Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 9, No. 52, February, 1862
Part 3 out of 5
He was not conscious how he knew he was in a hospital: but he did know
it, vaguely; thought sometimes of the long halls outside of the door
with ranges of rooms opening into them, like this, and of very barns of
rooms on the other side of the building with rows of white cots where
the poor patients lay: a stretch of travel from which his brain came
back to his snug fireplace, quite tired, and to Lois sitting knitting by
it. He called the little Welsh-woman, "Sister," too, who used to come in
a stuff dress, and white bands about her face, to give his medicine and
gossip with Lois in the evening: she had a comical voice, like a cricket
chirping. There was another with a real Scotch brogue, who came and
listened sometimes, bringing a basket of undarned stockings: the doctor
told him one day how fearless and skilful she was, every summer going to
New Orleans when the yellow fever came. She died there the next June:
but Holmes never, somehow, could realize a martyr in the cheery,
freckled-faced woman whom he always remembered darning stockings in the
quiet fire-light. It was very quiet; the voices about him were pleasant
and low. If he had drifted from any shock of pain into a sleep like
death, some of the stillness hung about him yet; but the outer life was
homely and fresh and natural.
The doctor used to talk to him a little; and sometimes one or two of
the patients from the eye-ward would grow tired of sitting about in the
garden-alleys, and would loiter in, if Lois would give them leave; but
their talk wearied him, jarred him as strangely as if one had begun on
politics and price-currents to the silent souls in Hades. It was enough
thought for him to listen to the whispered stories of the sisters in the
long evenings, and, half-heard, try and make an end to them; to look
drowsily down into the garden, where the afternoon sunshine was still so
summer-like that a few hollyhocks persisted in showing their honest red
faces along the walls, and the very leaves that filled the paths would
not wither, but kept up a wholesome ruddy brown. One of the sisters had
a poultry-yard in it, which he could see: the wall around it was of
stone covered with a brown feathery lichen, which every rooster in that
yard was determined to stand on, or perish in the attempt; and Holmes
would watch, through the quiet, bright mornings, the frantic ambition
and the uproarious exultation of the successful aspirant with an amused
"One'd thenk," said Lois, sagely, "a chicken never stood on a wall
before, to hear 'em, or a hen laid an egg."
Nor did Holmes smile once because the chicken burlesqued man: his
thought was too single for that yet. It was long before he thought of
the people who came in quietly to see him as anything but shadows, or
wished for them to come again. Lois, perhaps, was the most real thing in
life then to him: growing conscious, day by day, as he watched her, of
his old life over the gulf. Very slowly conscious: with a weak groping
to comprehend the sudden, awful change that had come on him, and then
forgetting his old life, and the change, and the pity he felt for
himself, in the vague content of the fire-lit room, and his nurse with
her interminable knitting through the long afternoons, while the sky
without would thicken and gray and a few still flakes of snow would come
drifting down to whiten the brown fields,--with no chilly thought of
winter, but only to make the quiet autumn more quiet. Whatever honest,
commonplace affection was in the man came out in a simple way to this
Lois, who ruled his sick whims and crotchets in such a quiet, sturdy
way. Not because she had risked her life to save his; even when he
understood that, he recalled it with an uneasy, heavy gratitude; but the
drinks she made him, and the plot they laid to smuggle in some oysters
in defiance of all rules, and the cheerful pock-marked face he never
Doctor Knowles came sometimes, but seldom: never talked, when he did
come: late in the evening generally: and then would punch his skin, and
look at his tongue, and shake the bottles on the mantel-shelf with a
grunt that terrified Lois into the belief that the other doctor was a
quack, and her patient was totally undone. He would sit, grim enough,
with his feet higher than his head, chewing an unlighted cigar, and
leave them both thankful when he saw proper to go.
The truth is, Knowles was thoroughly out of place in these little
mending-shops called sick-chambers, where bodies are taken to pieces,
and souls set right. He had no faith in your slow, impalpable cures:
all reforms were to be accomplished by a wrench, from the abolition of
slavery to the pulling of a tooth.
He had no especial sympathy with Holmes, either: the men were started
in life from opposite poles: and with all the real tenderness under
his surly, rugged habit, it would have been hard to touch him with the
sudden doom fallen on this man, thrown crippled and penniless upon the
world, helpless, it might be, for life. He would have been apt to tell
you, savagely, that "he wrought for it."
Besides, it made him out of temper to meet the sisters. Knowles could
have sketched for you with a fine decision of touch the _role_ played
by the Papal power in the progress of humanity,--how jar it served as a
stepping-stone, and the exact period when it became a wearisome clog.
The world was done with it now, utterly. Its breath was only poisoned,
with coming death. So the homely live charity of these women, their
work, which, no other hands were ready to take, jarred against his
abstract theory, and irritated him, as an obstinate fact always does run
into the hand of a man who is determined to clutch the very heart of a
matter. Truth will not underlie all facts, in this muddle of a world, in
spite of the positive philosophers, you know.
Don't sneer at Knowles. Your own clear, tolerant brain, that reflects
all men and creeds alike, like colorless water, drawing the truth from
all, is very different, doubtless, from this narrow, solitary soul, who
thought the world waited for him to fight down his one evil before it
went on its slow way. An intolerant fanatic, of course. But the truth he
did know was so terribly real to him, he had suffered from the evil, and
there was such sick, throbbing pity in his heart for men who suffered as
he had done! And then, fanatics must make history for conservative men
to learn from, I suppose.
If Knowles shunned the hospital, there was another place he shunned
more,--the place where his communist buildings were to have stood. He
went out there once, as one might go alone to bury his dead out of his
sight, the day after the mill was burnt,--looking first at the smoking
mass of hot bricks and charred shingles, so as clearly to understand how
utterly dead his life-long scheme was. He stalked gravely around it,
his hands in his pockets; the hodmen who were raking out their winter's
firewood from the ashes remarking, that "old Knowles didn't seem a bit
cut up about it." Then he went out to the farm he had meant to buy, as I
told you, and looked at it in the same stolid way. It was a dull day in
October. The Wabash crawled moodily past his feet, the dingy prairie
stretched drearily away on the other side, while the heavy-browed
Indiana hills stood solemnly looking down the plateau where the
buildings were to have risen.
Well, most men have some plan for life, into which all the strength and
the keen, fine feeling of their nature enter; but generally they try to
make it real in early youth, and, balked then, laugh ever afterwards at
their own folly. This poor old Knowles had begun to block out his dream
when he was a gaunt, gray-haired man of sixty. I have known men so build
their heart's blood and brains into their work, that, when it tumbled
down, their lives went with it. His fell that dull day in October; but
if it hurt him, no man knew it. He sat there, looking at the broad
plateau, whistling softly to himself, a long time. He had meant that
a great many hearts should be made better and happier there; he had
dreamed----God knows what he had dreamed, of which this reality was the
foundation,--of how much freedom, or beauty, or kindly life this was the
heart or seed. It was all over now. All the afternoon the muddy sky hung
low over the hills and dull prairie, while he sat there looking at the
dingy gloom: just as you and I have done, perhaps, some time, thwarted
in some true hope,--sore and bitter against God, because He did not see
how much His universe needed our pet reform.
He got up at last, and without a sigh went slowly away, leaving the
courage and self-reliance of his life behind him, buried with that one
beautiful, fair dream of life. He never came back again. People said
Knowles was quieter since his loss; but I think only God saw the depth
of the difference. When he was leaving the plateau, that day, he looked
back at it, as if to say good-bye,--not to the dingy fields and river,
but to the Something he had nursed so long in his rugged heart, and
given up now forever. As he looked, the warm, red sun came out, lighting
up with a heartsome warmth the whole gray day. Some blessing power
seemed to look at him from the gloomy hills, the prairie, and the river,
which he was to see again. His hope accomplished could not have looked
at him with surer content and fulfilment. He turned away, ungrateful and
moody. Long afterwards he remembered the calm and brightness which his
hand had not been raised to make, and understood the meaning of its
He went to work now in earnest: he had to work for his bread-and-butter,
you understand? Restless, impatient at first; but we will forgive him
that: you yourself were not altogether submissive, perhaps, when the
slow-built hope of life was destroyed by some chance, as you called it,
no more controllable than this paltry burning of a mill. Yet, now that
the great hope was gone on which his brain had worked with rigid, fierce
intentness, now that his hands were powerless to redeem a perishing
class, he had time to fall into careless, kindly habit: he thought it
wasted time, remorsefully, of course. He was seized with a curiosity to
know what plan in living these people had who crossed his way on the
streets; if they were disappointed, like him. He went sometimes to read
the papers to old Tim Poole, who was bed-ridden, and did not pish or
pshaw once at his maundering about secession or the misery in his back.
Went to church sometimes: the sermons were bigotry, always, to his
notion, sitting on a back seat, squirting tobacco-juice about him; but
the simple, old-fashioned hymns brought the tears to his eyes:--"They
sounded to him like his mother's voice, singing in paradise: he hoped
she could not see how things had gone on here,--how all that was honest
and strong in his life had fallen in that infernal mill." Once or twice
he went down Crane Alley, and lumbered up three pair of stairs to the
garret where Kitts had his studio,--got him orders, in fact, for two
portraits; and when that pale-eyed young man, in a fit of confidence,
one night, with a very red face drew back the curtain from his grand
"Fall of Chapultepec," and watched him with a lean and hungry look,
Knowles, who knew no more about painting than a gorilla, walked about,
looking through his fist at it, saying, "how fine the _chiaroscuro_ was,
and that it was a devilish good thing altogether." "Well, well," he
soothed his conscience, going down-stairs, "maybe that bit of canvas is
as much to that poor chap as the phalanstery was once to another fool."
And so went on through the gas-lit streets into his parishes in cellars
and alleys, with a sorer heart, but cheerfuller words, now that he had
nothing but words to give.
The only place where he hardened his heart was in the hospital with
Holmes. After he had wakened to full consciousness, Knowles thought the
man a beast to sit there uncomplaining day after day, cold and grave,
as if the lifeful warmth of the late autumn were enough for him. Did
he understand the iron fate laid on him? Where was the strength of the
self-existent soul now? Did he know that it was a balked, defeated
life, that waited for him, vacant of the triumphs he had planned? "The
self-existent soul! stopped in its growth by chance, this omnipotent
deity,--the chance burning of a mill!" Knowles muttered to himself,
looking at Holmes. With a dim flash of doubt, as he said it, whether
there might not, after all, be a Something,--some deep of calm, of
eternal order, where these coarse chances, these wrestling souls, these
creeds, Catholic or Humanitarian, even that namby-pamby Kitts and his
picture, might be unconsciously working out their part. Looking out
of the hospital-window, he saw the deep of the stainless blue,
impenetrable, with the stars unconscious in their silence of the maddest
raging of the petty world. There was such calm! such infinite love and
justice! it was around, above him; it held him, it held the world,--all
Wrong, all Right! For an instant the turbid heart of the man cowered,
awe-struck, as yours or mine has done when some swift touch of music or
human love gave us a cleaving glimpse of the great I AM. The next, he
opened the newspaper in his hand. What part in the eternal order could
_that_ hold? or slavery, or secession, or civil war? No harmony could
be infinite enough to hold such discords, he thought, pushing the whole
matter from him in despair. Why, the experiment of self-government, the
problem of the ages, was crumbling in ruin! So he despaired just as Tige
did the night the mill fell about his ears, in full confidence that the
world had come to an end now, without hope of salvation,--crawling out
of his cellar in dumb amazement, when the sun rose as usual the next
Knowles sat, peering at Holmes over his paper, watching the languid
breath that showed how deep the hurt had been, the maimed body, the face
outwardly cool, watchful, reticent as before. He fancied the slough of
disappointment into which God had crushed the soul of this man: would
he struggle out? Would he take Miss Herne as the first step in his
stairway, or be content to be flung down in vigorous manhood to the
depth of impotent poverty? He could not tell if the quiet on Holmes's
face were stolid defiance or submission: the dumb kings might have
looked thus beneath the feet of Pharaoh. When he walked over the floor,
too, weak as he was, it was with the old iron tread. He asked Knowles
presently what business he had gone into.
"My old hobby in an humble way,--the House of Refuge."
They both laughed.
"Yes, it is true. The janitor points me out to visitors as
'under-superintendent, a philanthropist in decayed circumstances.'
Perhaps it is my life-work,"--growing sad and earnest.
"If you can inoculate these infant beggars and thieves with your theory,
it will be practice when you are dead."
"I think that," said Knowles, gravely, his eye kindling,--"I think
"As thankless a task as that of Moses," said the other, watching him
curiously. "For _you_ will not see the pleasant land,--_you_ will not go
The old man's flabby face darkened.
"I know," he said.
He glanced involuntarily out at the blue, and the clear-shining, eternal
stars. If he could but believe in the To-Morrow!
"I suppose," he said, after a while, cheerfully, "I must content myself
with Lois's creed, here,--'It'll come right some time.'"
Lois looked up from the saucepan she was stirring, her face growing
quite red, nodding emphatically some half-dozen times.
"Do you find your fallow field easily worked?"
Knowles fidgeted uneasily.
"No. Fact is, I'm beginning to think there's a good deal of an obstacle
in blood. I find difficulty, much difficulty, Sir, in giving the
youngest child true ideas of absolute freedom and unselfish heroism."
"You teach them by reason alone?" said Holmes, gravely.
"Well,--of course,--that is the true theory; but I--I find it necessary
to have them whipped, Mr. Holmes."
Holmes stooped suddenly to pat Tiger, hiding a furtive smile. The old
man went on, anxiously,--
"Old Mr. Howth says that is the end of all self-governments: from
anarchy to despotism, he says. Old people are apt to be set in their
ways, you know. Honestly, we do not find unlimited freedom answer in the
House. I hope much from a woman's assistance: I have destined her for
this work always: she has great latent power of sympathy and endurance,
such as can bring the Christian teaching home to these wretches."
"The Christian?" said Holmes.
"Well, yes. I am not a believer myself, you know; but I find that it
takes hold of these people more vitally than more abstract faiths: I
suppose because of the humanity of Jesus. In Utopia, of course, we shall
live from scientific principles; but they do not answer in the House."
"Who is the woman?" asked Holmes, carelessly.
The other watched him keenly.
"She is coming for five years. Margaret Howth."
He patted the dog with the same hard, unmoved touch.
"It is a religious duty with her. Besides, she must do something. They
have been almost starving since the mill was burnt."
Holmes's face was bent; he could not see it. When he looked up, Knowles
thought it more rigid, immovable than before.
When Knowles was going away, Holmes said to him,--
"When does Margaret Howth go into that devils' den?"
"The House? On New-Year's." The scorn in him was too savage to be
silent. "You will have fulfilled your design by that time,--of
Holmes was leaning on the mantel-shelf; his very lips were pale.
"Yes, I shall, I shall,"--in his low, hard tone.
Some sudden dream of warmth and beauty flashed before his gray eyes,
lighting them as Knowles never had seen before.
"Miss Herne is beautiful,--let me congratulate you in Western fashion."
The old man did not hide his sneer.
"I thank you, for her."
Lois held the candle to light the Doctor out of the long passages.
"Yoh hevn't seen Barney out 't Mr. Howth's, Doctor? He's ther' now."
"No. When shall you have done waiting on this--man, Lois? God help you,
Lois's quick instinct answered,--
"He's very kind. He's like a woman fur kindness to such as me. When I
come to die, I'd like eyes such as his to look at, tender, pitiful."
"Women are fools alike," grumbled the Doctor. "Never mind. 'When you
come to die?' What put that into your head? Look up."
The child sheltered the flaring candle with her hand.
"I've no tho't o' dyin'," she said, laughing.
There was a gray shadow about her eyes, a peaked look to the face, he
never saw before, looking at her now with a physician's eyes.
"Does anything hurt you here?" touching her chest.
"It's better now. It was that night o' th' fire. Th' breath o' th' mill,
I thenk,--but it's nothin'."
"Burning copperas? Of course it's better. Oh, that's nothing!" he said,
When they reached the door, he held out his hand, the first time he ever
had done it to her, and then waited, patting her on the head.
"I think it'll come right, Lois," he said, dreamily, looking out into
the night. "You're a good girl. I think it'll all come right. For you
and me. Some time. Good night, child."
After he was a long way down the street, he turned to nod good-night
again to the comical little figure in the doorway.
If Knowles hated anybody that night, he hated the man he had left
standing there with pale, heavy jaws, and heart of iron; he could have
cursed him, standing there. He did not see how, after he was left alone,
the man lay with his face to the wall, holding his bony hand to his
forehead, with a look in his eyes that if you had seen, you would have
thought his soul had entered on that path whose steps take hold on hell.
There was no struggle in his face; whatever was the resolve he had
reached in the solitary hours when he had stood so close upon the
borders of death, it was unshaken now; but the heart, crushed and
stifled before, was taking its dire revenge. If ever it had hungered,
through the cold, selfish days, for God's help, or a woman's love, it
hungered now with a craving like death. If ever he had thought how bare
and vacant the years would be, going down to the grave with lips that
never had known a true kiss of real affection, he remembered it now,
when it was too late, with bitterness such as wrings a man's heart but
once in a lifetime. If ever he had denied to his own soul this Margaret,
called her alien or foreign, he called her now, when it was too late, to
her rightful place; there was not a thought nor a hope in the darkest
depths of his nature that did not cry out for her help that night,--for
her, a part of himself,--now, when it was too late. He went over all the
years gone, and pictured the years to come; he remembered the money
that was to help his divine soul upward; he thought of it with a curse,
pacing the floor of the narrow room, slowly and quietly. Looking out
into the still starlight and the quaint garden, he tried to fancy this
woman as he knew her, after the restless power of her soul should have
been chilled and starved into a narrow, lifeless duty. He fancied her
old, and stern, and sick of life, she that might have been----what
might they not have been, together? And he had driven her to this for
It was of no use to repent of it now. He had frozen the love out of her
heart, long ago. He remembered (all that he did remember of the blank
night after he was hurt) that he had seen her white, worn-out face
looking down at him; that she did not touch him; and that, when, one of
the sisters told her she might take her place, and sponge his forehead,
she said, bitterly, she had no right to do it, that he was no friend
of hers. He saw and heard that, unconscious to all else; he would have
known it, if he had been dead, lying there. It was too late now: why
need he think of what might have been? Yet he did think of it through
the long winter's night,--each moment his thought of the life to come,
or of her, growing more tender and more bitter. Do you wonder at the
remorse of this man? Wait, then, until you lie alone, as he had done,
through days as slow, revealing as ages, face to face with God and
death. Wait until you go down so close to eternity that the life you
have lived stands out before you in the dreadful bareness in which God
sees it,--as you shall see it some day from heaven or hell: money, and
hate, and love will stand in their true light then. Yet, coming back to
life again, he held whatever resolve he had reached down there with his
old iron will: all the pain he bore in looking back to the false life
before, or the ceaseless remembrance that it was too late now to atone
for that false life, made him the stronger to abide by that resolve, to
go on the path self-chosen, let the end be what it might. Whatever the
resolve was, it did not still the gnawing hunger in his heart that
night, which every trifle made more fresh and strong.
There was a wicker-basket that Lois had left by the fire, piled up with
bits of cloth and leather out of which she was manufacturing Christmas
gifts; a pair of great woollen socks, which one of the sisters had told
him privately Lois meant for him, lying on top. As with all of her
people, Christmas was the great day of the year to her. Holmes could not
but smile, looking at them. Poor Lois!--Christmas would be here soon,
then? And sitting by the covered fire, he went back to Christmases gone,
the thought of all others that brought her nearest and warmest to him:
since he was a boy they had been together on that day. With his hand
over his eyes he sat quiet by the fire until morning. He heard some boy
going by in the gray dawn call to another that they would have holiday
on Christmas. It was coming, he thought, rousing himself,--but never
as it had been: that could never be again. Yet it was strange how this
thought of Christmas took hold of him,--famished his heart. As it
approached in the slow-coming winter, the days growing shorter, and
the nights longer and more solitary, so Margaret became more real to
him,--not rejected and lost, but as the wife she might have been,
with the simple passionate love she gave him once. The thought grew
intolerable to him; yet there was not a homely pleasure of those years
gone, when the old school-master kept high holiday on Christmas, that he
did not recall and linger over with a boyish yearning, now that these
things were over forever. He chafed under his weakness. If the day would
but come when he could go out and conquer his fate, as a man ought to
do! On Christmas eve he would put an end to these torturing taunts, his
soul should not be balked longer of its rightful food. For I fear that
even now Stephen Holmes thought of his own need and his own hunger.
He watched Lois knitting and patching her poor little gifts, with a
vague feeling that every stitch made the time a moment shorter until he
should be free, with his life in his hand again. She left him at last,
sorrowfully enough, but he made her go: he fancied the close air of the
hospital was hurting her, seeing at night the strange shadow growing on
her face. I do not think he ever said to her that he knew all she had
done for him; but no dog or woman that Stephen Holmes loved could look
into his eyes and doubt that love. Sad, masterful eyes, such as are seen
but once or twice in a lifetime: no woman but would wish, like Lois, for
such eyes to be near her when she came to die, for her to remember the
world's love in. She came hobbling back every day to see him after she
had gone, and would stay to make his soup, telling him, child-like, how
many days it was until Christmas. He knew that, as well as she, waiting
through the cold, slow hours, in his solitary room. He thought sometimes
she had some eager petition to offer him, when she stood watching him
wistfully, twisting her hands together; but she always smothered it
with a sigh, and, tying her little woollen cap, went away, walking more
slowly, he thought, every day.
Do you remember how Christmas came last year? how there was a waiting
pause, when the great States stood still, and from the peoples came the
first awful murmurs of the storm that was to shake the earth? how men's
hearts failed them for fear, how women turned pale and held their
children closer to their breasts, while they heard a far cry of
lamentation for their country that had fallen? Do you remember how,
through the fury of men's anger, the storehouses of God were opened for
that land? how the very sunshine gathered new splendors, the rains more
fruitful moisture, until the earth poured forth an unknown fulness
of life and beauty? Was there no promise there, no prophecy? Do you
remember, while the very life of the people hung in doubt before them,
while the angel of death came again to pass over the land, and there was
no blood on any door-post to keep him from that house, how slowly
the old earth folded in her harvest, dead, till it should waken to a
stronger life? how quietly, as the time came near for the birth of
Christ, this old earth made ready for his coming, heedless of the clamor
of men? how the air grew fresher, day by day, and the gray deep silently
opened for the snow to go down and screen and whiten and make holy that
fouled earth? I think the slow-falling snow did not fail in its quiet
warning; for I remember that men, too, in a feeble way tried to make
ready for the birth of Christ. There was a healthier glow than terror
stirred in their hearts; because of the vague, great dread without, it
may be, they drew closer together round household fires, were kindlier
in the good old-fashioned way; old friendships were wakened, old times
talked over, fathers and mothers and children planned homely ways to
show the love in their hearts and to welcome in Christmas. Who knew but
it might be the last? Let us be thankful for that happy Christmas-day.
What if it were the last? What if, when another comes, and another,
some voice, the kindest and cheerfullest then, shall never say
"Happy Christmas" to us again? Let us be thankful for that day the
more,--accept it the more as a sign of that which will surely come.
Holmes, even, in his dreary room and drearier thought, felt the warmth
and expectant stir creeping through the land as the day drew near. Even
in the hospital, the sisters were in a busy flutter, decking their
little chapel with flowers, and preparing a Christmas _fete_ for their
patients. The doctor, as he bandaged his broken arm, hinted at faint
rumors in the city of masquerades and concerts. Even Knowles, who had
not visited the hospital for weeks, relented and came back, moody and
grim. He brought Kitts with him, and started him on talking of how
they kept Christmas in Ohio on his mother's farm; and the poor soul,
encouraged by the silence of two of his auditors, and the intense
interest of Lois in the background, mazed on about Santa-Claus trees
and Virginia reels until the clock struck twelve and Knowles began to
Christmas was coming. As he stood, day after day, looking out of
the gray window, he could see the signs of its coming even in the
shop-windows glittering with miraculous toys, in the market-carts
with their red-faced drivers and heaps of ducks and turkeys, in every
stage-coach or omnibus that went by crowded with boys home for the
holidays, hallooing for Bell or Lincoln, forgetful that the election was
over and Carolina out.
Pike came to see him one day, his arms full of a bundle, which turned
out to be an accordion for Sophy.
"Christmas, you know," he said, taking off the brown paper, while he was
cursing the Cotton States the hardest, and gravely kneading at the keys,
and stretching it until he made as much discord as five Congressmen. "I
think Sophy will like that," he said, tying it up carefully.
"I am sure she will," said Holmes,--and did not think the man a fool for
Always going back, this Holmes, when he was alone, to the certainty that
homecomings or children's kisses or Christmas feasts were not for such
as he,--never could be, though he sought for the old time in bitterness
of heart; and so, dully remembering his resolve, and waiting for
Christmas eve, when, he might end it all. Not one of the myriads of
happy children listened more intently to the clock clanging off hour
after hour than the silent, stern man who had no hope in that day that
He learned to watch even for poor Lois coming up the corridor every
day,--being the only tie that bound the solitary man to the inner world
of love and warmth. The deformed little body was quite alive with
Christmas now, and brought its glow with her, in her weak way. Different
from the others, he saw with a curious interest. The day was more real
to her than to them. Not because, only, the care she had of everybody
and everybody had of her seemed to reach its culmination of kindly
thought for the Christmas time; not because, as she sat talking slowly,
stopping for breath, her great fear seemed to be that she would not have
gifts enough to go round; but deeper than that,--the day was real to
her. As if it were actually true that the Master in whom she believed
was freshly born into the world once a year, to waken all that was
genial and noble and pure in the turbid, worn-out hearts; as if new
honor and pride and love did come with the breaking of Christmas morn.
It was a beautiful faith; he almost wished it were his. (Perhaps in that
day when the under-currents of life shall be bared, this man with his
self-reliant soul will know the subtile instincts that drew him to true
manhood and feeling by the homely practice of poor Lois. He did not see
them now.) A beautiful faith! it gave a meaning to the old custom of
gifts and kind words. _Love_ coming into the world!--the idea pleased
his artistic taste, being simple and sublime. Lois used to tell him,
while she feebly tried to set his room in order, of all her plans,--of
how Sam Polston was to be married on New-Year's,--but most of all of the
Christmas coming out at the old schoolmaster's: how the old house had
been scrubbed from top to bottom, was fairly glowing with shining paint
and hot fires,--how Margaret and her mother worked, in terror lest the
old man should find out how poor and bare it was,--how he and Joel had
some secret enterprise on foot at the far end of the plantation out in
the swamp, and were gone nearly all day.
She ceased coming at last. One of the sisters went out to see her, and
told him she was too weak to walk, but meant to be better soon,--quite
well by the holidays. He wished the poor thing had told him what she
wanted of him,--wished it anxiously, with a dull presentiment of evil.
The days went by, cold and slow. He watched grimly the preparations
the hospital physician was silently making in his case, for fever,
"I must be strong enough to go out cured on Christmas eve," he said to
him one day, coolly.
The old doctor glanced up shrewdly. He was an old Alsatian, very
"You say so?" he mumbled. "Chut! Then you will go. There are
some--bull-dog men. They do what they please,--they never die unless
they choose, begar! We know them in our practice, Herr Holmes!"
Holmes laughed. Some acumen there, he thought, in medicine or mind: as
for himself, it was true enough; whatever success he had gained in life
had been by no flush of enthusiasm or hope; a dogged persistence of
"holding on," rather.
Christmas eve came at last; bright, still, frosty. "Whatever he had to
do, let it be done quickly "; but not till the set hour came. So he laid
his watch on the table beside him, waiting until it should mark the time
he had chosen: the ruling passion of self-control as strong in this turn
of life's tide as it would be in its ebb, at the last. The old doctor
found him alone in the dreary room, coming in with the frosty breath of
the eager street about him. A grim, chilling sight enough, as solitary
and impenetrable as the Sphinx. He did not like such faces in this
genial and gracious time, so hurried over his examination. The eye was
cool, the pulse steady, the man's body, battered though it was, strong
in its steely composure. "_Ja wohl!--ja wohl_!" he went on chuffily,
summing up: latent fever,--the very lips were blue, dry as husks; "he
would go,--_oui_?--then go!"--with a chuckle. "All right, _glueck zu_!"
And so shuffled out latent fever? Doubtless, yet hardly from broken
bones, the doctor thought,--with no suspicion of the subtile,
intolerable passion smouldering in every drop of this man's phlegmatic
Evening came at last. He stopped until the cracked bell of the chapel
had done striking the Angelus, and then put on his overcoat, and went
out. The air was cold and pungent. The crowded city seemed wakening to
some keen enjoyment; even his own weak, deliberate step rang on the
icy pavement as if it wished to rejoice with the rest. I said it was a
trading city: so it was, but the very trade to-day had a jolly Christmas
face on; the surly old banks and pawnbrokers' shops had grown ashamed
of their doings, and shut their doors, and covered their windows with
frosty trees, and cathedrals, and castles; the shops opened their
hearts; some child's angel had touched them, and they flushed out into
a magic splendor of Christmas trees, and lights, and toys; Santa Claus
might have made his head-quarters in any one of them. As for children,
you stumbled over them at every step, quite weighed down with the
heaviness of their joy, and the money burning their pockets; the acrid
old brokers and pettifoggers, that you met with a chill on other days,
had turned into jolly fathers of families, and lounged laughing along
with half a dozen little hands pulling them into candy-stores or
toy-shops: all the churches whose rules permitted them to show their
deep rejoicing in a simple way had covered their cold stone walls with
evergreens and wreaths of glowing fire-berries: the child's angel had
touched them too, perhaps,--not unwisely.
He passed crowds of thin-clad women looking in through open doors, with
red cheeks and hungry eyes, at red-hot stoves within, and a placard,
"Christmas dinners for the poor, gratis"; out of every window on the
streets came a ruddy light, and a spicy smell; the very sunset sky had
caught the reflection of the countless Christmas fires, and flamed up to
the zenith, blood-red as cinnabar.
Holmes turned down one of the back streets: he was going to see Lois,
first of all. I hardly know why: the child's angel may have touched him,
too; or his heart, full of a yearning pity for the poor cripple, who,
he believed now, had given her own life for his, may have plead for
indulgence, as men remember their childish prayers, before going into
battle. He came at last, in the quiet lane where she lived, to her
little brown frame-shanty, to which you mounted by a flight of wooden
steps: there were two narrow windows at the top, hung with red curtains;
he could hear her feeble voice singing within. As he turned to go up
the steps, he caught sight of something crouched underneath them in the
dark, hiding from him: whether a man--or a dog he could not see. He
"What d' ye want, Mas'r?" said a stifled voice.
He touched it again with his stick.
The man stood upright, back in the shadow: it was old Yare.
"Had ye any word wi' me, Mas'r?"
He saw the negro's face grow gray with fear.
"Come out, Yare," he said, quietly. "Any word? What word is arson, eh?"
The man did not move. Holmes touched him with the stick.
"Come out," he said.
He came out, looking gaunt, as with famine.
"I'll not flurr myself," he said, crunching his ragged hat in his
He drove the hat down upon his head, and looked up with a sullen
"Yoh've got me, an' I'm glad of 't. I'm tired, fearin'. I was born for
hangin', they say," with a laugh. "But I'll see my girl. I've waited
hyur, runnin' the resk,--not darin' to see her, on 'count o' yoh. I
thort I was safe on Christmas-day,--but what's Christmas to yoh or me?"
Holmes's quiet motion drove him up the steps before him. He stopped at
the top, his cowardly nature getting the better of him, and sat down
whining on the upper step.
"Be marciful, Mas'r! I wanted to see my girl,--that's all. She's all I
Holmes passed him and went in. Was Christmas nothing to him? How did
this foul wretch know that they stood alone, apart from the world?
It was a low, cheerful little room that he came into, stooping his tall
head: a tea-kettle humming and singing on the wood-fire, that lighted up
the coarse carpet and the gray walls, but spent its warmest heat on
the low settee where Lois lay sewing, and singing to herself. She was
wrapped up in a shawl, but the hands, he saw, were worn to skin and
bone; the gray shadow was heavier on her face, and the brooding brown
eyes were like a tired child's. She tried to jump up when she saw him,
and not being able, leaned on one elbow, half-crying as she laughed.
"It's the best Christmas gift of all I I can hardly b'lieve
it!"--touching the strong hand humbly that was held out to her.
Holmes had a gentle touch, I told you, for dogs and children and women:
so, sitting quietly by her, he listened with untiring patience to her
long story; looked at the heap of worthless trifles she had patched up
for gifts, wondering secretly at the delicate sense of color and grace
betrayed in the bits of flannel and leather; and took, with a grave look
of wonder, his own package, out of which a bit of woollen thread peeped
"Don't look till to-morrow mornin'," she said, anxiously, as she lay
back trembling and exhausted.
The breath of the mill! The fires of want and crime had finished their
work on her life,--so! She caught the meaning of his face quickly.
"It's nothin'," she said, eagerly. "I'll be strong by New-Year's; it's
only a day or two rest I need. I've no tho't o' givin' up."
And to show how strong she was, she got up and hobbled about to make the
tea. He had not the heart to stop her; she did not want to die,--why
should she? the world was a great, warm, beautiful nest for the little
cripple,--why need he show her the cold without? He saw her at last go
near the door where old Yare sat outside, then heard her breathless cry,
and a sob. A moment after the old man came into the room, carrying her,
and, laying her down on the settee, chafed her hands and misshapen head.
"What ails her?" he said, looking up, bewildered, to Holmes. "We've
killed her among us."
She laughed, though the great eyes were growing dim, and drew his coarse
gray hair into her hand.
"Yoh wur long comin'," she said, weakly. "I hunted fur yoh every
The old man had pushed her hair back, and was reading the sunken face
with a wild fear.
"What ails her?" he cried. "Ther' 's somethin' gone wi' my girl. Was it
my fault? Lo, was it my fault?"
"Be quiet!" said Holmes, sternly.
"Is it _that_?" he gasped, shrilly. "My God! not that! I can't bear it!"
Lois soothed him, patting his face childishly.
"Am I dyin'?" she asked, with a frightened look at Holmes.
He told her no, cheerfully.
"I've no tho't o' dyin'. I dunnot thenk o' dyin'. Don't mind, dear!
Yoh'll stay with me, fur good?"
The man's paroxysm of fear for her over, his spite and cowardice came
"It's him," he yelped, looking fiercely at Holmes. "He's got my life in
his hands. He kin take it. What does he keer fur me or my girl? I'll not
stay wi' yoh no longer, Lo. Mornin' he'll send me t' th' lock-up, an'
"I care for _you_, child," said Holmes, stooping suddenly close to the
girl's livid face.
"To-morrow?" she muttered. "My Christmas-day?"
He wet her face while he looked over at the wretch whose life he held
in his hands. It was the iron rule of Holmes's nature to be just; but
to-night dim perceptions of a deeper justice than law opened before
him,--problems he had no time to solve: the sternest fortress is liable
to be taken by assault,--and the dew of the coming morn was on his
"So as I've hunted fur him!" she whispered, weakly. "I didn't think it
wud come to this. So as I loved him! Oh, Mr. Holmes, he's hed a pore
chance in livin',--forgive him this! Him that'll come to-morrow'd say to
forgive him this."
She caught the old man's head in her arms with an agony of tears, and
held it tight.
"I hev hed a pore chance," he said, looking up,--"that's God's truth,
Lo! I dunnot keer fur that: it's too late goin' back.--Mas'r," he
mumbled, servilely, "it's on'y a little time t' th' end: let me stay
with Lo. She loves me,--Lo does."
A look of disgust crept over Holmes's face.
"Stay, then," he muttered,--"I wash my hands of you, you old scoundrel!"
He bent over Lois with his rare, pitiful smile.
"Have I his life in my hands? I put it into yours,--so, child! Now put
it all out of your head, and look up here to wish me good-bye."
She looked up cheerfully, hardly conscious how deep the danger had been;
but the flush had gone from her face, leaving it sad and still.
"I must go to keep Christmas, Lois," he said, playfully.
"Yoh're keepin' it here, Sir." She held her weak gripe on his hand
still, with the vague outlook in her eyes that came there sometimes.
"Was it fur me yoh done it?"
"Yes, for you."
She turned her eyes slowly around, bewildered. The clear evening light
fell on Holmes, as he stood there looking down at the dying little
lamiter: a powerful figure, with a face supreme, masterful, but tender:
you will find no higher type of manhood. Did God make him of the same
blood as the vicious, cringing wretch crouching to hide his black face
at the other side of the bed? Some such thought came into Lois's brain,
and vexed her, bringing the tears to her eyes: he was her father, you
"It's all wrong," she muttered,--"oh, it's far wrong! Ther' 's One could
make them 'like. Not me."
She stroked her father's head once, and then let it go. Holmes glanced
out, and saw the sun was down.
"Lois," he said, "I want you to wish me a happy Christmas, as people
Holmes had a curious vein of superstition: he knew no lips so pure as
this girl's, and he wanted them to wish him good-luck that night. She
did it, laughing and growing red: riddles of life did not trouble her
childish fancy long. And so he left her, with a dull feeling, as I said
before, that it was good to say a prayer before the battle came on. For
men who believed in prayers: for him, it was the same thing to make one
day for Lois happier.
METHODS OF STUDY IN NATURAL HISTORY.
In presenting Classification as the subject of a series of papers in
the "Atlantic Monthly," I am aware that I am drawing largely upon the
patience of its readers; since the technical nature of the topic renders
many details necessary which cannot be otherwise than dry to any but
professional naturalists. Yet believing, as I do, that classification,
rightly understood, means simply the creative plan of God as expressed
in organic forms, I feel the importance of attempting at least to
present it in a popular guise, divested, as far as possible, of
technicalities, while I would ask the indulgence of my readers for such
scientific terms and details as cannot well be dispensed with, begging
them to remember that a long and tedious road may bring us suddenly upon
a glorious prospect, and that a clearer mental atmosphere and a new
intellectual sensation may well reward us for a little weariness in the
outset. Besides, the time has come when scientific truth must cease to
be the property of the few, when it must be woven into the common life
of the world; for we have reached the point where the results of science
touch the very problem of existence, and all men listen for the solving
of that mystery. When it will come, and how, none can say; but this much
at least is certain, that all our researches are leading up to that
question, and mankind will never rest till it is answered. If, then, the
results of science are of such general interest for the human race, if
they are gradually interpreting the purposes of the Deity in creation,
and the relation of man to all the past, then it is well that all
should share in its teachings, and that it should not be kept, like the
learning of the Egyptians, for an exclusive priesthood who may expound
the oracle according to their own theories, but should make a part of
all our intellectual culture and of our common educational systems. With
this view, I will endeavor to simplify as far as may be my illustrations
of the different groups of the Animal Kingdom, beginning with a more
careful analysis of those structural features on which classes are
I have said that the Radiates are the lowest type among animals,
embodying, under an infinite variety of forms, that plan in which all
parts bear definite relations to a vertical central axis. The three
classes of Radiates are distinguished from each other by three distinct
ways of executing that plan. I dwell upon this point; for we shall never
arrive at a clear understanding of the different significance and value
of the various divisions of the Animal Kingdom, till we appreciate the
distinction between the structural conception and the material means by
which it is expressed. A comparison will, perhaps, better explain my
meaning. There are certain architectonic types, including edifices of
different materials, with an infinite variety of architectural details
and external ornaments; but the flat roof and the colonnade are typical
of all Grecian temples, whether built of marble or granite or wood,
whether Doric or Ionic or Corinthian, whether simple and massive or
light and ornamented; and, in like manner, the steep roof and pointed
arch are the typical characters of all Gothic cathedrals, whatever be
the material or the details. The architectural conception remains
the same in all its essential elements, however the more superficial
features vary. Such relations as these edifices bear to the
architectural idea that includes them all, do classes bear to the
primary divisions or branches of the Animal Kingdom.
The three classes of Radiates, beginning with the lowest, and naming
them in their relative order, are Polyps, Acalephs or Jelly-Fishes, and
Echinoderms or Star-Fishes and Sea-Urchins. In the Polyps the plan is
executed in the simplest manner by a sac, the sides of which are folded
inward, at regular intervals from top to bottom, so as to divide it by
vertical radiating partitions, converging from the periphery toward the
centre. These folds or partitions do not meet in the centre, but leave
an open space, which is the main cavity of the body. This open space,
however, occupies only the lower part of the body; for in the upper
there is a second sac hanging to a certain distance within the first.
This inner sac has an aperture in the bottom, through which whatever
enters it passes into the main cavity of the body. A central opening
in the top forms a kind of mouth, around which are radiating tentacles
connecting with the open chambers formed by the partitions within.
Cutting such an animal across in a transverse section, we shall see
the radiation of the partitions from the centre to the circumference,
showing still more distinctly the typical structure of the division to
which it belongs.
[Illustration: Vertical section of a Sea-Anemone of Actinia: _o_, mouth;
_t_, tentacles; _s_, inner sac or stomach; _b_, main cavity; _ff_,
reproductive organs; _g_, radiating partition; _eee_, radiating
chambers; _cc_, circular openings in the partitions; _aa_, lower floor.]
[Illustration: Transverse section of a Sea-Anemone or Actinia.]
[Illustration: Staurophera seen in profile.]
[Illustration: Hippocrene seen in profile.]
[Illustration: Melicertum seen from above, with the tentacles spreading:
_oo_, radiating tubes with ovaries; _m_, mouth; _tttt_, tentacles.]
The second class is that of Jelly-Fishes or Acalephs; and here the same
plan is carried out in the form of a hemispherical gelatinous disk, the
digestive cavity being hollowed, or, as it were, scooped, out of the
substance of the body, which is traversed by tubes that radiate from
the centre to the periphery. Cutting it across transversely, or looking
through its transparent mass, the same radiation of the internal
structure is seen again; only that in this instance the radiating lines
are not produced by vertical partition-walls, with open spaces between,
as in the Polyps, but by radiating tubes passing through the gelatinous
mass of the body. At the periphery is a circular tube connecting them
all, and the tentacles, which hang down when the animal is in its
natural position, connect at their base with the radiating tubes, while
numerous smaller tentacles may form a kind of fringe all round the
The third and highest class includes the Star-Fishes, Sea-Urchins, and
Holothurians or Beches-de-Mer. The radiation is equally distinct in each
of these; but here again the mode of execution differs from that of the
two other classes. The internal cavity and the radiating tubes, instead
of being connected with the outer wall of the body as in Polyps, or
hollowed out of the substance of the body as in Jelly-Fishes, are here
inclosed within independent walls of their own, quite distinct from the
wall of the body. But notwithstanding this difference, a transverse
section shows in these animals, as distinctly as in all the rest, the
radiating structure typical of the whole branch. In these three classes
we have no difference of plan, nor even any modification of the same
plan,--for either one of them expresses it as clearly as any other,--but
simply three different ways of executing one structural idea.
[Illustration: Common Sea-Urchin, Echinus, seen from above]
[Illustration: Echinarachnius, opened by a transverse or horizontal
section, and showing the internal arrangement: c, mouth; eeeee,
ambulacra, with their ramifications cmcmcm; wwww, interambulacra.]
I have mentioned only three classes of Radiates. Cuvier had five in his
classification; for he placed among them the Intestinal Worms and the
Infusoria or Animalcules. The Intestinal Worms are much better known
now than they were in his day. Their anatomy and embryology have been
traced, and it has been shown that the essential features of these
parasites are the same as those of all Articulates, their whole body
being divided into successive, movable joints or rings. Cuvier was
misled by the circular arrangement of certain parts around the mouth,
and by the presence of a wreath of feelers around the head of some
of these Worms, resembling the tentacles of many Radiates. This is,
however, no indication of radiate structure, but a superficial feature
in no way related to the internal organization.
We must carefully distinguish between affinity and analogy among
animals. The former is founded on identity of plan; the latter only upon
external resemblance, produced by similar features, which, when they are
intimately connected with the whole internal organization, as in some
groups, may be considered as typical characters, but when only grafted,
as it were, in a superficial manner on animals of another type, have
no relation to the essential elements of structure, and become at
once subordinate and unimportant. Such is the difference between the
tentacles in a Radiate and the wreath of feelers in a Worm;--the
external effect may be much the same; but in the former every tentacle
opens into one of the chambers as in a Polyp, or connects with one of
the radiating tubes as in Acalephs, or with the locomotive suckers as
in Star-Fishes, and is therefore closely linked with the whole internal
organization; whereas the feelers in the latter are only external
appendages, in no way connected with the essential structural elements.
We have a striking illustration of this superficial resemblance in the
wings of Birds and Insects. In Birds, wings are a typical feature,
corresponding to the front limbs in all Vertebrates, which are
constructed in the same way, whether they are arms as in Man, or
forelegs as in Quadrupeds, or pectoral fins as in Fishes, or wings as in
Birds. The wing in an Insect, on the contrary, is a flattened, dried-up
gill, having no structural relation whatever to the wing of a Bird. They
are analogous only because they resemble each other in function, being
in the same way subservient to flight; but as organs they are entirely
In adding Infusoria to the Radiates, Cuvier was false to his own
principle of founding all classification on plan. He was influenced by
their seeming simplicity of structure, and placed them in the lowest
division of the Animal Kingdom on that account. But even this simplicity
was only apparent in many of them. At certain seasons of the year
myriads of these little Animalcules may be seen in every brook and
road-side pool. They are like transparent little globules, without any
special organization, apparently; and were it not that they are in
constant rotation, exhibiting thus a motion of their own, one would
hardly suspect that they were endowed with life. To the superficial
observer they all look alike, and it is not strange, that, before they
had been more carefully investigated, they should have been associated
together as the lowest division of the Animal Kingdom, representing, as
it were, a border-land between animal and vegetable life. But since the
modern improvements in the microscope, Ehrenberg, the great master in
microscopic investigation, has shown that many of these little
globules have an extraordinary complication of structure. Subsequent
investigations have proved that they include a great variety of beings:
some of them belonging to the type of Mollusks; others to the type of
Articulates, being in fact little Shrimps; while many others are
the locomotive germs of plants, and so far from forming a class by
themselves, as a distinct group in the Animal Kingdom, they seem to
comprise representatives of all types except Vertebrates, and to belong
in part to the Vegetable Kingdom, Siebold, Leuckart, and other modern
zooelogists, have considered them as a primary type, and called them
Protozoa; but this is as great a mistake as the other. The rotatory
motion in them all is produced by an apparatus that exists not only
in all animals, but in plants also, and is a most important agent in
sustaining the freshness and vitality of their circulating fluids and of
the surrounding medium in which they live. It consists of soft fringes,
called Vibratile Cilia. Such fringes cover the whole surface of these
little living beings, and by their unceasing play they maintain the
rotating motion that carries them along in the water.
The Mollusks, the next great division of the Animal Kingdom, also
include three classes. With them is introduced that character
of bilateral symmetry, or division of parts on either side of a
longitudinal axis, that prevails throughout the Animal Kingdom, with the
exception of the Radiates. The lowest class of Mollusks has been named
Acephala, to signify the absence of any distinct head; for though their
whole organization is based upon the principle of bilateral symmetry, it
is nevertheless very difficult to determine which is the right side and
which the left in these animals, because there is so little prominence
in the two ends of the body that the anterior and posterior extremities
are hardly to be distinguished. Take the Oyster as an example. It has,
like most Acephala, a shell with two valves united by a hinge on the
back, one of these valves being thick and swollen, while the other is
nearly flat. If we lift the shell, we find beneath a soft lining-skin
covering the whole animal and called by naturalists the mantle, from the
inner surface of which arise a double row of gills, forming two pendent
folds on the sides of the body; but at one end of the body these folds
do not meet, but leave an open space, where is the aperture we call the
mouth. This is the only indication of an anterior extremity; but it is
enough to establish a difference between the front and hind ends of
the body, and to serve as a guide in distinguishing the right and
left sides. If now we lift the mantle and gills, we find beneath the
principal organs: the stomach, with a winding alimentary canal; the
heart and liver; the blood-vessels, branching from either side of the
heart to join the gills; and a fleshy muscle passing from one valve
of the shell to the other, enabling the animal by its dilatation or
contraction to open and close its shell at will. A cut across an animal
of this class will show us better the bilateral arrangement of the
parts. In such a section we see the edge of the two shells on either
side; within these the edge of the mantle; then the double rows of
gills; and in the middle the alimentary canal, the heart, and the
blood-vessels branching right and left. Some of these animals have
eye-specks on the edge of the mantle; but this is not a constant
feature. This class of Acephala includes all the Oysters, Clams,
Mussels, and the like. When named with reference to their double shells,
they are called Bivalves; and with them are associated a host of less
conspicuous animals, known as Ascidians, Brachiopods, and Bryozoa.
[Illustration: Common Mussel, Unio, cut transversely: _a_, foot; _bb_,
gills; _c_, mantle; _d_, shell; _e_, heart; _f_, main cavity, with
The second class in this type is that of Gasteropoda, so named from the
fleshy muscular expansion on which they move, and which is therefore
called a foot: a very inappropriate name; since it has no relation or
resemblance to a foot, though it is used as a locomotive organ. This
class includes all the Snails, Slugs, Cockles, Conchs, Periwinkles,
Whelks, Limpets, and the like. Some of them have no solid covering; but
the greater part are protected by a single shell, and on this account
they are called Univalves, in contradistinction to the Acephala or
Bivalves. These shells, though always single, differ from each other by
an endless variety of form and color,--from the flat simple shell of
the Limpet to the elaborate spiral and brilliant hues of the Cones and
Cowries. Different as is their external covering, however, if we examine
the internal structure of a Gasteropod, we find the same general
arrangement of parts that prevails in the Acephala, showing that both
belong to the same great division of the Animal Kingdom. The mantle
envelops the animal, and lines its single shell as it lined the double
shell of the Oyster; the gills are placed on either side of it; the
stomach, with the winding alimentary canal, is in the centre of the
body; the heart and liver are placed in the same relation to it as in
the Acephala; and though the so-called foot would seem to be a new
feature, it is but a muscular expansion of the ventral side of the body.
There is an evident superiority in this class over the preceding one, in
the greater prominence of the anterior extremity, where there are two or
more feelers, with which eyes more or less developed are connected; and
though there is nothing that can be properly called a head, yet there
can be no hesitation as to the distinction between the front and hind
ends of the body.
[Illustration: Limpet, Patella, cut transversely: _a_, foot; _b_, gills;
_c_, mantle; _d_, shell; _e_, heart; _f_, main cavity, with intestines.]
The third and highest class of Mollusks has been called Cephalopoda, in
reference again to a special feature of their structure. They have long
arms or feelers around the head, serving as organs of locomotion, by
which they propel themselves through the water with a velocity that is
quite extraordinary, when compared with the sluggishness of the other
Mollusks. In these animals the head is distinctly marked,--being
separated, by a contraction or depression behind it, from the rest of
the body. The feelers, so prominent on the anterior extremity of
the Gasteropoda, are suppressed in Cephalopoda, and the eyes are
consequently brought immediately on the side of the head, and are very
large in proportion to the size of the animal. A skin corresponding
to the mantle envelops the body, and the gills are on either side of
it;--the stomach with its winding canal, the liver, and heart occupy the
centre of the body, as in the two other classes. This class includes all
the Cuttle-Fishes, Squids, and Nautili, and has a vast number of fossil
representatives. Many of these animals are destitute of any shell; and
where they have a shell, it is not coiled from right to left or from
left to right as in the spiral of the Gasteropoda, but from behind
forwards as in the Nautilus. These shells are usually divided into a
number of chambers,--the animal, as it grows, building a wall behind
it at regular intervals, and always occupying the external chamber,
retaining, however, a connection with his past home by a siphon that
runs through the whole succession of chambers. The readers of the
"Atlantic Monthly" cannot fail to remember the exquisite poem suggested
to the Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table by this singular feature in the
structure of the so-called Chambered Shells.
[Illustration: Common Squid, Loligo, cut transversely: _a_, foot or
siphon; _b_, gills; _c_, mantle; _d_, shell; _e_, heart; _f_, main
cavity, with intestines.]
Cuvier divided the Mollusks also into a larger number of classes than
are now admitted. He placed the Barnacles with them on account of their
shells; and it is only since an investigation of the germs born from
these animals has shown them to be Articulates that their true position
is understood. They give birth to little Shrimps that afterwards become
attached to the rocks and assume the shelly covering that has misled
naturalists about them. Brachiopods formed another of his classes;
but these differ from the other Bivalves only in having a net-work of
blood-vessels in the place of the free gills, and this is merely a
complication of structure, not a difference in the general mode
of execution, for their position and relation to the rest of the
organization are exactly the same in both. Pteropods constituted another
class in his division of the type of Mollusks; but these animals, again,
form only an order in the class of Gasteropoda, as Brachiopods form an
order in the class of Acephala.
In the third division of the Animal Kingdom, the Articulates, we have
again three classes: Worms, Crustacea, and Insects. The lowest of these
three classes, the Worms, presents the typical structure of that branch
in the most uniform manner, with little individualization of parts. The
body is a long cylinder divided through its whole length by movable
joints, while the head is indicated only by a difference in the
front-joint. There is here no concentration of vitality in special parts
of the structure, as in the higher animals, but the nervous force is
scattered through the whole body,--every ring having, on its lower side,
either two nervous swellings, one on the right, the other on the left
side, connected by nervous threads with those that precede and those
that follow them, or these swellings being united in the median line.
It is this equal distribution of nervous force through the whole system
that gives to these animals such an extraordinary power of repairing
any injured part, so that, if cut in two, the front part may even
reconstruct a tail for itself, while the hind part produces a new
head, and both continue to live as distinct animals. This facility of
self-repair, after a separation of the parts, which is even a normal
mode of multiplication in some of them, does not indicate, as may at
first appear, a greater intensity of vital energy, but, on the contrary,
arises from an absence of any one nervous centre such as exists in
all the higher animals, and is the key to their whole organization. A
serious injury to the brain of a Vertebrate destroys vitality at once,
for it holds the very essence of its life; whereas in many of the lower
animals any part of the body may be destroyed without injury to the
rest. The digestive cavity in the Worms runs the whole length of the
body; and the respiratory organs, wherever they are specialized, appear
as little vesicles or gill-like appendages either along the back or
below the sides, connected with the locomotive appendages.
This class includes animals of various degrees of complication of
structure, from those with highly developed organizations to the lowest
Worms that float like long threads in the water and hardly seem to be
animals. Yet even these creatures, so low in the scale of life, are
not devoid of some instincts, however dim, of feeling and affection. I
remember a case in point that excited my own wonder at the time, and may
not be uninteresting to my readers. A gentleman from Detroit had had
the kindness to send me one of those long thread-like Worms (_Gordius_)
found often in brooks and called Horse-Hairs by the common people. When
I first received it, it was coiled up in a close roll at the bottom of
the bottle, filled with fresh water, that contained it, and looked more
like a little tangle of black sewing-silk than anything else. Wishing
to unwind it, that I might examine its entire length, I placed it in
a large china basin filled with water, and proceeded very gently to
disentangle its coils, when I perceived that the animal had twisted
itself around a bundle of its eggs, holding them fast in a close
embrace. In the process of unwinding, the eggs dropped away and floated
to a little distance. Having finally stretched it out to its full
length, perhaps half a yard, I sat watching to see if this singular
being that looked like a long black thread in the water would give any
signs of life. Almost immediately it moved towards the bundle of eggs,
and, having reached it, began to sew itself through and through the
little white mass, passing one end of its body through it, and then
returning to make another stitch, as it were, till the eggs were at last
completely entangled again in an intricate net-work of coils. It seemed
to me almost impossible that this care of copying could be the result of
any instinct of affection in a creature of so low an organization, and I
again separated it from the eggs, and placed them at a greater distance,
when the same action was repeated. On trying the experiment a third
time, the bundle of eggs had become loosened, and a few of them dropped
off singly into the water. The efforts which the animal then made to
recover the missing ones, winding itself round and round them, but
failing to bring them into the fold with the rest, because they were too
small, and evaded all efforts to secure them, when once parted from
the first little compact mass, convinced me that there was a definite
purpose in its attempts, and that even a being so low in the scale
of animal existence has some dim consciousness of a relation to its
offspring. I afterwards unwound also the mass of eggs, which, when
coiled up as I first saw it, made a roll of white substance about the
size of a coffee-bean, and found that it consisted of a string of eggs,
measuring more than twelve feet in length, the eggs being held together
by some gelatinous substance that cemented them and prevented them from
falling apart. Cutting this string across, and placing a small section
under the microscope, I counted on one surface of such a cut from
seventy to seventy-five eggs; and estimating the entire number of eggs
according to the number contained on such a surface, I found that there
were not less than eight millions of eggs in the whole string. The
fertility of these lower animals is truly amazing, and is no doubt a
provision of Nature against the many chances of destruction to which
these germs, so delicate and often microscopically small, must be
exposed. The higher we rise in the Animal Kingdom, the more limited do
we find the number of progeny, and the care bestowed upon them by the
parents is in proportion to this diminution.
The next class in the type of Articulates is that of Crustacea,
including Lobsters, Crabs, and Shrimps. It may seem at first that
nothing can be more unlike a Worm than a Lobster; but a comparison of
the class-characters shows that the same general plan controls the
organization in both. The body of the Lobster is divided into a
succession of joints or rings, like that of the Worm; and the fact that
the front rings in the Lobster are soldered together, so as to make a
stiff front region of the body, inclosing the head and chest, while only
the hind rings remain movable, thus forming a flexible tail, does not
alter in the least the general structure, which consists in both of
a body built of articulated rings. The nervous swellings, which were
evenly distributed through the whole body in the Worm, are more
concentrated here, in accordance with the prevalent combination of the
rings in two distinct regions of the body, the larger ones corresponding
to the more important organs; but their relation to the rest of the
organization, and their connection by nervous threads with each other,
remain the same. The respiratory organs, which in most of the Worms were
mere vesicles on the lower part of the sides of the body, are here more
highly organized gills; but their general character and relation to
other parts of the structure are unchanged, and in this respect
the connection of the gills of Crustacea with their legs is quite
significant. The alimentary canal consists of a single digestive cavity
passing through the whole body, as in Worms, the anterior part of which
is surrounded by a large liver. What is true of the Lobsters is true
also, so far as class-characters are concerned, of all the Crustacea.
Highest in this type are the Insects, and among these I include Spiders
and Centipedes as well as Winged Insects. It is true that the Centipedes
have a long uniform body like Worms, and the Spiders have the body
divided into two regions like the Crustacea, while the body in true
Insects has three distinct regions, head, chest, and hind body; but
notwithstanding this difference, both the former share in the peculiar
class-character that places them with the Winged Insects in a separate
group, distinct from all the other Articulates. We have seen that in the
Worms the respiratory organs are mere vesicles, while in the Crustacea
they are more highly organized gills; but in Centipedes, Spiders,
and Winged Insects, the breathing-apparatus is aerial, consisting of
air-holes on the sides of the body, connected with a system of tubes and
vessels extending into the body and admitting air to all parts of it. In
the Winged Insects this system is very elaborate, filling the body with
air to such a degree as to render it exceedingly light and adapted to
easy and rapid flight. The general arrangement of parts is the same in
this class as in the two others, the typical character being alike in
We come now to the highest branch of the Animal Kingdom, that to which
we ourselves belong,--the Vertebrates. This type is usually divided into
four classes, Fishes, Reptiles, Birds, and Mammalia; and though many
naturalists believe that it includes more, and I am myself of that
opinion, I shall allude here only to the four generally admitted
classes, as they are sufficient for my present purpose, and will serve
to show the characters upon which classes are based. In a former paper I
have explained in general terms the plan of structure of this type,--a
backbone, with a bony arch above and a bony arch below, forming two
cavities that contain all the systems of organs, the whole being
surrounded by the flesh and skin. Now whether a body so constructed lie
prone in the water, like a Fish,--or be lifted on imperfect legs, like
a Reptile,--or be balanced on two legs, while the front limbs become
wings, as in Birds,--or be raised upon four strong limbs terminating in
paws or feet, as in Quadrupeds,--or stand upright with head erect, while
the limbs consist of a pair of arms and a pair of legs, as in Man,--does
not in the least affect that structural conception under which they are
all included. Every Vertebrate has a backbone; every Vertebrate has a
bony arch above that backbone and a bony arch below it, forming two
cavities,--no matter whether these arches be of hard bone, or of
cartilage, or even of a softer substance; every Vertebrate has the
brain, the spinal marrow or spinal cord, and the organs of the senses in
the upper cavity, and the organs of digestion, respiration, circulation,
and reproduction in the lower one; every Vertebrate has four locomotive
appendages built of the same bones and bearing the same relation to the
rest of the organization, whether they be called pectoral and ventral
fins, or legs, or wings and legs, or arms and legs. Notwithstanding
the rudimentary condition of these limbs in some Vertebrates and their
difference of external appearance in the different groups, they are all
built of the same structural elements. These are the typical characters
of the whole branch, and exist in all its representatives.
What now are the different modes of expressing this structural plan that
lead us to associate certain Vertebrates together in distinct classes?
Beginning with the lowest class,--the Fishes are cold-blooded, they
breathe through gills, and they are egg-laying; in other words, though
they have the same general structure as the other Vertebrates, they
have a special mode of circulation, respiration, and reproduction. The
Reptiles are also cold-blooded, though their system of circulation is
somewhat more complicated than that of the Fishes; they breathe through
lungs, though part of them retain their gills through life; and they lay
eggs, but larger and fewer ones than the Fishes, diminishing in number
in proportion to their own higher or lower position in their class. They
also bestow greater care upon their offspring than most of the
Fishes. The Birds are warm-blooded and air-breathing, having a double
circulation; they are egg-laying like the two other classes, but their
eggs are comparatively few in number, and the young are hatched by the
mother and fed by the parent birds till they can provide for themselves.
The Mammalia are also warm-blooded and breathe through lungs; but
they differ from all other Vertebrates in their mode of reproduction,
bringing forth living young which they nurse with milk. Even in the
lowest members of this highest group of the Vertebrates, at the head
of which stands Man himself, looking heavenward it is true, but
nevertheless rooted deeply in the Animal Kingdom, we have the dawning
of those family relations, those intimate ties between parents and
children, on which the whole social organization of the human race is
based. Man is the crowning work of God on earth; but though so nobly
endowed, we must not forget that we are the lofty children of a race
whose lowest forms lie prostrate within the water, having no higher
aspiration than the desire for food; and we cannot understand the
possible degradation and moral wretchedness of Man, without knowing that
his physical nature is rooted in all the material characteristics that
belong to his type and link him even with the Fish. The moral and
intellectual gifts that distinguish him from them are his to use or to
abuse; he may, if he will, abjure his better nature and be _Vertebrate_
more than Man. He may sink as low as the lowest of his type, or he may
rise to a spiritual height that will make that which distinguishes him
from the rest far more the controlling element of his being than that
which unites him with them.
LOVE AND SKATES.
IN TWO PARTS.
The hugging of Wade by the happy pair had to be done metaphorically,
since it was done in the sight of all Dunderbunk.
He had divined a happy result, when he missed Bill Tarbox from the
arena, and saw him a furlong away, hand in hand with his reconciled
"I envy you, Bill," said he, "almost too much to put proper fervor into
"Your time will come," the foreman rejoined.
And says Belle, "I am sure there is a lady skating somewhere, and only
waiting for you to follow her."
"I don't see her," Wade replied, looking with a mock-grave face up
and down and athwart the river. "When you've all gone to dinner, I'll
prospect ten miles up and down and try to find a good matrimonial claim
that's not taken."
"You will not come up to dinner?" Belle asked.
"I can hardly afford to make two bites of a holiday," said Wade. "I've
sent Perry up for a luncheon. Here he comes with it. So I cede my
quarter of your pie, Miss Belle, to a better fellow."
"Oh!" cries Perry, coming up and bowing elaborately. "Mr. and Mrs.
Tarbox, I believe. Ah, yes! Well, I will mention it up at Albany. I am
going to take my Guards up to call on the Governor."
Perry dashed off, followed by a score of Dunderbunk boys, organized by
him as the Purtett Guards, and taught to salute him as Generalissimo
with military honors.
So many hundreds of turkeys, done to a turn, now began to have an effect
upon the atmosphere. Few odors are more subtile and pervading than this,
and few more appetizing. Indeed, there is said to be an odd fellow, a
strictly American gourmand, in New York, who sits, from noon to dusk
on Christmas-Day, up in a tall steeple, merely to catch the aroma of
roast-turkey floating over the city,--and much good, it is said, it does
Hard skating is nearly as effective to whet hunger as this gentleman's
expedient. When the spicy breezes began to blow soft as those of
Ceylon's isle over the river and every whiff talked Turkey, the
population of Dunderbunk listened to the wooing and began to follow its
several noses--snubs, beaks, blunts, sharps, piquants, dominants, fines,
bulgies, and bifids--on the way to the several households which those
noses adorned or defaced. Prosperous Dunderbunk had a Dinner, yes, a
DINNER, that day, and Richard Wade was gratefully remembered by many
over-fed foundry-men and their over-fed families.
Wade had not had half skating enough.
"I'll time myself down to Skerrett's Point," he thought, "and take my
luncheon there among the hemlocks."
The Point was on the property of Peter Skerrett, Wade's friend and
college comrade of ten years gone. Peter had been an absentee in Europe,
and smokes from his chimneys this morning had confirmed to Wade's eyes
the rumor of his return.
Skerrett's Point was a mile below the Foundry. Our hero did his mile
under three minutes. How many seconds under, I will not say. I do not
wish to make other fellows unhappy.
The Point was a favorite spot of Wade's. Many a twilight of last summer,
tired with his fagging at the Works to make good the evil of Whiffler's
rule, he had lain there on the rocks under the hemlocks, breathing the
spicy methyl they poured into the air. After his day's hard fight, in
the dust and heat of the Foundry, with anarchy and unthrift, he used to
take the quiet restoratives of Nature, until the murmur and fragrance of
the woods, the cool wind, and the soothing loiter of the shining stream
had purged him from the fevers of his task.
To this old haunt he skated, and kindling a little fire, as an old
campaigner loves to do, he sat down and lunched heartily on Mrs.
Purtett's cold leg,--cannibal thought!--on the cold leg of Mrs.
Purtett's yesterday's turkey. Then lighting his weed,--dear ally of the
lonely,--the Superintendent began to think of his foreman's bliss, and
to long for something similar on his own plane.
"I hope the wish is father to its fulfilment," he said. "But I must not
stop here and be spooney. Such a halcyon day I may not have again in all
my life, and I ought to make the best of it, with my New Skates."
So he dashed off, and filled the little cove above the Point with a
labyrinth of curves and flourishes.
When that bit of crystal tablet was well covered, the podographer sighed
for a new sheet to inscribe his intricate rubricas upon. Why not write
more stanzas of the poetry of motion on the ice below the Point? Why
Braced by his lunch on the brown fibre of good Mrs. Purtett's cold
drumstick and thigh, Wade was now in fine trim. The air was more
glittering and electric than ever. It was triumph and victory and paean
in action to go flashing along over this footing, smoother than polished
marble and sheenier than first-water gems.
Wade felt the high exhilaration of pure blood galloping through a body
alive from top to toe. The rhythm of his movement was like music to him.
The Point ended in a sharp promontory. Just before he came abreast of
it, Wade under mighty headway flung into his favorite corkscrew spiral
on one foot, and went whirling dizzily along, round and round, in a
At the dizziest moment, he was suddenly aware of a figure, also turning
the Point at full speed, and rushing to a collision.
He jerked aside to avoid it. He could not look to his footing. His skate
struck a broken oar, imbedded in the ice. He fell violently, and lay
like a dead man.
His New Skates, Testimonial of Merit, seem to have served him a shabby
Seeing Wade lie there motionless, the lady----
Took off her spectacles, blew her great red nose, and stiffly drew near.
Spectacles! Nose! No,--the latter feature of hers had never become
acquainted with the former; and there was as little stiffness as nasal
redness about her.
A fresh start, then,--and this time accuracy!
Appalled by the loud thump of the stranger's skull upon the chief river
of the State of New York, the lady--it was a young lady whom Wade had
tumbled to avoid--turned, saw a human being lying motionless, and swept
gracefully toward him, like a Good Samaritan, on the outer edge. It was
not her fault, but her destiny, that she had to be graceful even under
these tragic circumstances.
"Dead!" she thought. "Is he dead?"
The appalling thump had cracked the ice, and she could not know how well
the skull was cushioned inside with brains to resist a blow.
She shuddered, as she swooped about toward this possible corpse. It
might be that he was killed, and half the fault hers. No wonder her
fine color, shining in the right parts of an admirably drawn face, all
But she evidently was not frightened.
She halted, kneeled, looked curiously at the stranger, and then
proceeded, in a perfectly cool and self-possessed way, to pick him up.
A solid fellow, heavy to lift in his present lumpish condition of
dead-weight! She had to tug mightily to get him up into a sitting
position. When he was raised, all the backbone seemed gone from his
spine, and it took the whole force of her vigorous arms to sustain him.
The effort was enough to account for the return of her color. It came
rushing back splendidly. Cheeks, forehead, everything but nose, blushed.
The hard work of lifting so much avoirdupois, and possibly, also, the
novelty of supporting so much handsome fellow, intensified all her hues.
Her eyes--blue, or that shade even more faithful than blue--deepened;
and her pale golden hair grew several carats--not carrots--brighter.
She was repaid for her active sympathy at once by discovering that this
big, awkward thing was not a dead, but only a stunned, body. It had an
ugly bump and a bleeding cut on its manly skull, but otherwise was quite
an agreeable object to contemplate, and plainly on its "unembarrassed
brow Nature had written 'Gentleman.'"
As this young lady had never had a fair, steady stare at a stunned hero
before, she seized her advantage. She had hitherto been distant with
the other sex. She had no brother. Not one of her male cousins had ever
ventured near enough to get those cousinly privileges that timid cousins
sigh for and plucky cousins take, if they are worth taking.
Wade's impressive face, though for the moment blind as a statue's, also
seized its advantage and stared at her intently, with a pained and
pleading look, new to those resolute features.
Wade was entirely unconscious of the great hit he had made by his
tumble; plump into the arms of this heroine! There were fellows extant
who would have suffered any imaginable amputation, any conceivable
mauling, any fling from the apex of anything into the lowest deeps of
anywhere, for the honor he was now enjoying.
But all he knew was that his skull was a beehive in an uproar, and that
one lobe of his brain was struggling to swarm off. His legs and arms
felt as if they belonged to another man, and a very limp one at that. A
ton of cast-iron seemed to be pressing his eyelids down, and a trickle
of red-hot metal flowed from his cut forehead.
"I shall have to scream," thought the lady, after an instant of anxious
waiting, "if he does not revive. I cannot leave him to go for help."
Not a prude, you see. A prude would have had cheap scruples about
compromising herself by taking a man in her arms. Not a vulgar person,
who would have required the stranger to be properly recommended by
somebody who came over in the Mayflower, before she helped him. Not a
feeble-minded damsel, who, if she had not fainted, would have fled away,
gasping and in tears. No timidity or prudery or underbred doubts about
this thorough creature. She knew she was in her right womanly place, and
she meant to stay there.
But she began to need help, possibly a lancet, possibly a pocket-pistol,
possibly hot blankets, possibly somebody to knead these lifeless lungs
and pommel this flaccid body, until circulation was restored.
Just as she was making up her mind to scream, Wade stirred. He began to
tingle as if a familiar of the Inquisition were slapping him all over
with fine-toothed curry-combs. He became half-conscious of a woman
supporting him. In a stammering and intoxicated voice he murmured,--
"Who ran to catch me when I fell,
And kissed the place to make it well?
He opened his eyes. It was not his mother; for she was long since
deceased. Nor was this non-mother kissing the place.
In fact, abashed at the blind eyes suddenly unclosing so near her, she
was on the point of letting her burden drop. When dead men come to life
in such a position, and begin to talk about "kissing the place," young
ladies, however independent of conventions, may well grow uneasy.
But the stranger, though alive, was evidently in a molluscous,
invertebrate condition. He could not sustain himself. She still held him
up, a little more at arm's-length, and all at once the reaction from
extreme anxiety brought a gush of tears to her eyes.
"Don't cry," says Wade, vaguely, and still only half-conscious. "I
promise never to do so again."
At this, said with a childlike earnestness, the lady smiled.
"Don't scalp me," Wade continued, in the same tone. "Squaws never
He raised his hand to his bleeding forehead.
She laughed outright at his queer plaintive tone and the new class he
had placed her in.
Her laugh and his own movement brought Wade fully to himself. She
perceived that his look was transferring her from the order of scalping
squaws to her proper place as a beautiful young woman of the highest
civilization, not smeared with vermilion, but blushing celestial rosy.
"Thank you," said Wade. "I can sit up now without assistance." And he
regretted profoundly that good breeding obliged him to say so.
She withdrew her arms. He rested on the ice,--posture of the Dying
Gladiator. She made an effort to be cool and distant as usual; but it
would not do. This weak mighty man still interested her. It was still
her business to be strength to him.
He made a feeble attempt to wipe away the drops of blood from his
forehead with his handkerchief.
"Let me be your surgeon!" said she.
She produced her own folded handkerchief,--M. D. were the initials in
the corner,--and neatly and tenderly turbaned him.
Wade submitted with delight to this treatment. A tumble with such
trimmings was luxury indeed.
"Who would not break his head," he thought, "to have these delicate
fingers plying about him, and this pure, noble face so close to his?
What a queenly indifferent manner she has! What a calm brow! What honest
eyes! What a firm nose! What equable cheeks! What a grand indignant
mouth! Not a bit afraid of me! She feels that I am a gentleman and will
"There!" said she, drawing back. "Is that comfortable?"
"Luxury!" he ejaculated with fervor.
"I am afraid I am to blame for your terrible fall."
"No,--my own clumsiness and that oar-blade are in fault."
"If you feel well enough to be left alone, I will skate off and call my
"Please do not leave me quite yet!" says Wade, entirely satisfied with
"Ah! here comes Mr. Skerrett round the Point!" she said,--and sprang up,
looking a little guilty.
LOVE IN THE FIRST DEGREE.
Peter Skerrett came sailing round the purple rocks of his Point, skating
like a man who has been in the South of Europe for two winters.
He was decidedly Anglicized in his whiskers, coat, and shoes. Otherwise
he in all respects repeated his well-known ancestor, Skerrett of the
Revolution; whose two portraits--1. A ruddy hero in regimentals, in
Gilbert Stuart's early brandy-and-water manner; 2. A rosy sage in
senatorials, in Stuart's later claret-and-water manner--hang in his
Peter's first look was a provokingly significant one at the confused and
blushing young lady. Secondly he inspected the Dying Gladiator on the
"Have you been tilting at this gentleman, Mary?" he asked, in the voice
of a cheerful, friendly fellow. "Why! Hullo. Hooray! It's Wade, Richard
Wade, Dick Wade! Don't look, Miss Mary, while I give him the grips of
all the secret societies we belonged to in College."
Mary, however, did look on, pleased and amused, while Peter plumped down
on the ice, shook his friend's hand, and examined him as if he were fine
crockery, spilt and perhaps shattered.
"It's not a case of trepanning, Dick, my boy?" said he.
"No," said the other. "I tumbled in trying to dodge this lady. The ice
thought my face ought to be scratched, because I had been scratching its
face without mercy. My wits were knocked out of me; but they are tired
of secession, and pleading to be let in again."
"Keep some of them out for our sake! We must have you at our commonplace
level. Well, Miss Mary, I suppose this is the first time you have had
the sensation of breaking a man's head. You generally hit lower." Peter
tapped his heart.
"I'm all right now, thanks to my surgeon," says Wade. "Give me a lift,
Peter." He pulled up and clung to his friend.
"You're the vine and I'm the lamppost," Skerrett said. "Mary, do you
know what a pocket-pistol is?"
"I have seen such weapons concealed about the persons of modern
"There's one in my overcoat-pocket, with a cup at the butt and a cork at
the muzzle. Skate off now, like an angel, and get it. Bring Fanny, too.
She is restorative."
"Are you alive enough to admire that, Dick?" he continued, as she
"It would pat a soul under the ribs of Death."
"I venerate that young woman," says Peter. "You see what a beauty she
is, and just as unspoiled as this ice. Unspoiled beauties are rarer than
"She has a singularly true face," Wade replied, "and that is the main
thing,--the most excellent thing in man or woman."
"Yes, truth makes that nuisance, beauty, tolerable."
"You did not do me the honor to present me."
"I saw you had gone a great way beyond that, my boy. Have you not her
initials in cambric on your brow? Not M. T., which wouldn't apply; but
"I like the name," says Wade, repeating it. "It sounds simple and
"Just what she is. One of the nine simple-hearted and thorough-bred
girls on this continent."
"Is that too many? Three, then. That's one in ten millions. The exact
proportion of Poets, Painters, Oratory, Statesmen, and all other Great
Artists. Well,--three or nine,--Mary Damer is one of them. She never saw
fear or jealousy, or knowingly allowed an ignoble thought or an ungentle
word or an ungraceful act in herself. Her atmosphere does not tolerate
flirtation. You must find out for yourself how much genius she has and
has not. But I will say this,--that I think of puns two a minute faster
when I'm with her. Therefore she must be magnetic, and that is the first
charm in a woman."
"You have not lost your powers of analysis, Peter. But talking of this
heroine, you have not told me anything about yourself, except _apropos_
"Come up and dine, and we'll fire away personal histories, broadside
for broadside! I've been looking in vain for a worthy hero to set
_vis-a-vis_ to my fair kinswoman. But stop! perhaps you have a Christmas
turkey at home, with a wife opposite, and a brace of boys waiting for
"No,--my boys, like cherubs, await their own drumsticks. They're not
born, and I'm not married."
"I thought you looked incomplete and abnormal. Well, I will show you a
model wife,--and here she comes!"
Here they came, the two ladies, gliding round the Point, with draperies
floating as artlessly artful as the robes of Raphael's Hours, or a
Pompeian Bacchante. For want of classic vase or _patera_, Miss Damer
brandished Peter Skerrett's pocket-pistol.
Fanny Skerrett gave her hand cordially to Wade, and looked a little
anxiously at his pale face.
"Now, M.D.," says Peter, "you have been surgeon, you shall be doctor and
dose our patient. Now, then,--
"'Hebe, pour free!
Quicken his eyes with mountain-dew,
That Styx, the detested,
No more he may view.'"
Wade said, continuing the quotation,--
"I quaff it!
Io Paean, I cry!
The whiskey of the Immortals
Forbids me to die."
"We effeminate women of the nineteenth century are afraid of broken
heads," said Fanny. "But Mary Damer seems quite to enjoy your accident,
Mr. Wade, as an adventure."
Miss Damer certainly did seem gay and exhilarated.
"I enjoy it," said Wade. "I perceive that I fell on my feet, when I fell
on my crown. I tumbled among old friends, and I hope among new ones."
"I have been waiting to claim my place among your old friends," Mrs.
Skerrett said, "ever since Peter told me you were one of his models."
She delivered this little speech with a caressing manner which totally
Nothing was ever so absolutely pretty as Mrs. Peter Skerrett. Her
complete prettiness left nothing to be desired.
"Never," thought Wade, "did I see such a compact little casket of
perfections. Every feature is thoroughly well done and none intrusively
superior. Her little nose is a combination of all the amiabilities. Her
black eyes sparkle with fun and mischief and wit, all playing over deep
tenderness below. Her hair ripples itself full of gleams and shadows.
The same coquetry of Nature that rippled her hair has dinted her cheeks
with shifting dimples. Every time she smiles--and she smiles as if sixty
an hour were not half allowance--a dimple slides into view and vanishes
like a dot in a flow of sunny water. And, O Peter Skerrett! if you were
not the best fellow in the world, I should envy you that latent kiss of
"You need not say it, Wade,--your broken head exempts you from the
business of compliments," said Peter; "but I see you think my wife
perfection. You'll think so the more, the more you know her."
"Stop, Peter," said she, "or I shall have to hide behind the superior
charms of Mary Damer."
Miss Damer certainly was a woman of a grander order. You might pull at
the bells or knock at the knockers and be introduced into the boudoirs
of all the houses, villas, seats, chateaus, and palaces in Christendom
without seeing such another. She belonged distinctly to the Northern
races,--the "brave and true and tender" women. There was, indeed, a
trace of hauteur and imperiousness in her look and manner; but it
did not ill become her distinguished figure and face. Wade, however,
remembered her sweet earnestness when she was playing leech to his
wound, and chose to take that mood as her dominant one.
"She must have been desperately annoyed with bores and boobies," he
thought. "I do not wonder she protects herself by distance. I am afraid
I shall never get within her lines again,--not even if I should try
slow and regular approaches, and bombard her with bouquets for a
"But, Wade," says Peter, "all this time you have not told us what good
luck sends you here to be wrecked on the hospitable shores of my Point."
"I live here. I am chief cook and confectioner where you see the smoking
top of that tall chimney up-stream."
"Why, of course! What a dolt I was, not to think of you, when Churm told
us an Athlete, a Brave, a Sage, and a Gentleman was the Superintendent
of Dunderbunk; but said we must find his name out for ourselves. You
remember, Mary. Miss Damer is Mr. Churm's ward."
She acknowledged with a cool bow that she did remember her guardian's
character of Wade.
"You do not say, Peter," says Mrs. Skerrett, with a bright little look
at the other lady, "why Mr. Churm was so mysterious about Mr. Wade."
"Miss Damer shall tell us," Peter rejoined, repeating his wife's look of
She looked somewhat teased. Wade could divine easily the meaning of
this little mischievous talk. His friend Churm had no doubt puffed him
"All this time," said Miss Darner, evading a reply, "we are neglecting
our skating privileges."
"Peter and I have a few grains of humanity in our souls," Fanny said.
"We should blush to sail away from Mr. Wade, while he carries the
quarantine flag at his pale cheeks."
"I am almost ruddy again," says Wade. "Your potion, Miss Damer,
has completed the work of your surgery. I can afford to dismiss my
"Whereupon the post changes to a tee-totum," Peter said, and spun off in
an eccentric, ending in a tumble.
"I must have a share in your restoration, Mr. Wade," Fanny claimed. "I
see you need a second dose of medicine. Hand me the flask, Mary. What
shall I pour from this magic bottle? juice of Rhine, blood of Burgundy,
fire of Spain, bubble of Rheims, beeswing of Oporto, honey of Cyprus,
nectar, or whiskey? Whiskey is vulgar, but the proper thing, on the
whole, for these occasions. I prescribe it." And she gave him another
little draught to imbibe.
He took it kindly, for her sake,--and not alone for that, but for its
own respectable sake. His recovery was complete. His head, to be sure,
sang a little still, and ached not a little. Some fellows would have
gone on the sick list with such a wound. Perhaps he would, if he had had
a trouble to dodge. But here instead was a pleasure to follow. So he
began to move about slowly, watching the ladies.
Fanny was a novice in the Art, and this was her first day this winter.
She skated timidly, holding Peter very tightly. She went into the
dearest little panics for fear of tumbles, and uttered the most musical
screams and laughs. And if she succeeded in taking a few brave strokes
and finished with a neat slide, she pleaded for a verdict of "Well
done!" with such an appealing smile and such a fine show of dimples that
every one was fascinated and applauded heartily.
Miss Damer skated as became her free and vigorous character. She had
passed her Little Go as a scholar, and was now steadily winning her way
through the list of achievements, before given, toward the Great Go.
To-day she was at work at small circles backward. Presently she wound
off a series of perfectly neat ones, and, looking up, pleased with her
prowess, caught Wade's admiring eye. At this she smiled and gave an
arch little womanly nod of self-approval, which also demanded masculine
sympathy before it was quite a perfect emotion.
With this charming gesture, the alert feather in her Amazonian hat
nodded, too, as if it admired its lovely mistress.
Wade was thrilled. "Brava!" he cried, in answer to the part of her look
which asked sympathy; and then, in reply to the implied challenge, he
forgot his hurt and his shock, and struck into the same figure.
He tried not to surpass his fair exemplar too cruelly. But he did his
peripheries well enough to get a repetition of the captivating nod and a
Bravo! from the lady.
"Bravo!" said she. "But do not tax your strength too soon."
She began to feel that she was expressing too much interest in the
stranger. It was a new sensation for her to care whether men fell or got
up. A new sensation. She rather liked it. She was a trifle ashamed of
it. In either case, she did not wish to show that it was in her heart.
The consciousness of concealment flushed her damask check.
It was a damask cheek. All her hues were cool and pearly; while Wade,
Saxon too, had hot golden tints in his hair and moustache, and his
color, now returning, was good strong red with plenty of bronze in it.
"Thank you," he replied. "My force has all come back. You have
A civil nothing; but meaning managed to get into his tone and look,
whether he would or not.
Which he perceiving, on his part began to feel guilty.
Of what crime?
Of the very same crime as hers,--the most ancient and most pardonable
crime of youth and maiden,--that sweet and guiltless crime of love in
the first degree.
So, without troubling themselves to analyze their feelings, they found
a piquant pleasure in skating together,--she in admiring his _tours de
force_, and he in instructing her.
"Look, Peter!" said Mrs. Skerrett, pointing to the other pair skating,
he on the backward roll, she on the forward, with hands crossed and
locked;--such contacts are permitted in skating, as in dancing. "Your
hero and my heroine have dropped into an intimacy."
"None but the Plucky deserve the Pretty," says Peter.
"But he seems to be such a fine fellow,--suppose she shouldn't"----
The pretty face looked anxious.
"Suppose _he_ shouldn't," Peter on the masculine behalf returned.
"He cannot help it: Mary is so noble,--and so charming, when she does
not disdain to be."
"I do not believe _she_ can help it. She cannot disdain Wade. He carries
too many guns for that. He is just as fine as she is. He was a hero when
I first knew him. His face does not show an atom of change; and you know
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