Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 8, No. 50, December, 1861
Part 2 out of 5
The music of life's great marches
Sounded for him in vain;
The voices of human duty
Smote on his ear like pain.
In vain over island and water
The curtains of sunset swung;
In vain on the beautiful mountains
The pictures of God were hung.
The wretched years crept onward,
Each sadder than the last;
All the bloom of life fell from him,
All the freshness and greenness passed.
But deep in his heart forever
And unprofaned he kept
The love of his saintly Mother,
Who in the grave-yard slept.
His house had no pleasant pictures;
Its comfortless walls were bare;
But the riches of earth and ocean
Could not purchase his Mother's Chair,--
The old chair, quaintly carven,
With oaken arms outspread,
Whereby, in the long gone twilights,
His childish prayers were said.
For thence, in his lone night-watches,
By moon or starlight dim,
A face full of love and pity
And tenderness looked on him.
And oft, as the grieving presence
Sat in his mother's chair,
The groan of his self-upbraiding
Grew into wordless prayer.
At last, in the moonless midnight,
The summoning angel came,
Severe in his pity, touching
The house with fingers of flame.
The red light flashed from its windows
And flared from its sinking roof;
And baffled and awed before it,
The villagers stood aloof.
They shrank from the falling rafters,
They turned from the furnace-glare;
But its tenant cried, "God help me!
I must save my mother's chair."
Under the blazing portal,
Over the floor of fire,
He seemed, in the terrible splendor,
A martyr on his pyre!
In his face the mad flames smote him
And stung him on either side;
But he clung to the sacred relic,--
By his mother's chair he died!
O mother, with human yearnings!
O saint, by the altar-stairs!
Shall not the dear God give thee
The child of thy many prayers?
O Christ! by whom the loving,
Though erring, are forgiven,
Hast Thou for him no refuge,
No quiet place in heaven?
Give palms to Thy strong martyrs,
And crown Thy saints with gold,
But let the mother welcome
Her lost one to Thy fold!
AGNES OF SORRENTO.
ELSIE PUSHES HER SCHEME.
The good Father Antonio returned from his conference with the cavalier
with many subjects for grave pondering. This man, as he conjectured, so
far from being an enemy either of Church or State, was in fact in many
respects in the same position with his revered master,--as nearly so as
the position of a layman was likely to resemble that of an ecclesiastic.
His denial of the Visible Church, as represented by the Pope and
Cardinals, sprang not from an irreverent, but from a reverent spirit. To
accept _them_ as exponents of Christ and Christianity was to blaspheme
and traduce both, and therefore he only could be counted in the highest
degree Christian who stood most completely opposed to them in spirit and
His kind and fatherly heart was interested in the brave young nobleman.
He sympathized fully with the situation in which he stood, and he even
wished success to his love; but then how was he to help him with Agnes,
and above all with her old grandmother, without entering on the awful
task of condemning and exposing that sacred authority which all the
Church had so many years been taught to regard as infallibly inspired?
Long had all the truly spiritual members of the Church who gave ear to
the teachings of Savonarola felt that the nearer they followed Christ
the more open was their growing antagonism to the Pope and the
Cardinals; but still they hung back from the responsibility of inviting
the people to an open revolt.
Father Antonio felt his soul deeply stirred with the news of the
excommunication of his saintly master; and he marvelled, as he tossed
on his restless bed through the night, how he was to meet the storm. He
might have known, had he been able to look into a crowded assembly in
Florence about this time, when the unterrified monk thus met the news of
"There have come decrees from Rome, have there? They call me a son of
perdition. Well, thus may you answer:--He to whom you give this name
hath neither favorites nor concubines, but gives himself solely to
preaching Christ. His spiritual sons and daughters, those who listen
to his doctrine, do not pass their time in infamous practices. They
confess, they receive the communion, they live honestly. This man gives
himself up to exalt the Church of Christ: you to destroy it. The time
approaches for opening the secret chamber: we will give but one turn of
the key, and there will come out thence such an infection, such a
stench of this city of Rome, that the odor shall spread through all
Christendom, and all the world shall be sickened."
But Father Antonio was of himself wholly unable to come to such a
courageous result, though capable of following to the death the master
who should do it for him. His was the true artist nature, as unfit to
deal with rough human forces as a bird that flies through the air is
unfitted to a hand-to-hand grapple with the armed forces of the lower
world. There is strength in these artist natures. Curious computations
have been made of the immense muscular power that is brought into
exercise when a swallow skims so smoothly through the blue sky; but the
strength is of a kind unadapted to mundane uses, and needs the ether for
its display. Father Antonio could create the beautiful; he could warm,
could elevate, could comfort; and when a stronger nature went before
him, he could follow with an unquestioning tenderness of devotion: but
he wanted the sharp, downright power of mind that could cut and cleave
its way through the rubbish of the past, when its institutions, instead
of a commodious dwelling, had come to be a loathsome prison. Besides,
the true artist has ever an enchanted island of his own; and when this
world perplexes and wearies him, he can sail far away and lay his soul
down to rest, as Cytherea bore the sleeping Ascanius far from the din of
battle, to sleep on flowers and breathe the odor of a hundred undying
altars to Beauty.
Therefore, after a restless night, the good monk arose in the first
purple of the dawn, and instinctively betook him to a review of his
drawings for the shrine, as a refuge from troubled thought. He took his
sketch of the Madonna and Child into the morning twilight and began
meditating thereon, while the clouds that lined the horizon were glowing
rosy purple and violet with the approaching day.
"See there!" he said to himself, "yonder clouds have exactly the rosy
purple of the cyclamen which my little Agnes loves so much;--yes, I am
resolved that this cloud on which our Mother standeth shall be of a
cyclamen color. And there is that star, like as it looked yesterday
evening, when I mused upon it. Methought I could see our Lady's clear
brow, and the radiance of her face, and I prayed that some little power
might be given to show forth that which transports me."
And as the monk plied his pencil, touching here and there, and
elaborating the outlines of his drawing, he sang,--
"Ave, Maris Stella,
Dei mater alma,
Atque semper virgo,
Felix coeli porta!
Inter omnes mitis,
Nos culpis solutos
Mites fac et castos!
"Vitam praesta puram,
Iter para tutum,
Ut videntes Jesum
Hail, thou Star of Ocean,
Thou forever virgin
Mother of the Lord!
Blessed gate of Heaven,
Take our heart's devotion!
Virgin one and only,
Meekest 'mid them all,
From our sins set free,
Make us pure like thee,
Freed from passion's thrall!
Grant that in pure living,
Through safe paths below,
Forever seeing Jesus,
Rejoicing we may go!
As the monk sang, Agnes soon appeared at the door.
"Ah, my little bird, you are there!" he said, looking up.
"Yes," said Agnes, coming forward, and looking over his shoulder at his
"Did you find that young sculptor?" she asked.
"That I did,--a brave boy, too, who will row down the coast and dig us
marble from an old heathen temple, which we will baptize into the name
of Christ and his Mother."
"Pietro was always a good boy," said Agnes.
"Stay," said the monk, stepping into his little sleeping-room; "he sent
you this lily; see, I have kept it in water all night."
"Poor Pietro, that was good of him!" said Agnes. "I would thank him, if
I could. But, uncle," she added, in a hesitating voice, "did you see
anything of that--other one?"
"That I did, child,--and talked long with him."
"Ah, uncle, is there any hope for him?"
"Yes, there is hope,--great hope. In fact, he has promised to receive me
again, and I have hopes of leading him to the sacrament of confession,
and after that"----
"And then the Pope will forgive him!" said Agnes, joyfully.
The face of the monk suddenly fell; he was silent, and went on
retouching his drawing.
"Do you not think he will?" said Agnes, earnestly. "You said the Church
was ever ready to receive the repentant."
"The True Church will receive him," said the monk, evasively; "yes, my
little one, there is no doubt of it."
"And it is not true that he is captain of a band of robbers in the
mountains?" said Agnes. "May I tell Father Francesco that it is not so?"
"Child, this young man hath suffered a grievous wrong and injustice; for
he is lord of an ancient and noble estate, out of which he hath been
driven by the cruel injustice of a most wicked and abominable man, the
Duke di Valentinos,[B] who hath caused the death of his brothers and
sisters, and ravaged the country around with fire and sword, so that he
hath been driven with his retainers to a fortress in the mountains."
[Footnote B: Caesar Borgia was created Duc de Valentinois by Louis XII.
"But," said Agnes, with flushed cheeks, "why does not our blessed Father
excommunicate this wicked duke? Surely this knight hath erred; instead
of taking refuge in the mountains, he ought to have fled with his
followers to Rome, where the dear Father of the Church hath a house for
all the oppressed. It must be so lovely to be the father of all men, and
to take in and comfort all those who are distressed and sorrowful, and
to right the wrongs of all that are oppressed, as our dear Father at
The monk looked up at Agnes's clear glowing face with a sort of
"Dear little child," he said, "there is a Jerusalem above which is
mother of us all, and these things are done there.
'Coelestis urbs Jerusalem,
Beata pacis visio,
Quae celsa de viventibus
Saxis ad astra tolleris,
Sponsaeque ritu cingeris
Mille angelorum millibus!'"
The face of the monk glowed as he repeated this ancient hymn of the
Church,[C] as if the remembrance of that general assembly and church of
the first-born gave him comfort in his depression.
[Footnote C: This very ancient hymn is the fountainhead from which
through various languages have trickled the various hymns of the
Celestial City, such as--
"Jerusalem, my happy home!"
"O mother dear, Jerusalem!"]
Agnes felt perplexed, and looked earnestly at her uncle as he stooped
over his drawing, and saw that there were deep lines of anxiety on his
usually clear, placid face,--a look as of one who struggles mentally
with some untold trouble.
"Uncle," she said, hesitatingly, "may I tell Father Francesco what you
have been telling me of this young man?"
"No, my little one,--it were not best. In fact, dear child, there be
many things in his case impossible to explain, even to you;--but he is
not so altogether hopeless as you thought; in truth, I have great hopes
of him. I have admonished him to come here no more, but I shall see him
again this evening."
Agnes wondered at the heaviness of her own little heart, as her kind
old uncle spoke of his coming there no more. Awhile ago she dreaded his
visits as a most fearful temptation, and thought perhaps he might come
at any hour; now she was sure he would not, and it was astonishing what
a weight fell upon her.
"Why am I not thankful?" she asked herself. "Why am I not joyful? Why
should I wish to see him again, when I should only be tempted to sinful
thoughts, and when my dear uncle, who can do so much for him, has his
soul in charge? And what is this which is so strange in his case? There
is some mystery, after all,--something, perhaps, which I ought not to
wish to know. Ah, how little can we know of this great wicked world, and
of the reasons which our superiors give for their conduct! It is ours
humbly to obey, without a question or a doubt. Holy Mother, may I not
sin through a vain curiosity or self-will! May I ever say, as thou
didst, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord! be it unto me according to His
And Agnes went about her morning devotions with fervent zeal, and did
not see the monk as he dropped the pencil, and, covering his face with
his robe, seemed to wrestle in some agony of prayer.
"Shepherd of Israel," he said, "why hast Thou forgotten this vine of Thy
planting? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, the wild beast of the
field doth devour it. Dogs have encompassed Thy beloved; the assembly of
the violent have surrounded him. How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost
Thou not judge and avenge?"
"Now, really, brother," said Elsie, coming towards him, and interrupting
his meditations in her bustling, business way, yet speaking in a low
tone that Agnes should not hear,--"I want you to help me with this child
in a good common-sense fashion: none of your high-flying notions about
saints and angels, but a little good common talk for every-day people
that have their bread and salt to look after. The fact is, brother, this
girl must be married. I went last night to talk with Antonio's mother,
and the way is all open as well as any living girl could desire. Antonio
is a trifle slow, and the high-flying hussies call him stupid; but his
mother says a better son never breathed, and he is as obedient to all
her orders now as when he was three years old. And she has laid up
plenty of household stuff for him, and good hard gold pieces to boot:
she let me count them myself, and I showed her that which I had scraped
together, and she counted it, and we agreed that the children that come
of such a marriage would come into the world with something to stand on.
Now Agnes is fond of you, brother, and perhaps it would be well for you
to broach the subject. The fact is, when I begin to talk, she gets her
arms round my old neck and falls to weeping and kissing me at such a
rate as makes a fool of me. If the child would only be rebellious, one
could do something; but this love takes all the stiffness out of one's
joints; and she tells me she never wants a husband, and she will be
content to live with me all her life. The saints know it isn't for my
happiness to put her out of my old arms; but I can't last forever,--my
old back grows weaker every year; and Antonio has strong arms to defend
her from all these roystering fellows who fear neither God nor man, and
swoop up young maids as kites do chickens. And then he is as gentle and
manageable as a this-year ox; Agnes can lead him by the horn,--she will
be a perfect queen over him; for he has been brought up to mind the
"Well, sister," said the monk, "hath our little maid any acquaintance
with this man? Have they ever spoken together?"
"Not much. I have never brought them to a very close acquaintance; and
that is what is to be done. Antonio is not much of a talker; to tell the
truth, he does not know as much to say as our Agnes: but the man's place
is not to say fine things, but to do the hard work that shall support
"Then Agnes hath not even seen him?"
"Yes, at different times I have bid her regard him, and said to her,
'There goes a proper man and a good Christian,--a man who minds his work
and is obedient to his old mother: such a man will make a right good
husband for some girl some day.'"
"And did you ever see that her eye followed him with pleasure?"
"No, neither him nor any other man, for my little Agnes hath no thought
of that kind; but, once married, she will like him fast enough. All
I want is to have you begin the subject, and get it into her head a
Father Antonio was puzzled how to meet this direct urgency of his
sister. He could not explain to her his own private reasons for
believing that any such attempt would be utterly vain, and only bring
needless distress on his little favorite. He therefore answered,--
"My good sister, all such thoughts lie so far out of the sphere of us
monks, that you could not choose a worse person for such an errand. I
have never had any communings with the child than touching the beautiful
things of my art, and concerning hymns and prayers and the lovely
world of saints and angels, where they neither marry nor are given in
marriage; and so I should only spoil your enterprise, if I should put my
unskilful hand to it."
"At any rate," said Elsie, "don't you approve of my plan?"
"I should approve of anything that would make our dear little one safe
and happy, but I would not force the matter against her inclinations.
You will always regret it, if you make so good a child shed one needless
tear. After all, sister, what need of haste? 'Tis a young bird yet. Why
push it out of the nest? When once it is gone, you will never get it
back. Let the pretty one have her little day to play and sing and be
happy. Does she not make this garden a sort of Paradise with her little
ways and her sweet words? Now, my sister, these all belong to you; but,
once she is given to another, there is no saying what may come. One
thing only may you count on with certainty: that these dear days, when
she is all day by your side and sleeps in your bosom all night, are
over,--she will belong to you no more, but to a strange man who hath
neither toiled nor wrought for her, and all her pretty ways and dutiful
thoughts must be for him."
"I know it, I know it," said Elsie, with a sudden wrench of that jealous
love which is ever natural to strong, passionate natures. "I'm sure it
isn't for my own sake I urge this. I grudge him the girl. After all,
he is but a stupid head. What has he ever done, that such good-fortune
should befall him? He ought to fall down and kiss the dust of my shoes
for such a gift, and I doubt me much if he will ever think to do it.
These men think nothing too good for them. I believe, if one of the
crowned saints in heaven were offered them to wife, they would think it
all quite natural, and not a whit less than their requirings."
"Well, then, sister," said the monk, soothingly, "why press this matter?
why hurry? The poor little child is young; let her frisk like a lamb,
and dance like a butterfly, and sing her hymns every day like a bright
bird. Surely the Apostle saith, 'He that giveth his maid in marriage
doeth well, but he that giveth her not doeth better.'"
"But I have opened the subject already to old Meta," said Elsie; "and
if I don't pursue it, she will take it into her head that her son is
lightly regarded, and then her back will be up, and one may lose the
chance; and on the whole, considering the money and the fellow, I don't
know a safer way to settle the girl."
"Well, sister, as I have remarked," said the monk, "I could not order
my speech to propose anything of this kind to a young maid; I should so
bungle that I might spoil all. You must even propose it yourself."
"I would not have undertaken it," said Elsie, "had I not been frightened
by that hook-nosed old kite of a cavalier that has been sailing and
perching round. We are two lone women here, and the times are unsettled,
and one never knows, that hath so fair a prize, but she may be carried
off, and then no redress from any quarter."
"You might lodge her in the convent," said the monk.
"Yes, and then, the first thing I should know, they would have got her
away from me entirely. I have been well pleased to have her much with
the sisters hitherto, because it kept her from hearing the foolish talk
of girls and gallants,--and such a flower would have had every wasp and
bee buzzing round it. But now the time is coming to marry her, I much
doubt these nuns. There's old Jocunda is a sensible woman, who knew
something of the world before she went there,--but the Mother Theresa
knows no more than a baby; and they would take her in, and make her as
white and as thin as that moon yonder now the sun has risen; and little
good should I have of her, for I have no vocation for the convent,--it
would kill me in a week. No,--she has seen enough of the convent for the
present. I will even take the risk of watching her myself. Little has
this gallant seen of her, though he has tried hard enough! But to-day I
may venture to take her down with me."
Father Antonio felt a little conscience-smitten in listening to these
triumphant assertions of old Elsie; for he knew that she would pour all
her vials of wrath on his head, did she know, that, owing to his absence
from his little charge, the dreaded invader had managed to have two
interviews with her grandchild, on the very spot that Elsie deemed the
fortress of security; but he wisely kept his own counsel, believing in
the eternal value of silence. In truth, the gentle monk lived so much
in the unreal and celestial world of Beauty, that he was by no means
a skilful guide for the passes of common life. Love, other than that
ethereal kind which aspires towards Paradise, was a stranger to his
thoughts, and he constantly erred in attributing to other people natures
and purposes as unworldly and spiritual as his own. Thus had he fallen,
in his utter simplicity, into the attitude of a go-between protecting
the advances of a young lover with the shadow of his monk's gown, and
he became awkwardly conscious, that, if Elsie should find out the whole
truth, there would be no possibility of convincing her that what had
been done in such sacred simplicity on all sides was not the basest
Elsie took Agnes down with her to the old stand in the gateway of the
town. On their way, as had probably been arranged, Antonio met them.
We may have introduced him to the reader before, who likely enough has
forgotten by this time our portraiture; so we shall say again, that the
man was past thirty, tall, straight, well-made, even to the tapering of
his well-formed limbs, as are the generality of the peasantry of that
favored region. His teeth were white as sea-pearl; his cheek, though
swarthy, had a deep, healthy flash; and his great velvet black eyes
looked straight out from under their long silky lashes, just as do the
eyes of the beautiful oxen of his country, with a languid, changeless
tranquillity, betokening a good digestion, and a well-fed, kindly animal
nature. He was evidently a creature that had been nourished on sweet
juices and developed in fair pastures, under genial influences of sun
and weather,--one that would draw patiently in harness, if required,
without troubling his handsome head how he came there, and, his labor
being done, would stretch his healthy body to rumination, and rest with
serene, even unreflecting quietude.
He had been duly lectured by his mother, this morning, on the propriety
of commencing his wooing, and was coming towards them with a bouquet in
"See there," said Elsie,--"there is our young neighbor Antonio coming
towards us. There is a youth whom I am willing you should speak
to,--none of your ruffling gallants, but steady as an ox at his work,
and as kind at the crib. Happy will the girl be that gets him for a
Agnes was somewhat troubled and saddened this morning, and absorbed in
cares quite new to her life before; but her nature was ever kindly
and social, and it had been laid under so many restrictions by her
grandmother's close method of bringing up, that it was always ready to
rebound in favor of anybody to whom she allowed her to show kindness.
So, when the young man stopped and shyly reached forth to her a knot
of scarlet poppies intermingled with bright vetches and wild blue
larkspurs, she took it graciously, and, frankly beaming a smile into his
"Thank you, my good Antonio!" Then fastening them in the front of her
bodice,--"There, they are beautiful!" she said, looking up with the
simple satisfaction of a child.
"They are not half so beautiful as you are," said the young peasant;
"everybody likes you."
"You are very kind, I am sure," said Agnes. "I like everybody, as far as
grandmamma thinks it best."
"I am glad of that," said Antonio, "because then I hope you will like
"Oh, yes, certainly, I do; grandmamma says you are very good, and I like
all good people."
"Well, then, pretty Agnes," said the young man, "let me carry your
"Oh, you don't need to; it does not tire me."
"But I should like to do something for you," insisted the young man,
"Well, you may, then," said Agnes, who began to wonder at the length
of time her grandmother allowed this conversation to go on without
interrupting it, as she generally had done when a young man was in the
case. Quite to her astonishment, her venerable relative, instead of
sticking as close to her as her shadow, was walking forward very fast
without looking behind.
"Now, Holy Mother," said that excellent matron, "do help this young man
to bring this affair out straight, and give an old woman, who has had a
world of troubles, a little peace in her old age!"
Agnes found herself, therefore, quite unusually situated, alone in the
company of a handsome young man, and apparently with the consent of her
grandmother. Some girls might have felt emotions of embarrassment,
or even alarm, at this new situation; but the sacred loneliness and
seclusion in which Agnes had been educated had given her a confiding
fearlessness, such as voyagers have found in the birds of bright foreign
islands which have never been invaded by man. She looked up at Antonio
with a pleased, admiring smile,--much such as she would have given, if
a great handsome stag, or other sylvan companion, had stepped from the
forest and looked a friendship at her through his large liquid eyes. She
seemed, in an innocent, frank way, to like to have him walking by her,
and thought him very good to carry her basket,--though, as she told him,
he need not do it, it did not tire her in the least.
"Nor does it tire me, pretty Agnes," said he, with an embarrassed laugh.
"See what a great fellow I am,--how strong! Look,--I can bend an iron
bar in my hands! I am as strong as an ox,--and I should like always to
use my strength for you."
"Should you? How very kind of you! It is very Christian to use one's
strength for others, like the good Saint Christopher."
"But I would use my strength for you because--I love you, gentle Agnes!"
"That is right, too," replied Agnes. "We must all love one another, my
"You must know what I mean," said the young man. "I mean that I want to
"I am sorry for that, Antonio," replied Agnes, gravely; "because I do
not want to marry you. I am never going to marry anybody."
"Ah, girls always talk so, my mother told me; but nobody ever heard of
a girl that did not want a husband; that is impossible," said Antonio,
"I believe girls generally do, Antonio; but I do not: my desire is to go
to the convent."
"To the convent, pretty Agnes? Of all things, what should you want to
go to the convent for? You never had any trouble. You are young, and
handsome, and healthy, and almost any of the fellows would think himself
fortunate to get you."
"I would go there to live for God and pray for souls," said Agnes.
"But your grandmother will never let you; she means you shall marry me.
I heard her and my mother talking about it last night; and my mother
bade me come on, for she said it was all settled."
"I never heard anything of it," said Agnes, now for the first time
feeling troubled. "But, my good Antonio, if you really do like me and
wish me well, you will not want to distress me?"
"Well, it _will_ distress me very, very much, if you persist in wanting
to marry me, and if you say any more on the subject."
"Is that really so?" said Antonio, fixing his great velvet eyes with an
honest stare on Agnes.
"Yes, it is so, Antonio; you may rely upon it."
"But look here, Agnes, are you quite sure? Mother says girls do not
always know their mind."
"But I know mine, Antonio. Now you really will distress and trouble me
very much, if you say anything more of this sort."
"I declare, I am sorry for it," said the young man. "Look ye, Agnes,--I
did not care half as much about it this morning as I do now. Mother
has been saying this great while that I must have a wife, that she was
getting old; and this morning she told me to speak to you. I thought you
would be all ready,--indeed I did."
"My good Antonio, there are a great many very handsome girls who would
be glad, I suppose, to marry you. I believe other girls do not feel as I
do. Giulietta used to laugh and tell me so."
"That Giulietta was a splendid girl," said Antonio. "She used to make
great eyes at me, and try to make me play the fool; but my mother would
not hear of her. Now she has gone off with a fellow to the mountains."
"Yes, haven't you heard of it? She's gone with one of the fellows of
that dashing young robber-captain that has been round our town so much
lately. All the girls are wild after these mountain fellows. A good,
honest boy like me, that hammers away at his trade, they think nothing
of; whereas one of these fellows with a feather in his cap has only to
twinkle his finger at them, and they are off like a bird."
The blood rose in Agnes's cheeks at this very unconscious remark; but
she walked along for some time with a countenance of grave reflection.
They had now gained the street of the city, where old Elsie stood at a
little distance waiting for them.
"Well, Agnes," said Antonio, "so you really are in earnest?"
"Certainly I am."
"Well, then, let us be good friends, at any rate," said the young man.
"Oh, to be sure, I will," said Agnes, smiling with all the brightness
her lovely face was capable of. "You are a kind, good man, and I like
you very much. I will always remember you kindly."
"Well, good-bye, then," said Antonio, offering his hand.
"Good-bye," said Agnes, cheerfully giving hers.
Elsie, beholding the cordiality of this parting, comforted herself that
all was right, and ruffled all her feathers with the satisfied pride of
a matron whose family plans are succeeding.
"After all," she said to herself, "brother was right,--best let young
folks settle these matters themselves. Now see the advantage of such an
education as I have given Agnes! Instead of being betrothed to a good,
honest, forehanded fellow, she might have been losing her poor silly
heart to some of these lords or gallants who throw away a girl as one
does an orange when they have sucked it. Who knows what mischief this
cavalier might have done, if I had not been so watchful? Now let him
come prying and spying about, she will have a husband to defend her. A
smith's hammer is better than an old woman's spindle, any day."
Agnes took her seat with her usual air of thoughtful gravity, her
mind seeming to be intensely preoccupied, and her grandmother, though
secretly exulting in the supposed cause, resolved not to open the
subject with her till they were at home or alone at night.
"I have my defence to make to Father Francesco, too," she said to
herself, "for hurrying on this betrothal against his advice; but one
must manage a little with these priests,--the saints forgive me! I
really think sometimes, because they can't marry themselves, they would
rather see every pretty girl in a convent than with a husband. It's
natural enough, too. Father Francesco will be like the rest of the
world: when he can't help a thing, he will see the will of the Lord in
Thus prosperously the world seemed to go with old Elsie. Meantime, when
her back was turned, as she was kneeling over her basket, sorting out
lemons, Agnes happened to look up, and there, just under the arch of the
gateway, where she had seen him the first time, sat the cavalier on a
splendid horse, with a white feather streaming backward from his black
riding-hat and dark curls.
He bowed low and kissed his hand to her, and before she knew it her eyes
met his, which seemed to flash light and sunshine all through her; and
then he turned his horse and was gone through the gate, while she,
filled with self-reproach, was taking her little heart to task for the
instantaneous throb of happiness which had passed through her whole
being at that sight. She had not turned away her head, nor said a
prayer, as Father Francesco told her to do, because the whole thing had
been sudden as a flash; but now it was gone, she prayed, "My God, help
me not to love him!--let me love Thee alone!" But many times in the
course of the day, as she twisted her flax, she found herself wondering
whither he could be going. Had he really gone to that enchanted
cloud-land, in the old purple Apennines, whither he wanted to carry
her,--gone, perhaps, never to return? That was best. But was he
reconciled with the Church? Was that great, splendid soul that looked
out of those eyes to be forever lost, or would the pious exhortations of
her uncle avail? And then she thought he had said to her, that, if she
would go with him, he would confess and take the sacrament, and be
reconciled with the Church, and so his soul be saved.
She resolved to tell this to Father Francesco. Perhaps he
would----No,--she shivered as she remembered the severe, withering look
with which the holy father had spoken of him, and the awfulness of his
manner,--he would never consent. And then her grandmother----No, there
was no possibility.
Meanwhile Agnes's good old uncle sat in the orange-shaded garden, busily
perfecting his sketches; but his mind was distracted, and his thoughts
wandered,--and often he rose, and, leaving his drawings, would pace up
and down the little place, absorbed in earnest prayer. The thought of
his master's position was hourly growing upon him. The real world with
its hungry and angry tide was each hour washing higher and higher up on
the airy shore of the ideal, and bearing the pearls and enchanted shells
of fancy out into its salt and muddy waters.
"Oh, my master, my father!" he said, "is the martyr's crown of fire
indeed waiting thee? Will God desert His own? But was not Christ
crucified?--and the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant
above his lord. But surely Florence will not consent. The whole city
will make a stand for him;--they are ready, if need be, to pluck out
their eyes and give them to him. Florence will certainly be a refuge
for him. But why do I put confidence in man? In the Lord alone have I
righteousness and strength."
And the old monk raised the psalm, "_Quare fremunt gentes_," and his
voice rose and fell through the flowery recesses and dripping grottoes
of the old gorge, sad and earnest like the protest of the few and feeble
of Christ's own against the rushing legions of the world. Yet, as
he sang, courage and holy hope came into his soul from the sacred
words,--just such courage as they afterwards brought to Luther, and to
the Puritans in later times.
THE MONK'S DEPARTURE.
The three inhabitants of the little dovecot were sitting in their garden
after supper, enjoying the cool freshness. The place was perfumed with
the smell of orange-blossoms, brought out by gentle showers that had
fallen during the latter part of the afternoon, and all three felt the
tranquillizing effects of the sweet evening air. The monk sat bending
over his drawings, resting the frame on which they lay on the mossy
garden-wall, so as to get the latest advantage of the rich golden
twilight which now twinkled through the sky. Agnes sat by him on the
same wall,--now glancing over his shoulder at his work, and now leaning
thoughtfully on her elbow, gazing pensively down into the deep shadows
of the gorge, or out where the golden light of evening streamed under
the arches of the old Roman bridge, to the wide, bright sea beyond.
Old Elsie bustled about with unusual content in the lines of her keen
wrinkled face. Already her thoughts were running on household furnishing
and bridal finery. She unlocked an old chest which from its heavy quaint
carvings of dark wood must have been some relic of the fortunes of her
better days, and, taking out of a little till of the same a string of
fine silvery pearls, held them up admiringly to the evening light.
A splendid pair of pearl ear-rings also was produced from the same
She sighed at first, as she looked at these things, and then smiled with
rather an air of triumph, and, coming to where Agnes reclined on the
wall, held them up playfully before her.
"See here, little one!" she said.
"Oh, what pretty things!--where did they come from?" said Agnes,
"Where did they? Sure enough! Little did you or any one else know old
Elsie had things like these! But she meant her little Agnes should hold
up her head with the best. No girl in Sorrento will have such wedding
finery as this?"
"Wedding finery, grandmamma," said Agnes, faintly,--"what does that
"What does that mean, sly-boots? Ah, you know well enough! What were you
and Antonio talking about all the time this morning? Did he not ask you
to marry him?"
"Yes, grandmamma; but I told him I was not going to marry. You promised
me, dear grandmother, right here, the other night, that I should not
marry till I was willing; and I told Antonio I was not willing."
"The girl says but true, sister," said the monk; "you remember you gave
her your word that she should not be married till she gave her consent
"But, Agnes, my pretty one, what can be the objection?" said old Elsie,
coaxingly. "Where will you find a better-made man, or more honest, or
more kind?--and he is handsome;--and you will have a home that all the
girls will envy."
"Grandmamma, remember, you promised me,--you _promised_ me," said Agnes,
looking distressed, and speaking earnestly.
"Well, well, child! but can't I ask a civil question, if I did? What is
your objection to Antonio?"
"Only that I don't want to be married."
"Now you know, child," said Elsie, "I never will consent to your going
to a convent. You might as well put a knife through my old heart as talk
to me of that. And if you don't go, you must marry somebody; and who
could be better than Antonio?"
"Oh, grandmamma, am I not a good girl? What have I done, that you are
so anxious to get me away from you?" said Agnes. "I like Antonio well
enough, but I like you ten thousand times better. Why cannot we live
together just as we do now? I am strong. I can work a great deal harder
than I do. You ought to let me work more, so that you need not work so
hard and tire yourself,--let me carry the heavy basket, and dig round
"Pooh! a pretty story!" said Elsie. "We are two lone women, and the
times are unsettled; there are robbers and loose fellows about, and we
want a protector."
"And is not the good Lord our protector?--has He not always kept us,
grandmother?" said Agnes.
"Oh, that's well enough to say, but folks can't always get along
so;--it's far better trusting the Lord with a good strong man
about,--like Antonio, for instance. I should like to see the man that
would dare be uncivil to _his_ wife. But go your ways,--it's no use
toiling away one's life for children, who, after all, won't turn their
little finger for you."
"Now, dear grandmother," said Agnes, "have I not said I would do
everything for you, and work hard for you? Ask me to do anything else
in the world, grandmamma; I will do anything to make you happy, except
marry this man,--that I cannot."
"And that is the only thing I want you to do. Well, I suppose I may as
well lock up these things; I see my gifts are not cared for."
And the old soul turned and went in quite testily, leaving Agnes with a
grieved heart, sitting still by her uncle.
"Never weep, little one," said the kind old monk, when he saw the silent
tears falling one after another; "your grandmother loves you, after all,
and will come out of this, if we are quiet."
"This is such a beautiful world," said Agnes, "who would think it would
be such a hard one to live in?--such battles and conflicts as people
"You say well, little heart; but great is the glory to be revealed; so
let us have courage."
"Dear uncle, have you heard any ill-tidings of late?" asked Agnes. "I
noticed this morning you were cast down, and to-night you look so tired
"Yes, dear child,--heavy tidings have indeed come. My dear master at
Florence is hard beset by wicked men, and in great danger,--in danger,
perhaps, of falling a martyr to his holy zeal for the blessed Jesus and
"But cannot our holy father, the Pope, protect him? You should go to
Rome directly and lay the case before him."
"It is not always possible to be protected by the Pope," said Father
Antonio, evasively. "But I grieve much, dear child, that I can be with
you no longer. I must gird up my loins and set out for Florence, to see
with my own eyes how the battle is going for my holy master."
"Ah, must I lose you, too, my dear, best friend?" said Agnes. "What
shall I do?"
"Thou hast the same Lord Jesus, and the same dear Mother, when I am
gone. Have faith in God, and cease not to pray for His Church,--and for
"That I will, dear uncle! I will pray for you more than ever,--for
prayer now will be all my comfort. But," she added, with hesitation,
"oh, uncle, you promised to visit _him_!"
"Never fear, little Agnes,--I will do that. I go to him this very
night,--now, even,--for the daylight waxes too scant for me to work
"But you will come back and stay with us to-night, uncle?"
"Yes, I will,--but to-morrow morning I must be up and away with the
birds; and I have labored hard all day to finish the drawings for the
lad who shall carve the shrine, that he may busy himself thereon in my
"Then you will come back?"
"Certainly, dear heart, I will come back; of that be assured. Pray God
it be before long, too."
So saying, the good monk drew his cowl over his head, and, putting his
portfolio of drawings under his arm, began to wend his way towards the
Agnes watched him departing, her heart in a strange flutter of eagerness
and solicitude. What were these dreadful troubles which were coming upon
her good uncle?--who those enemies of the Church that beset that saintly
teacher he so much looked up to? And why was lawless violence allowed
to run such riot in Italy, as it had in the case of the unfortunate
cavalier? As she thought things over, she was burning with a repressed
desire to _do_ something herself to abate these troubles.
"I am not a knight," she said to herself, "and I cannot fight for the
good cause. I am not a priest, and I cannot argue for it. I cannot
preach and convert sinners. What, then, can I do? I can pray. Suppose I
should make a pilgrimage? Yes,--that would be a good work, and I will.
I will walk to Rome, praying at every shrine and holy place; and then,
when I come to the Holy City, whose very dust is made precious with
the blood of the martyrs and saints, I will seek the house of our dear
father, the Pope, and entreat his forgiveness for this poor soul. He
will not scorn me, for he is in the place of the blessed Jesus, and the
richest princess and the poorest maiden are equal in his sight. Ah, that
will be beautiful! Holy Mother," she said, falling on her knees before
the shrine, "here I vow and promise that I will go praying to the Holy
City. Smile on me and help me!"
And by the twinkle of the flickering lamp which threw its light upon the
picture, Agnes thought surely the placid face brightened to a tender
maternal smile, and her enthusiastic imagination saw in this an omen of
Old Elsie was moody and silent this evening,--vexed at the thwarting
of her schemes. It was the first time that the idea had ever gained a
foothold in her mind, that her docile and tractable grandchild could
really have for any serious length of time a will opposed to her own,
and she found it even now difficult to believe it. Hitherto she had
shaped her life as easily as she could mould a biscuit, and it was all
plain sailing before her. The force and decision of this young will rose
as suddenly upon her as the one rock in the middle of the ocean which a
voyager unexpectedly discovered by striking on it.
But Elsie by no means regarded the game as lost. She mentally went over
the field, considering here and there what was yet to be done.
The subject had fairly been broached. Agnes had listened to it, and
parted in friendship from Antonio. Now his old mother must be soothed
and pacified; and Antonio must be made to persevere.
"What is a girl worth that can be won at the first asking?" quoth Elsie.
"Depend upon it, she will fall to thinking of him, and the next time she
sees him she will give him a good look. The girl never knew what it was
to have a lover. No wonder she doesn't take to it at first; there's
where her bringing up comes in, so different from other girls'. Courage,
Elsie! Nature will speak in its own time."
Thus soliloquizing, she prepared to go a few steps from their dwelling,
to the cottage of Meta and Antonio, which was situated at no great
"Nobody will think of coming here this time o' night," she said, "and
the girl is in for a good hour at least with her prayers, and so I think
I may venture. I don't really like to leave her, but it's not a great
way, and I shall be back in a few moments. I want just to put a word
into old Meta's ear, that she may teach Antonio how to demean himself."
And so the old soul took her spinning and away she went, leaving Agnes
absorbed in her devotions.
The solemn starry night looked down steadfastly on the little garden.
The evening wind creeping with gentle stir among the orange-leaves, and
the falling waters of the fountain dripping their distant, solitary way
down from rock to rock through the lonely gorge, were the only sounds
that broke the stillness.
The monk was the first of the two to return; for those accustomed to
the habits of elderly cronies on a gossiping expedition of any domestic
importance will not be surprised that Elsie's few moments of projected
talk lengthened imperceptibly into hours.
Agnes came forward anxiously to meet her uncle. He seemed wan and
haggard, and trembling with some recent emotion.
"What is the matter with you, dear uncle?" she asked. "Has anything
"Nothing, child, nothing. I have only been talking on painful subjects,
deep perplexities, out of which I can scarcely see my way. Would to God
this night of life were past, and I could see morning on the mountains!"
"My uncle, have you not, then, succeeded in bringing this young man to
the bosom of the True Church?"
"Child, the way is hedged up, and made almost impassable by difficulties
you little wot of. They cannot be told to you; they are enough to
destroy the faith of the very elect."
Agnes's heart sank within her; and the monk, sitting down on the wall
of the garden, clasped his hands over one knee and gazed fixedly before
The sight of her uncle,--generally so cheerful, so elastic, so full of
bright thoughts and beautiful words,--so utterly cast down, was both a
mystery and a terror to Agnes.
"Oh, my uncle," she said, "it is hard that I must not know, and that I
can do nothing, when I feel ready to die for this cause! What is one
little life? Ah, if I had a thousand to give, I could melt them all into
it, like little drops of rain in the sea! Be not utterly cast down, good
uncle! Does not our dear Lord and Saviour reign in the heavens yet?"
"Sweet little nightingale!" said the monk, stretching his hand towards
her. "Well did my master say that he gained strength to his soul always
by talking with Christ's little children!"
"And all the dear saints and angels, they are not dead or idle either,"
said Agnes, her face kindling; "they are busy all around us. I know not
what this trouble is you speak of; but let us think what legions of
bright angels and holy men and women are caring for us."
"Well said, well said, dear child! There is, thank God, a Church
Triumphant,--a crowned queen, a glorious bride; and the poor,
struggling Church Militant shall rise to join her! What matter, then,
though our way lie through dungeon and chains, through fire and sword,
if we may attain to that glory at last?"
"Uncle, are there such dreadful things really before you?"
"There may be, child. I say of my master, as did the holy Apostles: 'Let
us also go, that we may die with him.' I feel a heavy presage. But I
must not trouble you, child. Early in the morning I will be up and away.
I go with this youth, whose pathway lies a certain distance along mine,
and whose company I seek for his good as well as my pleasure."
"You go with _him_?" said Agnes, with a start of surprise.
"Yes; his refuge in the mountains lies between here and Rome, and he
hath kindly offered to bring me on my way faster than I can go on
foot; and I would fain see our beautiful Florence as soon as may be. O
Florence, Florence, Lily of Italy! wilt thou let thy prophet perish?"
"But, uncle, if he die for the faith, he will be a blessed martyr. That
crown is worth dying for," said Agnes.
"You say well, little one,--you say well! '_Ex oribus parvulorum._'
But one shrinks from that in the person of a friend which one could
cheerfully welcome for one's self. Oh, the blessed cross! never is it
welcome to the flesh, and yet how joyfully the spirit may walk under
"Dear uncle, I have made a solemn vow before our Holy Mother this
night," said Agnes, "to go on a pilgrimage to Rome, and at every shrine
and holy place to pray that these great afflictions which beset all of
you may have a happy issue."
"My sweet heart, what have you done? Have you considered the unsettled
roads, the wild, unruly men that are abroad, the robbers with which the
mountains are filled?"
"These are all Christ's children and my brothers," said Agnes; "for them
was the most holy blood shed, as well as for me. They cannot harm one
who prays for them."
"But, dear heart of mine, these ungodly brawlers think little of prayer;
and this beautiful, innocent little face will but move the vilest and
most brutal thoughts and deeds."
"Saint Agnes still lives, dear uncle,--and He who kept her in worse
trial. I shall walk through them all pure as snow,--I am assured I
shall. The star which led the wise men and stood over the young child
and his mother will lead me, too."
"But your grandmother?"
"The Lord will incline her heart to go with me. Dear uncle, it does
not beseem a child to reflect on its elders, yet I cannot but see that
grandmamma loves this world and me too well for her soul's good. This
journey will be for her eternal repose."
"Well, well, dear one, I cannot now advise. Take advice of your
confessor, and the blessed Lord and his holy Mother be with you! But
come now, I would soothe myself to sleep; for I have need of good rest
to-night. Let us sing together our dear master's hymn of the Cross."
And the monk and the maiden sang together:--
"Iesu, sommo conforto,
Tu sei tutto il mio amore
E 'l mio beato porto,
E santo Redentore.
O gran bonta,
Felice quel che teco unito sta!
"Deh, quante volte offeso
T' ha l' alma e 'l cor meschino,
E tu sei in croce steso
Per salvar me, tapino!
"Iesu, fuss' io confitto
Sopra quel duro ligno,
Dove ti vedo afflitto,
Iesu, Signor benigno!
"O croce, fammi loco,
E le mie membra prendi,
Che del tuo dolce foco
Il cor e l' alma accendi!
"Infiamma il mio cor tanto
Dell' amor tuo divino,
Ch' io arda tutto quanto,
Che paia un serafino!
"La croce e 'l Crocifisso
Sia nel mio cor scolpito,
Ed io sia sempre affisso
In gloria ov' egli e ito!"[D]
Jesus, best comfort of my soul,
Be thou my only love,
My sacred saviour from my sins,
My door to heaven above!
O lofty goodness, love divine,
Blest is the soul made one with thine!
Alas, how oft this sordid heart
Hath wounded thy pure eye!
Yet for this heart upon the cross
Thou gav'st thyself to die!
Ah, would I were extended there,
Upon that cold, hard tree,
Where I have seen thee, gracious Lord,
Breathe out thy life for me!
Cross of my Lord, give room! give room!
To thee my flesh be given!
Cleansed in thy fires of love and pain,
My soul rise pure to heaven!
Burn in my heart, celestial flame,
With memories of him,
Till, from earth's dross refined, I rise
To join the seraphim!
Ah, vanish each unworthy trace
Of earthly care or pride,
Leave only, graven on my heart,
The Cross, the Crucified!
As the monk sang, his soul seemed to fuse itself into the sentiment with
that natural grace peculiar to his nation. He walked up and down the
little garden, apparently forgetful of Agnes or of any earthly presence,
and in the last verses stretched his hands towards heaven with streaming
tears and a fervor of utterance indescribable.
The soft and passionate tenderness of the Italian words must exhale in
an English translation, but enough may remain to show that the hymns
with which Savonarola at this time sowed the mind of Italy often
mingled the Moravian quaintness and energy with the Wesleyan purity and
tenderness. One of the great means of popular reform which he proposed
was the supplanting of the obscene and licentious songs, which at that
time so generally defiled the minds of the young, by religious words and
melodies. The children and young people brought up under his influence
were sedulously stored with treasures of sacred melody, as the safest
companions of leisure hours, and the surest guard against temptation.
"Come now, my little one," said the monk, after they had ceased singing,
as he laid his hand on Agnes's head. "I am strong now; I know where I
stand. And you, my little one, you are one of my master's 'Children of
the Cross.' You must sing the hymns of our dear master, that I have
taught you, when I am far away. A hymn is a singing angel, and goes
walking through the earth, scattering the devils before it. Therefore he
who creates hymns imitates the most excellent and lovely works of our
Lord God, who made the angels. These hymns watch our chamber-door, they
sit upon our pillow, they sing to us when we awake; and therefore our
master was resolved to sow the minds of his young people with them, as
our lovely Italy is sown with the seeds of all colored flowers. How
lovely has it often been to me, as I sat at my work in Florence, to hear
the little children go by, chanting of Jesus and Mary,--and young men
singing to young maidens, not vain flatteries of their beauty, but the
praises of the One only Beautiful, whose smile sows heaven with stars
like flowers! Ah, in my day I have seen blessed times in Florence! Truly
was she worthy to be called the Lily City!--for all her care seemed to
be to make white her garments to receive her Lord and Bridegroom. Yes,
though she had sinned like the Magdalen, yet she loved much, like her.
She washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her
head. Oh, my beautiful Florence, be true to thy vows, be true to thy
Lord and Governor, Jesus Christ, and all shall be well!"
"Amen, dear uncle!" said Agnes. "I will not fail to pray day and night,
that thus it may be. And now, if you must travel so far, you must go
to rest. Grandmamma has gone long ago. I saw her steal by as we were
"And is there any message from my little Agnes to this young man?" asked
"Yes. Say to him that Agnes prays daily that he may be a worthy son and
soldier of the Lord Jesus."
"Amen, sweet heart! Jesu and His sweet Mother bless thee!"
* * * * *
A NEW COUNTERBLAST
"He that taketh tobacco saith he cannot leave it, it doth bewitch
him."--KING JAMES'S COUNTERBLAST TO TOBACCO.
America is especially responsible to the whole world for tobacco, since
the two are twin-sisters, born to the globe in a day. The sailors first
sent on shore by Columbus came back with news of a new continent and
a new condiment. There was solid land, and there was a novel perfume,
which rolled in clouds from the lips of the natives. The fame of the two
great discoveries instantly began to overspread the world; but the smoke
travelled fastest, as is its nature. There are many races which have not
yet heard of America: there are very few which have not yet tasted of
tobacco. A plant which was originally the amusement of a few savage
tribes has become in a few centuries the fancied necessary of life to
the most enlightened nations of the earth, and it is probable that there
is nothing cultivated by man which is now so universally employed.
And the plant owes this width of celebrity to a combination of natural
qualities so remarkable as to yield great diversities of good and evil
fame. It was first heralded as a medical panacea, "the most sovereign
and precious weed that ever the earth tendered to the use of man," and
was seldom mentioned, in the sixteenth century, without some reverential
epithet. It was a plant divine, a canonized vegetable. Each nation
had its own pious name to bestow upon it. The French called it
_herbe sainte, herbe sacree, herbe propre a tous maux, panacee
antarctique_,--the Italians, _herba santa croce_,--the Germans, _heilig
wundkraut_. Botanists soberly classified it as _herba panacea_ and
_herba sancta_, and Gerard in his "Herbal" fixed its name finally
as _sana sancta Indorum_, by which title it commonly appears in the
professional recipes of the time. Spenser, in his "Faerie Queene,"
bids the lovely Belphoebe gather it as "divine tobacco," and Lilly the
Euphuist calls it "our holy herb Nicotian," ranking it between violets
and honey. It was cultivated in France for medicinal purposes solely,
for half a century before any one there used it for pleasure, and till
within the last hundred years it was familiarly prescribed, all over
Europe, for asthma, gout, catarrh, consumption, headache; and, in short,
was credited with curing more diseases than even the eighty-seven which
Dr. Shew now charges it with producing.
So vast were the results of all this sanitary enthusiasm, that the use
of tobacco in Europe probably reached its climax in a century or two,
and has since rather diminished than increased, in proportion to the
population. It probably appeared in England in 1586, being first used in
the Indian fashion, by handing one pipe from man to man throughout the
company; the medium of communication being a silver tube for the higher
classes, and a straw and walnut-shell for the baser sort. Paul Hentzner,
who travelled in England in 1598, and Monsieur Misson, who wrote
precisely a century later, note almost in the same words "a perpetual
use of tobacco"; and the latter suspects that this is what makes "the
generality of Englishmen so taciturn, so thoughtful, and so melancholy."
In Queen Elizabeth's time, the ladies of the court "would not scruple
to blow a pipe together very socially." In 1614 it was asserted that
tobacco was sold openly in more than seven thousand places in London,
some of these being already attended by that patient Indian who still
stands seductive at tobacconists' doors. It was also estimated that the
annual receipts of these establishments amounted to more than three
hundred thousand pounds. Elegant ladies had their pictures painted, at
least one in 1650 did, with pipe and box in hand. Rochefort, a rather
apocryphal French traveller in 1672, reported it to be the general
custom in English homes to set pipes on the table in the evening for
the females as well as males of the family, and to provide children's
luncheon-baskets with a well-filled pipe, to be smoked at school, under
the directing eye of the master. In 1703, Lawrence Spooner wrote that
"the sin of the kingdom in the intemperate use of tobacco swelleth and
increaseth so daily that I can compare it to nothing but the waters of
Noah, that swelled fifteen cubits above the highest mountains." The
deluge reached its height in England--so thinks the amusing and
indefatigable Mr. Fairholt, author of "Tobacco and its Associations"--in
the reign of Queen Anne. Steele, in the "Spectator," (1711,) describes
the snuff-box as a rival to the fan among ladies; and Goldsmith pictures
the belles at Bath as entering the water in full bathing costume, each
provided with a small floating basket, to hold a snuff-box, a kerchief,
and a nosegay. And finally, in 1797, Dr. Clarke complains of the handing
about of the snuff-box in churches during worship, "to the great scandal
of religious people,"--adding, that kneeling in prayer was prevented by
the large quantity of saliva ejected in all directions. In view of such
formidable statements as these, it is hardly possible to believe
that the present generation surpasses or even equals the past in the
consumption of tobacco.
And all this sudden popularity was in spite of a vast persecution which
sought to unite all Europe against this indulgence, in the seventeenth
century. In Russia, its use was punishable with amputation of the
nose; in Berne, it ranked next to adultery among offences; Sandys, the
traveller, saw a Turk led through the streets of Constantinople mounted
backward on an ass with a tobacco-pipe thrust through his nose. Pope
Urban VIII., in 1624, excommunicated those who should use it in
churches, and Innocent XII., in 1690, echoed the same anathema. Yet
within a few years afterwards travellers reported that same free use
of snuff in Romish worship which still astonishes spectators. To see
a priest, during the momentous ceremonial of High Mass, enliven the
occasion by a voluptuous pinch, is a sight even more astonishing, though
perhaps less disagreeable, than the well-used spittoon which decorates
so many Protestant pulpits.
But the Protestant pulpits did their full share in fighting the habit,
for a time at least. Among the Puritans, no man could use tobacco
publicly, on penalty of a fine of two and sixpence, or in a private
dwelling, if strangers were present; and no two could use it together.
That iron pipe of Miles Standish, still preserved at Plymouth, must have
been smoked in solitude or not at all. This strictness was gradually
relaxed, however, as the clergy took up the habit of smoking; and I
have seen an old painting, on the panels of an ancient parsonage in
Newburyport, representing a jovial circle of portly divines sitting pipe
in hand around a table, with the Latin motto, "In essentials unity, in
non-essentials liberty, in all things charity." Apparently the tobacco
was one of the essentials, since there was unity respecting that.
Furthermore, Captain Underhill, hero of the Pequot War, boasted to the
saints of having received his assurance of salvation "while enjoying a
pipe of that good creature, tobacco," "since when he had never doubted
it, though he should fall into sin." But it is melancholy to relate
that this fall did presently take place, in a very flagrant manner, and
brought discredit upon tobacco conversions, as being liable to end in
Indeed, some of the most royal wills that ever lived in the world have
measured themselves against the tobacco-plant and been defeated. Charles
I. attempted to banish it, and in return the soldiers of Cromwell puffed
their smoke contemptuously in his face, as he sat a prisoner in the
guard-chamber. Cromwell himself undertook it, and Evelyn says that the
troopers smoked in triumph at his funeral. Wellington tried it, and
the artists caricatured him on a pipe's head with a soldier behind him
defying with a whiff that imperial nose. Louis Napoleon is said to
be now attempting it, and probably finds his subjects more ready to
surrender the freedom of the press than of the pipe.
The more recent efforts against tobacco, like most arguments in which
morals and physiology are mingled, have lost much of their effect
through exaggeration. On both sides there has been enlisted much loose
statement, with some bad logic. It is, for instance, unreasonable to
hold up the tobacco-plant to general indignation because Linnaeus
classed it with the natural order _Luridae_,--since he attributed the
luridness only to the color of those plants, not to their character. It
is absurd to denounce it as belonging to the poisonous nightshade tribe,
when the potato and the tomato also appertain to that perilous domestic
circle. It is hardly fair even to complain of it for yielding a
poisonous oil, when these two virtuous plants--to say nothing of the
peach and the almond--will under sufficient chemical provocation do the
same thing. Two drops of nicotine will, indeed, kill a rabbit; but so,
it is said, will two drops of solanine. Great are the resources of
chemistry, and a well-regulated scientific mind can detect something
deadly almost anywhere.
Nor is it safe to assume, as many do, that tobacco predisposes very
powerfully to more dangerous dissipations. The non-smoking Saxons were
probably far more intemperate in drinking than the modern English; and
Lane, the best authority, points out that wine is now far less used by
the Orientals than at the time of the "Arabian Nights," when tobacco
had not been introduced. And in respect to yet more perilous sensual
excesses, tobacco is now admitted, both by friends and foes, to be quite
as much a sedative as a stimulant.
The point of objection on the ground of inordinate expense is doubtless
better taken, and can be met only by substantial proof that the enormous
outlay is a wise one. Tobacco may be "the anodyne of poverty," as
somebody has said, but it certainly promotes poverty. This narcotic
lulls to sleep all pecuniary economy. Every pipe may not, indeed, cost
so much as that jewelled one seen by Dibdin in Vienna, which was valued
at a thousand pounds; or even as the German meerschaum which was passed
from mouth to mouth through a whole regiment of soldiers till it was
colored to perfection, having never been allowed to cool,--a bill of one
hundred pounds being ultimately rendered for the tobacco consumed. But
how heedlessly men squander money on this pet luxury! By the report of
the English University Commissioners, some ten years ago, a student's
annual tobacco-bill often amounts to forty pounds. Dr. Solly puts thirty
pounds as the lowest annual expenditure of an English smoker, and knows
many who spend one hundred and twenty pounds, and one three hundred
pounds a year, on tobacco alone. In this country the facts are hard to
obtain, but many a man smokes twelve four-cent cigars a day, and many
a man four twelve-cent cigars,--spending in either case about half
a dollar a day and not far from two hundred dollars per annum. An
industrious mechanic earns his two dollars and fifty cents a day or
a clerk his eight hundred dollars a year, spends a quarter of it on
tobacco, and the rest on his wife, children, and miscellaneous expenses.
But the impotency which marks some of the stock arguments against
tobacco extends to most of those in favor of it. My friend assures me
that every one needs some narcotic, that the American brain is too
active, and that the influence of tobacco is quieting,--great is the
enjoyment of a comfortable pipe after dinner. I grant, on observing him
at that period, that it appears so. But I also observe, that, when the
placid hour has passed away, his nervous system is more susceptible, his
hand more tremulous, his temper more irritable on slight occasions, than
during the days when the comfortable pipe chances to be omitted. The
only effect of the narcotic appears, therefore, to be a demand for
another narcotic; and there seems no decided advantage over the life
of the birds and bees, who appear to keep their nervous systems in
tolerably healthy condition with no narcotic at all.
The argument drawn from a comparison of races is no better. Germans are
vigorous and Turks are long-lived, and they are all great smokers. But
certainly the Germans do not appear so vivacious, nor the Turks so
energetic, as to afford triumphant demonstrations in behalf of the
sacred weed. Moreover, the Eastern tobacco is as much milder than ours
as are the Continental wines than even those semi-alcoholic mixtures
which prevail at scrupulous communion-tables. And as for German health,
Dr. Schneider declares, in the London "Lancet," that it is because of
smoke that all his educated countrymen wear spectacles, that an immense
amount of consumption is produced in Germany by tobacco, and that
English insurance companies are proverbially cautious in insuring German
lives. Dr. Carlyon gives much the same as his observation in Holland.
These facts may be overstated, but they are at least as good as those
which they answer.
Not much better is the excuse alleged in the social and genial
influences of tobacco. It certainly seems a singular way of opening
the lips for conversation by closing them on a pipe-stem, and it would
rather appear as if Fate designed to gag the smokers and let the
non-smokers talk. But supposing it otherwise, does it not mark a
condition of extreme juvenility in our social development, if no
resources of intellect can enable a half-dozen intelligent men to be
agreeable to each other, without applying the forcing process, by
turning the room into an imperfectly organized chimney? Brilliant women
can be brilliant without either wine or tobacco, and Napoleon always
maintained that without an admixture of feminine wit conversation grew
tame. Are all male beings so much stupider by nature than the other
sex, that men require stimulants and narcotics to make them mutually
And as the conversational superiorities of woman disprove the supposed
social inspirations of tobacco, so do her more refined perceptions yet
more emphatically pronounce its doom. Though belles of the less mature
description, eulogistic of sophomores, may stoutly profess that they
dote on the Virginian perfume, yet cultivated womanhood barely tolerates
the choicest tobacco-smoke, even in its freshness, and utterly recoils
from the stale suggestions of yesterday. By whatever enthusiasm misled,
she finds something abhorrent in the very nature of the thing. In vain
did loyal Frenchmen baptize the weed as the queen's own favorite, _Herba
Catherinae Medicae_; it is easier to admit that Catherine de' Medici was
not feminine than that tobacco is. Man also recognizes the antagonism;
there is scarcely a husband in America who would not be converted from
smoking, if his wife resolutely demanded her right of moiety in the
cigar-box. No Lady Mary, no loveliest Marquise, could make snuff-taking
beauty otherwise than repugnant to this generation. Rustic females
who habitually chew even pitch or spruce-gum are rendered thereby so
repulsive that the fancy refuses to pursue the horror farther and
imagine it tobacco; and all the charms of the veil and the fan can
scarcely reconcile the most fumacious American to the _cigarrito_ of
the Spanish fair. How strange seems Parton's picture of General Jackson
puffing his long clay pipe on one side of the fireplace and Mrs. Jackson
puffing hers on the other! No doubt, to the heart of the chivalrous
backwoodsman those smoke-dried lips were yet the altar of early
passion,--as that rather ungrammatical tongue was still the music of
the spheres; but the unattractiveness of that conjugal counterblast is
Nature's own protest against smoking.
The use of tobacco must, therefore, be held to mark a rather coarse and
childish epoch in our civilization, if nothing worse. Its most ardent
admirer hardly paints it into his picture of the Golden Age. It is
difficult to associate it with one's fancies of the noblest manhood,
and Miss Muloch reasonably defies the human imagination to portray
Shakspeare or Dante with pipe in mouth. Goethe detested it; so did
Napoleon, save in the form of snuff, which he apparently used on
Talleyrand's principle, that diplomacy was impossible without it. Bacon
said, "Tobacco-smoking is a secret delight serving only to steal away
men's brains." Newton abstained from it: the contrary is often claimed,
but thus says his biographer, Brewster,--saying that "he would make no
necessities to himself." Franklin says he never used it, and never met
with one of its votaries who advised him to follow the example.
John Quincy Adams used it in early youth, and after thirty years of
abstinence said, that, if every one would try abstinence for three
months, it would annihilate the practice, and add five years to the
average length of human life.
In attempting to go beyond these general charges of waste and
foolishness, and to examine the physiological results of the use of
tobacco, one is met by the contradictions and perplexities which haunt
all such inquiries. Doctors, of course, disagree, and the special cases
cited triumphantly by either side are ruled out as exceptional by the
other. It is like the question of the precise degree of injury done by
alcoholic drinks. To-day's newspaper writes the eulogy of A.B., who
recently died at the age of ninety-nine, without ever tasting ardent
spirits; to-morrow's will add the epitaph of C.D., aged one hundred, who
has imbibed a quart of rum a day since reaching the age of indiscretion;
and yet, after all, both editors have to admit that the drinking usages
of society are growing decidedly more decent. It is the same with the
tobacco argument. Individual cases prove nothing either way; there is
such a range of vital vigor in different individuals, that one may
withstand a life of error, and another perish in spite of prudence. The
question is of the general tendency. It is not enough to know that Dr.
Parr smoked twenty pipes in an evening, and lived to be seventy-eight;
that Thomas Hobbes smoked thirteen, and survived to ninety-two; that
Brissiac of Trieste died at one hundred and sixteen, with a pipe in his
mouth; and that Henry Hartz of Schleswig used tobacco steadily from the
age of sixteen to one hundred and forty-two; nor would any accumulation
of such healthy old sinners prove anything satisfactory. It seems
rather overwhelming, to be sure, when Mr. Fairholt assures us that his
respected father "died at the age of seventy-two: he had been twelve
hours a day in a tobacco-manufactory for nearly fifty years; and he both
smoked and chewed while busy in the labors of the workshop, sometimes in
a dense cloud of steam from drying the damp tobacco over the stoves; and
his health and appetite were perfect to the day of his death: he was a
model of muscular and stomachic energy; in which his son, who neither
smokes, snuffs, nor chews, by no means rivals him." But until we know
precisely what capital of health the venerable tobacconist inherited
from his fathers, and in what condition he transmitted it to his sons,
the statement certainly has two edges.
For there are facts equally notorious on the other side. It is not
denied that it is found necessary to exclude tobacco, as a general
rule, from insane asylums, or that it produces, in extreme cases, among
perfectly sober persons, effects akin to delirium tremens. Nor is it
denied that terrible local diseases follow it,--as, for instance,
cancer of the mouth, which has become, according to the eminent surgeon,
Brouisson, the disease most dreaded in the French hospitals. He has
performed sixty-eight operations for this, within fourteen years, in the
Hospital St. Eloi, and traces it entirely to the use of tobacco. Such
facts are chiefly valuable as showing the tendency of the thing. Where
the evils of excess are so glaring, the advantages of even moderate use
are questionable. Where weak persons are made insane, there is room for
suspicion that the strong may suffer unconsciously. You may say that
the victims must have been constitutionally nervous; but where is the
native-born American who is not?
In France and England the recent inquiries into the effects of tobacco
seem to have been a little more systematic than our own. In the former
country, the newspapers state, the attention of the Emperor was called
to the fact that those pupils of the Polytechnic School who used this
indulgence were decidedly inferior in average attainments to the rest.
This is stated to have led to its prohibition in the school, and to the
forming of an anti-tobacco organization, which is said to be making
great progress in France. I cannot, however, obtain from any of our
medical libraries any satisfactory information as to the French
agitation, and am led by private advices to believe that even these
general statements are hardly trustworthy. The recent English
discussions are, however, more easy of access.
"The Great Tobacco Question," as the controversy in England was called,
originated in a Clinical Lecture on Paralysis, by Mr. Solly, Surgeon of
St. Thomas's Hospital, which was published in the "Lancet," December 13,
1856. He incidentally spoke of tobacco as an important source of this
disease, and went on to say,--"I know of no single vice which does so
much harm as smoking. It is a snare and a delusion. It soothes the
excited nervous system at the time, to render it more irritable and
feeble ultimately. It is like opium in this respect; and if you want to
know all the wretchedness which this drug can produce, you should
read the 'Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.'" This statement was
presently echoed by J. Ranald Martin, an eminent surgeon, "whose Eastern
experience rendered his opinion of immense value," and who used language
almost identical with that of Mr. Solly:--"I can state of my own
observation, that the miseries, mental and bodily, which I have
witnessed from the abuse of cigar-smoking, far exceed anything detailed
in the 'Confessions of an Opium-Eater.'"
This led off a controversy which continued for several months in the
columns of the "Lancet,"--a controversy conducted in a wonderfully
good-natured spirit, considering that more than fifty physicians took
part in it, and that these were almost equally divided. The debate took
a wide range, and some interesting facts were elicited: as that Lord
Raglan, General Markham, and Admirals Dundas and Napier always abandoned
tobacco from the moment when they were ordered on actual service; that
nine-tenths of the first-class men at the Universities were non-smokers;
that two Indian chiefs told Power, the actor, that "those Indians who
smoked gave out soonest in the chase"; and so on. There were also
American examples, rather loosely gathered: thus, a remark of the
venerable Dr. Waterhouse, made many years ago, was cited as the
contemporary opinion of "the Medical Professor in Harvard University";
also it was mentioned, as an acknowledged fact, that the American
_physique_ was rapidly deteriorating because of tobacco, and that
coroners' verdicts were constantly being thus pronounced on American
youths: "Died of excessive smoking." On the other hand, that eminent
citizen of our Union, General Thomas Thumb, was about that time
professionally examined in London, and his verdict on tobacco was quoted
to be, that it was "one of his chief comforts"; also mention was made of
a hapless quack who announced himself as coming from Boston, and who,
to keep up the Yankee reputation, issued a combined advertisement of
"medical advice gratis" and "prime cigars."
But these stray American instances were of course quite outnumbered
by the English, and there is scarcely an ill which was not in this
controversy charged upon tobacco by its enemies, nor a physical or moral
benefit which was not claimed for it by its friends. According to these,
it prevents dissension and dyspnoea, inflammation and insanity, saves
the waste of tissue and of time, blunts the edge of grief and lightens
pain. "No man was ever in a passion with a pipe in his mouth." There are
more female lunatics chiefly because the fumigatory education of the
fair sex has been neglected. Yet it is important to notice that these
same advocates almost outdo its opponents in admitting its liability
to misuse, and the perilous consequences. "The injurious effects
of excessive smoking,"--"there is no more pitiable object than
the inveterate smoker,"--"sedentary life is incompatible with
smoking,"--highly pernicious,--general debility,--secretions all
wrong,--cerebral softening,--partial paralysis,--trembling of
the hand,--enervation and depression,--great irritability,--neuralgia,
--narcotism of the heart: this Chamber of Horrors forms a part of the
very Temple of Tobacco, as builded, not by foes, but by worshippers.
"All men of observation and experience," they admit, "must be able to
point to instances of disease and derangement from the abuse of this
luxury." Yet they advocate it, as the same men advocate intoxicating
drinks; not meeting the question, in either case, whether it be wise,
or even generous, for the strong to continue an indulgence which is
thus confessedly ruinous to the weak.
The controversy had its course, and ended, like most controversies,
without establishing anything. The editor of the "Lancet," to be sure,
summed up the evidence very fairly, and it is worth while to quote
him:--"It is almost unnecessary to make a separate inquiry into the
pathological conditions which follow upon excessive smoking. Abundant
evidence has been adduced of the gigantic evils which attend the abuse
of tobacco. Let it be granted at once that there is such a thing as
moderate smoking, and let it be admitted that we cannot accuse tobacco
of being guilty of the whole of Cullen's 'Nosology'; it still remains
that there is a long catalogue of frightful penalties attached to its
abuse." He then proceeds to consider what is to be called abuse: as, for
instance, smoking more than one or two cigars or pipes daily,--smoking
too early in the day or too early in life,--and in general, the use of
tobacco by those with whom it does not agree,--which rather reminds one
of the early temperance pledges, which bound a man to drink no more rum
than he found to be good for him. But the Chief Justice of the Medical
Court finally instructs his jury of readers that young men should
give up a dubious pleasure for a certain good, and abandon
tobacco altogether:--"Shun the habit of smoking as you would shun
self-destruction. As you value your physical and moral well-being, avoid
a habit which for you can offer no advantage to compare with the dangers
Yet, after all, neither he nor his witnesses seem fairly to have hit
upon what seem to this present writer the two incontrovertible arguments
against tobacco; one being drawn from theory, and the other from
First, as to the theory of the thing. The laws of Nature warn every man
who uses tobacco for the first time, that he is dealing with a poison.
Nobody denies this attribute of the plant; it is "a narcotic poison of
the most active class." It is not merely that a poison can by chemical
process be extracted from it, but it is a poison in its simplest form.
Its mere application to the skin has often produced uncontrollable
nausea and prostration. Children have in several cases been killed by
the mere application of tobacco ointment to the head. Soldiers have
simulated sickness by placing it beneath the armpits,--though in most
cases our regiments would probably consider this a mistaken application
of the treasure. Tobacco, then, is simply and absolutely a poison.
Now to say that a substance is a poison is not to say that it inevitably
kills; it may be apparently innocuous, if not incidentally beneficial.
King Mithridates, it is said, learned habitually to consume these
dangerous commodities; and the scarcely less mythical Du Chaillu, after
the fatigues of his gorilla warfare, found decided benefit from two
ounces of arsenic. But to say that a substance is a poison is to say
at least that it is a noxious drug,--that it is a medicine, not an
aliment,--that its effects are pathological, not physiological,--and
that its use should therefore be exceptional, not habitual. Not tending
to the preservation of a normal state, but at best to the correction of
some abnormal one, its whole value, if it have any, lies in the rarity
of its application. To apply a powerful drug at a certain hour every day
is like a schoolmaster's whipping his pupil at a certain hour every day:
the victim may become inured, but undoubtedly the specific value of the
remedy must vanish with the repetition.
Thus much would be true, were it proved that tobacco is in some cases
apparently beneficial. No drug is beneficial, when constantly employed.
But, furthermore, if not beneficial, it then is injurious. As Dr. Holmes
has so forcibly expounded, every medicine is in itself hurtful. All
noxious agents, according to him, cost a patient, on an average, five
per cent. of his vital power; that is, twenty times as much would kill
him. It is believed that they are sometimes indirectly useful; it is
known that they are always directly hurtful. That is, I have a neighbor
on one side who takes tobacco to cure his dyspepsia, and a neighbor on
the other side who takes blue pill for his infirmities generally. The
profit of the operation may be sure or doubtful; the outlay is certain,
and to be deducted in any event. I have no doubt, my dear Madam, that
your interesting son has learned to smoke, as he states, in order to
check that very distressing toothache which so hindered his studies; but
I sincerely think it would be better to have the affliction removed by
a dentist at a cost of fifty cents than by a drug at an expense of five
per cent. of vital power.
Fortunately, when it comes to the practical test, the whole position is
conceded to our hands, and the very devotees of tobacco are false to
their idol. It is not merely that the most fumigatory parent dissuades
his sons from the practice; but there is a more remarkable instance.
If any two classes can be singled out in the community as the largest
habitual consumers of tobacco, it must be the college students and the
city "roughs" or "rowdies," or whatever the latest slang name is,--for
these roysterers, like oysters, incline to names with an _r_ in. Now the
"rough," when brought to a physical climax, becomes the prize-fighter;
and the college student is seen in his highest condition as the
prize-oarsman; and both these representative men, under such
circumstances of ambition, straightway abandon tobacco. Such a
concession, from such a quarter, is worth all the denunciations of good
Mr. Trask. Appeal, O anxious mother! from Philip smoking to Philip
training. What your progeny will not do for any considerations of ethics
or economy, to save his sisters' olfactories or the atmosphere of
the family altar,--that he does unflinchingly at one word from the
stroke-oar or the commodore. In so doing, he surrenders every inch
of the ground, and owns unequivocally that he is in better condition
without tobacco. The old traditions of training are in some other
respects being softened: strawberries are no longer contraband, and the
last agonies of thirst are no longer a part of the prescription; but
training and tobacco are still incompatible. There is not a regatta or a
prize-fight in which the betting would not be seriously affected by the
discovery that either party used the beguiling weed.
The argument is irresistible,--or rather, it is not so much an argument
as a plea of guilty under the indictment. The prime devotees of tobacco
voluntarily abstain from it, like Lord Raglan and Admiral Napier, when
they wish to be in their best condition. But are we ever, any of us, in
too good condition? Have all the sanitary conventions yet succeeded in
detecting one man, in our high-pressure America, who finds himself too
well? If a man goes into training for the mimic contest, why not for the
actual one? If he needs steady nerves and a cool head for the play of
life,--and even prize-fighting is called "sporting,"--why not for its
earnest? Here we are all croaking that we are not in the health in which
our twentieth birthday found us, and yet we will not condescend to the
wise abstinence which even twenty practises. Moderate training is simply
a rational and healthful life.
So palpable is this, that there is strong reason to believe that the
increased attention to physical training is operating against tobacco.
If we may trust literature, as has been shown, its use is not now so
great as formerly, in spite of the vague guesses of alarmists. "It is
estimated," says Mr. Coles, "that the consumption of tobacco in this
country is eight times as great as in France and three times as great as
in England, in proportion to the population"; but there is nothing
in the world more uncertain than "It is estimated." It is frequently
estimated, for instance, that nine out of ten of our college students
use tobacco; and yet by the statistics of the last graduating class
at Cambridge it appears that it is used by only thirty-one out of
seventy-six. I am satisfied that the extent of the practice is often
exaggerated. In a gymnastic club of young men, for instance, where I
have had opportunity to take the statistics, it is found that less
than one-quarter use it, though there has never been any agitation or
discussion of the matter. These things indicate that it can no longer
be claimed, as Moliere asserted two centuries ago, that he who lives
without tobacco is not worthy to live.
And as there has been some exaggeration in describing the extent to
which Tobacco is King, so there has doubtless been some overstatement
as to the cruelty of his despotism. Enough, however, remains to condemn
him. The present writer, at least, has the firmest conviction, from
personal observation and experience, that the imagined benefits of
tobacco-using (which have never, perhaps, been better stated than in an
essay which appeared in this magazine, in August, 1860) are ordinarily
an illusion, and its evils a far more solid reality,--that it stimulates
only to enervate, soothes only to depress,--that it neither permanently
calms the nerves nor softens the temper nor enlightens the brain, but
that in the end its tendencies are precisely the opposites of
these, beside the undoubted incidental objections of costliness and
uncleanness. When men can find any other instance of a poisonous drug
which is suitable for daily consumption, they will be more consistent
in using this. When it is admitted to be innocuous to those who are in
training for athletic feats, it may be possible to suppose it beneficial
to those who are out of training. Meanwhile there seems no ground for
its supporters except that to which the famous Robert Hall was reduced,
as he says, by "the Society of Doctors of Divinity." He sent a message
to Dr. Clarke, in return for a pamphlet against tobacco, that he could
not possibly refute his arguments and could not possibly give up
* * * * *
Ye who listen to stories told,
When hearths are cheery and nights are cold,
Of the lone wood-side, and the hungry pack
That howls on the fainting traveller's track,--
Flame-red eyeballs that waylay,
By the wintry moon, the belated sleigh,--
The lost child sought in the dismal wood,
The little shoes and the stains of blood
On the trampled snow,--O ye that hear,
With thrills of pity or chills of fear,
Wishing some angel had been sent
To shield the hapless and innocent,--
Know ye the fiend that is crueller far
Than the gaunt gray herds of the forest are?
Swiftly vanish the wild fleet tracks
Before the rifle and woodman's axe:
But hark to the coming of unseen feet,
Pattering by night through the city street!
Each wolf that dies in the woodland brown
Lives a spectre and haunts the town.
By square and market they slink and prowl,
In lane and alley they leap and howl.
All night they snuff and snarl before
The poor patched window and broken door.
They paw the clapboards and claw the latch,
At every crevice they whine and scratch.
Their tongues are subtle and long and thin,
And they lap the living blood within.
Icy keen are the teeth that tear,
Red as ruin the eyes that glare.
Children crouched in corners cold
Shiver in tattered garments old,
And start from sleep with bitter pangs
At the touch of the phantoms' viewless fangs.
Weary the mother and worn with strife,
Still she watches and fights for life.
But her hand is feeble, and weapon small:
One little needle against them all!
In evil hour the daughter fled
From her poor shelter and wretched bed.
Through the city's pitiless solitude
To the door of sin the wolves pursued.
Fierce the father and grim with want,
His heart is gnawed by the spectres gaunt.
Frenzied stealing forth by night,
With whetted knife, to the desperate fight,
He thought to strike the spectres dead,
But he smites his brother man instead.
O you that listen to stories told,
When hearths are cheery and nights are cold,
Weep no more at the tales you hear,
The danger is close and the wolves are near.
Shudder not at the murderer's name,
Marvel not at the maiden's shame.
Pass not by with averted eye
The door where the stricken children cry.
But when the beat of the unseen feet
Sounds by night through the stormy street,
Follow thou where the spectres glide;
Stand like Hope by the mother's side;
And be thyself the angel sent
To shield the hapless and innocent.
He gives but little who gives his tears,
He gives his best who aids and cheers.
He does well in the forest wild
Who slays the monster and saves the child;
But he does better, and merits more,
Who drives the wolf from the poor man's door.
* * * * *
A STORY OF TO-DAY.
Now that I have come to the love part of my story, I am suddenly
conscious of dingy common colors on the palette with which I have been
painting. I wish I had some brilliant dyes. I wish, with all my heart, I
could take you back to that "Once upon a time" in which the souls of our
grandmothers delighted,--the time which Dr. Johnson sat up all night to
read about in "Evelina,"--the time when all the celestial virtues, all
the earthly graces were revealed in a condensed state to man through the
blue eyes and sumptuous linens of some Belinda Portman or Lord Mortimer.
None of your good-hearted, sorely-tempted villains then! It made your
hair stand on end only to read of them,--dyed at their birth clear
through with Pluto's blackest poison, going about perpetually seeking
innocent maidens and unsophisticated old men to devour. That was the
time for holding up virtue and vice; no trouble then in seeing which
were sheep and which were goats! A person could write a story with a
moral to it, then, I should hope! People that were born in those days
had no fancy for going through the world with half-and-half characters,
such as we put up with; so Nature turned out complete specimens of each
class, with all the appendages of dress, fortune, _et cetera_, chording
decently. At least, so those veracious histories say. The heroine, for
instance, glides into life full-charged with rank, virtues, a name
three-syllabled, and a white dress that never needs washing, ready to
sail through dangers dire into a triumphant haven of matrimony;--all
the aristocrats have high foreheads and cold blue eyes; all the
peasants are old women, miraculously grateful, in neat check aprons, or
sullen-browed insurgents planning revolts in caves.
Of course, I do not mean that these times are gone: they are alive (in
a modern fashion) in many places in the world; some of my friends have
described them in prose and verse. I only mean to say that I never was
there; I was born unlucky. I am willing to do my best, but I live in
the commonplace. Once or twice I have rashly tried my hand at dark
conspiracies, and women rare and radiant in Italian bowers; but I have a
friend who is sure to say, "Try and tell us about the butcher next door,
my dear." If I look up from my paper now, I shall be just as apt to see
our dog and his kennel as the white sky stained with blood and Tyrian
purple. I never saw a full-blooded saint or sinner in my life. The
coldest villain I ever knew was the only son of his mother, and she a
widow,--and a kinder son never lived. I have known people capable of a
love terrible in its strength; but I never knew such a case that some
one did not consider its expediency as "a match" in the light of dollars
and cents. As for heroines, of course I know beautiful women, and good
as fair. The most beautiful is delicate and pure enough for a type of
the Madonna, and has a heart almost as warm and holy as hers who was
blessed among women. (Very pure blood is in her veins, too, if you care
about blood.) But at home they call her Tode for a nickname; all we can
do, she will sing, and sing through her nose; and on washing-days she
often cooks the dinner, and scolds wholesomely, if the tea-napkins are
not in order. Now, what is anybody to do with a heroine like that? I
have known old maids in abundance, with pathos and sunshine in their
lives; but the old maid of novels I never have met, who abandoned
her soul to gossip,--nor yet the other type, a lifelong martyr of
unselfishness. They are mixed generally, and are not unlike their
married sisters, so far as I can see. Then as to men, certainly I know
heroes. One man, I knew, as high a chevalier in heart as any Bayard of
them all; one of those souls simple and gentle as a woman, tender in
knightly honor. He was an old man, with a rusty brown coat and rustier
wig, who spent his life in a dingy village office. You poets would have
laughed at him. Well, well, his history never will be written. The kind,
sad, blue eyes are shut now. There is a little farm-graveyard overgrown
with privet and wild grape-vines, and a flattened grave where he was
laid to rest; and only a few who knew him when they were children care
to go there, and think of what he was to them. But it was not in the far
days of Chivalry alone, I think, that true and tender souls have stood
in the world unwelcome, and, hurt to the quick, have turned away and
dumbly died. Let it be. Their lives are not lost, thank God!
I meant only to ask you, How can I help it, if the people in my story
seem coarse to you,--if the hero, unlike all other heroes, stopped to
count the cost before he fell in love,--if it made his fingers thrill
with pleasure to touch a full pocket-book as well as his mistress's
hand,--not being withal, this Stephen Holmes, a man to be despised? A
hero, rather, of a peculiar type,--a man, more than other men: the very
mould of man, doubt it who will, that women love longest and most madly.
Of course, if I could, I would have blotted out every meanness or
flaw before I showed him to you; I would have given you Margaret an
impetuous, whole-souled woman, glad to throw her life down for her
father without one bitter thought of the wife and mother she might have
been; I would have painted her mother tender as she was, forgetting how
pettish she grew on busy days: but what can I do? I must show you men
and women as they are in that especial State of the Union where I live.
In all the others, of course, it is very different. Now, being prepared
for disappointment, will you see my hero?
He had sauntered out from the city for a morning walk,--not through
the hills, as Margaret went, going home, but on the other side, to
the river, over which you could see the Prairie. We are in Indiana,
remember. The sunlight was pure that morning, powerful, tintless, the
true wine of life for body or spirit. Stephen Holmes knew that, being a
man of delicate animal instincts, and so used it, just as he had used
the dumb-bells in the morning. All things were made for man, weren't
they? He was leaning against the door of the school-house,--a red,
flaunting house, the daub on the landscape: but, having his back to
it, he could not see it, so through his half-shut eyes he suffered the
beauty of the scene to act on him. Suffered: in a man, according to his
creed, the will being dominant, and all influences, such as beauty,
pain, religion, permitted to act under orders. Of course.
Back to Full Books