Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 7, May, 1858
Part 2 out of 5
Duty, and that the intellect becomes brighter, keener, clearer, more
buoyant, and more efficient, as it feels the freshening vigor infused
by her monitions and menaces, and the celestial calm imparted by her
soul-satisfying smile. In all the professions and occupations over which
Intellect holds dominion, the student will find that there is no grace
of character without its corresponding grace of mind. He will find that
virtue is an aid to insight; that good and sweet affections will bear a
harvest of pure and high thoughts; that patience will make the intellect
persistent in plans which benevolence will make beneficent in results;
that the austerities of conscience will dictate precision to statements
and exactness to arguments; that the same moral sentiments and moral
power which regulate the conduct of life will illumine the path and
stimulate the purpose of those daring spirits eager to add to the
discoveries of truth and the creations of art. And he will also find
that this purifying interaction of spiritual and mental forces will give
the mind an abiding foundation of joy for its starts of rapture and
flights of ecstasy;--a joy, in whose light and warmth languor and
discontent and depression and despair will be charmed away;--a joy,
which will make the mind large, generous, hopeful, aspiring, in order to
make life beautiful and sweet;--a joy, in the words of an old
divine, "which will put on a more glorious garment above, and be joy
superinvested in glory!"
A FEW SCENES FROM A TRUE HISTORY.
Alfred Noble had grown up to manhood among the rocks and hills of a New
England village. A year spent in Mobile, employed in the duties of a
clerk, had not accustomed him to the dull routine of commercial life. He
longed for the sound of brooks and the fresh air of the hills. It was,
therefore, with great pleasure that he received from his employer a
message to be conveyed to a gentleman who lived in the pleasantest
suburb of the city. It was one of those bright autumnal days when the
earth seems to rejoice consciously in the light that gives her beauty.
Leaving behind him the business quarter of the town, he passed through
pleasant streets bordered with trees, and almost immediately found
himself amid scenes clothed with all the freshness of the country.
Handsome mansions here and there dotted the landscape, with pretty
little parks, enclosing orange-trees and magnolias, surrounded with
hedges of holly, in whose foliage numerous little foraging birds were
busy in the sunshine. The young man looked at these dwellings with
an exile's longing at his heart. He imagined groups of parents and
children, brothers and sisters, under those sheltering roofs, all
strangers to him, an orphan, alone in the world. The pensiveness of
his mood gradually gave place to more cheerful thoughts. Visions of
prosperous business and a happy home rose before him, as he walked
briskly toward the hills south of the city. The intervals between the
houses increased in length, and he soon found himself in a little forest
of pines. Emerging from this, he came suddenly in sight of an elegant
white villa, with colonnaded portico and spacious verandas. He
approached it by a path through a grove, the termination of which had
grown into the semblance of a Gothic arch, by the interlacing of two
trees, one with glossy evergreen leaves, the other yellow with the tints
of autumn. Vines had clambered to the top, and hung in light festoons
from the branches. The foliage, fluttering in a gentle breeze, caused
successive ripples of sun-flecks, which chased each other over trunks
and boughs, and joined in wayward dance with the shadows on the ground.
Arrested by this unusual combination of light and shade, color and form,
the young man stood still for a moment to gaze upon it. He was thinking
to himself that nothing could add to the perfection of its beauty, when
suddenly there came dancing under the arch a figure that seemed like the
fairy of those woods, a spirit of the mosses and the vines. She was a
child, apparently five or six years old, with large brown eyes, and a
profusion of dark hair. Her gypsy hat, ornamented with scarlet ribbons
and a garland of red holly-berries, had fallen back on her shoulders,
and her cheeks were flushed with exercise. A pretty little white dog was
with her, leaping up eagerly for a cluster of holly-berries which she
playfully shook above his head. She whirled swiftly round and round the
frisking animal, her long red ribbons flying on the breeze, and then she
paused, all aglow, swaying herself back and forth, like a flower on its
stem. A flock of doves, as if attracted toward her, came swooping down
from the sky, revolving in graceful curves above her head, their white
breasts glistening in the sunshine. The aerial movements of the child
were so full of life and joy, she was so in harmony with the golden day,
the waving vines, and the circling doves, that the whole scene seemed
like an allegro movement in music, and she a charming little melody
floating through it all.
Alfred stood like one enchanted. He feared to speak or move, lest the
fairy should vanish from mortal presence. So the child and the dog,
equally unconscious of a witness, continued their graceful gambols for
several minutes. An older man might have inwardly moralized on the folly
of the animal, aping humanity in thus earnestly striving after what
would yield no nourishment when obtained. But Alfred was too young and
too happy to moralize. The present moment was all-sufficient for him,
and stood still there in its fulness, unconnected with past or future.
This might have lasted long, had not the child been attracted by the
dove-shadows, and, looking up to watch the flight of the birds, her eyes
encountered the young man. A whole heart full of sunshine was in the
smile with which he greeted her. But, with a startled look, she turned
quickly and ran away; and the dog, still full of frolic, went bounding
by her side. As Alfred tried to pursue them, a bough knocked off his
hat. Without stopping to regain it, he sprang over a holly-hedge, and
came in view of the veranda of a house, just in time to see the fairy
and her dog disappear behind a trellis covered with the evergreen
foliage of the Cherokee rose. Conscious of the impropriety of pursuing
her farther, he paused to take breath. As he passed his hand through his
hair, tossed into masses by running against the wind, he heard a voice
from the veranda exclaim,--
"Whither so fast, Loo Loo? Come here, Loo Loo!"
Glancing upward, he saw a patrician-looking gentleman, in a handsome
morning-gown, of Oriental fashion, and slippers richly embroidered. He
was reclining on a lounge, with wreaths of smoke floating before him;
but seeing the stranger, he rose, and taking the amber-tubed cigar from
his mouth, he said, half laughing,--
"You seem to be in hot haste, Sir. Pray, what have you been hunting?"
Alfred also laughed, as he replied,--
"I have been chasing a charming little girl, who would not be caught.
Perhaps she was your daughter, Sir?"
"She _is_ my daughter," rejoined the gentleman. "A pretty little witch,
is she not? Will you walk in, Sir?"
Alfred thanked him, and said that he was in search of a Mr. Duncan,
whose residence was in that neighborhood.
"I am Mr. Duncan," replied the patrician. "Jack, go and fetch the
gentleman's hat, and bring cigars."
A negro obeyed his orders, and, after smoking awhile on the veranda, the
two gentlemen walked round the grounds.
Once when they approached the house, they heard the pattering of little
feet, and Mr. Duncan called out, with tones of fondness,--
"Come here, Loo Loo! Come, darling, and see the gentleman who has been
running after you!"
But the shy little fairy ran all the faster, and Alfred saw nothing but
the long red ribbons of her gypsy hat, as they floated behind her on the
Declining a polite invitation to dine, he walked back to the city. The
impression on his mind had been so vivid, that, as he walked, there rose
ever before him a vision of that graceful arch with waving vines, the
undulating flight of the silver-breasted doves, and the airy motions of
that beautiful child. How would his interest in the scene have deepened,
could some sibyl have foretold to him how closely the Fates had
interwoven the destinies of himself and that lovely little one!
When he entered the counting-room, he found his employer in close
conversation with Mr. Grossman, a wealthy cotton-broker. This man was
but little more than thirty years of age, but the predominance of animal
propensities was stamped upon his countenance with more distinctness
than is usual with sensualists of twice his age. The oil of a thousand
hams seemed oozing through his pimpled cheeks; his small gray eyes were
set in his head like the eyes of a pig; his mouth had the expression of
a satyr; and his nose seemed perpetually sniffing the savory prophecy
of food. When the clerk had delivered his message, he slapped him
familiarly on the shoulder, and said,--
"So you've been out to Duncan's, have you? Pretty nest there at Pine
Grove, and they say he's got a rare bird in it; but he keeps her so
close, that I could never catch sight of her. Perhaps you got a peep,
"I saw a very beautiful child of Mr. Duncan's," replied Alfred, "but I
did not see his wife."
"That's very likely," rejoined Grossman; "because he never had any
"He said the little girl was his daughter, and I naturally inferred that
he had a wife," replied Alfred.
"That don't follow of course, my gosling," said the cotton-broker.
"You're green, young man! You're green! I swear, I'd give a good deal
to get sight of Duncan's wench. She must be devilish handsome, or he
wouldn't keep her so close."
Alfred Noble had always felt an instinctive antipathy to this man, who
was often letting fall some remark that jarred harshly with his romantic
ideas of women,--something that seemed to insult the memories of a
beloved mother and sister gone to the spirit-world. But he had never
liked him less than at this moment; for the sly wink of his eye, and
the expressive leer that accompanied his coarse words, were very
disagreeable things to be associated with that charming vision of the
circling doves and the innocent child.
Time passed away, and with it the average share of changing events.
Alfred Noble became junior partner in the counting-house he had entered
as clerk, and not long afterward the elder partner died. Left thus
to rely upon his own energy and enterprise, the young man gradually
extended his business, and seemed in a fair way to realize his favorite
dream of making a fortune and returning to the North to marry. The
subject of Slavery was then seldom discussed. North and South seemed
to have entered into a tacit agreement to ignore the topic completely.
Alfred's experience was like that of most New Englanders in his
situation. He was at first annoyed and pained by many of the
peculiarities of Southern society, and then became gradually accustomed
to them. But his natural sense of justice was very strong; and this,
added to the influence of early education, and strengthened by scenes of
petty despotism which he was frequently compelled to witness, led him
to resolve that he would never hold a slave. The colored people in his
employ considered him their friend, because he was always kind and
generous to them. He supposed that comprised the whole of duty, and
further than that he never reflected upon the subject.
The pretty little picture at Pine Grove, which had made so lively
an impression on his imagination, faded the more rapidly, because
unconnected with his affections. But a shadowy semblance of it always
flitted through his memory, whenever he saw a beautiful child, or
observed any unusual combination of trees and vines.
Four years after his interview with Mr. Duncan, business called him to
the interior of the State, and for the sake of healthy exercise he
chose to make the journey on horseback. His route lay mostly through a
monotonous region of sandy plain, covered with pines, here and there
varied by patches of cleared land, in which numerous dead trees were
prostrate, or standing leafless, waiting their time to fall. Most of
the dwellings were log-houses, but now and then the white villa of some
wealthy planter might be seen gleaming through the evergreens. Sometimes
the sandy soil was intersected by veins of swamp, through which muddy
water oozed sluggishly, among bushes and dead logs. In these damp places
flourished dark cypresses and holly-trees, draped with gray Spanish
moss, twisted around the boughs, and hanging from them like gigantic
cobwebs. Now and then, the sombre scene was lighted up with a bit of
brilliant color, when a scarlet grosbeak flitted from branch to branch,
or a red-headed woodpecker hammered at the trunk of some old tree, to
find where the insects had intrenched themselves. But nothing pleased
the eye of the traveller so much as the holly-trees, with their glossy
evergreen foliage, red berries, and tufts of verdant mistletoe. He
had been riding all day, when, late in the afternoon, an uncommonly
beautiful holly appeared to terminate the road at the bend where it
stood. Its boughs were woven in with a cypress on the other side, by
long tangled fringes of Spanish moss. The setting sun shone brightly
aslant the mingled foliage, and lighted up the red berries, which
glimmered through the thin drapery of moss, like the coral ornaments of
a handsome brunette seen through her veil of embroidered lace. It was
unlike the woodland picture he had seen at Pine Grove, but it recalled
it to his memory more freshly than he had seen it for a long time. He
watched the peculiar effects of sunlight, changing as he approached the
tree, and the desire grew strong within him to have the fairy-like child
and the frolicsome dog make their appearance beneath that swinging
canopy of illuminated moss. If his nerves had been in such a state that
forms in the mind could have taken outward shape, he would have realized
the vision so distinctly painted on his imagination. But he was well and
strong; therefore he saw nothing but a blue heron flapping away among
the cypresses, and a flock of turkey-buzzards soaring high above the
trees, with easy and graceful flight. His thoughts, however, continued
busy with the picture that had been so vividly recalled. He recollected
having heard, some time before, of Mr. Duncan's death, and he queried
within himself what had become of that beautiful child.
Musing thus, he rode under the fantastic festoons he had been admiring,
and saw at his right a long gentle descent, where a small stream of
water glided downward over mossy stones. Trees on either side interlaced
their boughs over it, and formed a vista, cool, dark, and solemn as the
aisle of some old Gothic church. A figure moving upward, by the side of
the little brook, attracted his attention, and he checked his horse
to inquire whether the people at the nearest house would entertain a
stranger for the night. When the figure approached nearer, he saw that
it was a slender, barefooted girl, carrying a pail of water. As she
emerged from the dim aisle of trees, a gleam of the setting sun shone
across her face for an instant, and imparted a luminous glory to her
large brown eyes. Shading them with her hand, she paused timidly before
the stranger, and answered his inquiries. The modulation of her tones
suggested a degree of refinement which be had not expected to meet in
that lonely region. He gazed at her so intently, that her eyes sought
the ground, and their long, dark fringes rested on blushing cheeks. What
was it those eyes recalled? They tantalized and eluded his memory. "My
good girl, tell me what is your name," he said.
"Louisa," she replied, bashfully, and added, "I will show you the way to
"Let me carry the water for you," said the kind-hearted traveller. He
dismounted for the purpose, but she resisted his importunities, saying
that _she_ would be very angry with her.
"And who is _she_?" he asked. "Is she your mother?"
"Oh, no, indeed!" was the hasty reply. "I am--I--I live there."
The disclaimer was sudden and earnest, as if the question struck on a
wounded nerve. Her eyes swam with tears, and the remainder of her answer
was sad and reluctant in its tones. The child was so delicately formed,
so shy and sensitive, so very beautiful, that she fascinated him
strongly. He led his horse into the lane she had entered, and as he
walked by her side he continued to observe her with the most lively
interest. Her motions were listless and languid, but flexile as a
willow. They puzzled him, as her eyes had done; for they seemed to
remind him of something he had seen in a half-forgotten dream.
They soon came in sight of the house, which was built of logs, but
larger than most houses of that description; and two or three huts in
the rear indicated that the owner possessed slaves. An open porch
in front was shaded by the projecting roof, and there two dingy,
black-nosed dogs were growling and tousling each other. Pigs were
rooting the ground, and among them rolled a black baby, enveloped in a
bundle of dirty rags. The traveller waited while Louisa went into the
house to inquire whether entertainment could be furnished for
himself and his horse. It was some time before the proprietor of the
establishment made his appearance. At last he came slowly sauntering
round the end of the house, his hat tipped on one side, with a rowdyish
air. He was accompanied by a large dog, which rushed in among the pigs,
biting their ears, and making them race about, squealing piteously. Then
he seized hold of the bundle of rags containing the black baby, and
began to drag it over the ground, to the no small astonishment of the
baby, who added his screech to the charivari of the pigs. With loud
shouts of laughter, Mr. Jackson cheered on the rough animal, and was
so much entertained by the scene, that he seemed to have forgotten the
traveller entirely. When at last his eye rested upon him, he merely
exclaimed, "That's a hell of a dog!" and began to call, "_Staboy_!"
again. The negro woman came and snatched up her babe, casting a furtive
glance at her master, as she did so, and making her escape as quickly as
possible. Towzer, being engaged with the pigs at that moment, allowed
her to depart unmolested; and soon came back to his master, wagging his
tail, and looking up, as if expecting praise for his performances.
The traveller availed himself of this season of quiet to renew his
"Well," said Mr. Jackson, "I reckon we can accommodate ye. Whar ar ye
Mr. Noble having stated "whar" he was from, was required to tell "whar"
he was going, whether he owned that "bit of horse-flesh," and whether
he wanted to sell him. Having answered all these interrogatories in a
satisfactory manner, he was ushered into the house.
The interior was rude and slovenly, like the exterior. The doors were
opened by wooden latches with leather strings, and sagged so much on
their wooden hinges, that they were usually left open to avoid the
difficulty of shutting them. Guns and fishing-tackle were on the walls,
and the seats were wooden benches or leather-bottomed chairs. A tall,
lank woman, with red hair, and a severe aspect, was busy mending a
garment. When asked if the traveller could be provided with supper, she
curtly replied that she "reckoned so"; and, without further parlance, or
salute, went out to give orders. Immediately afterward, her shrill voice
was heard calling out, "You gal! put the fixens on the table."
The "gal," who obeyed the summons, proved to be the sylph-like child
that had guided the traveller to the house. To the expression of
listlessness and desolation which he had previously noticed, there
was now added a look of bewilderment and fear. He thought she might,
perhaps, be a step-daughter of Mrs. Jackson; but how could so coarse a
man as his host be the father of such gentleness and grace?
While supper was being prepared, Mr. Jackson entered into conversation
with his guest about the usual topics in that region,--the prices
of cotton and "niggers." He frankly laid open his own history and
prospects, stating that he was "fetched up" in Western Tennessee, where
he owned but two "niggers." A rich uncle had died in Alabama, and he had
come in for a portion of his wild land and "niggers"; so he concluded
to move South and take possession. Mr. Noble courteously sustained his
share of the conversation; but his eyes involuntarily followed the
interesting child, as she passed in and out to arrange the supper-table.
"You seem to fancy Leewizzy," said Mr. Jackson, shaking the ashes from
"I have never seen a handsomer child," replied Mr. Noble. "Is she your
"No, Sir; she's my nigger," was the brief response.
The young girl reentered the room at that moment, and the statement
seemed so incredible, that the traveller eyed her with scrutinizing
glance, striving in vain to find some trace of colored ancestry.
"Come here, Leewizzy," said her master. "What d'ye keep yer eyes on the
ground for? You 'a'n't got no occasion to be ashamed o' yer eyes. Hold
up yer head, now, and look the gentleman in the face."
She tried to obey, but native timidity overcame the habit of submission,
and, after one shy glance at the stranger, her eyelids lowered, and
their long, dark fringes rested on blushing cheeks.
"I reckon ye don't often see a poottier piece o' flesh," said Mr.
While he was speaking, his wife had come in from the kitchen, followed
by a black woman with a dish of sweet potatoes and some hot corn-cakes.
She made her presence manifest by giving "Leewizzy" a violent push, with
the exclamation, "What ar ye standing thar for, yer lazy wench? Go and
help Dinah bring in the fixens." Then turning to her husband, she said,
"You'll make a fool o' that ar gal. It's high time she was sold. She's
no account here."
Mr. Jackson gave a knowing wink at his guest, and remarked, "Women-folks
are ginerally glad enough to have niggers to wait on 'em; but ever sence
that gal come into the house, my old woman's been in a desperate hurry
to have me sell her. But such an article don't lose nothing by waiting
awhile. I've some thoughts of taking a tramp to Texas one o' these
days; and I reckon a prime fancy article, like that ar, would bring a
fust-rate price in New Orleans."
The subject of his discourse was listening to what he said; and partly
from tremor at the import of his words, and partly from fear that she
should not place the dish of bacon and eggs to please her mistress, she
tipped it in setting it down, so that some of the fat was spilled upon
the table-cloth. Mrs. Jackson seized her and slapped her hard, several
times, on both sides of her head. The frightened child tried to escape,
as soon as she was released from her grasp, but, being ordered to
remain and wait upon table, she stood behind her mistress, carefully
suppressing her sobs, though unable to keep back the tears that trickled
down her cheeks. The traveller was hungry; but this sight was a damper
upon his appetite. He was indignant at seeing such a timid young
creature so roughly handled; but he dared not give utterance to his
emotions, for fear of increasing the persecution to which she was
subjected. Afterward, when his host and hostess were absent from the
room, and Louisa was clearing the table, impelled by a feeling of pity,
which he could not repress, he laid his hand gently upon her head, and
said, "Poor child!"
It was a simple phrase; but his kindly tones produced a mighty effect on
that suffering little soul. Her pent-up affections rushed forth like
a flood when the gates are opened. She threw herself into his arms,
nestled her head upon his breast, and sobbed out, "Oh, I have nobody to
love me now!" This outburst of feeling was so unexpected, that the
young man felt embarrassed, and knew not what to do. His aversion to
disagreeable scenes amounted to a weakness; and be knew, moreover, that,
if his hostess should become aware of his sympathy, her victim would
fare all the worse for it. Still, it was not in his nature to repel the
affection that yearned toward him with so overwhelming an impulse. He
placed his hand tenderly on her head, and said, in a soothing voice, "Be
quiet now, my little girl. I hear somebody coming; and you know your
mistress expects you to clear the table."
Mrs. Jackson was in fact approaching, and Louisa hastily resumed her
Had Mr. Noble been guilty of some culpable action, he could not have
felt more desirous to escape the observation of his hostess. As soon
as she entered, he took up his hat hastily, and went out to ascertain
whether his horse had been duly cared for.
He saw Louisa no more that night. But as he lay awake, looking at a star
that peeped in upon him through an opening in the log wall, he thought
of her beautiful eyes, when the sun shone upon them, as she emerged from
the shadows. He wished that his mother and sister were living, that they
might adopt the attractive child. Then he remembered that she was a
slave, reserved for the New Orleans market, and that it was not likely
his good mother could obtain her, if she were alive and willing to
undertake the charge. Sighing, as he had often done, to think how many
painful things there were which he had no power to remedy, he fell
asleep and saw a very small girl dancing with a pail of water, while
a flock of white doves were wheeling round her. The two pictures had
mingled on the floating cloud-canvas of dream-land.
He had paid for his entertainment before going to bed, and had signified
his intention to resume his journey as soon as light dawned. All was
silent in the house when he went forth; and out of doors nothing
was stirring but a dog that roused himself to bark after him, and
chanticleer perched on a stump to crow. He was, therefore, surprised to
find Louisa at the crib where his horse was feeding. Springing toward
him, she exclaimed,--
"Oh, you have come! Do buy me, Sir! I will be _so_ good! I will do
everything you tell me! Oh, I am so unhappy! Do buy me, Sir!"
He patted her on the head, and looked down compassionately into the
swimming eyes that were fixed so imploringly upon his.
"Buy you, my poor child?" he replied. "I have no house,--I have nothing
for you to do."
"My mother showed me how to sew some, and how to do some embroidery,"
she said, coaxingly. "I will learn to do it better, and I can earn
enough to buy something to eat. Oh, do buy me, Sir! Do take me with
"I cannot do that," he replied; "for I must go another day's journey
before I return to Mobile."
"Do you live in Mobile?" she exclaimed, eagerly. "My father lived in
Mobile. Once I tried to run away there, but they set the dogs after me.
Oh, do carry me back to Mobile!"
"What is your name?" said he; "and in what part of the city did you
"My name is Louisa Duncan; and my father lived at Pine Grove. It was
such a beautiful place! and I was _so_ happy there! Will you take me
back to Mobile? _Will_ you?"
Evading the question, he said,--
"Your name is Louisa, but your father called you Loo Loo, didn't he?"
That pet name brought forth a passionate outburst of tears. Her voice
choked, and choked again, as she sobbed out,--
"Nobody has ever called me Loo Loo since my father died."
He soothed her with gentle words, and she, looking up earnestly, as if
stirred by a sudden thought, exclaimed,--
"How did you _know_ my father called me Loo Loo?"
He smiled as he answered, "Then you don't remember a young man who ran
after you one day, when you were playing with a little white dog at Pine
Grove? and how your father called to you, 'Come here, Loo Loo, and see
"I don't remember it," she replied; "but I remember how my father used
to laugh at me about it, long afterward. He said I was very young to
have gentlemen running after me."
"I am that gentleman," he said. "When I first looked at you, I thought I
had seen you before; and now I see plainly that you are Loo Loo."
That name was associated with so many tender memories, that she seemed
to hear her father's voice once more. She nestled close to her new
friend, and repeated, in most persuasive tones, "You _will_ buy me?
"And your mother? What has become of her?" he asked.
"She died of yellow fever, two days before my father. I am all alone.
Nobody cares for me. You _will_ buy me,--won't you?"
"But tell me how you came here, my poor child," he said.
She answered, "I don't know. After my father died, a great many folks
came to the house, and they sold everything. They said my father was
uncle to Mr. Jackson, and that I belonged to him. But Mrs. Jackson won't
let me call Mr. Duncan my father. She says, if she ever hears of my
calling him so again, she'll whip me. Do let me be _your_ daughter! You
_will_ buy me,--won't you?"
Overcome by her entreaties, and by the pleading expression of those
beautiful eyes, he said, "Well, little teaser, I will see whether Mr.
Jackson will sell you to me. If he will, I will send for you before
"Oh, don't _send_ for me!" she exclaimed, moving her hands up and down
with nervous rapidity. "Come _yourself_, and come _soon_. They'll carry
me to New Orleans, if _you_ don't come for me."
"Well, well, child, be quiet. If I can buy you, I will come for you
myself. Meanwhile, be a good girl. I won't forget you."
He stooped down, and sealed the promise with a kiss on her forehead.
As he raised his head, he became aware that Bill, the horse-boy, was
peeping in at the door, with a broad grin upon his black face. He
understood the meaning of that grin, and it seemed like an ugly imp
driving away a troop of fairies. He was about to speak angrily, but
checked himself with the reflection, "They will all think so. Black or
white, they will all think so. But what can I do? I _must_ save this
child from the fate that awaits her." To Bill he merely said that he
wished to see Mr. Jackson on business, and had, therefore, changed his
mind about starting before breakfast.
The bargain was not soon completed; for Mr. Jackson had formed large
ideas concerning the price "Leewizzy" would bring in the market; and
Bill had told the story of what he witnessed at the crib, with sundry
jocose additions, which elicited peals of laughter from his master. But
the orphan had won the young man's heart by the childlike confidence she
had manifested toward him, and conscience would not allow him to break
the solemn promise he had given her. After a protracted conference, he
agreed to pay eight hundred dollars, and to come for Louisa the next
The appearance of the sun, after a long, cold storm, never made a
greater change than the announcement of this arrangement produced in the
countenance and manners of that desolate child. The expression of fear
vanished, and listlessness gave place to a springing elasticity of
motion. Mr. Noble could ill afford to spare so large a sum for the
luxury of benevolence, and he was well aware that the office of
protector, which he had taken upon himself, must necessarily prove
expensive. But when he witnessed her radiant happiness, he could not
regret that he had obeyed the generous impulse of his heart. Now, for
the first time, she was completely identified with the vision of that
fairy child who had so captivated his fancy four years before. He never
forgot the tones of her voice, and the expression of her eyes, when she
kissed his hand at parting, and said, "I thank you, Sir, for buying me."
In a world like this, it is much easier to plan generous enterprises
than to carry them into effect. After Mr. Noble had purchased the child,
he knew not how to provide a suitable home for her. At first, he placed
her with his colored washerwoman. But if she remained in that situation,
though her bodily wants would be well cared for, she must necessarily
lose much of the refinement infused into her being by that early
environment of elegance, and that atmosphere of love. He did not enter
into any analysis of his motives in wishing her to be so far educated
as to be a pleasant companion for himself. The only question he asked
himself was, How he would like to have his sister treated, if she had
been placed in such unhappy circumstances. He knew very well what
construction would be put upon his proceedings, in a society where
handsome girls of such parentage were marketable; and he had so long
tacitly acquiesced in the customs around him, that he might easily have
viewed her in that light himself, had she not become invested with a
tender and sacred interest from the circumstances in which he had first
seen her, and the innocent, confiding manner in which she had implored
him to supply the place of her father. She was always presented to his
imagination as Mr. Duncan's beloved daughter, never as Mr. Jackson's
slave. He said to himself, "May God bless me according to my dealings
with this orphan! May I never prosper, if I take advantage of her
As for his _protegee_, she was too ignorant of the world to be disturbed
by any such thoughts. "May I call you Papa, as I used to call my
father?" said she.
For some reason, undefined to himself, the title was unpleasant to him.
It did not seem as if his sixteen years of seniority need place so wide
a distance between them. "No," he replied, "you shall be my sister." And
thenceforth she called him Brother Alfred, and he called her Loo Loo.
His curiosity was naturally excited to learn all he could of her
history; and it was not long before he ascertained that her mother was a
superbly handsome quadroon, from New Orleans, the daughter of a French
merchant, who had given her many advantages of education, but from
carelessness had left her to follow the condition of her mother, who
was a slave. Mr. Duncan fell in love with her, bought her, and remained
strongly attached to her until the day of her death. It had always
been his intention to manumit her, but, from inveterate habits of
procrastination, he deferred it, till the fatal fever attacked them
both; and so _his_ child also was left to "follow the condition of her
mother." Having neglected to make a will, his property was divided among
the sons of sisters married at a distance from him, and thus the little
daughter, whom he had so fondly cherished, became the property of Mr.
Jackson, who valued her as he would a handsome colt likely to bring
a high price in the market. She was too young to understand all the
degradation to which she would be subjected, but she had once witnessed
an auction of slaves, and the idea of being sold filled her with terror.
She had endured six months of corroding homesickness and constant fear,
when Mr. Noble came to her rescue.
After a few weeks passed with the colored washerwoman, she was placed
with an elderly French widow, who was glad to eke out her small income
by taking motherly care of her, and giving her instruction in music
and French. The caste to which she belonged on the mother's side was
rigorously excluded from schools, therefore it was not easy to obtain
for her a good education in the English branches. These Alfred took upon
himself; and a large portion of his evenings was devoted to hearing her
lessons in geography, arithmetic, and history. Had any one told him,
a year before, that hours thus spent would have proved otherwise than
tedious, he would not have believed it. But there was a romantic charm
about this secret treasure, thus singularly placed at his disposal; and
the love and gratitude he inspired gradually became a necessity of his
life. Sometimes he felt sad to think that the time must come when she
would cease to be a child, and when the quiet, simple relation now
existing between them must necessarily change. He said to the old French
lady, "By and by, when I can afford it, I will send her to one of the
best schools at the North. There she can become a teacher and take care
of herself." Madame Labasse smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and said,
"_Nous verrons_." She did not believe it.
The years glided on, and all went prosperously with the young merchant.
Through various conflicts with himself, his honorable resolution
remained unbroken. Loo Loo was still his sister. She had become
completely entwined with his existence. Life would have been very dull
without her affectionate greetings, her pleasant little songs, and the
graceful dances she had learned to perform so well. Sometimes, when he
had passed a peculiarly happy evening in this fashion, Madame Labasse
would look mischievous, and say, "But when do you think you shall send
her to that school?" True, she did not often repeat this experiment; for
whenever she did it, the light went out of his countenance, as if an
extinguisher were placed upon his soul. "I _ought_ to do it," he said
within himself; "but how _can_ I live without her?" The French widow was
the only person aware how romantic and how serious was this long
episode in his life. Some gentlemen, whom he frequently met in business
relations, knew that he had purchased a young slave, whom he had placed
with a French woman to be educated; but had he told them the true state
of the case, they would have smiled incredulously. Occasionally, they
uttered some joke about the fascination which made him so indifferent
to cards and horses; but the reserve with which he received such jests
checked conversation on the subject, and all, except Mr. Grossman,
discontinued such attacks, after one or two experiments.
As Mr. Noble's wealth increased, the wish grew stronger to place Louisa
in the midst of as much elegance as had surrounded her in childhood.
When the house at Pine Grove was unoccupied, they often went out there,
and it was his delight to see her stand under the Gothic arch of trees,
a beautiful _tableau vivant_, framed in vines. It was a place so full
of heart-memories to her, that she always lingered there as long as
possible, and never left it without a sigh. In one place was a tree her
father had planted, in another a rose or a jessamine her mother had
trained. But dearest of all was a recess among the pine-trees, on the
side of a hill. There was a rustic garden-chair, where her father had
often sat with her upon his knee, reading wonderful story-books, bought
for her on his summer excursions to New York or Boston. In one of her
visits with Alfred, she sat there and read aloud from "Lalla Rookh."
It was a mild winter day. The sunlight came mellowed through the
evergreens, a soft carpet of scarlet foliage was thickly strewn beneath
their feet, and the air was redolent of the balmy breath of pines. Fresh
and happy in the glow of her fifteen summers, how could she otherwise
than enjoy the poem? It was like sparkling wine in a jewelled goblet.
Never before had she read anything aloud in tones so musically
modulated, so full of feeling. And the listener? How worked the wine in
_him?_ A voice within said, "Remember your vow, Alfred! this charming
Loo Loo is your adopted sister"; and he tried to listen to the warning.
She did not notice his tremor, when he rose hastily and said, "The sun
is nearly setting. It is time for my sister to go home."
"Home?" she repeated, with a sigh. "_This_ is my home. I wish I could
stay here always. I feel as if the spirits of my father and mother were
with us here." Had she sighed for an ivory palace inlaid with gold, he
would have wished to give it to her,--he was so much in love!
A few months afterward, Pine Grove was offered for sale. He resolved to
purchase it, and give her a pleasant surprise by restoring her to her
old home, on her sixteenth birth-day. Madame Labasse, who greatly
delighted in managing mysteries, zealously aided in the preparations.
When the day arrived, Alfred proposed a long ride with Loo Loo,--in
honor of the anniversary; and during their absence, Madame, accompanied
by two household servants, established herself at Pine Grove. When
Alfred returned from the drive, he proposed to stop and look at the dear
old place, to which his companion joyfully assented. But nothing could
exceed her astonishment at finding Madame Labasse there, ready to
preside at a table spread with fruit and flowers. Her feelings
overpowered her for a moment, when Alfred said, "Dear sister, you said
you wished you could live here always; and this shall henceforth be your
"You are too good!" she exclaimed, and was about to burst into tears.
But he arrested their course by saying, playfully, "Come, Loo Loo, kiss
my hand, and say, 'Thank you, Sir, for buying me.' Say it just as you
did six years ago, you little witch!"
Her swimming eyes smiled like sunshine through an April shower, and she
went through the pantomime, which she had often before performed at his
bidding. Madame stepped in with her little jest: "But, Sir, when do you
think you shall send her to that _pension?"_
"Never mind," he replied, abruptly; "Let us be happy!" And he moved
to-ward the table to distribute the fruit.
It was an inspiring spring-day, and ended in the loveliest of
evenings. The air was filled with the sweet breath of jessamines and
orange-blossoms. Madame touched the piano, and, in quick obedience to
the circling sound, Alfred and Loo Loo began to waltz. It was long
before youth and happiness grew weary of the revolving maze. But when at
last she complained of dizziness, he playfully whirled her out upon the
piazza, and placed her on a lounge under the Cherokee rose her mother
had trained, which was now a mass of blossoms. He seated himself in
front of her, and they remained silent for some minutes, watching the
vine-shadows play in the moonlight. As Loo Loo leaned on the balustrade,
the clustering roses hung over her in festoons, and trailed on her white
muslin drapery. Alfred was struck, as he had been many times before,
with the unconscious grace of her attitude. In imagination, he recalled
his first vision of her in early childhood, the singular circumstance
that had united their destinies, and the thousand endearing experiences
which day by day had strengthened the tie. As these thoughts passed
through his mind, he gazed upon her with devouring earnestness. She was
too beautiful, there in the moonlight, crowned with roses!
"Loo Loo, do you love me?" he exclaimed.
The vehemence of his tone startled her, as she sat there in a mood still
and dreamy as the landscape.
She sprang up, and, putting her arm about his neck, answered, "Why,
Alfred, you _know_ your sister loves you."
"Not as a brother, not as a brother, dear Loo Loo," he said,
impatiently, as he drew her closely to his breast. "Will you be my love?
Will you be my wife?"
In the simplicity of her inexperience, and the confidence induced by
long habits of familiar reliance upon him, she replied, "I will be
anything you wish."
No flower was ever more unconscious of a lover's burning kisses than she
was of the struggle in his breast.
His feelings had been purely compassionate in the beginning of their
intercourse; his intentions had been purely kind afterward; but he had
gone on blindly to the edge of a slippery precipice. Human nature should
avoid such dangerous passes.
Reviewing that intoxicating evening in a calmer mood, he was
dissatisfied with his conduct. In vain he said to himself that he had
but followed a universal custom; that all his acquaintance would have
laughed in his face, had he told them of the resolution so bravely kept
during six years. The remembrance of his mother's counsels came freshly
to his mind; and the accusing voice of conscience said, "She was a
friendless orphan, whom misfortune ought to have rendered sacred. What
to you is the sanction of custom? Have you not a higher law within your
He tried to silence the monitor by saying, "When I have made a little
more money, I will return to the North. I will marry Loo Loo on the way
and she shall be acknowledged to the world as my wife, as she now is in
my own soul."
Meanwhile, the orphan lived in her father's house as her mother had
lived before her. She never aided the voice of Alfred's conscience by
pleading with him to make her his wife; for she was completely satisfied
with her condition, and had undoubting faith that whatever he did was
always the wisest and the best.
[To be continued.]
The wind got up moaning, and blew to a breeze;
I sat with my face closely pressed on the pane;
In a minute or two it began to rain,
And put out the sunset-fire in the trees.
In the clouds' black faces broke out dismay
That ran of a sudden up half the sky,
And the team, cutting ruts in the grass, went by,
Heavy and dripping with sweet wet hay.
Clutching the straws out and knitting his brow,
Walked Arthur beside it, unsteady of limb;
I stood up in wonder, for, following him,
Charley was used to be;--where was he now?
"'Tis like him," I said, "to be working thus late!"--
I said it, but did not believe it was so;
He could not have staid in the meadow to mow,
With rain coming down at so dismal a rate.
"He's bringing the cows home."--I choked at that lie:
They were huddled close by in a tumult and fret,
Some pawing the dry dust up out of the wet,
Some looking afield with their heads lifted high.
O'er the run, o'er the hilltop, and on through the gloom
My vision ran quick as the lightning could dart;
All at once the blood shocked and stood still in my heart;--
He was coming as never till then he had come!
Borne 'twixt our four work-hands, I saw through the fall
Of the rain, and the shadows so thick and so dim,
They had taken their coats off and spread them on him,
And that he was lying out straight,--that was all!
THE CATACOMBS OF ROME.
Custodit Dominus emnia ossa eorum.
Ps. xxxiii. 20
Not quite two miles from the city-gate known as the Porta Pia, there
stands, on the left hand of the Nomentan Way, the ancient, and, until
lately, beautiful, Church of St. Agnes outside the Walls. The chief
entrance to it descends by a flight of wide steps; for its pavement is
below the level of the ground, in order to afford easy access to the
catacombs known as those of St. Agnes, which opened out from it and
stretched away in interlacing passages under the neighboring fields.
It was a quiet, retired place, with the sacredness that invests every
ancient sanctuary, in which the prayers and hymns of many generations
have risen. The city was not near enough to disturb the stillness within
its walls; little vineyards, and plots of market-garden, divided from
each other by hedges of reeds and brambly roses, with wider open fields
in the distance, lay around it; a deserted convent stood at its side;
its precious marble columns were dulled and the gold ground of its
mosaics was dimmed by the dust of centuries; its pavement was deeply
worn; and its whole aspect was that of seclusion and venerable age,
without desertion and without decay.
The story of St. Agnes is one of those which at the beginning of the
fourth century became popular among the Christians and in the Church of
Rome. The martyrdom, under most cruel tortures and terrors, of a young
girl, who chose to die rather than yield her purity or her faith,
and who died with entire serenity and peace, supported by divine
consolations, caused her memory to be cherished with an affection and
veneration similar to that in which the memory of St. Cecilia was
already held,--and very soon after her death, which is said to have
taken place in the year 304, she was honored as one of the holiest of
the disciples of the Lord. Her story has been a favorite one through all
later ages; poetry and painting have illustrated it; and wherever the
Roman faith has spread, Saint Agnes has been one of the most beloved
saints both of the rich and the poor, of the great and of the humble.
In her Acts[A] it is related that she was buried by her parents in a
meadow on the Nomentan Way. Here, it is probable, a cemetery had already
for some time existed; and it is most likely that the body of the Saint
was laid in one of the common tombs of the catacombs. The Acts go on
to tell, that her father and mother constantly watched at night by her
grave, and once, while watching, "they saw, in the mid silence of the
night, an army of virgins, clothed in woven garments of gold, passing
by with a great light. And in the midst of them they beheld the most
blessed virgin Agnes, shining in a like dress, and at her right hand a
lamb whiter than snow. At this sight, great amazement took possession of
her parents and of those who were with them. But the blessed Agnes asked
the holy virgins to stay their advance for a moment, when she said to
her parents, 'Behold, weep not for me as for one dead, but rejoice with
me and wish me joy; for with all these I have received a shining seat,
and I am united in heaven to Him whom while on earth I loved with all my
heart.' And with these words she passed on." The report of this vision
was spread among the Christians of Rome. The pleasing story was received
into willing hearts; and the memory of the virgin was so cherished, that
her name was soon given to the cemetery where she had been buried,
and, becoming a favorite resting-place of the dead, its streets were
lengthened by the addition of many graves.
[Footnote A: This is the name given to the accounts of the saints and
martyrs composed in early times for the use of the Church.]
Not many years afterwards, Constantia, the daughter of the Emperor
Constantine, suffering from a long and painful disease, for which she
found no relief, heard of the marvellous vision, and was told of
many wonderful cures that had been wrought at the tomb and by the
intercession of the youthful Saint. She determined, although a pagan,
to seek the aid of which such great things were told; and going to the
grave of Agnes at night, she prayed for relief. Falling suddenly into a
sweet sleep, the Saint appeared to her, and promised her that she should
be made well, if she would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. She awoke,
as the story relates, full of faith, and found herself well. Moved with
gratitude, she besought her father to build a church on the spot in
honor of Saint Agnes, and in compliance with her wish, and in accordance
with his own disposition to erect suitable temples for the services of
his new faith, Constantine built the church, which a few centuries later
was rebuilt in its present form and adorned with the mosaics that still
Nearly about the same time a circular building was erected hard by the
church, designed as a mausoleum for Constantia and other members of the
imperial family. The Mausoleum of Hadrian was occupied by the bodies of
heathen emperors and empresses, and filled with heathen associations.
New tombs were needed for the bodies of those who professed to have
revolted from heathenism. The marble pillars of the Mausoleum of
Constantia were taken from more ancient and nobler buildings, its walls
were lined with mosaics, and her body was laid in a splendid sarcophagus
of porphyry. In the thirteenth century, after Constantia had been
received into the liberal community of Roman saints, her mausoleum was
consecrated as a church and dedicated to her honor. A narrow, unworn
path leads to it from the Church of St. Agnes; it has been long left
uncared-for and unfrequented, and, stripped of its movable ornaments,
it is now in a half-ruinous condition. But its decay is more impressive
than the gaudy brightness of more admired and renovated buildings.
The weeds that grow in the crevices of its pavement and hang over the
capitals of its ancient pillars, the green mould on its walls, the
cracks in its mosaics, are better and fuller of suggestion to the
imagination than the shiny surface and the elaborate finish of modern
restorations. Restoration in these days always implies irreverence and
bad taste. But the architecture of this old building and the purpose
for which it was originally designed present a marked example of the
rapidity of the change in the character of the Christians with the
change of their condition at Rome, during the reign of Constantine. The
worldliness that follows close on prosperity undermined the spirit of
faith; the pomp and luxury of the court and the palace were carried into
the forms of worship, into the construction of churches, into the manner
of burial. Social distinctions overcame the brotherhood in Christ.
Riches paved an easy way into the next world, and power set up guards
around it. Imperial remains were not to mingle with common dust, and the
mausoleum of the princess rose above the rock-hewn and narrow grave of
the martyr and saint.
The present descent into the catacombs that lie near the churches of St.
Agnes and St. Constantia is by an entrance in a neighboring field, made,
after the time of persecution, to accommodate those who might desire
to visit the underground chapels and holy graves. A vast labyrinth of
streets spreads in every direction from it. Many chambers have been, cut
in the rock at the side of the passages,--some for family burial-places,
some for chapels, some for places of instruction for those not yet fully
entered into the knowledge of the faith. It is one of the most populous
of the subterranean cemeteries, and one of the most interesting,
from the great variety in its examples of underground architectural
construction, and from the number of the paintings that are found upon
its walls. But its peculiar interest is, that it affords at one point a
marked example of the connection of an _arenarium_, or pit from which
_pozzolana_ was extracted, with the streets of the cemetery itself. At
this point, the bed of compact _tufa_, in which the graves are dug,
degenerates into friable and loosely compacted volcanic sand,--and it
was here, very probably, that the cemetery was begun, at a time when
every precaution had to be used by the Christians to prevent the
discovery of their burial-places. No other of the catacombs gives a
clearer exhibition of the differences in construction resulting from
the different objects of excavation. In the Acts known as those of St.
Valentine it is related, that in the time of Claudius many Christians
were condemned to work in certain sand-pits. Under cover of such
opportunities, occasions might be found in which hidden graves could
be formed in the neighboring harder soil. In digging out the sand, the
object was to take out the greatest quantity consistent with
safety, leaving only such supports as were necessary to hold up the
superincumbent earth. There are few regular paths, but wide spaces with
occasional piers,--the passages being of sufficient width to admit of
the entrance of beasts of burden, and even of carts. The soil crumbles
so easily, that no row of excavations one above another could be made in
it; for the stroke of the pick-axe brings it down in loose masses. The
whole aspect of the sand-pit contrasts strikingly with that of the
catacombs, with their three-feet wide galleries, their perpendicular
walls, and their tier on tier of graves.
The stratum of pozzolana at the Catacombs of St. Agnes overlies a
portion of the more solid stratum of tufa, and the entrance to the
sand-pit from the cemetery is by steps leading up from the end of a long
gallery. Such an entrance could have been easily concealed; and the tufa
cut out for the graves, after having been reduced to the condition of
pozzolana, might easily at night have been brought up to the floor of
the pit. In many of the Acts of the Martyrs it is said that they were
buried _in Arenario_, "in the sand-pit,"--an expression which, there
seems no good reason for doubting, meant in the catacombs whose entrance
was at the sand-pit, they not having yet received a distinctive name.
It is difficult to convey to a distant reader even a small share of the
interest with which one sees on the spot evidences of the reality of the
precautions with which, in those early centuries, the Christians of Rome
were forced to guard themselves against a persecution which extended to
their very burial-places,--or even of the interest with which one walks
through the unchanged paths dug out of the rock by this _tenebrosa et
lucifugax natio_. In the midst of the obscurity of history and the fog
of fable, here is the solid earth giving evidence of truth. Here one
sees where, by the light of his dim candle, the solitary digger hollowed
out the grave of one of the near followers of the apostles; and here one
reads in hasty and ill-spelt inscriptions something of the affection and
of the faith of those who buried their dead in the sepulchre dug in the
rock. The Christian Rome underground is a rebuke to the Papal Rome above
it; and, from the worldly pomp, the tedious forms, the trickeries, the
mistakes, the false claims and falser assertions, the empty architecture
that reveals the infidelity of its builders, the gross materialism, and
the crass superstition of the Roman Church, one turns with relief of
heart and eyes to the poverty and bareness of the dark and narrow
catacombs, and to the simple piety of the words found upon their
graves. In them is at once the exhibition and the promise of a purer
Christianity. In them, indeed, one may see only too plainly the
evidences of ignorance, the beginnings of superstitions, the first,
traces of the corruption of the truth, the proofs of false zeal and of
foolish martyrdoms,--but with these are also to be plainly seen the
purity and the spirituality of elevated Christian faith.
In the service of the Roman Church used at the removal of the bodies of
the holy martyrs from their graves in the catacombs is a prayer in which
are the words,--"Thou hast set the bodies of thy soldiers as guards
around the walls of this thy beloved Jerusalem";--and as one passes from
catacomb to catacomb, it is, indeed, as if he passed from station to
station of the encircling camp of the great army of the martyrs. Leaving
the burial-place of St. Agnes, we continue along the Nomentan Way to the
seventh milestone from Rome. Here the Campagna stretches on either side
in broad, unsheltered sweeps. Now and then a rough wall crosses the
fields, marking the boundaries of one of the great farms into which the
land is divided. On the left stands a low farm-house, with its outlying
buildings, and at a distance on each side the eye falls on low square
brick towers of the Middle Ages, and on the ruinous heaps of more
ancient tombs. The Sabine mountains push their feet far down upon the
plain, covered with a gray-green garment of olive-woods. Few scenes in
the Campagna are more striking, from the mingling of barrenness and
beauty, from the absence of imposing monumental ruins and the presence
of old associations. The turf of the wide fields was cropped in the
winter by the herds driven down at that season from the recesses of the
Neapolitan mountains, and the irregular surface of the soil afforded no
special indications of treasures buried beneath it. But the Campagna is
full of hidden graves and secreted buildings.
In the Acts of the Martyrdom of St. Alexander, who, according to the
story of the Church, was the sixth successor of St. Peter, and who was
put to death in the persecution of Trajan, in the year 117, it was said
that his body was buried by a Roman lady, Severina, "on her farm, at the
seventh milestone from Rome on the Nomentan Way." These Acts, however,
were regarded as apocryphal, and their statement had drawn but little
attention to the locality. In the spring of 1855, a Roman archaeologist,
Signore Guidi, obtained permission from the Propaganda, by whom the land
was now held, as a legacy from the last of the Stuarts, the Cardinal
York, to make excavations upon it. Beginning at a short distance from
the road, on the right hand, and proceeding carefully, he soon struck
upon a flight of steps formed of pieces of broken marble, which, at
about fifteen feet below the surface of the ground, ended upon a
floor paved with bits of marble, tombstones, and mosaics. As the work
proceeded, it disclosed the walls of an irregular church, that had been
constructed, like that of St. Agnes, partially beneath the soil, for the
purpose of affording an entrance into adjoining catacombs. Remains of
the altar were found, and portions of the open-work marble screen which
had stood before it over the crypt in which the bodies of St. Alexander
and one of his fellow-martyrs had been placed. A part of the inscription
on its border was preserved, and read as follows: ET ALEXANDRO DEDICATUS
VOTUM POSUIT CONSECRANTE URSO EPISCOPO,--"Dedicatus placed this in
fulfilment of a vow to ---- and Alexander, the Bishop Ursus consecrating
it." The Acts supply the missing name of Eventius,--an aged priest, who,
it was said, had conversed with some of the apostles themselves. His
greater age had at that early and simple time given him the place of
honor in the inscription and in men's memory before the youthful,
so-called, Pope Alexander. Probably this little church had been built in
the fourth century, and here a bishop had been appointed to perform the
rites within it.
It was a strange and touching discovery, that of this long-buried, rude
country-church,--the very existence of which had been forgotten for more
than a thousand years. On the 3d of May, 1855, the day set apart in the
calendar to the honor of the saints to whom it was consecrated, the holy
services were once more performed upon the ancient altar of the roofless
sanctuary. The voices of priest and choir sounded through the long
silent chapels, while the larks sang their hymns of gladness over the
fields above. On the rough floor, inscriptions, upon which, in the
early centuries, the faithful had knelt, were again read by kneeling
worshippers. On one broken slab of marble was the word MARTYR; on
another, the two words, SPARAGINA FIDELIS; on another, POST VARIAS
CURAS, POST LONGE MONITA VITAE.
The catacombs opening from the church have not been entered to a great
distance, and though more rudely excavated than most of those nearer the
city, as if intended for the burial-places of a poorer population, they
are of peculiar interest because many of their graves remain in their
original state, and here and there, in the mortar that fastens their
tiled fronts, portions of the vessel of glass or pottery that held the
collected blood of the martyr laid within are still undisturbed. No
pictures of any size or beauty adorn the uneven walls, and no chapels
are hollowed out within them. Most of the few inscriptions are scratched
upon the mortar,--_Spiritus tuus in bono quiescat_,--but now and then
a bit of marble, once used for a heathen bears on its other side some
Christian words. None of the inscriptions within the church which bear
a date are later than the end of the fifth century, and it seems likely
that shortly after this time this church of the Campagna was deserted,
and its roof falling in, it was soon concealed under a mass of rubbish
and of earth, and the grass closed it with its soft and growing
During two years, the uncovered church, with its broken pillars, its
cracked altar, its imperfect mosaics, its worn pavement, remained open
to the sky, in the midst of solitude. But how could anything with such
simple and solemn associations long escape desecration at Rome? How
could such an opportunity for _restoration_ be passed over? How could so
sacred and venerable a locality be protected from modern superstition
and ecclesiastical zeal? In the spring of 1837, preparations were being
made for building upon the ground, and a Carthusian convent, it was
said, was to be erected, which would enclose within its lifeless walls
the remains of the ancient church. Once more, then, it is to be shut
out of the sky; and now it is not Nature that asserts her predominance,
protecting while she conceals, and throwing her mantle over the martyrs;
graves to keep them from sacrilege,--but she is driven away by the
builders of the papal court, and all precious old associations are
incongruous with those of modern Roman architecture and Roman conventual
One morning, in the spring of 1855, shortly after the discovery had been
made, the Pope went out to visit the Church of St. Alexander. On his
return, he stopped to rest in the unoccupied convent adjoining the
Church of St. Agnes. Here there was a considerable assemblage of those
who had accompanied him, and others who were admitted at this place to
join his suite. They were in the second story of the building, and the
Pope was in the act of addressing them, when suddenly the old floor,
unable to support the unaccustomed weight, gave way, and most of the
company fell with it to the floor below. The Pope was thrown down, but
did not fall through. The moment was one of great confusion and alarm,
the etiquette of the court was disturbed, but no person was killed and
no one dangerously hurt. In common language and in Roman belief, it was
a miraculous escape. The Pope, attributing his safety to the protection
of the Virgin and of St. Agnes, determined at once that the convent
should be rebuilt and reoccupied, and the church restored. The work
is now complete, and all the ancient charm of time and use, all the
venerable look of age and quiet, have been laboriously destroyed, and
gaudy, inharmonious color, gilding and polish have been substituted in
The debased taste and the unfeeling ignorance of restorers have been
employed, as so often in Italy, to spoil and desecrate the memorials
of the past; and the munificence of Pius, _Munificentia Pii IX._, is
placarded on the inner walls. One is too frequently reminded at Rome of
the old and new lamps in the story of Aladdin.
We turn reluctantly from the Nomentan Way, and passing through Rome,
we go out of the gate which opens on the Appian. About a mile from the
present wall, just where the road divides before coming to the Catacombs
of St. Callixtus, a little, ugly, white church, of the deformed
architecture of the seventeenth century, recalls, by its name of _Domine
quo vadis?_ "O Lord, whither goest thou?" one of the most impressive,
one of the earliest and simplest, of the many legends of the legendary
religious annals of Rome. It relates, that, at the time of the
persecution of Nero, St. Peter, being then in Rome, was persuaded to fly
secretly from the city, in the hope of escaping from the near peril.
Just as he reached this place, trembling, we may well believe, not more
with fear than with doubt, while past scenes rose vividly before him,
and the last words heard from his Master's lips came with a flood of
self-reproach into his heart,--as he hurried silently along, with head
bowed down, in the gray twilight, he became suddenly aware of a presence
before him, and, looking up, beheld the form of that beloved Master whom
he was now a second time denying. He beheld him, moreover, in the act
of bearing his cross. Peter, with his old ardor, did not wait to be
addressed, but said, _Domine, quo vadis?_--"O Lord, whither goest
thou?" The Saviour, looking at him as he had looked but once before,
replied, _Venio Romam iterum crucifigi_,--"I come to Rome to be
crucified a second time"; and thereupon disappeared. Peter turned,
reentered the gate, and shortly after was crucified for his Lord's sake.
His body, it is said, was laid away in a grave on the Vatican Hill,
where his great church was afterwards built.
And here we come upon another legend, which takes us out again on the
Appian Way, to the place where now stands the Church of St. Sebastian.
St. Gregory the Great relates in one of his letters, that, not long
after St. Peter and St. Paul had suffered martyrdom, some Christians
came from the East to Rome to find the bodies of these their countrymen,
which they desired to carry back with them to their own land. They so
far succeeded as to gain possession of the bodies, and to carry them as
far as the second milestone on the Appian Way. Here they paused, and
when they attempted to carry the bodies farther, so great a storm of
thunder and lightning arose, that they were terrified, and did not
venture to repeat their attempt. By this time, also, the Romans had
become aware of the carrying off of the sacred bodies, and, coming out
from the city, recovered possession of them. One of the old pictures on
the wall of the portico of the ancient basilica of St. Peter's preserved
a somewhat different version of the legend, representing the Romans as
falling violently upon the Oriental robbers, and compelling them, with
a storm of blows, to yield up the possession of the relics they were
carrying away by stealth.
But the legend went on further to state, that, on the spot where they
thus had regained the bodies of their saints, the Romans made a deep
hole in the ground, and laid them away within it very secretly. Here for
some time they rested, but at length were restored to their original
tombs, the one on the Ostian Way, the other on the Vatican. But St.
Peter was again to be laid in this secret chamber in the earth on the
Appian Way. In the episcopate of the saint and scoundrel Callixtus,
the Emperor Elagabalus, with characteristic extravagance and caprice,
resolved to make a circus on the Vatican, wide enough for courses of
chariots drawn by four elephants abreast. All the older buildings in the
way were to be destroyed, to gratify this imperial whim; and Callixtus,
fearing lest the Christian cemetery, and especially the tomb of the
prince of the apostles might be discovered and profaned, removed the
body of St. Peter once more to the Appian Way. Here it lay for forty
years, and round it and near it an underground cemetery was gradually
formed; and it was to this burial-place, first of all, that the name
Catacomb,[B] now used to denote all the underground cemeteries, was
[Footnote B: A word, the derivation of which is not yet determined. The
first instance of its use is in the letter of Gregory from which we
derive the legend. This letter was written A.D. 594.]
Though at length St. Peter was restored to the Vatican, from which he
has never since been removed, and where his grave is now hidden by his
church, the place where he had lain so long was still esteemed sacred.
The story of St. Sebastian relates how, after his martyred body had been
thrown into the Cloaca Maxima, that his friends might not have the last
satisfaction of giving it burial, he appeared in a vision to Lucina, a
Roman lady, told her where his body might be found, and bade her lay it
in a grave near that in which the apostles had rested. This was done,
and less than a century afterward a church rose to mark the place of his
burial, and connected with it, Pope Damasus, the first great restorer
and adorner of the catacombs, [A.D. 266-285,] caused the chamber that
was formed below the surface of the ground around the grave of the
apostles to be lined with wide slabs of marble, and to be consecrated as
a subterranean chapel. It is curious enough that this pious work should
have been performed, as is learned from an inscription set up here by
Damasus himself, in fulfilment of a vow, on the extinction among the
Roman clergy of the party of Ursicinus, his rival. This custom of
propitiating the favor of the saints by fair promises was thus early
established. It was soon found out that it was well to have a friend
at court with whom a bargain could be struck. If the adorning of this
chapel was all that Damasus had to pay for the getting rid of his
rival's party, the bargain was an easy one for him. There had been
terrible and bloody fights in the Roman streets between the parties of
the contending aspirants for the papal seat. Ursicinus had been driven
from Rome, but Damasus had had trouble with the priests of his faction.
Some of them had been rescued, as he was hurrying them off to prison,
and had taken refuge with their followers in the Basilica of St. Maria
Maggiore. Damasus, with a mob of charioteers, gladiators, and others of
the scum of Rome, broke into the church, and slew a hundred and sixty
men and women who had been shut up within it. Ursicinus, however,
returned to the city; there were fresh disturbances, and a new massacre,
on this occasion, in the Church of St. Agnes; and years passed before
Damasus was established as undisputed ruler of the Church.
It was then, in fulfilment of the vow he had made during his troubles,
that _Saint_ Damasus (for he became a saint long since, success being a
great sanctifier) adorned the underground chapel of the apostles. The
entrance to it is through the modern basilica of St. Sebastian. It is
a low, semicircular chamber, with irregular walls, in which a row of
arched graves (_arcosolia_) has been formed, which once were occupied,
probably, by bodies of saints or martyrs. Near the middle of the chapel
is the well, about seven feet square, within which are the two graves,
lined with marble, where the bodies of the apostles are said to have
lain hid. Fragments of painting still remain on the walls of this
pit, and three faint and shadowy figures may be traced, which seem to
represent the Saviour between St. Peter and St. Paul. Over the mouth of
the well stands an ancient altar. However little credence may be given
to the old legends concerning the place, it is impossible not to look
with interest upon it. For fifteen hundred years worshippers have knelt
there as upon ground made holy by the presence of the two apostles. The
memory of their lives and of their teachings has, indeed, consecrated
the place; and though superstition has often turned the light of that
memory into darkness, yet here, too, has faith been strengthened, and
courage become steadfast, and penitence been confirmed into holiness, by
the remembrance of the zeal, the denial of Peter, and the forgiveness of
his Master, by the remembrance of the conversion, the long service, the
exhortations, and the death of Paul.
The catacombs proper, to which entrance may be had from the Basilica of
St. Sebastian, are of little importance in themselves, and have lost, by
frequent alteration and by the erection of works of masonry for their
support, much that was characteristic of their original construction.
During a long period, while most of the other subterranean cemeteries
were abandoned, this remained open, and was visited by numerous
pilgrims. It led visitors to the church, and the guardians of the church
found it for their interest to keep it in good repair. Thus, though
its value as one of the early burial-places of the Christians was
diminished, another interest attached to it through the character of
some of those visitors who were accustomed to frequent its dark paths.
Saint Bridget found some of that wild mixture of materialism and
mysticism, (a not uncommon mingling,) which passes under the name of
her Revelations, in the solitude of these streets of the dead. Here St.
Philip Neri, the Apostle of Rome, the wise and liberal founder of the
Oratorians, the still beloved saint of the Romans, was accustomed
to spend whole nights in prayer and meditation. Demons, say his
biographers, and evil spirits assailed him on his way, trying to terrify
him and turn him back; but he overcame them all. Year after year he kept
up this practice, and gained strength, in the solitude and darkness, and
in the presence of the dead, to resist fiercer demons than any that had
power to attack him from without. And it is related, that, when St.
Charles Borromeo, his friend, the narrow, but pure-minded reformer of
the Church, came to Rome, from time to time, he, too, used to go at
night to this cemetery, and watch through the long hours in penitence
and prayer. Such associations as these give interest to the cemetery of
St. Sebastian's Church.
The preeminence which the Appian Way, _regina viarum_, held among the
great streets leading from Rome,--not only as the road to the South and
to the fairest provinces, but also because it was bordered along its
course by the monumental tombs of the greatest Roman families,--was
retained by it, as we have seen, as the street on which lay the chief
Christian cemeteries. The tombs of the Horatii, the Metelli, the
Scipios, were succeeded by the graves of a new, less famous, but not
less noble race of heroes. On the edge of the height that rises just
beyond the Church of St. Sebastian stand the familiar and beautiful
ruins of the tomb of Cecilia Metella. Of her who was buried in this
splendid mausoleum nothing is known but what the three lines of the
inscription still remaining on it tell us,--
CAECILIAE Q. CRETICI F. METELLAE CRASSI.
She was the daughter of Quintus, surnamed the Cretan, and the wife of
Crassus. But her tomb overlooks the ground beneath which, in a narrow
grave, was buried a more glorious Cecilia.[C] The contrast between the
ostentation and the pride of the tombs of the heathen Romans, and the
poor graves, hollowed out in the rock, of the Christians, is full of
impressive suggestions. The very closeness of their neighborhood to each
other brings out with vivid effect the broad gulf of separation that lay
between them in association, in affection, and in hopes.
[Footnote C: Gueranger, _Histoire de St. Cecile_. p. 45.]
Coming out from the dark passages of the' Catacombs of St. Callixtus, in
the clear twilight of a winter's evening, one sees rising against the
red glow of the sky the broken masses of the ancient tombs. One city of
the dead lies beneath the feet, another stretches before the eyes far
out of sight. The crowded history of Rome is condensed into one mighty
spectacle. The ambitions, the hates, the valor, the passions, the
religions, the life and death of a thousand years are there; and, in
the dimness of the dusky evening, troops of the dead rise before the
imagination and advance in slow procession by opposite ways along the
[To be continued]
* * * * *
THE PURE PEARL OF DIVER'S BAY.
Did she talk of flesh and blood, when she said that she would find
him?--The summer passed away; and when autumn came, it could not be said
that search for the bodies of these fishermen was quite abandoned. But
no fragment of boat, nor body of father or son, ever came, by rumor or
otherwise, to the knowledge of the people of the Bay.
The voyage was long to Clarice. Marvellous strength and acuteness of
vision come to the eyes of those who watch. Keen grow the ears that
listen. The soldier's wife in the land of Nena Sahib inspires
despairing ranks: "Dinna ye hear the pibroch? Hark! 'The Campbells are
coming!'"--and at length, when the hope she lighted has gone out in
sullen darkness, and they bitterly resent the joy she gave them,--lo,
the bagpipes, banners, regiment! The pibroch sounds, "The Campbells
are coming!" The Highlanders are in sight!--But, oh, the voyage was
long,--and Clarice could see no sail, could hear no oar!
Clarice ceased to say that she must find the voyagers. She ceased to
talk of them. She lived in these days a life so silent, and, as
it seemed, so remote from other lives, that it quite passed the
understanding of those who witnessed it. Tears seldom fell from her
eyes, complaints never;--but her interest was aroused by no temporal
matter; she seemed, in her thoughts and her desires, as far removed as a
spirit from the influences of the external world.
This state of being no person who lives by bread alone could have
understood, or endured patiently, in one with whom in the affairs of
daily life he was associated.
The Revelator was an exile in Patmos.
Dame Briton was convinced that Clarice was losing her wits. Bondo Emmins
yielded to the force of some inexplicable law, and found her fairer
day by day. To his view, she was like a vision moving through a dream,
rather than like any actual woman; and though the drift of the vision
seemed not towards him, he was more anxious to compel it than to
accomplish any other purpose ever entertained. The actual nearness,
the apparent unattainableness, of that he coveted, excited in him such
desires of conquest and possession as he would seek to appease in
one way alone. To win her would have been to the mind of any other
inhabitant of Diver's Bay a feat as impracticable as the capture of the
noble ghost of Hamlet's father, as he stands exorcized by Mrs. Kemble.
And yet, while her sorrow made her the pity and the wonder of the
people, it did not keep her sacred from the reach of gossip. Observing,
the frequency with which Bondo Emmins visited Old Briton's cabin, it was
profanely said by some that the pale girl would ere long avert her eyes
from the dead and fix them on the living.
Emmins had frequent opportunities for making manifest his good-will
towards the family of Briton. The old man fell on the ice one day and
broke his thigh, and was constrained to lie in bed for many a day, and
to walk with the help of crutches when he rose again. Then was the
young man's time to serve him like a son. He brought a surgeon from
the Port,--and the inefficiency of the man was not his fault, surely.
Through tedious days and nights Emmins sat by the old man's bedside,
soothing pain, enlivening weariness, endeavoring to banish the gloomy
elements that combined to make the cabin the abode of darkness. He would
have his own way, and no one could prevent him. When Old Briton's money
failed, his supplies did not. Even Clarice was compelled to accept his
service thankfully, and to acknowledge that she knew not how they could
have managed without him in this strait.
The accident, unfortunate as it might be deemed, nevertheless exercised
a most favorable influence over the poor girl's life. It brought her
soul back to her body, and spoke to her of wants and their supply,--of
debts, of creditors,--of fish, and sea-weed, and the market,--of bread,
and doctor's bills,--of her poor old father, and of her mother. She came
back to earth. Now, henceforth, the support of the household was with
her. Bondo Emmins might serve her father,--she had no desire to prevent
what was so welcome to the wretched old man,--but for herself, her
mother, the house, no favor from him!
And thus Clarice rose up to rival Bondo in her ready courage. When her
father, at last careful, at last anxious, thoughtful of the future,
began to express his fear, he met the ready assurance of his daughter
that she should be able to provide all they should ever want; let him
not be troubled; when the spring came, she would show him.
The spring came, and Clarice set to work as never in her industrious
life before. Day after day she gathered sea-weed, dried it, and carried
it to town. She went out with her mother in the fishing-boat, and the
two women were equal in strength and courage to almost any two men of
the Bay. She filled the empty fish-barrels,--and promised to double the
usual number. She dried wagon-loads of finny treasure, and she made good
bargains with the traders. No one was so active, no one bade fair to
turn the summer to such profit as Clarice. She had come back to flesh
and blood.--John came back from Patmos.
Her face grew brown with tan; it was not lovely as a fair ghost's, any
longer; it was ruddy,--and her limbs grew strong. Bondo Emmins marked
these symptoms, and took courage. People generally said, "She is well
over her grief, and has set her heart on getting rich. There is that
much of her mother in her." Others considered that Emmins was in the
secret, and at the bottom of her serenity and diligence.
Dame Briton and her spouse were not one whit wiser than their
neighbors. They could not see that any half-work was impossible with
Clarice,--that, if she had resolved, for their sake, to live as people
must, who have bodies to respect and God-originated wants to supply, she
must live by a ceaseless activity. Because she had ascended far beyond
tears, lamentation, helplessness, they thought she had forgotten.
Yes, they came to this conclusion, though now and then, not often,
generally on some pleasant Sunday, when all her work was done, Clarice
would go down to the Point and take her Sabbath rest there. No danger of
disturbance there!--of all bleak and desert places known to the people
of Diver's Bay, that point was bleakest and most deserted.
The place was hers, then. In this solitude she could follow her
thoughts, and be led by them down to the ocean, or away to heavenly
depths. It was good for her to go there in quietness,--to rest in
recollection. Strength comes ever to the strong. This pure heart had
nothing to fear of sorrow. Sorrow can only give the best it has to such
as she. Grief may weaken the selfish and the weak; it may make children
of the foolish and drivellers; by grief the inefficient may come to the
fulness of their inefficiency;--but out of the bitter cup the strong
take strength, though it may be with shuddering.
One Sunday morning Clarice lingered longer about the house than usual,
and Emmins, who had resolved, that, if she went that day to the Point,
he would follow her, found her with her father and mother, talking
merely for their pleasure,--if the languid tones of her voice and the
absent look of her eyes were to be trusted.
Emmins thought that this moment was favorable to him. He was sure of
Dame Briton and the old man, and he almost believed that he was sure
of Clarice. Finding her now with her father and mother at home on this
bright Sunday morning, one glance at her face surprised him and, almost
before he was aware, he had spoken what he had hitherto so patiently
refrained from speaking.
But the answer of Clarice still more surprised him. With her eyes gazing
out on the sea, she stood, the image of silence, while Bondo warily
set forth his hopes. Old Briton and the dame looked on and deemed the
symptoms favorable. But Clarice said,--
"Heart and hand I gave to him. I am the wife of Luke;--how can I marry
Bondo seemed eager to answer that question, for he hastily waved his
hand toward Dame Briton, who began to speak.
"Luke will never come back," said he, gently expostulating.
"But I shall go to him," was the quiet reply.
Then the old people, whose hearts were in the wooing, broke out
together,--and by their voices, if one should argue with them, strife
was not far off. Clarice staid one moment, as if to take in the burden
of each eager voice; then she shook her head:--
"I am married already," she said; "I gave him my heart and my hand. You
would not rob Luke Merlyn?"
When she had so spoken, calmly, firmly, as if it were impossible that
she should be moved or agitated by such speech as this she had heard,
Clarice walked away to the beach, unmoored her father's boat, and rowed
out into the Bay.
Bondo Emmins stood with the old people and gazed after her.
"Odd fish!" he muttered.
"Never mind," said Old Briton, hobbling up and down the sand; "it's the
first time she's been spoke to. She'll Come round. I know Clarice."
"You know Clarice?" broke in Dame Briton. "You don't know her! She isn't
Clarice,--she's somebody else. Who, I don't know."
"Hush!" said Bondo, who had no desire that the couple should fall into
a quarrel. "I know who she is. Don't plague her. It will all come out
right yet. I'll wait. But don't say anything to her about it. Let me
speak when the time comes.--Where's my pipe, Dame Briton?"
Emmins spent a good part of the day with the old people, and did not
allow the conversation once to turn upon himself and Clarice. But he
talked of the improvements he should like to make in the old cabin, and
they discussed the market, and entertained each other with recollections
of past times, and with strange stories made up of odd imaginations and
still more uncouth facts. Supernatural influences were dwelt upon, and
many a belief in superstitions belonging to childhood was confessed in
peaceful unconsciousness of the fact that it was Clarice who had turned
all their thoughts to-day from the great prosaic highway where plain
facts have their endless procession.
Clarice went out alone in her fishing-boat, as during all the past week
she had purposed to do when this day came, if it should prove favorable.
She wished to approach the Point thus,--and her purpose in so doing was
such as no mortal could have suspected. And yet, as in the fulfilment
of this purpose she went, hastened from her delaying by the address of
Bondo Emmins, it seemed to her as if her secret must be read by the
three upon the beach.
She wore upon her neck, as she had worn since the days of her betrothal
to Luke, the cord to which the pearl ring was attached. The ring had
never been removed; but now, as Clarice came near to the Point, she
laid the oars aside, and with trembling hands untied the black cord and
disengaged the ring, and drew it on her finger, that trembled like a
leaf. She was doing now what Luke had bidden her do,--and for his
sake. Until now she had always looked upon it as a ring of betrothal;
henceforth it was her wedding-ring,--the evidence of her true marriage
with Luke Merlyn.
O unseen husband, didst thou see her as anew she gave herself to love,
to constancy, to duty?
She was floating toward the Point, when she knelt in the fishing-boat
and plunged the hand that wore the ring under the bright cold water. How
bright, how cold it was! It chilled Clarice; she shuddered; was she the
bride of Death? But she did not rise from her knees, neither withdraw
her hand, until her vow, the vow she was there to speak, was spoken.
There she knelt alone in the great universe, with God and Luke Merlyn.
When at last she stood upon the Point, she had strength to meet her
destiny, and patience to wait while it was being developed. She knew
her marriage covenant was blest, and filial duty was divested of every
thought or notion that could tempt or deceive her. Treading thus
fearlessly among the high places of imagination, no prescience of mortal
trouble could lurk among the mysterious shadows. By her faith in the
eternity of love she was greatly more than conqueror.
The day passed, and night drew near. It was the purpose of Clarice to
row home with the tide. But a strange thing happened to her ere she set
out to return. As she stood looking out upon the sea, watching the waves
as they rolled and broke upon the beach, a new token came to her from
Almost as she might have waited for Luke, she stood watching the onward
drift; calculating the spot at which the waves would deposit their
burden, she stood there when the plank was borne inland, to save it, if
possible, from being dashed with violence on the rocks.
To this plank a child was bound,--a little creature that might be three
years old. At the sight of this form, and this helplessness, the heart
of the woman seemed to break into sudden living flame. She carried the
plank down to a level spot with an energy that would have made light of
a burden even ten times as great; she stooped upon the sand; she unbound
the body; and she thought, "The child is dead!" Nevertheless she took
him in her arms; she dried his limbs with her apron; she wiped his face,
and rubbed his hair;--but he gave no sign of life. Then she wrapped him
in her shawl, and laid him in the boat, and rowed home.
There was no one in the cabin when Clarice went in. When Dame Briton
came home, she found her daughter with a ring upon her finger, bending
over the body of a child that lay upon her bed.
The dame was quickly brought into service, and there was no reason to
fear that she would desist from her labors until she had received some
evidence of death or life. She and Clarice worked all night over the
body of the child, and towards morning were rewarded by the result. The
boy's eyes opened, and he tried to speak. By noon of that day he was
lying in the arms of Clarice, deathly pallor on his little face; but he
could speak, and his pretty eyes were open.
All those hours of mutual sympathy and striving, Dame Briton had been
thinking to say, "Clarice, what's the ring for?" But she had not said
it, when, in the afternoon, Bondo Emmins came into the cabin, and saw
Clarice with a beautiful boy in her arms, wrapped in her shawl, while
before the fire some rags of infant garments were drying.
They talked over the boy's fortune and the night's work, the dame taking
the chief conduct of the story; and Bondo was so much interested,
and praised the child so much, and spoke with so much concern of the
solitary, awful voyage the little one must have made, that, when he
subsequently offered to take the child in his arms, Clarice let him go,
and explained, when the young man began to talk to the boy, that he
could not understand a word, neither could she make out the meaning of
Emmins heard Clarice say that she must go to the Port the next day and
learn what vessel had been lost, and if any passengers were saved; and
by daybreak he set out on that errand. He returned early in the morning
with the news that a merchantman, the "Gabriel," had gone down, and
that cargo and crew were lost. While he was telling this to Clarice he
observed the ring upon her finger, and he coupled the appearing of that
token with the serenity of the girl's face, and hailed his conclusion as
one who hoped everything from change and nothing from constancy.
Clarice had found the boy in the place where she had looked for Luke
that night when his cap was washed to her feet. Over and over again she
had said this to her father and mother while they busied themselves
about the unconscious child; now she said it again to Bondo Emmins, as
if there were some special significance in the fact, as indeed to her
there was. He was her child, and he should be her care, and she would
call him Gabriel.
People could understand the burden imposed upon the laborious life of
Clarice by this new, strange care. But they did not see the exceeding
great reward, nor how the love that lingered about a mere memory seemed
blessed to the poor girl with a blessing of divine significance.
To make the child her own by some special act that should establish her
right became the wish of Clarice. It was not enough for her that she
should toil for him while others slept, that she should stint herself in
order to clothe him in a becoming manner, that she should suffer anxiety
for him in the manifold forms best known to those who have endured it.
She had given herself to Luke, so that she feared no more from any man's
solicitation. She would fain assert her claim to this young life which
Providence had given her. But this desire was suggested by external
influence, as her marriage covenant had been.
Now and then a missionary came down to Diver's Bay, and preached in the
open air, or, if the weather disappointed him, in the great shed built
for the protection of fish-barrels and for the drying of fish. No
surprising results had ever attended his preaching; the meetings were
never large, though sometimes tolerably well attended; the preacher
was almost a stranger to the people; and the wonder would have been a
notable one, had there been any harvest to speak of in return for the
seed he scattered. The seed was good; but the fowls of the air were free
to carry it away; the thorns might choke it, if they would; it was not
protected from any wind that blew.
A few Sundays after Gabriel became the charge of Clarice, the missionary
came and preached to the people about Baptism. Though burdened with a
multitude of cares which he had no right to assume, which kept him busy
day and night in efforts lacking only the concentration that would have
made them effective, the man was earnest in his labor and his speech,
and it chanced now and then that a soul was ready for the truth he
On this occasion he addressed the parents in their own behalf and
that of their children. The bright day, the magnificent view his eyes
commanded from the place where he stood to address the handful of
people, the truth, with whose importance he was impressed, made him
eloquent. He spoke with power, and Clarice Briton, holding the hand of
little Gabriel, listened as she had never listened before.
"Death unto sin," this baptism signified, he said. She looked at the
child's bright face; she recalled the experience through which she had
passed, by which she was able to comprehend these words. She had passed
through death; she had risen to life; for Luke was dead, and was alive
again,--therefore she lived also. Tears came into the girl's eyes,
unexpected, abundant, as she listened to the missionary's pleading with
these parents, to give their little ones to their Heavenly Father, and
themselves to lives of holiness.
He would set the mark of the cross on their foreheads, he said, to show
that they were Christ's servants;--and then he preached of Christ,
seeking to soften the tough souls about him with the story of a divine
childhood; and he verily talked to them as one should do who felt that
in all his speaking their human hearts anticipated him. It was not
within the compass of his voice to reach that savage note which in
brutal ignorance condemns, where loving justice never could condemn.
He had an apprehension of the vital truth that belief in the world's
Saviour was not belief in a name, but the reception of that which Jesus
embodied. He came down to Diver's Bay, expecting to find human nature
there, and the only pity was that he had not time to perform what he
attempted. Let us, however, thank him for his honest endeavor; and be
glad, that, for one, Clarice was there to hear him,--she heard him so
To take a vow for Gabriel, to give him to God, to confirm him in
possession of the name she had bestowed, became the desire of Clarice.
One day when she had some business to transact in the market, she
dressed Gabriel in a new frock she had made for him, and took him with
her to the Port, carrying him in her arms half the way. She did not find
the minister, but she had tested the sincerity of her desire. When he
came down again to the Bay, as he did the next Sunday, she was waiting
to give him the first fruits of his labors there.
He arrived early in the morning, that he might forestall the fishermen
and their families in whatever arrangements they might be making for the
day. When Clarice first saw him, her heart for a moment failed her,--she
wished he had not come, or that she had gone off to spend the day before
she knew of his coming. But, in the very midst of her regrets, she
caught up Gabriel and walked forth to meet the preacher.
The missionary recognized Clarice, and he had already heard the story
of the child. He was the first to speak, and a few moments' talk, which
seemed to her endless, though it was about Gabriel, passed before she
could tell him how she had sought him in his own home on account of the
boy, and what her wish was concerning him.
A naturalist, walking along that beach and discovering some long-sought
specimen, at a moment when he least looked and hoped for it, would have
understood the feeling and the manner of the missionary just then.
Surprise came before gladness, and then followed much investigation,
whereby the minister would persuade himself, even as the naturalist
under similar circumstances would do, of the genuineness of what was
before him;--he must ascertain all the attending circumstances.
It was a simple story that his questioning drew forth. The missionary
learned something in the interview, as well as Clarice. He learned what
confidence there is in a noble spirit of resignation; that it need not
be the submission of helplessness. He saw anew, what he had learned for
himself under different circumstances, the satisfaction arising from
industry that is based on duty, and involves skill in craft, judgment in
affairs, and that integrity which keeps one to his oath, though it be
not to his profit. He heard the voice of a tender, pitiful, loving
womanhood, strongly manifesting its right to protect helplessness, by
the utterance of its convictions concerning that helplessness. He knew
that to such a woman the Master would have spoken not one word of
reproach, but many of encouragement and sympathy. So he spoke to her
of courage, and shared her hopes, by directing them with a generous
confidence in her. He was the man for his vocation, for in every strait
he looked to his human heart for direction,--and in his heart were not
only sympathy and gentleness, but justice and judgment.
While he talked to Clarice, the idea which had taken cognizance of
Gabriel alone enlarged,--it involved herself.
"What doth hinder me to be baptized?" she asked, in the words of Philip.
"If thou believest, thou mayest."
Accordingly, at the conclusion of the morning prayer, when the preacher
said, "Those persons to be baptized may now come forward," Clarice
Briton, leading little Gabriel by the hand, rose from her seat and
walked up before the congregation, and stood in the presence of all.
Not an eye was turned from her during the ceremony. When she lifted
Gabriel, and held him in her arms, and promised the solemn promises for
him as well as for herself, the souls that witnessed it thought that
they had lost Clarice. The tears rolled down Old Briton's cheeks when he
looked upon the girl. What he saw he did not half understand, but there
was an awful solemnity about the transaction, that overpowered him. He
and Dame Briton had come to the meeting because Clarice urged them to do
so;--she had said she was going to make a public promise about Gabriel,
and that was all she told them; for, beside that there was little time
for explanation in the hurry of preparing Gabriel and herself, Clarice's
heart was too deeply stirred to admit of speech. After she had obtained
the promise of her parents, she said no more to them; they did not hear
her speak again until her firm "I will" broke on their ears.
Dame Briton was not half pleased at what she saw and heard, during this
service. She looked at Bondo Emmins to see what he was thinking,--but
little she learned from his solemn face. When the sign of the cross was
laid on the forehead of Clarice, and on the forehead of Gabriel, a
frown for an instant was seen on his own; but it was succeeded by an
expression of feature such as made the dame look quickly away, for in
that same instant his eyes were upon her.
Enough of surprise and gaping wonder would Dame Briton have discovered
in other directions, had she sought the evidences; but from Bondo Emmins
she looked down at her "old man," and she saw his tears. Then came
Clarice, and before she knew it she was holding the little Christian
Gabriel in her stern old arms, and kissing away the drops of hallowed
water that flashed upon his eye-lids.
A sermon followed, the like of which, for poetry or wonder, was never
heard among these people. The preacher seemed to think this an occasion
for all his eloquence; nay, for the sake of justice, I will say, his
heart was full of rejoicing, for now he believed a church was grafted
here, a Branch which the Root would nourish. His words served to deepen
the impression made by the ceremonial. Clarice Briton and little Gabriel
shone in white raiment that day; and, thanks to him, when he went on to
prove the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth one with that mysterious majesty
on high, a single leap took Clarice Briton over the boundaries of faith.
But if to others Clarice seemed to have passed the boundary line of
their dominion, to herself the bond of neighborhood was strengthened.
The missionary told her all he had a right to expect of her now, as a
fellow-worker, and pointed out to her the ways in which she might second
his labors at the Bay. It was but a new form of the old work to which
she had been accustomed her life long. Never, except in the dark summer
months when all her life was eclipsed, had Clarice lived unmindful of
the old and sick and helpless, or of the little children. Her kindliness
of heart could surprise no one; her generosity was nothing strange; her
caution, her industry, her courage, her gentleness, were not traits to
which her character had been a stranger hitherto. But now they had
a brighter manifestation. She became more than ever diligent in her
service; the Sunday-school was the result of old sentiments in a new
and intelligent combination; and the neighbors, who had always trusted
Clarice, did not doubt her now. Novelty is always pleasing to simple
souls among whom innovation has not first taken the pains to excite
suspicion of itself.
For a long time, more than usual uncertainty seemed to attend the
chances of Gabriel's life. In the close watching and constant care
required of Clarice, the child became so dear to her, that doubtless
there was some truth in the word repeated in her hearing with intent to
darken any moment of special tenderness and joy, that this stranger was
dearer to her than her "born relations."
As much as was possible by gentle firmness and constant oversight,
Clarice kept him from hurtful influences. He was never mixed up in the
quarrels of ungoverned children; he never became the victim of their
rude sport or cruelty. She would preserve him peaceful, gentle, pure;
and in a measure her aim was accomplished. She was the defender,
companion, playmate of the child. She told him pretty tales, the
creations of her fancy, and strove by them to throw a soft illusion
around the rough facts of their daily life. The mystery surrounding him
furnished her not meagrely with material for her imagination; she could
invent nothing that seemed to herself incredible; her fairy tales were
not more wonderful than facts as she beheld them. She taught the boy
songs; she gave him language. The clothes he wore, bought with her own
money, fashioned by her own hands, were such as became the beauty of the
child, and the pure taste and the little purse of Clarice.
Never had a childhood so radiant in beauty, so wonderful in every
manifestation, developed before the eyes of the folk of Diver's Bay.
He became a wonder to the old and young. His sayings were repeated.
Enchantment seemed added to mystery;--anything might have been believed
Sometimes, when she had dressed him in his Sunday suit, and they were
alone together, Clarice would put upon his finger the pearl ring,--her
marriage ring. But she kept to herself the name of Luke Merlyn till the
time should come when, a child no longer, he should listen to the story;
and she would not make that story grievous for his gentle heart, but
sweet and full of hope. Well she knew how he would listen as none other
could,--how serious his young face would look when the sacred dawn of a
celestial knowledge should begin to break; then a new day would rise on
Gabriel, and nothing should separate them then.
But, lurking near her joy, and near her perfect satisfaction, even in
the days when some result much toiled for seemed to give assurance that
she was doing well and justly, was the shadow of a doubt. One day the
shadow deepened, and the doubt appeared. Clarice was sitting in the
doorway, busy at some work for Gabriel. The boy was playing with Old
Briton, who could amuse him by the hour, drawing figures in the sand.
Dame Briton was busy performing some household labor, when Bondo Emmins
came rowing in to shore. Gabriel, at the sound of the oars, ran to meet
the fisherman, who had been out all day; the fisherman took the child
in his arms, kissed him, then placed in his hands a toy which he had
brought for him from the Point, and bade him run and show it to Clarice.
Gabriel set out with shouts, and Emmins went back smiling to look after
"He's a good runner," said Old Briton, watching the child with laughter
in his eyes. Dame Briton, drawn to the door by the unusual noise, looked
out to see the little fellow flying into Clarice's arms, and she said,
softly, "Pretty creature!" while she strode back to her toil.
Presently, the little flutter of his joy having subsided, Gabriel sat
on the doorstep beside Clarice, his eyes seriously peering into the
undiscoverable mystery of the toy. Then Bondo came up, and the toy was
forgotten, the child darting away again to meet him. Emmins joined the
group with Gabriel in his arms, looking well satisfied.
"Gabriel is as happy as if this was his home in earnest," said he. He
dropped the words to try the group.
"His home!" cried Dame Briton, quickly. "Well, ain't it? Where then? I
The sharp tone of her voice told that the dame was not well pleased with
Bondo's remark; for the child had found his way into her heart, and she
would have ruined him by her indulgence, had it not been for Clarice's
constant vigilance. And this was not the least of the difficulties the
girl had to contend with. For Dame Briton, you may be sure, though she
might be compelled to yield to her daughter's better sense, could never
be constrained by her own child to hold her tongue, and the arguments
with which she abandoned many of her foolish purposes were almost
as fatal to Clarice's attempts at good government as the perfect
accomplishment of these purposes would have been.
Bondo answered her quick interrogatory, and the troubled wonder in the
eyes of Clarice, with a confused, "Of course it is his home; only I was
thinking, that, to be sure, they must have come from some place, and
maybe left friends behind them."
Now it seemed as if this answer were not given with malicious purpose,
but in proper self-defence; and by the time Clarice looked at him, and
made him thus speak, Bondo perhaps supposed that he had not intended to
trouble the poor soul. But he could not avoid perceiving that a deep
shadow fell upon the face of Clarice; and the conviction of her
displeasure was not removed when she arose and led the child away. But
Clarice was not displeased. She was only troubled sorely. She asked her
surprised self a dreary question: If anywhere on earth the child had
a living parent, or if he had any near of kin to whom his life was
precious, what right to Gabriel had she? Providence had sent him to her,
she had often said, with deep thankfulness; but now she asked, Had he
sent the child that she might restore him not only to life, but to
others, whom, but for her, death had forever robbed of him?
From the day that the shadow of this thought fell across her way, the
composure and deep content of the life of Clarice were disturbed. Not
merely the presence of Emmins became a trouble and annoyance, but the
praise that her neighbors were prompt to lavish on Gabriel, whenever she
went among them, became grievous to her ears. The shadow which had swept
before her eyes deepened and darkened till it obscured all the future.
She was experiencing all the trouble and difficulty of one who seeks to
evade the weight of a truth which has nevertheless surrounded and will
inevitably capture her.
Nothing of this escaped the eyes of the young fisherman. Time should
work for him, he said; he had shot an arrow; it had hit the mark; now he
would heal the wound. He might easily have persuaded himself that the
wound was accidental, and so have escaped the conviction of injury
wrought with intention. All would have been immediately well with him
and Clarice, had it not been for Clarice! There are persons, their name
is Legion, who are as wanton in offence as Bondo Emmins,--whose souls
are black with murderous records of hopes they have destroyed; yet they
will condole with the mourners!
To this doubt as to her duty, this evasion of knowledge concerning it,
this silence in regard to what chiefly occupied her conscience, was
added a new trouble. As Gabriel grew older, a restless, adventurous
spirit began to manifest itself in him. From a distance regarding the
daring feats of other children, his impulse was to follow and imitate
them. At times, in ungovernable outbreaks of merriment, he would escape
from the side of Clarice, with fleet, daring steps which seemed to set
her pleasure at defiance; and when, after his first exploit, which
filled her with astonishment, she prepared to join him in his sport, and
did follow, laughing, a wilfulness, which made her tremble, roused to
resist her, and gave an almost tragic ending to the play.
One day she missed the lad. Searching for him, she found that he had
gone out in a boat with other children, among whom he sat like a little
king, giving his orders, which the rest were obeying with shouted
repetitions. When Clarice called to him, and begged the children to
return, he followed their example, took off his cap, and waved it at
her, in defiance, with the rest.
Clarice sat down on the shore in despair. Bitter tears ran down her
Bondo Emmins passed by, and saw what was going on. "Ho! ho! Clarice
needs some one to help her hold the rein," said he to himself; and going
to the water's edge, he raised his voice, and beckoned the children
ashore. He enforced the gesture by a word,--"Come home!"
The little rebels did not wait a second summons, but obeyed the strong
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