handsome specimens of girlhood, womanhood, and matronhood among that
great gathering; though I am compelled to admit that in Wales beauty
forms the exception, rather than the rule.
But the bards are in their places,--the front rows of either gallery;
the president has taken his seat; the leading ladies of the county are
in their chairs; and while the large audience are settling down into
their places, let us glance at two or three of the celebrities present.
On the foremost seat, to the right of the chairman, sits a lady who is
evidently a somebody, since all the gentlemen, on entering, pay her
especial respect. She is rather past the middle age, but has worn well;
her eye is still bright, her cheek fresh-colored, and her skin smooth.
Evidently she takes much interest in the proceedings,--and little
wonder,--for it is mainly owing to her exertions that the Festival
has not become one of the things that were. Her name? You may see it
embroidered in dahlias on yonder broad strip of white cotton, stretching
across the breadth of the hall, nearly over her head. These blossoms
form the letters and words, GWENNEN GWENT, or "The Bee of Gwent,"--Gwent
being the ancient name of that portion of Glamorgan. The title is apt
enough; for Lady Hall--that is her matter-of-fact name--is proverbially
one of the busiest of her sex in all that relates to the welfare of her
poorer neighbors. She is wife of Sir Benjamin Hall, member of Parliament
for the largest parish in London, St. Mary-le-bone, and whose
county residence is at Llanover Court, near Abergavenny. That tall,
aristocratic man near her is her husband; but he looks somewhat out of
place there. As a member of the House of Commons, he is prominent; but
evidently his present position is not at all to his taste.
On the left of the chairman is another lady, whose name is well known
in literary circles. She is not Welsh by birth, though she is so by
marriage,--she being united to one of the great iron-masters. She has a
large face, open and cheerful-looking, if not handsome. The forehead is
broad and white,--the eyes dark and lustrous. Formerly she was known to
the reading world as Lady Charlotte Lindsay; now she is Lady Charlotte
Guest; a woman than whom very few archaeologists are better acquainted
with the Welsh language and its ancient literature. She is the author of
that very learned work, "The Mabinogion," a collection of early Welsh
legends. This book was printed a few years since by the pale-faced,
intelligent-looking man who is standing behind her chair,--Mr. Rees,--a
printer in an obscure Welsh hamlet, named Llandovery. He has, with
perfect propriety, been termed the Welsh Elzevir; and certainly a finer
specimen of typography than that furnished by the "Mabinogion" can
scarcely be produced.
The chairman is a pompous old nobody. Him I need not describe. The
presiding and directing spirit of the place is a tall, slender gentleman
with snow-white hair, dark, flashing eyes, and a graceful bearing; it is
the Rev. Thomas Price, or, as his Welsh title has it, _Carnuhanawc_.
He is a thorough believer in the ultra-excellence of everything
Welsh,--Welsh music, Welsh flannels, Welsh scenery, Welsh mutton; and
so far as regards the latter, I am quite of his opinion. After a very
animated speech, he directs the competitors on the triple harp to stand
forward and begin a harmonious contest.
There are three,--an old blind man, a young man, and a girl some
fourteen years of age. Every one cheers the latter lustily, and "wishes
she may get it." So do I, of course; and I listen with great interest as
Miss Winifred Jenkins commences her performance, which she does without
blush or hesitation, and with quite an I-know-all-about-it sort of air.
I forget the particular piece the young lady played; but upon it she
extemporized so many variations, that long before she came to an ending
I had lost all remembrance of the text from which she had deduced her
melodious sermon. There was, I thought, more mechanical tact than
expression in her performance, but it was enthusiastically applauded for
all that; and with an awkward curtsy--much like Sydney Smith's little
servant-maid Bunch's "bobbing to the centre of the earth"--the
red-cheeked little harpist vanished.
Next came the young man; but several of the harp-strings at once snapped
in consequence of his fierce fingering, and he broke down amidst howls
of guttural disapprobation. So far as competition was concerned, he was,
in sporting parlance, nowhere!
The old blind gentleman followed, and I do not think that I ever
witnessed a more melancholy spectacle. Apollo playing on his stringed
instrument presents a very graceful appearance; but fancy a Welsh
Orpheus with a face all seamed and scarred by smallpox,--a short, fiery
button in the middle of his countenance, serving for a nose,--a mouth
awry and toothless,--and two long, dirty, bony hands, with claw-like
fingers tipped with dark crescents,--and I do not think the picture will
be a pleasant one. If the horrible-looking old fellow had concealed
his ghastly eyes by colored glasses, the effect would not have been so
disagreeable; but it was absolutely frightful to see him rolling his
head, as he played, and every now and then staring with the whites of
his eyes full in the faces of his unseen audience. At length, greatly
to my relief, he gave the last decisive twang, and was led away by his
wife. It is almost needless to say that the musical "Bunch" took the
"Penillionn Singing" was the next attraction. This was something like
an old English madrigal done into Welsh, and, as a specimen of
vocalization, pleasing enough,--as pleasing, that is, as Welsh singing
can be to an English ear; but how different from the soft, liquid
Italian trillings, the flexible English warblings, the melodious ballads
of Scotland, or the rollicking songs of Ireland! There was only one of
the many singers I heard at the Festival who at all charmed me, and that
was a little vocalist of much repute in Southern Wales for her bird-like
voice and brilliancy of execution. Her professional name was pretty
enough,--_Eos Vach Morganwg_,--"The Little Nightingale of Glamorgan."
Her renderings of some simple Welsh melodies were delicious; they as far
excelled the outpourings of the other singers as the compositions of
Mendelssohn or Bellini surpass a midnight feline concert. I have heard
Chinese singing, and have come to the conclusion, that, next to it,
Welsh prize-vocalism is the most ear-distracting thing imaginable.
So it went on; Welsh, Welsh, Welsh, nothing but Welsh, until I was
heartily sick of it. Then, the singing part of the performance being
concluded, the bardic portion of the business commenced. It was
conducted in this manner:--
The names of several subjects were written on separate slips of paper,
and these being placed in a box, each bard took one folded up and with
but brief preparation was expected to extemporize a poem on the theme he
had drawn. The contest speedily commenced, and to me this part of the
proceedings was far and away the most entertaining. Of course, being, as
I said, ignorant of the language, I could not understand the _matter_ of
the improvisations; but as for the _manner_, just imagine a mad North
American Indian, a howling and dancing Dervise, an excited Shaker, a
violent case of fever-and-ague, a New York auctioneer, and a pugilist
of the Tom Hyer school, all fused together, and you may form some faint
idea of a Welsh bard in the agony of inspiration. Such roaring,
such eye-rolling, such thumping of fists and stamping of feet, such
joint-dislocating action of the arms, such gyrations of the head, such
spasmodic jerkings--out of the language of the ancient Britons, I never
heard before, and fervently pray that I never may again. And, let it be
remembered, the grotesque costume of the bard wonderfully heightened the
effect. His long beard, made of tow, became matted with the saliva which
ran down upon it from the corners of his mouth; his make-believe
bald scalp was accidentally wiped to one side, as he mopped away the
perspiration from his forehead with a red cotton handkerchief; and a
nail in the gallery front catching his ancient robe, in a moment of
frenzy, a fearful rending sound indicated a solution of continuity, and
exposed a modern blue _un_bardic pair of breeches with bright brass
buttons beneath,--an incident in keeping with the sham nature of all the
proceedings. For a mortal half hour this exhibition lasted, and when
the impassioned speaker sat down, panting and perspiring, the multitude
stamped, clapped, and hallooed, and went into such paroxysms of frenzy,
that Bedlam broke loose could alone be compared with it.
During the three days the Festival lasted, such scenes as I have
described were repeated,--the only changes being in the persons of
the singers and spouters. Glad enough was I when all was over, and my
occupation as reporter gone, for that time at least. With the aid of
a Welsh friend I managed to make a highly florid report of the
proceedings, which occupied no less than eight columns of the "M----
Beacon." As several of the speakers were only too glad to give me, _sub
rosa_, copies of their speeches in their native language, and as none
knew of the fact but ourselves, I gained no little reputation as an
accomplished Welsh scholar. The result of this was, that presents of
Welsh Bibles, hymn-books, histories, topographies, and the like, by the
score, were forwarded to me,--some out of respect for my talents as a
great Welsh linguist, others for review in the newspaper. I was neither
born to such greatness, nor did I ever achieve it; it was literally
thrust on me; so also were sundry joints of the delicious Liliputian
Welsh mutton, which latter I am not ashamed to say I thoroughly
understood, appreciated, and digested. The ancient _litter_-ature, I am
sorry to confess, I sold as waste paper, at so much per pound; but
to show that some lingering regard for at least two of Cambria's
institutions yet reigns in this ---- bosom, I am just about to begin
upon a Welsh rabbit, and wash it down with a pitcher of _cwrw dach_.
There's a lodger lives on the first floor,
(My lodgings are up in the garret,)
At night and at morn he taketh a horn
And calleth his neighbors to share it,--
A horn so long, and a horn so strong,
I wonder how they can bear it.
I don't mean to say that he drinks,
For that were a joke or a scandal;
But, every one knows it, he night and day blows it;--
I wish he'd blow out like a candle!
His horn is so long, and he blows it so strong,
He would make Handel fly off the handle.
By taking a horn I don't hint
That he swigs either rum, gin, or whiskey;
It's _we_ who drink in his din worse than gin,
His strains that attempt to be frisky,
But are grievously sad.--A donkey, I add,
Is as musical, braying in _his_ key.
It's a puzzle to know what he's at;
I could pity him, if it were madness:
I never yet knew him to play a tune through,
And it gives me more anger than sadness
To hear his horn stutter and stammer to utter
Its various abortions of badness.
At his wide open window he stands,
Overlooking his bit of a garden;
One can see the great ass at one end of his brass
Blaring out, never asking your pardon:
This terrible blurting he thinks is not hurting,
As long as his own ear-drums harden.
He thinks, I've no doubt, it is sweet,
While thus Time and Tune he is flaying;
The little house-sparrows feel all through their marrows
The jar and the fuss of his playing,--
The windows all shaking, the babies all waking,
The very dogs howling and baying.
One note out of twenty he hits,
And, cheered, blows _pianos_ like _fortes_.
His time is his own. He goes sounding alone,
(A sort of Columbus or Cortes,)
On a perilous ocean, without any notion
Whereabouts in the dim deep his port is.
Like a man late from club, he has lost
His key, and around stumbles moping,
Touching this, trying that, now a sharp, now a flat,
Till he strikes on the note he is hoping,
And a terrible blare at the end of the air
Shows he's got through at last with his groping.
There,--he's finished,--at least, for a while;
He is tired, or come to his senses;
And out of his horn shakes the drops that were borne
By the winds of his musical frenzies.
There's a rest, thank our stars, of ninety-nine bars,
Ere the tempest of sound recommences.
When all the bad players are sent
Where all their false notes are protested,
I am sure that Old Nick will play him a trick,
When his bad trump and he are arrested,
And down in the regions of Discord's own legions
His head with two French horns be crested.
* * * * *
MY JOURNAL TO MY COUSIN MARY.
Of all the letters of condolence I have received since my misfortune,
yours has consoled me most. It surprises me, I confess, that a far-away
cousin--of whom I only remember that she had the sweetest of earthly
smiles--should know better how to reach the heart of my grief and soothe
it into peace, than any nearest of kin or oldest of friends. But so it
has been, and therefore I feel that your more intimate acquaintance
would be something to interest me and keep my heart above despair.
My sister Catalina, my devoted nurse, says I must snatch at anything
likely to do that, as a drowning man catches at straws, or I shall
be overwhelmed by this calamity. But is it not too late? Am I not
overwhelmed? I feel that life is a revolting subject of contemplation in
my circumstances, a poor thing to look forward to. Death itself looks
Call up to your mind what I was, and what my circumstances were. I was
healthy and strong. I could run, and wrestle, and breast strong winds,
and cleave rough waters, and climb steep hills,--things I shall
henceforth be able only to remember,--yes, and to sigh to do again.
I was thoroughly educated for my profession. I was panting to fulfil its
duties and rise to its honors. I was beginning to make my way up. I
had gained one cause,--my first and last,--and my friends thought me
justified in entertaining the highest hopes.
It had always been an object of ambition with me to--well, I will
confess--to be popular in society; and I know I was not the
reverse.--So much, Mary, for what I was. Now see what I am.
I am, and shall forever be,--so the doctors tell me,--a miserable,
sickly, helpless being, without hope of health or independence. My
object in life can only be--to be comfortable, if possible, and not to
be an intolerable trial to those about me! Worth living for,--isn't it?
An athlete, eager and glowing in the race of life, transformed by a
thunder-bolt into a palsied and whining cripple for whom there is no
Pool of Bethesda,--that is what has befallen me!
I suppose you read the shocking details of the collision in the papers.
Catalina and I sat, of course, side by side in the cars. We had that day
met in New York, after a separation of years. She had just returned from
Europe. I went to meet and escort her home, and, as we whirled over the
Jersey sands, I told her of all my plans and hopes. She listened at
first with her usual lively interest; but as I went on, she looked me
full in the face with an air of exasperated endurance, as if what I
proposed to accomplish were beyond reason. I own that I was in a fool's
paradise of buoyant expectation. At last she interrupted me.
"Ah, yes! No doubt! You'll do those trifles, of course! And, perhaps,
among your other plans and intentions is that of living forever? It is
an easy thing to resolve upon;--better not stop short of it."
At this instant came the crash, and I knew nothing more until I heard
people remonstrating with Kate for persisting in trying to revive a dead
man, (myself,) while the blood was flowing profusely from her own wound.
I heard her indignantly deny that I was dead, and, with her customary
irritability, tell them that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for
saying so. They still insisted that I was "a perfect jelly," and could
not possibly survive, even if I came to consciousness. She contradicted
them energetically. Yet they pardoned, and liked her. They knew that a
fond heart keenly resents evil prophecies of its beloved ones. Besides,
whatever she does or says, people always like Kate.
After a physician arrived, it was found that the jellying of my flesh
was not the worst of it; for, in consequence of some injury to my spine,
my lower limbs were paralyzed. My sister, thank Heaven, had received
only a slight cut upon the forehead.
Of course I don't mean to bore you with a recital of all my sufferings
through those winter months. I don't ask your compassion for such
trifles as bodily pain; but for what I am, and must forever be in this
life, my own heart aches for pity. Let yours sympathize with it.
I thought to be so active, so useful, perhaps so distinguished as a man,
so blest as husband and father!--for you must know how from my boyhood
up I have craved, what I have never had, a home.
Now that I have been thrust out of active life and forced to make up my
mind to perfect passiveness, I have become a bugbear to myself. I cannot
endure the thought of ever being the peevish egotist, the exacting
tyrant, which men are apt to become when they are thrown upon woman's
love and long-suffering, as I am.
My only safeguard is, I believe, to keep up interests out of myself, and
I beg of you to help me. I believe implicitly in your expressed desire
to be of some service to me, and I ask you to undertake the troublesome
task of correspondence with a sick man, and almost a stranger. I will,
however, try to make you acquainted with myself and my surroundings, so
thoroughly that the latter difficulty will soon be obviated.
First, let me present my sister,--named Catalina,--called Kate, Catty,
or Lina, according to the fancy of the moment, or the degree of
sentimentality in the speaker. You have not seen her since she was a
child, so that, of course, you cannot imagine her as she is now. But you
know the circumstances in which our parents left us. You remember, that,
after living all his life in careless luxury, my father died penniless.
Our mother had secured her small fortune for Kate; and at her death,
just before my father's, she gave me--an infant a few weeks old--into my
sister's young arms, with full trust that I should be taken care of by
her. You know of all my obligations to her in my babyhood and for my
education, which she drudged at teaching for years to obtain for me. I
could never repay her for such devotion, but I hoped to make her forget
all her trials, and only retain the happy consciousness of having had
the making of such a famous man! I expected to place her in affluence,
And now what can I bring to her but grief and gray hairs? I am dependent
upon her for my daily bread; I occupy all her time, either in nursing or
sewing for me; I try her temper hourly with my sick-man's whims; and I
doom her to a future of care and economy. Yet I believe in my soul that
she blesses me every time she looks upon me!
Thackeray says women like to be martyrized. I hardly think it is the
pursuit of pleasure which leads them to self-denial. Men, at any rate,
do not often seek enjoyment in that form. If women do make choice of
such a class of delights, even instinctively, they need advance no other
claim to superiority over men. The higher the animal, the higher its
Kate the other day was asserting a wife's right to the control of her
own property, and incidentally advocating the equality of the sexes,--a
touchy point with her. I put in,--
"Tell me, then, Lina, why animals form stronger attachments to men than
to women. Your dog, your parrot, even your cat, already prefers me to
you. How can you account for it, unless by allowing that there is more
in us to respect and love?"
"I account for it," said she, with her most decided nod, "by affinity.
There is more affinity between you and brutes. It is the sons of God who
find the daughters of men fair. We draw angels from the skies;--even
your jealous, reluctant sex has borne witness to that."
"Pshaw! only those anomalous creatures, the poets. But please yourself
with such fancies; they encourage a pretty pride that becomes your sex.
Conscious forever of being your lords, we feel that the higher you raise
yourselves, the higher you place us. You can't help owning that angelic
woman-kind submits--and gladly--to us."
"Nonsense! conceited nonsense!"
"But _don't_ they?"
"Some do; but I do not."
"Why, all my life you have been to me a most devoted, obedient servant,
"Yes, I have my pets," she answered, "and I care for them. I am
housemaid to my bird; my cat makes her bed of my lap and my best silk
dress; I am purveyor to my dog, head-scratcher to my parrot, and so
forth. It is my pleasure to be kind. Higher natures always are so,--yes,
Charlie, even minutely solicitous for the welfare of the objects of
their care; for are not the very hairs of our head all numbered by the
She began in playful insolence, but ended with tearful eyes, and a
grateful, humble glow upon her face. Its like I had never seen before in
her rather imperious countenance. I gazed at her with interest. She
saw me, and was irritated to be caught with moistened eyes. She scorns
crying, like a man.
"Come, come!" said she, childishly and snappishly, "what are you looking
Of course you cannot have any idea of her personal appearance from
memory, and I will try to give you one by description.
Though over thirty, she is generally considered very handsome, and is
in the very prime of her beauty; for it is not of the fragile, delicate
order. She has jet-black, very abundant hair, hazel eyes, and a
complexion that is very fair, without being blonde. A bright, healthy
color in cheek and lip makes her look as fresh as a rose. Her nose is
the doubtful feature. It is--hum!--_Roman_, and some fastidious folks
think a _trifle_ too large. But I think it suits well her keen eyes
and slightly haughty mouth. She has fine hands, a tall figure, and an
independent "grand action," that is not wanting in grace, but is more
significant of prompt energy.
The study of woman is a new one to me. I often see Kate's friends
and gossips,--for I occupy the parlor as sick-room,--and I lie
philosophizing upon them by the hour, puzzling myself to solve the
problem of their idiosyncrasies. Lady Mary Wortley Montague said, that,
in all her travels, she had met with but two kinds of people,--men
and women. I begin to think that one sex will never be thoroughly
comprehended by the other, notwithstanding the desperate efforts the
novelists are making now-a-days. They all go upon the same plan. They
take some favorite woman, watch her habits keenly, dissect her, analyze
her very blood and marrow,--then patch her up again, and set her in
motion by galvanism. She stalks through three volumes and--drops dead.
I have seen Kate laugh herself almost into convulsions over the knowing
remarks upon the sex in Thackeray, Reade, and others. And I must confess
that the women I know resemble those of no writer but Shakspeare.
We take our revenge for this irritating incapacity by saying that
neither can women create ideal men at all resembling reality. But _halte
la!_ Was it not said at first that Rochester _must_ be a man's man? Is
not the little Professor Paul Emanuel an actual masculine creature?
Heathcliff was a fiend,--but a male fiend.
But where am I wandering? To come back to my sister. She is a fair
specimen of the quick, impulsive, frank class of women. She says she
belongs to the _genus irritabile_. She is easily excited to every good
emotion, and also to the nobler failings of anger, indignation, and
pride. But she is so far above any meanness or littleness, that she
don't know them when she sees them. They pass with her for what they are
not, and she is spared the humiliation of knowing what her species is
capable of. Kate's nature is very charming, but there is a gentler,
calmer order of beings in the sex. I once was greatly attracted by one
of them; and you, I think, belong to that order. However, I should not
class you with her,--for Kate says she was a "deceitful thing." She may
have been so, for aught I know; but I hold it as my creed, that
there are some women all softness, all gentleness, all purity, all
loveableness, and yet all strength of principle. Kate says, if there
are men all courage, all chivalry, all ardor, and all virtue, I may be
The Germans say, "Give the Devil a hair, and he will get your whole
head." Luckily it is the same with the good angels. I have seen a
hundred examples to prove it true. I will give the one nearest my heart.
Lina's generous aspiration at the birth of her baby brother was the
hair. Since then, the angel of generosity has drawn her on from one
self-denying deed to another, until he has possessed her utterly. Her
self-sacrifice was completed some weeks ago. I will tell you how,--for
her light shall not be hidden under a bushel.
When I arrived at this, her little cottage home, after the accident, it
was found impossible to get me up stairs. So I have since occupied the
parlor as my sick-room,--having converted a large airy china-closet into
a recess for a bed, and banished the dishes to the kitchen dresser.
During the day I occupy a soft hair-cloth-covered couch, and from it I
can command, not a view, but a hearing, of the two porches, the hall,
and the garden.
The day after my return was a soft, warm day; and though it was in
February, the windows were all open. I heard a light carriage drive up
to the front door, and supposing it to be the doctor, I awaited his
entrance with impatience. After some time I discovered that he was with
Kate in the garden, and I could hear their voices. I listened with all
my ears, that I might steal his true opinion of myself; for I concluded
that Kate was having a private consultation, and arranging plans by
which I was to be bolstered up with prepared accounts, and not told the
plain facts of the case. I had before suspected that they did not tell
me the worst. I could just catch my name now and then, but no more; and
I wished heartily that they were a little nearer the windows. They must
be, I thought, quite at the bottom of the garden. Suddenly I perceived
that the voice addressing my sister was one of impassioned persuasion,
and I heard the words, "Be calm and reasonable,"--"Not forever." Then
Kate said, with a burst of sobs, "Only in heaven."
"It is all over with me, then," I thought, aghast. But having settled
it, after a struggle, to be the best thing both for me and Kate, I began
to listen again. They were quite silent for some moments. Then I heard
sounds which surprised me,--low, loving tones,--and I desperately
wrenched myself upon my elbows to look out. The agony of such effort was
more tolerable than the agony of suspense. They were not far off, as I
supposed, but close under the window, standing in the little box-tree
arbor, screened from all eyes but mine; and no doubt Kate believed
herself safe enough from these, as I had never been capable of such
exertion since the accident. Their low tones had deceived me as to their
I was mistaken in another respect. It was not the doctor with Kate, but
a fine-looking man, whose emotion declared him her lover. His arm held
her, and hers rested upon his shoulder, as she looked up at him and
spoke earnestly. His face expressed the greatest alarm and grief. I do
not know where she found the resolution, while looking upon it, to do
what she did; for, Mary,--I can hardly bear to write it,--I heard her
forever renounce her love and happiness for my sake.
I might then have cried out against this self-sacrifice; but there is
something sacred in such an interview, and I could not thrust myself
upon it. I wish now that I had done so. But then I listened in
silence--grief-struck--to the rejection of him she loved,--to the
farewells. I saw the long-clasped hands severed with an effort and a
shudder; I saw my proud sister offer and give a kiss far more fervent
than that which she received in return;--for she felt that this was a
final parting, and her heart was full of love and sorrow; while in his
there lingered both hope and anger,--hope that I would recover, and
release her,--resentment because she could sacrifice him to me.
And yet, after the parting, Kate had but just turned from him, when a
change came over his countenance, at first of enthusiastic admiration,
then of a yet more burning pain. He walked quickly after her, caught her
in his arms, and dashing away tears, that they might not fall upon her
face, he kissed her passionately, and said, "It is hard that I must say
it, but you are right, Lina! Oh, my God! _must_ I lose such a woman?"
Kate, trembling, panting, stamped her foot and cried, "Go, go!--I cannot
stand it!--go!" Ah, Mary! that poor, pale face! He went. Kate made one
quick, terrified, instantly restrained motion of recall, which he did
not see; but I did, and I fainted with the pang it gave me.
When I recovered consciousness, I found my sister bending over me,
blaming herself for neglecting me for so long a time, and calling
herself a cruel, faithless nurse, with acute self-reproach!--There's
woman for you!
I told her what I had overheard, and protested against what she had
done. She said I must not talk now,--I was too ill; she would listen to
me to-morrow. The next day I broached the subject again, as she sat by
my side, reading the evening paper. She put her finger on a paragraph
and handed it to me. I read that one of the steamships had sailed
at twelve o'clock that day. "He is in it," Kate said, and left the
room.--He is in Europe by this time.
Helpless wretch that I am!
Are not Kate's whole head and heart, and all, under the dominion of
Heaven's best angels?
And now, dear Mary, I intend to let you into our household affairs. This
illness has brought me one blessing,--a home. It has plunged me into the
bosom of domestic life, and I find things there exceedingly amusing.
Things commonplace to others are very novel and interesting to me, from
my long residence in hotels, and perfect ignorance of how the pot was
kept boiling from which my dinners came.
But before you enter the house, take a look at the outside, and let me
localize myself in your imagination. Bosky Dell is a compact little
place of ten acres, covered mostly with a dense grove, and cut into two
unequal parts by a brawling, rocky stream. The house--a little cottage,
draped with vines, and porched--sits on a slope, with an orchard on one
side, a tiny lawn bordered with flowers on another, the shade of
the grove darkening the windows of a third, and on the fourth a
kitchen-garden with strawberry-beds and grape-trellises. It is a pretty
little place, and full of cosy corners. My favorite one I must describe.
It is a porch on the south side of the house, between two projections.
Consequently both ends of it are closed; one, by the parlor wall, in
which there is a window,--and the other, by the kitchen window and wall.
It is quite shut in from winds, and the sun beams pleasantly upon it,
these chilly March days. There is just room enough for my couch, Kate's
rocking-chair, and a little table. Here we sit all the morning,--Kate
sewing, I reading, or watching the sailing clouds, the swelling
tree-buds in the grove, and the crocus-sprinkled grass, which is growing
greener every day.
Thus, while busy with me, Kate can still have an eye to her kitchen, and
we both enjoy the queer doings and sayings of our "culled help," Saide.
She became Kate's servant under an inducement which I will give in her
"Massy! Miss Catline, when _I_ does a pusson a good turn, seems like I
wants to keep on doin' 'em good turns. I didn't do so dreffle much
for you, but I jes got one chance to help you a bit, and seems like I
couldn't be satisfactioned to let you alone no more."--A novel reason to
hear given, but a true one in philosophy.
This "chance" was when my sister was attacked with cholera once, in the
first panic caused by it, of late years. All her friends had fled to the
country, and she was quite alone in a boarding-house. I was at college.
She would have been left to die alone, so great was the fear of the
disease, if Saide, who was cook in the establishment, had not boiled
over with indignation, and addressed her selfish mistress in this
"That ar' young lady's not to have no care, nohow, took of her, a'n't
she? She's to be lef' there a-sufferin' all alone that-a-way, is she? I
guess so too! Hnh! Now I'se gwine to nuss her, and I don't keer if you
don't know nothin' about _culining_, you must get yer own dinnas and
breakwusses and suppas. That's the plain English of it,--leastways till
she's well ag'in."
She devoted herself night and day to Kate for several weeks, and
then accompanied her to this house, as a matter of course. She is a
privileged personage. She often pops her head out of the kitchen window
to favor us with her remarks. As they always make us laugh, she
won't take reproofs upon that subject. Kate says her impertinence is
intolerable, but suffers it rather than resort to severity with her old
benefactress. I enjoy it.
She manages to turn her humor to account in various ways. I heard her
"Laws-a-me! Dere goes de best French-chayny gold-edged tureen all to
smash! Pieces not big enough to save! Laws now, do let me study how to
tell de folks, so's to set 'em larfin'. Dere's great 'casion to find
suthin' as 'll do it, 'cause dey thinks a heap o' dis yere ole chayny.
Mr. Charley now,--he's easy set off; but Miss Catline,--she takes
suthin' purty 'cute! Laws, I has to fly roun' to git dat studied out!"
Kate overheard this;--how could she scold?
Saide can never think unless she is "flyin' roun'"; and whenever there
is a great tumult in the kitchen, pans kicked about, tongs falling,
dishes rattling, and table shoved over the floor, something pretty good,
in the shape either of a _bonne-bouche_ or a _bon-mot_, is sure to turn
This morning there was a furious hubbub, that threatened to drown my
voice. Saide was evidently "flyin' roun'," and Kate, who could not hear
half that I read, got out of patience.
"What _is_ the matter?" she asked, raising the sash of the window.
"I on'y wants the currender, (colander,) Miss Catline,--dat's all,
"Well, does it take a whirlwind to produce it?"
"Oh, laws, Miss Catline! Don't be _dat_ funny now, don't!--yegh!
yegh!--I'se find it presentry. I'se on'y a little frustrated,
(flustered,) Miss, with de 'fusion, and I'se jes a-studyin'. Never
mind me, Miss,--dat's all, indeed it is,--and you'll have a fuss-rate
minch-pie for dinner. I guess so, too!--yegh! yegh!"--And so we had.
Kate's domestics stand in much awe of her, but feel at least equal love.
So that hers is a household kept in good order, with very little of the
vexation, annoyance, and care, I hear so many of her married friends
For a month nearly, Kate has forbidden my writing, and the first part of
this letter was not sent; so I will finish it now. My sister thought the
effort of holding a pen, in my recumbent position, was too wearying to
me; but now I am stronger, and can sit up supported by pillows. I hasten
to tell you of another most important addition to my comfort, which has
been made since I wrote last. I am so eager with the news, that I can
hardly hold a steady pen. Isn't this a fine state for a promising young
lawyer to be reduced to? He is wild with excitement, because some one
has given him a new go-cart!
Ben, the gardener, was that indulgent individual. He made for me, with
his own industrious hands, what he calls a "jaunting-car-r-r-r." It is a
large wheeled couch on springs. I am a house-prisoner no longer!
I think the first ride I took in it was the most exciting event of my
life. I was not exactly conscious of being mortally tired of looking
from the same porch, over the same garden, into the same grove, and up
to the same quarter of the heavens, for so many months; but when the
change came unexpectedly, it was _transporting_ happiness.
I suppose it may be so when we enter a future life. While here, we think
we do not want to go elsewhere,--even to a better land; but when we
reach that shore, we shall probably acknowledge it to be a lucky change.
Ben drew me carefully down the garden-path. I inhaled the breath of the
tulips and hyacinths, as we passed them. I longed to stay there in that
fairy land, for they brought back all the unspeakably rapturous feelings
of my boyhood. Strange that such delight, after we become men, never
visits us except in moments brief as lightning-flashes,--and then
generally only as a memory,--not, as when we were children, in the form
of a hope! When we are boys, and sudden joy stirs our hearts, we say,
"Oh, how grand life will be!" When we are men, and are thus moved, it
is, "Ah, how bright life was!"
Ben did not pause in the hyacinth-bed with me. He was anxious to prove
the excellence of his vehicle; so he dragged me on in it, until we had
nearly reached the boundary of our grounds, where the two tall, ragged
old cedar-trees marked the extreme point of the evergreen shrubbery,
and _the_ view of the neighborhood lies before us. He stopped there and
"Ye'll mappen like to look abroad a bit, and I'se go on to the
post-office. Miss Kathleen bid me put you here fornenst the landskip,
and then leave ye. She was greatly fashed at the coompany cooming just
then. I must go, Sir."
"All right, Ben. You need not hurry."
The fresh morning wind whisked up to me and kissed my face bewitchingly,
as Ben removed his tall, burly form from the narrow opening between the
two trees, and left me alone there in the shade, with nothing between me
and the view.
That moment revealed to me the joy of all liberated prisoners. My eyes
flew over the wide earth and the broad heavens. After a sweeping view of
both in their vast unity, I began to single out particulars. There lay
the village in the lap of the hills, in summer time "bosomed high in
tufted trees," but now only half veiled by the gauze-like green of the
budding foliage. The apple orchards, still white with blossoms, and
green with wheat or early grass, extended up the hills, and encroached
upon the dense brown forests. There was the little red brick turret
which crowned the village church, and my eye rested lovingly upon it.
Not that it was anything to me; but Kate and all the women I respect
love it, or what it stands for, and through them I hope to experience
that warm love of worship, and of the places dedicated to it, which
seems native to them, and much to be desired for us. I have cared little
for such things hitherto. Their beauty and happiness are just beginning
to dawn upon me.
----"Dear Jesus, can it be?
Wait we till all things go from us or e'er we go to thee?
Ay, sooth! We feel such strength in weal, thy love may seem
But what are we in agony? _Dumb,_ if we cry not 'God!'"
Behind the village I can see the blue hazy line of a far-distant
horizon, as the valley opens in that direction. I know the sea lies
there, and sometimes I fancy that _mirage_ lifts its dark waters to my
In a wooded nook on my right stands the little brown mill, with its huge
wheel, and wide blue pond, and foamy waterfall. On that day I heard its
drone, and saw the geese bathing, and throwing up the bright sparkling
drops with their wings, until they fell like fountains.
On my left lay "a little lane serene," with stone fences half hid by
----"A little lane serene,
Smooth-heaped from wall to wall with unbroken snows.
Or in the summer blithe with lamb-cropped green,
Save the one track, where naught more rude is seen
Than the plump wain at even
Bringing home four months' sunshine bound in sheaves."
I thought of those lines there and then, and they enhanced even the joy
of Nature. They tinged her for me with the magic colors of poetry.
When I had thus scrutinized earth, I looked up to heaven. It had been so
long shut from me by the network of the grove, that it was like escaping
from confining toils, to look straight into Heaven's face, with nothing
between, not even a cloud.
I have never seen a sweeter, calmer picture than that I gazed upon all
the morning, and for which the two huge old cedars formed a rugged, but
I have lived out of doors since. When it is cold, I am wrapped in a
wadded robe Kate has made for me,--a capital thing, loose, and warm, and
silky-soft. To an invalid with nerves all on edge, that is much. I never
found out, until Kate enveloped me in its luxurious folds, what it was
that rasped my feelings so, every morning, when I was dressed; I then
knew it must have been my flashy woollen dressing-gown. I envy women
their soft raiment, and I rather dread the day when I shall be compelled
to wear coats again. (Let me cheat myself, if I can.)
You wish to know more of Ben. I am glad of it. You shall be immediately
He is a true Scot, tall and strong and sandy-haired, with quick gray
eyes, and a grave countenance, which relaxes only upon very great
Before I came here, he was known simply as a most careful, industrious,
silent, saving machine, which cared not a jot for anybody in particular,
but never wanted any spur to its own mechanical duty. It was never known
to do a turn of work not legitimately its own, though mathematically
exact in its proper office. But after I came here with my sister, a
helpless cripple, we found out that the mathematical machine was a man,
with a soft, beating heart. He was called upon to lift me from the
carriage, and he did it as tenderly as a woman. He took me up as a
mother lifts her child from the cradle, and I reposed passively in his
strong arms, with a feeling of perfect security and ease.
From that day to this, Ben has been a most devoted friend to me. He
watches for opportunities to do me kindnesses, and takes from his own
sacred time to make me comforts. He has had me in his arms a hundred
times, and carries me from bed to couch like a baby. I positively blush
in writing this to you. You have known me to be a man for years, and
here I am in arms again!
Ben's decent, well-controlled self-satisfaction, which almost amounts
to dignity, is gone like a puff of smoke, at the word "Shanghai." Poor
fellow! He once had the hen-fever badly, and he don't like to recall his
The first I knew of it was by his starting and changing color one day,
when I was reading the news from China to Kate in the garden, he being
engaged in tying up a rose-bush close by. Kate saw his confusion, and
smiled. Ben, catching the expression of her face, looked inconceivably
sheepish. He dropped his ball of twine, and was about to go away, but
thinking better of it, he suddenly turned and said, with a grin and a
"Ye'll be telling on me, Miss Kathleen! so I'se be aforehond wi' ye, and
let Mr. Charlie knaw the warst frae my ain confassion, if he will na
grudge me a quarter hour."
I signified my wish to hear, and with much difficulty and many questions
wrung from him his "confassion." Kate afterwards gave me her version,
and the facts were these:--
He persuaded Kate to let him buy a pair of Shanghais.
"But don't do it unless you are sure of its being worth while,"
Kate charged him; "because I can't afford to be making expensive
Ben counted out upon his fingers the numberless advantages.
"First, the valie o' the eggs for sale, (mony ane had fetched a dollar,)
forbye the ecawnomy in size for cooking, one shell handing the meat o'
twa common eggs. Second, the size o' the chickens for table, each hen
the weight o' a turkey. Third, for speculation. Let the neebors buy, and
she could realize sixty dollar on the brood o' twal' chicks; for they
fetched ten dollar the pair, and could be had for nae less onywheres.
Every hen wad hae twa broods at the smallest."
Kate doubted, but handed over the money. The next day she was awaked
from a nap on the parlor sofa by a most unearthly music. There was one
bar of four notes, first and third accepted; bar second, a _crescendo_
on a long swelled note, then a _decrescendo_ equally long.
"Why," she cried, "is that our little bull-calf practising singing? I
shall let Barnum know about him. He'll make my fortune!"
Ben knocked at the door, presented a radiant grin, and invited
inspection of his Shanghais. Kate went with him to the cellar. There
stood two feathered bipeds on their tip-toes, with their giraffe necks
stretched up to my sister's swinging shelf where the cream and butter
were kept. It spoke well for the size of their craws certainly, that,
during the two minutes Ben was away, they had each devoured a "print" of
butter, about half a pound!
"Saw ye ever the like o' thae birds, Miss Kathleen?" began Ben, proudly.
"My butter, my butter!" cried Kate.
Ben ran to the rescue, and having removed everything to the high shelf,
he came back, saying,--
"It was na their faut. I tak shame for not minding that they are so gay
tall. But did ye ever see the like o' yon rooster?"
Indeed, she never had! The frightful monster, with its bob-tail and
boa-constrictor neck! But she said nothing.
Ben named them the Emperor and Empress. They were not to be allowed to
walk with common fowls, and he soon had a large, airy house made for
them. He watched these creatures with incessant devotion, and one
morning he was beside himself with delight, for, by a most hideous
roaring on the part of the Emperor, and a vigorous cackling, which
Ben, very descriptively, called "scraughing," by the Empress, it was
announced that she had laid an egg!
Etiquette required Kate to call and admire this promise of royal
offspring, and she was surprised into genuine admiration when she saw
the prodigy. Her nose had to lower its scornful turn, her lips to relax
their skeptical twist. It was an egg indeed! Ben was nobly justified in
his purchase. His step was light that day. Kate heard him singing, over
and over again, a verse from an old song which he had brought with him
from the land o' cakes:--
"I hae a hen wi' a happity leg,
(Lass, gin ye loe me, tell me noo,)
And ilka day she lays me an egg
(And I canna come ilka day to woo!)"
Wooing any lass would, just now, have been quite as secondary an affair
with the singer as in the song,--a something _par parenthese_.
But, alas! Ben's face was more dubious the next day, and before the week
was over it was yard-long. The Empress, after that one great effort,
laid no more eggs, but duly began her second duty, sitting. There was no
doubt that she meant to have but one chick,--out of rivalry, perhaps,
with the Pynchon hen. It was gratifying, perhaps, to have her so
aristocratic, but it was not exactly profitable as a speculation.
"Ben," said Kate, dryly, "I don't know that that egg was wonderfully
large, as it contained the whole brood!"
Poor Ben! That was not all. The clumsy, heavy Empress stepped upon her
egg, and broke it in the second week of its existence; but, faithful to
its memory, she refused to forego the duties of maternity, and would
persist in staying on her nest. As the season advanced, Ben lost hope
of the second brood he had counted upon. In short, his Empress had
the legitimate "hen-fever," and it carried her off, though Ben tried
numberless remedies in common use for vulgar fowls, such as pumping upon
her, whirling her by one leg, tying red flannel to her tail, and so
forth. Of course such indignities were fatal to royalty, and Ben gave up
all hopes of a pure race of Shanghais.
The Emperor was then set at liberty, and for one short half-hour
strutted like a giant-hero among the astounded hens. But no sooner did
the former old cock--who had game blood in him, repute said--return from
a distant excursion into the cornfields with his especial favorites
about him, and behold the mighty majesty of the monster, than his
pride and ire blazed up. He put his head low, ruffled out his long
neck-feathers, his eyes winked and snapped fire with rage, he set out
his wings, took a short run, and, throwing up his spurs with fury,
struck the stupid, staring Emperor a blow under the ear which laid him
low. Alas for royalty, opposed to force of will!
"And you had to pocket the loss, Kate?" I said.
"It was my gain," she replied. "Ben had always been dictatorial before;
but after that, I had only to smile to remind him of his fallibility,
and I have been mistress here ever since."
So far had I written when your welcome letter arrived. Kate found me
this morning sighing over it, pen in hand, ready to reply. She put on
her imperious look, and said she forbade my writing, if I grew
gloomy over it. She feared my letters were only the outpourings of a
disappointed spirit. Indulgence in grief she considered weak, foolish,
unprincipled, and egotistical.
"I can't help being egotistical," I replied, "when I see no one, and am
shut up in the 'little world of me,' as closely as mouse in trap. And
with myself for a subject, what can my letters be but melancholy?"
"Anybody can write amusing letters, if they choose," said Kate, reckless
both of fact and grammar.
"Unless I make fun of you, what else have I to laugh at?"
"Well, do! Make fun of me to your heart's content! Who cares?"
"You promise to laugh with us, and not be offended?"
"I promise not to be offended. My laughing depends upon your wit."
"There is no mirth left in me, Kate. I am convinced that I ought to say
with Jacques, ''Tis good to be sad, and say nothing.'"
"Then I shall answer as Rosalind did,--'Why, then, 'tis good to be a
post!' No, no, Charlie, do be merry. Or if you cannot, just now, at
least encourage 'a most humorous sadness,' and that will he the first
step to real mirth."
"I shall never be merry again, Lina, till you let me recall Mr. ----.
That care weighs me down, and I truly believe retards my recovery."
"Hush, Charlie!" she said, imperiously.
"Now, dear Kate, do not be obstinate. My position is too cruel. With the
alleviation of knowing your happiness secure, I could bear my lot. But
now it is intolerable, utterly!"
She was silent.
"You must give me that consolation."
"To say I would ever leave you, Charlie, while you are so helpless,
would be to tell a lie, for I could not do it. Mr. ----is a civil
engineer. He is always travelling about. I should have no settled home
to take you to. How can you suppose I would abandon you? Do you think I
could find any happiness after doing it? Let us be silent about this."
"I will not, Kate. I am sure, that, besides being a selfish, it would
be a foolish thing to submit to you in this matter. I shall linger,
perhaps, until your youth is gone, and then have the pang, far worse
than any other I could suffer, of leaving you quite alone in the world.
Do listen to reason!"
She sat thinking. At last she said, "Well, wait one year."
"That would be nonsensical procrastination. Does not the doctor declare
that a year will not better my condition?"
"But he cannot be sure. And I promise you, Charlie, that, if Mr. ----
asks me then, I will think about it,--and if you are better, go with
him. More I will not promise."
"A year from last February, you mean?"--A pause.
"Encroacher! Yes, then."
"And you will write to him to say so?"
"Indeed! That would be pretty behavior!"
"But as you rejected him decidedly, he may form new"----She clapped her
hand upon my mouth.
"Dare to say it!" she cried.
I removed her hand, and said, eagerly, "Now, Kate, do not trifle. I must
have some certainty that I am not wrecking your happiness. I cannot
wait a year in suspense. I am a man. I have not the patience of your
"I have more than patience to support me, Charlie," she whispered. "He
insisted upon refusing to take a positive answer then, and said he
should return again next spring, to see if I were in the same mind. So
be at ease!"
I sighed, unsatisfied.
"I am sure he will come," she said, turning quite away, that I might not
dwell upon her warm blush.
"There is Ben with the horse. Are you ready?" she asked, glad to change
I was always ready for that I had enjoyed the "jaunting-car-r-r"
so much, that my sister, resolved to gratify me further, had made
comfortable arrangements for longer excursions. I found that I could
sit up, if well supported by pillows; and so Kate had her "cabriolet"
brought out and repaired.
She had not the least idea of what a cabriolet might be, when she named
her vehicle so; but it sounded fine and foreign, and was a sort of witty
contrast to the misshapen affair it represented. It was indescribable
in form, but had qualities which recommended it to me. It was low,
wide-seated, high-backed, broad, and long. The front wheels turned
under, which was a lucky circumstance, as Kate was to be driver. Ben
could not be spared from his work, and I was out of the question.
We have a horse to match this unique affair, called "Old Soldier,"--an
excellent name for him; though, if Kate reads this remark, she will
take mortal offence at it. She calls the venerable fellow her charger,
because he makes such bold charges at the steep hills,--the only
occasions upon which the cunning beast ever exerts himself in the least,
well knowing that he will be instantly reined in. Kate has a horror of
going out of a walk, on either ascent or descent, because "up-hill is
such hard pulling, and down-hill so dangerous!"
Old Soldier can discern a grade of five feet to the mile of either. If I
did not know his history, (an old omnibus horse,) I should say he
must have practised surveying for years. He accommodates himself most
obligingly to his mistress's whims, and walks carefully most of the
time, except when he is ambitious of great praise at little cost, when
he makes the charges aforesaid.
"He is so considerate, usually!" Kate says; "he knows we don't like
tearing up and down hills; but now and then his spirit runs away with
him!"--I wish it would some day with us. No hope of it!
We stop every two miles to water the horse, and though we are
exceedingly moderate in our donations, we are a fortune to the hostlers.
I carry the purse, as Kate is quite occupied in holding the reins, and
keeping a sharp look-out that her charger don't run off. Not that he
ever showed a disposition that way,--being generally quite agreeable,
if we wish him to stand ever so long a time; but Kate says he is very
nervous, and he _might_ be startled, and then we _might_ find it
impossible to stop him,--a thing easy enough hitherto.
I am obliged to keep the purse in my hand all the time, there being such
frequent use for it. Kate says,--
"Give the man a half-dime, Charlie, if you can find one. A three-cent
piece looks mean, you know; and a fip mounts up so, it is rather
extravagant. That is the twelfth fip that man has had this week, and for
only holding up a bucket a half-minute at a time; for Soldier only takes
She will pay every time we stop, if it is six times a day.
"Shall I give the man a half-dollar at once," I ask, "and let that do
for a week?"
"No, indeed! How mean I should feel, sneaking off without paying!"
When the roadside shows a patch of tender grass, Kate eyes it, and
checks Soldier's pace. He knows what that means, and edges toward the
"Poor fellow!" his driver says,--"it is like our having to pass a plate
of peaches. Let him have a bite."
And so we wait while he grazes awhile. It is the same thing when we
cross a brook, and Soldier pauses in it to cool his feet and look at his
reflection in the water.
"Perhaps he wants a drink. We won't hurry him. We will let him see that
we can afford to wait."
If he had not come to that conclusion from the very start, he must have
believed human beings were miracles of patience and forbearance.
I could write a fine dissertation upon Kate's foolish fondness and her
blind indulgence. I could show that these are the great failings of her
sex, and prove how very much more rational _my_ sex would be in like
circumstances. But I find it too pleasant to be the recipient of such
favors myself just now, to find fault. Wait until I do not need woman's
tenderness, and then I'll abuse it famously. I will say then, that she
is weak, foolish, imprudent; I will say, she kills with kindness, spoils
with indulgence, and all that; but just now I will say nothing.
In one thing I think her kindness very sensible,--she uses no
check-rein. I think with Sir Francis Head, that all horses are handsomer
with their heads held as Nature pleases. I pity the poor creatures when
I see them turning to one side and the other, to find a little relief
in change of position. To restrain horses thus, who have heavy loads to
pull, is the height of folly, as a waste of power.
You take no interest in these remarks, perhaps; but treasure them. If
ever, Cousin Mary, you _drive a dray_, they will serve you.
[To be continued.]
* * * * *
Like a strain of wondrous music rising up in cloister dim,
Through my life's unwritten measures thou dost steal, a glorious
All the joys of earth and heaven in the singing meet, and flow
Richer, sweeter, for the wailing of an undertone of woe.
How I linger, how I listen for each mellow note that falls,
Clear as chime of angels floating downward o'er the jasper walls!
Every night, when winds are moaning round my chamber by the sea,
Thine's the face that through the darkness latest looks with love at
And I dream, ere thou departest, thou dost press thy lips to mine;--
Then I sleep as slept the Immortals after draughts of Hebe's wine!
And I clasp thee, out of slumber when the rosy day is born,
As the soul, with rapture waking, clasps the resurrection morn.
'Twas thy soul-wife, 'twas thy Psyche, one uplifted, radiant day,
Thou didst call me;--how divinely on thy brow Love's glory lay!
Thou my Cupid,--not the boy-god whom the Thespians did adore,
But the man, so large, so noble, truer god than Venus bore.
I thy Psyche;--yet what blackness in this thread of gold is wove!
Thou canst never, never lead me, proud, before the throne of Jove!
All the gods might toil to help thee through the longest summer
Still would watch the fatal Sisters, spinning in the twilight gray;
And their calm and silent faces, changeless looking through the
From eternity, would answer, "Thou canst ne'er escape thy doom!"
Couldst thou clasp me, couldst thou claim me, 'neath the soft
Then what music and what odor through their azure depths would rise!
Roses all the Hours would scatter, every god would bring us joy,
So, in perfect loving blended, bliss would never know alloy!
O my heart! the vision changes; fades the soft celestial blue;
Dies away the rapturous music, thrilling all my pulses through!
Lone I sit within my chamber; storms are beating 'gainst the pane,
And my tears are falling faster than the chill December rain;--
Yet, though I am doomed to linger, joyless, on this earthly shore,
Thou art Cupid!--I am Psyche!--we are wedded evermore!
DR. WICHERN AND HIS PUPILS.
"Would you like to spend a day at Horn and visit the _Rauhe Haus?_"
inquired my friend, Herr X., of me, one evening, as we sat on the bank
of the Inner Alster, in the city of Hamburg. I had already visited most
of the "lions" in and about Hamburg, and had found in Herr X. a most
intelligent and obliging cicerone. So I said, "Yes," without hesitation,
though knowing little more of the Rauhe Haus than that it was a reform
school of some kind.
"I will call for you in the morning," said my friend, as we parted for
The morning was clear and bright, and I had hardly despatched my
breakfast when Herr X. appeared with his carriage. Entering it without
delay, we were driven swiftly over the pavements, till we came to the
old city-wall, now forming a fine drive, when my friend, turning to the
"Go more slowly."
"The scenery in this vicinity we Hamburgers think very beautiful," he
continued, turning to me.
To my eye, accustomed to our New England hills, it was much too flat to
merit the appellation of beautiful, though Art had done what it could to
improve upon Nature; so I assented to his encomiums upon the landscape,
but, desirous of changing the subject, added,--
"This Rauhe Haus, where we are going, I know but little of; will you
give me its history?"
"Most willingly," he replied. "You must know that our immense commerce,
while it affords ample occupation for the enterprising and industrious,
draws hither also a large proportion of the idle, depraved, and vicious.
For many years, it was one of the most difficult questions with which
our Senate has had to grapple, to determine what should be done with
the hordes of vagrant children who swarmed about our quays, and were
harbored in the filthy dens which before the great fire of 1842 were so
abundant in the narrow streets. These children were ready for crime of
every description, and in audacity and hardihood far surpassed older
"In 1830, Dr. Wichern, then a young man of twenty-two, having completed
his theological studies at Goettingen and Berlin, returned home, and
began to devote himself to the religious instruction of the poor. He
established Sabbath-schools for these children, visited their parents
at their homes, and sought to bring them under better influences. He
succeeded in collecting some three or four hundred of them in his
Sabbath-schools; but he soon became convinced that they must be removed
from the evil influences to which they were subjected, before any
improvement could be hoped for in their morals. In 1832, he proposed
to a few friends, who had become interested in his labors, the
establishment of a House of Rescue for them. The suggestion met their
approval; but whence the means for founding such an institution were to
come none of them knew; their own resources were exceedingly limited,
and they had no wealthy friends to assist them.
"About this time, a gentleman with whom he was but slightly acquainted
brought him three hundred dollars, desiring that it should be expended
in aid of some new charitable institution. Soon after, a legacy of
$17,500 was left for founding a House of Rescue. Thus encouraged,
Wichern and his friends went forward. A cottage, roughly built and
thatched with straw, with a few acres of land, was for sale at Horn,
about four miles from the city, and its situation pleasing them, they
appropriated their legacy to the purchase of it. Hither, in November,
1833, Dr. Wichern removed with his mother, and took into his household,
adopting them as his own children, three of the worst boys he could find
in Hamburg. In the course of a few months he had increased the number to
twelve, all selected from the most degraded children of the city.
"His plan was the result of careful and mature deliberation. He saw that
these depraved and vicious children had never been brought under
the influence of a well-ordered family, and believing, that, in the
organization of the family, God had intended it as the best and most
efficient institution for training children in the ways of morality and
purity, he proposed to follow the Divine example. The children were
employed, at first, in improving the grounds, which had hitherto been
left without much care; the banks of a little stream, which flowed
past the cottage, were planted with trees; a fish-pond into which it
discharged its waters was transformed into a pretty sylvan lake; and the
barren and unproductive soil, by judicious cultivation, was brought into
a fertile condition.
"In 1834, the numerous applications he received, and the desire of
extending the usefulness of the institution, led him to erect another
building for the accommodation of a second family of boys. The work
upon it was almost wholly performed by his first pupils. I should have
remarked, that, during the first year, a high fence, which surrounded
the premises when they were purchased, was removed by the boys, by Dr.
Wichern's direction, as he desired to have _love_ the only bond by
which to retain them in his family. When the new house was finished and
dedicated, the original family moved into it, and were placed under
the charge of two young men from Switzerland, named Baumgaertner and
"Workshops for the employment of the boys soon became necessary, and
means were contributed for their erection. New pupils were offered,
either by their parents, or by the city authorities, and new families
were organized. These required more "house-fathers," as they were
called, and for their training a separate house was needed. Dr.
Wichern has been very successful in obtaining assistants of the right
description. They are young men of good education, generally versed in
some mechanical employment, and whose zeal for philanthropic effort
leads them to place themselves under training here, for three or four
years, without salary. They are greatly in demand all over Germany
for home missionaries and superintendents of prisons and reformatory
institutions. You have heard, I presume, of the Inner Mission?"
I assented, and he continued.
"These young men are its most active promoters. The philanthropy of
Wichern was not satisfied, until he had established also several
families of vagrant girls at his Rough House.--But see, we are
approaching our destination. This is the Rauhe Haus."
As he spoke, our carriage stopped. We alighted, and rarely has my eye
been greeted by a pleasanter scene. The grounds, comprising about
thirty-two acres, presented the appearance of a large landscape-garden.
The variety of choice forest-trees was very great, and mingled with them
were an abundance of fruit-trees, now laden with their golden treasures,
and a profusion of flowers of all hues. Two small lakes, whose borders
were fringed with the willow, the weeping-elm, and the alder, glittered
in the sunlight,--their finny inhabitants occasionally leaping in
the air, in joyous sport. Fourteen buildings were scattered over the
demesne,--one, by its spire, seeming to be devoted to purposes of
"Let us go to the Mutter-Haus," (Mother-House,) said my friend; "we
shall probably find Dr. Wichern there."
So saying, he led the way to a plain, neat building, situated nearly
centrally, though in the anterior portion of the grounds. This is Dr.
Wichern's private residence, and here he receives reports from the
Brothers, as the assistants are called, and gives advice to the pupils.
We were ushered into the superintendent's office, and found him a fine,
noble-looking man, with a clear, mild eye, and an expression of great
decision and energy. My friend introduced me, and Dr. Wichern welcomed
us both with great cordiality.
"Be seated for a moment, gentlemen," said he; "I am just finishing
the proofs of our _Fliegenle Blaetter_," (Flying Leaves, a periodical
published at the Rauhe Haus,) "and will presently show you through our
We waited accordingly, interesting ourselves, meanwhile, with the
portraits of benefactors of the institution which decorated the walls.
In a few minutes Dr. Wichern rose, and merely saying, "I am at your
service, gentlemen," led the way to the original Rough House. It is
situated in the southeastern corner of the grounds, and is overshadowed
by one of the noblest chestnut-trees I have ever seen. The building is
old and very humble in appearance, but of considerable size. In addition
to accommodations for the House-Father and his family of twelve boys,
several of the Brothers of the Mission reside here, and there are also
rooms for a probationary department for new pupils.
"Here," said the Doctor, "we began the experiment whose results you see
around you. When, with my mother and sister and three of the worst boys
to be found in Hamburg, I removed to this house in 1833, there was need
of strong faith to foresee the results which God has wrought since that
"What were the means you found most successful in bringing these
turbulent and intractable spirits into subjection?" I inquired.
"Love, the affection of a parent for his children," was his reply.
"These wild, hardened boys were inaccessible to any emotion of fear;
they had never been treated with kindness or tenderness; and when they
found that there was no opportunity for the exercise of the defiant
spirit they had summoned to their aid, when they were told that all the
past of their lives was to be forgotten and never brought up against
them, and that here, away from temptation, they might enter upon a new
life, their sullen and intractable, natures yielded, and they became
almost immediately docile and amiable."
"But," I asked, "is there not danger, that, when removed from these
comfortable homes, and subjected again to the iron gripe of poverty,
they will resume their old habits?"
"None of us know," replied Dr. Wichern, solemnly, "what we may be left
to do in the hour of temptation; but the danger is, nevertheless, not so
great as you think. Our children are fed and clothed like other peasant
children; they are not encouraged to hope for distinction, or an
elevated position in society; they are taught that poverty is not in
itself an evil, but, if borne in the right spirit, may be a blessing.
Our instruction is adapted to the same end; we do not instruct them
in studies above their rank in life; reading, writing, the elementary
principles of arithmetic, geography, some of the natural sciences, and
music, comprise the course of study. In the calling they select, we do
what we can to make them intelligent and competent. Our boys are much
sought for as apprentices by the farmers and artisans of the vicinity."
"Many of them, I suppose," said I, "had been guilty of petty thefts
before coming here; do you not find trouble from that propensity?"
"Very seldom; the perfect freedom from suspicion, and the confidence in
each other, which we have always maintained, make theft so mean a vice,
that no boy who has a spark of honor left will be guilty of it. In
the few instances which do occur, the moral sense of the family is
so strong, that the offender is entirely subdued by it. An incident,
illustrative of this, occurs to me. Early in our history, a number of
our boys undertook to erect a hut for some purpose. It was more than
half completed, and they were delighted with the idea of being able soon
to occupy it, when it was discovered that a single piece of timber,
contributed by one of the boys, had been obtained without leave. As soon
as this was known, one of the boys seized an axe, and demolished the
building, in the presence of the offender, the rest looking on and
approving; nor could they afterward be induced to go on with it. At
one time, several years since, there were two or three petty thefts
committed, (and a good deal of prevarication naturally followed,) mainly
by new pupils, of whom a considerable number had been admitted at once.
Finding ordinary reproof unavailing, I announced that family worship
would be suspended till the delinquents gave evidence of penitence. The
effect of this measure was far beyond my expectation. Many of the boys
would meet in little groups, in the huts, for prayers among themselves;
and ere long the offenders came humbly suing for pardon and the
resumption of worship."
During this conversation, we had left the Rough House and visited
the new Lodge, erected in 1853, for a family of boys and a circle of
Brothers, and the "Beehive," (_Bienenkorb,_) erected in 1841, in the
northeast corner of the grounds, the home of another family. Turning
westward, we came to the chapel, and a group of buildings connected with
it, including the school-rooms, the preparatory department for girls,
the library, dwellings for two families of girls, the kitchen,
store-rooms, and offices. It was the hour of recess, and from the
school-rooms rushed forth a joyous company of children, plainly clad,
and evidently belonging to the peasant class; but though the marks of
an early career of vice were stamped on many of their countenances, yet
there were not a few bright eyes, and intelligent, thoughtful faces.
Seeing Dr. Wichern, they came at once to him, with the impulsiveness of
childhood, but with so evident a sense of propriety and decorum, that I
would not but compare their conduct with that of many pupils in our best
schools, and not to the advantage of the latter. The Doctor received
them cordially, and had a kind word for each, generally in reference to
their improvement in behavior, or their influence over others.
"This," said he, turning to me, as a bright, blue-eyed, flaxen-haired
boy seized his hand, "is one of our peace boys."
I did not understand what he meant by the term, and said so.
"Our peace boys," he replied, "are selected from the most trustworthy
and exemplary of our pupils, to aid in superintending the others. They
have no authority to command, or even reprove; but only to counsel and
remind. To be selected for this duty is one of their highest rewards."
"There must be among so many boys," I remarked, "and particularly
those taken from such sources, a considerable number of
_born-destructives_,--children in whom the propensity to break, tear,
and destroy is almost ineradicable; how do you manage these?"
"In the earlier days of our experiment," he replied, "we had much
trouble from this source; but at last we hit upon the plan of allowing
each boy a certain sum of pocket-money, and deducting from this, in part
at least, the estimated value of whatever he destroyed. From the day
this rule was adopted all destructible articles seemed to have lost a
great part of their fragility."
"Do the pupils often run away?" I asked.
"Very seldom, of late years; formerly we were occasionally troubled in
that way. It was, of course, easy for them to do it, as no fences
or other methods of restraint were used,--our reliance being upon
affection, to retain them. If they made their escape, we usually sought
them out, and persuaded them to return, and they seldom repeated the
offence. Some years ago, one of our boys, who had repeatedly tried our
patience by his waywardness, ran away. I pursued him, found him, and
persuaded him to return. It was Christmas eve when we arrived, and this
festival was always celebrated in my mother's chamber. As we entered the
room, the children were singing the Christmas hymns. As he appeared,
they manifested strong disapprobation of his conduct. They were told
that they might decide among themselves how he should be punished. They
consulted together quietly for a few moments, and then one, who had
himself been forgiven some time before for a like fault, came forward,
and, bursting into tears, pleaded that the offender might be pardoned.
The rest joined in the petition, and, extending to him the hand of
fellowship, soon turned their festival into a season of rejoicing
over the returned prodigal. The pardon thus accorded was complete; no
subsequent reference was made to his misconduct; and the next day, to
show our confidence in him, a confidence which we never had occasion to
retract, we sent him on an errand to a considerable distance."
"How did they behave at the time of the great fire?" I inquired; "the
excitement must surely have reached you."
"No event in our whole history," answered Dr. Wichern, his fine
countenance lighting up as he spoke, "so fully satisfied me of the
success which had attended our labors, as their behavior on that
occasion. On the second day of the fire, the boys, some of whom had
relatives and friends in the burning district, became so much excited by
the intelligence brought by those who had escaped from the flames, that
they began to implore me to permit them to go and render assistance. I
feared, at first, the consequences of exposing them to the temptations
to escape and plunder by which they would be beset; but at length
permitted a company of twenty-two to go with me, on condition that
they would keep together as much as possible, and return with me at
an appointed time. They promised to do this, and they fulfilled their
promise to the letter. Their conduct was in the highest degree heroic;
they rushed into danger, for the sake of preserving lives and property,
with a coolness and bravery which put to shame the labors of the boldest
firemen; occasionally they would come to the place of rendezvous to
reassure their teacher, and then in a moment they were away again,
laboring as zealously as ever, and utterly refusing any compensation,
however urgently pressed upon them. When they returned home, another
band was sent out under the direction of one of the house-fathers, and
exerted themselves as faithfully as their predecessors had done. But
their sacrifices and toils did not end here. Among the thousands whom
that fearful conflagration left homeless, not a few came here for
shelter and food. With these our boys shared their meals, and gave up
to them their beds,--themselves sleeping upon the ground, and this for
I could not wonder at the enthusiasm of the good man over such deeds
as these on the part of boys whom he had rescued from a degradation of
which we can hardly form an idea. It was a triumph of which an angel
might have been proud.
I was desirous of learning something of the industrial occupations of
the pupils, and made some inquiries respecting them.
"A considerable portion of our boys," said Dr. Wichern, "are engaged in
agricultural, or rather, horticultural pursuits. As we practise spade
husbandry almost exclusively, and devote our grounds to gardening
purposes, we can furnish employment to quite a number. For those who
prefer mechanical pursuits, we have a printing-office, book-bindery,
stereotype-foundry, lithographing and wood-engraving establishment,
paint-shop, silk-weaving manufactory, and shoe-shop, as well as those
trades which are carried on for the most part out of doors, such as
masonry and carpentry. The girls are mostly employed in household
duties, and are in great demand as servants and assistants in the
households of our farmers."
Passing westward, we came next to the bakery and the farmer's residence,
catching a glimpse through the trees of the Fisherman's Hut, at a little
distance, near the bank of the larger of the two sylvan lakes on the
premises, where another family are gathered, and then approachd a large
building of more pretension than the rest.
"This," said Dr. Wichern, "is the home of the Brothers of our Inner
Mission, and the school-room for our boarding-school boys, the children
of respectable and often wealthy parents, who have proved intractable at
"What," I asked, "do you include in the term, Inner Mission?"
"I must take a round-about method of answering your inquiry. When we
found it necessary to form new families, our greatest difficulty was in
procuring suitable persons to become house-fathers of these families.
It was easy enough to obtain honest, intelligent men and women, who
possessed a fair education and a sufficient knowledge of some of the
mechanic arts for the situation; but we felt that much more than this
was necessary. We wanted men and women who would act a parent's part,
and perform a parent's duty to the children under their care; and these,
we found, must be trained for the place. We then began our circles of
Brothers, to furnish house-fathers and assistants for our families. We
required in the candidates for this office an irreproachable character;
that they should be free from physical defect, of good health and robust
constitution; that they should give evidence of piety, and of special
adaptation to this calling; that they should understand farming, or some
one of the trades practised in the establishment, or possess sufficient
mechanical talent to acquire a knowledge of them readily; that they
should have already a certain amount of education, and an amiable and
teachable disposition; and that they should be not under twenty years of
age, and exempt from military service."
"And do you find a sufficient number who can fulfil conditions so
strict?" I inquired.
"Candidates are never wanting," was his reply, "though the demand for
their services is large."
"What is your course of training?"
"Mainly practical; though we have a course of special instruction for
them, occupying twenty hours a week, in which, during their four years'
residence with us, they are taught sacred and profane history, German,
English, geography, vocal and instrumental music, and the science of
teaching. Instruction on religious subjects is also given throughout the
course. For the purpose of practical training, they are attached, at
first, to families as assistants, and after a period of apprenticeship
they undertake in rotation the direction. They teach the elementary
classes; visit the parents of the children, and report to them the
progress which their pupils have made; maintain a watchful supervision
over them, after they leave the Rauhe Haus; and assist in religious
instruction, and in the correspondence. By the system of monthly
rotation we have adopted, each Brother is brought in contact with all
the pupils, and is thus enabled to avail himself of the experience
acquired in each family."
"You spoke of a great demand for their services; I can easily imagine
that men so trained should be in demand; but what are the callings
they pursue after leaving you? for you need but a limited number as
house-fathers and teachers."
"The Inner Mission," he replied, "has a wide field of usefulness. It
furnishes directors and house-fathers for reform schools organized
on our plan, of which there are a number in Germany; overseers,
instructors, and assistants in agricultural and other schools; directors
and subordinate officers for prisons; directors, overseers, and
assistants in hospitals and infirmaries; city and home missionaries; and
missionaries to colonies of emigrants in America."
"What is your annual expenditure above the products of your farm and
workshops?" I asked.
"Somewhat less than fifty dollars a head for our entire population," was
It was by this time high noon, and as we returned to the Mutter-Haus,
the benevolent superintendent insisted that we should remain and partake
with him of the mid-day meal. We complied, and presently were summoned
to the dining-hall, where we found a small circle of the Brothers, and
the two head teachers. After a brief but appropriate grace, we took our
seats, being introduced by the director.
"At supper all our teachers assemble here," said Dr. Wichern, "and with
them those children whose birthday it is; but at dinner the Brothers
remain with their own families."
The table was abundantly supplied with plain but wholesome food, and the
cheerful conversation which ensued gave evidence that the cares of their
position had not exerted a depressing influence on their spirits. Each
seemed thoroughly in love with his work, and in harmony with all the
rest. Dr. Wichern mentioned that I was from America.
"Have you," inquired one of the Brothers, "any institutions like this in
"We have," I answered, "Reform Schools, Houses of Refuge, Juvenile
Asylums, and other reformatory institutions; but I am afraid I must say,
nothing like this. We are making progress, however, in Juvenile Reform,
and I hope that ere long we, too, may have a Rough House whose influence
shall pervade our country, as yours has done Central Europe."
"Dr. Wichern," inquired another, "have our friends visited the 'God's
[Footnote A: The German name of a grave-yard.]
"Not yet," was the reply; "but I will go thither with them after we have
dined, if they can remain so long."
We assented, and one of the Brothers remarked,--
"Our boys have taken especial pains to beautify that favorite spot, this
"This disposition to adorn the resting-place of the body, so common
among us, is becoming popular in your country, I believe," said our
Back to Full Books