Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 21, July, 1859
Part 2 out of 5
not in the night,--at that time they have a taste for oxygen. This
effete air, which men and animals exhale, so charged with carbonic acid,
the plants drink in through every pore. They take it from the mouth of
man, appropriate it to their daily uses, and in time render it back to
him mingled with other ingredients in wholesome fruit. Carbonic acid is
death when it combines with the blood,--as it does when we inhale
it; but not so when it enters the stomach in small quantities. One
inspiration of it is enough to make us dizzy,--as when we enter an old
well or stoop over a charcoal fire; but a draught of water fully
charged with it is exhilarating and refreshing, as we know by repeated
experiences at marble fountains that meet us on so many city-corners.
If plants had souls, they would be pure ones, since they can bear such
contamination and not be harmed,--nay, since even from such foul food
as we give them they can evolve results so beautiful. We give them our
cast-off and worn-out materials, and they return us the most beautiful
flowers and the most luscious fruits.
Beside carbonic acid, there are two other principal materials, which
are every day passing off in an effete state, though capable of being
transferred to the uses of plants. But when an animal dies, the whole
substance is then at Nature's disposal. We must set aside a great deal
of it for the ants and flies, who will help themselves in spite of us.
If any one has never seen a carcass rapidly disappearing under the
steady operations of the larvae of the flesh-fly, he has yet to learn
why some flies were made. The ants, too, carry it off in loads larger,
if not heavier, than themselves. But carcasses of animals may go to
decay, undisturbed by the ravages of these useful insects. That is, the
limited partnership of Oxygen, Hydrogen, & Co., under which they agreed
to carry on the operations of sheep, fox, or fish, having terminated
by the death of the animal, the partners make immediate use of their
liberty and go off in inorganic form in search of new engagements,
leaving sulphur, phosphorus, and the other subordinate elements of the
animal, to shift for themselves. They were in the employ of a sheep;
they will now carry on a man or an oak-tree, a colony of insects,
or something else. Under the form of carbonate of ammonia, the four
elements diffuse themselves through the air, or are absorbed by the
earth, and offer themselves at once to the roots and leaves of the
trees, as ready to go on with their vivifying operations as they were in
behalf of the animals. There are some plants which seem not to be left
to the chances of securing their nourishment from the carbonate of
ammonia that the air and the soil contain, but are contrived so as
to entrap living animals and hold them fast while they undergo
decomposition, so that all their gases may be absorbed by them alone.
Thus, "the little Sundew exudes a gluey secretion from the surface of
its leaves, which serves to attract and retain insects, the decay of
whose bodies seems to contribute to its existence." And the Dionaea,
or Venus's Fly-trap of the Southern States, has some leaves which fold
together upon any insect that alights upon their upper surface; and by
means of a row of long spines that fringes the leaves, they prevent his
escape. The more active the struggles of the captive, the closer grows
the hold of the leaf, and speedily destroys him. The plant appears to
derive nutriment from the decomposition of its victims. "Plants of this
kind, which have been kept in hot-houses in England, from which insects
were carefully excluded, have been observed to languish, but were
restored by placing little bits of meat upon their traps,--the decay of
these seeming to answer the same purpose."
The four elements already referred to are by no means all the material
ingredients of animal bodies. There are, also, phosphorus, lime,
magnesia, soda, sulphur, chlorine, and iron; and if you believe some
chemists, there is hardly a mineral in common use that may not be found
in the human body. We doubt, however, whether lead, arsenic, and silver
are there, without the intervention of the doctor.
What becomes of the phosphorus and the rest, when an animal dies? Oh,
they take up new business, too. They are as indispensable to the animal
frame as the four most prominent ingredients. We eat a great deal of
bread and meat, and a little salt,--but the little salt is as important
to continued life as the large bread. There is hardly a tissue in the
body from which phosphorus, in combination with lime, is absent; so that
the composition of lucifer-matches is by no means the most important
use of this element. The luminous appearance which some putrefying
substances, particularly fish, present at night, is due to the slow
combustion of phosphorus which takes place as this element escapes into
the air from the decomposing tissues.
The necessity for the steady supply of phosphorus and lime to the body
is the cause of the popularity of Mapes's superphosphate of lime as a
manure. The farmers who buy it, perhaps, do not know that their bones
and other parts are made of it, and that this is the reason they must
furnish it to their land; for between the land and the farmer's bones
are two or three other factories that require the same material. All
the farmer knows is, that his grass and his corn grow better for the
superphosphate. But what he has not thought of we will tell you,--that
man finds his phosphate of lime in the milk and meat of the cow, and she
finds her supply in the grass and corn, which look to the farmer to see
that their stock of this useful mineral compound does not fall short.
Thus in milk and meat and corn, which constitute so large a part of our
diet, we have always our phosphate of lime. There are many other sources
whence we can derive it, but these will do for the present. And thus,
when an animal dies and has no further use for his phosphate of lime, it
is washed into the soil around, after decomposition of the body has set
it free, and goes to make new grass and corn. Bone-earth (pounded bones)
is a common top-dressing for grass-lands.
A small proportion of sulphur is found in flesh and blood. We prove its
presence in the egg by common experience. An egg--from which it escapes
more easily than from flesh--discovers its presence by blackening
silver, as every housekeeper knows, whose social position is too high
for bone egg-spoons or too low for gold ones. This passion which sulphur
entertains for silver is very strong, as every one knows who has ever
been under that wholesome discipline which had its weekly recurrence at
the delightful institution of Dotheboy's Hall; and what Anglo-Saxon ever
grew up, innocent of that delectable vernal medicine to which we refer?
Has he not found all the silver change in his pocket grow black,
suggesting very unpleasant suspicions of bogus coin? The sulphur, being
more than is wanted in the economy of the system, has made its escape
through every pore in his skin, and, of course, fraternizes with the
silver on its way. But it was of the sulphur which is natural to the
body and always found there that we were speaking. When the animal
dies, and the vital forces give way to chemical affinities, when the
phosphorus and the rest take their departure, the sulphur, too, finds
itself occupation in new fields of duty.
Chlorine and sodium, two more of the elements of animal structures,
produce, in combination, common salt,--without which our food would be
so insipid, that we have the best evidence of its being a necessary
article of diet. The body has many uses for salt. It is found in the
tears, as we are informed by poets, who talk of "briny drops" and "saut,
saut tears"; though why there, unless to keep the lachrymal fluid from
spoiling, in those persons who bottle up their tears for a long time, we
Perhaps we had better take the rest into consideration together,--the
magnesia and iron, and whatever other elements are found in the body.
Though some of them are there in minute quantities, the structure cannot
exist without them,--and for their constant and sufficient supply our
food must provide.
To see what becomes of all these materials after we have done with them,
we must extend our inquiries among the articles of ordinary diet and
ascertain from what sources we derive the several elements.
It has been sometimes believed that none but animal food contains all
the elements required for the support of life. Thanks to Liebig, we have
discovered that vegetable substances also, fruits, grains, and
roots, contain them all, and, in most cases, in very nearly the same
proportions as they are found in animals. We are not lecturing on
dietetics; therefore we will not pause to explain why, although either
bread or meat alone contains the various materials for flesh and bone,
it is better to combine them than to endeavor to subsist on one only.
Whither, then, go these elements when man has done with them? The answer
is,--All Nature wants them. Every plant is ready to drink them up, as
soon as they have taken forms which bring them within its reach. As
gases, they are inhaled by the leaves, or, dissolved in water, they
are drunk up by the roots. All plants have not the same appetites, and
therefore they can make an amicable division of the supply. Grasses and
grains want a large proportion of phosphate of lime, which they convert
into husks. Peas and beans have little use for nitrogen, and resign it
to others. Cabbages, cauliflowers, turnips, and celery appropriate a
large share of the sulphur.
The food of plants and that of animals have this great difference:
plants take their nourishment in inorganic form only; animals require
to have their food in organic form. That is, all the various
minerals, singly or combined, which compose the tissues of plants and
animals,--carbon, hydrogen, phosphorus, and the rest, which we have
already named,--are taken up by plants in mineral form alone. The food
of animals, on the other hand, consists always of organized forms. There
is no artificial process by which oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen can be
brought into a form suitable for the nourishment of animals. As oxygen,
carbon, and hydrogen, they are not food, will not sustain our life,
and human art cannot imitate their nutritious combinations. Artificial
fibrine and gluten (organic principles) transcend our power of
contrivance as far as the philosopher's stone eluded the grasp of the
alchemists. We know exactly how many equivalents of oxygen, hydrogen,
carbon, and nitrogen enter into the composition of each of the animal
elements; but we can no more imitate an organic element than we can form
a leaf. What we cannot do the vegetable world does for us. Thus we see
why it was necessary that the earth should be clothed with vegetation
before animals could be introduced. A field-mouse dies and decays, and
its elements are appropriated by the roots around its grave; and we
can easily imagine the next generations of mice, the children and
grandchildren of the deceased rodent, feasting off the tender bark which
was made out of the remains of their parent. The soil of our gardens and
the atmosphere above it are full of potential tomatoes, beans, corn,
potatoes, and cabbages,--even of peaches of the finest flavor, and
grapes whose aroma is transporting.
Plants, as well as animals, have their peculiar tastes. Cut off the
supply of phosphate of lime from a field of corn, and it will not grow.
You can easily do this by planting the same land with corn for three
or four successive years, and your crop will dwindle away to nothing,
unless you supply the ground every year with as much of the mineral as
the corn takes away from it. All plants have the power of selecting from
the soil the materials necessary to their growth; and if they do not
find them in the soil, they will not grow. It is now a familiar fact,
that, when an old forest of deciduous trees has been felled, evergreens
will spring up in their places. The old oaks, hickories, and beeches,
as any observer would discover, pass their last years in repose, simply
putting out their leaves and bearing a little fruit every year, but
making hardly any new wood. An oak may attain to nearly its full size,
in spread of branches, in its first two hundred years, and live for five
or six hundred years longer in a state of comparative rest. It seems to
grow no more, simply because it has exhausted too much of the material
for its nourishment from the ground around its roots. At least, we know,
that, when we have cut it down, not oaks, but pines, will germinate
in the same soil,--pines, which, having other necessities and taking
somewhat different food, find a supply in the ground, untouched by
their predecessor. Hence the rotation of crops, so much talked of by
agriculturists. Before the subject was so well understood, the ground
was allowed to lie fallow for a year or two, when the crops began to
grow small, that it might recover from the air the elements it had lost.
We now adopt the principle of rotation, and plant beans this year where
last year we put corn.
It is not merely that plants deprive themselves of their future support
by exhausting the neighboring earth of the elements they require. Some
of them put into the ground substances which are poisonous to themselves
or other plants. Thus, beans and peas pour out from their roots a very
notable amount of a certain gum which is not at all suited to their
own nourishment,--so that, if we plant beans in the same spot several
successive seasons, they thrive very poorly. But this gum appears to be
exactly the food for corn; if, therefore, we raise crops of beans and
corn alternately, they assist each other. Liebig gives the results of a
series of experiments illustrating the reciprocal actions of different
species of plants. Various seeds were sprouted in water, in order to
observe the nature of the excretions from their roots. It was found
"that the water in which plants of the family of the _Leguminosae_
(beans and peas) grew acquired a brown color, from the substance which
exuded from their roots. Plants of the same species, placed in water
impregnated with these excrements, were impeded in their growth, and
faded prematurely; whilst, on the contrary, corn-plants grew vigorously
in it, and the color of the water diminished sensibly, so that it
appeared as if a certain quantity of the excrements of the _Leguminosae_
had really been absorbed by the corn-plants." The oak, which is the
great laboratory of tannin, not only lays up stores of it in its bark
and leaves, but its roots discharge into the ground enough of it to tan
the rootlets of all plants that venture to put down their suction-hose
into the same region, and their spongioles are so effectually closed
by this process, that they can no longer perform their office, and the
plant that bears them dies. Plants whose roots ramify among the roots
of poppies become unwilling opium-eaters, from the exudation of this
narcotic principle into the ground, and are stunted, like the children
of Gin Lane.
The Aquarium furnishes a very interesting example of the mutual
dependence of the three natural kingdoms. Here, in a box holding a few
gallons of water and a little atmospheric air, is a miniature world,
secluded, and supplying its own wants. Its success depends on the number
and character of the animals and plants being so adapted as to secure
just the requisite amount of active growth to each to sustain the life
of the other: that the plants should be sufficient to support, by the
superfluities of their growth, the vegetarians among the animated tribes
that surround them; and that all the animal tribes of the aquarium,
whether subsisting upon the vegetables or on their smaller and weaker
fellow-creatures, should restore to the water in excrements the mineral
substances which will enable the plants to make good the daily loss
occasioned by the depredations of the sea-rovers that live upon them.
Thus an aquarium, its constituents once correctly adjusted, has all the
requisites for perpetuity; or rather, the only obstacle to its unlimited
continuance is, that it is a mortal, and not a Divine hand, that
controls its light and heat.
In the examination of the materials appropriated by plants from the
soil, we find that mineral substances are sometimes taken up in solution
in larger amount than the growth of the plant and the maturation of its
fruit require, and the excess is deposited again, in crystalline form
in the substance of the plant. If we cut across a stalk of the
garden rhubarb, we can see, with the aid of a microscope, the fine
needle-shaped crystals of oxalate of potash lying among the fibres of
the plant,--a provision for an extra supply of the oxalic acid which is
the source of the intense sourness of this vegetable. When the sap of
the sugar-maple is boiled down to the consistence of syrup and allowed
to stand, it sometimes deposits a considerable amount of sand; indeed,
this is probably always present in some degree, and justifies, perhaps,
the occasional complaint of the grittiness of maple-sugar. But it is a
native grit, and not chargeable upon the sugar-makers. It is nothing
less than flint, which the roots of the maple absorbed, while it was
dissolved in water in the soil. The sap, still holding the flint in
solution, flows out, clear as water, when the tree is tapped; but when
it is concentrated by boiling, the silicious mineral is deposited in
little crystals, so that the bottom of the pan appears to be covered
with sand. We could not select a more interesting example of the very
wide diffusion of some compound substances than this one of silicic
acid. It is found in the mineral and vegetable kingdoms. Being a
mineral, it cannot be appropriated to animal uses, without being
decomposed and transformed into an organic condition; but in the
numerous species of plants whose stalks require stiffening against
the winds,--in the grasses and canes, including all our grains, the
sugar-cane, and the bamboo,--a silicate (an actual flint) is taken up by
the roots and stored away in the stalks as a stiffener. The rough, sharp
edge of a blade of grass sometimes makes an ugly cut on one's finger by
means of the flint it contains. Silex is the chief ingredient in quartz
rock, which is so widely diffused over the earth, and enters into the
composition of most of the precious stones. The ruby, the emerald, the
topaz, the amethyst, chalcedony, carnelian, jasper, agate, and garnet,
and all the beautiful varieties of rock crystal, are mostly or entirely
silex. Glass is a compound of silex and pearlash. One who is curious in
such things may make glass out of a straw, by burning it and heating the
ashes with a blowpipe. A little globule of pure glass will form as the
ashes are consumed. The following curious instance, quoted by that
interesting physiologist, Dr. Carpenter, shows the same effect upon a
large scale. A melted mass of glassy substance was found on a meadow
between Mannheim and Heidelberg, in Germany, after a thunder-storm. It
was, at first, supposed to be a meteor; but, when chemically examined,
it proved to consist of silex, combined with potash,--in the form
in which it exists in grasses; and, upon further inquiry, it was
ascertained that a stack of hay had stood upon the spot, of which
nothing remained but the ashes, the whole having been ignited by the
There is nothing in Nature more striking to the novice than the first
suggestions of the various, and apparently contradictory, at least
unexpected, positions in which the same mineral is found. Now carbon is
one of the minerals whose exchanges are peculiarly interesting. Chemists
say that the diamond is the only instance in Nature of pure carbon:
it burns in oxygen under the influence of intense heat, and leaves no
ashes. Next to this--strange gradation!--is charcoal, which comes within
a very little of being a diamond. But just that little interval is
apparently so great, that none but a chemist would suspect there was
any relationship between them. Then come all those immense beds of coal
which compose one of the geological strata of the earth's crust, a
stratum that was formed before the appearance of the animated creation,
when the earth was clothed with a gigantic forest, whose mighty trunks
buried themselves with their fallen leaves, and became, in time, a
continuous bed of carbonaceous stone.
If we look at the vegetable and animal kingdoms, we find carbon entering
into the composition of every tissue. But there are certain tissues and
anatomical elements (as physicians say) which are formed largely of
carbon and have no nitrogen whatever. These are oils and fats and
everything related to them. What will be chiefly interesting, however,
to our readers, is the power of transformation of one of these
substances into another. Starch, gum, and sugar can all be changed into
fat. The explanation of it is in the fact, that these substances are all
chemically alike,--that is, they all have nearly the same proportions of
carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, and no nitrogen; but by slight differences
in the combination of these elements, they exist in Nature as so many
distinct substances. Their approach to identity is further confirmed
by the fact, that starch can be made into gum, and either of them into
sugar, in the laboratory. The transformation of starch and gum into
sugar is also constantly going on in the ripening of fruits. When
country-dames make currant-jellies and currant-wine, they know very
well, that, if they allow the berries to get dead-ripe, their jelly will
not be so firm as when they seize an early opportunity and gather them
when first fully red. They may also have observed that jelly made late,
besides being less firm, is much more likely to candy. At first, the
currants contain hardly any sugar, but more gum and vegetable jelly
(glue); when dead-ripe, they have twelve times as much sugar as at
first, and the gum and glue are much diminished. The gummy and gluey
materials have been transformed into sugar. Every ripe fruit gives us
evidence of the same manufacture of sugar that has gone on under the
stimulus of the sun's rays; and in the greatest source of sugar, the
cane, the process is the same. A French physician, M. Bernard, has,
within the last twelve years, discovered that the liver of animals is
constantly making sugar out of all kinds of food, while the lungs are
all the time undoing the work of the liver and turning it back into its
chemical elements. And although, in the laboratory of the liver, it is
discovered that no alimentary substance is quite deficient in sweetness,
yet there, as elsewhere, starch and gum yield a far greater amount of it
than animal substances.
We have stated that starch and gum can be turned into sugar by art,--but
as no chemist has yet succeeded in imitating an animal substance, the
change of these three into fat takes place only in the body. There
are proofs enough within general observation, that one object of this
portion of our diet is the supply of fat. The Esquimaux fattens on his
diet of blubber and train-oil; the slaves on the sugar-plantations grow
fat in the boiling-season, when they live heartily on sugar; the Chinese
grow fat on an exclusively rice diet,--and rice is chiefly starch. But
one of the most interesting observations of the transformation of sugar
into a fat is that made by Huber upon bees. It was the discovery, that
bees make their wax out of honey, and not of pollen, as was formerly
believed. When Huber shut up some bees in a close hive, and kept them
supplied with pure honey or with sugar alone, they subsisted upon it,
and soon began to build the comb. Wax is a fat, and the honey which is
eaten by the bee is partly transformed into wax in his body. In about
twenty-four hours after his stomach has been filled with honey, thin
plates of wax appear on the scales of his abdomen, having oozed through
eight little openings in the scales and there hardened. Of this they
build their cells.
We have wandered far from the consideration of the propensity of certain
species of plants to take up special compound substances from the
earth; but the wide-spread silex, with which we set out, displayed so
interesting a field of observation, that it could not be resisted, and
encouraged a disposition to rove, which has been to us instructive and
entertaining. To return to plants,--we find they make use of compounds
for certain special ends; but, as we have seen, the whole vegetable
kingdom uses the eight or ten primitive elements which it has in common
with the animals, and out of these alone forms the infinite variety of
products which we derive from it for food and various economical
and aesthetical purposes. Among the many processes of Nature whose
contemplation fills us with ever new delight, this power of the
adaptation of a few means to an infinite number of ends is one of the
most enchanting. We endeavor to explain by chemical laws the reduction
of the materials which earth and air furnish, to a form in which they
can be appropriated by the tree; by endosmose and exosmose we think we
have overcome the obstacles to a clear comprehension of the circulation
of the sap; and by a cell-theory we believe we have explained the whole
growth of wood and leaves and fruit. But what microscope or what alembic
shall ever tell us why a collection of tubes and cells in one tree
creates the most wholesome and delicious fruit, while in another an
organization precisely similar, so far as we can discern, produces only
harsh and poisonous berries? why the acacia tribe elaborate their gum,
the pine family turpentine, the almond prussic acid, the sorrels oxalic
acid? why the tall calisaya-tree of the Andes deposits in its bark the
valuable medicine cinchona, and the oak, the hemlock, the tea-plant, and
many others, make use of similar repositories to lay up stores of
tannic acid? The numberless combinations of the same materials, and
the wonderful power which rests in a single seed to bring about with
unvarying uniformity its own distinct result, attest to us every day the
admirable wisdom and goodness of the Creator.
These regular, every-day transformations of material elements from rock
to tree, from tree to man, and back through a continual circuit, would
repay us for spending our leisure hours in studying it, with our own
eyes as well as with the eyes of others. The glance we have given is
sufficiently suggestive to turn the attention of our readers that way.
Before parting with them, however, we wish to make a few excursions
into the natural world, to follow out some of the more peculiar and
unexpected migrations of material atoms. Suppose we take a little
marble,--which, in chemical constitution, is carbonate of lime,--that
very marble, for instance, which forms the palaces of Venice, against
which the waters of the Mediterranean have dashed for so many centuries,
and have not dashed in vain. In their perpetual washing, they have worn
away the stone and carried off its particles,--an insignificant amount,
it is true, but, little as it is, it has not remained unused. For
that very carbonate of lime, which once shared the proud state of the
"glorious city in the sea," now helps to form the coarse shells of
oysters, or is embodied in the vast coral reefs that shoot out from the
islands of the West Indies, or is deposited year after year by dying
shell-fish, which are slowly carpeting the ocean-bed with their remains.
Much of this same Venice marble has doubtless been appropriated by
fishes from the sea-water which dissolved it, been transformed into
their bones, cast upon the soil of Italy, disintegrated, and imbibed by
the thirsty roots of forests in sight of the very walls from which it
parted. And who can say that parts of it do not now adorn the necks of
some Venetian dames, in coral, or more costly pearls? What says Ariel to
the orphaned Ferdinand?
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
This is but a hint of the mutability of created things. Marble,
sea-shells, the chalk-cliffs of Dover, the limestone fossils which
preserve for us animal forms of species long since extinct, the coral
formations that are stretching out in dangerous reefs in so many seas
of the tropics, are all identical in their chief ingredient, and, as
we see, are by natural processes and various accidents constantly
interchanging their positions.
It ought to be consoling to those who think a great deal of their
bodies, to reflect, that, if we may tend "to base uses," we may also
tend to very noble ones. In the course of their transmigrations, the
elements of a worthless individual may get into far better company than
they have before enjoyed,--may enter into brains that immortalize their
owner and redeem the errors of the old possessor. Whoever bases his
merit on a long line of ancestors who have nothing but a perpetuated
name to boast of, may be likened to the last of many successive tenants
of a house who have hired it for their temporary uses. The inheritance
of a brave spirit and a noble mind is a sufficient justification for a
reasonable pride; but not so with the heritage of materials which are
continually interchanging with the clod.
There need be nothing humiliating in such thoughts; the operations
of Nature are always admirable. But when the relics of humanity are
deliberately appropriated to such mechanical or scientific purposes
as we shall relate, before they have entirely lost their original (we
should say latest) form, then most men would look upon the act as
in some sort a desecration. With what holy horror would the ancient
Egyptians regard the economical uses to which their embalmed bodies were
appropriated a few centuries ago! In the words of Ambrose Pare, the
great surgeon of five French kings in the sixteenth century, is a full
account of the preparation and administration of "mummie,"--that is,
Egyptian mummies, powdered and made into pills and potions,--"to such
as have falne from high places or have beene otherwise bruised." The
learned physician enters his protest against the use of it, (which he
says is almost universal with the faculty,) as quite enefficacious and
disgusting. His disgust, however, arises principally from the fact that
the "mummie" prepared by the apothecaries must have been derived "from
the carcases of the basest people of Egypt; for the nobelmen and cheefe
of the province, so religiously addicted to the monuments of their
ancestors, would never suffer the bodyes of their friends and kindred to
be transported hither for filthy gaine and detested use."
If such traffic be base, what shall we say of some priests of Nicaragua,
who renovate their burial-grounds by exhuming the bones of the dead,
with the earth that surrounds them, and selling the mass to the
manufacturers of nitre? No sentiment of reverence for the sepulchres
of their fathers incites them to resist the inroads of foreign
pirates,--for they manufacture their fathers' bones into gunpowder.
Let us turn away from the revolting picture. The glimpses of Nature's
revolutions which we have enjoyed are more agreeable. We are no
advocates for any attempts of preserving the human body from
decomposition; that which will restore the beloved forms of friends
most readily to their primative elements, and avert the possibility
of anything so dear remaining to excite our aversion or disgust, or
becoming a pestilential agent, we would cordially encourage. There can
be no doubt that use would soon render cremation as little disagreeable
to the feelings as consigning the precious remains to slow decay and
food for worms; and few will long be pained at the thought of mingling
at once with the common earth and air, and returning to usefulness in
other forms, after the soul has passed to heavenly spheres to enjoy the
blessings of immortal life.
* * * * *
It is wonderful how Nature provides for the taking: off and keeping down
of her monsters,--creatures that carry things only by force or fraud:
your foxes, wolves, and bears; your anacondas, tigers, and lions; and
your cunning or ferocious men of prey, of whom they are the types.
Storms may and must now and then rage and ravage, volcanoes must have
their destructive fits, and the darkness must do its mean and tyrannical
things while men are asleep; but calmness and sunshine triumph
immeasurably on the whole. Of the cubs of iniquity, only here and there
an individual escapes the crebrous perils of adolescence, develops into
the full beast, and occupies a sublime place in history; whereas the
genial men of sunshine, plenty as the fair days of summer, pass quietly
over from the ruby of life's morning to the sapphire of its evening, too
numerous to be written of or distinctly remembered. There are, it is
quite true, enough biographies of such in existence to read the world to
sleep by for ages. It can hardly keep awake at all, except over lives of
the other sort; hence, one of great and successful villany is a prize
for the scribe. In the dearth of such, let us content ourselves with
briefly noticing one of the multitude of abortive cubs, its villany
nipped--as Nature is wont to nip it--in the promising bud of its
tenderness. Many a Nourishing young rogue suddenly disappears, and the
world never knows how or why. But it shall know, if it will heed our
one-story tale, how Chip Dartmouth of these parts was turned down
here,--albeit we cannot at present say whether he has since turned up
Our hero was baptized simply Chipworth, in compliment to a rich uncle,
who was expected on that account to remember him more largely in his
will,--as he probably did; for he soon left him a legacy of twenty
thousand dollars, on the express condition that it should accumulate
till he was of age, and then be used as a capital to set the young man
up in business. As the inheritance of kingdoms spoils kings, so this
little fortune, though Chip could not finger a mill of it during his
minority, all the while acted on him like a controlling magnet, inducing
a strong repellency to good advice and a general exaltation of views, so
that, when he came into possession of it, he was already a fast young
man in almost every respect. He had settled it as the maxim of his life
to gain fast and spend fast; and having had considerable opportunity to
spend before he had any to gain, he had on becoming a business man, some
secret deficits to make good before he could really be as rich as people
supposed him. As his deficits had not been made by daylight, so daylight
must have nothing to do in wiping them out; and hence darkness became
more congenial than its reverse to all his plans, and he studied, as he
thought, with singular success, the various tricks of blinding people
to the state of his finances, as well as of bettering it. While he was
supposed to be growing rich very rapidly, he really was doing so about
half as fast as everybody thought. Chip would not steal,--that was
vulgar. But he would take every possible advantage of other people by
keeping close his own counsels and pumping out theirs. He would slander
a piece of property and then buy it. He would monopolize on a short
market, and fill his purse by forestalling. Indeed, he was, altogether,
one of the keen, and greatly admired in business circles.
It was not easy for Chip to love any being but himself,--not even a
woman. But his smart figure, for which Nature and the tailors had done
their best, set the general female imagination into the most
lively action. Many were the dreams about him,--day-dreams and
night-dreams,--that were dreamed in front of all manner of little
filigree bird nest bonnets and under snowy nightcaps; and at the
slightest encouragement on his part, no doubt, the idea of himself which
had been manufactured in many minds would have been fallen in love with.
The reality certainly would not have been. Miss Millicent Hopkins wore
one of the caps set for Chip, and her he professed vehemently to love.
But she was the daughter of a millionnaire of a very set temper, who had
often said and sworn that his daughter should not have any man who had
not proved by more than mushroom or retail success in business that he
was able and likely to better her fortune. Miss Millicent must plainly
either be run away with, or fairly won on old Hopkins's plan of
wholesale, long-winded business success. Miss Millicent's good looks,
if they did not amount to beauty, did, nevertheless, add something to
the attractiveness of her vast pecuniary prospects. Chip had obtained
the young lady's decided favor without absolutely crossing the Rubicon
himself, for he had no notion of taking her without any of the funds her
father had to bestow. It was arranged between them that his paternal
consent should be asked, and the die or live of matrimony should depend
on that. But, with confidence, or what is sometimes called brass, enough
to put any sort of question, it was impossible for Chip Dartmouth to
state the case to old Mr. Hopkins as it was. Having obtained a private
interview, he grasped the old gentleman by the hand with an air as
familiar as it was apparently cordial.
"Ah! I am very glad to see you, Mr. Hopkins, for I have been thinking
what a fool I must be not to pay my addresses to Miss Millicent; and I
can take no steps, you know, without your consent."
"You can take none with it, Sir," was the emphatic reply of the severe
parent, with a sort of annihilating look. "I admire your prudence and
frankness, my young friend; but, till you show yourself a merchant, of
my own sort, I beg you will excuse me and my family from any of the
steps you contemplate. Good-morning, Sir,--good-morning!"
The showing-out was irresistible, leaving nothing more to be said.
Chip now resolved that he would double his diligence in making money,
out of spite to the father, if not love for the daughter. The old fogy's
wealth he would have at any rate, and Millicent with it, if possible, as
a sort of bonus. So, obtaining an interview with his fair intended and
intending, at the earliest moment, without revealing a hint of his own
diplomatic blunder, he told her that her father had refused his consent
to their union because his fortune was not sufficient, and she must not
expect to see him again till it was so, which he fancied would be in a
much shorter time than the old gentleman supposed.
Chip had not long to wait for a chance to strike the first blow in
carrying out his new resolution of fast trading. The day after his
memorable rebuff, he was sitting in the choky little counting-room of a
crammed commission-warehouse in India Street, musing and mousing over
the various schemes that occurred to his fertile brain for increasing
the profits of his business. He had already bought cotton pretty largely
on speculation. Should he monopolize further, make a grand rush in
stocks, or join the church and get large trust-funds into his hands on
the strength of his reputation for piety? All these and a hundred other
questions were getting rapidly and shrewdly discussed in his mind, when
a rather stubbed man, with a square, homely face and vinegar expression,
opened, or partly opened, the little glass door of the counting-room,
and, looking round it more greedily than hopefully, said,--
"You don't want the cargo of the 'Orion' at a bargain?"
"Can't say I do. But walk in, Captain Grant,--walk in!"
Captain Grant did walk in, though he said it was no use talking, if Chip
didn't want the cotton. Chip saw instinctively, in the sad, acid look of
his visitor, that he was anxious to sell, and could be made to take a
despondent view of the market. Taking him by the button, he said, rather
"I know, Captain, you ship-owners want to keep your ships at work at
something besides storage. But look there," pointing to the bales of
cotton filling the immense floor; "multiply that pile by four and add
the basements of two churches, and you see a reason why I should not buy
above the level of the market. Now, taking that into consideration, what
do you ask for your two hundred and fifty bales in the 'Orion?'"
"I know somebody who would feel rich, if he could sell at that,"
returned Chip, with a queer grin. "No, no, Captain Grant, that won't do
at all. Prices are sinking. If I should buy at that figure, every sign
of margin would fade out in a fortnight. I haven't five bales that have
been bought at any such price."
It was true, he had not; for they had been bought at seven-and-a-half
"Well, I will say six-and-a-half at sixty days, to you," said the
"My dear Sir," replied Chip, "you don't begin to tempt me. I must burn
all my foreign correspondence and forget the facts before I can begin to
look at anything beyond six cents and ninety days."
"Ninety days won't do," said Mr. Grant, tersely. "If we must sacrifice,
it must be for something a bank will look at, Mr. Dartmouth. But I want
the ship cleared, and if you will say six at two months for the whole,
it's a bargain, bad as it is for me."
"Not a bargain for me to be in a hurry about; but I'll think of it. Hold
on till to-morrow. But, on the whole, you needn't do that. It wouldn't
be an object."
"But I will do it, if you say so, till noon to-morrow."
"Better say five-and-three-fourths and have it done to-day," said Chip,
"for I may not give that to-morrow. But if you hold on, and I buy
anything at six, it shall be your lot."
Captain Grant, beginning to believe that he should, after all, sell a
little above the bottom of the market, took his leave for his home among
the Waltham hills, a little less grouty than when he entered.
That same night, Chip, after having dropped in at numerous resorts of
the fast men, in most of which somewhat of his conscience, such as it
was, dropped out, was proceeding homeward through Devonshire Street,
with the brightest of his wits still about him. It was a raw night, one
of the rawest ever got up by a belated equinoctial, with almost nothing
stirring in the streets but the wind, and the loose shutters and old
remnants of summer awnings left to its tender mercies. Aeolus, with
these simple instruments of sound, added to the many sharp corners of
city architecture, managed to get up something of a symphony, enough
almost to make up for the nocturnal cats, now retired to silence and the
snuggest attainable quarters. The hour was one of the short ones
ayont the twal, and sleep reigned everywhere except in the
daily-newspaper-offices and in the most fashionable of the grog-shops.
Besides Chip, the only living thing in Devonshire Street was a
thinly-clad stripling, with a little roll of yellowish tissue-paper in
his hand, knocking and shaking feebly at a door which grimly refused to
open. His powers of endurance were evidently giving way, and his grief
had become both vocal and fluent in the channel of his infant years.
"What's the matter, my boy?" asked Chip,--"locked out, hey?"
"No,--bo-hoo. No, Sir, the door's blowed to and froze up, and I can't
git this pos'crip' up to the office."
"Oh, oh! you're the telegraph-boy, are you?"
"Most froz'n, aren't you?'
"O-oo-oo, that I be, Sir."
Here a very bright idea struck Chip, and he inquired,--
"Is this all that's coming?"
"Boo-hoo. Yes, Sir. They've sent good-night once before, and this is the
pos'crip'. The wires is shut off now, and some of the papers is shut
off, too; for I've been to three before this, and can't git into nary
one on 'em."
"Never mind, my poor fellow; I belong up here. I'll take the sheets and
send 'em round to all the other papers that are open. Never mind; you
take that, and go right home to your mother."
"Thank you, Sir," said the shivering lad, and, giving up the yellow roll
and taking the loose coppers offered him in the quickest possible time,
he scampered off around the corner of Water Street and left Chip in
company with two temptations.
"Now," thought Chip, "it will be certainly a clean and gentlemanly
thing, if, after having relieved this poor little devil of his trouble
and responsibility, I should oblige the still poorer devil of a concern
up-stairs by giving 'em this postcript of foreign news, which, by
working so late, they will probably have exclusively. That would be most
truly honest, benevolent, and philanthropic. It would make at least one
newspaper my friend, and, on the whole, it is something of a temptation.
But let me see what it will cost."
Giving the black door a vigorous push, he entered, and by the gas-burner
on the first landing discovered that the postcript in his possession
gave the state of the Liverpool cotton-market a day later than the body
of the dispatch, which had already gone into type, and, what was more to
the purpose, announced a rise of a penny-and-a-half on the pound. Chip
clutched the gauzy sheets in his fist, closed the door as softly as
possible, and yielded himself a doomed captive to temptation number two.
Here was a little fortune on the cotton he had in store at any rate,
and, if he really had in his grasp all the news of the rise, he might
make by it a plump ten thousand dollars out of Captain Grant's "Orion."
But to this end be must be sure that not a lisp of the rise would be
published in the morning papers, and he must see Captain Grant and close
his bargain for the "Orion's" cargo before the wires should begin to
furnish additional news by the "Africa" to the evening papers. They
would not, after obtaining such news, lose a moment in parading if on
their bulletin-boards, and Captain Grant might get hold of it before
reaching the little counting-room in India Street. Chip, of course,
saw what to do, and did it. Waiting in one of the little
"meals-at-all-hours" saloons till he heard the churning of the
press-engines, he sallied out and bought of the overloaded carriers the
earliest copies of the morning papers, and made himself sure that the
foreign news did not disclose any change of the cotton-market. The
next thing was to transfer himself to Captain Grant's residence in
Waltham,--exactly whereabout in Waltham he did not know, but, of course,
he could easily find out,--and, without exciting the grouty old salt's
suspicions of false play, make sure of the cotton at his own price. On
the whole, he thought it safer, as well as cheaper, to use the early
train than to hire a special team.
Arrived in Waltham, to his great vexation, it appeared, after
much inquiry, that Captain Grant lived full three miles from the
station,--and what was worse, every omnibus, hack, buggy, and dog-cart
was engaged for a muster in one direction or a cattle-show in another.
Nothing on wheels could be hired at any price,--at least, none could be
found in an hour's search from one hotel or livery-stable to another.
Chip, whose sleepless night and meditated fraud had not left much of the
saint in him, swore the whole of Waltham as deep as the grimmest view of
predestination would allow. And he restrained himself from being still
more profane only lest his wrath should awaken inconvenient suspicions.
After all, there was one old tavern a little way out, where possibly a
one-horse affair could be raised. The Birch House was a sort of seedy,
dried-up, quiet, out-of-the-way inn, whose sign-post stood forth like a
window without sash, the rectangular ligneous picture of a man driving
cattle to Brighton having long ago been blown out of its lofty setting
and split to pieces by the fall. What was the use of replacing it? No
one was likely to call, who did not already know that the Widow Birch
still kept tavern there, and just how she kept it. It was doubtful if a
new sign would attract a single new customer. Indeed, since the advent
of railroads, a customer was not a common occurrence any way, though
there still remained a few that could be depended on, like the Canada
geese, in their season, and their custom was handsomely profitable. The
house, a white wooden one, with greenish blinds, had two low stories,
the first of which was nearly level with the ground. There was a broad,
low entry running through the middle, and on either side two rather
spacious square rooms. One of those in front had a well-sanded,
well-worn pine floor, with a very thirsty-looking counter across one
corner, supporting a sort of palisade that appeared to fortify nothing
at all,--a place, however, which had evidently been moist enough in
the olden times. In the other front room was a neat carpet, plain,
old-fashioned furniture, and a delightful little plantation of fresh and
cozy flower-pots, surrounding a vase full of gold-fishes, and overhung
by a bright-eyed, mellow-throated canary, the whole of that paradise
being doubtless under the watch and care of little Laura Birch. This was
the ladies' parlor,--the grand reception-room, also, of any genteel male
guest, should one for a wonder appear. Little Laura, however, was no
longer as little as she had been,--though just as innocent, and ten
times as bewitching to most people who knew her. You could not but
particularly wish her well, the moment her glad, hopeful, playful,
confiding, half-roguish eye met yours. With the most conscientious
resolution to make herself useful, under her mother's thrifty
administration, in the long, clean New England kitchen which stretched
away behind the square dining-room, interposed between it and the dry
bar-room, she had a taste for books and a passion for flowers, which
absorbed most of her thoughts, and gained her more chidings from her
mother for their untimely manifestations than her handiest services
gained thanks or any signs of grateful recognition. She and the flowers,
including the bird and the fishes, seemed to belong to the same
sisterhood. She had copied their fashion of dress and behavior, rather
than the Parisian or any imported style,--and so her art, being all
learned from Nature, was quite natural. On the very morning in question,
she was engaged in giving this little conservatory the benefit of her
thorough skill and affectionate regard, when good Dame Birch broke in
upon her with,--
"Why, Laury, what are you thinking about? It's always just so. Here is a
gentleman in the bar-room, and he's a'most sure to order breakfast, and
them eels isn't touched, and not a thing ready but cold victuals and
pie. Them eels would be so nice and genteel! and you know they won't
"But you didn't tell me to fry them now, mother," said Laura.
"But I told you to fix 'em all ready to fry."
"Well, mother," replied Laura, "I'll come as soon as these things are
set to rights. It won't do to leave them just so."
"Well, it's always just so," said the maternal Birch. "I must do it
myself, I see. Don't be all day, Laury,--now don't!"
She disappeared, muttering something about "them plaguy flower-pots."
In point of fact, Chip Dartmouth was all this while in the aforesaid dry
bar-room, engaged in an earnest colloquy with Frank Birch, a grown-up
son of the landlady, a youth just entered on the independent platform of
twenty-one, Laura being three years younger. Chip had arrived rather out
of breath and excited, having got decidedly ahead of the amenities
that would have been particularly expedient under the circumstances.
Approaching a door of the bar-room, which opened near its corner towards
the barn, and which stood open at the time, he descried Frank within
busily engaged mending harness.
"Hallo! young man, I say, hurry up that job, for I've no time to lose."
"Well, I'm glad on't," retorted Frank, hardly looking up from his work,
"for I ha'n't."
"Look here!" said Chip, entering, "you're the man I've been looking for.
I must have a ride to Captain Grant's, straight off, at your own price."
"Maybe you must, but I'm goin' to the Concord cattle-show, and Captain
Grant's is four miles out of the way. I can't think of goin' round, for
I shall be too late, any way."
"Never mind that, my young friend, if you 'r' 'n such a hurry, put on
the string and look to me for the damage."
"Maybe you can't pay it," replied Frank, looking rather scornful.
"The Devil!" exclaimed Chip, "are all the Waltham people born idiots?"
"No! some of 'em are born governors," said Frank, "and Boston people may
find it out one of these days."
On this, Landlady Birch intervened, taking the bar-room in her way from
the parlor to the kitchen.
"What is that you say, Frank? The gentleman can have as good a breakfast
here as he can have anywhere out of Boston. I'm sure, though I say it
myself. We don't have so many to cook for, and so, perhaps, we take a
little more pains, Sir,--ha! ha!"
And with that good Mrs. Birch put on a graciousness of smile worthy of
the most experienced female Boniface in Anglo-Saxondom.
"The gentleman don't want any breakfast, mother; he only wants a ride
round to Captain Grant's, and he ha'n't got the manners to ask for it,
like a gentleman;--he _must_ have it. I say he mus'n't in my buggy, for
I a'n't goin' that way."
"Why, son, the gentleman of course expects to pay for it."
"Yes, Madam," said Chip, "I am willing and expect to bleed freely."
_Frank_. "Well, I should like to know what you mean by that? _I_ don't
want your blood, or that of any other Boston squirt."
_Mrs. Birch (to Chip, after a reproving glance at Frank)_. "I think we
can accommodate you, Sir. The buggy is at the blacksmith's, and will be
done in half-an-hour. If you want, you can have breakfast while you are
waiting; and you will find a comfortable fire in the parlor to sit by,
at any rate."
With this, Mrs. Birch made her exit, to hurry matters on the cook-stove.
"There! that's her, all over!" grumbled Frank. "If she can sell a meal
of victuals, she don't care what becomes of me. But I'll let her know
the mare's mine, and the buggy's mine, all but the harness; and I tell
_you_, Sir, I'll see the mare drowned in Charles River and the buggy
split into kindling-wood, before you shall have a ride to Captain
Grant's this day."
"But here's a five-dollar-bill," quoth Chip, displaying a small handful
_Frank_. "You may go to thunder with the whole of 'em! I tell you I've
set my foot down, and I won't take it up for my own mother,--and I'm
sure I won't for anything that ever was or will be under your clo'es."
With this, he jerked up the harness and went off to the barn, with an
air that convinced Chip that the controversy between mother and son was
not likely to be decided in his favor at a sufficiently early hour to
answer his purpose. But where else should he go, or what else should
he do? As he was a little more inclined now to bet on calmness than on
passion, he decided to take a seat in the parlor, and keep it, at
least, till he could dispose of his present doubt. Easily might he have
measured three miles over the Waltham hills, in the bracing morning-air,
with his own locomotive apparatus, while he had been looking in vain for
artificial conveyance. But if that plan had occurred to him at all at
first, it would have been dismissed with contempt as unbusinesslike. He
must not, by any possibility, appear to Captain Grant to be so madly
anxious to close the bargain. He did a little regret neglecting the
service of his own proper pegs, but it was now entirely too late to
walk, and he must ride, and at a good pace, too, or lose the entire
benefit of the news which the lightning had so singularly confided to
his honest hands. The feeling with which he flung himself into that
quiet, little, economical parlor was, probably, even more desperate than
Richard's, when he offered his kingdom for a horse. It was, in fact,
just the feeling, of all others in the world, to prevent a man's getting
a horse. Had he carried it into a pasture full of horses, it would have
prevented him from catching the tamest of them. But the good influences
of the Universe, that encourage and strengthen the noble martyrs of
truth and workers of good in their arduous labors, do sometimes also
help on villains to their bad ends. Never were troubled waters more
quickly smoothed with oil, never were the poles of a magnet more quickly
reversed, than Chip's rage and rancor abated after he entered that door.
Not that he relaxed his purpose at all, or felt any essential change of
his nature, but his temper was instantly turned the right side up
for success. He was, of course, unconscious of the cause,--for it is
certainly nothing wonderful, even in the neighborhood of Boston, to see
a neat Yankee lass, in her second or third best dress, putting things
to rights of a morning, with a snowy handkerchief over her head, its
corners drawn into a half-knot under her sweet chin, and some little
ruddy outposts on her cheeks, ready, on the slightest occasion, to
arouse a whole army of blushes. Laura had just given the finishing touch
to her flower culture, changed the water of her fishes, replenished the
seed-bucket of the canary, and was about leaving the room. Almost any
man would have been glad of an excuse to speak to her. Chip could have
made an excuse, if one had not been ready-made, that was to him very
important, as well as satisfactory.
"Miss Birch, I presume?"
"Yes, Sir," said Laura, with a curtsy, not quite so large as those that
grow in dancing schools, but, nevertheless, very pretty.
"Well, Miss Birch," said Chip, blandly advancing and taking her nice
little hand, half covered with her working-mitts,--whereat the
aforesaid outposts promptly did their duty,--"or shall I call you Miss
"No, Sir, my name is Laura," said the girl, shrinking a little from a
contact which rather took her by surprise.
"Oh, Laura!--that is better yet," proceeded Chip. "Now, Miss Laura, I
have got myself into a terrible scrape; can you help me out of it?"
"I can't tell, indeed, Sir, till I know what it is," said Laura, with a
bright twinkle of reassurance.
"Well, it is this:--I have mortally offended your brother,--for so I
take him to be by his looks,--and I most sincerely repent it, for he
owns the only team left in Waltham. If I cannot hire that team for an
hour, I lose money enough to buy this house twice over. I want you to
reconcile us. Will you offer my apology and prevail on him to take this
and be my coachman for an hour?" asked Chip,--slipping a gold eagle
into her hand with the most winning expression at his command.
"Oh, yes, Sir,--I'm sure I'll try without that, Sir. He will be glad to
oblige you, when he knows how you need it," she said, offering to return
"No, no, Miss Laura, I want to pay him well; and if you succeed,--why,
no money can pay _you_, Miss Laura; I don't profess to be rich enough to
Here the outposts gave another alarm, and again the hosts of the ruby
uniform were gathering hurriedly in their two muster-fields.
"Why, I will go and try, Sir," said Laura, so much confused by the
novelty and magnitude of the circumstances that she opened the
closet-door before opening the only one that led out of the room.
Fairly out of Chip's presence, she saw instantly and instinctively the
worthlessness of that gold eagle, however genuine, compared with her
sisterly love, in her mission to Frank. So she ran directly to her
mother in the long kitchen, and, planking the American eagle upon the
sloppy little table where the eels were rapidly getting dressed, said,--
"Why, mother, that gentleman wants to hire Frank to carry him to Captain
Grant's, and I'm sure he ought to go without hiring. I'll go right out
and see him."
"That's right, Laury; tell him he ought to be ashamed of himself!"
"Oh, no, mother, I won't tell him any such thing," said Laura,
laughingly, as she hopped and skipped towards the barn.
"Well, Frank, how's Nell Gwyn, this morning?" cheerily cried Laura to
Frank, who seemed to be getting his harness into a worse snarl, in his
grouty attempts to get it out of one.
"The mare's well enough, if she hadn't been insulted."
"Why, that's abominable, Frank! But let me get that snarl out."
"You get it out! You get out yourself, Laule."
"Why, that's all I'm good for, Frank; I always pick out the snarls in
the house, you know, and I should like to try it once in the barn."
"The tarnal old thing's bewitched, I believe," said Frank, allowing his
sister to interfere and quietly untwist and turn right side out the
various parts which he had put wrong by all sorts of torsion. "I'll
teach Boston chaps to know that there are some things they can't have
for money! When Nell and I have agreed to have a good time, we a'n't
goin' to be ordered off nor bought off;--we'll _have_ it."
"So _I_ say, Frank. But suppose _I_ wanted you to give _me_ a ride,
"Why, Laule, you know I would go to the North Pole with you. If Mam
would only let _you_ go to Concord with me, I'd wait till noon for you."
"Well, maybe she will, Frank. She wants you to carry that man to
Captain Grant's bad enough to let me go in the afternoon."
"But I told him I wouldn't carry him,--and, gol darn it, I won't!"
"Of course you won't carry him on his own account, or for the sake of
his money,--but for my sake perhaps you will."
"Well, Sis, perhaps I will. But, mind, before I do, Mam shall promise,
sartin sure, to let you go by half-past twelve o'clock, and not a minit
"Well, I'll see she does; you harness Nell, and get the buggy. The man
says he's sorry he spoke to you so. If he's carried to Captain Grant's
and back, I'll answer for it's being the best for all of us."
She was off to the house like a bird, and the rest of her diplomacy was
too simple and straightforward to need special record.
As the buggy was at the door before the table presented the savory
temptation of fried eels. Chip declined breakfast at present, but
decidedly promised to take it on his return. He dropped in on Captain
Grant, as he was careful to tell that gentleman, having had business in
Waltham that morning, and thinking he might perhaps save him a journey
to town. The ship-owner had just finished the news of the morning
papers, for which he had sent a messenger express to the post-office,
and said, after the cordial salutation which a rough sort of man always
gives in his own house,--
"Well, Mr. Dartmouth, I see the market is as close-reefed as ever.
Maybe you think I will sell at five and three-fourths to-day, but I've
concluded to make a floating warehouse of the 'Orion' for the winter,
rather than do that."
"I don't blame you for that, my friend; but in the present state of
advices, six at two months is the highest mill that will do. If you will
close the 'Orion's' cargo at that, I am your man."
"What I've said, I'll do, Sir, of course," said the tough old salt; "and
since you've taken the trouble to come out here and save my lame toes,
let's nail the bargain with a bottle of my old Madeira,--some of the
ripest this side of the herring-pond, I'll be bound."
"Not a drop, I thank you; for, besides being a teetotaller, Captain, I'm
behind time to-day, and must bid you good-morning."
"Well, Sir, I'm much obliged to you; the bill of sale shall be at your
counting-room directly; the clerk will receive the notes and deliver the
cotton. Good-morning, Sir,--good-morning!"
In truth, Chip had not the slightest objection to wine, as wine, even
had it not been the ripest on this continent; but, like any other
mitigated villain, he did not quite relish taking wine with the man he
was basely cheating. He would much rather partake of Ma'am Birch's fried
eels and coffee, especially if Laura Birch should, peradventure, be the
Hebe of such an ambrosial entertainment. She was not, however,--and the
disappointment considerably overclouded the commercial victory of the
morning. Madam Birch herself did the honors of whatever sort, while Chip
played a fantasia solo at the _table d'hote_. The good lady enlarged
volubly on her destitution of help, and how, if she had any such as
we get now-a-days, they were more plague than profit,--how Laura was
getting ready to go with Frank to the cattle-show, and she herself was
likely to be the only living mortal in the house for the rest of the
"Such a son as you have is a fortune, Madam; and as for the daughter,
she is a gem, a genuine diamond, Madam."
"Ha! ha! do you really think so, Sir?" said the mother, evidently
gratified with the superlativeness of the compliment. "Well, they do say
children are jewels.--but I've found, Sir, they are pretty
troublesome and pretty costly jewels. Mine, as you say, are very good
children,--though Frank is pretty wilful, and Laury is always gettin'
her head above the clouds. Oh, dear! they want a great deal done for
'em,--and the more you do, the more you may do. Frank is bewitched to
sell out and go to Kansas or Californy, or, if he stays here, he must go
to college or be a merchant. And Laury, even she isn't contented; she
wants to be some sort of artist, make statters or picters,--or be a
milliner, at least. So you see I haven't a minute's peace of my life
Of course Chip saw it, and the more's the pity.
"All the better, Madam," said he. "Young America must go ahead. There's
nothing to be had without venturing. If I can ever be of service to
either of your children in forwarding their laudable ambition, I am sure
it will give me the greatest pleasure."
"You are very kind, Sir, but I only wish you could persuade 'em to let
well alone, and at least not try the world till they know more of it."
"Not touch the water till they have learned to swim, eh? That's not
quite so easy, Madam. Never fear; I'll be bound, a boy that can say _No_
like yours is perfectly safe anywhere; and as to Laura, why, Madam, I
never heard of an angel getting into difficulty in the wickedest of
"Our old minister, Parson Usher that was, used to say some of the Bible
angels fell,--and I am sure, Sir, the human angels have a worse chance.
They are about the only ones that run any risk at all."
"True, true enough, Ma'am, in one point of view. Too much care cannot be
taken to select the society in which young people are to move. In the
right society, such a girl as Laura would win homage on every side, and
make herself happy by making everybody else so."
"I believe you are right there, Sir," said Mrs. Birch, quite charmed
with such beautiful appreciation of what she felt to be Laura's
excellence; "and I don't wonder sometimes that she should be
discontented with the society she has here, poor girl!"
"When you see the sun begin to shine in the morning, you may be sure
enough it will keep rising all the forenoon," said Chip, with the air
of a great moral philosopher, conscious of having made a decided
impression. And suddenly recollecting how valuable was his time in town,
and that the train would be due in five minutes, he swallowed the last
of his coffee, paid his bill, told the landlady how happy he was to have
made her acquaintance and that of her interesting family, promised he
would never stop in Waltham without calling, and strode away.
The lightning flashed from a good many eyes in the telegraph-office when
the morning members of the associated press inquired why they had not
been served with the latest news,--why, in fact, the only item of any
significance was reserved for the evening papers of the day. Not a press
of all the indignant complainants was ready to admit that it had locked
up its forms and gone to bed before the wires had completed their task.
Very bitter paragraphs testified, the next day, that, in the opinion of
many sage and respectable editors, the wires had been tampered with
by speculators. The poor little half-frozen telegraph-boy was closely
catechized, first by the officers of the telegraph-company, and
afterwards by certain shrewd detectives, but no clue could be got to the
fine gentleman who so generously relieved him of his responsibility, and
no result followed, except his dismissal and the employment of another
lad of more ability and probably less innocence. Captain Grant was the
man most likely to have come to a discovery in the matter, and most
heartily did he curse his luck--his "usual luck"--of giving away a
fortune by selling a cargo a day too soon. But being kept at home
by uncomfortable toes, no suspicious mortal, such as abound in the
lounging-rooms of insurance-offices and other resorts of business-men in
town, happened ingeniously to put his suspicions on a scent, and he did
not come within a league of the thought that Chip Dartmouth could have
had anything to do with the strange and blamable conduct of the wires.
As he made no proclamation of his loss, and no other case of sale
during the abeyance of the news came to the knowledge of the parties
interested, the matter, greatly to Chip's comfort, fell into entire
oblivion before a fortnight had passed. The understanding was, that,
though great mischief might have been done, none had been,--and
that somebody had simply made waste-paper of the little yellow
For the first fortnight, Chip's nervousness, not to say conscience, very
much abated the pleasure of the many congratulations he received from
his friends, and from hundreds of people whom he had never before known
as his friends. He couldn't get through the streets any day without
meeting the solidest sort of men, with whom he had never exchanged
a word in his life, but whose faces were as familiar as that of the
Old-South clock, who took him by the hand quite warmly, and said,--
"Ah, Mr. Dartmouth, permit me to congratulate you on your good-fortune.
You have well deserved it. I like to see a young man like you make such
a ten-strike, especially when it comes in consequence of careful study
of the market."
The truth was, Chip had been playing a pretty hazardous game in the
cotton-market, chiefly at the risk of other parties; and the slice he
had so feloniously carved out of poor Captain Grant was quite small
compared with the gains he had managed to secure by thus venturing a
little of his own and a great deal of other people's money. The shrewd
minds in the secrets of the business world were not slow to see that
he must have realized at least a hundred thousand units of commercial
omnipotence by the operations of the first week after the rise.
Everybody was glad of an opportunity to speak to such a man. Even Mr.
Hopkins, immensely retired as he was, driving into State Street
about noon one genial day to receive a bank dividend or two, stepped
considerably out of his way, in walking from his low-hung turnout to the
door of one of the banks, in order to catch Mr. Dartmouth's notice, and
say to him, "Good-morning, Mr. Dartmouth! I hope you are very well,
Sir!" Chip recognized the salutation with a superb nod, but without the
accompaniment of any verbal rhetoric which was audible above the buzz of
the pavement; and the retired millionnaire passed on about his business.
"Ah!" thought Chip, "I am getting to be a merchant of the right sort, I
see,--and by the time he is ready to change that low-hung little chariot
for the hard, angular ebony with raven plumes, I shall be ready to step
into the other plump little vehicle, which is really so nice and cozy."
But we must leave Chip to the easy task of ballooning upward in public
estimation, with his well-inflated bank-account. He was, in fact,
reformed by his great commercial success to this extent, that his vices
had become of the most distinguished and unvulgar grade. He was now
courted by the highest artists in iniquity, and had the means of
accomplishing results that none but men who are known to be really rich
can command. He, therefore, now quitted all vulgar associations, and
determined not to outrage any of the virtues, except under varnish,
gilding, and polish that would keep everything perfectly respectable.
Let him trust to that as long as he can.
Don't talk of the solitude of a night in the primeval forests, however
far from the abodes of man;--the squirrels and the partridges may be
asleep then and there, but the katydids are awake, and, with the support
of contralto and barytone tree-toads, manage to keep up a concert which
cannot fail to impress on you a sense of familiar and friendly company.
Don't talk of the loneliness of a deserted and ruinous castle;--the
crickets have not left it, and, if you don't have a merry time with
their shrill jokes, it will be your own fault. But if you would have a
sense of being terribly alone, come from long residence in some quiet
country-home on the border of a quiet country-village, into the
hurry-skurry of a strange city, just after nightfall. Here is an
infinite brick-and-stone forest, stern, angular, almost leafless. Here
is a vast, indistinguishable wilderness of flitting human shapes, not
one of which takes half so much notice of you as a wild bush would.
Speak to one; it answers without the slightest emotion, and passes on.
Your presence is absolutely no more to any soul of them, provided they
have souls, than if you were so much perfectly familiar granite. You
feel, that, with such attention as you receive, such curiosity as you
excite, you must be there hundreds of years to be either recognized or
Had you been a stranger in Boston, one moist and rather showery
summer-evening, not a year after the events we have narrated, you might
have been recovered from the sense of loneliness we have described by
observing one pretty female figure hurrying along the crowded sidewalk
with a very large and replete satchel, and without any of the
_sang-froid_ which characterizes city pedestrianism. You might have
noticed that this one human being, like yourself, was evidently not at
home. Every glare of gas-light revealed a deeply-flushed face, eyes that
had been weeping and which were now flashing with a wild earnestness
and an altogether preternatural resolution. A gazelle, started by the
huntsman's pack, could not have thrown more piercing glances at every
avenue of escape than this excited girl did at every cross street, and
indeed at everything but the human faces that passed her. All of them
she shunned, with a look that seemed equally anxious to avoid the known
and the unknown. She should seem to have narrowly escaped some peril,
and was carrying with her a secret not to be confided to friend or
stranger, certainly not to either without due consideration. Had you
watched her, as the crowds of people, returning from the various evening
amusements died away in the streets, you would have seen the deep
color of her cheeks die away also to deadly paleness; had you been
sufficiently clairvoyant, you might have seen how two charming rows of
pearls bit the blanched lips till the runaway blood came back into the
sad gashes, how the tears welled up again, and with them came relief and
fresh strength just as she was about to faint and drop in the street.
Then returned again the throb of indignant resolution, as her mind
recurred to the attempted ruin of her paradise by a disguised foe;
then succeeded shame and dread lest the friends she had left in her
childhood's rural home should know how differently from her fond
anticipations had turned out the first week of her sojourn in the great
city. She was most thoroughly resolved, that, if possible, they should
not know anything of the wreck of her long-cherished hopes till she had
found some foothold for new ones. She felt that she was a Yankee girl in
the metropolis of New England, with wit, skill, and endurance equal to
any employment that ever falls to the lot of Yankee women; but having
given up the only chance which had ever opened to her, how could she
find another? Were she of the other sex, or only disguised in the outer
integuments of it, with the trifling sum in her purse, she would get
lodgings at the next hotel, and seek suitable employment without
suspicion. In the wide wilderness of a city there was not an
acquaintance she did not dread to meet, in her present circumstances,
even worse than death itself, or, what is next door to it, a
The streets had emptied themselves of their rushing throngs, the patter
of feet and the murmur of voices had given place to measured individual
marches here and there, the dripping of cave-spouts and the flapping of
awnings could be heard tattling of showers past and future, and the last
organ-grinder had left the ungrateful city to its slumbers, when the
poor girl first became conscious that she had been lugging hither
and thither her entire outfit of wardrobe, valuables, and keepsakes.
Aggravated by fatigue, her indecision as to how she should dispose of
herself was gradually sinking into despair, and the official guardians
of the night, who had doubtless noticed her as she passed and repassed
through their beats, were beginning to make up their official minds,
generally and severally, that the case might by-and-by require their
benevolent interference, when she was startled by a female voice from
"Arrah, stop there, ye rinaway jade! I know ye by yer big bag, ye big
thafe, that ye are!"
Glad at any voice addressed to her, and gladder at this than if it had
been more familiar or more friendly, our forlorn maiden turned and said,
in the sweetest voice imaginable,--
"Oh, no, my friend, I am not a thief."
"Och, I beg your pardon, honey! I thought sure it was Bridget, that's
jist rin away wid a bagful of her misthress's clo'es and a hape o' mine,
and it's me that's bin all the way down to Pat Mahoney's in North Street
to git him to hunt her up; and the Blessed Mother forgive me, whin I
seen you in the dark, stalin' along like, wi' that bag, I thought it
was herself it was, sure. Och, ye're a swate lass, I see, now; but what
makes ye out this time o' night, dear?"
"Well, I'm too late for the train, you see, and I really don't know what
to do or where to go," said the Yankee girl, putting on the air natural
to such circumstances, with the readiness of her race.
"Och, I see, that's the mailing o' the bag, thin. Poor thing! ye jist
come along wid me. I'll lift the bag for ye, me darlint, an' I'll pit
clane sheets on Bridget's bed, and ye're welcome to slape there as long
as ye like; for the Blessed Mother knows it's powerful tired ye're
lookin', it is. I'm cook for more nor twinty years for the Hopkinses in
Bacon Street, and I can make ye jist as welcome in my quarthers as if it
was nobody but meself that owned it at all at all."
"Oh, my dear woman, I thank you kindly! That bag _was_ beginning to grow
heavy," replied the overjoyed outcast; and presently, with a ready eye
to business, she added, "And since Bridget is gone, who knows but I can
take her place? I came to the city on purpose to find something to do,
and I can do anything that is not dishonest."
"Och! the likes o' ye take her place? Niver a bit of it! Why! I see by
the gas-light ye're a leddy as iver was at all at all; and ye could
niver come in the shoes of sich a thafe as Bridget Maloney, as is gone,
and the Divil catch her!"
"No, no, not in her shoes to steal anything, I hope; but I can do
housework, sweep, make beds, sew, and make myself useful,--as I will
show, if I can have a trial."
"An' ye may well say that's a hape more nor _she_ iver could. But if
it's a thrial ye want, it's me that'll give't ye as soon as ye plase.
I'll answer for ye's to Misthress Millicent,--and that's what I niver
did for Bridget, and it's right glad I am of that. Now niver fear, me
darlint, it's a powerful good place, it is too, to thim as kapes the
right side o' Misthress Millicent; for she's the only daughter, and the
mother is dead and gone, poor soul!"
They were now approaching the opulent mansion over the _cuisine_ of
which our special police-woman had so long had the honor of presiding.
Almost delighted enough with her capture to forget, if not forgive, her
fugitive fellow-servant Bridget, the florid and fat Aunt Peggy Muldoony
hurried along as if the bag were a feather, her words flowing like a
spring flood, and introduced her charge at a postern-door into her own
house, as she called it. This was, in fact, a very comfortable and
somewhat spacious dwelling, which stood almost distinct in the rear of
the mansion in which the Hopkins family proper resided, so that there
should be ample accommodations for servants, and the steam of cooking
could not annoy the grand parlors. Here we might leave the beautiful
waif, so strangely picked up in the dark street, to the working of her
own genius. She had fallen into a place which had control of all the
chamber-work of a modern palace, with ample assistance. Aunt Peggy, her
guardian angel, at once instructed her in the routine of the duties, and
she very soon had occasion to wonder how the care of so many beautiful
flowers, vases, statues, pictures, and objects of splendor and taste,
not to speak of beds that the Queen of Sheba might have envied, could
have been committed to a domestic who could be tempted to run away with
a few hundred dollars' worth of silks and laces. The legal owner himself
could hardly enjoy his well-appointed paradise better than she did, in
keeping every leaf up to its highest beauty. It must require a pretty
strong dose of tyranny to drive her away, she thought.
But tyranny, if it were there, did not show itself. After a number of
serious, but vain attempts, on the part of Miss Millicent, to gratify
her curiosity by unravelling the mystery of her new servant, whose
industry, skill, and taste produced visible and very satisfactory
effects in every part of the mansion, she settled down to the
conclusion, that, finally, a treasure had fallen to her lot which it was
best for her to keep as carefully as possible and make the most of. She
could now smile and assume airs of great condescension when her worthy
female friends complained of careless, incompetent, and unfaithful
domestics, and have the pleasure of being teased in vain to know what
she did to be so well served.
The satisfaction of Miss Millicent at having found and attached to her
service a young woman of such superlative domestic genius and taste, who
seemed to be so thoroughly contented with her situation, was especially
enhanced by the fact, that her own marriage was approaching, an occasion
which any bride of good sense would wish to have free from the annoyance
of slack and untrustworthy Bridgets.
A few months after the period of which we have been speaking, the
long-expected event of the last paragraph was evidently on the eve of
accomplishment. There was sitting in the distinguished parlor of Mr.
Hopkins, himself, occupying an easy-chair of the most elaborate design
and costly materials. It had all manner of extensibilities,--conveniences
for reclining the trunk or any given limb at any possible
angle,--conveniences for sleeping, for writing, for reading,
for taking snuff,--and was, withal, a marvel of upholstery-workmanship
and substantial strength. Another still more exquisite combination
of rosewood, velvet, spiral springs, and cunning floral carving,
presenting a striking resemblance to that great ornament of
the English alphabet, the letter S, held Miss Millicent Hopkins, in
one curve, face to face with Mr. Chipworth Dartmouth, already known to
the reader, in the other. Near by the half-recumbent millionnaire, at a
little gem of a lady's writing-desk, sat Mr. Frank Sterling, the junior
partner of the distinguished law-firm of Trevor and Sterling, engaged in
reading to all the parties aforesaid a very ingenious and interesting
document, which he had drawn up, according to the general dictation of
Mr. Hopkins aforesaid. It was, in fact, a marriage-settlement, of which
the three beautifully engrossed copies were to be signed and scaled
by all the parties in interest, and each was to possess a copy. Frank
Sterling read over the paragraphs which settled enormous masses of funds
around the sacred altar where Hymen was so soon to apply his torch, with
great professional coolness, as well as commendable rapidity; but when
he came to the conclusion, and, looking at both father and daughter,
said, that all that remained, if the draught now met their approbation,
was, to have witnesses called in and add the signatures, he betrayed a
little personal feeling, which it behooves the reader to understand.
Frank Sterling, though one of the best fellows in the world, with a
joyous face, a bright eye, a hearty laugh, and the keenest possible
relish for everything beautiful and good, was a bachelor, because a mate
quite to his judgment and taste had never fallen in his way. With Mr.
Hopkins, he had been, for a year or two, a favorite lawyer. Professional
business had often brought him to the house, and at Miss Millicent's
parties he had often been a specially licensed guest. There had been a
time, he felt quite sure, when, if he had pushed a suit, he could have
put his name where that of Dartmouth stood in the marriage-settlement,
and, as he glanced at Miss Millicent, as she sat in the mellow light of
the purplish plate-glass of that superb parlor, she seemed so beautiful
and queenly that he almost wished he had done it. Was it quite fit that
such a woman should be thrown away upon one of the mere beasts of the
stock-market? The air with which Chip took his victory was so exactly
like that matter-of-course chuckle with which he would have tossed over
the proceeds of a shrewd bargain into his bank-account, that the young
lawyer's soul was shocked at it, and he almost wished he had prevented
such a shame. However, his discretion came to the rescue, and told him
he had done right in not linking his fortunes to a woman who, however
beautiful, was too passive in her character to make any man positively
happy. Had it been his ambition to spend his life in burning incense to
an exquisitely chiselled goddess, here was a chance, to be sure, where
he could have done it on a salary that would have satisfied a _pontifex
maximus_; but, with a fair share of the regard for money which
characterizes his profession, Mr. Sterling never could make up his mind
to become a suitor for the hand of Miss Millicent, nor get rid of the
notion that he was to bless and be blessed by some woman of positive
character and a taste for working out her own salvation in her own
way,--some woman who, not being made by her wealth, could not be unmade
by the loss of it. It was, therefore, only a momentary sense of choking
he experienced, as he laid the manuscripts on the leaf of Mr. Hopkins's
chair, and said,--
"Shall I ring the bell, Sir?"
"If you please, Mr. Sterling. Now, Millicent, dear, whose name shall
have the honor of standing as witness on this document? There is Aunt
Peggy,--is good at using pothooks, but not so good at making them. Her
mark won't exactly do."
"Why, father! I shall, of course, have my little favorite, Lucy
Green; her signature will be perfectly beautiful. And by the way, Mr.
Dartmouth, here is a thing I haven't thought of before. With this Lucy
of mine for an attendant, I am worth about twice as much as I should
have been without her, and yet no mention has been made of this in the
"Ha! ha!" said Chip. "Thought of in good time. Let Mr. Sterling add the
item at once. I am content."
"First, however, you shall see the good girl herself, Mr. Dartmouth,
and then we can have a postscript--or should I say a codicil?--on her
account. John, please say to Lucy, I wish her to come to me. After all
the stocks and bonds in the world, Mr. Dartmouth, our lives are what our
servants please to make them."
"True, indeed, my love; but the comfort is, if we are well stocked with
bonds of the right sort, servants that don't suit can be changed for
those that do."
"And the more changes, the worse, commonly;--an exception is so rare,
I dread nothing like change. The chance of improving a bad one is even
better, I think."
"I don't believe there is anything good in the flunkey line that money
won't buy. I have always found I could have anything I wanted, if I saw
fit to pay its price. Money, no matter what simpletons preach, money, my
"Why, Lucy, what is the matter?" exclaimed Miss Millicent, with some
surprise and anxiety, as she saw the girl, who had just entered, instead
of advancing, awkwardly shrink on one side into a chair behind the door,
with a shudder, as if she had trod on a reptile. The next moment she was
at her side, earnestly whispering something in her ear, evidently an
explanation of the circumstances of the case, to which Lucy had hitherto
been an entire stranger.
"Pray, excuse me, Ma'am," was the girl's scarce audible response to some
"It is only to write your name, Lucy."
"Not to _such_ a paper, for the world!"
"Not to oblige me?"
"I would do anything, Ma'am, to oblige you, but that would not. Never!
never!" said the excited girl, catching another glimpse of Chip, who was
now looking obliquely at the whispering couple, and drumming with his
fingers on the rosewood of that part of the letter S from which his
intended had just risen, as if he were hurriedly beating a _reveille_
to rally his faltering impudence. "No, Ma'am;--it is too bad, it is too
bad, it is too"----Here her utterance became choked, her cheeks pallid
as death, and her form wilted and fell like a flower before the mower's
scythe. Millicent prevented the fall, while Sterling rang for water,
and Chip, peering about with more agitation than any one else, finally
"The girl must be sick;--better take her out."
The young lawyer, with the aid of a servant, did bear her to another
apartment, where, after the usual time and restoratives, she recovered
her consciousness, and the maiden blood again revealed tints that the
queen of flowers might envy. Chip and the millionnaire remained in the
parlor, while the others were taking care of the proposed witness, and
great was the anxiety of the former that their absence should not be
prolonged. Suddenly he recollected a forgotten engagement of great
importance, pulled out his watch, fidgeted, suggested that the lawyer
and Miss Millicent should be recalled, that the papers might be signed
before he went. Mr. Hopkins was of that opinion, and sent a servant to
call them. Miss Millicent came, but could not think of completing the
contract without the signature of her favorite domestic. Argument enough
was ready, but she was fortified by a sentiment that was more than a
match for it. Mr. Hopkins was all ready, and would have the matter
closed as soon as the lawyer arrived, affirming that his daughter would
have too much sense, at last, to stand out on such a trifle.
In the mean time, the supposed Miss Lucy having had time to collect her
scattered senses, there occurred the following dialogue between her and
Frank Sterling, whose curiosity, not to speak of any other interest, had
been thoroughly roused by the strange patient for whom he had just been
acting in a medical, rather than legal capacity.
_Frank_. "We are all right, now, I think, Miss Lucy,--and they are
waiting for us in the parlor, you know."
_Lucy_. "That paper must not be signed, Sir. If Miss Millicent knew what
I do about that man, he would be the last man in the world she would
think of for a husband."
_Frank_. "But he is one of the merchant princes,--respectable, of
course. What harm can you know of him?"
_Lucy_. "If he is not so great a villain as he might be, let him thank
my escape from Mrs. Farmthroy's the night I came here. If he is to be
at home here, I shall not be; but before I leave, I wish to restore him
what belongs to him. Excuse me a moment, Sir, and I will fetch it."
"A regular previous love-affair," thought Frank, and expected her
to return, bringing a small lot of erotic jewelry to be returned to
Chipworth, as the false-hearted donor thereof. Great was his surprise,
when, instead of that, she brought a small parcel or wad of yellowish
paper, variegated with certain scrawls of rapid writing, of the manifold
"Why, that," said Frank, after unfolding the half-dozen sheets, all of
the same tenor, "is a set of news-dispatches, and of a pretty ancient
_Lucy_. "But it is his property, Sir; and though worthless itself, being
worth as much as he is, it may be valuable to him."
_Frank_. "Yes, yes. I begin to see. Cotton-Market. This reminds me of
the case of our client Grant. Why, pray, how did you come by these 'I"
_Lucy_. "Perhaps I ought not to tell you all. But if I may rely on your
honor as a gentleman, I will."
_Frank_. "As a gentleman, a man, and a lawyer, you may trust me that
every word shall be sacredly confidential."
_Lucy_. "Well, Sir, my name is not Lucy Green, but Laura Birch. My
mother keeps the Birch House in Waltham; and this man, whom you call a
merchant prince, came to my mother's the very day after the date on them
papers, and hired my brother to carry him to Captain Grant's. When he
took out his pocketbook to pay, which he did like a prince, perhaps,
he probably let these papers fall. At any rate, no one else could have
dropped them; and I saved them, thinking to give them to him when he
should call again. I have seen him but once since, at a place where,
through his interest, I supposed I had obtained a situation to learn the
milliner's trade. I needn't say why I did not return his property then.
If, now, I had in my possession even an old shoestring that had ever
been his, I would beg you to return it to him, and find out for me where
I can go never to see him."
_Frank_. "But I shall take care of these dispatches. There's a story
about these papers, I see. Here's a ray of daylight penetrating a dark
spot. Two links in the chain of circumstances, to say the least. Captain
Grant's unfortunate sale of cotton to Dartmouth just before the rise,
and the famous lost dispatch found on Dartmouth's track to Grant. Did
you see him have these papers, Miss Lucy--I beg your pardon--Miss
_Lucy_. "No, Sir; but I know he left them, just as well as if I had seen
them in his hands."
_Frank_. "True, true enough in fact, but not so good in law."
_Lucy_. "Is there anything by which the law can reach him, Sir? Oh, I
should be so glad, if the law could break off this match, even if it
cannot break his neck; and he deserves that, I am afraid, if ever a
_Frank_. "Yes,--there's enough in this roll to banish such a fellow, if
not to hang him. And it shall be done, too."
_Lucy_. "And Miss Millicent be saved, too? Delightful!"
Sterling, with the roll of yellow paper in his fist, now returned to the
parlor, where Mr. Hopkins impatiently opened upon him, before he could
close the door.
"Well, Mr. Counsellor, we are all waiting for you. Mr. Dartmouth has
urgent business, and is in haste to go. We shall be holden in heavy
damages, if we detain him."
"He will be in more haste to go by-and-by, Sir. I have some papers here,
Sir, which make it necessary that this marriage-contract should stand
aside till some other matters can be settled, or at least explained. I
refer to these manifold dispatches, detailing the latest news of the
Liverpool cotton-market, by the fraudulent possession of which on the
part of somebody, a client of mine, Captain Grant of Waltham, was
cheated out of a small fortune. Perhaps Mr. Dartmouth knows who went to
Waltham one morning to close a bargain before the telegraph-news should
transpire. It is rather remarkable that certain lost dispatches should
have been found in that man's track."
Whether Chip Dartmouth heard three words of this harangue may be
doubted. The sight of that yellowish paper did the business for him. His
expression vibrated from that of a mad rattlesnake to that of a dog with
the most downcast extremities. At last he rushed to the door, saying he
"would stand no such nonsense."
"But you will have to stand it!"
Chip was gone. Mr. Hopkins was in a state of amazement; and Millicent,
if she did not swoon, seemed to herself in a trance. Neither of them
could see in the cause anything to account for the effect. How could a
merchant prince quail before so flimsy a piece of paper? Mr.
Sterling explained. Mr. Hopkins begged the matter might not be made
public,--above all things, that legal proceedings should be avoided.
"No," said Sterling,--"I shall punish him more effectually. The proof,
though strong as holy writ, would probably fail to convict him in court.
Therefore I shall let him off on these conditions: He shall disgorge to
Captain Grant his profits on that cotton with interest, relinquish Miss
Millicent's hand, if she so pleases, and, at any rate, relieve Boston of
his presence altogether and for good. He may do it as soon as he likes,
and as privately."
This course at once met the approbation of all parties, and was carried
What became of Squire Sterling, whether he married the mistress of that
mansion or her maid, this deponent saith not; though he doth say that he
did marry one of them, and had no cause to regret the same.
* * * * *
SEEN AND UNSEEN.
The wind ahead, the billows high,
A whited wave, but sable sky,
And many a league of tossing sea
Between the hearts I love and me.
The wind ahead: day after day
These weary words the sailors say;
To weeks the days are lengthened now,--
Still mounts the surge to meet our prow.
Through longing day and lingering night
I still accuse Time's lagging flight,
Or gaze out o'er the envious sea,
That keeps the hearts I love from me.
Yet, ah, how shallow is all grief!
How instant is the deep relief!
And what a hypocrite am I,
To feign forlorn, to 'plain and sigh!
The wind ahead? The wind is free!
Forever more it favoreth me,--
To shores of God still blowing fair,
O'er seas of God my bark doth bear.
This surging brine _I_ do not sail,
This blast adverse is not my gale;
'Tis here I only seem to be,
But really sail another sea,--
Another sea, pure sky its waves,
Whose beauty hides no heaving graves,--
A sea all haven, whereupon
No hapless bark to wreck hath gone.
The winds that o'er my ocean run
Reach through all heavens beyond the sun;
Through life and death, through fate, through time,
Grand breaths of God, they sweep sublime.
Eternal trades, they cannot veer,
And, blowing, teach us how to steer;
And well for him whose joy, whose care,
Is but to keep before them fair.
Oh, thou God's mariner, heart of mine,
Spread canvas to the airs divine!
Spread sail! and let thy Fortune be
Forgotten in thy Destiny!
For Destiny pursues us well,
By sea, by land, through heaven or hell;
It suffers Death alone to die,
Bids Life all change and chance defy.
Would earth's dark ocean suck thee down?
Earth's ocean thou, O Life, shalt drown,
Shalt flood it with thy finer wave,
And, sepulchred, entomb thy grave!
Life loveth life and good: then trust
What most the spirit would, it must;
Deep wishes, in the heart that be,
Are blossoms of Necessity.
A thread of Law runs through thy prayer,
Stronger than iron cables are;
And Love and Longing toward her goal
Are pilots sweet to guide the Soul.
So Life must live, and Soul must sail,
And Unseen over Seen prevail,
And all God's argosies come to shore,
Let ocean smile, or rage and roar.
And so, 'mid storm or calm, my bark
With snowy wake still nears her mark;
Cheerly the trades of being blow,
And sweeping down the wind I go.
Among my letters is one from Dr. E.D. North, desiring me to furnish any
facts within my reach, relating to the scientific character and general
opinions of the late James G. Percival. This information Dr. North
proposed to incorporate into a memoir, to be prefixed to a new edition
of Percival's Poems. The biographer, with his task unfinished, has
followed the subject of his studies to the tomb.
Dr. North's request revived in me many recollections of Percival; and
finally led me to draw out the following sketch of him, as he appeared
to my eyes in those days when I saw him often, and sometimes shared his
pursuits. Vague and shadowy is the delineation, and to myself seems
little better than the reminiscence of a phantom or a dream. Percival's
life had few externalities,--he related himself to society by few points
of contact; and I have been compelled to paint him chiefly by glimpses
of his literary and interior existence.
My acquaintance with him grew out of some conversations on geological
topics, and commenced in 1828, when he was working on his translation of
Malte-Brun's Geography. The impression made on me by his singular person
and manners was vivid and indelible. Slender in form, rather above than
under the middle height, he had a narrow chest, and a peculiar stoop,
which was not in the back, but high up in the shoulders. His head,
without being large, was fine. His eyes were of a dark hazel, and
possessed uncommon expression. His nose, mouth, and chin were
symmetrically, if not elegantly formed, and came short of beauty
only because of that meagreness which marked his whole person. His
complexion, light without redness, inclined to sallow, and suggested a
temperament somewhat bilious. His dark brown hair had become thin above
the forehead, revealing to advantage that most striking feature of his
countenance. Taken all together, his appearance was that of a weak man,
of delicate constitution,--an appearance hardly justified by the fact;
for he endured fatigue and privation with remarkable stanchness.
Percival's face, when he was silent, was full of calm, serious
meditation; when speaking, it lighted up with thought, and became
noticeably expressive. He commonly talked in a mild, unimpassioned
undertone, but just above a whisper, letting his voice sink with rather
a pleasing cadence at the completion of each sentence. Even when most
animated, he used no gesture except a movement of the first and second
fingers of his right hand backward and forward across the palm of the
left, meantime following their monotonous unrest with his eyes, and
rarely meeting the gaze of his interlocutor. He would stand for hours,
when talking, his right elbow on a mantel-piece, if there was one near,
his fingers going through their strange palmistry; and in this manner,
never once stirring from his position, he would not unfrequently
protract his discourse till long past midnight. An inexhaustible,
undemonstrative, noiseless, passionless man, scarcely evident to you by
physical qualities, and impressing you, for the most part, as a creature
of pure intellect.
His wardrobe was remarkably inexpensive, consisting of little more than
a single plain suit, brown or gray, which he wore winter and summer,
until it became threadbare. He never used boots; and his shoes, though
carefully dusted, were never blacked. A most unpretending bow fastened
his cravat of colored cambric. For many years his only outer garment was
a brown camlet cloak, of very scanty proportions, thinly lined, and a
meagre protection against winter. His hat was worn for years before
being laid aside, and put you in mind of the prevailing mode by the law
of contrast only. He was never seen with gloves, and rarely with an
umbrella. The value of his entire wardrobe scarcely exceeded fifty
dollars; yet he was always neat, and appeared unconscious of any
peculiarity in his costume.
An accurate portrait of him at any period of his life can scarcely be
said to exist. His sensitive modesty seems to have made him unwilling to
let his features be exposed to the flaring notoriety of canvas. Once,
indeed, he allowed himself to be painted by Mr. George A. Flagg; but the
picture having been exhibited in the Trumbull Gallery of Yale
College, Percival's susceptibility took alarm, and he expressed
annoyance,--though whether dissatisfied with the portrait or its public
exposure I cannot say. The artist proposed certain alterations, and the
poet listened to him with seeming assent. The picture was taken back to
the studio; objectionable or questionable parts of it painted out; the
likeness destroyed for the purpose of correction; and Percival was to
give another sitting at his convenience. That was the last time he put
himself within painting reach of Mr. Flagg's easel.[A]
[Footnote A: I remember to have seen an excellent portrait of him, by
Alexander, in the studio of that artist, in the year 1825; but in whose
possession it now is, I am unable to say.]
In those days of our early acquaintance, he occupied two small chambers,
one of which fronted on the business part of Chapel Street (New Haven).
His books, already numerous, were piled in double tiers and in heaps
against the walls, covering the floors also, and barely leaving space
for his sleeping-cot, chair, and writing-table. His library was a
_sanctum_ to which the curious visitor hardly ever gained admittance. He
met even his friends at the door, and generally held his interviews
with them in the adjoining passage. Disinclined to borrow books, he
was especially averse to lending. Dr. Guhrauer's assertion respecting
Leibnitz, that "his library was numerous and valuable, and its possessor
had the peculiarity that he liked to worm in it alone, being very
reluctant to let any one see it," applies equally well to Percival.
He was rarely visible abroad except in his walks to and from the
country, whither he often resorted to pass not hours only, but
frequently entire days, in solitary wanderings,--partly for physical
exercise,--still more, perhaps, to study the botany, the geology, and
the minutest geographical features of the environs; for his restless
mind was perpetually observant, and could not be withheld from external
Nature, even by his poetic and philosophic meditation. In these
excursions, he often passed his fellow-mortals without noticing them. A
friend, if observed, he greeted with a slight nod, and possibly stopped
him for conversation. Once started on a subject, Percival rarely quitted
it until it was exhausted; and consequently these interviews sometimes
outlasted the leisure of his listener. You excused yourself, perhaps;
or you were called away by some one else; but you had only put off the
conclusion of the discourse, not escaped it. The next time Percival
encountered you, his first words were, "As I was saying,"--and taking
up the thread of his observations where it had been broken, he went
straight to the end.
The excellent bookstore of the late Hezekiah Howe, one of the best in
New England, and particularly rich in those rare and costly works
which form a bookworm's delight, was one of Percival's best-loved
lounging-places. He bought freely, and, when he could not buy, he was
welcome to peruse: He read with marvellous rapidity, skipping as if by
instinct everything that was unimportant; avoiding the rhetoric, the
commonplaces, the falsities; glancing only at what was new, what was
true, what was suggestive, he had a distinct object in view; but it was
not to amuse himself, nor to compare author with author; it was simply
to increase the sum of his own knowledge. Perhaps it was in these rapid
forays through unbought, uncut volumes, that he acquired his singular
habit of reading books, even his own, without subjecting them to the
paper-knife. People who wanted to see Percival and obtain his views on
special topics were accustomed to look for him at Mr. Howe's, and always
found him willing to pour forth his voluminous information.
His income at this time was derived solely from literary jobs, and was
understood to be very limited. What he earned he spent chiefly for
books, particularly for such as would assist him in perfecting that
striking monument of his varied and profound research, his new
translation and edition of Malte-Brun. For this labor the time had been
estimated, and the publishers had made him an allowance, which, if he
had worked like other men, would have amounted to eight dollars a
day. But Percival would let nothing go out of his hands imperfect; a
typographical error, even, I have heard him say, sometimes depressed
him like actual illness. He translated and revised so carefully, he
corrected so many errors and added so many footnotes, that his industry
actually devoured its own wages; and his eight dollars gradually
diminished to a diurnal fifty cents.
Percival made no merely ceremonial calls, few friendly visits, and
attended no parties. If he dropped in upon a family of his acquaintance,
he rarely addressed himself to a lady. Otherwise there was nothing
peculiar in his deportment; for, if silent, he was not embarrassed,--and
if he talked, it was without any appearance of self-consciousness.
Judging from his isolated habits, some persons supposed him
misanthropic. Let me give one instance of his good-nature. One of the
elder professors of Yale had fallen into a temporary misappreciation
with the students, who received his instructions, to say the least, with
an ill-concealed indifference. They whispered during his lectures,
and in other ways rendered themselves strenuously disagreeable to the
sensitive nerves of the professor. Indignant at such behavior toward
a worthy and learned man, who had been his own instructor, Percival
proposed a plan for stopping the annoyance. It was, that a number of old
graduates, professors, and others, himself being one, should attend
the lectures, listen to them with the respect they merited, and so,
if possible, bring the students to a sense of propriety and of the
advantages they were neglecting.
No, Percival was not a misanthrope. During an acquaintance of
twenty-five years, I never knew him do an act or utter a word which
could countenance this opinion. He indulged in no bitter remarks,
cherished no hatred of individuals, affected no scorn of his race; on
the contrary, he held large views concerning the noble destinies of
mankind, and expressed deep interest in its advancement toward greater
intelligence and virtue. The local affections he certainly had, for he
was gratified at the prosperity of his fellow-townsmen, proud of his
native State, and took a pleasure in defending her name from unjust
aspersions. Patriotic, too,--none more so,--he rejoiced in the welfare
of the whole country, knew its history thoroughly, and bestowed on
its military heroes, in particular, a lively appreciation, which was
singular, perhaps, in a man of such gentle habits and nature. I
cannot forget the excited pleasure with which we visited, when on the
geological survey of Connecticut, Putnam's Stairs at Horseneck, and
Putnam's Wolf-Den in Pomfret. At the latter place, Percival's enthusiasm
for the heroic hunter and warrior led him to carve his initials on a
rock at the entrance of the chasm. It was the only place during the tour
where he left a similar memorial.
American statesmen he admired scarcely less than American soldiers; nor
did he neglect any information within his reach concerning public
men and measures. It was singular to observe with what freedom from
excitement he discussed the most irritating phases of party,--speaking
of the men and events of his own day with as much philosophic calmness
as if they belonged to a previous century; not at all deceived, I
think, by the temporary notoriety and power which frequently attend the
political bustler,--quite positive, indeed, that many of our "great men"
were far inferior to multitudes in private life. Webster he respected
greatly, and used to regret that his fortune was not commensurate with
his tastes. Like a true poet, he believed devoutly in native genius,
considered it something inimitable and incommunicable, and worshipped it
whereever he found it.
Percival was indifferent and even disinclined to female society. There
is a common story that he had conceived an aversion to the whole sex
in consequence of a youthful disappointment in love. I know nothing
concerning this alleged chagrin, but I am confident that he cherished no
such antipathy. He never, in my hearing, said a hard thing of any woman,
or of the sex; and I remember distinctly the flattering and even poetic
appreciation with which he spoke of individual ladies. Of one who has
since become a distinguished authoress of the South, he said, that "her
conversation had as great an intellectual charm for him as that of any
scholar among his male acquaintances." Of a lady still resident in
New Haven, he observed, that "there was a mysterious beauty in her
thoughtful face and dark eyes which reminded him of a deep and limpid
forest-fountain." But although he did not hate women, he certainly was
disinclined to their society,--an oddity, I beg leave to say, in any
man, and a most surprising eccentricity in a poet. Constitutional
timidity may have founded this habit during youth; for, as I have
already observed, his modesty was sensitive and almost morbid. Then came
his multitudinous studies, which absorbed him utterly, and in which,
unfortunately for Percival, if not for the ladies, these last took so
little interest that conversation was not mutually desirable. A remark
he made to a scientific friend, who had just been married, will,
perhaps, throw some light on the subject. "How is this?" said he; "I
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